Bhagvad Gita Ch 1 - Battle field of Mind (Message of Bhagavad Gita:Chapter 1) Recall the Vietnam war. America fought in a foreign land purporting to defend democracy. But the Dharma of Democracy also gives an inalienable right of self determination without outside pressures and coersion. America was finding it hard to win, rather avoid defeat. Compulsory draft was avoided and dodged by millions of American youths who always asked: Why this war? What are the objectives from my personal and national persepective? Why should I kill faceless persons in a foreign land with I cannot relate? Why not be jailed rather than fight a senseless war? Symbolism in the first chapter of the Gita. We find ourselves on Kurukshetra, a field of impending battle. It is not as spectacular as in some Hollywood style epic. How the two great armies were assembled is another topic. Arjuna saw the opposing army and was despondent. The questions he raised are exactly those which were raised by the American youth. Neither Arjuna nor the Americans were cowards. They had showed it and proved it in the past. Good versus evil The two opposing armies are very easy to morally identify. The Kauravas, led by the murderous Prince Duryodhana, are fundamentally evil, although many honorable men have, through various complicated alliances and obligations, found themselves among their ranks. The Pandavas, headed by the virtuous and noble Yudhisthira, the eldest brother of Arjuna, are embodiments of all that is good, among them being the divine Sri Krishna himself who chose to be the charioteer of Arjuna. Excellent driver Krishna did not take up arms himself. He chose the "humble" office of a chariot driver. He guided the Pandavas in the great Battle of good versus evil. When Krishna Himself is driving, the chariot of virtue is bound to travel unerringly. The general symbolism is not very hard to figure out. Kurukshetra is the personalityâ€“particularly the mind (intellect)â€“of the individual, an awakened seeker for higher consciousness. But one easily finds that his aspiration itself has inspired opposition from within his own mind and heart, where good and evil, truth and falsehood, ignorance and wisdom have all got tied up in one single entity, whose parts are hard to distinguish. It is easy to lose sight of the GOOD and EVIL as they are. Even much more daunting is the fact that much vaunted â€œgoodâ€ is found to be laced with negativity. But the endearing ways of infancy and childhood must be eradicated at the advent of adulthood and replaced with completely different virtues. In the chariot we find Arjuna and Krishna. Many interpretations are possible, nearly all of them correct, but the words of the Mundaka Upanishad: â€œLike two birds of golden plumage, inseparable companions, the individual [mortal] self and the immortal Self are perched on the branches of the selfsame tree. The former tastes of the sweet and bitter fruits of the tree; the latter, tasting of neither, calmly observes." â€œThe individual self, deluded by forgetfulness of his identity with the divine Self, bewildered by his ego, grieves and is sad. But when he recognizes the worshipful Lord as his own true Self, and beholds his glory, he grieves no more.â€ Arjuna has a mortal self, physical body, and is surely governed by the wordly senses and emotions. His Immortal Self, embodied by Krishna, is not affected. Arjuna loses awareness of that Immortal Self, and Krishna wants him to achieve it. Dharma means the righteous way of thought and action, but it can also mean the accurate expression of oneâ€™s own dominant character, for dharma also means â€œquality.â€ This entire world is a dharmakshetra, a field upon which we act out the character of our inner makeupâ€“i.e., the quality of our emotions, mind, intellect, and will (not our ultimate being as spirit). That is what Krishna taught: The whole world is your battlefield and you have to struggle, the strong of virtue triumph. But like all human beings who do not like the truth when they see or hear it, we become â€œconfusedâ€ and try to avoid the unpleasant prospect. Bitter as death seems the inner battle, so we shrink from it and desperately try to find a way out. Arjuna is the true embodiment of such a confused human. He presents his case to Krishna about his â€œconfusion,â€ which is really a plea to inaction, to avoidance of conflict, thinking that such a negative condition is peace, whereas peace is a positive state, not the mere absence of unrest and conflict. It is also reached only through unrest and conflict, however little we like the fact. Escapism from the spiritual [and material] obligations is a desirable trait of the awakening soul [or a an awakened citizen], which brings all its ingenuity to bear on justification of such avoidance. An ateist may deny his spiritual obligations, but worldly obligations cannot be denied. Krishna makes this clear to him. But Krishna was a shrewd guide. He recognized that Arjunaâ€™s mind was already a battle field. He had to banish the despondency and for that it was necessary to raise the matter much above the physical battlefield. He succeeded, where Johnson, Kissinger and Nixon failed, even though they had the benefits of the hindsight. They could not convince their youth and turn them into Arjunas. USA lost, first in the battle of the Mind. After that a military defeat was a forgone conclusion. PS: From all accounts, USA is nowhere nearer a victory in Iraq that it was 10 years ago.