Chapter 5: Beyond the Ego
A compassionate person doesn’t want there to be a single beggar on the face of this earth, but a man of pity wants beggars to exist, otherwise he will be in difficulty. Societies based on the concept of pity don’t eradicate begging, they nourish it. If a compassionate society can be created, it won’t be able to tolerate begging - it shouldn’t exist! What is churning around in Arjuna’s mind is pity. Had it been compassion, he would have gone through a revolution.
It has to be clearly understood that what Krishna is telling Arjuna is worth pondering over. Krishna’s immediate response is in answer to Arjuna’s ego. He is saying, “Your behavior is not fitting for a noble person.” The second sutra in this chapter shows that Krishna has pinned down the problem exactly.
The ego is murmuring inside Arjuna. He is saying, “I feel pity. How can I commit such an act?” Not that the act in itself is bad but: “How can I commit such an act? I am not that bad.” He tells Krishna that it would be better for him if all the sons of Dhritarashtra were to kill him rather than he commit an act as ghastly as slaying his own people.
The ego can even sacrifice itself. The ultimate act of the ego is martyrdom. And often the ego becomes a martyr - but in its martyrdom it only strengthens itself.
What Arjuna is saying is that he would prefer death to acting wrongly. “I, Arjuna, just cannot bring myself to commit this wrong act. I feel pity for them. What have all these people assembled here for? I am amazed!
From the way he is speaking, it appears that Arjuna has not opted for the development of this war in any way, that he has not supported it in any way. It is as if this war has suddenly surfaced in front of his eyes and he has had no inkling of it whatsoever before; he has not been a participant in the emergence of the situation that is in front of him now. He is talking from such a distant standpoint: “I feel pity for them!” Tears have come to his eyes: “No. I cannot do this. I would rather die - that would be far better.”
Krishna has detected this streak in Arjuna. This is why I say that Krishna is the first psychologist on this earth. This second sutra of Krishna’s is nourishing Arjuna’s ego even more. In it he says, “Why are you talking like an anarya, a low-born person?” Arya means a noble, an exalted, a highborn person, and anarya means a lowly, lowborn person. Arya means the egoists; anarya means the downtrodden. “How can it be that you are talking like an ignoble person?”
Now, it is worth thinking over - that to have pity means you are behaving like a lowborn person. To have eyes full of pitying tears means that you are behaving like an ignoble one. And Krishna is telling Arjuna that pity will bring him infamy on this earth and no blessings in the other world. Pity!
You may have not thought about it in this way: that Sanjay saying, Arjuna thus filled with pity, tears and grief, and Krishna’s statement that follows it are not in accordance with each other. The reason is that we have never understood pity rightly. Pity only enhances the ego; pity is also an act of the ego. Pity is the act of a good man’s ego and cruelty is the act of a bad man’s ego.