THE BHAGAVAD GITA: Chapter 1

Reference: Course on The Bhagavad Gita

English Translation By Shri Purohit Swami

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Chapter 1

धृतराष्ट्रउवाच
धर्मक्षेत्रेकुरुक्षेत्रेसमवेतायुयुत्सवः।
मामकाःपाण्डवाश्चैवकिमकुर्वतसञ्जय।।1.1।।

1.1 The King Dhritarashtra asked: “O Sanjaya! What happened on the sacred battlefield of Kurukshetra, when my people gathered against the Pandavas?”

One can feel the anxiety in King Dhritarashtra’s words. He knew that his children were the usurpers in this conflict, and he was a party to their guilt.

NOTE: 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 viewpoints, 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.

सञ्जयउवाच
दृष्ट्वातुपाण्डवानीकंव्यूढंदुर्योधनस्तदा।
आचार्यमुपसङ्गम्यराजावचनमब्रवीत्।।1.2।।

1.2 Sanjaya replied: “The Prince Duryodhana, when he saw the army of the Pandavas paraded, approached his preceptor Guru Drona and spoke as follows:

NOTE: The preceptor referred to here is Drona who taught both Kauravas and Pandavas since their childhood. 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.

पश्यैतांपाण्डुपुत्राणामाचार्यमहतींचमूम्।
व्यूढांद्रुपदपुत्रेणतवशिष्येणधीमता।।1.3।।

1.3 Revered Father! Behold this mighty host of the Pandavas, paraded by the son of King Drupada, thy wise disciple.

अत्रशूरामहेष्वासाभीमार्जुनसमायुधि।
युयुधानोविराटश्चद्रुपदश्चमहारथः।।1.4।।

1.4 In it are heroes and great bowmen; the equals in battle of Arjuna and Bheema, Yuyudhana, Virata and Drupada, great soldiers all;

धृष्टकेतुश्चेकितानःकाशिराजश्चवीर्यवान्।
पुरुजित्कुन्तिभोजश्चशैब्यश्चनरपुङ्गवः।।1.5।।

1.5 Dhrishtaketu, Chekitan, the valiant King of Benares, Purujit, Kuntibhoja, Shaibya – a master over many;

युधामन्युश्चविक्रान्तउत्तमौजाश्चवीर्यवान्।
सौभद्रोद्रौपदेयाश्चसर्वएवमहारथाः।।1.6।।

1.6 Yudhamanyu, Uttamouja, Soubhadra and the sons of Droupadi, famous men.

अस्माकंतुविशिष्टायेतान्निबोधद्विजोत्तम।
नायकाममसैन्यस्यसंज्ञार्थंतान्ब्रवीमिते।।1.7।।

1.7 Further, take note of all those captains who have ranged themselves on our side, O best of Spiritual Guides! The leaders of my army. I will name them for you.

भवान्भीष्मश्चकर्णश्चकृपश्चसमितिञ्जयः।
अश्वत्थामाविकर्णश्चसौमदत्तिस्तथैवच।।1.8।।

1.8 You come first; then Bheeshma, Karna, Kripa, great soldiers; Ashwaththama, Vikarna and the son of Somadhatta;

अन्येचबहवःशूरामदर्थेत्यक्तजीविताः।
नानाशस्त्रप्रहरणाःसर्वेयुद्धविशारदाः।।1.9।।

1.9 And many others, all ready to die for my sake; all armed, all skilled in war.

अपर्याप्तंतदस्माकंबलंभीष्माभिरक्षितम्।
पर्याप्तंत्विदमेतेषांबलंभीमाभिरक्षितम्।।1.10।।

1.10 Yet our army seems the weaker, though commanded by Bheeshma; their army seems the stronger, though commanded by Bheema.

The narrative starts with the usurper Duryodhana comparing the strength of the opposing army against his own army. Duryodhana is worried that his army may not be up to the task.

अयनेषुचसर्वेषुयथाभागमवस्थिताः।
भीष्ममेवाभिरक्षन्तुभवन्तःसर्वएवहि।।1.11।।

1.11 Therefore in the rank and file, let stand firm in their posts, according to battalions; and all you generals about Bheeshma.

NOTE: 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.

तस्यसंजनयन्हर्षंकुरुवृद्धःपितामहः।
सिंहनादंविनद्योच्चैःशङ्खंदध्मौप्रतापवान्।।1.12।।

1.12 Then to enliven his spirits, the brave Grandfather Bheeshma, eldest of the Kuru-clan, blew his conch, till it sounded like a lion’s roar.

