Online Bhagwat Gita
You are here : BhagwatGita >> Chapter 1


1. "Dhritrashtr said, ‘Assembled at Kurukshetr , at Dharmkshetr, and eager for combat, O Sanjay, what did my and Pandu’s sons do?"’

Dhritrashtr is the very image of ignorance; and Sanjay is the embodiment of self-restraint. Ignorance lurks at the core of the objective, the outward-looking, mind. With his mind enveloped in darkness, Dhritrashtr is blind since birth, but he sees and hears through Sanjay, the epitome of self-control. He knows that God alone is real, but as long as his infatuation for Duryodhan born from ignorance lasts, his inner eye will be focused on the Kaurav, who symbolize the ungodly forces of negative, sinful impulses .

Dharm is a field for combat. When there is abundance of divinity in the realm of the heart, the body is transmuted into a Dharmkshetr ( field of dharm ), but it degenerates into a Kurukshetr when it is infested with demoniacal powers. Kuru means "do;" the word is an imperative. As Krishn has said, "Driven by the three properties born out of prakriti (nature) man is compelled to act; without action he cannot even live for a moment." These properties, virtue,ignorance, and passion, compel him to act. Even in sleep action does not cease, for it is the necessary sustenance for the body. The three properties bind men, from the level of gods to that of the lowest creatures such as worms. So long as the material world and its properties are, kuru must be. Therefore, the sphere of birth and death, of that which is evolved from a previous source or prakriti (nature) is Kurukshetr, whereas the sphere of righteous impulses which guide the Self to God, the highest spiritual reality, is Dharmkshetr.

Archaeologists are engaged in research in Punjab, Kashi, and Prayag to locate Kurukshetr. But the poet of the Geeta has himself suggested, through Krishn, where the war of his sacred poem was fought. "This body is itself, O Arjun, a battlefield, and one who conquers it grows spiritually dexterous by perceiving its essence." He then elaborates the structure of this "battlefield," sphere of action constituted of ten perceptors, the objective and the subjective mind, the ego, the five elements, and the three properties. The body itself is a field, a ring or an arena. The forces that clash on this field are twofold, the godly and the ungodly, the divine and the devilish, the offspring of Pandu and those of Dhritrashtr, the forces that are congenial to the essentially divine character of the Self and those which offend and demean it.

The clue to the mystery of the conflict between the opposed impulses begins to be seen when one turns for enlightenment to an exalted sage who has enriched himself with worship and meditation. This field belongs to one who realizes its essence, and the war fought on it is the only real war. History is crowded with wars of the world, but the victors in these wars have but sought in vain for a permanent conquest. These wars were nothing beyond acts ofretribution. True victory lies in subduing matter and in perceiving, as well as becoming one with, the Supreme Spirit that transcends it.This is the only conquest in which there is no prospect of defeat.This is true salvation after which there are no fetters of birth
and death.The mind lying in the abyss of ignorance perceives through one who has mastered the mind and the senses, and thus knows what has transpired on the battlefield, where fighters include even those who have known its reality. Vision is ever in proportion to mastery of the mind and the senses.

2. "Sanjay said, ‘At the time, after having seen the Pandav army standing in battle array, King Duryodhan approached his teacher Dronacharya and spoke thus.’ ’’

Dual conduct itself is Dronacharya. When the awareness dawns that we are alienated from God there arises in the heart an acute hunger far the attainment of that exalted Spirit. Only then do we set out to seek a an accomplished teacher, a realized sage (Guru) Between the two opposed impulses, this awareness is the first initiator into wisdom, although the teacher of ultimate excellence will be Yogeshwar Krishn.himself, an adept in yog. King Duryodhan, an embodiment of excessive attachment to worldly objects, goes to his teacher. Attachment is at the root of all griefs, indeed their sovereign. It tempts one away from the spiritual treasure and so it is named Duryodhan. Only the Soul property is the stable property and it is attachment which generates impurity in it. It draws one to the material world. But it also provides the primary motive for enlightenment. Inquisitiveness is possible only as long as there is attachment, or else only the impeccable Spirit remains.

So, after having seen the Pandav army arrayed, that is, after having glimpsed the righteous impulses that are in tune with the Self, Duryodhan, a victim of attachment, goes to his teacher Dronacharya and says:

3. "Behold, O master, this massive army of Pandu’s sons marshalled in battle formation by your wise pupil, the son of Drupad (Dhristdyumn).’’

Dhristdyumn, the son of Drupad, is the steadfast mind that treasures faith in the universal, immutable reality. He is thus the master, the type, of righteous impulses that lead to selfless activity in a spirit of egoless reverence to spiritual divinity. "Not means but the determination of mind needs to be firm.’’

Let us now review the Pandav army at length.

4. "Here in the army are many valiant archers, Yuyudhan, Virat and the great martial commander Drupad, who are a worthy match for to brave Arjun and Bheem, and...’’

This army is composed of those who can guide souls to the Supreme Spirit, like Bheem who is an embodiment of resolute sentiment, the image of tender devotion Arjun, and many other valiant warriors such as Satyaki, endowed with goodness, Virat and the great warrior leader Drupad, symbolizing consistency and steadfastness on the path of spirituality, and...

5. "Dhrishtketu, Chekitan, and the mighty King of Kashi, as well as Purujeet and Kuntibhoj, and Shaibya, the unparalleled among me and...’’

Dhrishtketu, the steadfast-in-duty, Chekitan, who can rein in his straying thought and concentrate it on the Supreme Spirit. The King of the holy city of Kashi, an emblem of the sacredness that resides within the world of the body. Purujeet, the one who obtains victory over matter in all its forms-gross, subtle, and instrumental. Kuntibhoj, who conquers world life by doing what is worthy of doing. Then Shaibya, of virtuous conduct.

