As Arjuna cries out for a rule of action that will resolve the conflicting standards he now is confronted with, Sri Krishna uses the opportunity to set forth a more subtle inner standard of conduct. Arjuna, with his practical and active nature, now caught in a dilemma, is confused and raises concerns and objections, which give rise to the extensive and detailed instruction presented by Sri Krishna as the teaching of the Gita.
Krishna uses the opportunity of Arjuna’s despair to offer him a new direction based on the inner soul-state rather than the outer form. Sri Aurobindo describes the essence of this teaching: “He must be equal in soul, abandon the desire of the fruits of work, rise above his intellectual notions of sin and virtue, live and act in Yoga with a mind in Samadhi, firmly fixed, that is to say, in the Divine alone.”
This prescription does not satisfy Arjuna, however. He is seeking a specific course of action that can resolve the conflicting standards that have broken down for him. Should he abandon his active life and sacrifice himself? Should he become a renunciate and seek his spiritual salvation? Or, if he is to carry out the action appointed to him, what is the standard that can possibly justify it?
“Arjuna…wishes to know how the change to this state will affect the outward action of the man, what result it will have on his speech, his movements, his state, what difference it will make in this acting, living human being.”
These are questions that all of us can relate to! We judge ourselves and others in terms of outer signs and actions, and we are most satisfied when we can adopt a course of conduct that is clear and straightforward. It is, however, not Krishna’s goal here, to provide such a set of rules, but to liberate Arjuna from all these outer standards entirely. We see here the true evolutionary development sought by the divine Teacher. “It is the fixed anchoring of the intelligence in a state of desireless equality that is the one thing needed.”
But Arjuna remains confused….how is he supposed to undertake an action without the impulsions of desire or seeking of a particular fruit of result? “…to live and act in the world, yet be above it, this is a “mingled” and confusing word the sense of which he has no patience to grasp.”
Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 3, The Human Disciple, pg. 23,