ततःशङ्खाश्चभेर्यश्चपणवानकगोमुखाः।
सहसैवाभ्यहन्यन्तसशब्दस्तुमुलोऽभवत्।।1.13।।

It was Duryodahan’s general who first blew his characteristic conch to signal to his army to get ready to engage in the war.

1.13 And immediately all the conches and drums, the trumpets and horns, blared forth in tumultuous uproar.

ततःश्वेतैर्हयैर्युक्तेमहतिस्यन्दनेस्थितौ।
माधवःपाण्डवश्चैवदिव्यौशङ्खौप्रदध्मतुः।।1.14।।

1.14 Then seated in their spacious war chariot, yoked with white horses, Lord Shri Krishna and Arjuna sounded their divine shells.

पाञ्चजन्यंहृषीकेशोदेवदत्तंधनंजयः।
पौण्ड्रंदध्मौमहाशङ्खंभीमकर्मावृकोदरः।।1.15।।

1.15 Lord Shri Krishna blew his Panchajanya and Arjuna his Devadatta, brave Bheema his renowned shell, Poundra.

अनन्तविजयंराजाकुन्तीपुत्रोयुधिष्ठिरः।
नकुलःसहदेवश्चसुघोषमणिपुष्पकौ।।1.16।।

1.16 The King Dharmaraja, the son of Kunti, blew the Anantavijaya, Nakalu and Sahadeo, the Sugosh and Manipushpaka, respectively.

काश्यश्चपरमेष्वासःशिखण्डीचमहारथः।
धृष्टद्युम्नोविराटश्चसात्यकिश्चापराजितः।।1.17।।

1.17 And the Maharaja of Benares, the great archer, Shikhandi, the great soldier, Dhrishtayumna, Virata and Satyaki, the invincible,

द्रुपदोद्रौपदेयाश्चसर्वशःपृथिवीपते।
सौभद्रश्चमहाबाहुःशङ्खान्दध्मुःपृथक्पृथक्।।1.18।।

1.18 And O King! Drupada, the sons of Droupadi and Soubhadra, the great soldier, blew their conches.

सघोषोधार्तराष्ट्राणांहृदयानिव्यदारयत्।
नभश्चपृथिवींचैवतुमुलोव्यनुनादयन्।।1.19।।

1.19 The tumult rent the hearts of the sons of Dhritarashtra, and violently shook heaven and earth with its echo.

This brought a tremendous response of readiness from the opposing Pandava’s side that filled Kauravas with dread.

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

अथव्यवस्थितान्दृष्ट्वाधार्तराष्ट्रान्कपिध्वजः।
प्रवृत्तेशस्त्रसंपातेधनुरुद्यम्यपाण्डवः।।1.20।।

1.20 Then beholding the sons of Dhritarashtra, drawn up on the battle- field, ready to fight, Arjuna, whose flag bore the Hanuman,

अर्जुनउवाच
हृषीकेशंतदावाक्यमिदमाहमहीपते।
सेनयोरुभयोर्मध्येरथंस्थापयमेऽच्युत।।1.21।।

1.21 Raising his bow, spoke this to the Lord Shri Krishna: O Infallible! Lord of the earth! Please draw up my chariot betwixt the two armies,

यावदेतान्निरीक्षेऽहंयोद्धुकामानवस्थितान्।
कैर्मयासहयोद्धव्यमस्मिन्रणसमुद्यमे।।1.22।।

1.22 So that I may observe those who must fight on my side, those who must fight against me;

योत्स्यमानानवेक्षेऽहंयएतेऽत्रसमागताः।
धार्तराष्ट्रस्यदुर्बुद्धेर्युद्धेप्रियचिकीर्षवः।।1.23।।

1.23 And gaze over this array of soldiers, eager to please the sinful sons of Dhritarashtra.”

At this point Arjuna asked Sri Krishna to draw his chariot between the two armies to see the combatant arrayed against each other in this first great conflict within the family of Kurus.

