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Bhagavad Gita -- Sri Pichumani Iyyengar (Triplicane)

From: Kazhiyur Manar Narayanan (
Date: Mon Sep 21 1998 - 09:10:30 PDT

     [Sri Pichumani Iyyengar's comments on the Gita, part 2]

		Sri Krishnaya Parabrahmne Namaha   
		   Srimate Ramanujaya Namaha

Study of "arjuna uvAca" (Arjuna's statements) in Srimad Bhagavad Gita
sans the Introduction and the XI chapter.

If we leave out the introductory part of the Lord's scripture and the
XI chapter, the slokas spoken by Sri Arjuna in the other sixteen
chapters are twenty five in all.

	"sthita prajnasya kA bhAshA ityAdi" is the only sloka from Sri
Arjuna in that long second chapter, after expressing his grief in the
beginning. The Lord's answer to the question was on the expected

	Then Sri Arjuna discovers that even a student of jnAna yoga
with no desire for the pleasures of the world repeatedly slips into
gross indiscretions.  Four of the twenty-five slokas, three from the
third chapter and one from the fifth, read shrill. They could not but;
how could Sri Arjuna who had readily recognised and more readily
acknowledge the Lord of all creation in Sri Krishna strike a strident
tone against what the Lord was saying ?

	The query from Sri Arjuna in the third chapter towards the end
"Atha kena prayuktoyam ityadi..." might imply the plea; 'If this is
the fate in store for a student of jnana yoga how could the karma yoga
you speak about lead to a knowledge free from it, espe cially in my
case ? I am a kshatrya out to kill a grandfather and a teacher loved
and revered so much by me and others. Lord, my God, I haven't, like
the sages, made the journey to seek you. You have sought me and made
me your closest. What a blessing is t his in addition to being born
while you are here ? You are Kesava the Lord of all creation. You are
Janardana, the Lord who terminates the vicious circle of births and
deaths. How could you then sit there literally and drive me to do this
? How could this g hora karma of killing, even with absolute
detachment, relations and teachers evolve into yoga ? "Avaram bhavato
janma ityadi', the query in the fourth chapter, is the digression Sri
Arjuna was eagerly waiting for after listening to a full chapter on
karma y oga. He asks not from a total ignorance of the answer but his
knowledge of the Lord's avatara rahasya lacks many details. The Lord
after giving those details is back in the same chapter on karma yoga.

It was soon clear to Sri Arjuna that there was no escape for him
from seeing himself through the war. Hence the question in the
fifth chapter was impersonally phrased though its shrillness was
none too faint. In the sixth and the eight chapters Sri Arjuna's
concern shifted to the world at large, to the world contemporary
and that in the womb of the future.

Then followed the seven slokas of the tenth chapter. In the
second chapter Sri Arjuna began with the anguished plea 'Katham
Bhismam aham sankhye Dronam cha ishubhip pratiyotsyami ?' and
ended with the fervent appeal to the Lord in the tenth chapter
'Katham vidyam aham yogi twam sada parichintayan ?' These seven
slokas signalled the subsequent flooding of Kurukshetra and the
Lord's creation beyond it with Sri Arjuna's scriptural
ecstasy. The Lord's viswarupa sandarsana in the following chapter
first stirred an d then fed this ecstasy to satiation.

The pandava had been long in his dialogue only till the Lord
began His own dialogue about Himself and His creation. Sri Arjuna
had again spoken for long only in the XI chapter. Twenty of the
twenty five slokas in the rest of the scripture were spoken
before the Lord's viswarupa sandarsana. The revelation through a
unique vision meant only for Sri Arjuna had left him with very
little to say after the event.

This experience would last Sri Arjuna many life-times if he had
indeed still lives to go through. The spell wholesome and divine,
was lasting and it was a surprise that Sri Arjuna was able to
frame three questions and a sloke in the remaining six chapters,
the query in the twelfth chapter being of course the Pandava's
sincere and deep concern for the kaivalya nishta. The Lord was in
the remaining six chapters fast filing in gaps in his earlier
dialogue while Sri Arjuna sat there almost speechless from the
exp erience. For the rest of his life the experience and the
author were the answer to all his questions.

