The Importance of Arjuna’s Confusion

Arjuna responds both to the circumstance in which he is placed, and the teaching being given to him, very much as any one of us might respond. While he has a “readiness” to take on the teaching, he nevertheless has lived his life based on the normal values and actions that were expected of him based on his role in society.

When he is driven into a desperate state of psychological paralysis by the apparent conflicts between the varying duties and principles he holds dear, and the results that would issue from further efforts on his part, he asks Sri Krishna for guidance.

The responses he gets, however, are confusing to him as he is being asked to judge the actions by their inner sense and value, not necessarily by their outward form; and he is being asked to carry out the role of lead warrior while at the same time not being attached to the fruits, not acting out of anger or a vengeful attitude, and while not grasping for the results out of desire or greed or any sense of personal benefit. At the same time, he is being asked to accept the fruits if and when they come to him.

Which one of us would not be confused about how to proceed? It is from his sense of confusion that we actually draw out all the subtlety and detailed explanations that make this one of the great world teachings!

His questions are important. How to distinguish the inner basis from the outer form. How to act on that basis? And importantly, realising the difficulty of this undertaking, Sri Aurobindo describes how he asks “what is the end of the soul which attempts and fails, whether it does not lose both this life of human activity and thought and emotion which it has left behind and the Brahmic consciousness to which it aspires and falling from both perish like a dissolving cloud?”

His questions lead us through the divine manifestation in the world, how to distinguish between the witness and the active nature, how to understand the 3 gunas, the modes of nature, that drive our actions forward, and even what form the Divine takes and how to gain the vision of the ultimate Divine form.

It is Arjuna’s confusion that opens to us this wealth of information as we review the rest of the Gita.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 3, The Human Disciple, pp. 24-25,