Arjuna see’s before him a forest of familiar faces: uncles, cousins, grandfathers, teachers and counselors, and familiar friends—all arrayed before him who certainly will be slain at his command. So, he grows very despondent as he cries-out to Krishna:
1.28-29 O’ Krishna, I don’t know what to do. Knowing that members of my family and close friends will soon be slaughtered, I don’t have the courage now to condemn any of them. My throat is parched, like a sea-tortoise left in the desert without water. I’m drowning in my emotions and my limbs are sinking deep in tears.
1.30 Look! See how my grand Gandiva (Bow) slips away from my trembling hand. My skin itches and is burning-up! And my mind is rambling about in a thousand tortured directions.
1.31 Bad omens are afoot, O’ Krishna! What possible good can result from slaughtering my own kind?
1.32 What’s it all about anyway? I really don’t seek victory or any throne or kingdom. What, after all, is all that kind of stuff to us? Enjoyments are fleeting and hollow, even life itself too!
1.36 What possible good can sprout from the death of our apparent foes? Only bad karma will surely spring-back on us, even though our opponents wish us ill.
1.40 Remember, when whole families are destroyed their cherished values perish with them. The survivors will have only the sands of oblivion and impiety will soon rule the day!
1.44 O’ Krishna, let’s not forget the solemn beliefs that people will linger long in hell when their sacred laws are destroyed.
1.45 What, all this future misery just for the sake of a future kingdom?!
1.46 It would be better for me to lower my head and arms and permit my enemies to just come forward and slay me.
1.47 Having spoken thus on the battlefield, Arjuna dropped his trusted bow and arrows and just crumpled-down on his knees, his heart flooded with despondent sorrow.
What are we to make of Arjuna’s despondency? He once made a solemn oath to follow through with his dharmatic-missions, where’re they led. Why does he suddenly stop dead in his tracks and become reduced to a slobbering wimp? This is not simply a matter of conscience or ethics. Throughout the millennium men and women have had to face even family members and friends in the heat of battle. His cause was a just one. There was no evil intent of obliteration for the sake of subjugation on his part or his valiant forces. Why the long litany of excuses to own up to his Noble Responsibility? Well, perhaps in that litany we can find some answers.
Firstly, we need to be mindful just what kind of battleground we’re facing. This is Spiritual Warfare, brought face to face with the yogin in allegorical fashion; the enemy combatants are those ordinary folk whom the yogin encounters daily in his/her life. This certainly includes close family members and comrades. Most people would default on their purported Higher Principles and succumb to these emotionally-charged outbursts made by Arjuna. The Bodhisattva Jesus the Christ once stated, “Anyone who is not willing to turn their backs even on family members and friends is not fit for my Father’s Kingdom.” We have a similar simile here. The problem is that the Spiritual-Factor is missing altogether and the material-emphasis wins the day. “I need to look after the material and familial comforts of those in my life first and foremost and I should not do anything to upset this state of affairs.” The Higher Spiritual-Dimension and Reality just goes out the window. One’s own spirituality gets placed on the back burner in favor of all those miscellaneous peopled-events mentioned above in that litany. That’s precisely why the puthujjana (those stupefied to their own innate Buddha-nature) are impaled to the Samsaric-Wheel kalpa after kalpa. Arjuna is reducing himself to being one of their company here. And it’s so true, misery and despondency loves company. He’s lost his Ariyan Posture—meaning his NOBLE SPIRITUAL BEARING. In doing so he’s in danger of losing all his innate-inner strength. His Noble Bow even slips-away from his trembling hand. This would be akin to Thor no longer being empowered to hoist aloft his Noble Hammer.
So, this is truly the dilemma that faces every true adept of the Buddhadharma—that “awakened” Noble Spirit who cringes at no-thing or person that attempts to stand in the way of the cultivation of this Self-Realization. Nothing in this saha-world or any other is worth more than this Noble Enterprise. It is one’s true salvation—the rescue of the immortal spirit that otherwise is destined to go on and on, tied to the wheel of dissatisfaction and personal-torment lest it turn-about and own-up to its Authentic Selfhood in the Unborn. Anything less is pure-oblivion for that spirit. The Gita provides this opening chapter as a prelude that sets-up the scale in the upcoming dialog between Arjuna and Krishna. Krishna IS that Higher, Noble-Consciousness that he needs to be fully attuned to, or else lose the greater inner-battle of his own Selfhood. Arjuna needs to be careful that the cosmic-scale does not tip in favor of the heavy-laden, materially-enforced orchestrations of the Evil One.