Arjuna’s surrender is loyal to Krishna alone. He says, ‘नहि प्रपश्यामि ममापनुद्याद् यत्व्छोकम्’ – ‘Nahi prapashyãmi mamãpanudyãd yachchhokam’ – ‘O Lord! I do not see anyone else who can rid me of my grief other than you. You alone are my saviour.’ (Gita 2.8) Thus Parth’s surrender is completely and specifically devoted to Shri Krishna.
Sorrow comes to everyone. Arjuna too. But the only difference is that the majority of people resort to a variety of different shelters to free themselves from that misery. For them, Bhagwan is just one of those many shelters. There is no committed belief that God alone is the support and the basis of one’s happiness. Some such unfortunate and miserable people write books about how to become happy. They rattle their brains to find the secrets of happiness. Some resort to astrologers claiming to know the future. Some of the more superstitious resort to exorcists, black magic or witchcraft. Some of the more gullible surrender themselves to the intelligent who only have worldly knowledge, and willingly do just as they say. Some, however, try to get by on the basis of their own experience. But Arjuna has not resorted to any of these. He has done only one thing – he has made the manifest Bhagwan his guru. He has devotedly surrendered to him and him alone. He is willing to put the utmost trust in what he says, and to faithfully do as he says.
Let us remember Dhritarashtra for a moment, since all this news is in fact being related for Dhritarashtra to hear. Consider for a moment that on hearing ‘Shishyasteham’ Dhritarashtra’s thoughts must have taken a turn. He must have had to recalculate all his projections. Although blind, he must have clearly seen control of the situation slipping from his hands.
In order to understand Arjuna further, we should also take a special look at Duryodhan. A key difference already separates Duryodhan and Arjuna at this point. In reality, both are understanding people. Both have introspected on their lives. Both have seen their own flaws. Just like Arjuna has recognized his flaws, Duryodhan says about himself, ‘जानामि घर्मं न च मे प्रवृत्ति र्जानामि अघर्मं न च मे निवृत्तिः।’ – ‘Jãnãmi dharmam na cha me pravruttirjãnãmi adharmam na cha me nivruttihi’ – ‘I know what dharma is, but I cannot abide by it. I know that adharma is, but I cannot revoke myself from it.’ Thus, both are well acquainted with their own situations. Yet, Arjuna differs in knowing what he should do. ‘In order to rid myself of my flaws, I have to make manifest Shri Krishna my guru. I have to take his refuge.’ He knows this is the path that will uplift from his sorrowful state and revive his strength.
In this way, Arjuna is able to take a unique step forward. He can understand and accept the true means to progress. He is able to crush his ego. This has become impossible for Duryodhan. He cannot crush his ego. He cannot surrender to anyone. In fact, he has been crushed by his own ego. That is why he has shown his incapability in matters of abiding by dharma and retreating from adharma. He says, ‘केनापि देवेन हृदिस्थितेन यथा नियुक्तोऽस्मि तथा करोमि’ – ‘Kenãpi devena hrudisthitena yathã niyukto’smi tathã karomi.’ Meaning, ‘I will do whatever I feel is right.’ Thus he has locked the door to his own edification.
Arjuna’s actions make one thing clear. Some people say that to have a guru is a type of dependency. It is foolish to put one’s trust in him and ignore one’s own intelligence. It is not necessary to abide by someone else’s experiences. One should move forward on the basis of one’s own intellect and experience. There is no need to have a guru. To keep a guru shows one’s weakness of mind and lack of intelligence. With such beliefs, they do not surrender to anyone. They do not accept anyone as their guru.
A typical word used for someone who has no guru is naguru. These naguru people are like stray beings. They are deprived of a guru’s expertise and reservoir of knowledge. They never gain a mature understanding. For this very reason, when the renowned devotee Goro the potter of Maharashtra checked Namdev by tapping him on the head, as if he was checking a pot, he said, ‘Nãmã tu kacchã’ – ‘Namdev, you are incomplete.’ Why? Because, Namdev was arrogant about his own knowledge. He believed himself to be learned and wise, and so had not yet made anyone his guru. Goro the potter said, “Namdev! You may be learned, but as you are still arrogant you will remain incomplete until you surrender to a guru. Therefore, make an experienced person your guru and surrender your arrogance at his feet. Namdev understood his mistake. He decided to surrender to a guru and in this way became the disciple of an experienced guru named Visoba Khechar. (Kalyan – Bhakta Charitam issue).
If a genuinely aspiring disciple surrenders to a true guru, we definitely find that even if the person was totally ignorant or immature before accepting discipleship, by surrendering to an experienced and wise guru, faithfully listening to his precepts and sincerely trying to abide by them, the disciple is, in a short period of time, able to grasp great secrets of spiritual and mundane knowledge, which are unattainable even after many years of effort on one’s own.
In fact, the greatest secret of our sanatan tradition is this guru-disciple relationship. Since ancient times we can see this principle echoed in precepts like ‘तद् विज्ञानार्थं स गुरुमेवाभिगत्व्छेत्’ – ‘Tad vignãnãrtham sa gurumevãbhigachchhet’ (Mundaka Upanishad 1.2.12), or ‘तस्माद् गुरुं प्रपद्येत’ – ‘Tasmãd gurum prapadyeta’ (Bhãgvat). Therefore, you will never find a great rishi of India who was a naguru. Our great rishis were examples of ideal disciples.
Here also, in the Gitã, Arjuna is such an example for us. With the words, ‘Shishyasteham shãdhi mãm tvãm prapannam’ it is as though he is inspiring all nagurus to become disciples. He is teaching those without a refuge to take one. He is warning us so that we do not become like stray persons. He is tapping us and cautioning us not to remain incomplete. He is saving us from being nagurus. He is making us conscious of the more subtle aspects of surrendering to a guru. He has enlightened the path of sincere surrendering.
These are the unique virtues of Arjuna’s discipleship and surrender.