THE BHAGAVAD GITA: Chapter 1

[Reference: THE BHAGAVAD GITA: Introduction]
[NOTE: The following translation of the Sanskrit verses into English is obtained from Srimad Bhagavad Gita, SADHAKA SANJIVANI by Swami Ramsukhdas, published by Govind Bhawan Karyalaya, Gita Press, GorakhpurINDIA. For original comments please consult the above book. Abbreviated comments are provided here by Vinaire.]

Dhritarashtra asked:

O Sanjaya assembled on the holy plain of Kurushetra, desirous to fight, what did my sons and the sons of Pandu do? (I – 1)

One sees a conflict but not all the way through because one is looking from a one-sided viewpoint. A person tends to ignore the other viewpoint because of his own guilt in the matter. He does not want to confront how his own actions may have contributed to the situation.

Reason depends on data. When data is faulty or incomplete the answer will be wrong and looked upon as unreasonable. By not confronting one’s own actions in the matter and ignoring the other viewpoint, a person operates on incomplete and faulty data. Therefore, he cannot arrive at the correct answer and the situation persists. As a result the person is driven to anxiety.

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Sanjaya said:

At that time, seeing the army of the Pandava arrayed properly, Prince Duryodhana approached his teacher and spoke these words: (I – 2)

The teacher referred to here is Drona. Drona was not in favor of this war but being duty bound to the King he fought for the Kauravas. In the following verses the references are to known characters from other parts of the great epic Mahabharata of which the Bhagavad Gita is but a small part.

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Behold, O Teacher, this mighty army of the sons of Pandu arrayed for battle by your talented pupil, the son of Drupada. (I – 3)

Peers in warfare to heroic Bhima and Arjuna, here are mighty archers, such as, Yuyudhana, Virata, the great chariot-warrior Drupada, … (I – 4)

Dhrishtaketu, Chekitan, the valiant king of Kasi, Purujit, Kuntibhoj, the great among men Saibya, … (I – 5)

The mighty Yudhamanyu, the valiant Uttamauja, Subhadra’s son, and the sons of Draupadi. All of them are great chariot warriors (one who can conduct ten thousand warriors). (I – 6)

O best among the twice-born (the brahmins)! Know also the most distinguished on our side. I shall name the commanders of my army for thy information: (I – 7)

Yourself, Bhisma, Karna, and Kripa who is ever victorious in battle; and Aswatthama, Vikarna and the son of Somdatta, (I – 8)

And there are many other heroes well trained in warfare, who, equipped with various weapons and missiles, are prepared to lay down their life for me. (I – 9)

It may not be sufficient to have our army defended by Bhisma; whereas, to have their army defended by Bhima is sufficient. (I – 10)

Therefore, do ye all, stationed in your respective positions on all fronts, guard Bhisma alone in all respects. (I – 11)

Out of anxiety one repeatedly tries to assess a situation and worries about the outcome. Such a person lacks confidence in his judgement. He knows instinctively that he lacks data. But, at the same time, he does not want to consider how his own actions may have contributed to the situation. Instead, he blames others for their “deceitful” actions.

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Just then, cheering the heart of Duryodhana, the oldest among Kauravas, greatly revered grandsire (Bhisma) roaring like a lion, blew his conch loudly. (I – 12)

Then all at once, conches, tabors, drums, horns, and such instruments blared forth and the uproar was tumultuous. (I – 13)

Then, seated in their magnificent chariot yoked with white horses, Madhava (“husband of the goddess of prosperity,” Lord Krishna) and Pandu’s son (Arjuna) also, blew their divine conches. (I – 14)

Hrisikesa (“the master of mind and senses,” Lord Krishna) blew his conch named Pancajanya, Dhananjaya (“conqueror of wealth,” Arjuna) blew the conch named Devadutta; while Vrikodara (“wolf-bellied, having great ability to digest,” Bhima), the doer of terrible deeds, blew the great conch named Paundra. (I – 15)

The son of Kunti, King Yudhishthira, blew his conch Anantvijaya; Nakula and Sahdeva blew their conches Sughosha and Manipushpaka respectively. (I – 16)

The great archer, the king of Kasi, and the great chariot-warrior Sikhandi, and Dhristadyumna, Virata, and the invincible Satyaki, … (I – 17)

… King Drupada as well as the five sons of Draupadi, and the mighty-armed son of Subhadra (Abhimanyu), all of them blew their respective conches. (I – 18)

And that terrible sound, reverberating through the heavens and the earth, rented apart the hearts of Dhritarashtra’s sons (the Kauravas). (I – 19)

Evildoers suppress others and appear formidable, but when a stand is made against them they are terribly afraid.

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Then, with weapon discharge about to commence, monkey insignia owner Pandu’s son (Arjuna), seeing Dhritarashtra’s sons arrayed against him, picked up his bow and said these words to Hrisikesa (Lord Krishna). (I – 20, 21)

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Arjuna said:

O Acyuta (“the infallible one,” Lord Krishna)! Place my chariot between the two armies till I have carefully observed those standing here desirous to fight, and with whom I must contend in this business of war. (I – 21, 22)

For I desire to see those well-wishers of Dhritarashtra’s evil-minded son (Duryodhana), who have come here to fight. (I – 23)

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Sanjaya said:

O Bharata (“the descendant of Bharat,” Dhritarashtra)! Thus addressed by Gudakesa (“the master of sleep,” Arjuna), Hrisikesa (“the master of mind and senses,” Lord Krishna) stationed the magnificent chariot between the two armies… (I-24)

… in front of Bhisma, Drona, and all the kings, and said, “O Partha (“son of Pratha, Kunti,” Arjuna), behold these Kurus assembled here.” (I – 25)

The term “Kuru” refers to the larger family that included both Kauravas and Pandavas. Lord Krishna was prompting Arjuna to view the situation in its entirety.

