In the previous parts of Bhagavad Gita Weekly series, we looked at the whole of Bhagavad Gita Chapter 1. We heard Sanjaya describing to his king, Dhritarashtra, what was happening at the Kurukshetra battlefield and how delusional and despondent Arjuna became after seeing his gurus, grandfather, kith and kin in the battlefield ready to fight. Arjuna explained to Lord Krishna in great detail, supporting his arguments with many reasons, why he would not want to fight this battle, instead he would rather just let the Kauravas kill him armless, even without any resistance from him.
Let us now begin the chapter 2 of Bhagavad Gita. Chapter 2, with 72 verses, is one of the longest chapters and an important one in the whole Gita. Lord Krishna condenses the message of the entire Gita in this single chapter which he further elaborates in the following chapters.
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Chapter 2 – Verse 1
तं तथा कृपयाऽविष्टमश्रुपूर्णाकुलेक्षणम्।
विषीदन्तमिदं वाक्यमुवाच मधुसूदनः॥
tam tathā kṛpayāviṣṭam
viṣīdantam idam vākyam
Sanjaya said: Seeing Arjuna full of compassion, his mind depressed, his eyes full of tears, Madhusudana, spoke the following words.
Chapter 2 – Verse 2
कुतस्त्वा कश्मलमिदं विषमे समुपस्थितम्।
kutas tvā kaśmalam idaṁ
viṣame samupasthitam anārya-juṣṭam asvargyam
Lord Krishna said: My dear Arjuna, how have these impurities come upon you? They are not at all befitting a man who knows the value of life. They lead not to higher planets but to infamy.
Chapter 2 – Verse 3
क्लैब्यं मा स्म गमः पार्थ नैतत्त्वय्युपपद्यते।
क्षुद्रं हृदयदौर्बल्यं त्यक्त्वोत्तिष्ठ परन्तप॥
klaibyath mā sma gamaḥ pārtha
naitat tvayy upapadyate
O son of Partha, do not yield to this degrading impotence. It does not become you. Give up such petty weakness of heart and arise, O chastiser of the enemy.
Chapter 2 – Verse 4
कथं भीष्ममहं संख्ये द्रोणं च मधुसूदन।
इषुभिः प्रतियोत्स्यामि पूजार्हावरिसूदन॥
kathaṁ bhīṣmam ahaṁ saṅkhye
droṇaṁ ca madhusūdana
Arjuna said: O killer of enemies, O killer of Madhu, how can I counterattack with arrows in battle men like Bhishma and Drona, who are worthy of my worship?
Chapter 2 – Verse 5
गुरूनहत्वा हि महानुभावान्
श्रेयो भोक्तुं भैक्ष्यमपीह लोके।
भुञ्जीय भोगान् रुधिरप्रदिग्धान्॥
gurūn ahatvã hi mahãnubhãvãn
śreyo bhoktuṁ bhaikṣyam apīha loke
hatvārtha-kāmāṁs tu gurūn ihaiva
bhuñjīya bhogān rudhira-pradigdhān
It would be better to live in this world by begging than to live at the cost of the lives of great souls who are my teachers. Even though desiring worldly gain, they are my superiors. If they are killed, everything we enjoy will be tainted with blood.
Commentary for Chapter 2, verses 1 to 5
Throughout chapter 1 of the Gita, we saw Sanjaya describing to Dhritarashtra about everything that was happening at the Kurukshetra battlefield. Sanjaya explained how both armies were arranged, how Lord Krishna brought Arjuna’s chariot between both the armies as requested by Arjuna which caused Arjuna great sorrow and made him delusional after seeing his grandfather, gurus, kith and kin at the battlefield, ready to fight him. Arjuna breaks down at the battlefield, reasoning with Lord Krishna as to why he would not want to fight and sat on his chariot, putting away his powerful Gandiva bow.
Lord Krishna listened to everything Arjuna had to say very attentively, without ever stopping Arjuna from speaking. Chapter 1 of the Gita concludes with Arjuna saying,
yadi mām apratīkāram
dhārtarāṣṭrā raṇe hanyus
tan me kṣema-taraṁ bhavet
“It is better for me if the sons of Dhritarashtra, with all the weapons in their hand, were to just kill me, unarmed, unresisting their fight on this very battlefield.” That was how delusional Arjuna had become after seeing his kith and kin at the battlefield. Arjuna feared of the outcome of the battle and the sins he would possibly commit, all arose from his confusion about what was right and wrong.
From chapter 2 onwards, Lord Krishna answers all the questions Arjuna posed and helps him have clarity of thoughts and realise what his duties truly are.
It is believed that if one can truly understand chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita, it is easier to understand the message of whole of Bhagavad Gita. Thus, chapter 2 is a very important chapter. In this chapter, Lord Krishna condenses everything he is going to talk about in the Gita. In the following chapters, he explains each of these in greater details. In the chapter 18 which is the last chapter, he again summarises everything he spoke through the previous chapters. That is how, being the greatest teacher he is, Lord Krishna conveys the message of the Gita to Arjuna and to the rest of the world in a precise manner.
