The Yoga of the Despondency of Arjuna
Summary of First Discourse
The great Mahabharata war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas took place
on the holy plain of Kurukshetra. After the failure of Lord Krishna’s peace
mission, when He Himself went to Hastinapura as the emissary of the Pandavas,
there was no other alternative for the Pandavas but to engage in war for
their rightful share of the kingdom.
All the famous warriors from both sides had assembled on the battlefield.
Tents and wagons, weapons and machines, chariots and animals covered the
Lord Krishna arrived on the scene in a magnificent chariot yoked by white
horses. He was to act as the charioteer of Arjuna, one of the Pandava princes.
The din of hundreds of conches, blaring forth suddenly, announced the commencement
of the battle. Arjuna blew his conch “Devadatta”, while Bhima, his brother,
sounded the “Paundra”. All the other great warriors blew their respective
As the two armies were arrayed, ready for battle, Arjuna requested Krishna
to place his chariot between them so that he might survey his opponents.
He was bewildered by the scene before him, for he beheld on both sides,
fathers and grandfathers, teachers and uncles, fathers-in-law, grandsons,
relatives and comrades.
Confusion reigned in Arjuna’s mind. Should he participate in this terrible
carnage? Was it proper to destroy one’s relatives for the sake of a kingdom
and some pleasures? Would it not be much better for him to surrender everything
in favour of his enemies and retire in peace? As these thoughts rushed
into his mind, a feeling of despondency overtook Arjuna. He had no enthusiasm
to engage in this battle. Letting his bow slip from his hands, Arjuna could
do nothing but turn to Lord Krishna for guidance and enlightenment.
1. What did the sons of Pandu and also my people do when they had assembled
together, eager for battle on the holy plain of Kurukshetra, O Sanjaya?
2. Having seen the army of the Pandavas drawn up in battle array, King
Duryodhana then approached his teacher (Drona) and spoke these words:
3. “Behold, O Teacher, this mighty army of the sons of Pandu, arrayed by
the son of Drupada, thy wise disciple!
4. “Here are heroes, mighty archers, equal in battle to Bhima and Arjuna,
Yuyudhana, Virata and Drupada, of the great car (mighty warriors),
5. “Drishtaketu, Chekitana and the valiant king of Kasi, Purujit, and Kuntibhoja
and Saibya, the best of men,
6. “The strong Yudhamanyu and the brave Uttamaujas, the son of Subhadra
(Abhimanyu, the son of Arjuna), and the sons of Draupadi, all of great
chariots (great heroes).
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.
8. “Thyself and Bhishma, and Karna and Kripa, the victorious in war; Asvatthama,
Vikarna, and Jayadratha, the son of Somadatta.
9. “And also many other heroes who have given up their lives for my sake,
armed with various weapons and missiles, all well skilled in battle.
10. “This army of ours marshalled by Bhishma is insufficient, whereas their
army, marshalled by Bhima, is sufficient.
11. “Therefore, do ye all, stationed in your respective positions in the
several divisions of the army, protect Bhishma alone”.
12. His glorious grandsire (Bhishma), the eldest of the Kauravas, in order
to cheer Duryodhana, now roared like a lion and blew his conch.
13. Then (following Bhishma), conches and kettle-drums, tabors, drums and
cow-horns blared forth quite suddenly (from the side of the Kauravas);
and the sound was tremendous.
14. Then also, Madhava (Krishna), and the son of Pandu (Arjuna), seated
in their magnificent chariot yoked with white horses, blew their divine
15. Hrishikesa blew the “Panchajanya” and Arjuna blew the “Devadatta”,
and Bhima, the doer of terrible deeds, blew the great conch, “Paundra”.
16. Yudhisthira, the son of Kunti, blew the “Anantavijaya”; and Sahadeva
and Nakula blew the “Manipushpaka” and “Sughosha” conches.
17. The king of Kasi, an excellent archer, Sikhandi, the mighty car-warrior,
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, all blew their respective conches!
19. The tumultuous sound rent the hearts of Dhritarashtra’s party, making
both heaven and earth resound.