6. "The valorous Yudhmanyu, the mighty Uttmauj, Saubhadr, ant Draupadi’s five sons, all great warriors.’’

The heroic Yudhmanyu of warlike temper; Uttmauj with the spirit of abandon that flows from sacred excellence; Abhimanyu (Saubhadr), Subhadra’s son, with a mind without fear because it is propped up by righteousness, and the five sons of Draupadi who herself is a form of discernment of the divine, all are great warriors named tenderness, beauty, compassion, spiritual repose and consistency. All of them are noted for their ability to traverse the path of spiritual fulfillment with perfect skill.

Duryodhan thus enumerates to his teacher about a score of names from the side of the Pandav, which represent some vital principles of divine excellence. Although the monarch of impulses that are alien to the essentially spiritual character of the Self, it is ignorance (attachment) that first motivates us to strive for the realization of the treasure of divinity.

As for his own side, Duryodhan dwells on it but briefly. Had it been an actual, external war, he would have given an elaborate account of his army. But only a few perversions are cited, for they have to be conquered and they are destructible. There are mentioned only about half a dozen of these, at the heart of all of which there yet dwells an unworldly propensity.

7. "Be it known to you, O the worthiest of the twice-born (Brahmins), the names of those who are most eminent amongst us, the chiefs of our army; these I now name for your information."

"The worthiest of the twice-born." That is how Duryodhan addresses his teacher Dronacharya before he introduces to him the chiefs of his army. "The worthiest of the twice-born" would hardly be an appropriate term of address for a commander-in-chief if the war were a physical, external war. In fact, the Geeta dwells upon the conflict between contradictory innate impulses, upon the dual conduct which is Dronacharya. The world of matter exists and there is duality if we are even in the least isolated from God. However, the urge, too, for overcoming this duality of object-spirit is derived first from the teacher Dronacharya. It is imperfect knowledge that induces the hunger for enlightenment.

It is now time to have a look at the leaders of the impulses which are hostile to the essentially sacred character of the Self.

8. " Your venerable self, Bheeshm and Karn, and also Kripa-victor in wars, Ashwatthama and Vikarn, as well as Saumdutti (Bhurishrawa, son of Somdutt).’’

The commander-in-chief is Dronacharya himself, symbolizing dual conduct. And then there is the grandsire Bheeshm, the very image of delusion. Delusion is the fountainhead of deviation from the ideal state. Since it survives till the very end, delusion is the grandsire. The whole army has perished, but Bheeshm yet lives on. He lies unconscious on his bed of arrows and still continues io breathe. Like Bheeshm, too, are Karn, a betrayer of the sacred character of Self, and the conquering warrior Kripacharya. Kripacharya represents the act of compassion by the seeker in the state before Self-realization. God is the mine of compassion and the sage attains to the same state after fulfillment. But during the period up to accomplishment, so long as the worshipper is removed from God and God is removed from him, when the uncongenial impulses are still alive and strong, and he is besieged by delusion-if the seeker feels compassion at this stage, he is destroyed. For acting with pity, Sita had to undergo penance in Lanka for years . Vishwamitr fell from grace because he felt tenderness at such a stage. Maharshi Patanjali, the preceptor of yog-aphorism, has expressed a similar view. "Attainments made, through perfect meditation are indeed attainments, but they are also as formidable obstacles in the way of the endeavour of the individual Soul for identification with the Supreme Spirit as sensual desire, anger, greed, and delusion." Goswami Tulsidas has said, "O Garud, manifold are obstacles built up by maya when we strive to unravel the knots of properties of nature-mere distortions of truth. Attainment of sanctity elevates, but the mind conjures up one temptation after another.’’

The illusory maya obstructs in many ways. It brings men accomplishments and untold wealth, and even turns them into holy beings. If a being of such accomplishment just passes by, even a dying man is revived. Notwithstanding the recovery of the patient, however, the seeker shall be destroyed if he regards the cure as his own achievement. Instead of one sickness a thousand maladies will swarm upon his mind, the process of reverent contemplation of the divine will be interrupted, and he will so stray from the right path that the world of matter overwhelms him. If the goal is distant and the seeker feels compassion, this one act alone is sufficient to result in the debacle of his whole army. So he has to be on his guard against the feeling of compassion until the moment of final attainment, although at the same time it is also true that compassion is the hallmark of a saint. But before ultimate fulfillment, compassion is the mightiest warrior among the evil, demoniacal impulses. It is thus that Ashwatthama is an image of inordinate attachment, Vikarn of indecision, and Bhurishrawa of perplexity and confusion. They are all chiefs of the outward flowing current of life.

9. "And (there are) many other skilled warriors, too, equipped with numerous arms, who have forsaken hope of life for my sake.’’

And many other valiant warriors are resolved, Duryodhan intimates to Dronacharya, to fight for his sake even at the cost of their life. But there is no precise enumeration of them. Duryodhan then points out the innate qualities with which each of the two armies is fortified.

10. "Our army defended by Bheeshm is unconquerable, while their army defended by Bheem is easy to vanquish.’’

Duryodhan’s army, "defended" by Bheeshm, is invincible, whereas the opposing army of the Pandav, "defended" by Bheem, is easy to conquer. The use of ambiguous puns such as a paryaptam and aparyaptam is itself a sign of Duryodhan’s doubtful state of mind. So we have to look carefully at the power that Bheeshm represents on which all the Kaurav hopes rest, as well as the quality symbolized by Bheem which the Pandav-endowed with the treasure of divinity-rely upon. Duryodhan then gives his final estimate of the situation.

11. "So, while keeping to your respective stations in the several divisions, all of you should doubtlessly protect Bheeshm alone on all sides."

