THE BHAGAVAD GITA: Chapter 1

Reference: Course on The Bhagavad Gita

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, Gorakhpur, INDIA. For original comments please consult the above book. Abbreviated comments in color are provided by Vinaire.]

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Chapter 1 Summary

Duryodhana mentioned the great warriors of the two armies but Dronacharya did not utter any word. So Duryodhana became sad. Then Bhisma blew his conch loudly to cheer Duryodhana. Hearing the sound of his conch, the conchs, drums and cow-horns etc., of the Kaurava-army and the Pandava-army blared forth. Afterwards (from the twentieth verse) the dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna began.

Arjuna asked Lord Krishna to place his chariot between the two armies. The Lord, having placed the chariot between the two armies in front of Bhisma and Drona etc., asked Arjuna to behold those Kurus. Having seen his kinsmen Arjuna was filled with so much compassion and sadness that he put aside his bow and arrows, and sat on the seat of the chariot.

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Chapter 1

धृतराष्ट्र उवाच
धर्मक्षेत्रे कुरुक्षेत्रे समवेता युयुत्सवः।

मामकाः पाण्डवाश्चैव किमकुर्वत सञ्जय।।1.1।।

Dhritarashtra asked:
O Sanjaya assembled on the holy-field of Kurushetra, eager 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.

सञ्जय उवाच
दृष्ट्वा तु पाण्डवानीकं व्यूढं दुर्योधनस्तदा।

आचार्यमुपसङ्गम्य राजा वचनमब्रवीत्।।1.2।।

Sanjaya said:
At that time, seeing the army of the Pandavas arrayed properly, approaching Dronāchārya, Prince Duryodhana 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.

पश्यैतां पाण्डुपुत्राणामाचार्य महतीं चमूम्।
व्यूढां द्रुपदपुत्रेण तव शिष्येण धीमता।।1.3।।

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

अत्र शूरा महेष्वासा भीमार्जुनसमा युधि।
युयुधानो विराटश्च द्रुपदश्च महारथः।।1.4।।
धृष्टकेतुश्चेकितानः काशिराजश्च वीर्यवान्।
पुरुजित्कुन्तिभोजश्च शैब्यश्च नरपुङ्गवः।।1.5।।
युधामन्युश्च विक्रान्त उत्तमौजाश्च वीर्यवान्।
सौभद्रो द्रौपदेयाश्च सर्व एव महारथाः।।1.6।।

There (in the army of the Pandavas) are mighty archers, peers in warfare to heroic Arjuna and Bhima, such as, Sātyaki and Virāta, and the great chariot-warrior Drupada. Dhrishtaketu, Chekitāna, the valiant king of Kasi, Purujit, Kuntibhoja and Saibya, the best of men are also there. Mighty Yudhamanyu, valiant Uttamaujā, Abhimanyu, the son of Subhadrā and the five sons of Draupadi are also there. All of them are great chariot warriors. (I – 4, 5, 6)

अस्माकं तु विशिष्टा ये तान्निबोध द्विजोत्तम।
नायका मम सैन्यस्य संज्ञार्थं तान्ब्रवीमि ते।।1.7।।

O best of the twice-born (Brāhmana), know the principle warriors, the generals of my army also; I name them for your information. (I – 7)

भवान्भीष्मश्च कर्णश्च कृपश्च समितिञ्जयः।
अश्वत्थामा विकर्णश्च सौमदत्तिस्तथैव च।।1.8।।

Yourself, Bhisma, Karna, and Krpa who is ever victorious in battle; and Asvatthama, Vikarna and Saumdatti (Bhūrisravā), the son of Somadatta. (I – 8)

अन्ये च बहवः शूरा मदर्थे त्यक्तजीविताः।
नानाशस्त्रप्रहरणाः सर्वे युद्धविशारदाः।।1.9।।

And there are many other heroes well trained in warfare, who, equipped with various weapons and missiles, have staked their lives for my sake. (I – 9)

अपर्याप्तं तदस्माकं बलं भीष्माभिरक्षितम्।
पर्याप्तं त्विदमेतेषां बलं भीमाभिरक्षितम्।।1.10।।

Our army is meagre and easy to conquer because it is guarded by Bhisma (a well-wisher of both the armies). But their army marshalled by Bhima is unconquerable (because Bhima is partial only to his own army). (I – 10)

अयनेषु च सर्वेषु यथाभागमवस्थिताः।
भीष्ममेवाभिरक्षन्तु भवन्तः सर्व एव हि।।1.11।।

Now all of you, stationed in your respective positions on all fronts, guard Bhisma in particular, by all means. (I – 11)

Out of anxiety one repeatedly tries to assess a situation and worries about the outcome. Such a person lacks confidence in his judgment. 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.

