After the initial “Dhritarashtra uvacha,” the first two words of the Bhagavad Gita are “dharmakshetre kurukshetre.” These translate, roughly, as “on the sacred battlefield of Kurukshetra.” Today, like every second Sunday of a month, was the largest regularly-occuring worship service at my temple, known as Gita Mandal. I always look forward to this larger crowd, and the experience that is Hindu worship, including the discourse that’s given after all the shlokas, bhajans, and dhuns are finished. Today’s discourse, like the Bhagavad Gita, started with those words.
In the past, and likely also in the future, I’ve had a challenge helping my non-Hindu pals understand that we don’t have a resident speaker, the way Christian churches use their pastors for sermons. The man who spoke today was local, highly educated (as all of our speakers are), and very kind. And he spoke on the meaning and value of dharma.
In a manner not unlike Sri Krsna’s while speaking to Arjuna, this gentleman explained that everyone’s dharma is unique. He detailed examples of what individual and collective dharmas might look like, and then spoke a bit on the immense sacredness and value of each person not only performing their own dharma as best they’re able, but also the tremendous value of investing plenty of one’s self into actually ascertaining what his dharma actually is.
Otherwise, I agree on both accounts; although, my mind kept thinking about the second part of what he said, pertaining to knowing yourself well enough to determine on your own what your dharma might be, and then having the capacity to choose the most efficient way to manifest that. After all, a lot can be said about “diving in.” You can get busy attempting to iron out your karmas and cultivating your Bhakti, but without a foundational touch of Jnana, you’re likely to just add to your karmic pile and find that your Bhakti has gone every which way. What you then discover is that “diving in” has landed you head-first in three feet of water.
Krishna also says that when dharma decreases and adharma is on the rise, He takes human form to set things back in a more balanced direction. I think what is about the laziest way of understanding this, and it doesn’t make it less true, is that no matter how bad things get, God will and re-show us a way back. I think this is one of the many amazing aspects of my religion, and one of the big things Christianity and Hinduism have in common: the belief that God becomes human.
Equally amazing is that we’re met precisely where we are. Vishnu has incarnated numerous times to help restore dharma. Look at any avatar and you’ll see that God doesn’t usually see fit to coach from the sidelines. Any avatar from any religion will support this. The Universe meets us where we need help… The battlefields of our existence. Kurukshetre… In the place of the Kurus. The Kuru battlefield. Not the side lines. Not at the palace lounging with Dhrtarashtra and Sanjaya. Krishna/God served as the driving force of Arjuna. He supplied him with strength, restoring his courage by imparting universal Jnana. Explaining all things to Arjuna, revealing the true, intimate and impartial nature of Reality, including a mystic vision of Purushottama, Krishna dove into the battle with Arjuna and helped him navigate his crisis. Kurukshetre.
The place of dharma! How curious that the place of dharma (dharmakshetre), happens to be one and the same with the place of battle (kurukshetre). I’m reminded of the Old Testament story involving three young Hebrews and a fiery furnace. I’ll spare you the entire story; you can find it here, but suffice to say three young believers were thrown into a furnace with the intention that they would be met with a torturous demise. What happened instead, as the story goes, is that divine help arrived and all involved danced in the furnace unharmed instead of being consumed by it. Here’s an Abrahamic example supporting the Dharmic understanding of Divinity taking an active role in the so-called battlefield experienced in life.
You see, the battle field experienced in every-day existence is precisely where we’re able to meet our dharma and live as we ought to -for our individual benefit and progression, as well as the benefit of all others in the form of sustained Dharma. How fortunate we are that Dharma meets us where we are and provides us the opportunity to restore balance and order in our personal Kurukshetras!