Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Symptoms of a despondent mind – Arjuna Vishada Yoga

The first chapter is all about setting the stage to understand the types of problems we will be dealing with in the entire book. This is where the warrior of life is about to accept defeat from the battle of life and is providing all the reasons to his coach why giving up on the battle of life is the wise thing to do. This chapter provides a vivid picture of the symptoms of a despondent mind.

I think the best way to understand these symptoms are though an example. Lets say, one is overweight and has signed up to a very strict diet and exercise program. The program requires a lot of hard work, sacrifice, fasting, training and mental / physical discipline. Within 3 days of signing up for the program, the participant gets cold feet and explains to his coach why he does not want to go through the program.

Early indications of cold feet – Amplification of ‘potential’ strength (to hide weakness), lot of self-appraisal. This would include how the individual was able to go through more rigorous programs in the past, how well he is positioned to face any such challenge, etc.

Elements of justification for not going through the program:

  • Focus on physical aspects and how things are going terrible – e.g. hunger pangs, headache, dizziness, etc. Rationale justification that going through the program will actually results in making things worse i.e. physical weakness instead of strength.
  • Seeing bad omens or seeing things not going right. Acceptance of a confused state of mind e.g. weakness has already made me delirious and I know things are not going great for me in my current phase of life.
  • Sudden disinterest in outcome and compelling reason for that. e.g. even if I lose weight, what’s the big deal… it’s not worth all the pain.
  • No good beneficiaries of this action. e.g. for whom am I doing all these? who tends to gain from my weight loss?
  • Acceptance of the worst outcome supported by a compelling reason e.g. I am not like others, I am sure this program would cause more damage and I might suffer heart attack or I will suffer some major health problem.
  • Glorify one’s own weaknesses with some convenient angelic name and divine prose e.g. This is how God made me.. People like me being fat and overweight. I am a food lover and there is nothing wrong with that. I am always happy and people say I make everybody laugh.
  • Fear of losing the existing reputation e.g. I have always appreciated good food and people say I am a great food critique. Staying away from good food is just not me.
  • Adverse consequences from potential outcome e.g. If I suffer some major health problem such as heart attack or something like that, that would cause more problem to my near and dear ones than any benefit I might gain from losing weight.
  • Looking for external validation for the conclusion e.g. If the coach is a good friend, the participant would be looking for the coach to agree with what the participant is saying.
  • Family / society is a very strong force and bringing in that perspective for eventual consequence further strengthens the conclusion e.g If I suffer any major health problem, I do not want to be a burden on my family. I am an earning member and I being bed ridden for the rest of my life is just not acceptable.
  • Very strong to bring in not only society / family but also ancestors… this is heights of justification to evade action e.g. Being overweight is in my DNA it’s a genetic problem. Exercise or diet will not solve the problem. It can only make things worse.
  • Blind belief in hear-say e.g. I know a person that suddenly died of cardiac arrest when fasting. Some person suffered brain damage due to lack of sugar for brain during fasting.
  • Moral backing for decision. Seen as greed is driving action e.g. I am selfish and just thinking of myself to look slim and trim by spending so much of money. I should not do this. I am better of spending this money on my family.
  • Complete acceptance / surrender to the eventual outcome e.g. I am fine being fat and overweight for the rest of my life. Even if it reduces my quality of life, I am fine with that. Even if I  die because of obesity, I accept it as my fate.

The above is pretty much everything Arjuna conveyed to Krishna in the first chapter. See below for detailed notes. Some notes have open questions and I intend to come back here as I go through the rest of the book to test my understanding and observations.

My Notes Chapter 1