तस्य संजनयन्हर्षं कुरुवृद्धः पितामहः।
सिंहनादं विनद्योच्चैः शङ्खं दध्मौ प्रतापवान्।।1.12।।

The grand old man of the Kaurava race, their glorious grand uncle Bhisma, cheering up Duryodhana roared terribly like a lion and blew his conch. (I – 12)

ततः शङ्खाश्च भेर्यश्च पणवानकगोमुखाः।
सहसैवाभ्यहन्यन्त स शब्दस्तुमुलोऽभवत्।।1.13।।

Then conchs, kettle-drums, tabors, drums, and cow-horns suddenly blared forth and the noise was tumultuous. (I – 13)

ततः श्वेतैर्हयैर्युक्ते महति स्यन्दने स्थितौ।
माधवः पाण्डवश्चैव दिव्यौ शङ्खौ प्रदध्मतुः।।1.14।।

Then seated in a glorious chariot drawn by white horses, Sri Krsna as well as Arjuna blew their divine conchs. (I – 14)

पाञ्चजन्यं हृषीकेशो देवदत्तं धनंजयः।
पौण्ड्रं दध्मौ महाशङ्खं भीमकर्मा वृकोदरः।।1.15।।

Hrisikesa (Sri Krsna) blew his conch named Pancajanya, Dhananjaya (Arjuna), his conch called Devadutta; while Vrikodara (Bhima) of terrific deeds blew the mighty conch, Paundra. (I – 15)

अनन्तविजयं राजा कुन्तीपुत्रो युधिष्ठिरः।
नकुलः सहदेवश्च सुघोषमणिपुष्पकौ।।1.16।।

King Yudhishthira, the son of Kunti blew his conch Anantvijaya; while Nakula and Sahdeva blew their conchs, the Sughosa and Manipushpaka respectively. (I – 16)

काश्यश्च परमेष्वासः शिखण्डी च महारथः।
धृष्टद्युम्नो विराटश्च सात्यकिश्चापराजितः।।1.17।।
द्रुपदो द्रौपदेयाश्च सर्वशः पृथिवीपते।

सौभद्रश्च महाबाहुः शङ्खान्दध्मुः पृथक्पृथक्।।1.18।।

The king of Kasi, the excellent archer and Sikhandi, the great chariot-warrior, Dhristadyumna and Virata, and invincible Satyaki, King Drupada as well as the five sons of Draupadi, and the mighty-armed Abhimanyu), son of Subhadra, all of them blew their respective conchs. (I – 17, 18)

स घोषो धार्तराष्ट्राणां हृदयानि व्यदारयत्।
नभश्च पृथिवीं चैव तुमुलो व्यनुनादयन्।।1.19।।

The terrible sound, echoing through the sky and the earth rent the hearts of Dhritarashtra’s sons who usurped kingdom by unjust means. (I – 19)

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

अथ व्यवस्थितान् दृष्ट्वा धार्तराष्ट्रान्कपिध्वजः।
प्रवृत्ते शस्त्रसंपाते धनुरुद्यम्य पाण्डवः।।1.20।।

Now, O lord of the earth, seeing Dhritarashtra’s sons arrayed against him and the fighting about to commence with missiles, Pandava (Arjuna), whose ensign badge is Hanuman, lifting his bow, spoke the following words to Krsna. (I – 20)

अर्जुन उवाच
हृषीकेशं तदा वाक्यमिदमाह महीपते।

सेनयोरुभयोर्मध्ये रथं स्थापय मेऽच्युत।।1.21।।
यावदेतान्निरीक्षेऽहं योद्धुकामानवस्थितान्।

कैर्मया सह योद्धव्यमस्मिन्रणसमुद्यमे।।1.22।।

Arjuna said:
O Acyuta (Acyuta means one who does not deviate from his divine glory) place my chariot between the two armies and keep it there till I have carefully observed these war-minded warriors, with whom I must wage this war. (I – 21, 22)

