Summary of Chapter 1 of Bhagawad Geeta
The first chapter of the Bhagawad Geeta sets the context of the entire Bhagawad Geeta.
- It begins with Dhritarashtra (Blond king and father of the Kaurava sons who are also the ones doing injustice) asking his emissary Sanjaya – What did the Pandu Sons do on the battle field of Kurukshetra?
- Initial part of this chapter gives an introduction of the scene of the battle field with both sides (especially the Kaurava side) motivating their troops and blowing their conches
- Each side and their mighty warriors are ready to fight
- Arjuna, the mighty warrior and son of Pandu on seeing this has doubts about the righteousness of this battle. He starts questioning the reasons for the battle since the warriors on the other side are his brothers & uncles.
- He tells lord Krishna (his charioteer) that his limbs fail and his mouth is parched, his body quivers and his hair stands on end (verse 29).
- He tells lord krishna – “These I do not wish to kill, though they kill me, even for the sake of dominion over the three worlds; how much less for the sake of the earth. (verse 35)… We are involved in a great sin, in that we are prepared to kill our kinsmen, from greed for the pleasures of the kingdom (verse 45).
- Arjuna has almost given up. He tells lord krishna that “If the sons of Dhritarashtra, weapons-in-hand, slay me in battle, unresisting and unarmed, that would be better for me (verse 46)”
- Having thus spoken in the midst of the battlefield, Arjuna sits down on the seat of the chariot, casting away his bow and arrow, with a mind distressed with sorrow.
- The first chapter of Geeta is about doubts in Arjuna’s mind, panic, dear, and anxiety. These are issues we deal with.
- The rest of the Geeta is where Lord Krishna upon hearing and watching Arjuna mentally defeated will share with him the wisdom of the vedas and upanishads and resolve the mental conflict in Arjuna’a mind.
Detailed Chapter 1 of Geeta – Arjuna’a Grief
This is the first chapter of the Bhagwad Geeta and largely sets the context of the Geeta through 47 verses. The Bhagawad Geeta, which is the highest and the best of Hindu philosophy has been reiterated, in a more elaborate and detailed dramatic layout amidst the roar of a total-war.
Krishna gives his message of action to Arjuna amidst the breathing, palpitating environment of the clash and carnage of a battle-field.
The kauravas, hundred in number, represent the innumerable ungodly forces of negative tendencies within an individual’s bosom, and the pandavas, no doubt represent the divine impulses an individual. A constant Mahabharata war is being waged within every one of us at all our crucial moments of action; and in all cases the negative forces in each one of us are larger in number and usually mightier in their effectiveness, while the inner divine army is ever lesser in number and apparently, comparatively weaker in efficiency.
Every individual at the moment of inward checking up, must necessarily feel the desperations of Arjuna.
The story of Mahabharat sounds an optimistic note of hope to every individual that even though the diviner impulses are seemingly less in number, if the same are organized fully and brought under the guidance of the supreme lord, Krishna the self, the, under his guidance, they can easily be ushered into a true and a permanent victory over the outnumbering forces of lust and greed.
The Kauravas representing the negative tendencies and the sinful motives in an individual are represented as the sons of Dhritrashtra (a blind prince). He was wedded to Gandhari, who had voluntarily blinded herself by putting bandages over her eyes.
Dhritarashtra said: 1. What did the sons of Pandu and also my people do when, desirous to fight, they assembled together on the holy plain of Kurukshetra, O Sanjaya?
In the entire Geeta this is the only verse which the blind old king Dhritarashtra gives out. All the rest of the seven hundred stanzas are Sanjaya’s report on what happened on the Kurukshetra battle-field, just before the war. The blind old king is certainly conscious of the palpable injustices that he had done to his nephews, the Pandavas. Dhritarashtra knew the relative strength of the two armies, and therefore, was fully confident of the larger strength of his son’s army. And yet, the viciousness of his past and the consciousness of the crimes perpetrated seem to be weighing heavily upon the heart of the blind king, and so he has his own doubts on the outcome of this war.
He asks Sanjaya to explain to him what is happening on the battle-field of Kurukshetra. Vyasa had given Sanjaya the powers to see and listen to the happenings in far-off Kurukshetra even while he was sitting beside Dhritarashtra in the palace at Hastinapura.
Sanjaya said: 2. Having seen the army of the Pandavas drawn up in battle array, King Duryodhana then approached his teacher (Drona) and spoke these words.
From this stanza onwards, we have the report of Sanjaya upon what he saw and heard on the war-front at Kurukshetra. When Duryodhana saw the Pandava-forces arrayed for battle, though they were less in number than his own forces, yet the tyrant felt his self-confidence draining away. As a child would run to its parents in fright, so too Duryodhana, unsettled in his mind, runs to his teacher, Dronacharya. When our motives are impure and our cause unjust, however well-equipped we may be, our minds should necessarily feel restless and agitated. This is the mental condition of all tyrants and lusty dictators.
