Bhagavad Geeta: Chapter 1, Verses 38-47

Arjuna, who was a very courageous warrior started having a mental breakdown, as illustrated in the earlier verses in chapter 1 of the Bhagavad Geeta. He continues to put forth all kinds of arguments against the war after a complete logical analysis from his perspective.

Chapter 1, Verses 38 and 39

Arjuna said:

Their thoughts are overpowered by greed and even though they see no wrong in destroying their relatives or no sin in making their friends suffer; O Janardhana (Krishna), why should we who can clearly see the crime in killing the kith and kin, not turn away from this sin?

Arjuna is indicating that wiser and nobler people should know better. For example, if a drunkard friend behaves nastily when drunk, we forgive him; Similarly, in this situation, he is arguing that Pandavas who know better should not be sinning by killing their relatives.

Chapter 1, Verse 40

When a family is destroyed, its traditions also perish, and due to the destruction of spirituality/irreligion, the rest of the family becomes involved in unrighteousness.

The culture of each family determines the culture and traditions of the entire nation. With the families' traditions lost, there will be utter chaos in the country.

Chapter 1, Verse 41

With the prevalence of vice, O Krishna, the women of the family become immoral; and from the immorality of women, O Descendant of Vrishni (Krishna), unwanted progeny are born and hence arises the intermingling of castes causing incompatible combinations.

Arjuna presents the argument here that when the moral integrity of families is destroyed, the morality of the society also wanes. In the modern-day, the caste system has come under harsh criticism, and rightly so, if we understand it to be what we see in our society today. In the name of caste, the Hindu way of living has declined and has taken an ugly turn. In those days, caste was conceived as an intelligent division of the available manpower based on intellectual and mental capacities. All castes are equally important and noble. It is comparable to the different professional groups. When the general morality of the society declines, the young men and women blinded by lust and passion start mingling without restraint resulting in an unhealthy mingling of incompatible traits.

Chapter 1, Verse 42

An increase in unwanted children makes life hell both for the family and for those who destroy the family. Deprived of the sacrificial offerings, the ancestors of such corrupt families also fall.

The present is the effect of the past and the cause for the future. If we are not respectful and grateful for the past, we lose contact with the past and go astray for the future. Recognizing history (both strengths and weaknesses) helps build a greater future. The ritual of performing sacrificial offerings signifies showing respect and gratefulness for our past, and the culture our ancestors have worked hard to put in place, which manifested as our present. With this respect and knowledge, we preserve culture to pass down to our future generations.

Chapter 1, Verses 43  and 44

Through the evil deeds of those who destroy the family traditions, which confuse the castes, the eternal family traditions and the traditions of the caste are destroyed.

O Janardhana (Krishna), I've heard from the learned that those who destroy the family traditions remain in hell for an indefinite period.

When the value system is destroyed, we will be creating hell for ourselves as the entire society is in chaos with no clarity on traditions and no self-control, leading to sorrow.

Chapter 1, Verse 45

Alas! How is it that we have set our mind to perform this great sin of killing our kinsmen, driven by the desire for kingly pleasures?

Arjuna, in his mind, has analyzed the situation and the consequences thoroughly. He cannot understand how they have come here for this war with the intent to kill their relatives, driven by the desire to enjoy the kingship.

Chapter 1, Verse 46

If the sons of Dhritarashtra with weapons in hand kill me on the battlefield when I am unarmed and unresisting, that would be better for me.

Arjuna concludes that it is much nobler to die without resisting rather than killing the sons of Dhritarashtra. In short, the anxiety for the fruits of his actions has demoralized Arjuna, and he got himself into this anxious mental state.

Chapter 1, Verse 47

Sanjaya said:

Having said this, Arjuna cast aside his bow and arrows and sank into the seat of his chariot; his mind in distress overwhelmed with grief.

This concludes chapter 1 of the Bhagavad Geeta called Arjuna Vishāda Yoga which translates to Yoga of Arjuna's sorrow. We all can relate to this state of Arjuna when fighting our own battles in our lives, torn between what is right and wrong, what our duties are, etc. From the next chapter onwards, Sri Krishna gives comprehensive answers to all his questions. By doing so, he gives clarity to each of us on how to lead an independently joyous life by performing the right actions.

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