Duryodhan commands all his chiefs to keep to their posts and yet protect Bheeshm on all sides. The Kaurav cannot be defeated if Bheeshm is safe and alive. So it is obligatory for all the Kaurav chiefs to defend Bheeshm rather than fight with the Pandav. This is intriguing. After all, what kind of "defender" is this Bheeshm who cannot even defend him self? What complicates the matter even more is that the Kaurav are also wholly dependent on him. So they have to devise all possible measures of defence for him. This is certainly no physical warrior. Bheeshm is delusion. So long as delusion is alive, unrighteous impulses cannot be vanquished. "Invincible" here means "difficult to vanquish" rather than "impossible to vanquish." As Goswami Tulsidas has said, "The most difficult to conquer is the hostile world of matter and the one who subdues it is indeed heroic.’’

If delusion ceases, ignorance too ceases to exist and the residues of negative feelings such as excessive attachment hasten to a quick demise. Bheeshm is blessed with death by wish. So the death of desire and death of delusion are one and the same. This idea has been so lucidly expressed by Sant Kabir: "Since desire is the maker of birth and illusion, and it is desire that creates the material world, he who abandons desire is the one who cannot be conquered.’’

That which is free from delusion is eternal and unmanifest. Desire is illusion and progenitor of the world. In Kabir’s view, "the Self which achieves freedom from desire is united with the fathomless, eternal, boundless reality. One who is free from desire dwells within the Self and never falls from grace, for he has his being in the Supreme Spirit." At the beginning there are numerous desires, but eventually there remains only a longing for the realization of God. The fulfillment, too, of this wish also marks the end of desire. Had there been something higher, greater, or more precious than God, one, would surely have craved for it. But when there is nothing beyond or above him, what else can be desired? When all things that can be had are achieved, the very roots of desire are destroyed and delusion perishes utterly. This is Bheeshm’s death by wish. Thus, defended by Bheeshm, Duryodhan’s army is invincible in every respect. Ignorance is present as long as there is delusion. When delusion is dead, ignorance also dies.

The Pandav army, on the contrary, defended as it is by Bheem, is easy to conquer. Bheem is the very image of sentiment. "God dwells in feeling.’’ Krishn has described it as devotion. It lays hold on even God. The sentiment of devotion is a pious impulse of flawless perfection. It is a protector of righteousness. On the one hand so resourceful that it brings about realization of the Supreme Spirit, on the other hand it is also so delicate and fragile that this day’s fidelity and adherence often turn into nothingness and even outright privation on the next day. Today we admire a sage for his virtue, but the very next day we grumble and cavil because we have seen him relishing delicacies. Devotion is shaken by suspicion of even the slightest flaw in the loved one. The impulse of righteousness is undermined and the ties with the object of affectionate devotion are broken. So it is that the Pandav army defended by Bheem can be conquered with ease. Maharshi Patanjali has given expression to a similar view. "Only meditation practised for a long time with constant devotion and reverence can be firm.’’

Now let us listen to the flourish of the warriors’ conches.

12. "To Duryodhan’s delight then, his mighty grandsire and the eldest of the Kaurav (Bheeshm) blew his conch to blare forth a lion-like roar.’’

Conches are blown after the Kaurav have taken stock of their strength. The trumpeting of conches is a declaration of the intention, of each of the chiefs, of what he can offer after conquest. The mighty grandsire Bheeshm, the eldest of the Kaurav, blows his conch to produce a lion-like roar which gladdens Duryodhan’s heart. The lion represents the terrible, tooth-and-claw, aspect of nature. Our hair stands on end and our hearts beat violently when we hear the roar of a lion in a still, solitary forest even though we are miles away from the beast. Fear is a property of nature, not of God. Bheeshm is the very image of delusion. If delusion prevails, it will enwrap the material world’s forest of fear which we inhabit in yet another shroud of fear to make the existing dread even more frightening. Delusion cannot offer anything else except this. So renunciation of the material world is the right step for one who quests for Self-realization. Worldly inclinations are like a mirage-a mere shadow of ignorance, and the Kaurav have nothing to declare against this. Numerous conches from their side are trumpeted simultaneously, but they altogether inspire no other feeling except fear. Fear, although in varying degrees, is born out of each perversion. Similar is also the message of the conches of the other Kaurav chiefs.

13. "Then there abruptly arose a tumult of conches and kettledrums, tabors, drums, and cow-horns.’’

After Bheeshm’s blowing of his conch, numerous other conches, drums, and trumpets are sounded together, and they make an awesome noise. The Kaurav have no message other than that of fear. Intoxicated with a sense of false success, the outward-looking impulses that offend and demean the human Soul render the bonds of infatuation yet stronger.

Now the Pandav, representing righteous impulses that are in harmony with the divine character of the Self, respond to the Kaurav challenge with their own declarations, the first of which is made by Yogeshwar Krishn himself.

14. "Then, too, Madhav (Krishn) and Pandu’s son (Arjun), seated in the magnificent chariot to which white steeds were yoked, blew their celestial conches.’’

After the Kaurav, Krishn and Arjun, riding in their magnificent, sacred chariot drawn by flawlessly white horses ("white" symbolizes purity), also blow their "celestial" conches. "Celestial" means beyond the material world. Yogeshwar Krishn’s transcendental message is a promise to render unto souls the most auspicious, unworldly existence that is beyond the worlds of both mortals and gods, and verily the whole universe (Brahmlok), which are all afflicted with the fear of birth and death. The chariot under his charge is not made of gold and silver and wood; everything about him is celestial, the chariot, the conch and, therefore, also his message. Beyond these worlds there is only the one unique and indescribable God. Krishn’s message is of establishing a direct contact with this Supreme Being. But how will he effect this state?