3. Behold, O Teacher! this mighty army of the sons of Pandu, arrayed by the son of Drupada, thy wise disciple.
It is indeed stupid of Duryodhana to point out to Drona the army formation of the Pandavas. Later on also we shall find Duryodhana talking too much and that is a perfect symptom indicating the inward fears of the great king over the final outcome of the unjust war.
4. Here are heroes, mighty archers, equal in battle to Bhima and Arjuna, Yuyudhana, Virata and Drupada, each commanding eleven-thousand archers.
5. Dhrishtaketu, Chekitana, and the valiant king of Kashi, Purujit and Kuntibhoja and Saibya, the best of men.
6. The strong Yudhamanyu and the brave Uttamaujas, the son of Subhadra and the sons of Draupadi, all of them, divisional
In these three stanzas, we have a list of names of all those who were noted personalities in the Pandava army. Duryodhana, reviewing his enemies standing in formation, recognises very many noted men of war functioning as maharathas in the Pandava forces. A maharathi was in charge of a group of 11, 000 archers, which formed a division in the ancient Hindu army. Arjuna and Bhima were accepted men of war, noted for archery and strength. These enumerated heroes were, says Duryodhana, each as great as Arjuna and Bhima, the
implication being that though the Pandava forces were less in number, their total effectiveness was much greater than that of the larger and better equipped army of the Kauravas.
7. Know also, O best among the twice-born, the names of those who are the most distinguished amongst ourselves, the leaders of my army; these I name to thee for thy information.
Addressing his master as “the best among the twice-born,” Duryodhana now repeats the names of the distinguished heroes in his own army. A weak man, to escape from his own mental fears, will whistle to himself in the dark. The guilty conscience of the tyrant king had undermined all his mental strength. The more he realised the combined strength of the great personalities arrayed in the opposite
enemy camp, the more abjectly nervous he felt, in spite of the fact that his own army was also manned by highly competent heroes. In order to revive himself, he wanted to hear words of encouragement from his teachers and elders. But when Duryodhana met Drona, the acharya chose to remain silent and the helpless king had to find for himself new means of encourgement to revive his own drooping enthusiasm. Therefore, he started enumerating the great leaders in his own army.
When a person has thus completely lost his morale due to the heavy burden of his own crimes weighing on his conscience, it is but natural that he loses all sense of proportion in his words. At such moments of high tension an individual clearly exhibits his true mental culture. He
addresses his own teacher as “the best among the twiceborn.”
A Brahmana is considered as “twice-born” because of his inner spiritual development. When born from his mother’s womb man comes into the world only as the animal called man. Thereafter, through study and contemplation he gains more and more discipline, and a cultured Hindu is called a Brahmana (Brahmin). After all, Drona is a Brahmana by birth and as such he must have a greater share of softness of heart. Moreover, the enemy lines are fully manned by his own dear students. As a shrewd dictator, Duryodhana entertained
shameless doubts about the loyalty of his own teacher. This is but an instinctive fear which is natural with all men of foul motives and crooked dealings. When we are not ourselves pure, we will project our own weaknesses and impurities on others who are working around us as our subordinates.
8. Yourself and Bishma, and Karna and also Kripa, the victorious in war; Aswatthama, Vikarna and so also the son of
Though Duryodhana, in his mental hysteria, got slightly upset at the subjective onslaught of his own brutal motives and past crimes, like the true dictator that he was, he regained his balance in no time. The moment he had spilt out in his insulting arrogance, the term “twice-born” in addressing his teacher, he realised that he had over-stepped the bounds of discretion. Perhaps the cold silence of the revered acharya spoke amply to Duryodhana.
9. And many other heroes also who are determined to give up their lives for my sake, armed with various weapons and
missiles, all well-skilled in battle.
The incorrigible vanity of the dictatorial tyrant is amply clear when he arrogates to himself the stupendous honour that such a vast array of heroes had come ready to lay down their lives for “MY SAKE.” To all careful students of the Mahabharata, it cannot be very difficult to estimate how many of these great veterans would have thrown in their lot with Duryodhana, had it not been for the fact that Bhishma — the grandsire — was fighting in the ranks of the Kauravas.
10. This army of ours defended by Bhishma is insufficient, whereas that army of theirs defended by Bhima is sufficient. Or, This army of ours protected by Bhishma is unlimited, whereas that army of theirs protected by Bhima is limited.
In the art of warfare, then known among the ancient Hindus, each army had, no doubt, a commander-in-chief, but it also had a powerful man of valour, courage and intelligence, who functioned as the “defender.” In the Kaurava forces, Bhishma officiated as the “defender,” and in the Pandava forces Bhima held the office.
