One of the most principal understandings which Krishna is seeking to instil into Arjun is that even if he is the winner, the victor or the conqueror, he must be free of the feeling of being so. The very idea that the individual is the conqueror, is the whole problem.
History is witness to very many leaders who have conquered great lands and won great victories. Yet their lives and totality of being have often been meaningless and destructive. Because the sense of being ‘a conqueror’ remained in their hearts and minds. And out of the sense of becoming a conqueror has come about immense cruelty, injustice, ego-trips. So what the Lord is teaching is that you must fight the fight, walk the path, because that is the Warriors Way, yet never feel within yourself that you are the ‘Conqueror’. Because only the Supreme is the Conqueror of all things. The only Kingdom you can really conquer is your own Kingdom: within yourself. If you master your own inner Kingdom then you become the real victor in life. And if you cannot master the inner kingdom within yourself, then you are just a beggar in life, no matter how great a leader or a king you are. Jesus also says ‘The kingdom of God is within you’. And this echoes what the Lord says in the Gita: that it is within you, but if the feeling of ‘doer-ship’ or the feeling of being egoically powerful exists within you, you are never able to conquer that kingdom. And what does conquering the kingdom mean? Conquering the inner kingdom means attaining to more and more enlightened wisdom about your purpose in the world. About your Dharma, your duty, your divine calling, yourself.
The problem which has happened throughout history is that most people who have been in positions of great power have not had the wisdom to go along with that power. And that has ultimately not only destroyed millions of other lives and damaged the Earth, but it eventually also consumed the conquerers themselves, the kings themselves! There are very few exceptions: Emperor Ashoka the Great learnt that by conquering the kingdom of Kalinga he had not really ‘conquered’ at all. Rather, he had destroyed. It is only due to his spiritual realization - when he realized that the inner kingdom is the one worth conquering – that his life became meaningful. Then he became know as the ‘Great’. Before that, he was never called Ashoka the Great. He became great only after he left this feeling of being the conqueror.
In fact this feeling of being a conqueror is a common problem of powerful leaders. But what they don't realize is that it takes away their fundamental spiritual energy. What they also don't realize is that it takes away that their ability to be discriminating and wise in their thoughts or actions, in their choices. You see, ego always ends up making the wrong choices! And making the wrong choices is the most terrible thing a leader can do. The best thing a leader can do is make right choices, be a good decision maker. And good decision making only comes out of a real sense of Dharma and wisdom. Do not get clouded by the clouds of thought which continually remind you that you are the ultimate ‘Conqueror’: that is only going to take you into an ego trip! And not allow you to go into the greater sky of infinity which we are part and parcel of. Go into clarity of seeing things beyond the clouds of self-importance, and then you rise higher and higher. And out of this consciousness - of arising in your perception - whatever comes will be good.
Nobody really suffers as a result of wisdom. Wisdom always has a way of rewarding the person with it. Of course it may seem sometimes that people of wisdom are losing a battle, but eventually they are the ones who attained something much deeper. Because they have the eye of intuition. A person who is lost in a power trip loses his intuition. They lose what is really valuable, and identify themselves with the fruits of the victory. And the fruits of the victory are exactly what Krishna advises Arjun not to identify with! Because those are very small things, those do not really lead to contentment or fulfilment. They are the imitation flowers which really cannot be a substitute for the sweet fruits of wisdom in the thing that’s called the ‘kalpataru’: the metaphorical wish-fulfilling tree. What Krishna is wanting Arjun to do is to pluck the fruit. Each teaching of the Gita is like that sweet fruit. The warrior is meant to eat it. That fruit gives wisdom, that fruit gives nourishment. But it nourishes one at the levels of complete mind-body-spirit. It enriches us and makes us braver in the physical sphere, but at the same time it makes us more alert in the mental sphere, and gives us a deep contentment and realization in the spiritual sphere! Which is why the Gita has been called the most complete text in the world of spirituality and mysticism by several great people. Because it gives a body-blow to dogma, and defeats the idea that your happiness should be derived out of the position, the power, the wealth which you have. It cuts that root of misunderstanding and instead replaces it with something more real and meaningful, which cannot be taken away from you.
Power, position, wealth: all these come and go! The only thing which is eternal, permanent and timeless is that which belongs to the higher sphere of consciousness. And the Gita is all about consciousness. If in your consciousness you are free of the ego of being the ‘winner’ of the battle, then only do you become the real winner of the battle. This is also a fundamental difference between the two brothers Arjun and Karna. Karna is often temperamental and egoistic, while Arjun does not have so much ego. He is much clearer and much more innocent in his thinking. And therefore, eventually the victoriy is his! Because the truth of the Supreme is always with the person who is devoid of the baggage of ego. With he who does not consider himself to be supreme just on the merits of his skills. It is not skills alone which lead to victory. This is a very, very important principle. Some people are always thinking that they are ‘better’ simply because they have a better set of skills. But in life also you would see that it is those with a deeper sense of stillness, calmness and coolness of being who achieve all-round victory.
Being invested in a sense of importance when it comes to skills can be damaging. Unegoistic people are often more successful because they able to do things in a much freer manner, not tied down by what others will think about them. The main problem with egoistic people - or with people who are conquerors, like great Emperors and kings in the past and the political / religious leaders of today - is that they have a lot to lose! They are always insecure: what if their position gets lost or gets destroyed? So they're always insecure. They’re always working out of a sense of dread and fear. And therefore, they commit wrong actions.
Leaders who does not carry the idea of identifying themselves with the position they are in, or the victory they have achieved in a battle, have nothing to lose. They look forward to things with a new eye, and so doing they become almost undefeatable. Because how can you defeat a person who's already prepared to be defeated? In this very sense of vulnerability - in how are they able to free their mind and heart to function to a maximum degree - they become much surer about themselves. They become more relaxed in their own strength. They know their own power or personal power, acting out of that. And out of that not only does true victory come, but joy also follows as a natural consequence.