20. Then, seeing all the people of Dhritarashtra’s party standing arrayed
and the discharge of weapons about to begin, Arjuna, the son of Pandu,
whose ensign was that of a monkey, took up his bow and said the following
to Krishna, O Lord of the Earth!
21-22. In the middle of the two armies, place my chariot, O Krishna, so
that I may behold those who stand here, desirous to fight, and know with
whom I must fight when the battle begins.
23. For I desire to observe those who are assembled here to fight, wishing
to please in battle Duryodhana, the evil-minded.
24. Being thus addressed by Arjuna, Lord Krishna, having stationed that
best of chariots, O Dhritarashtra, in the midst of the two armies,
25. In front of Bhishma and Drona and all the rulers of the earth, said:
“O Arjuna, behold now all these Kurus gathered together!”
26. Then Arjuna beheld there stationed, grandfathers and fathers, teachers,
maternal uncles, brothers, sons, grandsons and friends, too.
27. (He saw) fathers-in-law and friends also in both armies. The son of
Kunti—Arjuna—seeing all these kinsmen standing arrayed, spoke thus sorrowfully,
filled with deep pity.
28. Seeing these, my kinsmen, O Krishna, arrayed, eager to fight,
29. My limbs fail and my mouth is parched up, my body quivers and my hairs
stand on end!
30. The (bow) “Gandiva” slips from my hand and my skin burns all over;
I am unable even to stand, my mind is reeling, as it were.
31. And I see adverse omens, O Kesava! I do not see any good in killing
my kinsmen in battle.
32. For I desire neither victory, O Krishna, nor pleasures nor kingdoms!
Of what avail is a dominion to us, O Krishna, or pleasures or even life?
33. Those for whose sake we desire kingdoms, enjoyments and pleasures,
stand here in battle, having renounced life and wealth.
34. Teachers, fathers, sons and also grandfathers, grandsons, fathers-in-law,
maternal uncles, brothers-in-law and relatives,—
35. These I do not wish to kill, though they kill me, O Krishna, even for
the sake of dominion over the three worlds, leave alone killing them for
the sake of the earth!
36. By killing these sons of Dhritarashtra, what pleasure can be ours,
O Janardana? Only sin will accrue by killing these felons.
37. Therefore, we should not kill the sons of Dhritarashtra, our relatives;
for, how can we be happy by killing our own people, O Madhava (Krishna)?
38. Though they, with intelligence overpowered by greed, see no evil in
the destruction of families, and no sin in hostility to friends,
39. Why should not we, who clearly see evil in the destruction of a family,
learn to turn away from this sin, O Janardana (Krishna)?
COMMENTARY: Ignorance of the law is no excuse and wanton sinful conduct
is a crime unworthy of knowledgeable people.
40. In the destruction of a family, the immemorial religious rites of that
family perish; on the destruction of spirituality, impiety overcomes the
COMMENTARY: Dharma pertains to the duties and ceremonies practised by the
family in accordance with scriptural injunctions.
41. By prevalence of impiety, O Krishna, the women of the family become
corrupt and, women becoming corrupted, O Varsneya (descendant of Vrishni),
there arises intermingling of castes!
42. Confusion of castes leads to hell the slayers of the family, for their
forefathers fall, deprived of the offerings of rice-ball and water.
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
44. We have heard, O Janardana, that inevitable is the dwelling for an
unknown period in hell for those men in whose families the religious practices
have been destroyed!
45. Alas! We are involved in a great sin in that we are prepared to kill
our kinsmen through greed for the pleasures of a kingdom.
46. If the sons of Dhritarashtra, with weapons in hand, should slay me
in battle, unresisting and unarmed, that would be better for me.
47. Having thus spoken in the midst of the battlefield, Arjuna, casting
away his bow and arrow, sat down on the seat of the chariot with his mind
overwhelmed with sorrow.
Hari Om Tat Sat
Thus in the Upanishads of the glorious Bhagavad Gita, the science of the
Eternal, the scripture of Yoga, the dialogue between Sri Krishna and Arjuna,
ends the first discourse entitled:
“The Yoga Of the Despondency of Arjuna”