11. Therefore do you all, stationed in your respective positions in the several divisions of the army, protect Bhishma alone
After thus expressing in a soliloquy, his own estimate of the relative strength and merit of the two forces, now arrayed, ready for a total war, the king in Duryodhana rises above his mental clouds of desperation to shoot forth his imperial orders to his army officers. He advises them that each commander must keep to his position and fight in disciplined order, and all of them should spare no pains
to see that the revered Bhishma is well-protected. Perhaps, Duryodhana suspects that the lusty force that he had mobilised is an ill-assorted heterogeneous army constituted of the various tribal chieftains and kings of distant lands and that the strength of such an army could be assured, only when they hold on to a united strategy in all their various manoeuvres. Synchronisation of the different operations is the very backbone of an army’s success, and in order to bring this about, as a true strategist, Duryodhana is instructing his various commanders working in their different wings to work out the single policy of protecting Bhishma.
12. His glorious grandsire (Bhishma) , the oldest of the Kauravas, in order to cheer Duryodhana, now sounded aloud a
lion’s roar and blew his conch.
All the while that Duryodhana was busy making a fool of himself and in his excitement putting all the great officers of his army into an uncomfortable mood of desperate unhappiness, Bhishma was standing, not too far away, observing the pitiable confusions of the tyrant. The revered grandsire noticed, intelligently, in Dronacharya’s silence, the outraged temper of a man of knowledge and action. He realised that the situation could be saved only if all those assembled were jerked out of their mental preoccupations. The more they were let alone with their revolting thoughts against Duryodhana, the more they would become ineffectual for the imminent battle.
Understanding this psychology of the officers under his command, the great Marshall Bhishma took up his warbugle (conch) and blew it, sending forth roaring waves of confidence into the hearts of the people manning the array. This action of Bhishma, though performed by him out of pity for Duryodhana’s mental condition; amounted to an act of aggression almost corresponding to the ‘first-bulletshot’ in modern warfare. With this lion-roar, the Mahabharata war was actually started, and for all historical purposes the Kauravas had thereby become the aggressors.
13. Then (following Bhishma) , conches and kettle-drums, tabors, drums and cow-horns blared forth quite suddenly and
the sound was tremendous.
All the commanders were no doubt in high tension, and as soon as they heard the marshall’s bugle, individually, each one of them took up his instrument and sounded the battle-cry. Thus, conches and kettle-drums, tabors and trumpets, bugles and cow-horns, all burst forth into a challenging war-call, which Sanjaya, half-heartedly, describes as “tremendous.” Later on, we shall find that when this challenge was replied to by the Pandavas, the sound was described by Sanjaya as “terrific,” “resounding throughout heaven and earth, and rending the hearts of the Kauravas.” Here is another instance to prove that Sanjaya was, evidently, a moral objector to the war-aim of
Duryodhana. Therefore, we have in him a most sympathetic reporter of the message of the Lord at the battle-front, as given out in His Song Divine.
14. Then, also Madhava and the son of Pandu, seated in their magnificent chariot yoked with white horses, blew their divine
The wealth of detail that has been so lavishly squandered in expressing a simple fact that, from the Pandava-side, Krishna and Arjuna answered the battle-cry, clearly shows where Sanjaya’s sympathies lay. Here, the description — “sitting in the magnificent chariot, harnessed with white horses, Madhava and Arjuna blew their conches divine” — clearly echoes the hope lurking in the heart of Sanjaya
that due to the apparent contrast in the two descriptions, perhaps, even at this moment Dhritarashtra may be persuaded to withdraw his sons from the warfront.
15. Hrishikesha blew the Panchajanya and Dhananjaya (Arjuna) blew the Devadatta and Vrikodara (Bhima) , the doer of terrible deeds, blew the great conch, named Paundra.
In his description of the Pandava array, Sanjaya is very particular to mention even the name of each warrior’s special conch. Panchajanya was blown by Krishna. Hrishikesha is the name of the Lord and it has often been described as meaning the ‘Lord of the Senses.’ But this is according to an old derivation: Hrishika+ Isha = “Lord of the Senses.” But the word “Hrishika” is an obscure one.
Modern commentators prefer to explain it as Hrish+ kesha “Having short hair.”
16. King Yudhisthira, the son of Kunti, blew the Anantavijaya; Nakula and Sahadeva blew the Sughosha and the
17. The king of Kashi, an excellent archer, Shikhandi, the mighty commander of eleven thousand archers, Dhristadyumna
and Virata and Satyaki, the unconquered;
18. Drupada and the sons of Draupadi, O Lord of the Earth, and the son of Subhadra, the mighty armed, blew their respective conches
In the above verses we have the enumeration of the great Maharathas, battalion-commanders, who, with enthusiasm, loudly blew their conches, again and again, in an ascending cadence. The arrow that ultimately felled Bhishma in the Mahabharata-war came from Shikhandi. The charioteer of Krishna, who was also a battalioncommander in the Pandava army, was called Satyaki. The report is being addressed to Dhritarashtra and it is indicated by Sanjaya’s words, “Oh Lord of the earth.”
