I acknowledge this graphic from the Net.
Seeing my people ready to battle
My body goes limp and my mouth dry
I shiver with hairs standing on end
My bow Gandiva is slipping my skin burning
I cannot stand my head spins
Arjuna is the greatest warrior of his times, and the role model of a compassionate human. His courage had never been questioned. He had no fear of death. Yet, he was in the middle of the battle field where Krishna had taken the chariot and expressing his despondent state of mind.
In the Mahabharata, Krishna is asked by both the Pandavas and Kauravas to help. In fact, Duryodhana and Arjuna both reach him at the same time and Duryodhana requests first. Apart from Krishna’s own stature as a great warrior and strategist, his yadava army was feared. Krishna offers Duryodhana an options: choose me unarmed not engaged in warfare as a charioteer to you, or my mighty army. Duryodhana gleefully chooses Krishna’s army. Arjuna, hugely relieved, accepts Krishna gratefully as his charioteer. Hence, Krishna’s name as Partha Sarathy, charioteer of Partha, Arjuna’s name as son of Pritha, which was his mother Kunti’s maiden name.
As friend, guide, mentor and charioteer, Krishna is the greatest influence in establishing righteousness in the epic Mahabharata. At Arjuna’s request Krishna drives the chariot to the middle of the battle field, with both armies arraigned and ready for battle on either side. Looking at his kinsmen on the opposing side as the enemy, Arjuna breaks down. His primary enemies are his cousins, the hundred Kauravas led by Duryodhana. Many of his Kaurava cousins has no rancor against the Pandavas. They had to fight at their eldest brother’s command. There was Bhishma, son of Ganga, who was the grandsire of the Pandavas and Kauravas, the warrior who took the vow of celibacy to enable his father to marry his lover. There was Dronacharya, the teacher who taught both Kauravas and Pandavas. There was many others who were related to Arjuna as uncles and cousins. There were many who were close friends who had to align with Duryodhana for political reasons. There is also Karna, his own brother separated at birth, aiding Duryodhana and not in the battle ground for the first ten days though at this stage Arjuna is bot aware of this fact.
Arjuna looks at all these people and breaks down. His mind whirls. His body shivers. His famed bow Gandiva, created by Brahma and gifted to him by God Varuna slips from his wet and weak fingers. He turns to Krishna seeking solace.
Don’t we all face such situations at various times in our lives? Don’t we all get caught in activities our heart is not in, our mind cannot accept, and yet circumstances force us to get into? It is easy on after thought to say one should not have or done something different, but our past conditioning of holding family honor and status create such powerful emotions in us that the thoughts of right and wrong in an ecological sense disappear. What remains embedded in the mind at that time is merely the right and wrong as perceived by one’s ego to preserve what one thinks of as one’s identity.
Even if you are not Arjuna, a prince born to luxury, almost all of us are born into comforts of security, safety and emotional nurturing. Maslow calls these three the first three needs. Right at birth we are at the Fourth level of Maslow’s need hierarchy seeking esteem needs born out of ego. What matters at this stage is proving ourselves better than others, especially those close to us. What arises is envy through comparison, which in turn breeds anger and hatred. The final war of Mahabharata was caused by envy and ego needs on both sides.
Suddenly, the sight of his family members on the other side as enemies makes Arjuna realize the folly of what is going to happen. His response at this stage is still unconscious. He is yet to voice his conscious thoughts. This is the point where Bhagavad Gita begins.