When Arjuna understood Sri Krishna’s teachings, he was able to fight in exactly the way Sri Krishna wanted, to fight evil but not to fight the evil doer except in his capacity as a receptacle for evil, as a means by which evil would take hold of the world. The unfair slaying of Abhimanyu and the killing of the Upapandavas, both manifestly evil acts, which would bring out the beast in any father did not affect Arjuna. He fought and killed Karna and many others. But the two who were closely involved in these evil acts were Aswathaman and Krpa. At Sri Krishna’s behest Arjuna freed Aswathaman. It is often thought that Arjuna spared him because he was a Brahmin and the Guru’s son. But this was not so. Bhishma expressly says that in his rule Brahmins were not exempt from punishment and there is no reason to believe that his precedent would not have been followed by the Kuru kings. However since Sri Krishna and the Rishis wished it, Asvathaman was spared. Krpa also took part in the heinous acts but was given his place in the counsels of state and after the Pandavas retired to the forests, he was made a member of the four member council to advise Parikshit in ruling the empire. The Pandavas truly practiced Sri Krishna’s teaching.
Suhrn mitraaryudasinamadhyasta dveshya bandhushu
Sdhushavapi cha papeshu sama buddhir visishyate
He excels who looks equally upon friends, well wishers, foes, neutrals, arbiters, the hateful, relatives and upon the righteous and unrighteous alike.
Devoted to Sri Krishna and understanding and practising His teaching they were able to cross the ocean of samsara.
Another battlefield transformation is that of Uttaran. Boastful and arrogant, the young prince wished to show off and said that he could defeat Drona Bhishma and other heroes of the Kaurava army. However when he saw them he began to shake with fear and tried to run away from battle. However he was drawn back by Arjuna and convinced that he should do his duty.
Interestingly while Vaishampayana refers to him as cowardly, none of the Kurus who observed his flight did so. They merely observed that he had come out to fight out of childishness and not heroism and that Arjuna would bring him back.
The similarities with the Gitopadesam situation are astounding. The young prince does not wish to fight. Affectionate but firm, Arjuna insists that he does and orders him to do what he is told to do. He teaches him after which the young prince proclaims his willingness to fight. Arjuna then promises him freedom from fear, victory and the protection of his kingdom.
After Arjuna stopped the young prince’s flight, he took him to a nearby cremation ground where the Pandavas had hidden their weapons before they entered Virata’s service. Arjuna asked Uttaran to take the weapons down. The prince demurred saying that he had heard that there was a corpse hidden there. Arjuna reassured him saying there were only weapons hidden there and said “O Prince why should I make you do a cursed deed born as you are of a noble family and the heir to the King of the Matsyas”.
Since the prince was unwilling he had to be urged on by Arjuna and when the prince saw the Divine weapons he was astounded and asked Arjuna whose they were. Arjuna said that they were the weapons of the Pandavas and lovingly described each of them. Uttaran then asked, “Where are they, Arjuna, Yudhistira, Bhima and the twins? We never hear of them those heroes, capable of destroying all enemies who went into the woods after losing the game of dice.” Arjuna then revealed himself and also revealed the identities of the other Pandavas and Draupadi.