Wasn’t Arjuna’s taking on the garb of a mendicant to abduct Subhadra immoral?

by Chaitanya Charan dasNovember 14, 2013

Isn’t it an abuse of the renunciate’s dress? And how can a devotee like Arjuna become besotted by a woman?

Answer Podcast

Transcription: Vandana Goel Mataji

Question:  Wasn’t it immoral of Arjuna to take on the dress of mendicant just to abduct Subhadra? Isn’t it abuse of mendicant dress? More over how can a pure devotee like Arjuna become so besotted by a woman?

Answer:  We have to know that principles of Dharma vary according to time, place and circumstances. So desh, kaal, patra and course of Dharma for Kshatriyas are different from the course of Dharma of what our conceptions of morality today. So if you want to look at the course of Dharma, first and foremost even before Arjuna abducted Subhadra, he was on pilgrimage. He was in Dwaraka and he was far away from Indraprastha, where Yudhisthira Maharaj was there. Still he send a messenger and he took permission from Yudhisthira Maharaj. So it’s not that now days when people become besotted by lust then they just forget everything and they do what they want to do. So Arjuna was not like that. Even when Arjuna was attracted to Subhadra, he did not forget the principles of dharma. He took permission from the king and his older brother. Moreover for Kshatriyas there are different kinds of marriages. So one of the kinds of marriages which is mentioned in Manu Smruti is by abducting the maiden. So the idea behind is that Kshatriya, the Kshatriyas have certain qualities. So one of the quality is heroism. That heroism can make person …various ways…one of the way is they fight in the war and protect the innocent. Another way is that they go in swayamvar, they pass the test and they get the hand of the maiden. So similarly another way is that they can abduct a maiden/ princess and the idea is the abduction is also an expression of the chivalry the heroism why because abduction also requires planning and all and often there is fight. So in the fight the Kshatriyas exhibit their heroism and basically in the abduction indicates that they value the princess. They value the princess so much that they are ready to do such a thing and more specifically in the case of Arjuna. Arjuna did this with the consent of Subhadra’s older brother that is Krishna. So what is sanctioned by Krishna is supremely moral. It cannot be immoral. So now regarding Arjuna getting attracted to woman, we have to understand that the Kshatriyas, they also have the human emotions and the human emotions are not to be neglected. It is not that somebody is dharmic mean or somebody is a devotee mean there is nothing material in a life of a devotee. Or rather if somebody is dharmic, dharmic doesn’t mean that the whole material dimension has to be neglected. There can be the attraction between the male and the female and the attraction is undesirable if takes one away from dharma. But in this case Arjuna is a great devotee and Subhadra is the sister of the Lord. She is also an exalted person and their union is nothing non devotional. So for Arjuna to be attracted to Subhadra is so we see although Arjuna is a pure devotee…in just as Krishna descends and play certain roles so Krishna acts as Kshatriya. So Krishna doesn’t always act as supreme Lord. Similarly in the Mahabharat the Pandavas are pure devotees and in the Mahabharata the Pandavas are playing the role of Kshatriyas and as Kshatriyas the Mahabharata demonstrates how to pursuit of Dharma is Artha, Kama, Moksha? So Dharma, Artha , Kama that is what worldly people are attracted to. So how a devotee of the lord can also get his Dharma, Artha , kama in material life while also staying devoted to the Lord. That is what is demonstrated in the Mahabharata. Mahabharata is to be seen at two levels, the karmkanda level where we see Dharma, Artha, kaam. How one who is devoted to the dharma will get Dharma, Artha, kam eventually. So Kam doesn’t essentially mean sensual gratification. It means holistic material satisfaction. And Artha doesn’t mean just financial prosperity or money but it means overall prosperity. So that is what Mahabharata demonstrates. So ultimately the Pandavas fight for a war. If we are going to have today’s morals or our own ideas of morality implied then we may say that devotees are so renounced that why to have to fight a war at all, why to have so much of bloodshed. The Kshatriyas are expected to perform certain duties. So in the case of Arjuna, he is demonstrating how bhakta also, one who is devoted to the Lord also get success in the Dharma, Artha , kaam.  