15. ‘‘While Hrishikesh (Krishn) blew his conch Panchjanya and Dhananjay (Arjun) the conch named Devdutt, the Vrikodar (Bheem) of awesome deeds blew the great conch Paundr.’’

So Hrishikesh (lord of the senses), who knows all the mysteries of the human heart, blows the conch Panchjanya. This is a declaration of his intent to restrain the five organs of perception which correspond to word, touch, form, taste, and smell, and to transmute their inclinations into devotion. Exerting control on the wild senses and disciplining them into faithful servitors is the gift from an accomplished teacher; the gift, indeed, from the admired God. Krishn is a yogi, an ideal teacher. As Arjun says in the Geeta, " Lord, I am thy disciple." It is only an accomplished teacher; who can make us relinquish all objects of sensual pleasure, and to see and listen to and touch nothing except the coveted God.

Dhananjay (the victor of wealth) is the affectionate devotion that attains to the state of divine exaltation. This devotion is a feeling of tenderness for the desired object, which includes within itself all the experiences of devotees, even pangs of separation and occasional disenchantment and tears. There should be nothing for a devotee except the longed-for God. If the devotion to him is perfect, it embraces the virtues that provide access to the Supreme Spirit. Dhananjay is another name of this faculty. One kind of wealth is the external riches which are needed for physical sustenance,but that has nothing to do with the Self. The really lasting wealth of man, which he can truly call his own, is realization of his Self, the God within. In the Brihadaranyak Upanishad, Yagnavalkya teaches the same to his wife Maitreyi when she asks him, "My lord, if this whole earth belonged to me with all its riches, should I through its possession attain immortality?" The sage replies, "No, your life would be like that of the wealthy. None can possibly hope to be immortal through wealth.’’

Bheem of awesome deeds blows his great conch Paundr, which denotes sentiment. The heart is the spring as well as the habitat of feeling. This is why Bheem is called Vrikodar, the large-hearted. You are attached to a child, but that attachment belongs essentially to your heart. It only manifests itself in the child. Sentiment is fathomless and mighty, and this sentiment is Bheem’s great conch that is now blown. The affection that he represents is embodied in sentiment. That is why Bheem blows the conch named Paundr. However, although sentiment is mighty, it can be so only through the medium of love. Goswami Tulsidas admits that he has known the omnipresence of God only through its manifestation in love.

16. "King Yudhisthir, the son of Kunti, blew the conch Anantvijay, whereas Nakul and Sahdev blew their conches Sughosh and Manipushpak."

King Yudhisthir blows the conch Anantvijay (endless conquest). Kunti is the very image of dutifulness; and Yudhisthir, the embodiment of dharm (natural piety). If one’s adherence to dharm is steady, Anantvijay will bring about the absorption of the Self in the boundless God. The one who is firm in battle is Yudhisthir: one who is unshaken by the conflicts between Self and the material world-between the body and the transcendental Soul, and to whom the essence of the sphere of action has been revealed. He is enabled eventually, by God who alone is real, ceaseless, and immutable, to overcome all the contradictions.

Nakul, who is a symbol of restraint, blows the conch named Sughosh. As restraint grows firmer, evil is subdued and the dominance of righteousness is proclaimed. Sahdev, the adherer to truth, blows on the conch which bears the name of Manipushpak. Sages have described each breath as a precious ruby. "What a pity that we squander the jewels of our breath on idle gossip!" One kind of satsang is the moral discourse we hear from noble men, but the real spiritual discourse is internal. According to Krishn, the Self alone is true and eternal. True satsang comes about when the mind reins itself in from all externals and dwells with the Self. This adherence to truth is cultivated by incessant reflection, meditation, and samadhi. The more joy one feels in dwelling with the one reality, the more restraint one gains over each breath, the mind, and the instruments by which objects of sense affect the Self. The day they are totally restrained is the day when we are absorbed in the ultimate essence. Providing, like a good instrument, harmonious accompaniment to the song of the Self is true satsang.

The physical ruby is hard, but the jewel of breath is even more tender than a flower. Flowers fall and wither soon after they bloom, and we can never say that we shall live until the next breath. But if there is true adherence to the Self, it leads us to realize the highest goal through providing control over each breath. There is nothing to proclaim beyond this, although each device is helpful in traversing a certain stretch of the path of spiritual perfection. Sanjay further speaks on the subject:

17-18. "The King of Kashi, a great bowman, Shikhandi who dwells in the Supreme Spirit, the unvanquished Dhristdyumn, Virat and Satyaki, Drupad and the sons of Draupadi, and Subhadra’s son of powerful arms (Abhimanyu), all blew, O lord of the earth, their own conches.’’

The sacred city of Kashi is an emblem of the sacredness that resides in the physical body. When a man withdraws his mind and sense organs from all physical things and concentrates on the Self within his body, he is privileged to merge with and dwell within God. The body which is capable of such a union is Kashi. The Supreme Spirit dwells in and pervades every single body. So "parmeshwasah" here means dwelling in the Supreme Spirit rather than a "mighty warrior.’’

Shikhandi represents the rejection of shikha-sutr (sacred signs traditionally worn by Hindus). There are people who believe they have achieved renunciation just because they have got their heads shaved clean, cast away their sacred threads, and stopped lighting fire. But they are mistaken, for, as a matter of fact, shikha symbolizes a goal which has to be attained, and sutr the merits of action in a previous existence (sanskar). The chain of sanskar is intact so long as God has yet to be realized. How can there be true renunciation till the moment of that fulfillment? Till then we are only wayfarers. Delusion subsides only when the desired God is attained and the merits of previous deeds are reduced to nothing. So it is Shikhandi who proves to be the undoing of Bheeshm, the image of delusion and self-deception. Shikhandi represents the unique quality that is essential for the man who chooses the path of reflection, a truly mighty fighter on his side.

