Bhagavad Gita - Chapter 1 (Part-2) - Yoga of the Despondency of Arjuna

Arjuna  Syndrome - Origin and Cure

Arjuna  was overpowered by an emotional upheaval. He suddenly started exhibiting  several symptoms of weakness both physically and psychologically. He was  afflicted with great depression of mind masquerading as compassion. Arjuna  himself described his physical symptoms in graphic terms. It was of the nature  of a Fever of Unknown Origin (F.U.O.) or a Bhava-roga in Sanskrit. This  disease is the oldest known to human kind. Its origin is traced to ajnana or avidya or ignorance in the Vedanta of Hinduism. The divine potion or  elixir (amrita) that cures this disease is Jnana or Knowledge,  grace of God, issuing from self-surrender, prayer and freedom from desire (bhakti,  sharnagati, prapatti, nirvasana) and so on.

What  makes the Gita, a unique medicine of bhava-roga is that it contains all  the ingredients stated above, fit to be consumed by peoples of all ages,  climes, genders - monastic or lay. The Arjuna syndrome, analyzed and diagnosed  by the master physician Sri Krishna is the starting point of the preparation of  this unique brew.

Adi  Shankaracharya’s description of the Arjuna syndrome is simple and remarkable.  It is not that Arjuna was unwilling to do his duty as the Army General when he  came for war. Arjuna is a picture of courage and self-confidence before the  war. In the verses 21 and 22 of the 1st chapter he roars like an  impatient lion waiting to pounce on its prey.

Afterwards,  Arjuna’s mood suddenly changes. At what point of time and for what reasons did  he become a victim of the Arjuna syndrome?

Verses  28-46 of the 1st Chapter, if properly analyzed word for word, give  us the clue. Arjuna saw in the huge armies his own people, (svajana)-fathers,  grandfathers, brothers, teachers, friends etc., and was overcome with pity. The  key word here is svajana, people who are one’s very own. It may  be noted that Arjuna uses the word ‘svajana’ four times in these verses.  Arjuna’s lament and depression are rooted in this feeling of svajanatva - one’s own-ness. Arjuna’s ego that strongly felt this attachment engendered by  possessiveness - own ness or svajanatva- plunged him into the abyss of sorrow  and delusion (shoka and moha)

This  pathological aberration of Arjuna can be traced to psychological roots that  define the Arjuna syndrome. Arjuna displayed feelings of grief and delusion  caused by ignorance and confused understanding and his attachment for and the  sense of separation from dominion, the elders, sons, friends, kinsmen,  relatives - all these arising from the notion that ‘I am theirs and they  are mine’. It was when discriminative faculty (knowledge) was thus over  powered by grief and delusion that Arjuna, who had of himself naturally and  spontaneously been engaged in battle as warrior’s duty, abstained from fighting  and prepared to lead a mendicant’s life which was a duty alien to him.

It  is thus that in the case of all creatures whose minds come under the sway of  the defects of sorrow, delusion, etc. there verily follows, as a matter of  course, abandoning their own duties and resorting to prohibited ones.

Even  when they engage in their own duties their conduct in speech, thought and deed  is certainly motivated by hankering for rewards, and is accompanied by egoism.  Egoism consists in thinking that one is the agent of some work and therefore the  enjoyer of its reward.

Such  being the case, the cycle of births and deaths, characterized by passing  through desirable and undesirable births, and meeting with happiness, sorrow,  etc. from the accumulation of virtue and vice, continues unendingly. Thus,  sorrow and delusion are the sources of the cycles of births and deaths. Their  cessation comes from nothing other than the knowledge of the Self which is  preceded by the renunciation of all attachment to duties. Hence, wishing to  impart that (knowledge of the Self) for the welfare of the whole world, Lord  Vasudeva, making Arjuna the medium, said, 'You grieve for those who are not to  be grieved for,' etc. (Chapter 2)

Thus  the Arjuna syndrome analyzed could be reduced to the following flow-chart. Ignorance --> confused understanding --> feeling of I and Mine (ahamkara and mamakara) --> sorrow and delusion (shoka and moha) --> overpowering of discriminative faculty --> abandoning one’s own duty (svadharma) and  adopting alien duty (para dharma), even in own duty craving for reward  and egoism -->accumulation of merit and demerit ( dharma and adharma) --> endless cycle of birth and death, samsara, consisting  of  getting the experiences of the  desirable and the undesirable, pleasure and pain.

The  remedy prescribed by Krishna is Self-Knowledge (atma jnana) which He  starts unfolding from the verse 11 of the 2nd chapter. This is the greatest  relevance of the Bhagavad Gita for the modern world particularly to the youth -  stress filled, strife torn, panic stricken, and conflict ridden, modern world. Atma  jnana is the source of strength, infinite power, eternal knowledge and  wisdom.

Like  Arjuna we too are weak, we too have no will. The will has been lost in our  never-ending debate ‘What to do and what not to do? What is proper and what is  improper?’  All the ground beneath our  feet is slipping like quick-sand. The Arjuna in us is in suspended animation,  is in limbo. We too require a shock treatment.

Krishna  is holding Arjuna’s hands and starting to resolve his problems from the very  place where Arjuna is. That is why the Gita is very dynamic psychological  system. As Arjuna evolves step by step the Gita also rises and unfolds  gradually. Krishna reforms Arjuna at Arjuna’s level. All the time in the Gita,  Arjuna is the focus and not Krishna.

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