God should thus be caught His grace of course contributing to the
catch.  "Man mana bhava, mad yaji..' stated the Lord right in the
middle of the scripture and repeated those very sentences in the
stanza immediately preceding the charama sloka adding a solemn
promise to them,' satyam te pratijane priyosi me'. 'As you are
already at loving me, please continue it' is the Lord's prayer to
Sri Arjuna. The Pandava's love sustained the Lord as much as His
love sustained the former.

A study of chapters 14 and 16 from the uvacha of the father and
the son in Srimat Bhagavadgita and elsewhere

A good man is pleasantly surprised to find himself energised to
put all his talents to the best use. Dhritarashtra could not
however greet any such pleasant surprise. Treta Yuga glided into
Dwapara Yuga from Maharishi Vashishta through Sri Sakthi and Sri
Parasara to Sri Vyasa and Sri Suka. The real story of Sri
Mahabharatham began with Santanu.

The queens of Vichitravirya, Santanu's son, had not received the
blessings of Sri Veda Vyasa the way their housemaid did. Result,
a prince was born bind and another leucodermic. The decadence of
the Kurus had begun with Santanu marrying Satyavati. It contin
ued with Amba and Amba and Ambalika closing their eyes to Sri
Veda Vyasa visiting them in disguise. Gandhari, Dhritarashtra's
queen took over from them to continue it. Kunti too, in a strange
way, contributed to it before her marriage to Pandu.

It looks as though Duryodhana and Dutsasana were born to expiate
the father's sins of past births by staying irredeemable
evil. Dhirtarashtra expiated his sins by staying for his part
throughout the tragedy totally helpless to his two sons being
permanently redemption-proof. The "mamakaha" of Dhritarashtra,
his "mine" who with the exception of Vikarna, yielded
continuously a worldful of poison of the most virulent type were
born oviparous emerging from a huge shellless egg. The answer to
what they did "kim akurvata" was not just the story of the great
war but the story of Mahabharata itself. The sons had stayed
Dhritarashtra's "mamakaha" in every way curing paradoxically the
father's terminal passive tamas by their cancerous rajas and

Aprakaso apravruttischa pramado moha eva cha, tamasi vivrudhe
jayante."  "Jaghanyaguna vrutistha adho gachachanti tamasaha" ,
"ajnanam tamasappalam."  Dhritarashtra is a lasting illustration
of the divine observations in the XIV chapter.

Dhritarashtra's first major counsel was with Kanika, the son of a
professional gambler. The Kaurava king invited him to advise him
on containing the growing prowess of the young Pandavas entrusted
to his care.  Kanika illustrated his advice with Jambukopakhy
anam. Being thus afflicted early in life, the blind man could not
but use in his query the "atmana padam", "akurvata". Even the
Lord of all creation being satra vasya throws up his hands
against the plight of such folks and says "adho gachchanti
tamasaha".  This plight of his was Dhritarashtra's aasura sampat,
his evil possession .

As for Duryodhana if satvaguna was conspicuous in him by its
absence, his tamas was gasping for life without a moment's
respite trampled by an unbridled rajas. His has been a glaring
illustration of rajo guna running amuck all his life against his
enemies.  Even his tamas could not break its speed once in a
while. The Lord in the XVI chapter prepared a list of the
propensities of the asuras. Duryodhana had been quire rich in all
of them. He knew only too well that Sri Krishna was too
formidable both for him an d for the rest in the world of men and
elsewhere. He had all along been hoping that the Lord too would
eventually go neutral like Sri Balarama. But the Lord's
forthright and harsh speech at his father's court followed by
Viswarupa darsan had shattered all h is hope. The Lord's
invincibility had at last turned him more vituperative than
Sisupala. Hence Uluka Dutagamanam.

Though Dhritarashtra reacted quite differently to the Lord's
Viswarupa darsan at his court receiving it all with immense awe
and reverence, the benign vision and its message were lost on him
as usual and hence the question on this later occasion , "Mamakap
Pandavas chaiva kim akurvata."

