The Gita’s setting reflects not logical absurdity but metaphysical urgency
Some people ask, “In the Mahabharata, when both armies were about to fight a war, how could they all have waited for so long while Krishna spoke the Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna?” Going further, some scholars allege that the Gita’s position in the Mahabharata is a logical absurdity – would anyone writing a story include so unrealistic a scene?
Yes, the Gita was spoken in the middle of a battlefield (01.24). But before obsessing over the improbability, let’s consider the cultural context of the Mahabharata and the attitude of the warriors therein – knowing that they would get a better otherworldly destination if they attained martyrdom while fighting, they saw war as a sporting contest of skill. Just as sportsmanly cricket bowlers want to dismiss a batsman ready to bat, not an unprepared batsman conferring with the non-striker batsman, similarly, heroic warriors wanted to defeat alert opponents, not opponents engaged elsewhere. Accordingly, when Bhishma, the opposing commander, saw Krishna and Arjuna engaged in an earnest discussion, he signaled his warriors to wait till that discussion ended, and they all complied.
A question may still remain: “Granting that the Gita’s battlefield setting is possible, why is it preferable? What does it teach?” It illustrates metaphysical urgency. Most people feel that as they have too many urgent things to do, they just can’t spare time for exploring life’s spiritual side. But practically nothing is more urgent than a war, especially when both armies are ready. Arjuna’s dedicating time for hearing the Gita’s wisdom in such a situation underscores how absolutely urgent gaining spiritual understanding is – how everything else can be made to wait for it.
In our particular situations, whatever we need to defer for prioritizing Gita study, we can get the necessary inspiration by contemplating what all Arjuna had to put aside for hearing the Gita.
Think it over:
- What does the Gita’s setting tell us about its contemporary culture?
- How does the Gita’s setting convey the urgency of its message?
- In your daily schedule, what can you postpone to make time for the Gita?
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