Wednesday December 19, 2018

7 Things That We Can Learn From ‘Arjuna’ of Bhagavad Gita

Arjuna is one of the best examples of an ideal student. There are many qualities of Arjuna that we should try imbibing in ourselves. Read on to find what can be learned from Arjuna.

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Krishna and Arjuna
Lord Krishna and Arjuna from a scene in the Hindu epic book Mahabharata. Pixabay
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Arjuna is one of the characters around whose life story is depicted by the Bhagavad Gita. Arjuna in many ways was an ordinary person just like us. The one thing that makes him more than ordinary was the fact that he had a good heart. But he also had his own good and bad habits. Lord Krishna chose Arjuna to reveal the Gita because he saw that not many men were as sensitive as Arjuna. Usually, not many men hesitate morally in order to fight a war and stand for their rights. We have received the teachings of God because of Arjuna who was the student and Veda Vyasa who recorded it. We have made a list of 7 things about why he was an ideal student and how we can learn things from ‘Arjuna’.

Death of jayadarath
The painting depicts the scene where Arjuna is fighting in the war of Mahabharata. Wikimedia

Here are the 7 things

Humility

Arjuna was very humble and sincere. He was willing to accept his flaws and learn from them. To quote the Gita, Arjuna to Krishna, “Overcome by faintheartedness, confused about my duty (Dharma), I ask you: Please tell me that which is truly better for me. I am your student. Please teach me, I have taken refuge in you” Gita 2.7

Willingness to leave his family for learning

When the Pandavas were banished to the forest because of Duryodhana treachery, Arjuna decided to make use of the time he had and learn some new skills and the science and art of using new weaponry. So he separated from his family in order to learn about advanced weapons from Bhagwan Shiva.

Respectful towards his teacher

Arjuna was extremely respectful towards his teacher and always adhered to his instructions. This can be understood in the following instance. Guru Dronacharya had been humiliated by King Drupad. When all the Pandava princes ended their education Guru Dronacharya asked for his ‘gurudakshina’ which was capturing King Drupad alive and bringing the king to him. Arjuna faithfully carried out his teacher’s orders even if has meant risking his own life.

Hindu Epic Mahabharata. Image source: Wikimedia

Not being addicted to sleeping or eating

Arjuna was a sincere student who was ready to give up on his sleep and food if he wanted to master something. The following incident proves Arjuna’s sincerity and dedication. One time while Bheema, his brother was eating his food, the lamp blew out leaving them in darkness. Bheema was still able to complete his food. Inspired from Bheema eating in the dark, he thought that if Bheema could eat in the dark, then he could also aim and hit his target in the dark only by listening to the sounds made by the target. He kept on practicing this skill until he mastered the skill of shooting in the dark. In order to master it, he had to cut down on his sleeping hours. Arjuna has another name ‘Gudakesha’ which meant ‘He who has mastered sleep’.

Attentive and focused

Arjuna was very observant and focused. There is a very famous incident which proves Arjuna’s was very attentive and dedicated. Once Guru Dronacharya asked all the Kauravas and the Pandavas to shoot the eye of a bird that was perched on the tree with a bow and arrow. He called each of them one by one and asked they could see. All of them answered with things like tree, bird, leaves and Guru Drona himself. When Arjuna’s turn came, he answered that he could only see the bird’s eye. Thus he was able to hit the target successfully because his focus was only on the bird’s eye. There is no doubt that Arjuna became an extremely good archer.

Hindu Epic Mahabharata. Wikimedia

Persistent and Hardworking

Arjuna was extremely hard working and spent a lot of effort and time in mastering his skills. Once all the Pandavas and the Kauravas complained that Guru Dronacharya favored Arjuna too much. Dronacharya decided to test them to in order to see how they can perform compared to Arjuna. He sent Arjuna on an errand. Immediately after sending Arjuna, he taught everybody about aiming at a leaf and hitting it successfully. The lesson was completed and everybody left the site before Arjuna returned. On returning he saw a lot split leaves on the ground and understood that he had missed an important lesson. In order to make up for the lesson, he started practicing on leaves in his free time and thus covered up his missed lesson quickly. After coming to know the hard work that Arjuna put in, in order to cover the missed lesson, all the princes understood why he was Guru’s favorite.

Chose God over materialistic riches and power

Before the great war, both Arjuna and Duryodhana approached Krishna to get him to fight for their respective sides. But Krishna told them that he would personally not pick up any weapon and fights and gave both them a choice between him and his mighty army. Duryodhana chose Krishna’s might army while Arjuna just chose Krishna as his charioteer and allowed God to lead him and did not care about the mighty army. Life is full of choices. We often act as Duryodhana and choose the path of power and wealth, compromising on our honesty and justice. But we should always be like Arjuna choosing the path of truth and ‘dharma’ over worldly temptations. This is the reason why Arjuna won the battle even after having a smaller army

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Angola Fossils Bring A New But Familiar Ocean in View

These fossils are the patrimony of Angola, these are their heritage, and for us to be able to bring them to the Smithsonian and ultimately back to Angola.

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Angola Fossils
This full-size fossil reconstruction of a sea turtle from the prehistoric South Atlantic looks very similar to the giant sea turtles which still swim in our oceans today. VOA

Some may be familiar with mythical sea monsters. For example, Scotland’s infamous Loch Ness Monster “Nessie,” and Giganto — fictional beasts of comic book fame. But millions of years ago, real-life sea monsters lived and thrived in what we now call the South Atlantic Ocean.