Dhristdyumn, the steadfast mind that treasures faith in the universal, immutable divinity, and Virat, capable of perceiving the omnipresence of the great God, are the main constituents of sacred excellence. Satyaki is truthfulness. There can never be a fall from piety as long as there is truthfulness or the desire to ponder over truth, it always protects us from being routed in the war between spirit and matter.

Drupad, representing the ideal of consistency and steadfastness in the performance of duty, the five sons of meditation-like Draupadi, symbols of compassion, tenderness, beauty, and spiritual repose, who are all great warriors providing assistance to the quest for the desired goal, and the long-armed Abhimanyu, all blow their separate conches. "Arm" is a symbol of the sphere of action. When the mind is freed from fear, its reach is immensely enlarged.

So Sanjay addresses Dhritrashtr and acquaints him with how the chiefs of the Pandav army have made their proclamations with their conches. Each one of them is a prerequisite of the skill of traversing a certain length of the way to spiritual emancipation. Their observance is necessary and that is why they are enumerated in detail. However, there is, after these preliminary stages, that stretch of the path which is beyond the perceiving mind and intellect. This is the length along which one is enabled to travel only by the blessedness of the great God’s awakening within the Self. He stands up from the Self as vision and is self-evident.

19. "The loud tumult, reverberating through heaven and earth, pierced the hearts of Dhritrashtr’s sons.’’

The great tumult, echoing through heaven and earth, rends the hearts of Dhritrashtr’s sons. There is the Pandav army, too, but the hearts that are rent are only those of Dhritrashtr’s sons. When the manna of Panchjanya, made up of true knowledge, realization of the infinite, destruction of evil, and affirmation of piety, begins to flow, the Kaurav hearts with their unrighteous and outward-looking impulses cannot but be rent. Their power wanes by and by. And if the process meets with success, infatuation ceases to exist altogether.

20-22. "Then, O King, after viewing the sons of Dhritrashtr in array, when the discharge of missiles was about to commence, Kunti’s son (Arjun), whose ensign bore the image of Hanuman, raised his bow and spoke to Hrishikesh thus: ‘O Achyut (Krishn), keep my chariot between !he two armies so that I may watch those who are formed up for combat and know whom I have to fight in the ensuing battle.’ ’’

Sanjay, an epitome of self restraint, endeavours to enlighten the mind lying under a pall of ignorance by pointing out that apart from the other exemplary captains of the Pandav army there is the Hanuman-ensign of Arjun. Hanuman, a symbol of true renunciation. Disenchantment with the world and the desire to renounce it are the mark of Arjun’s battle-standard. Some interpreters have named this standard"monkey-ensign" because of its frenzied fluttering. But this is unacceptable, for the primate exhibited on the ensign is no common monkey but Hanuman himself who has risen above all distinctions. To him honour and dishonour are the same. Giving up lust for material objects which have been heard or seen, of worldly objects and sensual pleasures, is renunciation. So, after having seen Dhritrashtr’s sons arrayed just when missiles are about to be launched, Arjun, whose distinctive mono is renunciation, lifts his bow and speaks to Hrishikesh, the lord of senses and knower of the mysteries of the heart, addressing him as the "infallible." He requests his charioteer to station the chariot between the two armies. His words, however, are not words of command to a charioteer, but a prayer by a devotee to the worshipped one, an accomplished teacher. But why does he want Krishn to park the chariot?

Arjun wants to ascertain well who the warriors intent upon battle are, whom he has to fight in this business of warfare.

23. "Since I wish to observe those who have assembled here to fight for pleasing Dhritrashtr’s wicked-minded son (Duryodhan) in the battle.’’

Arjun wants the chariot to be parked in front of the Kaurav so that he may see the kings, desirous of battle, who have joined the evil-minded Duryodhan for the sake of his happiness-for Duryodhan who represents excessive attachment. Arjun wishes to observe well the kings who have assembled to fight in the war for the cause of infatuation.

24-25. ‘‘Thus addressed by Gudakesh, descendant of Bharat (Dhritrashtr), Hrishikesh parked the unique chariot between the two armies, in front of Bheeshm, Dron, and all the other kings, and said, ‘Behold, O son of Pritha (Arjun), the assembled Kuru.’ ’’

Sanjay informs Dhritrashu how on being requested by Arjun, who has mastered sleep, Krishn, who knows all that is to know of the mind and heart, parks the chariot of unexcelled beauty in the midst of all the kings who have staked out claims on the earth which is the body in macrocosm, and asks Parth to behold the assembled Kaurav. The "excellent" chariot in question is made of neither gold nor silver, nor of any material substance. Excellence is defined in this world in terms of its agreeableness or disagreeableness to the mortal body. But such a view is misleading, for that alone is excellence which is always one with the real, the Self, and which has no unrighteousness or impurity about it.

26-1/28. "Parth then saw, mustered in the two armies, uncles, granduncles, teachers, maternal uncles, brothers, sons, grandsons and friends, as well as fathers-in-law and well-wishers. Seeing all these kinsmen assembled together and overwhelmed by intense pity, he spoke thus in great sorrow:"

Parth, the perfect marksman who has made a chariot of his earthformed body, looks at the army and sees his kinsmen. What is noteworthy is that in the two armies he sees only his own family, the families of maternal uncles, and of fathers-in-law, friends, and teachers. According to scholarly estimates, the two armies of the Mahabharat consisted of eighteen akshauhini chariots, elephants, horses, and foot soldiers, which is approximately 650 million, a very large number indeed. It hardly needs saying how the world is faced today with numerous grave problems of food and housing on account of rising population. So what are we to make of it when we are told that just three or four families of Arjun’s kinsmen are so large in number? Is it possible for any family to be so huge? The answer must be in the negative. So what we have here is a portrayal not of physical armies but of the sphere of the mind and heart. Overcome with deep compassion, when he sees all his kinsmen mustered for battle, Arjun speaks in grief. He grieves because he sees that he has to fight his own family.