संजयउवाच
एवमुक्तोहृषीकेशोगुडाकेशेनभारत।
सेनयोरुभयोर्मध्येस्थापयित्वारथोत्तमम्।।1.24।।

1.24 Sanjaya said: “Having listened to the request of Arjuna, Lord Shri Krishna drew up His bright chariot exactly in the midst between the two armies,

भीष्मद्रोणप्रमुखतःसर्वेषांचमहीक्षिताम्।
उवाचपार्थपश्यैतान्समवेतान्कुरूनिति।।1.25।।

1.25 Whither Bheeshma and Drona had led all the rulers of the earth, and spoke thus: O Arjuna! Behold these members of the family of Kuru assembled.

Krishna did as he was asked by Arjuna. He wanted Arjuna to see the inevitability of what was going to happen.

NOTE: 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.

तत्रापश्यत्स्थितान्पार्थःपितृ़नथपितामहान्।
आचार्यान्मातुलान्भ्रातृ़न्पुत्रान्पौत्रान्सखींस्तथा।।1.26।।

1.26 There Arjuna noticed fathers, grandfathers, uncles, cousins, sons, grandsons, teachers, friends;

श्वशुरान्सुहृदश्चैवसेनयोरुभयोरपि।
तान्समीक्ष्यसकौन्तेयःसर्वान्बन्धूनवस्थितान्।।1.27।।

1.27 Fathers-in-law and benefactors, arrayed on both sides. Arjuna then gazed at all those kinsmen before him.

अर्जुनउवाच
कृपयापरयाऽऽविष्टोविषीदन्निदमब्रवीत्।
दृष्ट्वेमंस्वजनंकृष्णयुयुत्सुंसमुपस्थितम्।।1.28।।

1.28 And his heart melted with pity and sadly he spoke: O my Lord! When I see all these, my own people, thirsting for battle,

सीदन्तिममगात्राणिमुखंचपरिशुष्यति।
वेपथुश्चशरीरेमेरोमहर्षश्चजायते।।1.29।।

1.29 My limbs fail me and my throat is parched, my body trembles and my hair stands on end.

गाण्डीवंस्रंसतेहस्तात्त्वक्चैवपरिदह्यते।
नचशक्नोम्यवस्थातुंभ्रमतीवचमेमनः।।1.30।।

1.30 The bow Gandeeva slips from my hand, and my skin burns. I cannot keep quiet, for my mind is in tumult.

When Arjuna saw his own kinsmen, relatives, teachers, etc., lined up on both sides, thirsting for battle, he was thoroughly shocked and overwhelmed. What was happening was totally unreal to him.

NOTE: 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.

निमित्तानिचपश्यामिविपरीतानिकेशव।
नचश्रेयोऽनुपश्यामिहत्वास्वजनमाहवे।।1.31।।

1.31 The omens are adverse; what good can come from the slaughter of my people on this battlefield?

नकाङ्क्षेविजयंकृष्णनचराज्यंसुखानिच।
किंनोराज्येनगोविन्दकिंभोगैर्जीवितेनवा।।1.32।।

1.32 Ah my Lord! I crave not for victory, nor for the kingdom, nor for any pleasure. What were a kingdom or happiness or life to me,

येषामर्थेकाङ्क्षितंनोराज्यंभोगाःसुखानिच।
तइमेऽवस्थितायुद्धेप्राणांस्त्यक्त्वाधनानिच।।1.33।।

1.33 When those for whose sake I desire these things stand here about to sacrifice their property and their lives:

आचार्याःपितरःपुत्रास्तथैवचपितामहाः।
मातुलाःश्चशुराःपौत्राःश्यालाःसम्बन्धिनस्तथा।।1.34।।

1.34 Teachers, fathers and grandfathers, sons and grandsons, uncles, father-in-law, brothers-in-law and other relatives.

एतान्नहन्तुमिच्छामिघ्नतोऽपिमधुसूदन।
अपित्रैलोक्यराज्यस्यहेतोःकिंनुमहीकृते।।1.35।।

1.35 I would not kill them, even for three worlds; why then for this poor earth? It matters not if I myself am killed.

निहत्यधार्तराष्ट्रान्नःकाप्रीतिःस्याज्जनार्दन।
पापमेवाश्रयेदस्मान्हत्वैतानाततायिनः।।1.36।।

1.36 My Lord! What happiness can come from the death of these sons of Dhritarashtra? We shall sin if we kill these desperate men.

तस्मान्नार्हावयंहन्तुंधार्तराष्ट्रान्स्वबान्धवान्।
स्वजनंहिकथंहत्वासुखिनःस्याममाधव।।1.37।।

1.37 We are worthy of a nobler feat than to slaughter our relatives – the sons of Dhritarashtra; for, my Lord, how can we be happy of we kill our kinsmen?