South Atlantic Ocean basin

As the continents of South America and Africa separated millions of years ago, scientists say a fantastic array of ferocious predators and other lifeforms colonized the newly formed body of water off the coast of Angola.

That diverse collection of marine reptiles included mosasaurs (aquatic lizards), plesiosaurs (which exhibited broad flat bodies, large paddlelike limbs, and typically a long flexible neck and small head), and the more familiar giant sea turtles.

But a catastrophic asteroid that hit earth 66 million years ago wiped most of them out, according to scientists.

Today, thanks to a project called Projecto PaleoAngola among Angolan, American, Portuguese and Dutch researchers, paleontologists have been able to visit the coastal cliffs of Angola to excavate and study what remains of these giant animals.

“We knew that there were fossils there, we just didn’t know how good they would be,” says Louis Jacobs, collaborating curator and professor emeritus of paleontology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

“Nobody had been there, so this was a vast, unknown terrain and we wanted to get there.”

A 72-million year-old ecosystem

What the team of paleontologists discovered was a treasure trove, giving them an unprecedented look into a strange yet familiar ecosystem.

In addition to mosasaurs, plesiosaurs and sea turtles, there were fossilized remains of a variety of fish and other marine life forms.

Angola, fossils
Modern cliffs of coastal Angola where Projecto PaleoAngola paleontologists excavate fossils of life that once lived in Angola’s ancient seas. VOA

While mosasaurs have been known to exist on all continents and are relatively common in certain places, this particular sample is the largest collection of southern hemisphere mosasaurs known, according to the paleontologists.

“It’s certainly the best locality for these kinds of animals in sub-Saharan Africa and it could be one of the best in the world,” Jacobs said.

Rediscovering a lost world

Eleven authentic fossils from Angola’s ancient seas, full-size reconstructions of a mosasaur and an ancient sea turtle are on display for the first time in a new exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, titled “Sea Monsters Unearthed: Life in Angola’s Ancient Seas.”

There are also 3-D scanned replicas of mosasaur skulls, and photo-murals and video vignettes transport visitors to field sites along Angola’s modern rugged coast, where Projecto PaleoAngola scientists unearthed the fossil remains from this lost world.

 

Angola, fosiils
The seafaring lizard Prognathodon kianda was a top predator in the Cretaceous waters. Scientists named this species after Kianda, the ruler of the ocean in Angolan mythology. VOA

 

Jacobs, who was part of a team of scientists and students at SMU that helped prepare the fossils for the Smithsonian exhibit, says any visitor “can look and see and compare how the ecosystem and its animals of the cretaceous of 72 million years ago are similar to ecosystems today in the same general areas.”

“The species are different, but the ecological jobs of the species are very similar,” he added.

Giant lizards

Michael Polcyn, senior research fellow at SMU, pointed out an example in the exhibit.

Standing in front of a fossil skull and partial skeleton of a mosasaur, he described the reptile as an “optimized fish eater.”

“You see the long narrow snout, the interlocking teeth — this would be similar to what you would see in the ocean today, in a dolphin for instance,” he said.

He gestured to a graphic posted on the display case depicting a rough toothed dolphin which it described as “the analog for the animal in the modern ecosystem.”

Angola Fossils
An artist’s rendering of Angola’s Cretaceous seas 72 million years ago, dominated by many species of large, carnivorous marine reptiles. VOA

Shell-crushing mosasaur

Another great example of diversity within that ancient ecosystem is the hardshell-eating mosasaur, Polcyn said, which preyed on large oysters which were almost a meter (three feet) across.

“They were really big, so to crack an oyster three feet across you needed the dentition and the musculature to do that, and that’s what you see here in these very strange mushroom-shaped teeth that you see in this animal,” Polcyn explained.

Within the same ecosystem was another example of a top predator, the Prognathodon kianda. Its full-scale skeleton on display in the museum is almost eight meters long.

In addition to top predators like the monster-like mosasaur, the exhibit also includes fossils of gentler creatures; small fish and an ancient giant sea turtle.

“We have a snapshot of this moment in time 72 million years ago that has preserved all of these animals that were living together in one place,” Polcyn said.

Angola Fossils
This mosasaur fossil skull shows how its mushroom-shaped teeth were optimized to crack hard-shell prey like giant oysters. VOA

The big dig

Jacobs says the fossil find in Angola was a big deal for a number of reasons:

“First of all because it’s going into a country that never really had a heritage of fossils,” he said. “It basically was unknown at the level that we are opening it up.”

“Fossils,” he says, “instill a sense of pride in what’s in the country, and it provides something to use for education, and it builds science. And the way it builds science is because every country has fossils, so every country has something to offer, so every country is a piece of the puzzle and the Angola piece is now there.”

Michael Polcyn agrees that unearthing this cache of ancient fossils has been a huge breakthrough on a number of fronts.

Also Read: New Artifacts Found in Cairo, Egypt: Archaeologists

“From a purely scientific point of view it gives us an incredible window into an ecosystem 72 million years ago that is relatively complete,” he says. “From a very human point of view this really shows the people of Angola, and the people of the world, what incredible resources we have in our natural environments.”

And lastly, he says, “These fossils are the patrimony of Angola, these are their heritage, and for us to be able to bring them to the Smithsonian and ultimately back to Angola, on a very personal level, is a thrill for us.” (VOA)