In most Bhagavad Gita commentaries, Arjuna is described with adjectives like confused, misguided, disillusioned and so on. He is portrayed as someone totally running away from his duties and someone who has lost clarify of the situation surrounding him.
When I read chapter 1, I found that indeed Arjuna had strong hesitation to not fight, but neither this decision nor the reasons he gave justified his characterization as being confused, misguided or disillusioned. At the minimum he was not confused. He very clearly explains his thought process and his doubts. So here is my take on it –
It is true that in verse-29 and in some other verses, he does show signs of weakness, chaos and confusion in the mind. But that would be considered natural in his situation, where at the last moment, when the war is about to start, he sees the reality of mass killing, including that of his Gurus and family members and starts doubting the very decision to fight. However, in all subsequent verses (30 to 46) that he narrates in chapter 1, he elaborates all the reasons for not fighting with quite clarity.
So here is my take on this –
For choosing not to fight, it was not that Arjuna was wrong. He was just making an inferior choice – something which would still give good results, at least in the short term. After all by not fighting he was ensuring –
- Not killing loved ones.
- Not killing countless innocent soldiers of both sides.
- … and many more benefits, as brought out by Arjuna himself in chapter 1.
Choosing to fight, as illustrated in Bhagavad Gita, was indeed the superior choice.
However, with that choice –
- Good results were not guaranteed. After all there was no guarantee that Pandavas would be victorious.
- Good results would come in future – Sometime AFTER winning that war.
- The path in the interim was full of difficulties – killing of loved ones and innocent, risk of getting killed and so on.
So Arjuna’s dilemma can be summarized as –
- Looking for immediate happiness in place of long term contentment.
- Not seeking goals, just because they involve hard work.
- Not being visionary.
- Not ready to take risks.
- Not ready to fight injustice.
If you notice, almost all of us fall in one of the categories above. In fact anyone who is not striving and making all efforts to achieve his/her full potential would be in this category. Hope you agree, that is almost all of us.
But that does not mean that we all are wrong or confused or misguided. It is just that we are taking a safer and mediocre route in place of choosing the most noble path available.
- Bhagavad Gita motivates us to strive to be our best.
- First chapter lays the foundation for challenges that this path poses in practical life.
- The subsequent chapters provide the motivation, guidance and tools for following this path.
And, just to re iterate, Arjuna should not be called confused or misguided. He was just choosing an alternative, which was … second to best.