Bhagavad Gita is a summary of Vedas. Vedas are like a vast ocean with hundreds of thousands of verses filled with hidden meanings which is hard to understand and requires deep power of meditation. While Upanishads bring those vast knowledge into few thousand verses, condensing it further for easier understanding, it is again not an easy feat. Bhagavad Gita further summarises that vast knowledge into rather easier to understand, practical knowledge in 700 verses. Thus reading the Gita with devotion and understanding help all of us get a bird’s-eye view on this vast ocean of knowledge, and to lead a dharmic life for inner peace and true happiness.
Chapter 2 of the Gita starts with Sanjaya continuing to explain to Dhritarashtra what is happening at the Kurukshetra battlefield, and what happened after Arjuna put down his Gandiva bow and sat on his chariot, Kapidwaja, saying, “I shall not fight…” Sanjaya said, “Seeing Arjuna full of compassion, his mind depressed, his eyes full of tears, Madhusudana, spoke the following words…”
It is important to note that Lord Krishna is addressed here again as Madhusudhana. As we already saw in the chapter 1, Madhusudhana means, “the killer of the demon, Madhu”. It was Lord Vishnu who killed the demon Madhu, not Lord Krishna in his avatar. However, the significance of Lord Krishna being addressed as Madhusudhana is to show that, just like how the Lord eliminated the demon, without showing any compassion or sympathy, with the intention to protect Dharma, Sanjaya wishes for the Lord to protect Dharma here in this battlefield.
Sanjaya is virtuous and with his divine vision knew that Lord Krishna was not an ordinary man, but the Supreme God himself, thus Lord Krishna is always addressed as “Sri Bhagavan”. “Bhagavan” means the one who possess all the greatest qualities such as all the riches, all strength, all fame, all beauty, all knowledge and all renunciation and more…
Sanjaya continued, “Shri Bhagavan said, my dear Arjuna, how have these impurities come upon you? They are not at all befitting a man who knows the value of life. They lead not to higher planets but to infamy.”
Throughout chapter 1, Lord Krishna spoke very little and allowed Arjuna to pour out all his emotions, concerns and confusions which led to him being depressed at the battlefield and wanting to give up. Arjuna no longer knew how to discriminate between Dharma and Adharma, because he was completely taken over by emotions and his mind was clouded by thoughts and compassion for his kith and kin who were not at all righteous.
Sanjaya describes Arjuna’s condition as “taṁ tathā kṛipayāviṣṭam…” – Kripa means, compassion, gentleness or mercy. However, Lord Krishna calls it, “kaśmalam” meaning, “impurities”, “delusion” or “dirtiness” and “klaibyaṁ” meaning, “impotence”, “unmanliness”, etc. Another word Lord Krishna used to describe Arjuna’s condition is, “hṛdaya-daurbalyaṁ”, meaning “the weakness of the heart”. Lord Krishna did not mince his words, but right away pointed to Arjuna that, whatever he was going through right now does not befit Arjuna for who he truly is.
Arjuna is a Kshatriya. He is known as Gudakesha – one who has overcome darkness / sleep, as in he is someone who is spiritually awaken – and that he belongs to Kuru Vamsa and was trained by the most illustrious gurus. He is one of the greatest warriors. Thus, Lord Krishna is trying to remind Arjuna of who he truly is.
By calling Arjuna, Partha – the son of Pritha / Kunti – Lord Krishna is reminding him of the great family he belongs to, and he says, “my dear, Arjuna, do not fall into such a degrading level. Give up such a petty weakness of your heart and arise…this does not become you!”
Though Sanjaya described Arjuna’s situation as “kṛipayāviṣṭam” (compassion), Lord Krishna calls it “hṛdaya-daurbalyaṁ” – weakness of the heart – and addresses Arjuna as “Parantapa” – the one who destroys enemies / the chastiser of enemies, reminding him of who Arjuna is..!
According to Vedanta, the confluence of the mind and intellect is called the “heart” (not the physical heart, but the spiritual heart). It is our intellect that helps us differentiate between good and the bad, right and wrong and dharma and adharma. When our mind is clouded by thoughts, our intellect is clouded too. In Arjuna’s case, he is overwhelmed with emotions and are unable to differentiate between right and wrong. His fear of the possibility of committing sins is misplaced and arise from his delusion. Thus, Lord Krishna is telling Arjuna that whatever he is feeling only shows his weakness of the heart.
He continues to tell Arjuna that by giving up in the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Arjuna is neither going to gain any fame, nor higher planes – the Swarg Lok – nor is it befitting a man who knows the value of life!
Lord Krishna, by completely dismissing Arjuna’s concerns and reasoning, reminds Arjuna that, whatever the emotions that he is showing to the Kauravas right now, is not compassion. Compassion should be shown to people who deserve compassion and at the right time.
