Bhagavad Gita for Executives – Gita Chapter 1 Summary

Chapter 1 introduces the background, characters and the circumstances of the Mahabharata war. It depicts the dilemma of Arjuna, the hero of the war, warrior par excellence.

The opening words of this chapter are “dharmakshetre kurukshetre”, meaning “the field of dharma, the field of the Kurus.” Essentially Bhagavad Gita is about Dharma. And what is “Dharma”? There is no direct translation for the word in English. It can    be explained as Duty, responsibility and character. The ‘Dharma’ of fire is light and heat. If an innocent child keeps his hand in fire, it will burn as fire will show its character (dharma) irrespective of the person. Fire does not recognize the innocence of the baby and performs its Dharma. But the “Dharma” of mother is to protect the child from fire and keep him away from it (duty). It is also her dharma to educate the child about the dangers of keeping ones hand in fire (responsibility).

How is it that the field of dharma is the field of the Kurus, the enemies of dharma? This portrays the real world of today; a world full of dualities; negativity and ignorance. The enemies of dharma dominate society in general. We find within ourselves a welter of negative impulses, conflicts, confusions, fears, and ignorance of all kinds. Yes; we are definitely in–and are–the field of the Kurus, whatever our intentions may be. We have to fight through the whole field and wipe out all the Kurus, the enemies of Dharma to survive and grow.

Next few stanzas portray the din and roar of the battlefield where many generals and their army are restlessly clamouring to start the war and annihilate their enemies. Bhishma, the grandsire blew his conch shell and declares the war, confirming that Kauravas indeed are the aggressors. Arjuna requests Krishna, his charioteer to place the chariot in the middle of both the armies to see all the people who have gathered and sided with the Kauravas to fight the war, knowing fully well that their death is certain. Arjuna sees grandfathers, fathers, sons and grandson ready to fight the Pandavas. He sees his brothers, brothers in law, friends, uncles and other close relatives. Arjuna is confused and declares that killing all these people for the pleasures of enjoying the kingdom is not worth. Arjuna gets mentally and physically paralysed and informs Krishna that he is quitting the war and sits in the chariot after putting down his arms and ammunition. He justifies the decision quoting scriptures and says that death of menfolk will ruin society and culture.

This is symbolic. Every day we face confusing situations in our life and struggle to take the right decision. People may look like friends, but their intentions could be evil. A delicacy may be appealing to our palate but may be ruinous to our health. Medicines which are bitter will help us recover from serious illness. Fortunately Arjuna had Krishna to guide, whom do we have? The Chariot symbolises human body, driven by horses which are your senses, the five senses of hearing, vision, touch, smell and taste. If the horses are under control, they will take the chariot to the desired destination, if not it will lead us to hell. Arjuna’s chariot is controlled by Krishna who resides in all of us as ‘Buddhi’. Use our Buddhi to control our senses, we will have no confusion and reach our destiny with flying colours.

Today’s Youth is Arjuna. They are confused and unsure of their future like Arjuna in the battlefield. The circumstances and situations around them are threatening and unnerving. Today’s youngsters are ambitious, hardworking, intelligent and more educated than their predecessors. Yet they struggle to achieve success in their life due to difficult and unsupportive external environment, political and economic. Today’s youth is facing Mahabharata war like situations every day in their life. Whether at home or at office we only see and hear disturbing news every day.

We have not one but many Dhritarashtra in today’s world. Every government central, state or local bodies are all controlled by Dhritarashtra whose is determined to perpetuate their political legacy by nepotism and favouritism.  It could be their children, relatives, from the same caste, community, religion, region or political affiliation. The rightful claimants for the post are discarded mercilessly! Corrupt political class is driving young and aspiring Arjunas of this world to desperation and out of their country. Similar incidents are repeated even in corporate world, though with less frequency and intensity.

Success of an organization is based on innovative products and progressive policies. Products that help customers solve their problems and create meaningful impact to their business. Policies that support the stakeholders and its proper implementation. Finally we need people who will execute these policies in letter and spirit at all levels, leadership as well as executive. If any one element is missing that organization is bound to fail if not now certainly in future.

Like an organization a country is built with the help of strong, selfless, ethical, hardworking and industrious citizens. If it is led by the likes of Dhritarashtra or Duryodhana it is bound for disaster and total annihilation like the Kaurava dynasty. When knowledgeable and matured leaders do not raise their voice against corruption and malpractices, like Bhishma and Drona, that society will disintegrate and destroy the world.

India is a country of reservation, whether it is education or employment. Seats are reserved on the basis of caste, religion, region, gender, age, political affiliations or based on whom you know in the corridors of power. Alas there is no reservation based on merit! What a story state of affairs our country is passing through.

Gita teaches us the art of living. It brings proper perspective to our thought process and guides your action towards success and fulfilment. It shows us the way forward. Knowledge gives you proficiency. Applied knowledge is efficiency. Right knowledge applied at the right time, right place and right way gives us effectiveness. Effectiveness leads us to success and glory and that is what Gita teaches us.

Arjuna in Bhagavad Gita represents today’s youth, confused and disheartened. A man of action that Arjuna is abandons his action station due to mental paralysis. Neurosis and stress overtakes his judgement and surrenders to fate by refusing to do his duty. Arjuna loses his ‘viveka’ his reasoning ability. He resigns from his job like many youngsters of today who leave their job on some or other pretext, always silly than serious. When a person is angry sad or under severe stress, his faculty for proper judgement diminishes. Under these circumstances either he gives up or take wrong decisions. That is what has happened to Arjuna.

Generally a problem looks big and insurmountable when you don’t have a solution. The moment you have the solution the problems disappears. Bhagavad Gita provides that answer to our life’s problems. Running away from the problem does not solve it; it will only come back and haunt you with even more vigour and ferocity. If you refuse to see the elephant in the room, it does not disappear. We have to face it with courage and conviction as running away is cowardice. Like Arjuna often we justify our inaction quoting precedents and rule books.

Kurukshetra is our field of activities. It is our mind, our job, our office, everything around us. The circumstances are so challenging that there are conflicting thoughts going through our mind about our life, relationships, work and society. The thoughts may be good or bad, evil or angelic, selfish or selfless. They are at constant war and lead us to physical, mental or intellectual breakup and paralysis. That is what happened to Arjuna. Generally the bad thoughts are in larger numbers than the good ones, like the Kaurava army which is bigger than the Pandava army. But with hard work and divine grace we can always achieve what we desire and more.

Why did Arjuna refuse to take part in the war and guaranteed his failure? Generally people fail in their jobs due to three reasons.

  1. They don’t know what to do;
  2. They don’t know how to do or
  3. Don’t want to do.

Arjuna knows what to do. He is the supreme commander of the Pandava forces and a warrior of unrivalled and unchallenged skills and ability. The reason is Arjuna was confused and demotivated like any other youngsters of today’s organization. He was confused between his love and affection for his friends and relatives and his duty as the supreme warrior and a Kshatriya. It is similar to often heard phrase in office these days called “work life balance”. The confusion between work and life or work and family.  For those who believe that work is life, there is no confusion. However for those who think “work after life”, work puts intense pressure that affects their performance. Here Krishna shows the way. Krishna says that no living being can exist even for a moment without action, hence work is life. Those who think and believe otherwise will have no work and soon no life too.

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