- In refusing to fight, what is Arjuna calling into question?
Arjuna is troubled by various facets of his war mission. The first and foremost is the killing of his kin and kith. Across the battle line in Kurukshetra stand his cousins, uncles and former gurus. How heartless one needs to be to be able to desimmate one’s own flesh and blood, he asks Krishna. Arjuna is also uncertain of the legitimacy of war itself. How can so much bloodshed be toward a noble cause, he queries Krishna. Moreover, Arjuna fails to see how the enterprise of war could lead to liberation from worldly existence. To his intuition it appeared as if war stood for all that was denounced in the Vedas.
- What is Arjuna’s duty according to the Vedic ideal?
According to the Vedic scriptures, Arjuna should act according to his Svabava and the resulting Swadharma. Svabava can be loosely translated as an individual’s natural gifts and personality traits. Swadharma is those set of codes of behavior that arise from one’s Svabava. Arjuna, by virtue of being born into the warrior caste – Kshatriya – needs to fulfill his duties in the battleground. It is implicitly required of him to succeed in battle to achieve the ultimate goal of moksha or worldly liberation.
- What does Arjuna see as the only alternative to fighting?
As he finds the prospect of engaging in a fatalistic battle with his brethren heart-wrenching, Arjuna asks Krishna if he can renounce his arms and make peace with the Kauravas. Arjuna even contemplates the ascetic way of life toward reaching God. But as Krishna points out these alternatives are weak and cowardly. They do not resolve the calls of dharma.
- What path does Krishna show him?
Lord Krishna’s main line of encouragement to Arjuna comes from the principles of Dharma, which can be interpreted as natural justice. Arjuna’s birth into the warrior caste is the foremost compulsion for his destiny with the battle field. But beyond the dictates of the varna (or caste), there is also the consideration of Sanatana Dharma, which stands for universal order. Krishna expounds that there is a universal law of nature at play and it is impending on individuals to play their part in fulfilling these laws. The obliteration of evil is an important facet to Sanatana Dharma. Irrespective of what form this evil manifests itself in, the dutiful human being should participate in quelling it.