The Divine Charioteer

The setting of the teaching, and the role of Krishna, are both symbolic of the situation of humanity and our evolutionary development in the world. The symbolism underlines the universality of the message. Krishna stands at the center of dramatic, cataclysmic changes taking place in an entire society. A new way of acting and dealing with life is trying to manifest and is being hindered and opposed by the entrenched interests of the way things heretofore were being done. Vested self-interest is also involved to prevent the evolutionary movement from taking place. Individuals arise who are moved by the new spirit and for these individuals Krishna becomes a teacher, a friend and a supporter, encouraging them to keep moving forward and overcome the opposition that they face. While secretly acting as a moving force, he chooses to be the charioteer, rather than the chief warrior in the combat, guiding rather than directly acting as the ostensible protagonist.

Sri Aurobindo describes the symbolic nature of Krishna: “Thus the figure of Krishna becomes, as it were, the symbol of the divine dealings with humanity. Through our egoism and ignorance we are moved, thinking that we are the doers of the work, vaunting of ourselves as the real causes of the result, and that which moves us we see only occasionally as some vague or even some human and earthly foundation of knowledge, aspiration, force, some Principle or Light or Power which we acknowledge and adore without knowing what it is until the occasion arises that forces us to stand arrested before the Veil. And the action in which this divine figure moves is the whole wide action of man in life, not merely the inner life, but all this obscure course of the world which we can judge only by the twilight of the human reason as it opens up dimly before our uncertain advance the little span in front.”

“This is the distinguishing feature of the Gita that it is the culmination of such an action which ives rise to its teaching and assigns that prominence and bold relief to the gospel of works which it enunciates with an emphasis and force we do not find in other Indian Scriptures.”

“Arjuna and Krishna, this human and this divine, stand together not as seers in the peaceful hermitage of meditation, but as fighter and holder of the reins in the clamorous field, in the midst of the hurtling shafts, in the chariot of battle. The Teacher of the Gita is therefore not only the God in man who unveils Himself in the world of knowledge, but the God in man who moves our whole world of action, by and for whom all our humanity exists and struggles and labours, towards whom all human life travels and progresses. He is the secret Master of works and sacrifice and Friend of the human peoples.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 2, The Divine Teacher, pp. 14-16,