Throughout Bhagavad Gita Sri Krishna addresses Arjuna with love, respect and an attitude of sympathy. He addresses him with morale boosting adjectives like ‘the destroyer of foes’, ‘the prominent among men’, ‘the descendent of kurus’ and so on. This is true for entire Bhagavad Gita, except for the very first Sloka, (2nd Sloka of Chapter 2), that Sri Krishna recites. Here is the Sloka and it translation.

kutas tvii kasmalam idarh
vi§ame samupasthitam
aniirya-ju§tam asvargyam
akirti-karam arjuna

“In such crisis where has the despair come upon you? It is unbecoming of an upright man and does not add to (your) fame. Nor does it lead you to heaven”

The tone in this Sloka is far from being sympathetic. Forget about addressing Arjuna’s concerns, Sri Krishna is almost scornful and passing judgement as to how wrong Arjuna is. This type of attitude towards Arjuna is not seen again in entire Bhagavad Gita. To the contrary,Sri Krishna always comes out as a caring and loving friend and very respectful of Arjuna.

When helping someone full of sorrow and depression, whether as a counselor or psychologist dealing with the patient or as a parent dealing with children or just helping a friend, the normal approach would be to start on the lines of compassion, caring and understanding.

That raises a question. What prompted Sri Krishna to start in such an aggressive manner?

My take on this question is that before one help a person full of depression and sorrow, you need to get that person’s attention and get him to a state where he is ready to listen. This can be best illustrated by a short incident told by Mr. N. Nagendra, the founder of VYASA (Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana, Bangalore, India) in one of his lectures.

VYASA was once asked to help flood victims in a large shelter. There were thousands of people who had lost all belongings, were sick and injured and many had lost their family members. The govt. authorities were doing their best to provide food, basic health care and helping them overcome depression. The VYASA team’s main goal was to help victims out of depression. The team initially tried many conventional yoga techniques for achieving relaxation and feelings of well-being but the victims were too grief stricken for these techniques to work.

There was one woman in particular whose husband and all kids had died. VYASA team came to know that this woman used to be very active and an influential person in the community. The team felt that if they could help this woman recover, she could in turn help many other depressed victims. Focusing on this woman, they tried to console her and encourage her to look to future. Nothing seemed to work. She was just crying saying, ‘I have lost everything. There is nothing left for me. There is no reason for me to live’.

Finally the team thought of one idea. Rather than consoling, they scolded her; “How can you say all is lost in your life and you have nothing to live for? It seems, you are a very self centered person. You have just lost your husband and children. There are thousands of children in this camp who have lost their parents. They have much bigger problems than you. Shouldn’t you take care of them? Can’t you be a mother to them?” This did the trick. Soon the woman recovered and became a volunteer, taking care of kids and helping recover other depressed ladies.

Speaking with anger rather than sympathy is exactly what Sri Krishna did and the approach worked. In the entire chapter 1, Arjun never showed his willingness to listen to Sri Krishna. At the end of the first chapter, Arjuna had concluded ‘he would not fight’.

saiijaya uvaca
evam uktvarjuna􀀴 sankhye
rathopastha upavisat
vis.rjya sa-saram ciipam

Sanjaya said: Having spoken in this manner in the middle of the battefield, Arjuna, whose mind was completely overcome, by sorrow, sat down on the seat of the chariot casting aside his bow and arrows.

After above Sloka by Sri Krishna, Arjuna responds in Sloka 4 to 9 of chapter 2 where he again repeats his reasons for sorrow and for not fighting and ends by saying he will not fight. But in the middle, in Sloka 7 he does say to Sri Krishna, “Please tell me which is truly better for me. I am your student. Please teach me, who has taken refuge in you”. Here is the Sloka 7 of chapter 2 and its English translation.

kiirpar ya-do§O pahata-svab hiivaft
prcchumi tviirh dharma-sarhmii!fha-cetiift
yac chreyaft syiin niscitarh briihi tan me
si§yas te’harh siidhi miirh tviirh prapannam

“My heart is overpowered by the taint of pity; my mind is confused as to duty. I ask Thee. Tell me decisively what is good for me. I am Thy disciple. Instruct me, who have taken refuge in Thee.”

Look, how Arjuna’s attitude begins to show signs of transition. Basically, the aggressive tone by Sri Krishna had shaken Arjuna, and temporarily brought him out of his trance. That gave Sri Krishna just enough time to continue with his message in subsequent Slokas.

The above technique is actually an example of importance of first getting attention of the person before imparting any message. We can see this in use even today. Some examples –

  • Before a sales person can hope to sell his product or service, or even hope to talk about the product, he needs to get the prospect’s attention (although not usually so aggressively!). That way at least the prospect is willing to listen. 
  • Have you noticed, how many advertisements have no content at all related to product being advertised. The sole aim of the advertisement is to get audience attention.
  • As parent, if you want to have any hope of getting your message across children, it is considered mandatory that you have their attention first.

This article showed the presence of two important concepts related to human relationships in Bhagavad Gita.

  • The first being a technique for motivating a very depressed person.
  • And the second, the importance of first getting audience attention, before imparting any message.

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