योत्स्यमानानवेक्षेऽहं य एतेऽत्र समागताः।
धार्तराष्ट्रस्य दुर्बुद्धेर्युद्धे प्रियचिकीर्षवः।।1.23।।

I desire to observe evil-minded Duryodhana’s well-wishers, who have assembled and are ready to fight. (I – 23)

संजय उवाच
एवमुक्तो हृषीकेशो गुडाकेशेन भारत।

सेनयोरुभयोर्मध्ये स्थापयित्वा रथोत्तमम्।।1.24।।
भीष्मद्रोणप्रमुखतः सर्वेषां च महीक्षिताम्।

उवाच पार्थ पश्यैतान्समवेतान्कुरूनिति।।1.25।।

Sanjaya said:
O Bharata (born in Bharata-family). thus addressed by Gudakesa (one who has control over sleep viz., Arjuna), Hrisikesa (the lord of the senses) placed the magnificent chariot between the two armies in front of Bhisma, Drona and all the kings and said, “O Partha (the son of Pratha, Kunti), behold all these Kurus assembled here.” (I – 24, 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.

तत्रापश्यत्स्थितान्पार्थः पितृ़नथ पितामहान्।
आचार्यान्मातुलान्भ्रातृ़न्पुत्रान्पौत्रान्सखींस्तथा।।1.26।।
श्वशुरान्सुहृदश्चैव सेनयोरुभयोरपि।

Standing there Arjuna then saw on both the armies his uncles, grand-uncles, teachers, maternal uncles, brothers, cousins, sons, grandsons, friends, fathers-in-law and well-wishers as well.

तान्समीक्ष्य स कौन्तेयः सर्वान्बन्धूनवस्थितान्।।1.27।।
कृपया परयाऽऽविष्टो विषीदन्निदमब्रवीत्।

Arjuna, the son of Kunti, seeing all those relations present there, was filled with extreme compassion, and uttered these words in sadness. (I – 26, 27)

अर्जुन उवाच
दृष्ट्वेमं स्वजनं कृष्ण युयुत्सुं समुपस्थितम्।।1.28।।
सीदन्ति मम गात्राणि मुखं च परिशुष्यति।

वेपथुश्च शरीरे मे रोमहर्षश्च जायते।।1.29।।
गाण्डीवं स्रंसते हस्तात्त्वक्चैव परिदह्यते।
न च शक्नोम्यवस्थातुं भ्रमतीव च मे मनः।।1.30।।

Arjuna said:
O Krsna! at the sight of these kinsmen thus arrayed here, prompted by war, my limbs give away, my mouth is parched, my body quivers and hair stand on end. The bow, Gandiva slips from my hand, my skin burns all over. My mind is reeling, and I am not able even to stand. (I – 28, 29, 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.

निमित्तानि च पश्यामि विपरीतानि केशव।
न च श्रेयोऽनुपश्यामि हत्वा स्वजनमाहवे।।1.31।।

O Kesava, I find the omens also inauspicious nor do I see any good in killing my kith and kin in battle. (I – 31)

न काङ्क्षे विजयं कृष्ण न च राज्यं सुखानि च।
किं नो राज्येन गोविन्द किं भोगैर्जीवितेन वा।।1.32।।

O Krsna! I covet not victory, nor kingdom, nor pleasure. O Govinda, of what use to us is kingdom, or luxuries or even life? (I – 32)

येषामर्थे काङ्क्षितं नो राज्यं भोगाः सुखानि च।
त इमेऽवस्थिता युद्धे प्राणांस्त्यक्त्वा धनानि च।।1.33।।

Those for whose sake we seek kingdom, enjoyments and pleasures, are here arrayed on the battle-field staking their lives and property. (I – 33)

आचार्याः पितरः पुत्रास्तथैव च पितामहाः।
मातुलाः श्चशुराः पौत्राः श्यालाः सम्बन्धिनस्तथा।।1.34।।
एतान्न हन्तुमिच्छामि घ्नतोऽपि मधुसूदन।
अपि त्रैलोक्यराज्यस्य हेतोः किं नु महीकृते।।1.35।।

Teachers, uncles, fathers, sons as well as grand-uncles, maternal-uncles, fathers-in-law, grandsons, brothers-in-law and other relatives, though they may kill me, I would not seek to slay them, even for the sovereignty of three worlds; how then for this earth? (I – 34, 35)