Arjuna is looking from his own narrow viewpoint. He is not looking from the bigger picture that the Kuru Klan was already being destroyed under the despotic rule of Duryodhana.

यद्यप्येतेनपश्यन्तिलोभोपहतचेतसः।
कुलक्षयकृतंदोषंमित्रद्रोहेचपातकम्।।1.38।।

1.38 Although these men, blinded by greed, see no guilt in destroying their kin, or fighting against their friends,

कथंनज्ञेयमस्माभिःपापादस्मान्निवर्तितुम्।
कुलक्षयकृतंदोषंप्रपश्यद्भिर्जनार्दन।।1.39।।

1.39 Should not we, whose eyes are open, who consider it to be wrong to annihilate our house, turn away from so great a crime?

कुलक्षयेप्रणश्यन्तिकुलधर्माःसनातनाः।
धर्मेनष्टेकुलंकृत्स्नमधर्मोऽभिभवत्युत।।1.40।।

1.40 The destruction of our kindred means the destruction of the traditions of our ancient lineage, and when these are lost, irreligion will overrun our homes.

अधर्माभिभवात्कृष्णप्रदुष्यन्तिकुलस्त्रियः।
स्त्रीषुदुष्टासुवार्ष्णेयजायतेवर्णसङ्करः।।1.41।।

1.41 When irreligion spreads, the women of the house begin to stray; when they lose their purity, adulteration of the stock follows.

सङ्करोनरकायैवकुलघ्नानांकुलस्यच।
पतन्तिपितरोह्येषांलुप्तपिण्डोदकक्रियाः।।1.42।।

1.42 Promiscuity ruins both the family and those who defile it; while the souls of our ancestors droop, through lack of the funeral cakes and ablutions.

दोषैरेतैःकुलघ्नानांवर्णसङ्करकारकैः।
उत्साद्यन्तेजातिधर्माःकुलधर्माश्चशाश्वताः।।1.43।।

1.43 By the destruction of our lineage and the pollution of blood, ancient class traditions and family purity alike perish.

उत्सन्नकुलधर्माणांमनुष्याणांजनार्दन।
नरकेऽनियतंवासोभवतीत्यनुशुश्रुम।।1.44।।

1.44 The wise say, my Lord, that they are forever lost, whose ancient traditions are lost.

अहोबतमहत्पापंकर्तुंव्यवसितावयम्।
यद्राज्यसुखलोभेनहन्तुंस्वजनमुद्यताः।।1.45।।

1.45 Alas, it is strange that we should be willing to kill our own countrymen and commit a great sin, in order to enjoy the pleasures of a kingdom.

यदिमामप्रतीकारमशस्त्रंशस्त्रपाणयः।
धार्तराष्ट्रारणेहन्युस्तन्मेक्षेमतरंभवेत्।।1.46।।

1.46 If, on the contrary, the sons of Dhritarashtra, with weapons in their hand, should slay me, unarmed and unresisting, surely that would be better for my welfare!”

सञ्जयउवाच
एवमुक्त्वाऽर्जुनःसंख्येरथोपस्थउपाविशत्।
विसृज्यसशरंचापंशोकसंविग्नमानसः।।1.47।।

1.47 Sanjaya said: “Having spoken thus, in the midst of the armies, Arjuna sank on the seat of the chariot, casting away his bow and arrow; heartbroken with grief.”

The first thought that came into Arjuna’s mind was that this war was going to lead to the destruction of his clan. He felt that his actions would be responsible for such destruction and he wanted to have no part in it.

NOTE: 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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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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Final Comments

This is the first chapter of The Bhagavad that lays out the common dilemma that we all face in our lives, and which generates a lot of anxiety. The anxiety of King Dhritarashtra was coming from his attachment to his corrupt son Duryodhana. And Prince Duryodhana’s anxiety was coming from his desire for power and to not return the kingdom that rightfully belonged to the Pandavas. Both King Dhritarashtra and Prince Duryodhana were blinded by their attachments. They were ultimately responsible for the Great War because others participating in the war were simply following their duty.

Out of his concern for the klan Arjuna felt very despondent and did not want to participate in the war. Without his participation, the Pandavas would have lost and the cruelty of Duryodhana would have won. Once again, it was Arjuna’s attachment to his klan that was blinding him from his obligation and from carrying out his duty to fight.

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