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Arjuna: the defeated hero

The customary way of interpreting the dialogue between Arjuna and Kṛṣṇa in the Bhagavad-Gita is to consider it merely as an expression of the fear of the diffident Arjuna, who is depicted by almost all the commentators as being scared of fighting the battle, and Kṛṣṇa’s ingenuous solution to it. This paper argues that this common way of looking at the conflict leaves the central theme of the debate unattained and unsolved. The debate can also be viewed as a statement of the confrontation between two ethics and two notions of the self. The claim is not that the customary interpretation is false, or that the present one is the only possible interpretation. It rather makes a much moderate claim that it is possible to give the text an alternative reading, which sheds some light on the nature of Indian ethics as such. It is long debated as to whether India had ever had an ethics. This paper claims to give some insight into the debate.

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