>From 'Chapters 14, 15 and 16 and Karna's story'

The Lord was available in Vibhava as much for Karna and the
Dharatarashtras as for the Pandavas and others. Karna unlike Sri
Vidura got his psyche uncontrollably disturbed by his constant
painful thoughts about his station in life.

Drona would not teach him the operation of Brahmastra as he was
no kshatria on the information available. But Karna by hook or by
crook would learn its operation in which Arjuna had already been
an expert. His rivalry with Arjuna was all and hence the end was
all for Karna.

Now to go from the concrete to the abstract the Lord's scripture,
the slokas in Sri Gita relevant to this attitude of Karna, the
first of the Kaunteyas , are slokas 5, 7 and 12 in Chapter 14.

Karna was left in the lurch about the conduct of dharma from the
moment of his birth first literally drifting down a stream of
murky waters, then down a mighty flood of events against which he
had been as helpless as Dhritarastra.

The journey away from the Lord was not over for Karna. Karna's is
the story of an individual born in the Dwapara Yuga of the 28th
chatur yuga of Sweta Varaha Kalpam but bound by the immutable
laws set down by the Lord for the governance of His creation. Wha
t makes Karna different from Duryodhana was his constant struggle
against rajo and tamo gunas, a struggle that was sincere but
unsuccessful. It went unsuccessful because of his invidious
comparison between himself and Arjuna.

There is a sanskrit play on Karna very rightly called "Karna
Bharam", Karna's task. It had been an uphill task for Karna to
grow out of what he was born into from the constraints of karma
of some past birth.

Satvaguna operated in Arjuna without any effort on his part to
cultivate it whereas Karna would not even cultivate it along with
his skills in archery.  Sri Krishna was all for Arjuna, but
Duryodhana was Karna's reliable prop in his disastrous rivalry
with A rjuna. Had he had a proper direction to his sradha it
might have turned him lastingly satvic and Arjuna might have
ceased to be his disastrous obsession.

One should not wax eloquent over Karna's boundless munificence
isolating it from the rest of his character. It was a poor
compensation attempted desperately by Karna against all that he
did not want to be, attempted throwing all the rules of sastra to
the w inds. He had tried to be munificent the way Mahabali
did. The harsh fact is that Karna from some past karma then
beginning to operate could not help being asuric throughout his
life through the sun god himself was his father and Kunti his

The Three gunas satva, rajas and tamas do not belong to the
soul. They are part of the prakruti in which the soul has been
lodged. The soul's framework consists of cognition (jnanam) and ,
if he functions properly, its bi-product bliss. He had the chance
th ough no one could say when it was, to choose between the God
the Lord and matter. Guided or misguided by vasana, inclination,
he chooses. Vasana leads to 'ruchi', taste. Taste leads to
sraddha defined in different ways. Permit me e to call it
exertions. Kar na may be greeted by slokas 13,14,15 of the XVI
chapter from the Lord's scripture. A very correct assessment of
Karna's character is got from the famous tamil poet Sri
Villiputtur Alwar in his version of the epic. It is but a phrase
but that phrase sums up all that one has got to know about
Karna. The poet calls him a window dresser. (Puram Suvar Kolam

Karna behaved most inhumanely towards the Pandavas at the dice
game between Dharmaputra and Sakuni. His taunting of Draupati
while Dussasana was humiliating her was possible only for a
rakshasa infinitely worse than Ravana. All his acts of
munificence shoul d be evaluated against this heinous behaviour
on his part.

Karma is, of course, to be pitied. He pitied himself at length in
his long dialogue with the Lord on the eve of the great war. He
returned from the Lord weighed down by profound and helpless
regrets. Those regrets stayed with him to the end and his sincere
friendship for Duryodhana as well. He fought in the great war
contributing to it vagaries exactly like Sri Bhisma, Sri Drona
and Saliya entertaining no hopes of victory. He like others did
his best, shall we add, in the circumstances but that was
precious little.Karna's exertions in his life should have
followed slokas 23, 24 and 25 of the Lord in the XIV Chapter.