2/28-30. "Arjun said, ’Seeing these kith and kin, mustered with the purpose of waging war, O Krishn, my limbs grow weak, my mouth is dry, my body trembles, my hair stands on end, the Gandeev (Arjun’s bow) slips from my hand, my skin is burning all over, I am unable to stand, and my mind is bewildered.’’

Looking at the gathering of his kinsmen, Arjun is unnerved. His body grown inert, his mouth is parched, his limbs tremble, and his hair stands erect. The Gandeev falls from his hand and his skin is hot. He is sorely distressed by the prospect of a war in which his own kinsmen face him. He is confused. He bewails that he cannot even stand properly and look ahead.

31. "I see, O Madhav (Krishn), inauspicious portents, and I can perceive no prefix in the idea of slaughtering kinsmen in the battle.’’

Arjun sees adverse signs of the impending war. He does not see anything propitious in the slaying of his own family. How can any good result from such killing?

32. ‘‘I aspire, O Krishn, after neither victory nor a realm and its pleasures for of what avail is sovereignty to us, O Govind (Krishn), or enjoyment, or even life itself?"

Arjun’s whole family is on the brink of war. So he does not wish for either victory or the kingdom that this victory may bring him, or even the pleasures of that kingdom. Of what use will be a kingdom or enjoyment or life to him? He then states the reasons for his reluctance to fight in the war:

33. "They for whose sake we crave for a kingdom, pleasures, and enjoyments are formed up here, putting at stake both their life and wealth.’’

The family, for whose sake Arjun has desired the happiness of a kingdom and other pleasures, is now mustered on the battlefield despairing of its life. If he had desired a kingdom, it was for them. If he had hungered for the pleasures of wealth and indulgence, it was because he wanted to enjoy it along with his kith and kin. But he now desires neither a kingdom nor pleasures, nor enjoyment, because he sees his kinsmen standing against him without any hope of life. Whatever he had desired was dear to him for their sake. But he does not need these things if he has to get them at the cost of his kinsmen. Desires remain as long as there are family ties. Even a poor man having only a wretched hovel to live in will not accept an empire extending over the entire length and breadth of the world if for this he has to kill his family, friends, and kinsmen. Arjun says the same thing. He is fond of pleasures and he loves victory, but of what good can they be to him if the very people for whom be desires these rewards are no longer with him? Of what use will enjoyment of pleasures be in their absence? After all, who are the people he will have to kill in the war?

34-35. "Teachers, uncles, nephews as well as granduncles, maternal uncles, fathers-in-law, grandnephews, brothers-in-law, and other kinsmen. Though they might slay me, I yet have no desire to kill them, O Madhusudan (Krishn), even for a realm made up of the three worlds, still less for this earth alone.’’

The people to be slain are Arjun’s own flesh and blood. As he tells Krishn sorrowfully, he does not wish to harm his kinsmen although in doing so he might lose his own life at their hands, even for ruling over all the three worlds.

In an army formed of approximately 650 million men Arjun can see only his own family. Who really are these innumerable kinsmen? Arjun verily is an image of tender devotion. His dilemma is the one that faces every devotee when he sets out on the path of worshipful adoration (bhajan). It is everyone’s desire that he should attain the highest reality by reverence and worship. But he is filled with despair when, under an experienced and accomplished teacher’s tutelage, he comes to understand the fundamental nature of the conflict between the material body and the divine Self, and realizes against whom he has to wage his war. He wishes that his father’s family, his wife’s family, his maternal uncle’s family, people who love him, friends, and teachers should all live with him in happiness, and that, while providing for all of them, he should also attain to God. So he is confused when confronted with the fact that in order to forge ahead in his task of worship he has to abandon his family. Because of his attachment, the prospect of severing the bonds of kinship confuses and unnerves him.

My noble teacher, the revered Paramhans Parmanand Ji used to say, "To be a sadhu (ascetic) is the same as to die." Even if the universe has beings whom he regards as living, there is no one whom the ascetic can regard as belonging to his own family. As long as there is such a one, the feeling of attachment remains. As for this weakness, the one who is striving to realize his Self is a winner only when he rejects and destroys his attachment as well as all the other associated feelings. What is this world but an extension of the ties of attachment? What is there in it for us in the absence of these bonds? The world as we know it is only an extension of the mind. Yogeshwar Krishn has portrayed the same extension of the mind as the world. The man who has withstood and subdued its power has conquered the whole universe. Krishn tells Arjun in the nineteenth verse of Chapter 5, "The whole cosmos is overcome even in this world by those whose minds repose in equality." Such a state of calm, of mental equipoise, is made possible by the complete annihilation of ego. This frees the mind from its self-centered subservience to the material world. After ego has ceased to exist, only the Self remains in a pure state. So this is the way to attainment of salvation and final beatitude (brahmavastha) which transcends the transitory life of nature. It is thus that those who have realized this state are not subject to the limitations of the material world.

It is not that only Arjun is confused. Affectionate attachment resides in every heart, and everyone with such a feeling is in a state of confusion. Kith and kin are always in the foreground of a man’s consciousness. At the beginning he believes that his sacred adoration will be helpful in his endeavour to make his kinsmen happy. He looks forward to enjoying his acquisitions along with them. But what shall he do with the happiness if his own people are no longer with him? So is it with Arjun. His vision has so far been limited to the pleasures that can be had from a kingdom and heaven.

He has till now envisaged the ultimate happiness in terms of heaven and a realm composed of the three worlds. If there is any reality beyond this, Arjun yet has no inkling of it.

