Tree of knowledge

The Tree of knowledge

The Yogi and the Archer  

Swami Venkatesananda

The Divine Life Society


The Bhagavad Gita is narrated in the voice of Sanjaya, Dhritharashtra’s charioteer who had a boon from Sage Vyasa that enabled him to see objects and events from great distances.

He describes the experience of witnessing Gita Gyan as one that made his hair stand on end. We bring you excerpts from Swami Venkatesananda’s commentary of selected verses in the Gita’s eighteenth chapter Has this been heard, O Arjuna, with one-pointed mind? Has the delusion of thine ignorance been destroyed, O Dhananjaya?

Arjuna said: Destroyed is my delusion as I have gained my memory (knowledge) through thy grace, O Krishna, I am firm, my doubts are gone, I will act according to thy word.

— Verse 72-73  

If one-pointedness of mind is not gained, we shall not understand or profit by even the word of God. There are many in this world who ask but will not hear! There are others who sit in front of the master, but only physically – their mind is elsewhere. There are still others who, while listening, mentally carry on an argument, accepting some ideas and rejecting others. This multi-activity only tires them, preventing them from grasping the real meaning of the lesson imparted.

Whilst we do not advocate blind acceptance of any teaching, we do assert that it is better (and less strenuous) to do the hearing first, receive (not necessarily accept) the ideas and ‘reserve judgement’. Once rapport has been established by the teacher and the taught, it is more profitable to self-hypnotise ourselves (not in the technical sense) in order that our finite little egoistic intellect may not interrupt the free flow of supreme wisdom from the lips of the master to our heart.

Only then will we be able to declare with Arjuna that ‘my delusion has been destroyed’ and ‘I have regained the knowledge which was there always’ (the knowledge that the body is not the self). The mark of enlightenment is given as doubtlessness – a heart in which there is no doubt at all, and ‘I am firm’ reminds us of the state of the sthitaprajna as sage of firm wisdom. Where does this lead to? We do God’s will, joyously participating in the dynamism of nature, egolessly.

Sanjaya said: Thus I have heard this wonderful dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna, which causes the hair to stand on end.

Through Vyasa’s grace, I have heard this supreme and most secret yoga direct from Krishna, the lord of yoga, himself declaring it. O King, remembering this wonderful and holy dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna, I rejoice.

— Verse 74-76  

How could Sanjaya hear this dialogue direct from God? How could Sanjaya see the divine cosmic form when he was seated in the palace and was not on the battlefield? These questions would have been valid in the last century, not in this. Radio and television have enabled us, even in this materialistic age, to hear someone’s voice over thousands of miles and to see someone as if in person. Even if we are reluctant to accept the validity of psychic phenomena and the possibility of a psychic communion between Sanjaya and Krishna (initiated by Sage Vyasa himself), what prevents us from accepting the possible existence of radio and television in that remote time?

One may ask why these things did not exist in India a hundred years ago. But consider this: should a nuclear war destroy modern civilisation, the generation that will live in this world a couple hundred years hence might ask the same question and doubt the richness of the present civilisation.

If we cultivate the necessary faith and the necessary power of inner communion, we can still experience the thrill that was Sanjaya’s privilege. Throw away the books and commentaries; dive within yourself and listen to the Gita direct from God’s lips. To foster that spirit within you is the only purpose of any commentary.

Wherever there is Krishna, the lord of yoga, wherever there is Arjuna, the archer, there are prosperity, victory, happiness and firm policy; such is my conviction.

Verse 78 

This simple verse has attained the high status of being regarded as ‘Gita in one verse’, yet, on the face of it, it does not seem to contain the least portion of the Gita’s message! Moreover, the condition perquisite is frighteningly impossible. Krishna and Arjuna lived thousands of years ago. May be, what Sanjaya said applied then; how does it help us now? The answer is: Look within. Let your soul become Arjuna, the seeker. Mentally repeat the famous verse in the second chapter: ‘Lord, I seek refuge at thy feet. I am thy disciple. Instruct me.’ But you should also be Archer-Arjuna! The Kathopanishad compares the self with the arrow, in relation to Brahmn the Absolute – the target. Aum is the bow. String the bow by the utterance of Aum. Fix the self to it, firmly. With intense concentration of mind, let the arrow (self) fly towards that Supreme Being who is the Self of your self. Then you are the true archer, Arjuna.  

You are welcome to contribute. Write to:

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.