So that is demonstrated. So the Pandavas eventually in the Kurushetra’s war by Krishna’s arrangement and similarly kam is also fulfilled by Krishna’s arrangement as a Kshatriya. so we cannot impose our ideas of morality on Arjuna ..our conception of morality nor can we adopt Kshatriya code of morality for ourselves. So he did it with the consent of Krishna and in fact as a plan of Krishna and so eventually when Balaram so that Arjuna is a mendicant…he…into his house and asked Subhadra to…and Subhadra and Arjuna they got attracted to each other and Krishna revealed to Subhadra that this is actually Arjuna directly of course. He told Subhadra that Arjuna wants you as his spouse and he has come here, He said. When Subhadra looked at Him, she understood Oh! He is referring to that mendicant. She had already seen that mendicant is very well build, is powerful and is handsome and her heart leapt with joy and now why Krishna to do all this was that Balaramji had Duryodhana as his disciple and he wanted Subhadra married to Duryodhana because he thought that way there could be alliance with the yadu and the Kuru dynasties. So when Krishna asked Subhadra about this she twisted her face she had no interest in marrying Duryodhana but she was herself attracted to Arjuna and then when the opportune time came Arjuna took Subhadra and fled and when the Yadu’s saw the abduction of Subhadra, they were outraged they assembled and made a council for war and they were all ready to fight. Balaram saw Krishna was silent, so Balaram said let us hear what Krishna has to say. Balaram said that he has insulted us by abducting a Yadu lady and Arjuna is your friend. How dare he do such a thing? So even when Balaramji is chastising Arjuna over here he is strongly speaking against Arjuna over here. Point which he makes here is if he has abducted he has … he didn’t talk about the sanyasi garment over there. Why because you know what is abuse of particular dress is, if in that dress one does something which is inappropriate in that dress. So it is not that Arjuna in that dress engaged in seductive activity when he was in that dress actually he was mendicant he was living in austerity and he was accepting the hospitality of Balaramji and eventually when he abducted, he did not abduct in mendicant dress. He was wearing Khastriya dress. So even Balaramji doesn’t consider that mendicant dress wearing as objectionable. What is important to understand is that somebody in a mendicant dress within that a person doesn’t seductive activity that is definitely scandalous that is definitely sad, very abominable but a mendicant dress can be adopted. Just as they are apoorv brahmacharis that means there are Brahmacharis for some time, so brahmacharis  have to become grihastha, they decide to get married that is not dishonourable it is not that Arjuna did anything immoral in a mendicant dress. He lived as a mendicant he was doing austerity was in austere life as a mendicant but then eventually that mendicant dress was a garb because Balaramji wanted Subhadra to be married to Duryodhana but she did not want it. Krishna did not want it. Arjuna wanted to marry Subhadra and Subhadra wanted to marry Arjuna so he arranged by this way. Already there was lot of hostility between Arjuna and Duryodhana, between the Pandavas and the Kauravas  and they would have become extra aggravated if there had been open confrontation over this. So Arjuna arranged through this abduction the open confrontation could be avoided between the two kuru families, the Kauravas and Pandavas. And then when Krishna was speaking to Balaramji , He said you are saying Arjuna has abducted Subdhara but actually you see that who is riding the chariot who is driving the chariot, Arjuna or Subhadra. Those guards or soldiers, Arjuna was countering them and Subhadra herself was holding the reigns of the chariot. So it was Subhadra who desired to flee. So in that sense it’s not abduction because Subhadra and Arjuna deciding to go away. So it is an escape, a run-away not a abduction both of them going together. For that reason I don’t think that Arjuna had dishonoured our dynasty because he use a reason according to the morality which we will not be able to understand. He says we would not have liked to accept a bride as a gift for giving some prizes nor would we have liked to give our lady for some gifts. So the fact that he desired Subhadra, Subhadra Desired him and so the two ran away together. He says there is nothing dishonourable in that and further He pointed out that if we try to chase him, he is such a glorious warrior that our warriors are likely to be defeated. And why do we want such a disgrace when alliance with a Kuru vamsha can bring auspiciousness for us. So on hearing Krishna’s words the Yadu dynasty also became pacified and then they bought Arjuna back, they send messenger to bring Arjuna back and they honoured him and they performed the marriage properly. So if the Yadu vamsha where whose family the lady was abducted, supposedly abducted, if they don’t have an objection it cannot be considered immoral. Why should we consider it to be immoral? So the important thing is – two points- principles of morality are different for Kshatriyas. In earlier ages then they are for us Sadhakas in Kaliyuga. As well as idea of morality which we consider ideal that are present in today’s society and superimpose one upon the other that is we can’t directly judge that morality by our standards nor can we adopt that morality ourselves. We cannot use this justification for something similar ourselves. By no means is that to be recommended. Kshatriyas are chivalrous. They fight and lay down their life. So within their code of morality what Arjuna has done is not immoral. First point is we can’t transform moral principles without looking at the cultural model and secondly we have to see this from the point of view of not just Arjuna as a devotee but a devotee who is playing the role of a Kshatriya and is demonstrating the attainment..demonstrating the life of Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha.

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Chaitanya Charan das

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