Chapter 5: Beyond the Ego
Remember, the ego strengthens itself with bad acts as well as with good acts. And it often happens that only when the ego has had no opportunity to strengthen itself with good acts that it tries to nourish itself with bad acts.
Hence, there is no basic difference between those whom we call “good people” and those whom we call “bad people.” Both good people and bad people are tethered to the same axis called the ego. The only difference between them is that the bad person will hurt others to fulfill his ego and the good person will hurt himself to fulfill his ego. But as far as hurting is concerned, there is no difference between the two.
Arjuna says, “I would rather be killed by than kill all these people.” If we use the language of today’s psychology, a bad guy is a sadist, and a good guy, while fulfilling his ego, becomes a masochist. Masoch was a man who used to beat and torture himself.
All those people who hurt themselves can become “good people” very quickly. If I starve you, I will be called a bad guy. The law and the courts can arrest me. But if I go on a fast, no court or law can arrest me. On the contrary, you will turn me into a hero. But if starving the other is a crime, how can it become a good deed if I starve myself - just because the other body belongs to you and this body belongs to me? If I make you stand naked and whip you or make you sleep on a bed of thorns it will be a crime, but if I do all these things to myself, how does it become asceticism? How does just a change of direction, the arrow pointing towards myself instead of towards the other, make something religious?
Arjuna says, “I would rather die than kill them.” He is saying the same thing. He is still talking in terms of killing and getting killed. There is not much of a difference; just the arrow’s point has changed direction.
And remember, one’s ego is not fulfilled as much by killing the other as it is by killing oneself - because the other can still show his defiance before dying and spit in the killer’s face. But when someone kills himself, he is helpless, unprotected, unable to respond. Killing the other is never complete; that person can survive even in his death. His eyes may proclaim, “You may kill me but I am not defeated!” But while killing oneself there is no escape. The joy of defeat is utterly complete.
Arjuna is talking of pity and Krishna is saying, “This talk is not worthy of you; this will give you a bad name.” He is just tickling Arjuna’s ego, he is just nudging it.
Krishna’s second sutra shows that he is touching Arjuna on the right spot - because it is useless for Krishna to explain to him yet that pity is not right. Even to explain to him that there is a difference between pity and compassion is futile at this point. As yet, Arjuna’s ego is his raw nerve. As yet, it is only his ego that is moving from sadism to masochism. At this point he is still only eager to hurt himself rather than hurt the other.