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The world is an agitation, the wise one subsides it || Acharya Prashant, on Bhagavad Gita (2020)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
10 min
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यस्मान्नोद्विजते लोको लोकान्नोद्विजते च यः।

हर्षामर्षभयोद्वेगैर्मुक्तो यः स च मे प्रियः।। 12.15 ।।

yasmān nodvijate loko lokān nodvijate cha yaḥ

harṣhāmarṣha-bhayodvegair mukto yaḥ sa cha me priyaḥ

He by whom the world is not agitated and who cannot be agitated by the world, and who is freed from joy, envy, fear and anxiety - he is dear to Me.

~ Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12, Verse 15

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Questioner (Q): What is implied by, “He by whom the world is not agitated”? All the greats have indeed agitated some people around them: Rama agitated Ravana, and Krishna agitated Kamsa, Duryodhana, etc.

Acharya Prashant (AP): The greats had a need to appear in the first place because the world was in agitation, and fever, and turbulence. Otherwise, why did the greats have to assume a form in the first place?

Greatness by its nature loves to remain latent and unmanifest. Greatness does not enjoy exhibition. Exhibitionism does not sit well with Truth. Truth is quite a sleepy thing; it does not want to display itself. It just remains relaxed, sleeping, tucked away in some corner, away from the public eye. Only when there is some great exigency, that the Truth wakes up and exhibits or manifests itself. Otherwise, the Truth loves being a non-doer. Otherwise, the Truth maintains a hands-off approach.

Krishna clarifies it. He says, “Only when the world experiences a total fall in values and defeat of Dharma, do I come over to save the Sages and punish the evil ones”. He qualifies it very clearly: “Yadā yadā hi dharmasya glānir bhavati bhārata… Only when Dharma experiences a decline or fall or attack do I come over.”

So, when the Dharma is not experiencing a decline or fall, then what does Krishna do? He sleeps. Truth is, as I said, quite sleepy. Truth is not exhibitionist.

So, they came over only because these chaps— Ravana, or Kamsa, or Duryodhana—they were creating a fair bit of ruckus in the world. They were causing commotion, and disturbance, and all kinds of upheavals. Therefore, a Rama or a Krishna had to appear. They did not appear to agitate anybody; they appeared because of pre-existing agitation. And the result of their appearance was that the agitation subsided. So obviously they did not come to agitate; they came to becalm the agitation.

Is that not so?

Was the world more peaceful before Krishna than after it? No!

Think of the environment in which Krishna took birth. So many of his elder siblings had been mercilessly slaughtered by Kamsa. His parents had been imprisoned on mere suspicion, and then he had to be sneaked out of the prison cell and furtively carried away to some village across the Yamuna. Do you see how agitated those times must have been? The king that was dealing with Krishna’s biological parents in this way surely was not dealing with the rest of the population in a very benevolent way, or was he? Was Kamsa selectively cruel towards Krishna’s parents? Obviously he was not. He was a cruel ruler in general. Therefore, evil was ruling, and therefore Krishna had to come.

The ascendance of evil is necessarily accompanied by the arrival of someone to counter that evil; it’s a rule. It is as if evil carries within itself the news of arrival of a Krishna. If you find evil rising immeasurably, then you should know that a special force is about to arrive to counter the evil. That special force will not always be in the form of a person, but the force would nevertheless always arrive.

As they say, "It is darkest before dawn,"; if it is very-very dark, you must know that the Sun is about to arrive.

So, what’s implied by, “He by whom the world is not agitated”? Because by their constitution all human beings are configured, conditioned to only agitate the world, rare is the one the net effect of whose presence is that the overall agitation in the atmosphere comes down. Otherwise, if you look at any person in the world, he would have only contributed agitation to the world by dent of his presence. It’s almost like entropy; agitation only increases.

A fellow is born and the fellow dies, and there are 70 years between these two events. What did he do through these 70 years? Effectively he just agitated the world. The sum total of his life is agitation; the net effect of his presence on the world around him is agitation. That’s what everybody does without exception. Now, the one who comes to the world and leaves the world more peaceful than how he found it, is called a 'Krishna'.

“He by whom the world is not agitated,” and Krishna adds here, “He by whom the world is not agitated, and He who cannot be agitated by the world.” And these two necessarily go together.

