In the previous parts of this series, we looked at Bhagavad Gita chapter 1, verses from 1 to 30. We heard Sanjaya describing to his king Dhritarashtra what was happening at the Kurukshetra battlefield. In the last section, we stopped at where Lord Krishna drew Arjuna’s chariot between the two armies where Arjuna could see his great grandfather, Bhishma, his gurus like Dronacharya, Kripacharya, etc. ready to fight with the Pandavas and how Arjuna was overwhelmed with extreme love and compassion for his kinsmen which led to his confusion, delusion and sorrow.
Let us now continue from verses 31 till the end of the Gita, chapter 1.
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Chapter 1, Verse 31
न च श्रेयोऽनुपश्यामि
न काङ्क्षे विजयं कृष्ण
न च राज्यं सुखानि च।।
na ca sreyo ’nupa yāmi
hatvā sva-janam āhave
na kāṅkṣe vijayaṁ kṛṣṇa
na ca rājyaṁ sukhāni ca
I do not see how any good can come from killing my own kinsmen in this battle, nor can I, my dear Krishna, desire any subsequent victory, kingdom or happiness.
Chapter 1, Verse 32 – 35
किं नो राज्येन गोविन्द
किं भोगैर्जीवितेन वा।
येषामर्थे काङ्क्षितं नो
राज्यं भोगाः सुखानि च।।
kith no rãjyena govinda
kith bhogair jīvitena vã
yeṣãm arthe kãṅkṣitath no
rãjyath bhogãḥ sukhãni ca
त इमेऽवस्थिता युद्धे
प्राणांस्त्यक्त्वा धनानि च।
आचार्याः पितरः पुत्रास्तथैव च पितामहाः।।
ta ime ’vasthitã yuddhe
prãṇãths tyaktvã dhanãni ca
ãcãryãḥ pitaraḥ putrãs
tathaiva ca pitãmahãḥ
मातुलाः श्चशुराः पौत्राः
mãtulãḥ śvaśurãḥ pautrãḥ
śyãlãḥ sambandhinas tathã
etãn na hantum icchãmi
ghnato ’pi madhusūdana
हेतोः किं नु महीकृते।
का प्रीतिः स्याज्जनार्दन।।
hetoḥ kith nu mahī-kṛte
nihatya dhãrtarãṣṭrãn naḥ
kã prītiḥ syãj janãrdana
O Govinda, of what avail to us are a kingdom, happiness or even life itself when all those for whom we may desire them are now arrayed on this battlefield? O Madhusūdana, when teachers, fathers, sons, grandfathers, maternal uncles, fathers-in-law, grandsons, brothers-in-law and other relatives are ready to give up their lives and properties and are standing before me, why should I wish to kill them, even though they might otherwise kill me? O maintainer of all living entities, I am not prepared to fight with them even in exchange for the three worlds, let alone this earth. What pleasure will we derive from killing the sons of Dhritarashtra?
Chapter 1, Verse 36 – 37
तस्मान्नार्हा वयं हन्तुं
स्वजनं हि कथं हत्वा
सुखिनः स्याम माधव।।
pāpam evāśrayed asmān
tasmān nārhā vayaṁ hantuṁ
sva-janaṁ hi kathaṁ hatvā
sukhinaḥ syāma mādhava
Sin will overcome us if we slay such aggressors. Therefore it is not proper for us to kill the sons of Dhritarashtra and our friends. What should we gain, O Krishna, husband of the goddess of fortune, and how could we be happy by killing our own kinsmen?
Chapter 1, Verse 38 – 39
यद्यप्येते न पश्यन्ति
मित्रद्रोहे च पातकम्।।
yady apy ete na paśyanti
mitra-drohe ca pātakam
कथं न ज्ञेयमस्माभिः
kathaṁ na jñeyam asmābhiḥ
pāpād asmān nivartitum
O Janārdana, although these men, their hearts overtaken by greed, see no fault in killing one’s family or quarreling with friends, why should we, who can see the crime in destroying a family, engage in these acts of sin?