19. That tumultuous sound rent the hearts of (the people of) Dhritarashtra’s party and made both heaven and earth reverberate.
From the fourteenth stanza onwards Sanjaya gives us in all detail an exhaustive description of the Pandava forces, and he spares no pains to bring into the mind of Dhritarashtra a vivid understanding of the superiority of the Pandava forces. Perhaps, the minister hopes that his blind king will realise the disastrous end and, at least now, will send forth a command to stop the fratricidal war.
20-21. Then, seeing the people of Dhritarashtra’s party standing arrayed and the discharge of weapons about to begin, Arjuna, the son of Pandu, whose ensign was a monkey, took up his bow and said these words to Krishna (Hrishikesha) , O Lord of the Earth!
In these one and a half verses we have a description of the arrival of the hero of the Mahabharata war, Arjuna, on the battle-field. The exact time and nature of his entry are noted here. The shooting had not yet started, but it was imminent. It was the most tense moment; the crisis had risen to its highest pitch. It was at this moment that Arjuna, whose ensign was that of Hanuman, said the following words to Lord Krishna.
In those ancient days of chivalrous warfare, each honoured hero had his own personal flag, carrying on it conspicuously, a well-recognised symbol. By the flag flying on the chariot, the enemy could recognise who was the occupant of the chariot. A hero was not generally short at by an ordinary soldier, but each fought with his equal on the battle-field. This system of carrying a symbol to
recognize individuals in the battle-field is faithfully followed even in modern warfare. A high official’s vehicle carries insignia of the officer’s rank on its very numberplate; on the very uniform enough details are pinned on to recognize the wearer and identify him. Arjuna’s ensign was that of a monkey.
The stanza also gives us, in hasty strokes, the information that Arjuna was impatient to start the righteous war. He had raised his instrument of war, his bow, indicating his readiness to fight.
Arjuna said: 21-22. In the midst of the two armies, place my chariot, O Achyuta, that I may behold those who stand here desirous of fighting and, on the eve of this battle, let me know with whom I must fight.
Here, we hear Arjuna’s soldier-like command to his charioteer to drive and place the vehicle between the two armies so that he might see and recognise the various heroes whom he has to meet and fight in the great war. In expressing thus a wish to review the enemy lines the great hero is showing his daring and chivalry, his great courage and firm determination, his adventurous readiness and indomitable energy. Upto this point in the story, Arjuna, the invincible hero of the Mahabharata, was in his own true element unaffected by any mental hysteria.
23. For I desire to observe those who are assembled here for the fight, wishing to please in battle, the evil-minded sons of
The verse only reinforces our impression of Arjuna gathered in the previous lines. He is giving the reason why he wants to review the enemy lines. As a man of action, he did not want to take any undue risk and so wanted to see for himself who were the low-minded, power-mad, greed-ridden men who had joined the forces of the Kauravas, supporting the palpably tyrannical and evidently unjust cause of the unscrupulous Duryodhana. As we read the stanza, we can almost hear the great warrior’s teeth grinding, as he spits out these hot words which express his mental estimate of his relentless cousins.
Sanjaya said: 24. Thus addressed by Gudakesha, O Bharata, Hrishikesha, having stationed the best of chariots between the two armies;
25 .In front of Bhishma and Drona, and all the rulers of the earth, he said, ‘O Partha, behold these Kurus gathered together.
At a point “facing Bhishma, Drona and all the rulers of the earth,” the Divine Charioteer pulled up the reins and brought the royal chariot to a halt. As a dutiful driver, Krishna says to Arjuna, “Behold, O Partha! All the Kauravas gathered together.” These are the only words
that Krishna has spoken in the entire first chapter; and these represent the sparks that set fire to and brought down the egoistic edifice of false valuations which the great hero had built for himself as a splendid dwelling place for his personality. Hereafter, we shall find how
Arjuna reacted to this great challenge and ultimately got his entire “within” wrecked and shattered.
Partha means ‘Son of Pritha’ — it is a name of Arjuna; ‘Pritha’ was another name of Kunti; the Sanskrit term Partha also carries a flavour of the term Parthiva meaning ‘clay-made,’ ‘earth-formed.’ The suggestive implication of this term is very striking inasmuch as it connotes that the Geeta is the Song of Truth sung by the Immortal to the mortal Arjuna, man’s all-time representative.
26. Then Partha saw stationed there in both the armies, fathers, grandfathers, teachers, maternal uncles, brothers, sons,
grandsons and friends too.
27. (He saw) Fathers-in-law and friends also in both the armies. Then the son of Kunti, seeing all these kinsmen thus standing arrayed, spoke thus sorrowfully, filled with deep pity.
