The Bhagavad-Gita opens with Arjuna, an esteemed and valiant fighter, undergoing an existential crisis. He requests Krishna, who has taken the humble position of being his driver, to draw his chariot to the middle of the battlefield. Before plunging into full-scale warfare, Arjuna wants to witness the formidable fighters who have assembled to engage in this historic trial of arms. Seeing his friends, family members and teachers, he becomes overwhelmed with emotion, contemplating the suffering and death that will inevitably transpire. Arjuna's body begins to tremble, his bow slips from his hand, his skin starts to burn, and, sweating in anxiety, his mind reels with conflicting thoughts. Completely displaced, he helplessly approaches Krishna and concedes: "I can't bear this predicament - I need to leave the battlefield. I must change my situation."
When faced with problems, our instinctive reaction is one of escape. It seems natural and logical to remove ourselves from the situation, create distance, seek relief, and mitigate the immediate discomfort. The default response is to make external adjustments to solve our problems. When relationships get rocky, it’s easier to turn your back. When obstacles unexpectedly appear, we change our path or give up entirely. When situations demand sacrifice, we bow out and revert to the comfortable alternative. Could it be, however, that every difficulty we encounter is meant to evolve, edify and elevate our consciousness? Could unwanted impediments be part of a master plan to usher us into a higher awareness of life? Perhaps challenges appear for our growth?
In troublesome times, we shouldn’t impulsively clutch for an external fix, but rather focus on nurturing internal growth. In difficulty, we often look up at God as victims and question, “Why is this happening to me?" Instead, we could look up as seekers and ask, “How can I learn and grow from this?” Everyone will go through problems, but the wise soul learns to grow through problems. If we instinctively eject ourselves from the difficult situations we encounter, failing to learn or evolve from them, the same situations will likely reappear again and again.
In the dialogue that ensues, Krishna encourages Arjuna to embrace his daunting task as a warrior. On the surface, Arjuna’s arguments for opting out of battle seem credible, indeed even spiritual. Krishna, however, exposes Arjuna’s weakness and discourages his proposed exit from the battlefield. Every event and experience appears for a reason. It's that reason, that lesson, that teaching, that we must decipher. Krishna assures Arjuna that this situation will provide him a unique opportunity to develop his spiritual consciousness. It’s this spiritual consciousness that will provide immunity from the inescapable chaos of material life, and simultaneously connect one to the Supreme Person and eternal reality.
We each have our life path, and every journey is peppered with challenges. Though we may sometimes opt to adjust the externals and alter the practical dynamics, we should know that such changes are not solutions in and of themselves. Everything we encounter is meant to rewire our consciousness and renovate our inner world.
“I am now unable to stand here any longer. I am forgetting myself, and my mind is reeling. I see only causes of misfortune, O Krishna, killer of the Kesi demon.” (Bhagavad-Gita 1.30)
1.30 – Arjuna’s lack of spiritual vision brings fear and dejection.
2.9 – Arjuna puts down his bow and decides to retire from the battle.