Bhagvad-Gita: Treatise of Self-help
Author: BS Murthy

Chapter 2
Arjuna's Dilemma Chapter 1

In this opening chapter, the grand stage for the discourse nonpareil is set on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Gathered with their armies are the estranged cousins, the Pandavas and the Kauravas, all set to join the battle. After reviewing the relative strengths of the opposing formations, Duryodhana, the Kaurava prince, fancies his chances. On the other hand, Arjuna, alias Paartha, the spearhead of the Pandava forces, is beset with moral indignation. He begins to see the futility of a fratricidal war that would result in the death of kith and kin in numbers. To Lord Krishna, who dons the role of his charioteer, a distressed Arjuna enumerates the ills that visit society in the wake of wars. Exasperated in the end, he expresses his intent to rescind from the impending war regardless.  

The contrasting attitudes of the principal combatants of the Battle of Mahabharata are illustrative of the dualities inherent in human nature, exemplified by man’s proclivities.  Duryodhana as well as Arjuna meticulously prepared for the battle ahead, and both were bent upon fighting to the finish. But when the chips are down, while Duryodhana dreamt of victory, Arjuna suffered from qualms. It is this inherent duality of human nature that so prominently figures in Lord Krishna’s discourse in the coming chapters. 

In popular parlance, this chapter, comprising 47 slokas (verses), is known asArjuna Vishaada Yoga, Arjuna’s Grief. However, it is worth noting that though Arjuna’s demeanor in the battlefield personifies grief, it’s the dilemma of his persona that gives cause to it. Thus, there is merit in this chapter being rechristened as Arjuna’s Dilemma. On the other hand, it is the supreme irony, or in the fitness of things, depending on how one views it, that this Treatise of Self-help should begin with Dhrutarashtra's query, whose blind love towards his son Duryodhana brought things to this pass.  

One might notice the inconsistency in Duryodhana’s assessment of Pandava forces in that while in s3-s6 he considers them formidable; in s10 he dismisses them as pygmies. Maybe it has something to do with his state of mind on the eve of war. 

1
Thus spoke Dhrutarashtra: 

Appraise Sanjay as my sons 
Gathered at the battleground
Face the sons of my sibling
Eager for the war on hand.

2  
Thus spoke Sanjaya: 

Eyeing Pandavs there lined up  
So to assess relative strengths
Reached Duryodhan, Dron in time.

3  
Find acharya, said the Prince,
Pandav force thus there arrayed
None other than by Drushtadyumn
Whom thou taught all tricks of war.

4  
Virat ’n Drupad, so Yuyudhaana
With Bhim ’n Arjun they stand out.

5  
Dhrushtaket, the one to dread
King of Kashi and Purujit   
Kuntibhoj ’n Saibya too
Chekitan, their force augment.

6  
Uttamouj ’n Yudhamanyu 
Abhimanyu so Vikranta  
Draupadi’s offspring not to speak
Five-star generals all no less.


For thy feel of our own strength
Roll-call heroes of ours O, revered.

8  
Thou with Bhishm, Karn ’n Kripa 
Make all four our Field Marshals,
Bhurisrav, Aswatham ’n Vikarn  
Our Marshals, near Field Marshals.

9  
With their lives on line for me
Adept at weaponry varied all
Abound valorous in our ranks 
Past masters of group warfare. 

10  
Nurses Bhishma force our vast     
Lot it’s Bhima’s tend their small.

11

Let’s close ranks in well laid files  
Cover we flanks for Bhishma’s guard. 

12  
Words by these moved 
Grandsire Bhishm, 
Warrior verily unrivalled
War cry he gave with his conch.

13  
Egged by Bhishma, geared Kauravs  
War cries their rent, those high skies.   

14  
Krishna ’n Arjun, in their turn
From chariot of white stallions 
Gave in kind they with kindred.

15 
With Panchajanya, Lord Krishna     
Broke sound barriers with Arjun 
Who blew to hilt Devadatta  
As blared Bhima, his Paundra.  

16  
Blew conch Yudhisthir full throated
Anantavijaya in tandem 
With his siblings, Nakul ’n Sahadev,   
Blew who Sughosh ’n Manipushpak. 

17  
King of Kashi, master archer 
Sikhandi Marshal, their formidable 
Saathyaki, Drushtadyumn ’n Virat 
Warriors they all never vanquished,    

18  
Drupada as well Draupadi’s progeny 
With their hero Abhimanyu 
Blew, O monarch, at one go
Conchs of theirs to deafening sound.

19  
Tumult that ensued shook the ground 
Bewildered Kauravs, as skies roared.

20  
When came time to join lines
So it happened O my Lord 
With his Gandiv in harness 
Hanumaan’s ensign in flutter
Arjun stared at Kauravs hard  
And thus spoke to Lord Krishna. 

21/22  
Thus spoke Arjuna:
Pray posit chariot ours upfront
So that I can have a look
At those itching for this war.  

23   
Time I discern those backing
Duryodhan the evil minded.  

24  
Thus spoke Sanjaya:  
Upfront Krishna took Arjun
In their chariot drawn by four.

25  
Beseeched Krishna then Arjun  
That he behold Bhishm ’n Dron
As well all those there gathered.

26  
Espied Arjun his clansmen  
Grandads, uncles, brothers and all
Teachers as well friends of note.

27  
At the sight of
His kinsmen,    
He in distress    
Spoke worried.  

28  
Thus spoke Arjuna:
Disturb kinsfolk here gathered
Feel I parched, it nauseates too.

29  
Horrify no end prospects war 
Un-grips Gandiv, looks I’m sick.

30  
Looks like it’s an illusion 
Lord I envision bad omens all.

31  
Crave I not for power or pelf 
What’s it worth to kill Kauravs? 

32  
Know not avails what empire 
What sort pleasures it entails!

33  
Whom all we wish well in life
Here they face us risking same.

34 
Us they oppose
Dads, grand-dads 
Sons, grandsons, so uncles  
Brothers-in-law ’n teachers too!

35  
Were the stakes be sky high like
Ruling earth ’n heaven as well 
Let those Kauravs itch for fight  
I won’t have this war on hand.

36  
Go as they on sinful path
Why earn sin by slaying them.

37        
See I no gain by their end 
Why then kill our kith ’n kin?

38  
Blinded by greed, bent on deceit  
Fail they foresee, war ruins the race.

39  
Wiser for the woes of wars 
Why not Lord we rescind now.

40  
Die aged en masse dharma’s votaries 
Won't that let go youth ours haywire?  

41 
Sex ratio adverse that war ensues
Turns women soft on caste barriers.

42  
Fallen women all go to hell  
What is more their bastards rob
Posthumous rites of forebearers.

43   
Liaisons low of women wanton 
Set our race on ruinous course.

44  
Is it not said, O My Lord 
Fail who dharma are hell bound.

45  
What urge killing kith and kin, 
Why should we sin lusting crown?

46 
Disarm I now on my own 
Let them harm me if they deem.

47  
Thus spoke Sanjaya:  
Thus O Raja
Despaired Arjun 
Arms he threw
And sat distressed.

Ends thus 
Arjuna’s Dilemma,
The First Chapter 
Of Bhagavad-Gita 
Treatise of self-help. 

 

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