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Arjuna and Krishna

Once upon a time, a man named Arjuna stood in his chariot, awaiting the beginning of a battle.

Twenty years ago, Dhritarashtra [Dri-tah-rahsh-trah], the great blind King of the Kurus, decided to give his kingdom to his nephew Yudhishthira [Yut-ish-tir-ah] instead of to Duryodhana [Dur-yo-tahn-ah], who was the eldest of his hundred sons. The King saw that his eldest son was wicked and selfish, and that his nephew was good and wise beyond his years. But Duryodhana, the wicked eldest son, cheated his good cousin Yudhishthira, prevented him from becoming king, and exiled him from the kingdom for thirteen years.

At the end of the thirteen year exile, Yudhishthira called upon his relatives who were loyal to him to join his army and overthrow Duryodhana. But Duryodhana called upon all his relatives who were loyal to him to join his army and protect him.

The two armies took their places on either side of the Kuru field. The great heroes stood in their chariots behind their charioteers, and all the charioteer held the reins of the fine big horses pulling each chariot. Each of the men in a chariot was a great archer, with a bow pulled taut and arrows at the ready. Many other heroes stood ready, armed with many different kinds of weapons, each of them skilled in war.

Arjuna was one of the heroes in a chariot. He had a particularly large and fine chariot pulled by magnificent white horses, and the horses were driven by a skilled charioteer.

Both armies were restless as they gathered on opposite sides of the field of battle. Suddenly, one of the warriors blew on a conch shell. At the first blast from the conch shell, other warriors took out their conch shells and blew them. The air was filled with the loud, terrifying, trumpetting sound of conch shells being blown. Drums began to beat, there was the clanging of cymbals, and "the tumultuous sound, resounding through earth and sky, rent the hearts" of all who stood on the battlefield.

Almost immediately, a few archers on both sides picked up their bows and sent arrows flying high in the sky, even though the armies were still too far apart for them to reach their targets. Arjuna said to his charioteer, "Take my chariot out between the two armies, and stop there so I can look at all these men standing eager for battle. I want to see these warriors I'm going to fight with."

The charioteer drove Arjuna's chariot out in the field between the two armies. The battle had not quite been joined. A few people still blew on conch shells, other beat on drums, a few arrows flew through the air, but the two armies were still getting organized, and remained a good distance apart on opposite sides of the wide field. Just at this moment, there was a little lull in the action, a pause when time seemed to stand still.

Arjuna stood in his chariot partway across the field, the only warrior there yet. He looked across at the opposing army, and suddenly realized that he was about to fight his own relatives:— uncles, and great-uncles, and teachers, cousins, and friends. He looked at the other army and saw men who had sons in his army, and brothers, and an nephews, and cousins. All these relatives and friends are about to try and kill each other! It just doesn't make sense.

Arjuna turned to his charioteer. "My mouth is dry," he said. "My body is trembling, my mind is whirling. No good can come if I kill friends and relative. It would be better if I let the other side simply kill me, unresisting and unarmed."

He couldn't decide what to do:— Should he throw down his weapons and let the other side kill him? Should he go forward and kill people he knows, kill friends and relatives? Neither choice was acceptable, and yet he knew he had to do something.

His charioteer began to talk to Arjuna. "You must do what you are here to do," said his charioteer. "You are a warrior, so you must join in the battle. There comes a time when each person must act." And then the charioteer revealed to Arjuna that he was not a charioteer at all:— he was a god, he was Krishna himself, the God of all Gods.

In that pause before the battle began, a pause that seemed to go on and on, Krishna told Arjuna about the best way for a person to act. Krishna taught Arjuna that to be the best kind of person, he must attain peace of mind, "gentleness, silence, self-control, purity of being." He must act for the sake of acting.

Krishna revealed his true appearance to Arjuna. Though Krishna had taken on the appearance of a charioteer, in reality Krishna has many mouths and many eyes, dresses in divine garments, is covered with divine ointments, is radiant and infinite. Upon seeing Krishna's true appearance, Arjuna was so amazed that his hair stood on end.

Arjuna continued to ask questions, and Krishna continued provide answers. All this took place after the first conch shell was blown, but before the battle actually started. You might think that that is far too short a time for so much happen. But the moment when you're betwixt and between things, doing nothing much but waiting for the next thing to happen, can seem like it takes forever.

And in the end, Arjuna went on to fight the battle. But at least now he felt he knew why he did so.

Rough draft of a story based on the first chapters of the Bhagavad Gita.