Bhagavad-Gita Reflection: Worldview and War

As Arjuna in the Bhagavad-Gita faces his relatives in war and experiences strong apprehension, he is counseled by the Lord Krishna, who motivates him to set aside his own thoughts and live for the divine, “firmly established in faith” (Bhagavad). The story is meant to answer questions of Hindus who may have trouble setting aside all of their own wants and feelings to fulfill their duty on Earth and establish Dharma (one’s duty to restore the power of good in the universe through a unique calling). The willingness to emotionally detach to the extent of killing one’s own relatives for the purpose of chasing divinity is one of many possible outcomes produced from worldview. Worldview varies based on religion, location and personal experiences.

What Arjuna is willing to do in the realm of his worldview may be shocking to someone in the present-day, living in the United States, but it may be very sensible to a traditional Hindu living in India. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Arjuna’s beliefs and worldview influence him to do something many with altering worldviews may be shocked by. The book begins with Arjuna riding into war on a chariot driven by the Hindu god Krishna. As the chariot gets closer and closer to the warzone, Arjuna quickly recognizes many familiar faces- “fathers, grandfathers, teachers, brothers, uncles, grandsons, in-laws, and friends” (Bhagavad). He is faced with the detrimental decision to either kill members of his own clan and restore the power of good or lay down his weapons and consequentially sin by not following his duty. Arjuna was able to overcome his apprehension of killing family members to do what he believed to be his will. In contrast, a Christian would have mercy on an evil family member and take action by praying for them or attempting to fix the situation in a peaceful way, not by killing them and attributing it to good.

An Atheist, a Muslim, someone who has a murderer as a brother, someone living in Rome, and any other variations of individuals will have a different worldview and therefore, a different outlook on this situation. Four core concepts are presented in the Bhagavad-Gita that influenced Arjuna to act in the way he did. The first concept is to aspire toward one’s dharma. Arjuna was put in the position to be a warrior so it is his duty to fight for good and fulfill his dharma. This leads to the second concept, which is to fully commit to one’s dharma. Krishna explained to Arjuna that if he could focus on pursuing his dharma, he would succeed because it is what he is meant to do. The third concept is letting go of the fruits of one’s labor. Krishna described the “divine” as every particle of earth. Adopting this mentality led to Arjuna’s ability to act and not be worried about the effect of his actions. He was able to rise above the earthly concept of family and focus on his mission to restore good in the world. Arjuna knows the outcome will be good no matter what, as long as he fully devotes to his dharma.

As Dharma yoga instructor and Hindu Gary Mark from Dharma Yoga Center explains, “Krishna says we are entitled to work, but not to any of the fruits of our work. When we adopt this attitude, all we can feel is gratitude, no matter what happens”. The fourth concept is to do everything for the divine. Every action, reaction, thought, and effort is the divine working through one and in one. The Bhagavad-Gita is one of the most important texts of Hinduism and influences millions of Hindu’s worldviews today. The text provides its followers assurance that through faith and devotion to God, they can handle the hurdles of mortal existence. These concepts presented to Arjuna through Krishna at a vital moment in Arjuna’s life permanently changed his conception of the world. Arjuna initially laid down his weapons upon recognizing family members in the opposing side. The Lord Krishna revealed wisdom that modified Arjuna’s worldview to the extent of Arjuna being willing to kill members of his own clan. Worldview differs with every person because it is not just a system of beliefs; it is a framework of ideas, experiences and attitudes about the world, affecting everyone differently. The way one views the world provides structure to one’s actions. In the extreme example shown in the Bhagavad-Gita, Arjuna’s unique worldview resulted in him being willing to kill friends and family, as he believed his actions were for the greater good.