Three kinds of blindness in the Gita’s first chapter
Dhritarashtra’s blindness — physical: His blindness, being physical, was the most self-evident. It prevented him from ascending the throne and left him with an unfulfillable craving, lifelong. The Bhagavad-gita’s start (01.01) points to his blindness: as he couldn’t see, he had to ask Sanjaya for a battlefield report.
Duryodhana’s blindness — prejudicial: He had functional eyes, but his greed for the kingdom and envy toward the Pandavas blinded him. He couldn’t see any good in the Pandavas or even any good in Krishna, the all-benevolent Divine. He stayed blind to his own self-interest when Krishna personally came to him, offering peace on the most accommodating of terms. Even in preparing for the Kurukshetra war, he couldn’t see that the Krishna factor would decisively disrupt all his elaborate material calculations. Krishna’s non-combatant role in the Kurukshetra battlefield mirrors God’s role in this world — inconspicuous, yet inexorable.
Arjuna’s blindness — circumstantial: When Arjuna saw his many relatives assembled for a fight to death, he became blind to his responsibilities as a martial guardian of society. He found himself paralyzed (01.46) and perplexed (02.06). His circumstantial blindness was removed by the Gita’s transcendental wisdom, which explained how if he remained devotionally dutiful, ultimate good would result for everyone. Following Arjuna’s example, we too can turn to Gita wisdom when life’s storms confuse us.
Could Gita wisdom have helped Dhritarashtra and Duryodhana too? Yes, if only they had accepted it. Applying Gita wisdom to Dhritarashtra’s situation, we can learn to accept that some things may be unattainable and seek fulfillment in the things that are attainable. Applying Gita wisdom to Duryodhana’s situation, we can learn to prevent our prejudices from becoming so big as to overshadow others’ goodness and especially God’s ultimate goodness.
Whenever our situations or emotions blind us, Gita wisdom stands ready to show us a way ahead.
Think it over:
- How can Gita wisdom protect us from Dhritarashtra-like blindness?
- How can Gita wisdom protect us from Duryodhana-like blindness?
- How can Gita wisdom protect us from Arjuna-like blindness?
01.01: Dhritarashtra said: O Sanjaya, after my sons and the sons of Paṇḍu assembled in the place of pilgrimage at Kurukshetra, desiring to fight, what did they do?