An important concept that Krishna speaks about in the Gita is that of being a स्थितप्रज्ञ – a balanced person with steady intellect. He says, “One who abandons selfish desires and is satisfied within the true self is a sthitaprajna (BG 2.55). In other words, he is telling Arjuna to let go of देहाभिमान, the obsession with the body and focusing only on the material aspect of living.
Krishna has been a sthitaprajna all his life. He has neither regrets nor complaints. He doesn’t feel overly elated at having achieved something and he has no regrets for not having accomplished something. He finds satisfaction within. When Arjuna complains to Krishna that the mind is restless and hard to control (BG 6.34), Krishna replies, “Doubtless, the mind is hard to restrain; but by practice (अभ्यास) and detachment (वैराग्य), you can control it” (BG 6.35). Krishna is endowed with both traits. He always lives in the moment. He learns as much as he can. He lets go as much as he can.
Further, this reply to Arjuna is particularly instructive. Krishna is a person who never gives false assurances – he tells it as it is, but in words that are kind and gentle. He doesn’t paint a rosy picture and at the same time, he provides a practical solution to the problem. He is at once objective and encouraging.
In his life Krishna was free from fear, envy, restlessness, and reckless joy, which is exactly what he says in the Gita (BG 12.15). Krishna never had a trace of restlessness or agitation. Even when he witnesses the entire Yadava clan fighting and killing each other, he was not disturbed. His own people were at each other’s throats and he silently watched them. Then, he stepped forward and killed the remaining ones (MB 16.1-9, BP 11.30). He thus kept his promise to Gandhari. He lived his life in the moment and thus it is rare to see any failings in his life. In a sense, he felt the same feeling of compassion and warmth towards all – a friend or a foe, a sage or a sinner, stranger or kin (see BG 6.9).
Krishna knows that bodily existence is just a part of the truth, which is why he says, “Before birth and after death, beings are formless; they acquire a form only in between” (BG 2.28). He says that birth and death are inevitable. While it is important to remember that life is valuable, it is also true that the soul is immortal and ever-existent. In other words, don’t grieve for birth or for death, embrace life in its fullness (BG 2.27).
Birth and death are not in our hands – it is life that is valuable and it is only life that is in our hands. (Even in the rare event of someone committing suicide, it is only because they are fed up of life or have mistaken notions about after-life; it is never out of joy or backed by reason). Krishna is a lover of life and that is the message he imparts to Arjuna. For that matter, if Arjuna had decided to renounce war with joyful detachment, Krishna perhaps would not have stopped him. Also, if like Balarama, Arjuna had been clear that he would stay away from the war, Krishna might have not said anything. But Arjuna is weeping, he is afflicted, he is sentimental, he is confused. That is why Krishna comforts him and guides him.
In his own life, Krishna was not afraid of death and yet he led his life with fullness. His birth is a non-event. He was born in a prison cell in the middle of the night. His death is also a non-event. He doesn’t die a hero’s death on the battlefield or battling a dangerous disease. A stray arrow of a nondescript hunter kills him (MB 16.1-9). He disappeared like a fragrance in the wind.
To be continued...