Picture this: a battlefield, where two armies are rallied for battle. This battle has been building for a generation: the leading warriors on both sides grew up together, and have been in conflict since their youth.
On one side we have an army led by the five Pandava brothers, warrior of high virtue and skill, defenders of the weak and of what is good and true, devotees of Lord Krishna and beloved by all. On the other side the army led by the greedy, selfish, wicked Kauravas; one hundred brothers led by the most ignorant and evil of them all. Even though there is a clear distinction between the good and the bad guys, there are valiant and honorable warriors on both sides. And both armies are immense, encompassing all families, dynasties and tribes of the time. This war will leave millions dead.
Krishna and Arjuna
The most accomplished of all these warriors is Arjuna. He is one of the good five brothers and has achieved what no one has achieved before: he possesses magical and mystical powers and his success has been predicted by all sages and gods. Just before the battle is about to start he asks his friend and cousin Krishna, who has agreed to be his charioteer during the battle, to take him to the battlefield so he can see the other army. And what does he see? His cousins, uncles, teachers and friends. Overwhelmed, he says that he would rather die than kill so many. He collapses in his chariot and refuses to fight. It may sound like a noble thing, but Arjuna is a warrior by heart and to fight this battle is his higher duty: he has been preparing for this moment his whole life. What follows is a dialogue between these two characters, Krishna and Arjuna; in the beginning, Krishna explains why some battles need to be fought and that Arjuna’s doubts are “folly masked as wisdom”. But throughout the 18 chapters, the discussion evolves into deep metaphysical issues about life, death, right living, the nature of the universe and much much more. This dialogue between master and disciple, between our daily worries and our divine intuition, between God and man is the Bhagavad Gita, The Divine Song.
How Did I Do?
In the very first verse of the Gita, before this dialogue begins, the blind king, father of the one hundred bad brothers, asks his adviser: “in the sacred field of battle, how did they (my sons) do?” There is much to say about this particular verse, and Paramahansa Yogananda, who for me is one of the great authorities on the Gita, spends more than 70 pages commenting on that verse alone. He explains that the hundred brothers are an analogy for the hundreds of desires, distractions, selfish patterns of behavior that we all carry inside of us. And that the good 5 Pandava brothers stand for the 5 inner centers of energy and consciousness that we also possess, and which we can awaken to their true potential of goodness and virtue. And this battle is the battle that we all wage every day of our lives, between our best intentions and our most deep-seated selfishness. Yogananda explains that every yogi – or every person invested in becoming better – should ask themselves this question every day: “in the field of battle that is life, this field of battle between the best and the worst in me, how did I do?”
Some days the answer is uplifting, many days it covers us in shame. But one thing is for sure: it makes one go back into the field the next day with renewed determination and love.