Distraction of opposites

Distraction of opposites

'Be thou above these three Gunas O Arjuna; beyond the pairs of opposites, ever steadfast in purity, immune to possessions, full of the Self' - This was Lord Krishna's advice to a distraught Arjuna. Arjuna's despondency came from the various attachments which tugged at his heart. The Gunas Sattva, Rajas and Tamas are not devoid of attachment. The nature of attachment is different and determined by the attribute of the dominating Guna. The passionate king is attached to victory, the Tamasic man enjoys torturing and the Sattvic sage revels in his superior knowledge.

The pairs of opposites: hot and cold; joy and sorrow; are what give rise to desire and aversion. These, in fact, are the cause of conflict and are aptly known as 'Dwandva'. The existence of one is not possible without the existence of the other. As the meaning of hot derives from the existence of cold, there is a certain harmony in opposites. The truth of one is known only through the realisation of the other.

Krishna advises Arjuna to balance the opposites, neither desire one nor be averse to the other, and thus neutralise the conflict. When conflict ceases there is no desire for possession or fear of dispossession. There is no pride in victory or fear of defeat. Action taken in this state of mind is pure. It transcends the 'selfish' and realises the Self.

Mahatma Gandhi dealt with this conflict by harmonising the means and ends. While the dialectical method often justified the means if the ends were desirable, to Gandhi the goodness of means was essential for judging the desirability of the end. In fact, he saw one person's means as another person's ends. Cheating as a means to feed your family would remain the wrong ends for the person who was cheated. A correct action cannot then distinguish between means and ends. It was such corrective action that was the basis for duty in the Bhagavad Gita from which Gandhi derived his inspiration. Krishna impresses upon Arjuna that it was his duty to fight. The despondency, arising from his attachment, was clouding his vision and making him stray from the call of duty. Overcoming his attachment, making himself immune to the pleasant and the unpleasant, he could carry out this duty to fight.

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