Arjuna Vishāda Yoga


This chapter is dedicated to setting the context for the reader, about when and why this upadésha was given by Lord Krishna.

The chapter begins with the question from Dhritarāshtra, the old, blind king, father of Duryodhana. He asks Sanjaya, about what is happening at the battlefield – ‘dharma kshetra’, named ‘Kurukshetra’.


The fact it starts with word ‘dharma kshetra’ signifies that it was a land of dharma, and the battle is for the sake of dharma. It is interesting to note that king Dhritarāshtra is using the word ‘dharma kshetra’, although he was on the side of ‘adharma’ – by being one of the prime motivators of Duryodhana for the battle. We often interpret Dharma according to what is convenient and beneficial to us! Dhritarāshtra did just that – thinking he was right in wishing well for his son, without a care for anything else.


Isn’t this a classic problem plaguing the entire mankind – be it law of land, or texts of religions – when we defy the spirit of rule and make our own interpretations, doom is expected, sooner or later. Dhritarāshtra here, was blinded not only by his vision, but also his greed, wanting the kingdom only for Duryodhana.


This is depicted in the second line itself – ‘māmakāh pāndavāh chaiva – asking what ‘my people’ and ‘pāndavās’ are doing. Although both Kauravas and Pāndavās are his own family, referring to only Kauravas as ‘my people’, his móha (obsessive attachment) for his son is exposed – the root cause for this battle!


The next few stanzas go on elaborating the various great warriors that were in the battlefield – the Kaurava army headed by Bhishma pitāmaha and Pāndava army headed by Drupada. Without getting into the details of prior incidents that eventually lead to this epic battle, the point to be noted is this was a ‘dharma yudha’ – battle for upholding righteousness. This is a pertinent message to us all, that we must always stand up for what is right – being mute spectator or being neutral is as good as being on the wrong side! Hence the gathering of all the big and small, but all brave warriors for the sake of ‘dharma yudha’. Which side they chose to fight for, was again influenced by their version of Dharma!


Arjuna, considered the best of archers, had Lord Krishna – his friend, and guide as his charioteer. Arjuna asked Krishna to take the chariot to the middle of the battlefield to assess the armies of both sides. The Lord, knowing well temperament of Arjuna, chose to drive the chariot to the middle of the battlefield and place it right in front of chariots of Bhishma Pitāmaha and Dronācharya – the two people that Arjuna revered the most. Arjuna gazed at all the people that had gathered for the war and started seeing them all with the color of relations. He saw his Guru, his brothers, uncles, friends, and so on. Suddenly Arjuna, the brave warrior, the well learned man with royal lineage, started losing his composure due to overwhelming emotions.


And off he started ranting how wrong it is to continue this battle, and that he didn’t want the kingdom at the cost of lives of all these people. Even if heavens were promised, he wouldn’t want to fight, let alone just this kingdom. Arjuna goes on rambling justifications based on his own interpretation of ‘dharma’, to suit his thought of giving up the battle.


Don’t we all do this – arguing how we are always right! Of course, we all are good hearted people, who are mostly right. But YOU – ONLY YOU, know well that you do this occasionally, to save yourself from the agony of being seen in the wrong! And when we do this, we find a hundred different reasons to justify how we were right still – formulating our own version of ‘dharma’ that’s convenient for us! It eventually comes to a point where we start believing we were right all the time!


Dharma cannot have different versions – there’s only one, unambiguous version. It is our intellect blinded by personal interest that interprets ‘dharma’ in different ways – goes without saying that we choose to make it convenient to us.


So, what’s this ONE, UNAMBIGUOUS version of ‘DHARMA’?

This isn’t a one-line answer – Lord Krishna takes you through rest of 17 chapters explaining everything about ‘dharma’. Knowing and practicing this well, you will not have anything more to be known or experienced (Lord Krishna’s own words)! ‘Dharma’ is the way to be, a way of life – why, what, and how is explained throughout Bhagavad Gita.


Stay tuned for the next chapter on next Ekādashi – where Krishna starts quelling all doubts of Arjuna! It’s a hard-hitting chapter with beautiful explanation about life and our duties.


Sarvam Krishnarpanamasthu!