To understand one thing, we sometimes need to revise how we understand everything

Suppose we are struggling to solve a mathematical sum, but are getting nowhere. The problem is that we have blundered in the first step itself; no matter how much we strive to get the answer right, we can’t succeed, till we retrace our steps back to the first step. 

Similarly, when we face perplexities in life, the consequent questions are like hydras – mythical monsters with multiple heads that, even if chopped off, reappear. Hydras need to be slain by determining where their life lies and attacking there. 

Arjuna faced such a hydra at the start of the Bhagavad-gita. His perplexity seemed to be about a simple question: should I fight or not? But answering that question was extraordinarily difficult because duty could be said to call him in both directions. So, he needed to re-examine his understanding of dharma, which referred essentially to the right thing to do (02.07). To know what the right activity was for him, he had to revisit his understanding of both his identity and his destiny – who he was and what his life was meant for. 

Similarly, when we face perplexities, we can paper over the problems by coming up with some platitudes or pep talks. But those won’t offer us any lasting relief or transformational insight. Indeed, it was only when Arjuna rejected such advice and insisted on addressing life’s fundamental questions that Krishna, the supreme mentor, started speaking the Gita. 

Significantly, because Arjuna extended his enquiry from a circumstantial concern to a universal human necessity, the Gita itself has acquired enduring relevance. When we too recognize the need for re-examining our fundamental worldview or or at least become open to such re-examination, the Gita’s profound wisdom will enrich us forever. 

 

Think it over:

  • How are life’s perplexities like hydras?
  • How was Arjuna’s question not simple?
  • When can Gita wisdom enrich us forever? 

 

***

02.07 Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of miserly weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me for certain what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me.

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