Thus shown by Shri Krishna, Arjuna recognised in his enemy lines all his kith and kin, near and dear family members, brothers and cousins, teachers and grandsires, and almost all his acquaintances and friends. He recognized such intimate relations not only in the enemy lines, but even in his own army. This sight, perhaps, brought to his mind, for the first time, the full realisation of the tragedies of a fratricidal war. As a warrior and a man of action, he did not, perhaps till then, fully realize the extent of sacrifice that society would be called upon to make in order that his ambition might be fulfilled and Duryodhana’s cruelties avenged.
Whatever might have been the cause, the sight brought into his mind a flood of pity and compassion. Evidently, this was not an honest emotion. Had it been honest, had his pity and compassion been, Buddha-like, natural and instinctive, he would have, even long before
the war, behaved quite differently. This emotion which now Sanjaya glorifies as “pity” in Arjuna, is a misnomer. In the human heart, there is always a great tendency to glorify one’s own weaknesses with some convenient angelic name and divine pose. Thus, a rich man’s vanity is misnamed as charity when he builds a temple in his own name with the secret aim of immortalising himself. Here
also we find that the feeling of desperation that came in Arjuna’s mind due to the complete shattering of his mental equilibrium has been misnamed and glorified as ‘pity’. Arjuna had a long life of mental repressions which had created an infinite amount of dynamic energies seeking a field for expression. His mind got split up because of his egoistic evaluation of himself as the greatest hero of his
time, and because of his anxious desire for a victorious end of the war. The preoccupation of his mind, dreaming intensively, about the ultimate end of the war brought about a complete divorce between the ‘subjective’ and the ‘objective’ aspects of his mind.
The endeavour in Chapter I of the Geeta is to give the complete “case-history” of a patient suffering from the typical “Arjuna-disease.” The Bhagawad Geeta gives, as I said earlier, an extremely efficient “Krishna-cure” for this soul-killing “Arjuna-disease.”
Arjuna said: 28. Seeing these my kinsmen, O Krishna, arrayed, eager to fight,
29. My limbs fail and my mouth is parched, my body quivers and my hair stands on end.
In these two stanzas, there is an exhaustive enumeration of the symptoms that the patient could then recognise in his own physical body as a result of his mental confusions. That which Sanjaya had glorified as ‘pity’, when coming out of Arjuna’s own mouth, gains a more realistic expression. Arjuna says: “seeing my kinsmen gathered here anxiously determined to fight, my limbs shiver”…, etc. All these symptoms are described in the text-books of modern psychology as typical symptoms of the mental disease named ‘anxiety-state-neurosis.’
30 .The Gandiva-bow slips from my hand, and my skin burns all over; I am also unable to stand and my mind is whirling round, as it were.
Here Arjuna is adding some more details of the symptoms of his disease. Earlier we had a list of symptoms that manifested on the physical body. Now in this stanza, Arjuna tries to report recognised symptoms of the maladjustments at his mental level. Not only is his mind unsteady, agitated and chaotic, but it has lost all its morale. It has come down to the stupid level of accepting and recognising superstitious omens portending disastrous failures and imminent consequences.
31. And I see adverse omens, O Keshava. Nor do I see any good in killing my kinsmen in battle.
In this state of mental confusion, when his emotions have been totally divorced from his intellect, the ‘objectivemind,’ without the guidance of its ‘subjective-aspect,’ runs wild and comes to some unintelligent conclusions. He says, ‘I desire neither victory, nor empire, nor even pleasure.’ It is a recognised fact that a patient of hysteria, when allowed to talk, will, in a negative way, express the very cause for the attack. For example, when a woman, hysterically raving, repeatedly declares with all emphasis, that she is not tired of her husband that she still respects him, that he still loves her, that there is no rupture between them, etc., she, by these very words, clearly
indicates the exact cause of her mental chaos. Similarly, the very denials of Arjuna clearly indicate to all careful readers how and why he got into such a state of mental grief. He desired victory. He urgently wanted the kingdom. He anxiously expected to win pleasures for
himself and his relations. But the challenging look of the mighty Kaurava forces and the great and eminent warriors standing ready to fight, shattered his hopes, blasted his ambitions, and undermined his self-confidence and he slowly developed the well-known “Arjunadisease,” the cure for which is the theme of the Geeta.
32. For, I desire not victory, O Krishna, nor kingdom, nor pleasures. Of what avail is dominion to us, O Govinda? Of
what avail are pleasures or even life itself?
33. They for whose sake we desire kingdom, enjoyment and pleasures stand here in battle, having renounced life and wealth.
34. Teachers, fathers, sons and also grandfathers, maternal uncles, fathers-in-law, grandsons, brothers-in-law and other
Arjuna continues his arguments to Krishna against the advisability of such a civil war between the two factions of the same royal family. A Dharma-hunting Arjuna is here mentally manufacturing a case for himself justifying his cowardly retreat from the post of duty where destiny has called upon him to act. He repeats what he had said earlier because Krishna, with his pregnant silence, is criticising Arjuna’s attitude. The provocatively smiling lips of the Lord are whipping Arjuna into a sense of shame. He wants the moral support of his friend and charioteer to come to the conclusion that what he is feeling in his own mind is acceptable and just. But the endorsement and the intellectual sanction are not forthcoming from either the look of Krishna or the Lord’s words.
35. These I do not wish to kill, though they kill me, O Madhusudana, even for the sake of dominion over the three worlds; how much less for the sake of the earth.
Feeling that he had not expressed his case strongly enough to Krishna to make him come to this conclusion, and, assuming that it was because of this that the Lord had not given his assent to it, Arjuna decided to declare with a mock spirit of renunciation, that he had so much large-heartedness in him that he would not kill his cousins, even if they were to kill him. The climax came when Arjuna, with quixotic exaggeration, declared that he would not fight the war, even if he were to win all the three worlds of the universe, much less so for the mere Hastinapura-kingship.
36. Killing these sons of Dhritarashtra, what pleasure can be ours, O Janardana? Sin alone will be our gain by killing these felons.
In spite of all that Arjuna said so far, Krishna is as silent as a sphinx. Therefore, Arjuna gives up his melodramatic expression and assumes a softer, a more appealing tone and takes the attitude of explaining in vain, a serious matter to a dull-witted friend. The change of strategy becomes conspicuously ludicrous when we notice Krishna’s continued silence!!
In the first line of the stanza he explains to Krishna that no good can arise out of killing the sons of Dhritarashtra… still the wooden-smile of Krishna does not change and the Pandava hero, his intelligence shattered, tries to find a cause for Krishna’s attitude. Immediately, he remembers that the Kaurava brothers were behaving towards the Pandavas as felons. ‘Atatayinah’ means felons, who deserve to be killed according to the Artha Shastra. Sin is only a mistake committed by a misunderstood individual ego against its own Divine Nature as the Eternal Soul. To act as the body or the mind or the intellect is not to act up to the responsibilities of a man but it becomes an attempt to behave under the impulses of an animal. All those acts performed and motives entertained, which create grosser mental impressions and thereby build stronger walls between us and our cognition of the Real Divine Spark in ourselves are called sins.
Arjuna’s seemingly learned objection to killing enemies is a misinterpretation of our sacred texts (Shastra), and to have acted upon it would have been suicidal to our very culture. Therefore, Krishna refuses to show any sign either of appreciation or criticism of Arjuna’s stand. The Lord understands that his friend is raving hysterically and the best policy is to allow a mental patient first of all to bring
out everything in his mind and thus exhaust himself.
37. Therefore we shall not kill the sons of Dhritarashtra, our relatives; for how can we be happy by killing our own people, O
Here, Arjuna concludes his seemingly logical arguments which have got a false look of Hindu scriptural sanction. More than deliberate blasphemers of a scripture, the unconscious misinterpreters of a sacred text are the innocent criminals who bring about the wretched
downfall of its philosophy. Purring with the satisfaction of a cat in the kitchen, Arjuna, in this verse, is licking up his arguments all round and is coming to the dangerous conclusion that he should not kill the aggressors, nor face their heartless challenge! Even then Krishna is silent.
Arjun’s discomfiture makes him really quite conspicuous in his ugliness. In the second line of the stanza, he makes a personal appeal to Krishna and almost begs of him to think for himself and endorse Partha’s own lunatic conclusions. With the familiarity born out of his long-standing friendship, Arjuna addresses his charioteer with affection as Madhava, and asks him how one can come to any
happiness after one has destroyed one’s own kinsmen… Still, Krishna remains silent.
38. Though these, with their intelligence clouded by greed, see no evil in the destruction of the families in the society, and no
sin in their cruelty to friends; . . .
39. Why should not we, who clearly see evil in the destruction of the family-units, learn to turn away from this sin, O
No doubt, the Kauravas, grown blind in their greed for power and wealth, cannot see the destruction of the entire social structure by this war. Their ambition has so completely clouded their intelligence and sensibility that they fail to appreciate or understand the cruelty in
annihilating their own friends. But Arjuna seems to retain his reasoning capacity and can clearly foresee the chaos in which society will get buried by fratricidal war. Now his argument amounts to this: if a friend of ours, in his drunkenness, behaves nastily, it would be worse than drunkenness in us, if we were to retaliate; for, we are expected to know that our friend, with his fumed-up intelligence, does not entertain enough discriminative awareness of what he is doing. At such moments, it would be our duty to forgive the mischief and
overlook the impudence.
Similarly, here, Arjuna argues: “If Duryodhana and his friends are behaving as blind aggressors, should the Pandavas not retire quietly and suffer the ignominy of a defeat, and consider it their dutiful offering at the altar of peace?” How far this philosophy is dangerous in itself will be seen as we read more and more the passages of the Geeta and come to appreciate the pith of its philosophy which is the very kernel of our Hindu way-of-living. “Active resistance to evil” is the central idea in the doctrine expounded by Krishna in the Geeta
40. In the destruction of a family, the immemorial religious rites of that family perish; on the destruction of spirituality, impiety overcomes the whole family.
Just as a story-teller comes to add new details each time he narrates the same old story, so too, Arjuna seems to draw new inspiration from his foolishness, and each time his creative intelligence puts forth fresh arguments in support of his wrong philosophy. As soon as he finishes a stanza, he gets, as it were, a new lease of arguments to prattle, and takes refuge behind their noise.
He indicates here that, when individual families are destroyed, along with them the religious traditions of the society will also end, and soon an era of impiety will be ushered in. Cultural experiments were the pre-occupations of our fore-fathers and they knew that the culture and tradition of each family was a unit of the total culture and integrity of the whole nation. Hence the important of the family Dharma so seriously brought forth by Arjuna as an argument against this civil war.
41. By the prevalence of impiety, O Krishna, the women of the family become corrupt; and women being corrupted, O
descendent of the Vrishni-clan, there arises “intermingling of castes” (VARNA-SAMKARA) .
Continuing the argument in the previous verse, Partha declares the consequences that will follow when the true moral integrity of the families is destroyed. Slowly the morality in the society will wane and there will be an “admixture of castes.” Caste is a word, which, in its perverted meaning, has recently come in for a lot of criticism from the educated; and they, no doubt, are all justified, if caste, in reality,
meant what we understand it to be in our society today.
But what we witness around us, in the name of caste, is the ugly decadence into which the Hindu way-of-living has fallen. Caste, in those days, was conceived of as an intelligent division of the available manpower in the community on the basis of intellectual and mental
capacities of the individuals.
Those who were intellectuals and had a passion for research and study were styled Brahmanas (Brahmins); those who had political ambitions for leadership and took upon themselves the risky art of maintaining peace and plenty and saving the country from internal and external aggressions, were called the Kshatriyas; those who served the community though agriculture and trade were the
Vaishyas and, lastly, all those who did not fall in any of the above categories were styled as Shudras, whose duties in society were service and labour. Our modern social workers and officials, agricultural and industrial labourers all must fall under this noble category!
In the largest scope of its implication, when we thus understand the caste-system, it is the same as today’s professional groups. Therefore, when they talk so seriously about the inadvisability of “admixture of the castes,” they only mean what we already know to be true in our own social pattern: an engineer in charge of a hospital and working in the operation-theatre as a doctor would be a social danger, as much as a doctor would be if he is appointed as an officer for planning, guiding and executing a hydro-electric scheme!
When the general morality of society has decayed; the young men and women, blinded by uncontrolled passion, start mingling without restraint. And lust knows no logic and cares least for better evolution or better culture. There will be thereafter, unhealthy intermingling of incompatible cultural traits.
42. ‘Confusion of castes’ leads the slayer of the family to hell; for their forefathers fall, deprived of the offerings of PINDA (riceball) and water (libations) .
The argument is still continued and Arjuna points out the consequences of “caste-admixture.” When confusion of the castes has taken place, both outside in the moral life of true discipline and in one’s own inner temperament, then the family tradition gets flouted and ruined.
In the context of our discourses, we must understand that to the dead it is bread-and-water to see that their survivors maintain and continue the cultural purity that they themselves had so laboriously cultivated and inculcated into the minds of their children. In case the
society squanders away its culture, so laboriously built up as a result of the slow blossoming of the social values of life through generations of careful cultivation necessarily, we will be insulting the very labours of our ancestors. It is attractive and poetic, indeed, to conceive of the dead as watching over their survivors and observing their ways of living from the balcony of their heavenly abode! It would certainly be as painful as the pains of hunger and thirst to them if they were to find that their survivors were deliberately making a jungle of their laboriously laid gardens. Understood thus, the entire stanza appears to be very appropriate.
Each generation passes down the torch of its culture to the next generation, its children, and it is for them to preserve, tend and nourish that torch and hand it over carefully to the succeeding generation, if not more, at least no less bright, than when they got it.
In India, the sages discovered and initiated a culture that is spiritual, and this spiritual culture is maintained and worked out through religious practices, and therefore, culture and religion are, to the Hindu, one and the same. Very rarely we find any mention of the term culture, as such, in our ancient literature. More often we meet with the insistence on and the mention of our religious practices.