A proper assessment of a situation requires that one must view it thoroughly from all possible angles including how one might have contributed to that situation oneself wittingly or unwittingly.

Then Partha (Arjuna) could see standing there in both the armies, fathers, grandfathers, teachers, maternal uncles, brothers and cousins, sons, grandsons, friends, fathers-in-law and well-wishers too. (I – 26, 27)

Seeing all his kinsmen standing there, Kunti’s son (Arjuna) was filled with pity, and spoke thus with sorrow. (I – 27, 28)

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Arjuna said:

O Krishna! Seeing all my kinsmen standing there intending to fight, my limbs are getting numb, my mouth is drying up, my body is quivering and my hair are standing on end. (I – 28, 29)

The bow Gandeeva is slipping from my hand, and my skin is burning all over. My mind is reeling, and I am not even able to stand. (I – 30)

A severe problem arises when one encounters conflict within one’s own mind. Very often people are holding on to ideas that conflict with their goals.

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O Kesava (“the killer of demon Kesi,” Krishna)! I find such omens quite adverse. Nor do I see any good in killing my kith and kin in battle. (I – 31)

O Krishna! I desire not victory, nor kingdom, nor pleasures. O Govinda (“the finder of cows,”Krishna)! Of what use to us is such dominion, or luxuries, or even life! (I – 32)

Those for whose sake we seek kingdom, enjoyments and pleasures, are standing here on the battle-field, having given up the hope for wealth and life. (I – 33)

Teachers, fathers, sons as well as grandfathers, maternal uncles, fathers-in-law, grandsons, brothers-in-law and also other relatives (are standing there). (I – 34)

O Madhusudana (“the killer of demon Madhu,” Krishna)! I may be killed but I do not wish to kill them, even for the sovereignty over the three worlds, let alone this earth. (I – 35)

O Janardana (“maintainer of living entities,” Krishna)! What pleasure can be gained from killing these sons of Dhritarashtra? Sin alone will accrue from the slaying of such tyrants. (I – 36)

Therefore, O Madhava (Krishna)! It is not proper for us to kill our relatives, the sons of Dhritarashtra; for how can we be happy by killing our own people. (I – 37)

A person’s basic goals in life are obviously more important than the transient desires. Unfortunately, when one attaches oneself to objects and relationships that are transitory, he is momentarily concerned more with their survival rather than the achievement of his own basic goals. This can go so far as to completely forget one’s own goals and purposes.

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Although these people with their thinking corrupted by greed see no wrong in destroying the clan, and see no sin in betraying their friends… (I – 38)

Then, why shouldn’t we, who can see clearly the evil resulting from destruction of the clan, think of turning away from this sin, O Janardana (Krishna)! (I – 39)

With the destruction of the clan, the eternally binding traditions of the clan also perish. With the destruction of long held values, impiety takes hold of the entire clan. (I – 40)

By the prevalence of impiety, O Krishna, the women of the clan become corrupt; and, with the corruption of women, O Varshneya (“descendant of Vrishni clan,” Krishna), there ensues an (unhealthy) intermingling of castes. (I – 41)

This confusion is there to lead the clan and its destroyers to hell; for in the absence of the offerings of food and water, their forefathers also go into decline. (I – 42)

By such evil deeds that lead to the confusion of castes, the clan destroyers also ruin the eternally binding values of their clan and caste. (I – 43)

We have heard, O Janardana, that men, who lose their long-held family values, dwell in hell indefinitely. (I – 44)

Alas! What a pity that we are preparing to commit this great sin. Driven by the lust for throne and enjoyment we are intent on killing our kinsmen. (I – 45)

If the battle-equipped sons of Dhritarashtra were to kill me unarmed and unresisting on the battlefield, even that would be better for me. (I – 46)

Arjuna is impeccable in his logic when he describes the consequences from the destruction of the clan. In his opinion such destruction may follow the impending war. However, he fails to confront the fact that the destruction of clan is already occurring under the suppression wrought by the Kaurava brothers. And it is that suppression he is supposed to destroy.

Unable to confront a situation the mind attempts to take a circuitous course of action. Specious justifications are given to avoid looking at the real situation at hand.

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Sanjaya said:

Having thus spoken in the midst of the battlefield, greatly distressed with sorrow, Arjuna put aside his bow and arrow, and retreated to the back of the chariot. (I – 47)

It is true that the survival of the family and clan is important, especially when it is small and vulnerable to the surrounding hostility. But as it multiplies, prospers and becomes strong, as was the case with the Aryans in India, the threat is not so much from outside as it is from the inside.

The survival principles of the culture become incorporated as social laws, and the obedience to these laws becomes essential for the survival of the culture. When a few within the society transgress its long-held values to gain unfair advantage, and then suppress others to maintain their position, they become a threat to the very survival characteristics of that society.

It is the survival of these values, principles, and laws that is more important than the survival of some members opposing them.

Next: THE BHAGAVAD GITA: Chapter 2

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