36. "What happiness can we have, O Janardan (Krishn), from slaying these sons of Dhritrashtr? Only sin will fall to our lot if we kill even these wicked men."

What happiness can Arjun gain from killing Dhritrashtr’s sons? Dhritrashtr denotes the "insolent or profligate nation," and born from it is Duryodhan, the image of infatuation. But shall even the slaying of such an evil kinsman make Arjun and Krishn happy? The Kaurav are unrighteous, but the Pandav will be only guilty of sin if they kill them. We call men evildoers if they adopt impious ways for their livelihood. In fact, however, the worst felons are those who put obstructions in the way of the Self. The gravest offenders in this respect are lust, wrath, avarice, and inordinate attachment which obstruct one’s realization of the Self.

37. "So it is not for us to kill Dhritrashtr’s sons, for how indeed can we be happy, O Madhav (Krishn), if we slaughter our own kinsmen?"

Is it not surprising that the Kaurav are at this moment seen as kith and kin? Didn’t they come to the battlefield as foes? In truth, physical relationship arises from ignorance. He is my maternal uncle; here is my wife’s family; this is the community of my own people. What are all these, but ignorance? We have people who are affectionate to us and we have our family, and we have our world,but all these we have only as long as there is attachment. All such ties are demolished when there is no attachment. That is why even sworn enemies now appear to Arjun as kinsmen. He asks Krishn how they can be happy by killing their kinsmen. Without ignorance and attachment the idea of family cannot exist. Paradoxically, however, it is this ignorance that also provides the initial urge for knowledge, Some great men like Bhartrihari and Tulsidas were driven to renunciation by their spouses, whereas there are examples of many others who have gone the same way because of their disillusionment with the conduct of a stepmother.

38-39. "Although, with their minds vitiated by greed, they (the Kaurav) have no awareness of the evil they do in destroying families and in being treacherous to friends, why should we, O Janardan, who know that it is evil to destroy families, not turn away from the sinful act?"

Straying from righteousness because of their arrogance and avarice, the Kaurav are blind to the sin they commit by destroying families and practising treachery against friends. This is their error. Bur why, Arjun wishes to know from Krishn, should they themselves, knowing the evils of destroying families, not desist from the crime? What deserves special notice here is Arjun’s belief that not only he, but Krishn, too, is about to make the same error. So he also indirectly accuses Krishn. Every novice taking refuge in an accomplished teacher reasons in the same way. Arjun is under the impression that perhaps the problem that is bothering him has not yet occurred to, Krishn. All the same, they are both reasonable men and it is required of them to think of the evil consequences of destroying a family.

40. "In case of the destruction of a family its eternal sacred traditions are lost, and impiety afflicts the whole family with the loss of its values.’’

Until now Arjun has viewed family traditions as the eternal (Sanatan) Dharm. And he also believes that with the loss of these traditions, families are laden with sin.

41. "When sin prevails, O Krishn, women of the family stray from virtue, and when they are unchaste, O descendant of the ‘Vrishnis (Varshneya: Krishn), there is generated an unholy mixture of classes (varnsankar).’’

When unrighteous ways dominate a family, its women lose their chastity and there arises an intermingling of different classes, of incompatible cultures and ways of living. According to Arjun, this sinful intermingling occurs when women lose their virtue. But Krishn contradicts this: "I am fully contented in the Self and there is nothing more precious which is beyond my reach. Yet I continue to practise meditation and renunciation, and urge others to the same. But these are only means and not the goal, and when the goal is achieved who cares for the means? So if the achiever such as I neglects the means, his followers of an inferior merit will emulate him and they, too, will give up the required means. Confused and misled from the path of Self-realization, they then perish." Lacking in true achievement, they only swagger emptily as if they were perfect. This imitation creates a chaos. There remains no distinction between the deserving and the undeserving. This confusion is varnsankar and the teacher himself is held responsible for this disorder. That is why an ideal teacher always teaches by his own conduct.

For a while, however, he chooses to remain silent, and Arjun goes on with his elaboration of the evils of varnsankar.

42. "The unholy intermingling of classes condemns the destroyer of the family as well as the family itself to hell, for their ancestors, deprived of the offerings of obsequial cakes of rice and water libations, fall (from their heavenly abode).’’

It is a quality of varnsankar to despatch families and their destroyers to hell. Divested of obsequial gifts of rice cakes, their forefathers also lose their heavenly home. The present is destroyed, the ancestors of the past fall, and the posterity to come will also descend to hell. Not only this, but-

43. "The sin committed by destroyers of families, which causes an intermingling of classes, puts to an end the timeless dharm of both caste and family.’’

According to Arjun, the evils of varnsankar destroy the traditions of both families and their destroyers, He holds the view that family traditions are changeless and eternal. But Krishn refutes this later by asserting that Self alone is the changeless and eternal Sanatan Dharm. Before a man has realized the essence of this Sanatan Dharm, he gives credence to some tradition or the other. Such is Arjun’s belief at the moment, but in Krishn’s view it is a mere delusion.

44. "We have heard, O Janardan, that hell is indeed the miserable habitat, for an infinite lime, of men, the traditions of whose families have been destroyed."

Men whose family traditions are destroyed have to dwell in hell endlessly. What is significant though is that Arjun has only heard so. As he believes, with the destruction of a family, not only its traditions but also its changeless, everlasting dharm is destroyed. He thus equates traditions with Sanatan Dharm. It is well known, he says, how a man has to suffer in hell for the loss of his dharm. But he has only heard so: not seen, but only heard of it.

45. "Tempted by the pleasures of temporal power, alas, what a heinous crime have we resolved to commit by killing our own kith and kin!"

