Notes on the Bhagavad-Gītā­: chapter 1 (Lamenting the Consequences of War)

17 October 2012

Currently, a friend and I are studying multiple translations of the Bhagavad-Gītā­. This post represents the second in a series that will memorialize the course of our reading. The first post (a preface) is here.

Meanwhile, here is a text of chapter 1 of the Bhagavad-Gītā (along with the four authorized commentaries on it) to consult. The following is a general summary of the chapter contents:

Chapter one introduces the scene, the setting, the circumstances and the characters involved determining the reasons for the Bhagavad-Gita’s revelation. The scene is the sacred plain of Kuruksetra. The setting is a battlefield. The circumstances is war. The main characters are the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa and Prince Arjuna, witnessed by four million soldiers led by their respective military commanders. After naming the principal warriors on both sides, Arjuna’s growing dejection is described due to the fear of losing friends and relatives in the course of the impending war and the subsequent sins attached to such actions. Thus this chapter is entitled: Lamenting the Consequence of War.

I cannot attempt to justify the intuition to read the Bhagavad-Gītā as an illustration of Jung’s individuation. I can only ask you to take that trip with me and perhaps the outcome will be helpful and insightful. One of the details that persuades me the question is worth examining arises from the frame of the telling: that is, while the bulk of the Bhagavad-Gītā comprises a dialogue between Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna, that dialogue itself is related by the King Dhṛtarāṣṭra’s secretary, Sanjaya. One translation for Dhṛtarāṣṭra’s name is “he who holds the kingdom together,” which by virtue of being the king of the enemy forces in the Bhagavad-Gītā makes him a figure of ego (in Jung’s sense).

A passage from Jung’s Mysterium Coniunctionis, his last book on alchemy, sets some of the parameters for understanding the Bhagavad-Gītā’s four principals figures— Kṛṣṇa, Arjuna, Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Sanjaya—in  terms of individuation):

We know well enough that the unconscious appears personified: mostly [in males] it is the anima who in singular or plural form represents the collective unconscious. The personal unconscious is personified by the shadow. More rarely, the collective unconscious is personified as a Wise Old Man. (I am speaking here only of masculine psychology, which alone can be compared with that of the alchemists.) It is still rarer for Luna to represent the nocturnal side of the psyche in dreams. …

It is therefore not surprising is the unconscious appears in projected and symbolized form, as there is no other way by which it might be perceived. But this is apparently not the case with consciousness. Consciousness, as the essence of all conscious contents, seems to lack the basic requirements for a projection. Properly understood, projection is not a voluntary happening: it is something that approaches the conscious mind from “outside,” a kind of sheen on the object, while all the time the subject remains unaware that he himself is the source of light which causes the cat’s eye of the projection to shine. Luna is therefore conceivable as a projection; but Sol as a projection, since it symbolizes consciousness, seems at first glance a contradiction in terms, yet Sol is no less a projection than Luna. For just as we perceive nothing of the real sun but light and heat and, apart from that, can know its physical constitution only by inference, so our consciousness issues from a dark body, the ego,, which is the indispensable condition for all consciousness, the latter being nothing but the association of an object or a content with the ego. The ego, ostensibly the thing we know most about, is in fact a highly complex affair full of unfathomable obscurities. Indeed, one could even define it as a relatively constant personification of the unconscious itself, or as the Schopenhauerian mirror in which the unconscious becomes aware of its own face[1]. All the worlds that have ever existed before man were physically here. But they were  nameless happening, not a definite actuality, for there did not yet exist that minimal concentration of the psychic factor, which was also present, to speak the word that outweighed the whole of Creation: That is the world, and this is I! That was the first morning of the world, the first sunrise after the primal darkness, when that inchoately conscious complex, the ego, the son of the darkness, knowingly sundered subject and object, and thus precipitated the world and itself into definite existence,[2] giving it and itself a voice and a name. The refulgent body of the sun is the ego and its field of consciousness—Sol et eius umbra: light without and darkness within. In the source of light there is darkness enough for any amount of projections, for the ego grows out of the darkness of the psyche[3].

