THE DILEMMA OF ARJUNA


The Bhagavadgita is a short section of the longer epic poem, Mahabharata. It describes the dilemma faced by the legendary hero Prince Arjuna as he debated the moral contradiction involved in killing, not merely human beings, but his relatives, in order to achieve a worthy end. In this famous passage, Krishna comes to the aid of Arjuna who then realizes that in some instances the end justifies the means.


Points to Ponder:

-- What is the difference between action and inaction?
-- How does action delude the mind?
-- How does Krishna's dilemma fit in with the concept of dharma?
-- Does the way one goes about getting something good allow you to do anything to get it?


The Bhagavadgita

The Blessed Lord said: Just as the unwise act, being attached to their action, even so should the wise act, O Bharata, but without attachment, and only with a view to promoting the solidarity of society.

One should not create any conflict in the minds of the ignorant who are attached to action. On the contrary the wise man, himself acting in accordance with the technique of the yoga of action, should induce them willingly to undertake all [prescribed] actions.

Actions of every kind are actually done by the dispositions of matter and, still, a person whose mind is deluded by the ego thinks: "I am the doer [of those actions]." But he, O Mighty-Armed One, who knows the truth of the distinctness of the soul from the dispositions of matter and from the actions [resulting therefrom], does not become attached [the results of actions], realizing that the dispositions operate upon the dispositions.

Those who are deluded by the dispositions of matter become attached to the disposition and the actions [resulting from them]. One who knows the whole truth should not make such dullards, who do not know the who truth, falter [by himself renouncing all action].

Renouncing into Me all actions, with your mind fixed on the Self, and becoming free from desire and all sense of 'my-ness, " do you fight, freed from your spiritual fever. What is action? What is inaction?-as to this even the wise sages are confounded. I will expound action to you, knowing which you will be liberated from evil.

One has to realize what is action, similarly, one has to realize what is wrong action; and one has also to realize what is inaction. Inscrutable, indeed, is the way of action. He who sees inaction in action and action in inaction, he is discerning among men, expert in the technique of karmayoga, the doer of the entire action [enjoined by his dharmal.

He whose undertakings are all devoid of motivating desires and purposes and whose actions are consumed by the fire of knowledge - him the wise call a man of learning. Renouncing all attachment to the fruits of actions, ever content, independent-such a person even if engaged in action does not do anything whatever.

Action alone is your concern, never at all its fruits. Let not the fruits of action be your motive, nor let yourself be attached to inaction.

Steadfast in Yoga, engage yourself in actions, Dhananjaya abandoning attachment and becoming evenminded in success and failure. Such evenmindedness is called yoga. Far inferior is mere action to action done according to the technique of karmayoga. O Dhananjaya. Seek refuge in the [right] mental attitude. Wretched are those who are motivated by the fruits of action. One who acts according to the technique of karmayoga casts off, in this world, the consequences of both his good acts and his bad acts. Therefore take to this yoga. Yoga is skill in actions.


Source: Stephan Hay ed., Sources of Indian Tradition (Columbia UP, 1988). 281-282.

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