A Gullible Nature
Shri Krishna has referred to Arjuna’s intellect as ‘shrutivipratipannã’. Shruti means to listen. Vipratipannã means confused. An intellect that has become confused by listening to variety of words is called shrutivipratipannã. Such a person is usually referred to as gullible. Another reason for Arjuna’s mental restlessness seems to be that he had attentively listened to somebody he should not have listened to. As a result, the great courageous warrior Arjuna was weakened to the state described by the words, ‘He felt weak… his bow was slipping from his hand’ (Seedanti mama gãtrãni... gãndeevam sansrate hastãt ); and he became ‘confused in matters of dharma’ (dharmasammoodhachetãhã). Although the great avatar of Paramãtmã was beside him, he became ‘overcome by cowardice’ (kãrpanyadoshopahataha ). His enthusiasm from when he asked for his chariot to be positioned between the two armies was replaced by ‘I will not fight’. Although the listener, Arjuna, had made a mistake of listening gullibly, the words had still taken their effect.
The events prior to the Gita make one think deeply. Days before the battle of the Mahãbhãrat, the blind king Dhritarashtra thought of a plan. He called Sanjaya and told him to go to the Pandava camp. He, in detail, explained exactly what he was to say there, with exactly which words and in which manner. He knew that Yudhishthir was fond of dharma and that Arjuna was gullible, so he utilized all these factors in his plan. He was also well acquainted with Shri Krishna’s intelligence, yet he had left him out of the plan this time; the gullible Pandava’s were the target of his plot. It did not matter if Shri Krishna heard his words, but the Pandava’s should definitely not go without hearing them. Furthermore, the words were to be spoken to Yudhishthir, but Sanjaya was to take care that every single word be overheard by Arjuna too. This was a plot to shatter the Pandava’s enthusiasm for war, yet it was to seem like a genuine proposal for peace.
Dhritarashtra said, “O Sanjaya! Go to the Pandava camp and tell them that Dhritarashtra wishes for the good of them all. He constantly sings their praises and wishes for a peace treaty. O Sanjaya! You must continuously talk about peace and not get angered even the slightest.” He then explained exactly what he had to say. He praised the Pandavas extensively. In the end he gave Sanjaya an important guideline, “O Sanjaya! Take care that not a single word of yours angers the Pandavas in any way, or becomes the cause of war.”
Each word of Dhritarashtra seemed to reveal his soft corner for the Pandavas. Those words bore the capacity to win over the Pandava’s emotions in the blink of an eye. Anybody who heard these words would think that Dhritarashtra was utterly opposed to war, such was their spell.
Sanjaya went to the camp of the Pandavas and began with the words, ‘अजातशत्रुं च वृकोदरं च घनञ्जयं माद्रवतीसुतौ च। आमन्त्रये वासुदेवं च शौरिं युयुघानं चेकितानं विराटम्॥’ – ‘Ajãtashatrum cha Vrukodaram cha Dhanayjayam Mãdravateesutau cha, ãmantraye Vãsudevam cha shaurim Yuyudhãnam Chekitãnam Virãtam.’ – ‘O one who bears no enmity, Yudishthir, Bhim, Arjuna, Nakul, Sahadev, the son of Vasudev – Shri Krishna, Sãtyaki, Chekitãn and Virãt are all invited to hear my message’(Mahãbhãrat, Utsav Parva 25.2). Having invited everyone to listen, he immediately turned to the Pandavas and addressed them directly. ‘सर्वैर्घर्मैः समुपेतास्तु पार्थाः संस्थानेन मार्दवेनार्जवेन। जाताः कुले ह्यनृशंसा वदान्या ह्रीनिषेवाः कर्मणां निश्र्चयज्ञाः॥’ – ‘Sarvairdharmaihi samupetãstu Pãrthãhã sansthãnena mãrdavenãrjavena, jãtãhã kule hyanrushansã vadãnyã hreenishevãhã karmanãm nishchayagnãhã.’ – ‘O sons of Kunti, you are all full of qualities and dharma such as compassion, mercy and simplicity. You have been born in the noblest family. There is not even the slightest cruelty within you, you are generous, you are modest and know well the effects of your actions’ (Mahãbhãrat, Utsav Parva 25.2). ‘Moreover, O Pandavas, you who have gathered a terrific army and you are full of goodness. Improper actions would never befit you. Any faults in you would be as visible as a black smear on a white piece of cloth. O Pandavas! No sensible person would exert themselves to do such a cruel act as war, which results in complete destruction, grave sins and hell, regardless of defeat or victory. Moreover, O Pandavas! If you kill the Kauravas, you will have killed your fellow caste-men. To have killed one’s relatives would not be looked upon as something good. If you live, you will do so in disgrace. Such a criticized life is as good as death. You are the sons of Kunti, you would never do such things that befit only the inferior. There is no spiritual or economic benefit in such things. I have come to make a humble request. Think of a way in which the good of the entire family would come about.’ Finally, Sanjaya concluded his address to Shri Krishna and Arjuna. He said, ‘न ह्येवमेवं वचनं वासुदेवो घनंजयो वा जातु किञ्चिन्न कुर्यात्’ – ‘Na hyevamevam vachanam Vãsudevo Dhananjayo vã jãtu kinchinna kuryãt’ – ‘I have faith that at least Shri Krishna or Arjuna will not let my request go astray. Not only that, if his life was asked for, Arjuna would give that too, then what remains to be said about other things’ (Mahãbhãrat, Utsav Parva 25.6-15).