Elsewhere, Jung notes, “For [the analysand] will infallibly run into things that thwart and ‘cross’ him: first, the thing he has no wish to be (the shadow); second, the thing he is not (the ‘other’, the individual reality of the ‘You”; and third, the psychic non-ego (the collective unconscious)”

This frames the Dhṛtarāṣṭra/Sanjaya axis and the Arjuna/Kṛṣṇa axis, under the notion that Dhṛtarāṣṭra (“he who holds the kingdom together”, hence ego-consciousness) experiences in Sanjaya (whose name in one translation means “complete victory”) “that nagging sense that what is wrong is wrong”.

As an initial intuition, then, Arjuna comprises the shadow of Dhṛtarāṣṭra, i.e., the kind of idealistic impulses that inform Arjuna’s character typically play no part in the Realpolitik of “he who holds the kingdom together”.

More needs to be said about this. Jung uses the term persona to refer to our public face, who we are to the world. On this definition, then the shadow is everything we exclude from our persona. It is particularly in this sense of shadow that Jung points to discarded parts of consciousness, repressed contents, and the like. However, persona should likely not be identified with ego-consciousness, although it is tempting, and also makes a kind of sense. The reason not to is to avoid controversies with Jungians, who might cite passages in Jung that make the identification incorrect or perilous. The broader point is that my public self (my persona), which publicly denies certain impulses, may in private quite consciously indulge them. So, in this case, my persona is just a face of my ego-consciousness, and there will be two characters of shadow then: those parts of experience banished from public view in my persona, and those parts of experience banished from even my own ego-consciousness.

I imagine Dhṛtarāṣṭra as an ego-consciousness figure (that includes a persona). And in the context of “he who holds the kingdom together,” principled ideals may not always be honored when making pragmatic decisions. The statesman (the ego-consciousness) may, as part of its persona, avow freedom of speech as an ideal, but manifold practicalities of “holding the kingdom together” may make that ideal untenable, even if heartbreakingly so. So while the person pays lip service to ideas—even with a complete sincerity—the ego-consciousness cannot be so blasé about it. Hence, the shadow of the persona—the repression of free speech—is precisely the act that ego-consciousness may have to resort to. While the shadow of ego-consciousness comprises a principled assertion of those ideals.

This is how Arjuna is described. One might ask whether Arjuna acts like a coward,[4] but Prabhupāda’s commentary instead stresses the meritorious qualities in Arjuna’s lamentation on the battlefield, even as his refusal to fight is admonished. Prabhupāda, offering his own commentary rather than summarizing any reply by Kṛṣṇa, who has yet to intervene in Arjuna lamentation, notes Arjuna’s compassion, his high spiritual development (when he proposes to undertake a life of begging rather than murdering his relatives), his freedom of emotional expression, and general readiness for spiritual instruction. More indirectly, Arjuna shows himself to be highly acculturated to the mores of his station in life. He argues, for instance, that one should not be so disrespectful even to speak back harshly to those worthy of esteem, much less to counterattack with arrows or blades. Similarly, he cites the veneration of teachers as further grounds for refraining from attacking them. He presents a long disquisition on the woeful effects of war on family life, which an avoidance of war would avoid. And he generally places the value of life higher than any earthly pleasure or ambition.

Prabhupāda refutes each of Arjuna’s arguments in terms of what I would call an ego-consciousness perspective. In general, Arjuna argues idealistically (life is more important than ambition, one should not attack teachers or the venerable, the stability of family is more important than settling differences with violence, &c) and Prabhupāda answers practically. The teachers in question had accepted money to be on the wrong side of the battle, and teachers who commit such abominations open themselves to attack and negate whatever respect they otherwise would be accorded. Similarly, though there is the absolute injunction in Hindu ethics to harm nothing, here Prabhupāda insists that when the Lord says to kill this is not a case of “harming anything.” We can accuse Prabhupāda of sophistry here, but more pertinently we can see how this is the sophistry of ego-consciousness (“he who holds the kingdom together”). Prabhupāda’s answer to Arjuna’s objections are not the same answers Kṛṣṇa will give.