निहत्य धार्तराष्ट्रान्नः का प्रीतिः स्याज्जनार्दन।
पापमेवाश्रयेदस्मान्हत्वैतानाततायिनः।।1.36।।

O Janārdana, (Janārdana, the name of Sri Krsna, means a person who is worshipped by people for [prosperity and emancipation) what delight can we derive by slaying the sons of Dhritarashtra? Sin alone will accrue to us by slaying these desperadoes. (I – 36)

तस्मान्नार्हा वयं हन्तुं धार्तराष्ट्रान्स्वबान्धवान्।
स्वजनं हि कथं हत्वा सुखिनः स्याम माधव।।1.37।।

O Madhava, we should not therefore slay the sons of Dhritarashtra, our kinsmen; for how can we, by killing our own kinsmen, be happy? (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.

यद्यप्येते न पश्यन्ति लोभोपहतचेतसः।
कुलक्षयकृतं दोषं मित्रद्रोहे च पातकम्।।1.38।।
कथं न ज्ञेयमस्माभिः पापादस्मान्निवर्तितुम्।
कुलक्षयकृतं दोषं प्रपश्यद्भिर्जनार्दन।।1.39।।

Although these people, with understanding (discrimination) clouded by greed, don’t perceive the evil of destruction of their own race and the sin accruing from enmity towards friends, yet O Janārdana (Krsna) why should we, who see clearly the sin involved in the destruction of the family, not think of turning away from such a sin? (I – 38, 39)

कुलक्षये प्रणश्यन्ति कुलधर्माः सनातनाः।
धर्मे नष्टे कुलं कृत्स्नमधर्मोऽभिभवत्युत।।1.40।।

With the destruction of a family its age-long family traditions disappear, and with the disappearnce of family traditions, impiety takes hold of the entire family. (I – 40)

अधर्माभिभवात्कृष्ण प्रदुष्यन्ति कुलस्त्रियः।
स्त्रीषु दुष्टासु वार्ष्णेय जायते वर्णसङ्करः।।1.41।।

With the growth of impiety, O Krsna, the women of the family become corrupt; and with the corruption of women, O Varshneya (descendant of Vrsni), there ensues an intermixture of castes. (I – 41)

सङ्करो नरकायैव कुलघ्नानां कुलस्य च।
पतन्ति पितरो ह्येषां लुप्तपिण्डोदकक्रियाः।।1.42।।

Intermixture of castes leads the race and also the destroyers of the race to hell. Deprived of the offerings of rice-ball and water, the manes of their race also have a downfall. (I – 42)

दोषैरेतैः कुलघ्नानां वर्णसङ्करकारकैः।
उत्साद्यन्ते जातिधर्माः कुलधर्माश्च शाश्वताः।।1.43।।

The age-long caste-traditions and family-customs of the destroyers of the race get ruined because of the intermixture of the castes created by the bad deeds of these race-destroyers. (I – 43)

उत्सन्नकुलधर्माणां मनुष्याणां जनार्दन।
नरकेऽनियतं वासो भवतीत्यनुशुश्रुम।।1.44।।

We have heard, O Janardana, that men, who have lost their family traditions, dwell in hell for an infinite period of time. (I – 44)

अहो बत महत्पापं कर्तुं व्यवसिता वयम्।
यद्राज्यसुखलोभेन हन्तुं स्वजनमुद्यताः।।1.45।।

Alas! Goaded by the lust for throne and enjoyment we are bent on perpetuating the great sin of killing our kinsmen. (I – 45)

यदि मामप्रतीकारमशस्त्रं शस्त्रपाणयः।
धार्तराष्ट्रा रणे हन्युस्तन्मे क्षेमतरं भवेत्।।1.46।।

It would indeed be better for me if the sons of Dhritrashtra armed with weapons, killed me in battle while I was unarmed and unresisting. (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.

सञ्जय उवाच
एवमुक्त्वाऽर्जुनः संख्ये रथोपस्थ उपाविशत्।

विसृज्य सशरं चापं शोकसंविग्नमानसः।।1.47।।

Sanjaya said:
Arjuna, with his mind agitated by grief on the battlefield, having spoken thus and having laid down his bow and arrows, sank into the hinder part 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.

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