Arjuna’s Despondent Dilemma

arjuna dil

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.

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11 Responses to Arjuna’s Despondent Dilemma

  1. Methexis says:

    “Jesus a Bodhisattva” – cool idea however it depends “which” Jesus. Not the Jesus of Gospel of John who says there is no other way to the Father EXCEPT through ME.

    But perhaps the Jesus of the Gospel of Thomas is … That gospel is much more “Dharmic”

    Just yesterday I stumbled upon a Zen monk’s opinion of Christianity (16th century Japan) – it’s interesting to read how they perceived it – I paste it as a curiosity:

    Suzuki Shōsan on Christianity, 1642

    Suzuki Shōsan was a Japanese samurai who served under the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. He participated in the Battle of Sekigahara and the Battle of Osaka before renouncing life as a warrior and becoming a Zen Buddhist monk in 1621.

    He wrote this attack on Christian teachings in 1642, shortly after Christianity had been banned in Japan as part of the effort to remove all foreign influences.

    According to the Kirishitan teachings, the Great Buddha named Deus is the Lord of Heaven and Earth and is the One Buddha, self-sufficient in all things. He is the Creator of Heaven and Earth and of the myriad phenomena. This Buddha made his entry into the world one thousand six hundred years ago in South Barbary , saving all sentient beings. His name is Jesus Christus. That other lands do not know him, worshipping instead the worthless Amida and Shaka, is the depth of stupidity. Thus they claim, as I have heard.

    To counter, I reply: If Deus is the Lord of Heaven and Earth, and if he created the terrestrial domain and the myriad phenomena, then why has this Deus until now left abandoned a boundless number of countries without making an appearance? Ever since heaven and earth were opened up, the Buddhas of the Three Worlds in alternating appearance have endeavored to save all sentient beings, for how many thousands and tens of thousands of years! But meanwhile, in the end Deus has not appeared in countries other than South Barbary; and what proof is there that he did make an appearance of late, in South Barbary alone? If Deus were truly the Lord of Heaven and Earth, then it has been great inattention on his part to permit mere attendant Buddhas to take over country upon country which he personally created, and allow them to spread their Law and endeavor to save all sentient beings, from the opening up of heaven and earth down to the present day. In truth, this Deus is a foolscap Buddha!

    And then there is the story that Jesus Christus upon making his appearance was suspended upon a cross by unenlightened fools of this lower world. Is one to call this the Lord of Heaven and Earth? Is anything more bereft of reason? This Kirishitan sect will not recognize the existence of the One Buddha of Original Illumination and Thusness. They have falsely misappropriated one Buddha to venerate, and have come to this country to spread perniciousness and deviltry. They shall not escape Heaven’s punishment for this offence! But many are the unenlightened who fail to see through their clumsy claims, who revere their teachings and even cast away their lives for them. Is this not a disgrace upon our country? Notorious even in foreign lands, lamentable indeed!

  2. Methexis says:

    *17th century not 16th, sorry

    • Vajragoni says:

      The Jesus of whom you quote, the one experienced within the Johannine Community, is Gnostic-bent. Modern scholarship is only now coming to terms with this. So, when Jesus, in John, speaks of [me], he’s speaking of the Father—“I and the Father are One.”

      A most interesting passage you reference. Another good source is, “The Great Debate: Buddhism and Christianity, Face to Face”—great debate handled quite well by Gunananda.