In pragmatically narrative terms, an effective story tends to “work” on various levels. When a hero will face down a villain, the villain must be sufficiently mighty that defeating it constitutes an act of heroism. Similarly, any dilemma a hero faces must be a genuine one. Thus, in the late romance of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the Green Knight’s wife puts Sir Gawain in an untenable position, precisely by using the demands of chivalrous behavior. Anyone hearing this story at the time would well understand just exactly what kind of tight spot Sir Gawain was being backed into. Or similarly, in Hamlet, for Renaissance theater-goers, the moment Hamlet hears his father’s ghost demanding vengeance, the correct response—and the one that Laertes resorts to the moment he hears of the death of his sister—is immediately to fly off the handle and start attacking people. Here, we might count it a historical mystery just how sympathetic the crowd was to Hamlet’s hesitation, but whether they counted him a coward or something else, they most assuredly would have recognized the pickle he was in.

Moreover, in many Hindu narratives, they set a trap, by putting the listener in the position of falling in with the “shape” of the story only to discover they have been just as implicated in the narrative as the hero. Here, Arjuna’s objections are unobjectionable, but he still might seem a coward to listeners—that he is engaging in sophistry simply in order to avoid fighting. But, in the first place, the various translations tend not to go so far as to actually use the word “coward” to describe Arjuna. The chapter refers to Arjuna’s despondency and there is a reference in Prabhupāda’s translation to a debilitating weakness.  The description is less of cowardice and more of the kind of depression of energy that despondency brings. But beyond this, Arjuna’s role as a hero makes calling him a coward unlikely. He has already figured in legends and the rest of the Mahabharata as a hero. He is worthy of Kṛṣṇa’s instruction, and Prabhupāda stresses Arjuna’s noble qualities. But even more than this, a part of the narrative effectiveness—for listeners at the time at least—hinges exactly on the justness of Arjuna’s objections. They show him to be caught in a quite inextricable situation, one that his training as a ksatriya could not have prepared him (i.e., killing his teachers, killing his relatives, being party to the destruction of his own family, &c). In contrast to Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Arjuna is not the type to treat his ideals cavalierly, as the exigencies of daily life may require in political terms.

And so we can see in the context of the four main characters— Kṛṣṇa, Arjuna, Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Sanjaya—that Sanjaya is the nagging voice in Dhṛtarāṣṭra’s ear that lets him know he’s on the wrong path, while Arjuna comprises the shadow of Dhṛtarāṣṭra’s ego-consciousness. Kṛṣṇa, of course, is the Self.[5]

Almost immediately upon being presented with the Dhṛtarāṣṭra/Sanjaya frame for the narrative in general, Dhṛtarāṣṭra’s main general (and son), Duryodhana, whose name can be translated as “dirty fighter”— i.e.,  it is “dirty fighter” who helps keep ego-consciousness on the throne[6]—steps forward to recite the honor roll of warriors on both sides of the fight to come. Once this honor roll is complete, Duryodhana declares, “Our army protected by the strength of Bhīṣma is unlimited; but the army of the Pāṇḍavas being protected by the strength of Bhīma is limited” (I.10).

In Sargeant’s (1984) translation of the Bhagavad-Gītā­, he insists a controversy exists about this verse. It is clear enough, reading the above quotation from chapter 1, verse 10, that Duryodhana (the main general of the enemy forces) is claiming his side of the army is better protected, but this is where the controversy occurs. Nonetheless, the various translations one encounters for this verse assert the above, so it is hard to see where the controversy is. Sargeant suggests an error may have crept into the text. For instance, if one reverses the names Bhīṣma and Bhīma (which looks like it would be easy enough to do, given it is an only one-letter difference), then Duryodhana would be saying, in effect, “Our army is weaker than theirs.” However, I believe there is no original or copy of the Bhagavad-Gītā­ that reflects this error.