How regrettable that although possessed of wisdom, they are yet determined to commit a grave sin by being intent upon killing their own family because of greed of regal power and its pleasures. At this point Arjun regards his knowledge as in no way less than that of Krishn. All seekers, as it has already been said, feel thus at the outset. According to Mahatma Buddh, so long as a man has only partial knowledge he regards himself as a repository of great wisdom, but as he begins to learn the second half of the knowledge he has to acquire, he regards himself as a great fool. Arjun considers himself a wise man in the same way. He takes the liberty of persuading Krishn that it is simply not possible that their sinful act can have any propitious outcome, and also that their resolve to destroy their family is motivated by sheer greed of sovereignty and its pleasures. They are really committing a terrible error. Convinced that the error is not only his, he has a dig at Krishn when he remarks that the error is also his. And, at last, he delivers his final view of the matter:

46. "I shall indeed prefer the prospect of being slain by the armed sons of Dhritrashtr while (I am myself) unarmed and unresisting.’’

His death at the hands of Dhritrashr’s’s armed sons, while he himself is unarmed and unresisting, will be according to Arjun a fortunate event. History will then remember him as a magnanimous man who had averted a war by sacrificing his own life. People forsake their lives for the happiness of tender, innocent children so that the family may thrive. People go abroad and live in luxurious mansions, but after two days they begin to pine for their discarded hovels. Such is the strength of attachment. It is behind Arjun’s feeling that it will be propitious even if he is killed unresisting by the armed sons of Dhritrashtr, for it will ensure the children of the family a prosperous and happy life.

47. "Sanjay said, ’Speaking thus and smitten by grief, in the midst of the battlefield, Arjun put aside his how and arrows, and sat down in the chariot.’ ’’

In other words, Arjun withdraws from the conflict between the physical body-the sphere of action-and the Self within with his awareness of God.


The Geeta is an investigation of the war of kshetr-kshetragya: of the conflict between the material body, engaged in action, and the accomplished Soul that is ever conscious of his oneness with the Supreme Spirit. A song of revelation, it strives to demonstrate what God must be in all his divine splendour. The sphere that the song celebrates is a battlefield: the body with its dual, opposed impulses that compose the "Dharmkshetr" and the "Kurukshetr.

The first chapter, as we have seen, elaborates the respective structure and base of the strength that characterize the adversaries. The sounding of conches proclaims their valour as well as intentions. There is then a review of the armies that are, to fight in the war. Their numerical strength is estimated at approximately 650 million, but the number is really infinite. Nature embodies two points of view, relevant to the opposed impulses that clash on the field of action. There is first the inward looking mind that always aims at realization of the Self and looks up to the adored God. On the other hand, there is the outward looking mind, preoccupied with the material world and dominated by unrighteous impulses. The first enables the self to be absorbed in the most sublime dharm that is embodied in God, whereas the second contrives illusion (maya) by virtue of which the material world is taken as really existent and distinct from the Supreme Spirit. The initial step of the spiritual wayfarer is to seek moral excellence so as to subdue unrighteous impulses. Subsequently, with the perception of and union with the immutable, eternal God, even the need for righteousness is done away with and the final outcome of the war between matter and spirit is revealed.

Looking at the armies an the battlefield of life we see our own families, and they have to be destroyed. The world is but an extension of attachments. Attachment to the family proves an obstacle in the primary stage of the worshipper’s devotion to the desired goal. He is shaken when he discovers that he shall have to part with his near and dear ones and treat them as though they had never existed. He finds nothing but unpropitious harm in his act of destroying his own people. Like Arjun he, looks for an escape into prevailing traditions. Arjun says that family traditions are the Sanatan Dharm. Destruction of family and caste traditions by war is thus destruction of the eternal dharm itself. And when dharm is lost, women of the family grow unchaste and there is a sinful intermingling of classes which must drive both the family and its destroyers to hell for an indefinite time. With his limited knowledge and wisdom, Arjun is desperate to protect the family traditions which he regards as Sanatan Dharm. So he pleads with Krishn and wishes to be enlightened on why they (Krishn and he), men of sagacity, should be bent upon committing the heinous sin of destroying their family. According to his view of the issue at hand, even Krishn is about to become an accessory to the crime. Finally, he asserts adamantly that in order to save himself from the sin he shall not fight. Saying this he sinks despairingly in the rear of the chariot. In other words, he turns his back on the precious enterprise of the perennial conflict that rages between matter and spirit, between godly and ungodly impulses, between forces that drag a man down to gross nature and forces that elevate and finally take the Soul to the Supreme God.

Commentators have called this first chapter of the Geeta "Arjun Vishad Yog." "Vishad" is grief. Arjun is a symbol of tender, affectionate devotion. Grief is the motive as well as instrument of the devotee who is concerned about the preservation of the Sanatan Dharm. Such was the sorrow of Manu, whom Hindus believe to be the representative man and father of the human race. Goswami Tulsidas has said, ‘’Full of grief is my heart since I have only led my life without love of God." A man sinks into grief because of irresolution. Arjun is apprehensive of varnsankar, of intermingling of classes, for such hybridization only leads to damnation. He also grieves because he fears for the safety of Sanatan Dharm. So the title "Sanshay Vishad Yog," is appropriate for the chapter.

Thus concludes the First Chapter, in the Upanishad of the Shreemad Bhagwad Geeta, on the Knowledge of the Supreme Spirit, the Science of Yog, and the Dialogue between Krishn and Arjun, entitled:

"Sanshay Vishad Yog’’,


‘‘The Yog of Irresolution and Grief’’

Thus concludes theSwami Adgadanand’s exposition of the First Chapter of the Shreemad Bhagwad Geeta in

‘‘Yatharth Geeta.’’



Online Enquiry
Name :
Email :
Phone :
Address :
Requirments :
Captcha :

Home | About Us | Hinduism Forum | Contact us | Become Distributor | Site Map

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape