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Chapter 25
Guardian on the Battlefield


When the Lord commanded Arjuna to examine, from the chariot which He kept stationary between the two armies ranged for battle, the enemy leaders whom he had to encounter, Arjuna allowed his eyes to spot out in a flash the heroes eager to meet him in contest; tears flowed immediately from his eyes! He crumbled with despondency and disinclination. It was a scene that filled spectators with shame.

But, note that your grandfather was not afflicted or affected with fear or cowardice. He saw before him Bhishma, the reverend grandparent who had loved to keep him on his lap and who caressed him as his own child; he saw his respected teacher, Drona, from whom he had learnt archery from A to Z; so, his heart lamented, "Alas! Has this too to be endured by me, this bloody warfare with these great elders, persons whom I ought really to worship with tender lovely flowers? How can I shoot arrows at them? Have I to wound the very feet which I must really place reverentially on my head, when I dutifully prostrate before them?" The sentiment that overpowered him was really this emotion of 'adoration'. It was this that rendered him despondent, and not any other weakening emotion.

The feelings ' I ' and ' Mine ' grew so intense in him that he turned to Krishna and said, "Krishna, set the chariot back towards Hasthinapura, I wish to go away from all this"; Krishna laughed in derision, and commented with scarcely concealed scorn, "My dear brother-in-law, evidently you seem to be scared of fighting; well, I shall take you back to Hasthinapura, and bring instead, your consort, Droupadi; she has no fear. Come, we shall return. I did not realise you are such a coward; or else, I would not have accepted this position as charioteer for you. It is a gross error of judgment on my part."

While Krishna was saying thus, and many other harsh statements besides, Arjuna retorted: "Do you think that I, who fought with God Siva and won the Pasupatha weapon from Him will quail before these common mortals? It is a sense of reverence and mercy that makes me desist from killing these kinsmen. It is not fear that holds me back." Arjuna spoke for long, arguing on the lines of ' I ' and ' Mine ', but, Krishna did not appreciate his arguments. He explained to him the basic principles of all activity and morality and made him take up the arms he had laid down; He induced him to follow the dictates of the moral and social obligations of the Kshatriya caste to which he belonged.

 When in the midst of battle, the Kaurava warriors all in one gang rained arrows simultaneously on Arjuna, Krishna saved him from the shower, as He had done earlier when He lifted the Govardhan Hill to save the villagers of Gokula and the cattle from the floods of hail rained on them by the angry God Indra. He drew all weapons on Himself and rescued Arjuna, seated behind him in the chariot, from the deadly onslaugh. Blood flowed from the wounds on His body, but, nevertheless, He held it against the shower of fiery arrows let loose by the enemy. His aim was that Arjuna must be preserved from harm. He intended also to reduce the might and pride of the wicked opponent, and heighten the glory and reputation of Arjuna. (See also S'rîmad Bhâgavatam Chapter 7: Brief Description of the Past and Coming Avatâras (verse 32)).

He held no weapon Himself; but, He brought about the annihilation of the enemies and proclaimed before the World the magnificence of the path of Dharma, which the Pandava brothers adhered to. Often during the battle, your grandfather was pained at the role that Krishna had taken on Himself. "Alas, that we are using You for this insignificant purpose; You whom we ought to instal in the Lotus of the Heart, we are seating You on the charioteer's plank! We have reduced You to the status of a servant! We have devalued the Lord so meanly; alas, that we are reduced to such straits!" he used to lament within himself.

More distressing than all was another painful act that Arjuna had perforce to do, off and on. Whenever he had to do that act, poor Arjuna was overcome with unbearable remorse. Saying this, Vyasa held his head down, as if he wished to desist from mentioning it. This aroused the curiosity of Parikshith even more and he appealed, "Master! What exactly was that inevitable harm, he had to do, in spite of its sacrilege?"

At this, he said, "0 King, In the thick of battle, when the master has to give an indication to the man who acts as the charioteer which way to turn, he cannot hope to be heard, if he calls out, right or left. The din will be too loud and confusing. So, while totally immersed in the wild excitement of coming to grips with the enemy, he has to prod the charioteer's brows with the right or left toe of his feet; he keeps the toes always in touch with the sides of the brow, for this purpose. His plank is on a deeper level. If the chariot is to be driven straight, both toes have to be pressed with equal force. That was the convention. Since such pressure had to be applied with heavily shod feet both sides of the brow of the Lord daily showed marks of scrape. Arjuna cursed himself for sheer shame; he hated the very idea of war and prayed that the wicked game ceased that very moment. He used to be terribly upset with agony, that he had to touch with his feet the Head that sages and saints adored.

The palms of Krishna, soft and tender like lotus petals, developed boils all over, since they had to hold the reins tight and since the steeds strained their hardest, when they were restrained or controlled. The Lord forsook food and sleep, performed services both high and low, and kept ready both horses and chariot in perfect trim. He also went on various other sundry errands, which were fundamental to victory. He bathed the horses in the river, attended to their wounds and applied balm to cure them, (why go on with the entire list?). He acted as a menial in the house-hold of your grandfathers! He never assumed the role of the Universal Sovereign that is His real nature and status. That was the measure of His affection for those devoted to Him," said Vyasa, the Sage, to the King.



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