The first word of the verse aparyāptaṁ seems usually to be translated as “unlimited” so that its antonym  paryāptaṁ logically means “limited”. (The “a-“ prefix is the same as in the English “acausal” or “atypical”.) Sargeant translates these words in an opposite sense, which at least gives a basis to the controversy he claims. Or, one could posit that the “a-“ prefix got transposed in the original. But despite the fact that the text as we have it now seems to be intact, such that the sense of the original makes logical and narrative sense alike (i.e., that Duryodhana, “dirty fighter,” would report that his troops are superior, which Sargeant confirms was the case in the Mahabharata generally), nonetheless the commentaries on this verse at least have some odd elements:

Duryodhana is implying that although his army is mighty it is insufficient due to the fact that Bhīṣhmadeva being affectionate to the Pāṇḍavas as well as the Kauravas is not totally committed to victory for him; but Bhīma being completely committed to the defeat of the Kauravas makes the victory of the Pandavas stronger and more likely to be successful (Rudra Vaisnava Sampradaya).

Now the question arises that if the armies on both sides were equal in might, how is it possible that victory is assured? Duryodhana gives the answer in this verse by using the word aparyāpta in the sense of being unlimited. Duryodhana to conceal his fear exclaims that his army is unlimited and moreover they are protected by Bhīṣhma who is the most intelligent and a maha-ratha; whereas the Pandava army protected by Bhīma of less intelligence is limited. This is why the Kaurava victory is assured (Brahama Vaisnava Sampradaya).

So it may also be put forth that if Duryodhana is so convinced of his superiority then why does he need to assure himself. In this verse although he states his army is unlimited by its tone it implies by his reply that the army of his with all the mighty heroes previously mentioned protected by Bhīṣhma seems inadequate, whereas the army of the Pandavas which is protected by Bhīma seems adequate to him (Kumara Vaisnava Sampradaya).

Unlike Sargeant, none of these commentators assume an error in the text, nor should we. But what is apparent is that, despite the correct sense of the words, Duryodhana gets credited here with fear and lying (appropriate, perhaps, for a “dirty fighter”), but only when the commentators contextualize his words in such a way as to make them mean the opposite of what he is saying. In the Rudra Vaisnava Sampradaya, the commentator states outright that Duryodhana is confessing his army is insufficient. So, whatever the text actually says (assuming neither that it is corrupted or not), the consensus opinion here is that Duryodhana is actually making a claim for the insufficiency of his army. What to make of this.

As a matter of genre, although Sanjaya is relating events (seen clairvoyantly) to Dhṛtarāṣṭra, there exist no grounds for the modern twist here that Sanjaya is some kind of unreliable narrator. The claim of clairvoyant reportage points thematically to the exact fidelity of Sanjaya’s recitation. Sanjaya, whose name means “complete victory,” already understands well enough that Dhṛtarāṣṭra has erred in setting his army against Kṛṣṇa and the Pāṇḍavas, so it would be tempting to imagine he might, at this particular moment, take the occasion to remind Dhṛtarāṣṭra of that error. Prabhupāda, without getting into any controversy about the text, suggests exactly this. So this is a case of the “nagging voice” that is ever reminding the ego-consciousness when it is choosing to be on the wrong side of the battle (against individuation and the Self).

But there is another detail as well. In a battle where one is facing any number of famed warriors and particularly where your opponent has Kṛṣṇa on his side, it could only be a sign of stupidity or empty bluffing to say, “We’re going to kick your ass.” Duryodhana, whose name also may be translated as “hard to conquer” (a name he chose for himself, incidentally), didn’t get to be a leader of millions by being an idiot or empty bluffer. In other words, I’m suggesting he’s being candid when he says, “Our forces are not sufficient.” Narratively, the fact that he is admitting a truth that is known by all of his listeners makes him a worthier opponent than some fool who is bluffing and full of bluster. But the feint, which is uttered in the presence of his teacher, not in front of all of his troops, also points to the very principle that Arjuna is about to deny. Arjuna argues he shouldn’t fight because of countless good arguments, while Duryodhana argues he should fight, even though he’s going to lose. Duryodhana’s “heroism” (however historically or spiritually misplaced) makes his status as a “dirty fighter” somewhat qualified.

