Under these circumstances Krishna says to him in the second sutra: “What are you saying? How is it that an exalted, highborn, sophisticated man like you is talking like a lowborn, ignoble being? Are you speaking of running away from the war? Is your mind in the grip of cowardice?” Krishna is hitting his ego.
Many a time those who read the Gita miss the basic point at subtle and delicate places like this. Is Krishna calling him an egoist? No, Krishna is only trying to observe that if this pity is arising out of his ego, then it will evaporate if this same ego is pumped up some more. That is why he says, “You are talking like a cowardly man.” He will use the hardest possible words.
Krishna is speaking like this to Arjuna in order to watch what reaction it brings up in him. It is here that the psychoanalysis begins. It is at this point that Arjuna lies down on Krishna’s couch and Krishna takes Arjuna into psychoanalysis. From now on, whatever Krishna is asking, he is trying to assess Arjuna by provoking things in him. He is trying to figure out Arjuna’s true depth. From here onwards, Krishna is just a psychoanalyst and Arjuna is a patient. And it is necessary for Krishna to provoke him, to prod him from every direction and watch.
The first hit he makes is on his ego – and naturally, man’s deepest and principal disease is his ego. And where there is ego, if there is pity it is false. With ego, any nonviolence is false. With ego, any peace is false. And where there is ego, all talk of benevolence, universal good and welfare is false – because where there is ego, all of these things are only there to adorn it.
”O Krishna, destroyer of enemies
how can I battle with my arrows,
against Bheeshma and Drona, both of whom I revere?”
But Arjuna fails to grasp this. He repeats the same point, but from another angle. He says, “How could I battle with Drona and Bheeshma? They are the ones I revere.” He still talks in terms of humility. But the ego often speaks the language of humility, and often the biggest egoists are found amongst the humblest people.
Actually, humility is defensive egotism; it is the ego defending itself. An aggressive ego can get into trouble. The humble ego is already secure, protected; it is insured. So when somebody says, “I am nothing; I am just the dust beneath your feet,” look closely into his eyes. His eyes will be telling an altogether different story, although his words may be saying something else.
Krishna has put his hand right on Arjuna’s pulse, but Arjuna is unable to understand it. He starts the same thing from a different angle. Now he says: “How can I attack Drona, my teacher, or Bheeshma, both of whom I revere?