The Human Disciple’s Role in the Gita’s Teaching

For any evolutionary teaching to actually take root and impact life, not only is the Teacher required, but also the capable student, or disciple. The symbolic role of the Divine Teacher is therefore matched in the Gita by the symbolic role played by the disciple. Arjuna represents the leading edge of humanity in terms of his ability to focus his mind, harness his life energies and direct his actions along lines that increase light and ethical and moral principles in action.

Had Arjuna been a sage or renunciate meditating away from the vital forces of an active life, he would not have been representative and would not thereby have provided the relevance that the Gita is attempting to provide. Arjuna is first and foremost a man of action, a royal prince charged with carrying the primary burden of meeting and overcoming the forces of opposition as a warrior. He is fully immersed in the “battle of life”. He must find his salvation in action, in works, not in the cave or the desert or the monastery.

For those of us who live and work in the world, this provides us a direction and an opportunity. Sri Aurobindo describes Arjuna’s situation further: “Arjuna, the disciple who receives his initiation on the battlefield….is the type of the struggling human soul who has not yet received the knowledge, but has grown fit to receive it by action in the world in a close companionship and an increasing nearness to the higher and divine Self in humanity.”

“Arjuna…is the representative man of a great world-struggle and divinely guided movement of men and nations; in the Gita he typifies the human soul of action brought face to face through that action in its highest and most violent crisis with the problem of human life and its apparent incompatibility with the spiritual state or even with a purely ethical ideal of perfection.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 3, The Human Disciple, pp. 17-18,