  3. N. Yeti says:

    I think one of the things which troubles some Buddhists is the orientation evident in the Gita toward devotional worship, either because we still carry traces of this residual god-fear ourselves, or because we know, at the root, that we are simply not far enough along on the path to say with any certainty whether or not such dealings with the divine will have any effect. I can affirm quite vehemently that they do but this will never sway anyone from their view on the matter which must be informed by gnosis. If we are open at all to persuasion, I would hope it is only to persuade ourselves that there is no ultimate reality to the stream of mind. The orientation to a supreme authority/Godhead is due to endless eons of human beings grasping for power and to curtail the distributions of resources and to enforce one or another of endless forms of societal order; this is burned into the common mindset from birth through parenting, neighbors, schools, houses of worship, institutions of all kinds, and this profound omnipresence of behavioral coercion present in the human society from the family onto the massive clash of cultures, races, and scions, leads to a vicious and cynical rejection of reverence for anyone or anything as worthy of consideration at all. One of the main complaints against Christianity is ok, I will take this at faith, but why does this benevolent Entity not stop the torment? Personal choice only gets us so far when there is a being with such unlimited power. If this does not occur in Buddhism it is because of seeing the very nature of reality itself, which is neither divine nor not divine. The a priori of the world is false and misleading. And yet we carry the pearl of the infinite absolute Spirit. This alone is worthy of devotion and singing.

  4. N. Yeti says:

    It is also possible to read the “come to heaven but through me” verse to mean the dharmakaya. It is only personified by non-self, the actual meaning is one of transcendent singularity of essence.

    • Vajragoni says:

      There’s also yet another…”No one can come to me unless the Father draws them.” (Jn 6:44) Yes, if you do a search on the archives here, you will discover that these references, “Father”, “Father’s Kingdom”, pertain to our understanding of the Dharmakaya.

  5. N. Yeti says:

    Who can deny the mystic absorption of St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa d’Avila, and Meister Eckhart? How tragic it would be if well thinking Buddhists shunned these meditative masters and their revelations simply because of doctrinal intransigence.

  6. N. Yeti says:

    What of St. Francis, what of St. Anthony at Rimini whose dharma reached the very consciousness of fishes? No, we cannot consider such records to be the exclusive province of any religion, but a characteristic of the monastic renunciant who, by virtue of devotion, penetrates the veil of unreality which permeates samsara.

  7. Methexis says:

    I’d like to think all these great mystics and saints you list were reborn into a time and place that allowed them access to the Sutras.

    There are two mistakes one can make in the Dharma, I think. One is the beginner’s mistake – to fixate too much on the expression, words, and not on the meaning behind the words. At this level it’s important to work on non-attachment to words and expression (the “finger pointing”)

    The mistake a seasoned practicter makes is the fixation on the moon itself thus disregarding the pointing finger as inessential. Sometimes they will say “all fingers are the same” or even “cut off all fingers!” this is the path of Hinayana –

    As The Zennist put it on a forum a few days ago: “It seems like you are confusing the finger with the moon at this point—or worse, trying to eliminate the finger altogether. The Buddha was never against teaching through language; pointing out the Way, so to speak. But direct realization (the moon) is another matter. “

  8. n. yeti says:

    It cannot be denied that the mystical character of catholic, sufi, and vedic awakening to the absolute bears striking similarity to that reported by the buddhism masters. The writings of St John of the cross are the epitome of zen, and yet, though he was born in a time of the buddha, he did not study the buddhadharma. I don’t think this gnosis depends on scripture but tapping into the dharmakaya, by whatever name. If buddha required buddhism, he would never have reached buddhahood.

  9. Methexis says:

    The Diamond Sutra says “What is called Buddhism is not Buddhism”

    In Mahayana we say there were many Buddhas before Shakyamuni. Dīpamkara was a Buddha who reached enlightenment eons prior to Gautama, the historical Buddha.

    Most Buddhists in the world today belong to the Pure Land Way; which revolves around the Buddha Amitabha – it involves no deities and no worshipping; it is a makeshift teaching given so that people inclined towards ‘devotionalism’ and seeing their Buddha-Nature in terms of ‘Other-power’.

    The PL practitioners do not stray from the Mahayana, the Vow & Land are based on Bodhisattva Vows – and there is nobody to worship because, as one Japanese Pure Land teacher (I forget his name now) wrote: “Gods enslave people; but Buddhas liberate them” the so called primal Vow (jp. hongan) is given freely and not on conditions (no following of any moral commandments).

    All roads lead to Rome (“all beings will be lead by me to Nirvana” – Diamond Sutra) – but not all roads take the same amount of time – some are more direct others more curvey.

    Some roads lead to Buddhahood more directly, others involve a few trips to hell.

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