Arjuna’s Role Requires Him to Fight

If we look at life purely from the standpoint of the individual, and apply the knowledge which the divine Teacher has been providing to Arjuna, we find an evolution to a greater, higher, purer state of consciousness not bound up in the desires and fears of the normal human life. We are therefore beyond attachment to a particular result and we do not yearn for riches, fame or approbation, as we have recognized that these are transitory and not eternal goals. We recognize the unreality of death and the secret thread of an evolution of consciousness through lifetimes punctuated by multiple births and multiple deaths.

And yet, the teacher concludes that Arjuna should therefore stand up and fight! This appears to be a non sequitur and requires further review to be made comprehensible. Sri Aurobindo makes the point that there are multiple interwoven layers of significance, and that in addition to the individual fulfilment there is the collective development of society which also has to be carried out.

“This world, this manifestation of the Self in the material universe is not only a cycle of inner development, but a field in which the external circumstances of life have to be accepted as an environment and an occasion for that development. It is a world of mutual help and struggle; not a serene and peaceful gliding through easy joys is the progress it allows us, but every step has to be gained by heroic effort and through a clash of opposing forces.”

Arjuna’s position, background, training and destiny all point him to be at the center of this struggle. “For there is continually a struggle between right and wrong, justice and injustice, the force that protects and the force that violates and oppresses, and when this has once been brought to the issue of physical strife, the champion and standard-bearer of the Right must not shake and tremble at the violent and terrible nature of the work he has to do; he must not abandon his followers or fellow-fighters, betray his cause and leave the standard of Right and Justice to trail in the dust and be trampled into mire by the blood-stained feet of the oppressor, because of a weak pity for the violent and cruel and a physical horror of the vastness of the destruction decreed. His virtue and his duty lie in battle and not in abstention from battle; it is not slaughter, but non-slaying which would here be the sin.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 7, The Creed of the Aryan Fighter, pp. 58-59,