In fact, the Hindu religion is a technique by which this spiritual culture can be maintained and worked out in the community. Therefore, we find in these stanzas, and in similar contexts, always, an enthusiastic emphasis upon the religious life, whether it be in the family or in the
society. Dharma comprises those divine values-of-life by living which we manifest more and more the essential spiritual being in us. Family-Dharma (Kula-Dharma) is thus nothing but the rules of living, thinking, and acting in a united, well-planned family. By strictly following these rules we soon come to learn, in the prayer-rooms of our homes, how to live as better citizens of the Aryan-culture.
43. By these evil deeds of the ‘destroyers of the family, ‘ which cause confusion of castes, the eternal religious rites of the caste and the family are destroyed.
What was said in the discourse upon the last stanza will become amply clear by this statement of Arjuna. Here also he bemoans that, as a result of the civil war, the religious traditions of the family will all be lost and when he says so, as I have said earlier, if we understand religion as the “spiritual culture of India,” — the training for which was primarily given in the individual homes — then the stanza
becomes self-explanatory. We also know that, after a war there is a sudden cracking up of the existing cultural values in any society. Our modern world, panting and sighing under the burden of its own immoralities and deceits, is an example of how war brings about, not only
disabled men with amputated limbs, but also deeper ulcers and uglier deformities in their mental make-up. In these words, we can detect in Arjuna almost the world’s first conscientious objector to war! In these passages he offers a splendid series of pacifist arguments good for all times!!
44. We have heard, O Janardana, that it is inevitable for those men, in whose families the religious practices have been
destroyed, to dwell in hell for an unknown period of time.
Krishna still refuses to speak. Arjuna has come to a point where he can neither stop talking nor find any more arguments. Strangely compelling is the grace of the Lord’s dignified silence. Here, in the stanza, Arjuna almost concludes his arguments and mentions the tradition which he had heard, that “men whose family-religion has broken down will go to hell.”
But, on the other hand, when we understand the statement in all its scientific implications, even the worst of us will feel the immediate urgency for revolutionising our point of view. We have already seen that the family Dharma means, in the context of our times, only the
cultural purity in the family, which is the unit of the community. We also found that since their culture is essentially spiritual, to the Hindus “religion is culture.”
So, Arjuna implies that when the unity of home-life is shattered, and when purity of living and sanctity of thought are destroyed in the individual home-life, the generation that has caused such a shattering is ordering for itself and for others a melancholy era of hellish
sorrows and sufferings.
45. Alas! We are involved in a great sin, in that we are prepared to kill our kinsmen, from greed for the pleasures of the kingdom.
Though pitiable, it is indeed pleasantly ludicrous to watch Arjuna’s intellectual exhaustion and emotional weariness as expressed in this verse. In his effeminate lack of self-confidence here he bemoans, “Alas! We are involved, etc.” These words clearly show that instead of becoming a master of the situation, Arjuna is now a victim of it. He has not the virile confidence that he is the master of the circumstances and, therefore, with a creeping sense of growing inner cowardice, he feels almost helplessly persecuted.
This unhealthy mental weakness drains off his heroism and he desperately tries to put a paper-crown upon his cowardice, to make it look divine and angelic, and to parade it as ‘pity’. Thus, he deliberately misconstrues the very aim of the war and imputes a low motive to the
righteous war simply because he wants to justify his pacifist idea, which does not instinctively gurgle out from his known strength, but which oozes out from his ulcerated mind.
46. If the sons of Dhritarashtra, weapons-in-hand, slay me in battle, unresisting and unarmed, that would be better for me.
Here, Arjuna declares his FINAL opinion that, under the circumstances narrated during his long-drawn limping arguments, it is better for him to die in battle unresisting and unarmed, even if the Kauravas were to shoot him down, like a hunted deer, with a dozen arrows piercing his royal body! The word that Arjuna uses here is particularly to be noted; the texture of the word used is, in itself, a great commentary upon the thought in the mind of the one who has made the statement. Kshema is the material and physical victory, while Moksha is the spiritual Selfmastery. Though Arjuna’s arguments were all labouring hard to paint the idea that to have fought that was was against the spiritual culture of the country (Moksha), he himself stated in his conclusions that not to fight this war would be a material blessing (Kshema) inasmuch as an escape from the battle-field now is to gain, perhaps, sure physical security!!
In short, anxiety for the fruit-of-his-action (victory in battle) demoralised Arjuna and he got himself into an ‘anxiety-state-neurosis.’
Sanjaya said : 47. Having thus spoken in the midst of the battlefield, Arjuna sat down on the seat of the chariot, casting away his bow and arrow, with a mind distressed with sorrow.
The concluding stanza of this chapter contains the words of Sanjaya in which he gave the running commentary of what he saw on the battle-field. Exhausted by his weary arguments, Arjuna, completely shattered within, sank back on the flag-staff in the open chariot, throwing down his kingly weapons. This is the scene at which we shall leave Arjuna in the First Chapter of the Geeta.