Bhagavad-Gita, Plain and Simple – Chapter One.
Setting the Scene.
Bhagavad-Gita is a section of the epic poem, Mahabharata.
The first chapter is basically a transition from the dramatic plot of Mahabharata into the philosophical dialogue of the Gita itself. Right now, we are more interested in the Gita than the Mahabharata, so let’s go through the first chapter lightly and easily, letting unknown people and names remain relatively unknown and beside-the-point.
Throughout this series, my comments will appear in this shaded, indented and italicized font in order to differentiate between them and the text itself.
A blind, old king asks his minister, “What happened when my sons gathered for war against my brother’s sons on the sacred plain of Kurukshetra?”
The minister answers:
Your eldest son studied the opposing army and went to speak to his guru.
“Gurudeva,” he said, “have a look at the formidable army that opposes us, expertly commanded by your own disciple. Their ranks are full of warriors equally formidable as Arjuna. Compare them to my army. We have you, Grandfather Bhishma and so many other ever-victorious warriors on our side, all well-equipped, experienced, and ready to die for my sake. The other side is strong, but our strength is limitless because we have Bhishma on our side; so let’s all give our full support to Bhishma.”
Bhishma then blew his conch, signaling all the other trumpets, bugles and drums to resound deafeningly—delighting the King’s son.
The opposing army responded immediately and fearlessly—blowing their divine and remarkable conch shells to create a deafening sound that crushed the hearts of their opponents. Arjuna then took up his bow to begin the fighting, but suddenly hesitated and said to Krishna, “Take the chariot out midway so I can better see those who have sided with evil and have come to fight against me.”
Krishna drove the chariot midway between the armies and said, “Here they are, my friend, all the Kurus.”
Arjuna saw scattered among the two armies: fathers, grandfathers, teachers, uncles, brothers, sons, grandsons, friends, in-laws and well-wishers. Deeply shaken, he spoke to Krishna.
“My dear friend, when I see all of these relatives prepared to kill one another, I start to shrivel up. I am shaking with goosebumps and pinpricks, and I cannot keep my bow in my hands. I want to run away from here before I go mad. Everywhere I look, all I can see is horrific misery about to descend upon us!”
“Nothing good can come from killing one’s own family. And even if something good did come from it, who would I enjoy it with? How would I enjoy it with my family’s blood on my hands? Even to gain the entire universe, one shouldn’t kill one’s own relatives.”
Arjuna knows Krishna would remind him that the vast majority of these “relatives” had been violent aggressors trying to kill him, his mother and his brothers for more than a decade. So Arjuna says…
“To kill aggressors is self-defense, yes. But since these aggressors are my own family members, killing them is still a terrible crime. Misfortune always results from criminal behavior. They all seem to be blind to this fact, but now that it has clearly dawned upon us we should not follow them into destruction.”
Arjuna anticipates that Krishna will ask, “Just what sort of ‘destruction’ do you think will result by killing horrible people that are trying to kill you?” So he says…
“All these men are fathers and husbands. If I kill them, what will happen to their wives and children? Isn’t it very likely that they will be ruined? Ruined families take to sinful paths. Ruined women are forced into degrading situations. Unwanted children spring forth and usher in the decay of society. So, if I kill these men I destroy the fabric of society. For that I will suffer terrible karmic reaction. Society will also suffer, and even ancestors who are already dead will suffer—since the religious rituals for their benefit will surely be ignored as culture falls apart.”
“It is so strange,” Arjuna continued, “that my pursuit of royal happiness has taken me to hell’s highway. Let me be killed right here, right now—unarmed and unresisting—rather than set foot on that horrible path.”
Saying this, Arjuna cast aside his weapons and collapsed into the chariot’s seat, drowning in a flood of desperation and depression.
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He is also a practicing astrologer, prolific writer and former guitarist and song writer in the popular underground spiritual-punk band, 108. His astrology website is available here.
Editor: Thaddeus Haas
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