Chapter 1, Verse 40
धर्मे नष्टे कुलं कृत्स्नम।
dharme naṣṭe kulaṁ kṛtsnam
adharmo ’bhibhavaty uta
With the destruction of the dynasty, the eternal family tradition is vanquished, and thus the rest of the family becomes involved in irreligion.
Chapter 1, Verse 41
स्त्रीषु दुष्टासु वार्ष्णेय
strīṣu duṣṭāsu vārṣṇeya
When irreligion is prominent in the family, O Krishna, the women of the family become polluted, and from the degradation of womanhood, O descendant of Vrishni, comes unwanted progeny.
Chapter 1, Verse 42
कुलघ्नानां कुलस्य च।
पतन्ति पितरो ह्येषां
kula-ghnānāṁ kulasya ca
patanti pitaro hy eṣāṁ
An increase of unwanted population certainly causes hellish life both for the family and for those who destroy the family tradition. The ancestors of such corrupt families fall down, because the performances for offering them food and water (Pinda / sacrificial offering) are entirely stopped.
Chapter 1, Verse 43
doṣair etaiḥ kula-ghnānāṁ
kula-dharmā ca ā vatāḥ
By the evil deeds of those who destroy the family tradition and thus give rise to unwanted children, all kinds of community projects and family welfare activities are devastated.
Chapter 1, Verse 44
narake niyataṁ vāso
bhavatīty anu u ruma
O Krishna, maintainer of the people, I have heard by disciplic succession that those whose family traditions are destroyed dwell always in hell.
Chapter 1, Verse 45
अहो बत महत्पापं
कर्तुं व्यवसिता वयम्।
aho bata mahat pāpaṁ
kartuṁ vyavasitā vayam
hantuṁ sva-janam udyatāḥ
Alas, how strange it is that we are preparing to commit greatly sinful acts. Driven by the desire to enjoy royal happiness, we are intent on killing our own kinsmen.
Chapter 1, Verse 46
यदि मामप्रतीकारमशस्त्रं शस्त्रपाणयः।
धार्तराष्ट्रा रणे हन्युस्तन्मे क्षेमतरं भवेत्।।
yadi mām apratīkāram
a astraṁ astra-pāṇayaḥ
dhārtarāṣṭrā raṇe hanyus
tan me kṣema-taraṁ bhavet
Better for me if the sons of Dhritarashtra, weapons in hand, were to kill me unarmed and unresisting on the battlefield.
Chapter 1, Verse 47
विसृज्य सशरं चापं
evam uktvārjunaḥ saṅkhye
visṛjya sa-śaraṁ cāpaṁ
Sañjaya said: Arjuna, having thus spoken on the battlefield, cast aside his bow and arrows and sat down on the chariot, his mind overwhelmed with grief.
Commentary for verses 31 till the end of Chapter 1
We stopped at verse 30th of chapter 1 in the previous part of this series where we saw Arjuna who was overwhelmed and confused by knowing that those have come to fight him in this Kurukshetra war were none other than his great grandsire, beloved gurus including Dronacharya, and his own kith and kin. Seeing all of them at the battlefield, Arjuna broke down and said to Lord Krishna, “nimittāni ca pasyāmi viparītāni kesava” – that he sees all inauspicious omens that he feels, even winning this war would be equal to losing anyway, since any victory by killing his kith and kin would only make him feel remorseful throughout the rest of his life!
Arjuna continues to speak to Lord Krishna on how he is feeling at the battlefield after seeing his loved ones and people worthy of respect and devotion. He says,
“na ca sreyo ’nupa yāmi
hatvā sva-janam āhave
na kāṅkṣe vijayaṁ kṛṣṇa
na ca rājyaṁ sukhāni ca…”
O my dear Krishna, I do not see any good in slaying my own kith and kin in this battle, nor do I desire victory, nor a kingdom or even any happiness!
