A man stands at the edge of a battlefield. It’s not the best time for an existential crisis but the pressure of the moment has made it inevitable. Two mighty armies face each other for the battle of the millennium and the leader of one is suddenly not quite sure about the whole thing. This is not just a scene from history that has been immortalised in millions of minds. It is a living moment.
We all know this moment. Of fear, confusion and lack of clarity. Of questioning our motives and purpose. Of losing courage and questioning life. Of asking, “What is the point of all this?”
When it comes, we feel deeply uncomfortable. When such a moment stares us in the face, we run for cover – distractions, self-pity, feel-good mantras and pills. Such a moment is usually dreaded and for many, has paved the path for failures and disillusionments. But it is also such a moment that once led to the revelation of one of the greatest expositions of spiritual truth in the world, the Bhagavad Gita.
Why does an Arjuna Moment Arise?
We find ourselves in a moment like Arjuna because we don’t understand life. Perhaps up until our crisis moment, we never took the time to do it and now when life bites, unexpectedly we find ourselves in a spot.
Our old logic was rooted in compulsions, belief and assumptions and we never took the time to question them or understand where our motive and action really springs from. When life tests us, the logic breaks and we flounder. We realise we’re missing a very fundamental understanding about life.
The great thing about such moments is that they can be a stepping stone to grow in wisdom.
Awakening to Wisdom
Perhaps the familiarity of the Bhagavad Gita has somewhat obscured how radical the advice actually is. One would think that when Arjuna says, “I don’t want to fight because killing people is obviously bad”, that Sri Krishna, the avatar, would say “You’re right. I’m so proud of you. This was all a test. Let’s leave all this and go sit somewhere quiet.” But instead Krishna’s message is “Sorry mate, we’re on a battlefield which means you need to fight!”
Disrobing us of our wrong notions, however finely clad in ideas of righteousness, is the work of the guru, our inner teacher. But to receive that priceless guidance, we must first come to face our Arjuna moments. When uncertainty gnaws at us, instead of running, we must dig deep to search for answers. If Arjuna had said “Sorry Krishna, I can’t do this. It’s all too much for me. I just need to go,” and walked off the battlefield, he and the world would not have received Krishna’s teachings.
Had Arjuna not yearned for answers, the mighty wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita – the secrets of Creation, the operation of the three gunas (qualities of nature), the paths of yoga, why to act and how to act – would not have been revealed to him. The Gita of Krishna did not give Arjuna philosophies to believe in, but a moment of realisation. Reading the Gita at any other time would be an intellectual exercise; but when read in an Arjuna moment, it comes alive.
The great opportunity and potential of an Arjuna moment is to recognise the yearning to know and admit our helplessness and ignorance. It is a moment of humility, of acceptance, surrender and of wisdom. To finally turn within for answers, with an earnestness to examine ourselves and our life. To become receptive to Grace. Even a mighty warrior (the greatest on the planet at the time) submits to a source of wisdom:
“I am confused about my duty, and am besieged with anxiety and faintheartedness. I am your disciple, and am surrendered to you. Please instruct me for certain what is best for me.”
– Bhagavad Gita (2.7)
Actually our lives are full of Arjuna moments. One might even say that every moment is an Arjuna moment.
The most important thing is to recognise them.
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