What someone is not telling can be telling
Suppose India is rocked by a war of global significance. If an Indian newspaper barely reports that war, that silence is telling – it highlights the paper’s policies and priorities.
Consider Srimad-Bhagavatam, the devotional classic celebrated for its vivid and expansive description of Krishna’s pastimes in its tenth canto. That canto, despite containing over one-fourth of the Bhagavatam’s verses, doesn’t describe the fratricidal Mahabharata war. This silence is telling – it highlights the Bhagavatam’s singular purpose: to help its principal hearer, king Parikshit, prepare for his impending death by attaining deep absorption in Krishna. In the Mahabharata war, Abhimanyu was brutally slaughtered, thus leaving his still-unborn son, Parikshit, an orphan. Lest recollection of that tragedy distress and distract Parikshit, the Bhagavatam sensitively avoids dwelling on it.
The Bhagavad-gita’s silence about the Kurukshetra war is similarly telling. The Gita is spoken before that war to guide the disheartened Arjuna towards the path of duty. Yet it doesn’t contain turbo-charged rhetoric about the glory of winning, the strategy for fighting or even the depravity of the opponents – all subjects expected to dominate warriors’ pre-war discussions.
In striking contrast, the Gita mentions the war just a handful of times, and not even once in its last seven chapters. Poignantly, its conclusion (18.66) is a call for transcendence, not a call for war. And Arjuna responds (18.73) by resolving to surrender to Krishna, not by resolving to fight a cold-blooded war. Even when the Gita uses martial language, it refers more to the war within: to the inner enemies of selfish desire (03.43), and to the weapons for overcoming them – knowledge (04.42) and detachment (15.04).
The Gita’s studied silence regarding its battlefield context in its conclusion stresses its universal message: to inspire us to fight our inner war and relish the supreme spiritual fulfillment coming from self-mastery.
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