Crisis Management - A Case Study of Arjuna's Rescue, Relief and Rehabilitation by Sri Krishna


It is not that Arjuna  was unwilling to do his duty as the Army General when he entered the  battlefield. He was a picture of courage and self-confidence before  the war. Afterwards, Arjuna’s  mood suddenly changed. Why he turned his face against the war?

This paradoxical  situation was due to the following reasons.

Arjuna was overpowered  by an emotional upheaval. He saw in the huge armies his own people, (svajana) and was overcome with pity.  The key word here is svajana,  people who are one’s  very own.  His lament and depression are rooted in this feeling of svajanatva - one’s  own-ness. Arjuna’s  ego that strongly felt this attachment supported by possessiveness –  own-ness or svajanatva-  plunged him into the abyss of sorrow and delusion (shoka and moha).

All these feelings  arising from the notion that ‘I  am theirs and they are mine’  resulted in his discriminative faculty getting overpowered by grief  and delusion. He went to the extent of preferring to lead a  mendicant’s  life which was a duty alien to him.

Arjuna thus faces the  problem of conflict between emotion and intellect. He was victimized  and weakened by the issues of ethics and morality.

The flow-chart of Arjuna syndrome is as follows:

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), adopting alien duty (para  dharma),  in doing own duty craving for reward with egoism -> accumulation  of merit and demerit(dharma and adharma) -> endless  cycle of birth and death, entanglement in samsara, experiencing  the desirable and the undesirable, pleasure and pain. (BG.Ch.1)


Lord Krishna, the  earliest of the Peter Druckers, lifts the veil of predicament from  Arjuna. He makes him view the happenings on the ground in their  proper perspective to effectively handle them. Krishna, using His  stress management technique, started advising him how to take care of  his malady of regret, self-pity and indecision. He says that the  origin of Arjuna’s  disease is avidya or  ignorance.  He adduced a number of arguments why Arjuna should not  abandon the war but fight it straight away with determination,  impersonality and spiritual vision. The remedy prescribed by Krishna  was Self-Knowledge (atma  jnana). Atma  jnana, the  concept of know-yourself’, is the source of strength, infinite power, eternal knowledge and  wisdom.

Arjuna continues to be  submerged in his state of dejection. He seeks refuge in Lord Krishna,  imploring him to remove his intense grief. Arjuna’s  crisis was more psychological than physical. He saw the heroes in the  opposite army as his kith and kin and not as soldiers to be fought  against for which he came to the battlefield.  Krishna cleans up his  thinking process by suggesting various truths so that Arjuna can be  restored to his original state of a highly successful warrior prince.

Krishna strongly disapproved Arjuna’s stance. He  condemned its demeaning and inopportune timing. He with all his  strength, vigor, persuasive skill and stunning words censured Arjuna  and was successful in awakening the latter’s dormant and  temporarily malfunctioning intellect.

The thrust of  Krishna’s advice was empowering Arjuna’s mind, an inner  enrichment based on strength and stability drawn from spiritual  enlightenment. In this process the focus is not on the physical body  of man but on its indweller, the Soul. Arjuna has to find out what  factors in his personality really act and perform.

The physical body  consisting of sense organs (five organs of perception and five organs  of action), mind and intellect are the three instruments which enable  man to perceive, feel and think. They are the vehicles through which  man undergoes the varied experiences of life. But what makes these  three gadgets to act is the indweller, the Soul, which is not  accessible through any of these equipments.

The processes of body,  mind and intellect are merely the vagaries of the peripheral. The  recognition of this fact is removing the ignorance, avidya,  and realizing the fundamental truth. As action is true of the body,  mind and intellect, so too is the actionlessness (non-action) of the  Soul. The understanding of this fact is Spiritual Enlightenment. This  was the goal to which Krishna was leading Arjuna. This is the  strategy adopted by Krishna to manage and tear down the crisis in  which Arjuna found himself.


On hearing  Arjuna’s words of despondency, dismay and disappointment, Krishna  responded by denouncing his attitude by using powerful language.  He  condemned that Arjuna’s grief just before the commencement of war  was misplaced, erroneous and unbecoming of a warrior of his caliber  and class.  Wars had been there all along and everybody knew its  consequences. The fighters’ personal feelings of sympathy, love or  concern have no relevance in a war for a soldier who came prepared  for the fight.

The Lord  told Arjuna “There is nothing wrong in the situation; the fault  lies in your own personality. The events by themselves are not good  or bad. But they become so by the viewers’ perception, attitude and  vision. In the act of seeing, the object seen is always inert.  The  seer, the subject, alone is sentient. Why blame the scene you are  observing, Arjuna. Blame your own weakness and ignorance. Leave your  unmanliness, the weakness of your heart, Arjuna, and rise up with  determination to take up your bow and arrows and proceed to combat  the opponents.”


Krishna’s  strong words of reproach and pointed advice had their desired effect.  Arjuna’s emotional resistance and preference gave way to a more  sober introspection and a sustained enquiry into his shortcomings and  means to get released from them.

He argued “O  Krishna, how can I fight these venerable men who always deserve to be  worshipped? To aim arrows towards such mahanubhavas is unthinkable both to my mind and intelligence. Rather than killing  them I would better renounce my present way of life and be a  mendicant begging from door to door. There is no possibility of war  avoiding my elders and teachers who are standing before me. So I am  confused. O Krishna, I have become a victim of my self-pity, karpanya  dosha, narrowness of mind and heart. My whole  being is overshadowed by limitation of vision. With my nature  stricken with weakness of sentimental pity and my mind bewildered  about my duty, I request you to tell me for certain what is lasting  good for me (shreyas).   I am your disciple.  Please teach me.  I am seeking refuge in you.  This will redress me of all my misery and grief which are burning my  senses now.”

This way  Arjuna’s despondency, Vishada, had  become a vehicle for the unfoldment of supreme knowledge about  lasting welfare of all. Shreyas means that which has the potential to immediately take away all the  grief from the mind. Removal of grief itself means attaining joy by  getting rid of ignorance to evaluate life situations through a wise  perspective.


Arjuna  continues in his state of dejection. His personality is destroyed by  his overwhelming emotions erupting at the sight of his near and dear  ones on the battlefront. Assuming a false sense of renunciation, he  argues that he would rather live on alms than slay noble elders like  Bhishma and Drona and that even an undisputed sovereignty over all  the worlds would not drive away his grief. Arguing thus, he expresses  his unwillingness to fight, becomes a completely spent force and a  damp squib and becomes silent.

Holding the  reins of the chariot on one hand and heeding to the submission of  Arjuna on the other, Krshna appeared as if smiling – smiling over  the unease of the disciple. Arjuna’s quest was sudden and unique.  So Krishna’s response also should be powerful and effective. For  all the lamentation of Arjuna, Krishna was having only one answer  which was that he was grieving over something that should not be  grieved for.

Thus begins Krishna’s  advice through a multi-channel approach viz. from 1. Intellectual  plane 2. Physical plane 3. Emotional plane and at 4. Commonplace  level. However, these approaches are not watertight compartments.  They do overlap each other and on several aspects complement each  other.

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