O Govinda, of what avail to us are a kingdom, happiness or even life itself when all those for whom we may desire them are now arrayed on this battlefield?
O Madhusūdana, when teachers, fathers, sons, grandfathers, maternal uncles, fathers-in-law, grandsons, brothers-in-law and other relatives are ready to give up their lives and properties and are standing before me, why should I wish to kill them and seek dominion up on them? O maintainer of all living entities, I am not prepared to fight with them even in exchange for the three worlds, let alone this tract of land called earth. What pleasure will we derive from killing the sons of Dhritarashtra?
Arjuna calls Lord Krishna “Govinda” and “Madhusūdana”! Govinda means “the one who pervades all the worlds and senses”. And Madhusūdana is “the destroyer of the demon Madhu”.=
By addressing Lord Krishna as Govinda, Arjuna hopes that since Lord Krishna is the knower of all functions of the sense, he would also be able to know what is in Arjuna’s mind and would redirect his sense properly for the Lord’s ultimate benefit.
Even if Arjuna does not want to enjoy the kingly pleasures and royal luxuries, being a Kshatriya, his duty is to fight to preserve the kingdom so that others in the royal family can enjoy those pleasures as long as it is attained in a dharmic way. However, even this is being counterbalanced by Arjuna by saying, all those relatives and loved ones are present here at the battled ready for the war. Therefore, Arjuna says, “there is no need for me to fight!”
Arjuna says to Lord Krishna, “O Madhusūdana, one can desire of kingdom for his own people, even at the expense of his life, however, in this situation, the death of my kith and kin is certain. Then what is the point in even desiring a kingdom, for whom do I need a kingdom after killing all my people! I am not prepared to fight with them even in exchange for the three worlds, let alone just this earth!”
Arjuna continues to say that even if others want to slay him, he still does not want to slay them, for he thinks that they are his family, his own people. He says, “O Krishna, killing these felons, the sons of Dhritarashtra, sin will surely come up on us. Therefore, it is not proper for us to slay them. O Madhava, how can we ever be happy after slaying our own people?”
Arjuna says, “O Krishna, these men, out of their greed, do not see the sin in quarelling with friends and the crime of destroying families. However, why should we, understanding this fact very well and see only evil in such misconducts, commit such a sin of destroying families?”
Arjuna continues to argue his case with Lord Krishna by bringing new points as to state why fighting this battle against his family, gurus and relatives is wrong and sinful. Arjuna says, when we slay all these people which include the elders in various families, their subsequent generation becomes bereft of family values, traditions, customs and various ceremonies that they are required to perform according to the scriptures. That could lead to those families getting misled and commit adharma in the society. With no elders around to guide them, they become irreligious, resort to wanton habits and eventually lose their chance to excel spiritually in their life. All these would even lead to the families not following their karmic duties and their duties towards their forefathers in sacrificial offering, and eventually causing their forefathers to suffer in their gross material body and to fall in hell. Not only that, having no elders in the family to guide them, the women in the family may become immoral, giving chance to the irresponsible men to indulge in adultery and even in creating unwanted progeny. That would then lead to even more misery for the progeny, the family and in effect, the entire society stands in peril.
O Janardhana, I have heard from the learned ones that those who destroy family traditions would eventually dwell in hell for an indefinite period of time, prompting to Lord Krishna, that being the case, why do we even attempt to commit such a sin!
He addressed Lord Krishna as the descendent of Vrishni, reminding Lord Krishna of his own Kula / clan and how important it is to carry on the family values and that Lord Krishna should know this better than anyone else! The ancient Vrishni clan were the descendents of Yadu. Yadu had two wives, Gandhari and Madri. Lord Krishna’s father, Vasudeva, was the grandson of Devamidhusha, who was the son of Yadu and Madri.