For example, if someone is running after you with a knife with the intention to stab you, are you going to sit there and say, “Oh poor man, he must be angry over something and let him just stab me..?” Is that the right thing to do? Is it right to side with injustice, especially when you’re someone who has the power to stop that injustice?
We know what brought the Kurukshetra war. This war could have been avoided, but the Kauravas, with their greed and arrogance, did not want to stop the war. They looted away everything Pandavas rightfully deserved, they humiliated Draupadi, they tried to cheat and kill the Pandavas at various occasions. Even Lord Krishna tried to resolve the issues between the Pandavas and Kauravas by various means. Only when all options failed, the war was declared.
It is interesting to ponder upon what is Dharma at this point. Most of us have a wrong idea of Dharma. One of the best definitions on Dharma I heard was from Swami Swaroopananda of Chinmayananda Mission during one of his Bhagavad Gita discourses. He explained, “Dharma is not just about doing good, nor it is just about doing the right thing. Dharma is doing good, in the right way, at the right time, with the right intention, for the purpose of creating a harmonious mind, a society, a nation and the world…” It is important that we question ourselves to ensure that, whatever we do is done with the right intention, in the right way, at the right time for the larger good.
Lord Krishna is trying to remind Arjuna of his true nature, what a warrior he is and the family he belongs, besides all of that, he is Kshatriya and it is his duty to protect Dharma. Being conquered by his compassion for the wrong people, the same people who sided with adharma, Arjuna did no longer know how to differentiate between what is right and wrong.
Arjuna looks at his grandfather Bhishma and guru Dronacharya and tells Lord Krishna, “how can I fight the very people I should be worshipping.”
We are taught to respect our elders, even if they engage in a verbal spat with us. We are not expected to disrespect our elders. So, Arjuna is confused thinking how can he ever fight with people worthy of worship even while acknowledging that, they’ve come to fight him at this battlefield.
And he continues, “it is better to beg in this world than to kill those great souls who are far superior than me. If I kill them even with the desire for worldly gain and pleasure, everything we enjoy will be tainted with blood. Nor do we know which is better – to conquer them or be conquered by them. If we were to kill the sons of Dhritarashtra, there is no point in us living, yet they are standing here in this battlefield to fight..!”\
According to our tradition, gurus are considered god. “Guru Brahma Gurur Vishnu Guru Devo Maheshwara, Guru Saakshat Parabrahma Tasmai Sree Gurave Namaha” – “Guru is verily the representative of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. He creates, sustains knowledge and destroys the weeds of ignorance. I salute such a Guru”. That is what the scriptures say. However, if a guru who engages in abominable actions lose that respect automatically. Gurus are bound to act in a certain way that they become role models for the disciples. Gurus cannot misuse their knowledge and power and deviate from the path of Dharma.
In this situation, Dronacharya and Bhishma sided with the Kauravas, who committed horrible crimes, as a result, they sided with adharma. Bhishma had no choice but to take the side of the Kauravas due to his vow that his allegiance would always be with the throne, regardless of who sits there. Similarly, Dronacharya was the Rajguru of Hastinapur, thus duty-bound to fight with the Kauravas. Apart from being the Rajguru, Dronacharya was eternally grateful to Hastinapur for various reasons. When no one gave Dronacharya shelter once upon time, it was Hastinapur that sheltered him. Dronacharya’s arch rival was Drupad and it was Hastinapur that helped him fight Drupad and his army and to defeat them. Another reason was that, Drupad was fighting for the Pandavas and there was no way these archrivals could fight side by side.
In other words, due to their own vows and commitments, Bhishma and Dronacharya have deviated from the path of Dharma and took the side of Adharma, thus losing their respectability as gurus.
Interesting to note that one of the main aspects of Dharma is keeping our vow and promises. The saying goes, “praan jaaye par vachan na jaaye” – even if it means giving up our life, we must not break our promises / words. So, we could argue that both Bhishma and Drona were deeply rooted in their Dharma and kept up to their words fully and truthfully. But then, we must also not forget what is Dharma! Sometimes we make certain promises without thinking about its consequences and effects on people around us, the society, the nation and the world.
Arjuna does not know whether to fight this battle or rather give up and choose begging. He is a Kshatriya and his duty is to fight the war and to protect dharma. Arjuna is considering so many various factors like, what is the point in us living without the Kaurava brothers not around us, does a victory even worth in such a situation, etc.
While we clearly see how delusional Arjuna has become, it also shows so many beautiful characteristics of this great warrior, Arjuna. He was not an ordinary man. He was completely detached from any material benefits, he was full of love, respect for elders and gurus, highly awaken spiritually and is even willing to resort to begging if that would save him from killing his kith and kin.
It is very important to understand what Dharma truly is. Through Gita, Lord Krishna teaches all of us to have the wisdom to differentiate between Dharma and Adharma.
We will conclude here for now. Please share your comments and share this with your friends and family.
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 ||