Sanjaya’s address concluded. Yuddhishthir gave the answer on behalf of them all. Shri Krishna also let everyone know of his opinion and sent a message for Dhritarashtra accordingly. Days passed. The decision for war had already been made. The true effect of these words were realized when they affected Arjuna, who was ready to fight on the battlefield. If we read Arjuna’s words of the first adhyãy, we will see the results of Dhritarashtra’s plot. The words got to his head, his thoughts became confused, doubts seized his heart. His courage to fight suddenly melted, he forgot his duty and became obstinate in not wanting to fight. Mul Aksharmurti Gunatitanand Swami has said that a person becomes like the words he hears. Arjuna is a perfect example of this.
That is why Shri Krishna discloses this truth to Arjuna and says, ‘Shrutivipratipannã te yadã sthãsyati nishchalã’ – ‘Steady your mind, which has become restless due to hearing a variety of words; you will not be able to become a yogi without mental stability.’
Confused by the Shastras
Another meaning of the word shruti is the shastras like the Vedas. Therefore ‘shrutivipratipannã buddhihi’ means mind that has become confused by the words of the shastras. This is rather surprising, that the shastras themselves cause confusion! Yes, this can happen, but it is not the fault of the shastras, but of the method. Shastras like the Vedas are oceans of true and eternal principles, yet if the reader tries to read them by himself, tries to understand them with his own intelligence and does not take the guidance of someone experienced to understand their true secrets, the shastras become weapons. Definitive statements become the cause of doubt, and one becomes restless in confusion.
This is another reason for Arjuna’s confusion. He faltered from the means to understand the secrets of the shastras. He began to guess his own meanings. He was now trying to explain the attributes of merit and sin to Shri Krishna. He did not even realize that he was being fooled and misled by his infatuation. His words, ‘Utsãdyante jãtidharmãhã kuladharmãshcha shãshvatãhã’ (Gitã 1.43), and ‘Utsanna kuladharmãnãm manushyãnãm janãrdana, narakeniyatam vãso bhavateetyanushushruma’ (Gitã 1.44) show that he has faltered in understanding the true meaning of the shastras. When this happens, one is said to have become entangled in the shastras. Somebody caught in this net misunderstands the shastras, and, moreover, does not understand what should be really understood. This is intellectual confusion. Arjuna too, was caught in this net. Shri Swaminarayan Bhagwan has said, ‘No one is able to understand the philosophical principles found in the shastras; in fact, all are confused by them’ (Vachanãmrut, Gadhadã I 7). Arjuna was confused.
Shri Krishna Bhagwan wanted to pull him out of his confusion; he wanted to free him from the entanglement of the shastras. He felt it necessary that Arjuna begin to understand the shastras using the right technique. That technique was to understand the shastras through the eyes of an experienced shrotriya guru. For Arjuna, Shri Krishna himself was that guru. Arjuna had to attach himself to him and become a samãdhinishth yogi. For this reason, Shri Krishna brought his ‘shrutivipratipannã’ fault to his attention. The message here is to have discretion in what and how one reads.
This history is truly worth learning from. We realize the close connection between words and our minds. We can clearly see to what extent words can affect the mind. We should properly assess what we read or hear.
That is why Parabrahman Purushottam Shri Swaminarayan Bhagwan warns us saying, ‘However, such discourses regarding the nature of God cannot be understood by oneself even from the shastras. Even though these facts may be in the shastras, it is only when the Satpurush manifests on this earth, and one hears them being narrated by him, that one understands them. They cannot, however, be understood by one’s intellect alone, even from the shastras’ (Vachanãmrut, Gadhadã II 13).
Thus, the base for attaining yoga through a steady mind has been given in this shloka.