Arjuna also calls Lord Krishna, Janardhana – the protector of the whole world – and says, knowing of all such sins that we could commit, why do we still want to fight? Arjuna then says, O Krishna, how strange it is that we have set our mind to kill our kinsmen to gain royal pleasures and commit such great sins. It would be better if the sons of Dhritarashtra, with arms in their hand, kill me unarmed, unresisting their fight in this battlefield!
In all these verses, Arjuna displays a kind of Vairagya – detachment or renunciation – but is it the right kind of vairagya or a temporary one arising from his delusion? Arjuna is a Kshatriya and his duty is to protect his kingdom and his people.
There are six types of aggressors against whom one have the right to defend himself and his people – those who set fire to one’s property, those who poison one’s food, those who seek to murder, those who wish to loot someone’s wealth, those who come to kidnap one’s wife, and those who usurp one’s kingdom.
In this case, the Kauravas clearly broke all these rules – they tried to poison and kill Bhima, they tried to set fire on Pandavas’ house and tried to kill them and did many other michieves to the Pandavas. They wrongfully usurped Pandavas’ kingdom and sent them into exile in a cheating game of dice. They even insulted their beloved wife, Draupadi, in front of everyone in the court! The Pandavas tried all they could, using Sama Dama Danda Bheda – the age old four means available to solve any problems. This war was the last option the Pandavas were left with!
Arjuna was being delusional after seeing his kith and kin at the battlefield. Arjuna forgets that one cannot have one rule for family and another for strangers, that the family gets one punishment and the stranger get another when they both commit the same crime. Justice should be delivered equally, regardless of who committed the crime.
Our Vedas clearly state that nonviolence is a great sin except in extreme cases. Arjuna says, mā hinsyāt sarvā bhūtāni – “do not kill any living being”. He says, “pāpam evāśrayed asmān hatvaitān ātatāyinaḥ | tasmān nārhā vayaṁ hantuṁ dhārtarāṣṭrān sa-bāndhavān ||” Even though Kauravas are clearly the aggressors and felons who committed so many heinous crimes, what pleasure would I get by killing them…?
In one of the earlier verses, Arjuna addressed Lord Krishna as Madhusudhana, the killer of the demon Madhu. Arjuna is trying to justify that, at least that was a demon who needed to be killed, in this case, these aggressors are my own family even though they committed the crime.
The use of Madhusudana by Arjuna is very interesting here. Lord Krishna in his avatar did not kill the demon Madhu, but it was Lord Vishnu who killed the demon brothers, Madhu and Kaitabha. They both rampaged through the whole world, killing everyone and even fought with Lord Brahma who had to flee for his life, thus he was meant to be killed. By calling Lord Krishna, Madhusudhana, Arjuna was telling Krishna that in the present scenario at Kurukshetra battlefield, those who are standing to fight are my family and own people, not demons. Thus, they shall not be killed.
Another version of this story is that, by calling Krishna Madhusudhana, Arjuna was pleading to Krishna, just like how Krishna killed the demon Madhu, kill all of Arjuna’s doubts too!
Arjuna has become so delusional at this stage that he was not able to even differentiate between what is dharmic and adharmic, what is right and wrong. Is it proper for a Kshatriya to behave the way Arjuna does at this stage?
At the same time, look at Arjuna compared to Duryodhana. Duryodhana was so consumed by greed, instigated violence and did all kinds of heinous crimes, including the disrobing of Draupadi and usurping Pandavas’ of their kingdom. Where as, Arjuna, even after going through all the humiliation, his heart still aches for his own family and has become despondent due to his extreme love and compassion for his kinsmen.
Arjuna says, “aho bata mahat papaṁ”, not just papam, but mahat papam – greatest of all sins – that is what Arjuna thinks about fighting the Kauravas. And he continues by saying,
“yadi mām apratīkāram
dhārtarāṣṭrā raṇe hanyus
tan me kṣema-taraṁ bhavet” – it is better for me to be killed unarmed, unresisting by the sons of Dhritarashtra than committing such a great sin!
