This looks very paradoxical. The person who thinks that it is simply a question of managing certain conditions in order for happiness to be found in this world only ends up finding newer and newer sorrows. Actually, if you are seeking sorrow, you need to seek it under the guise of happiness. The proper way to find sorrow is to look for happiness. While we are looking for it, it appears to be happiness, but once found, that same happiness brings sorrow, and once we are in this sorrow, there is no escape.
If Arjuna were to ask: “Where is the chance of happiness in this world, where is the chance of authentic good in this world, does having a kingdom serve some authentic, real purpose?” – if he were to raise such questions, then they would be questions that are not bound up with conditions, and then the answer would be entirely different. But what he is saying is, “How is it possible to attain happiness by killing one’s own people?”
In his understanding, happiness is possible – and as long as his own people are not killed, he is ready to have it. He believes that authentic good is possible; he also believes that there is meaning and purpose in having a kingdom – but only if his own people don’t get killed.
The kind of realization that happened to Mahavira or Buddha – that having kingdoms is futile, that searching for happiness in this world is futile – has not happened to Arjuna. All of Arjuna’s statements indicate his conflicting state of mind. He doesn’t actually know that all the things that he calls “futile” are futile. Even when he asks what meaning, what good, there is in a certain thing, all the time he knows in his heart that meaning is there, that good is there – just his preconditions have to be fulfilled first. Arjuna has no doubt whatsoever that happiness will be achieved provided his “if” is fulfilled.
I have heard a joke. I have heard that Bertrand Russell was dying…it is just a joke. Hearing the news, a priest rushed to his side, cherishing the hope that there would be a good chance that this lifelong, learned atheist would fear death and remember God. But the priest didn’t have the courage to go near Russell even in his dying moments. He remained standing behind the crowd of friends who had gathered there, waiting for some opportunity to tell Russell to ask for forgiveness.
Suddenly Russell turned in his bed and said, “Oh, God!” Seeing that Russell had even uttered the name of God, the priest thought that this was an opportune moment. He went closer to Russell and said that it was the right time, and that at least now he should ask for God’s forgiveness.
Russell opened his eyes and said, “Oh God – if there is any God – Bertrand Russell – if there is any entity called a soul in him – asks for your forgiveness – if any forgiveness is possible. If Russell has committed any sins, he asks for your forgiveness – if any forgiveness is possible.”
In this way our whole lives are surrounded by “ifs.” Bertrand Russell was straightforward and honest, but we are not so.