Courage in Confession
Courage in Confession
The Gandiva clattered to the floor of the chariot, looking lifeless and devoid of all potency. Arjuna's fingers cramped from the tense grip he had on his bow. It had been slipping from his hands for several moments. He tightened his hold on the grip in the middle of the bow, but eventually lost out, and the bow which seemed to have a mind of its own, fell from his hands. Arjuna and his Gandiva were like one entity, nearly inseparable, but now they were at odds. When Arjuna looked at his Gandiva, all he could see was what he was being forced to do. All he could see was the thing he could not do.
He looked up and peered across the clear, and open battlefield. On the opposing side, were all of his relatives in one way or another. Arjuna bowed his head under the weight of his coming actions. How could he fight them? And if he fought them, at least some of them would be slain. He knew this for certain. For the first time in his life, he cursed his knowledge of weaponry and warfare. What good was it now, used on all those whom he loved?
Love. What did the word even mean? Arjuna was sure that he no longer knew. If he loved his family, if he loved his teachers, if he had any love for those who had taught him everything he knew about life, could he now look at them with cold eyes filled with nothing but duty and kill them all? No. It wasn't possible. This war as not possible. His task was impossible. He wouldn't do it. It was as simple as that. His stomach lurched, and he was sure he would be sick. His legs shook, his hands shook, and he sobbed as fresh, hot tears of dread and despair made their way down his cheeks. It seemed a simple conclusion that he would not do battle. Even his body refused to cooperate. Giving in to the demands of his limbs, Arjuna's knees buckled and he sat heavily upon the upholstered seat within the chariot, rocking the carrier's frame.
He swallowed, but his throat constricted. It felt so tight that not even air could get through, and he clasped at his throat, clawing with his hands as he tried to gasp, but feeling as though he was sucking in air through a narrow straw. His breaths came quicker and quicker while sweat broke out across his brow. This was a fate worse than death. He was one of the best warriors of his time, and now, he would go down in history as a monster. Men would be left lifeless, women and children would be left without the heads of their families. The loves of their lives would be ripped from them, and they would all look to him as the cause. They would blame him. Arjuna would blame himself.
His head held in his hands, feeling the full weight of his crown, a crown which came at a terrible price, he spoke in a quiet, sorrowful voice. "Oh Govinda, I shall not fight."
This pivotal moment in the Bhagavad Gita, is one that has always made a deep impression on me. The great archer Arjuna is having an unimaginable crisis. He has to fight, not against evil doers which would make his task at least a little easier, but against his family. His loved ones. His teachers. He is one of the most courageous and well known characters of the epic history The Mahabharata, yet just before the great battle which would determine the fate of his entire family, he finds that he has lost all of his courage, he has lost all of his inner strength. He has lost his grip on everything that makes him a warrior.
I cannot tell you how many times I have felt a similar debilitating feeling. I say similar, because my troubles cannot be measured on the same scale or magnitude as Arjuna's terrible decision, but the beauty of the Bhagavad Gita is that it's meant to relate to all of us. We are meant to understand that Arjuna's struggle is a similar struggle that we all will face countless times. But the formula for addressing the dilemma remains the same.
Arjuna looked into the gorgeously handsome face of his chariot driver, Sri Krishna. His best friend, his maternal cousin, his greatest ally, his everything. In the moment of greatest fear and despair, Arjuna chooses to turn to Krishna and express all of his feelings. He holds nothing back as he speaks with his best friend. He has the courage to confess that he is losing his entire composure. He's losing his mind. He has no idea where to turn. He has no idea what to do. He is crying, shaking, breaking down emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. But his faith in his dear most friend gives him the ultimate courage to say:
Krishna I have nothing and no one but You. Although this fear is making me lose sight of who I am, I surrender. I trust You. I trust that whatever You tell me will be good for me. I'm ready to do as You say.
And in that moment of trust, faith, surrender, and love, Krishna doesn't turn from him telling him to "man up" and get on with it. He explains the workings of the universe with love, and gentle compassion to His friend. He comforts Arjuna as no one else in the universe can. There are several times within Bhagavad Gita where Krishna says, in essence:
I will reveal the secrets of the universe and how to overcome your sorrow because I love you, and because you are My dear friend.
Krishna explains to the person that he loves that there is nothing in this creation which exists outside of Him. Everything is acting under His direction. Surrender to Him gives one the greatest happiness and immediate relief. In this regard, for many years I have looked at the Bhagavad Gita as a treatise on love, between the best of friends. Krishna gives Arjuna the greatest motivational speech of all time and reveals to him the key to love, life and surrender, all because Krishna loved Arjuna and because Arjuna, in a moment of calamity, had the ultimate courage to ask for help.
In moments of confusion and depression, I often look at the Bhagavad Gita as a beautiful example of what can happen when we have the courage to ask for help. When we have the courage to surrender to the Supreme Friend who always has our best interest at heart and says without doubt that He will always guide us, because our Divine Friend loves us all more than we can imagine.
The seers, knowing Me as the support, companion, confidant and sympathizer of all beings, attain peace and relief from the unrelenting desert of material struggle and strife.
--Adapted from Bhagavad Gita 5.29
I cultivate the courage to ask for help from my divine guides and mentors. I yearn to have faith in the process of surrender, knowing for certain that it will lead to the greatest peace and ultimate happiness.