But let’s contextualize this in terms of Jung’s individuation. If Dhṛtarāṣṭra is ego-consciousness, then Duryodhana (“dirty fighter” and “hard to conquer”) denotes some complex in Jung’s sense that wages losing battles on behalf of ego-consciousness, which is holding the kingdom together. Moreover, Duryodhana has the appeal of candor—he admits, “Yep, we’re going to lose, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to fight.” That image, which is a kind of stupidity on the one hand, is a kind of nobility on another, however misguided. It points to how valuable Duryodhana might be if we could get him on the side of the Self, on the side of individuation. The situation suggests how Self allowed ego-consciousness to rule, but now the ego reneges on giving credit where credit is due; the battle on Kuruksetra points to the moment for righting that wrong is at hand.[7] It emphasizes again how this can be seen as a signal on Sanjaya’s part to Dhṛtarāṣṭra that the blind king has made a foolish choice to go to war in this way—to not make good on the promise he made long ago. The bravery or foolhardiness of Duryodhana contributes to the dilemma of Arjuna’s situation, because he shows a willingness to follow his dharma (and fight) even though he acknowledges he can only lose.

In Jung’s studies of alchemy, he stresses that the alchemists’ project was to liberate spirit from its incarceration in matter. He insisted that, whatever value such efforts eventually had with respect to the origins of chemistry, the process of alchemy amounted to a projection of psychic material, which Jung demonstrates exhaustively by continuously underlining the differences between the actually physical characteristics of the various substances the alchemists spoke of (sulphur, salt, quicksilver, gold, silver, &c) and the descriptions they would give of them, which clearly point to a symbolic (rather than material) nature.

What is striking in the Bhagavad-Gītā­ then is that we may describe it as the alchemists’ process, but narrated from the standpoint of the spirit to be liberated (i.e., Arjuna).[8] For us, in terms of Enlightenment, the task is to realize our Self (Kṛṣṇa), who hear appears in person as Kṛṣṇa. But what is markedly different from the alchemists’ project—if it’s fair to say this—is the status of matter. Alchemists speak of the prima materia as the beginning and end of their work, so this prima materia (as an archetypal image of the “stuff” upon which all work is to be done) is not unreservedly inert, fallen, or evil—it is simply that it is a shell or a covering; exactly the same image Prabhupāda uses to describe (in chapter 3) what covers the Self and makes it seem invisible to us. Nonetheless, if there is a temptation to think of the alchemists’ prima material as “dark,” its designation as the “light of nature” qualifies that. As such, the alchemists’ work, seen from the outside, presupposes something—however illuminated—that nevertheless covers what is sought.

In the alchemical scheme of things, the primary object is the union of opposites, described in a seemingly limitless number of ways. But to just pick one, the conjunction of the Sun and the Moon (Sol and Luna) is virtually a master image. Through all of this, the figure of Mercurius constantly dances. In the Sun and the Moon one may infer the union of opposites in the yin/yang. It may be nothing more than a lovely coincidence, but in the Rig-Vedic literature, its authors designate themselves as the Lunar race, while the solar race (the Ikṣvāku) dwelt to their distant northeast. In the context of the Bhagavad-Gītā­, Kṛṣṇa may be the Sun and Arjuna the Moon. And all of this figures as the “shadow” of ego-consciousness. Or, perhaps, Arjuna is the (personal) shadow of the persona and Kṛṣṇa is the (collective) shadow (as a figure of the total Self) generally.