If the world agitates you, then you will react to agitate the world. Therefore, a Krishna has to be someone who is not excitable; the world will not mean much to him, victory and defeat will not reach onto him; you cannot lure him, you cannot tempt him, and you cannot threaten him; you cannot display your power and bow him down into submission. At the same time, you cannot display your weakness and arouse his pity. He is not there to exploit you, and he’ll not allow you to exploit him. He is himself. He is firm. He stands at his place.

That is Krishna. He neither excites someone, nor is excitable. He neither threatens someone, nor can be threatened. He neither exploits someone, nor can be exploited. Only such a person leaves the world in a better shape than how he found it.

In between obviously you will find that Rama is embroiled in a fierce battle against Ravana, and thousands are being killed, and you will say, “Is this what you call as arrival of peace? Is this person, Shri Rama, the harbinger of Peace? There was no battle, there was no battle at all! Lanka appeared a peaceful city and a country by all means—and see what is the effect of Ram’s arrival on Lanka? So many are being killed!”

No, you are looking at the smaller picture; you are looking only at a period of, let’s say, ten days or two months. In that period you will find a lot of agitation. But when you will take the net result, when you look at the bigger picture, then you will find that that battle was necessary; that agitation, that excitement was necessary in order to bring down the overall agitation and tension in the air. So do not misjudge. And we have misjudged.

Krishna has been, for example, accused of being very-very violent. He has been accused of instigating a war. Arjuna was trying to somehow peacefully drop his weapons; he was saying, “No, no, I don’t want to fight! I’m ready to run away,” and all that. There would have been either a surrender from the side of Pandavas, or some kind of an armistice. Krishna didn’t allow that to happen. Krishna said, “No, you have to fight.” And when the fight happened, then a large number of people lost their lives. So it has been said that Krishna is responsible for the war and for the bloodshed. That’s not true; you are looking at the smaller picture.

What if the war hadn’t happened? What if the Pandavas had surrendered meekly? What if Duryodhana had obtained the throne? Think of what would have happened. The king used to be an absolute autocrat in those times, absolute authority would be vested in the king. And if someone like Duryodhana would be sitting atop the most powerful kingdom of those times, that would have meant very bad things for the entire Indian region. Krishna could not have allowed something so inauspicious to happen. Therefore, the war had to happen. Yes, a lot of lives were lost in that war, but we fail to imagine how many lives were saved because of the war. Therefore, sometimes we call Krishna as violent or something.

If you have a tumor that keeps bleeding within you, you’ll probably not realize how much blood you are really losing, or would you? You have a tumor, and the tumor keeps bleeding; you’d probably not realize how much blood you are losing on a daily basis. And then the surgeon operates on you. And when the surgeon operates on you, there is a visible loss of blood, correct? And you start accusing the surgeon, “Oh! Because of you I lost so much of blood, you see… It’s been a really bloody surgery! So much of blood! I can see all this blood!” You’re talking of all this blood merely because you can see it. What about all the blood that you are losing without even seeing?

So, that’s the kind of analogy that will help you understand why wars are necessary sometimes—to avoid bloodshed. And this is not an endorsement of wars. It’s just that in life, everything is alright at its proper place. The intention has to be right. And if the intention is right, then everything is alright. If the intention is to establish Dharma, then war can sometimes be right, but only when the war is honestly and sincerely being fought to establish or defend Dharma; otherwise not.

Wars obviously bring about a lot of misery. Wars are to be avoided to the maximum extent possible, and that’s exactly what Krishna too tried: to avoid the war. He went to the extent of offering Duryodhana a deal in which he had to concede just five villages to Pandavas. But Duryodhana was not prepared to give up even on five villages. And then Krishna knew, that there is no way out except a big holy fight.

The war had to happen.

Therefore, agitations, disturbances, turbulences are obviously something we have to avoid, because the mind’s final destination is Peace. But it just so happens sometimes that if you have to reach Peace, you have to pass through a lot of turbulence, and you have to be very manfully prepared for it.

You cannot buckle down. You just cannot give up at that moment and you cannot start saying that “If I want Peace, if Peace is my ultimate aim, then why am I fighting?”

Sometimes it’s important to fight for Peace.

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