“There is nothing new under the sky,” said King Solomon, or Prophet Sulayman as he is known in the Muslim tradition, and recorded in the Old Testament.
Yes, there is nothing new under the sky.
“Lest you think of yourself as the first person ever facing a dilemma such as you are facing now, Arjuna… let me tell you, you are not the first, and neither am I discoursing for the first time” – thus begins the fourth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita with Krishna’s assurance to Arjuna, the warrior who is confused about his task.
This is great psychology. I recall my own experience, as a kid I was not very healthy. I had some problem with my lungs, and when they finally found out what it was, I had to undergo a therapy that consisted of an injection a week for several weeks.
I was too small to know the seriousness of my sickness, yet I could perceive that it was not normal. Other kids didn’t have to be injected every week. They didn’t become sick as often as I did. But every time I saw the doctor, and I was very much afraid of needles, he would spend a few minutes talking to me about my school, and even give me a comic or a card with a wayang character on it, which I used to collect.
And I remember very well that he would adopt Krishna’s psychology to assure me that, “this is nothing. As a kid, I used to be very sick. I couldn’t even go out of my house for days. And then I decided that I would become a doctor. I wanted to help other kids, so they didn’t suffer like I did. Yours is no sickness. You only need some vitamins, that’s all. Just see, by the time your wayang collection is complete, you will be hale and healthy.”
When we begin to think that our suffering is unique, or nobody is as unfortunate as we are, we actually close ourselves to all solutions, improvement, and the possibility of healing. This thought does not help, and must be shunned. It is only then, that we realise our potential.
Arjuna is not only distracted by what Krishna said but also floats out of the despondency: “When, Krishna, and to whom did you have discourse? Could someone be as miserable as me?”
Cycle of Rebirth
Krishna mentions some popular names, the heroes of yesteryear. And Arjuna is bewildered: “But those people lived many, many years ago. We were not even born then. How could you?”
Krishna smiles; he is assured of his success now. “Arjuna will come along now,” so he thinks, and answers Arjuna: “My friend, we have been born several times in the past. We died and we were born again. I remember all those births, Arjuna; you don’t. This is why I know what you are capable of doing, while you seem to have forgotten your own capability.”
And, then, from personal, Krishna becomes impersonal. “Whenever there is a decay in righteousness, and unrighteousness is on the rise, I appear to help the righteous and put an end to the unrighteous forces. I am born again and again to uphold righteousness, and to bring back the detracted society to the right track.”
This “I” that Krishna is speaking of is not some guy sitting on a heavenly throne upstairs, and far beyond our reach. Krishna’s “I” is also Arjuna’s “I,” your “I” – YOU – and “I.” This is our common “I.”
Krishna is gently reminding Arjuna of the soul’s role. Otherwise, human life is meaningless. There has to be some intelligent purpose behind this play of life; otherwise, this is an absurd play.
Krishna continues, “Those who realise their soul’s purpose are liberated from the cycle of repeated births and deaths.”
University of Life
Once you finish your studies, you leave. Unless, you intend to teach, then you stay. But then your role is no longer that of a student but of a teacher.
Life is endless. This universe is limitless. The end of schooling here could mean schooling in other realms, experimenting with other dimensions, and even using other subtle forms as our tool. However, we are promoted only when we are done with this phase of schooling, not otherwise.
Krishna is a teacher, who has chosen to stay back, to teach in this University of Life. Arjuna is a student who is still completing his studies, and may be doing his PhD. Arjuna is Krishna in the making, while Arjuna is Krishna’s past. This is why Krishna knows the agony and the ecstasy of each phase of schooling. He has experienced them all. Arjuna is still experiencing them. This is the only difference between Krishna, the master, and Arjuna, a disciple.
After a brief vacation at the end of each semester, the mind/emotion composite souls return to this University of Life again and again, in order to complete their studies. They also have the liberty of choosing their particular discipline and even the campus, for each level.
You can change your discipline midway. But that would not be wise. That would mean a sheer waste of time and energy spent on pursuing the first, chosen, discipline. Especially so if your heart actually lies there, and you are changing the discipline merely out of fear of failure.
As philosopher, or rather Professor of Life, Krishna knows this well, and this is why he is advising Arjuna again and again to pursue his chosen discipline. More on this next week.
This article was published in The Bali Times on Jul 30, 2012.