To me, what is striking in all of this is that the typical hero quest—and this is detailed in considerable detail in Campbell’s eternal hero myth and Neumann’s Origins and History of Consciousness—involves a contest with the darkness, the dragon, the depths, which (plausibly enough) gets equated with the unconscious. But here the enemy is, precisely, “he who holds the kingdom together” i.e., ego-consciousness. There is simply no way to easily turn this scenario around in such a way that it could conform to the usual hero quest, particularly because this is—in the figures of Kṛṣṇa, Arjuna, Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Sanjaya—a male-only affair.[9] Even in alchemy, the dragon, which comprises an essential part of what must be conquered in the hero’s quest, morphs into something less unambiguously “bad”. The head of the dragon may be where the healing poison is found, or the very philosopher’s stone itself. It recurs again and again as the snake devouring its own tail (the ouroboros) as a symbol for the prima material and thus the whole of the alchemists’ work in general. Even when the dragon is something to be destroyed, it is a preliminary only toward the eventual union of opposites (Sun and Moon). And throughout all of this, the identification of the dragon (or the serpent) with Woman can be found everywhere, with increasingly sexist overtones as we get closer and closer to our present age

But here, the closest one can come to a figure of Woman would be Kṛṣṇa’s androgynous appearance. In the Indian scheme of things, purusha and prakṛti denote metaphysical terms of varying provenance, but to the extent that prakṛti gets associated with the veil of māyā, this provides an implicit backgrop of “woman” which enlightenment challenges by removing the veil of māyā. However, in terms of the narrative of the Bhagavad-Gītā­, this backdrop is far in the distance compared to the masculine figures named as primaries.

What the details of this might be I’ll leave now for the next post.

[1] Jung’s footnote: “Here the concept of the self can be mentioned only in passing. (For a detailed discussion see Aion, ch. 4.) The self is the hypothetical summation of an indescribable totality, one half of which is constituted by ego-consciousness, the other by the shadow. The latter, so far as it can be established empirically, usually presents itself as the inferior or negative personality. It comprises that part of the collective unconscious which intrudes into the personal sphere, the reforming the so-called personal unconscious. The shadow forms, as it were, the bridge to the figure of the anima, who is only partly personal, and through her to the impersonal figures of the collective unconsciousness. The concept of the self is essentially intuitive and embraces ego-consciousness, shadow, anima, and collective unconscious in indeterminable extension. As a totality, the self is a coincidentia oppositorum: it is therefore bright and dark and yet neither. ¶ If we hypostatize the self and derive from it (as from a kind of pre-existent personality) the ego and the shadow, then these would appear as the empirical aspects of the opposites that are preformed in the self. Since I have no wish to construct a world of speculative concepts, which leads merely to the barren hair-splitting of philosophical discussion, I set no particular store by these reflections. If such concepts provisionally serve to put the empirical material in order, they will have fulfilled their purpose. The empiricist has nothing to say about the concepts of self and God in themselves, and how they are related to one another” (pp. 107–8).

[2] Jung’s footnote: “Genesis 1:1–7 is a projection of this process. The coming of consciousness is described as an objective event, the active subject of which is not the ego but Elohim. Since primitive people very often do not feel themselves the subject of their thinking, it is possible that in the distant past consciousness appeared as an outside event that happened to the ego, and that it was integrated with the subject only in later times. Illumination and inspiration, which in reality are sudden expansions of consciousness, still seem to have, even for us, a subject that is not the ego. CF. Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness, pp. 102ff” (p. 108).

[3] For a somewhat misguided article on Jung’s concept of shadow, see here.

