Symbolism in Bhagavad Gita

The following is an excerpt of the commentary on the Bhagavad Gita by Radhikaji from her forthcoming book to be published in 2017. Chapter 1 Verses 1-10 are covered in this article.

Verse 1: Dharma and Avidya

The Kauravas  are the 100 evil bothers and the Pandavas, their cousins are the 5 unrighteous brothers. The father of the Kauravas  is Dhritarashtra, the blind King. 

To be blind to things is poor cognition, that means you do not see things as they are.  Out of Avidya or ignorance  spring the hundred sons, these are all evil things, which come out of ignorance. 

The Pandavas and the Kauravas are gathered at the battlefield of righteousness. The  battlefield of Kurukshetra as referred to us Dharmakshetra, the battlefield of dharma. This is the battlefield of the mind. This is a battlefield of righteousness. You are fighting for dharma. Who is fighting for dharma?  Every seeker, every sadhaka, who is on the path, is fighting this battle all the time within himself. We all have parts of us which are basically ignorant. We have negative qualities in us, we have evil qualities in us. We may not call them evil. We may not think of them as evil. When we think of evil we think of terrible things like dictators, murderers. None of us would describe ourselves as evil, even though we have evil tendencies. We may not allow these evil tendencies to manifest but we do have evil thoughts. For instance, we do manipulate or flatter someone because we want something from them. All these qualities are basically coming out of ignorance. 

Verse 2-6: Symbolism of the mind and battlefield

These verses describe the setting of the battlefield. Duryodhana is the eldest son of Dhritarashtra,  the eldest among the hundred Kaurava brothers, it is he who is staking claim to the throne. He sees the Pandavas, his cousins and he approaches his teacher Drona. 

Drona is also the teacher of the Pandavas. They had the same teacher, both the Pandavas and the Kauravas. If you think of the Kauravas and the Pandavas  as aspects of the mind and there is only one teacher, then it makes perfect sense that they both have only one teacher. There is a part of the mind which  the teacher can train and there is another part of the mind which is ignorant. What happens to the ignorant part of the mind as we evolve? It is dying as we let go of the ignorance or evil tendencies. These evil tendencies represented by the Kauravas  must be killed. And therefore in the battlefield Drona, he is the teacher of both of them, he doesn't take sides.  

Verse 7-9: Adhikara or Qualification

Duryodhana  addresses his teacher Drona as the best of twice born. If you are born in Brahmin family, when you are  about nine or 10 years old, you get a thread. This thread ceremony  confers upon the brahmin child the right to study the teachings of the Vedas. Thus the child at the age of nine is reborn and on receiving these teachings gets a new life, therefore a brahmin was also addressed as twice born.

The Brahmans to this day are the custodians of scriptural texts. Earlier this was an oral tradition and the texts were memorized.  Father taught son and so the lineage was determined by birth. In the yogic tradition it is based on merit. The teachings and practices are handed down in a parampara, in a lineage from teacher to student. Caste, gender, education, race or status do not play a role. The teachings are given to all, who are qualified.

What does it mean to be qualified? Qualified means that you have a deep driving longing to evolve spiritually, to transform completely. For attain this goal you are willing to make effort. You have a certain level of integrity and you have a sharp Buddhi so that you are able to see things as they are. These are in fact the qualities represented in the Pandava brothers.

Verse 10: Buddhi and wise choices

There is a wonderful story from the Mahabharata, which illustrates this point. Krishna was a friend to Arjuna as well as Duryodhana, the eldest of the Kauravas.  

Why is Krishna friends with both? Before the battle begins Krishna tries to negotiate peace between the two sides. Buddhi tries to resolve conflicts but the negative qualities are too strong and keep resurfacing. It is clear that they have to be pulled out of the root. 

Arjuna as well as Duryodhana go to Krishna asking for help in the battle, Duryodhana  is first end it happens that Krishna is resting taking an afternoon nap, he is resting and so Duryodhana  barges in and seat himself close to Krishna head. Arjuna  comes later end he get seat and gets himself a seat close to Krishna's feet and when Krishna  is done with his rest his eyes immediately fall on Arjuna and so he greets them both and he asks Arjuna first what can I do for you. Duryodhana  gets very upset and says “I was here first, you should ask me first” but Krishna says, “ I saw Arjuna first and so I'm asking him.” Arjuna  says I want your help in this war and Duryodhana  says I also want to have your help in this war.  Krishna says:  I will to be on one side alone and unarmed and on the other side my army. Arjuna because I saw you first, you get the first choice. Do you want me alone and armed or do you want my entire army?

Arjuna chose Krishna alone and unarmed, he agreed to drive Arjuna’s chariot. Duryodhana was extremely happy but what he did not realize was, Krishna is the centre of consciousness and he represents Buddhi. Without a sharp Buddhi  you cannot achieve anything in life. Even though Duryodhana had a very large force, it was still inadequate and the Pandavas, in spite of having a smaller force they had Krishna on their side.   

Comments:

Alex from USA:
Very well explained. Thanks

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