Arjuna – Qualifications of a Student
To see the Bhagavad Gita in its true context, as a science for enlightenment, the personality of Arjuna should be examined, scrutinized and understood properly. His personality provides a model of the qualifications that a student of self-knowledge should possess.
Who was Arjuna? He was a divine being: the son of Indra. In other words, he was not just an ordinary person. He was a person born with nice divine samskaras. He was one of the Pandavas, who were free from the blemishes of the lower nature such as lust, fear, anger and jealousy. His guru, Dronacharya, would not teach any ordinary person. For example, when Latvia, a sudra boy, went to him to learn, he said he couldn’t teach him because he didn’t have the necessary qualifications. He said “If I teach you the art and science of warfare, what are you going to use it for? It has to be used for the benefit of humanity, not to propagate more evil.”
What made Arjuna special to his guru? It was Arjuna’s love, trust and unshakable faith in his guru. When his guru taught him something, he never stopped practicing it until he perfected it.
Arjuna was trained as a warrior and grew up in that consciousness. In school, he learned all the forms of martial arts. Is that good or bad? The answer depends on the motive behind it. How you relate to what you learn impacts whether it is good or bad. For example, if it helps you to evolve and grow, then it is a good thing. You may be wondering what evolution and growth mean? These are basic concepts that should be clear in your mind. If you understand these things, you cannot be deluded. In the context of spirituality, if something helps you to grow it means that it helps you to subdue your lower nature of greed, selfishness, hatred, jealousy and envy while helping you to cultivate the opposite qualities of love and compassion while gaining focus and concentration.
When you are a warrior, is there room for compassion and love? If you really think about it, there needs to be supreme love for humanity if you are ready to sacrifice your life to defend your country and save and protect your people. If a soldier is involved in this kind of profession because he wants to defend his country and his people, there is supreme love. To be able to do that, he has to train himself and undergo a lot of sadhana.
Arjuna exerted a great deal of self-effort to develop the kind of personality of a warrior fighting to defend and protect his people. He was very disciplined and possessed all the qualities of the mind that we talk about: sama, dhama, uparati, titiksha, shraddha and samadhana. He was a person of right discrimination and dispassion. Supreme dispassion! Few people can really have dispassion like someone who volunteers to put his life at risk for the defense of his country and protection of his people. So dispassion is there, as well as the six-fold virtues, the qualities of the mind, and of course the longing for liberation. Longing for liberation is the longing to free yourself from all delusions and ignorance and gain supreme knowledge and understanding of the higher truth.
Only truth will free you. Ignorance on all levels will bind you and keep you in delusion and superstition. But who is ready for truth? Most people don’t want to hear even basic truths about themselves, so how can they be fit for liberation?
“Who am I? What am I? Where am I on this ladder of evolution? What is the state of my mind? What do I need to work on to correct my defects?” That is the path to freedom. If you can’t even pass through the very surface of listening to the truth about yourself, then how can you reach absolute knowledge and absolute truth? So these qualities have to exist in a person. You must yearn to know the truth about yourself and to change to become a better person.
Each person should know for themselves what they need to work on to free themselves. If you sincerely yearn to free yourself from your bondage, you can do it. How you relate to what presents itself to you in your life is what will determine whether you are freeing yourself or not.
It is important not only to study Arjuna, the perfect student, but also Krishna, the perfect teacher in the Bhagavad-Gita. Krishna comes as the Lord himself, the most supreme teacher in the land, to teach the most perfect, most qualified student.
The fact that this teaching is given by the Lord himself makes it absolute knowledge. People have been studying this absolute knowledge since ancient times. Some have reached perfection, whereas others are still struggling just to reach the entrance examination. The qualifications of the student are a very high state to reach. Once you attain them, the moment you hear the truth, you are enlightened. It removes that last veil from you.
So to understand the Bhagavad-Gita as a guide to enlightenment and perfection, study the life of Arjuna. Know the kind of personality, the state of mind and the kind of qualities you must cultivate and develop in your life. If you study high philosophy without knowing how to apply it, it will only serve to delude you more. These are some basic things on which to reflect and meditate.