[4] What makes Arjuna seem possibly like a coward arises from the wealth of argument he gives for why he shouldn’t attack: he doesn’t want to kill his relatives; family traditions would be ruined; it would be better to beg; one shouldn’t speak back, much less attack, one’s superiors; teachers are supposed to be revered, not killed. Even if the crowd expects Arjuna to fight, these are all sound arguments. And in fact, Kṛṣṇa’s first answer will be, “Don’t act like this; do your dharma as a warrior.” But Arjuna is precisely delineating the moral dilemma, that parts of his dharma (i.e., don’t attack superiors, don’t kill teachers) is now in conflict with his duty to fight as a warrior. The commentator in The Bhagavad-Gita as It Is, answers these points by Arjuna in advance of Kṛṣṇa’s own answer. Thus, for example, the teachers have compromised their reputation by accepting money and, in any case, scripture allows that if a teacher does something abominable, then a student may abandon them. Importantly, these are “persona answer”. We have linked Dhṛtarāṣṭra with the persona, with the public face of the ego, who has only the job of maintaining that public face, particularly as it becomes necessary to qualify or set aside principles. This isn’t pessimistic; ideals are (or can be) held in genuine high esteem, but ultimately they are guidelines, not obligations. They’re flexible. As an embodiment of idealism, Arjuna does not have this flexibility—and the commentator is clear that he should not. Dhṛtarāṣṭra is not the hero of the story; his worldly pragmatism (the ego’s resort to any means to keep its kingdom) is not the hero of the story. Nonetheless, the rejoinders offered by the commentator are “persona arguments”—only in a pragmatic setting would one say “teachers are always to be respect, except when …” This does not mean that the commentator will only ever offer persona-type rejoinders, just as Kṛṣṇa does not answer Arjuna’s questions only once.

[5] In the article reviewing Jung’s use of the term shadow (noted above), the author engages in some pretty smarmy pessimism; he rejects Jung’s notion of “integrating” the shadow, preferring to emphasize Jung’s “transcendent” function that lifts one out of one’s self, if only for a short while. In his view, wholeness is not possible, except for short runs. I will say this pessimism is akin to Dhṛtarāṣṭra’s blindness, all the more so since the optimism for wholeness—the possibility of a principled life—is currently “suppressed” in the unconscious (where Arjuna and Kṛṣṇa, the Self, are). Nonetheless, Sanjaya is whispering in Dhṛtarāṣṭra’s ear; he can’t ignore the possibility of wholeness entirely.

[6] His actual name was Suyodhana, but he changed it to Duryodhana, which Wikipedia says means literally “hard to conquer”.

[7] The legendary historical circumstance for the battle were: “Kuru territories were divided into two and were ruled by Dhṛtarāṣṭra (with capital at Hastinapura) and Yudhishthira of the Pandavas (with capital at Indraprastha). The immediate dispute between the Kauravas (sons of Dhritarashtra) and the Pandavas arose from a game of dice, which Duryodhana won by deceit, forcing their Pāṇḍava cousins to transfer their entire territories to the Kauravas (to Hastinapura) and to “go-into-exile” for thirteen years. The dispute escalated into a full scale war when Prince Duryodhana, the eldest of the Kauravas, driven by jealousy, refused to restore the Pandavas their territories after the exile as earlier decided, as Duryodhana objects that they were discovered while in exile, and that no return of their kingdom was agreed” (for more, see here, ¶2).

[8] Commentary on the Bhagavad-Gītā­ stresses that it depicts three worlds: the historical world with its details of the battle of Kuruksetra, the philosophical world presented by Kṛṣṇa in his disquisitions to Arjuna, and the world of those listening, consisting of Dhṛtarāṣṭra and Sanjaya. I would add that there is now a fourth world insofar as the text is yet another “world,” but even as a text, the reader (or listener) is put in the position of listening to Sanjaya, of possibly lapsing into an identity with Dhṛtarāṣṭra, which is exactly the kind of “trap” that Hindu tales often set and spring so well.

[9] Jung’s remark, cited above, might be recalled here: “(I am speaking here only of masculine psychology, which alone can be compared with that of the alchemists.)”


3 Responses to “Notes on the Bhagavad-Gītā­: chapter 1 (Lamenting the Consequences of War)”

  1. no ka oi monk seal said

    This is great. I was just writing a new efriend about Arjuna and Lord Krishna on the battlefield. Lord Krishna teaching Arjuna about dharma (do you your duty) and Karma Yoga. The best teacher I’ve had on this sacred text is Baba Hari Das of Santa Cruz, Ca, Mount Madonna Center. I’ve speant many a happy afternoon at his teachings and Question and Answer sessions at the retreat center in the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains. Well worth a look. Thanks for this. More to comment later.

  2. Jrcnyc said

    This is a fantastic blog…generally and here. Where is the “about” info for this? Who is the author?

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