By portraying such a delusional Arjuna, Sage Veda Vyasa is trying to hold a mirror to all of us – we all experience what Arjuna experiences here. We all have a soft corner for our own friends and family, regardless of how cruel some of them could be and the kind of heinous crimes they would commit. We tend to forget that, all of that lead to corruption and degradation of moral values and ethics in families, societies and eventually nations and the whole world. We see it on a daily basis how politicians and the powerful ones manipulate rules to suit their unethical agendas. But is it right? Is it dharmic?
Like we saw earlier, this whole war was to defend dharma. Was Arjuna defending dharma by being emotionally shattered by his familial bonds and his affection towards his gurus who have sided with adharma and have become party to all the humiliation the Pandavas’ have been put through? At least Bhishma could have prevented Dhritarashtra and Duryodhana from commiting all these crimes. Bhishma, Dronacharya and other great gurus could have at least prevented Draupadi from being disrobed in front of the entire court! None of them did anything, they were all bound to their own vows and personal commitments. Bhishma had a vow that at all time, his allegiance would to the throne, regardless of who sits on the throne. He was bound by that vow and was unable to do anything against Duryodhana or to at least speak against him!
Arjuna came out with so many reasons as to not fight this war after seeing his kinsmen at the battlefield. Though we have Dharma Shastras in Sanatana Dharma that defines various rules and laws for the betterment of humanity and the world, is Arjuna following that Dharma Shastra by putting out all of his arguments?
Arjuna is worried about the destruction of families and traditions by the eventual killing of all the people in the battlefield. Assuming, Arjuna does not fight, Kauravas would still slay them. They would continue to create havoc in their kingdom. “yatha raja tatha praja” – the character of the king determines the conditions of his people, is it not? Is that just? Is that what is commanded of a king? Is it Dharmic?
Throughout these, Lord Krishna does not say a word, but listens to Arjuna very attentively and let Arjuna pour out his emotions, worries and doubts, so that eventually when Lord Krishna explains and answers all of Arjuna’s questions and Arjuna takes his weapons and fight, Arjuna would be absolutely in the right mindframe to fight to protect dharma and would never have to be remorseful for protecting dharma. Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitah – dharma protects those who protects dharma.
Later on in the Gita, Lord Krishna clearly explains to Arjuna that he is not fighting with his family or gurus, but he is fighting adharma to safeguard dharma and that he is duty-bound to perform this as a Kshatriya.
The chapter 1 of the Bhagavad Gita ends with Sanjaya saying,
evam uktvārjunaḥ saṅkhye rathopastha upāviśhat
visṛijya sa-śharaṁ chāpaṁ śhoka-saṁvigna-mānasaḥ
Sanjaya said, having spoken thus on the battlefield, Arjuna put aside his Gandiva bow and arrows and sat down on the seat of his chariot, his heart overwhelmed with grief.
Arjuna, having explained all his reasons to Lord Krishna as to why he doesn’t want to fight this battle, has now reached his climax by putting aside his Gandiva bow and arrows, and sat on the chariot in despair. His despondency has made him completely delusional, unable to discriminate between what is right and what is wrong, what is dharmic and what is adharmic.
Let us not forget that Arjuna was not an ordinary man, he was one of the greatest warriors whose spiritual knowledge was unmatched, apart from his excellency in warfare. He was the son of the King of heaven, Indra. He was righteous and never deviated from the path of dharma. He was overwhelmed by his extreme love and compassion for his kinsmen that his mind became delusional to an extent that he no longer knew what was right and wrong. Lord Krishna was thus creating a perfect opportunity to speak the message of Bhagavad Gita for the benefit of Arjuna and the whole world.
Thus ends the chapter 1 of the Bhagavad Gita. We will begin the chapter 2 from next part onwards.
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ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पुर्णमुदच्यते
पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ॥
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥
Om Puurnnam-Adah Puurnnam-Idam Puurnnaat-Purnnam-Udacyate
Puurnnasya Puurnnam-Aadaaya Puurnnam-Eva-Avashissyate ||
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||