As the opposing armies stand poised for battle, Arjuna, the mighty warrior, sees his intimate relatives, teachers and friends in both armies ready to fight and sacrifice their lives.
1. Tell me, O Sanjaya! Assembled on Kurukshetra, the centre of religious activity, desirous to fight, what indeed did my people and the Pândavas do? 1
2. But then King Duryodhana, having seen the Pândava forces in battle-array, approached his teacher Drona, and spoke these words: 2
3. "Behold, O Teacher! this mighty army of the sons of Pându, arrayed by the son of Drupada, thy gifted pupil. 3
4-6. "Here (are) heroes, mighty archers, the equals in battle of Bhima and Arjuna—the great warriors Yuyudhâna, Virâta, Drupada; the valiant Dhrishtaketu, Chekitâna and the king of Kâshi; the best of men, Purujit, Kunti-Bhoja and Shaivya; the powerful Yudhâmanyu, and the brave Uttamaujas, the son of Subhadrâ, and the sons of Draupadi,—lords of great chariots. 4
7. "Hear also, O Best of the twice-born! the names of those who (are) distinguished amongst ourselves, the leaders of my army. These I relate (to you) for your information. 7
8. "Yourself and Bhishma and Karna and Kripa, the victorious in war. Asvatthâmâ and Vikarna and Jayadratha, the son of Somadatta. 8
9. "And many other heroes also, well-skilled in fight, and armed with many kinds of weapons, are here, determined to lay down their lives for my sake.
10. "This our army defended by Bhishma (is) impossible to be counted, but that army of theirs, defended by Bhima (is) easy to number. 10
11. "(Now) do, being stationed in your proper places in the divisions of the army, support Bhishma alone." 11
12. That powerful, oldest of the Kurus, Bhishma the grandsire, in order to cheer Duryodhana, now sounded aloud a lion-roar and blew his conch. 12
13. Then following Bhishma, conches and kettle-drums, tabors, trumpets and
cowhorns blared forth suddenly from the Kaurava side and the noise was tremendous.
14. Then, also, Mâdhava and Pândava, stationed in their magnificent chariot yoked with white horses, blew their divine conches with a furious noise.
15. Hrishikesha blew the Pânchajanya, Dhananjaya, the Devadatta, and Vrikodara, the doer of terrific deeds, his large conch Paundra.
16. King Yudhishthira, son of Kunti, blew the conch named Anantavijaya, and Nakula and Sahadeva, their Sughosha and Manipushpaka.
17. The expert bowman, king of Kâshi, and the great warrior Shikhandi,
[paragraph continues] Dhrishtadyumna and Virâta and the unconquered Sâtyaki;
18. O Lord of Earth! Drupada and the sons of Draupadi, and the mighty-armed son of Subhadrâ, all, also blew each his own conch.
19. And the terrific noise resounding throughout heaven and earth rent the hearts of Dhritarâshtra's party. 19
20. Then, O Lord of Earth, seeing Dhritarâshtra's party standing marshalled and the shooting about to begin, that Pândava whose ensign was the monkey,
21-22. Place my chariot, O Achyuta! between the two armies that I may see those who stand here prepared for war. On this eve of battle (let me know) with whom I have to fight.
23. For I desire to observe those who are assembled here for fight, wishing to please the evil-minded Duryodhana by taking his side on this battle-field. 23
24-25. Commanded thus by Gudâkesha, Hrishikesha, O Bhârata, drove that grandest of chariots to a place between the two hosts, facing Bhishma, Drona and all the rulers of the earth, and then spoke thus, "Behold, O Pârtha, all the Kurus gathered together!"
26. Then saw Pârtha stationed there in both the armies, grandfathers, fathers-in-law and uncles, brothers and cousins, his own and their sons and grandsons, and
comrades, teachers, and other friends as well.
27. Then he, the son of Kunti, seeing all those kinsmen stationed in their ranks, spoke thus sorrowfully, filled with deep compassion.
29. Seeing, O Krishna, these my kinsmen gathered here, eager for fight, my limbs fail me, and my mouth is parched up. I shiver all over, and my hair stands on end. The bow Gândiva slips from my hand, and my skin burns. 29
30. Neither, O Keshava, can I stand upright. My mind is in a whirl. And I see adverse omens.
31. Neither, O Krishna, do I see any good in killing these my own people in battle. I desire neither victory nor empire, nor yet pleasure.
32-34. Of what avail is dominion to us, of what avail are pleasures and even life, if these, O Govinda! for whose sake it is desired that empire, enjoyment and pleasure should be ours, themselves stand here in battle, having renounced life and wealth—Teachers, uncles, sons and also grandfathers, maternal uncles, fathers-in-law, grandsons, brothers-in-law, besides other kinsmen.
35. Even though these were to kill me, O slayer of Madhu, I could not wish to kill them, not even for the sake of dominion over the three worlds, how much less for the sake of the earth!
36. What pleasure indeed could be ours, O Jnanârdana, from killing these sons of Dhritarâshtra? Sin only could take hold of us by the slaying of these felons. 36
37. Therefore ought we not to kill our kindred, the sons of Dhritarâshtra. For how could we, O Mâdhava, gain happiness by the slaying of our own kinsmen?
38-39. Though these, with understanding overpowered by greed, see no evil due to decay of families, and no sin in hostility to friends, why should we, O Janârdana, who see clearly the evil due to
the decay of families, not turn away from this sin?
40. On the decay of a family the immemorial religious rites of that family die out. On the destruction of spirituality, impiety further overwhelms the whole of the family.
41. On the prevalence of impiety, O Krishna, the women of the family become corrupt; and women being corrupted,
there arises, O Vârshneya, intermingling of castes.
42. Admixture of castes, indeed, is for the hell of the family and the destroyers of the family; their ancestors fall, deprived of the offerings of rice-ball and water. 42
43. By these misdeeds of the destroyers of the family, bringing about confusion of castes, are the immemorial religious rites of the caste and the family destroyed.
44. We have heard, O Janârdana, that inevitable is the dwelling in hell of those men in whose families religious practices have been destroyed.
45. Alas, we are involved in a great sin, in that we are prepared to slay our kinsmen, from greed of the pleasures of a kingdom!
46. Verily, if the sons of Dhritarâshtra, weapons in hand, were to slay me, unresisting and unarmed, in the battle, that would be better for me.
47. Speaking thus in the midst of the battle-field, Arjuna casting away his bow and arrows, sank down on the seat of his chariot, with his mind distressed with sorrow.
The end of chapter first.
Bhagavad-gita is the widely read theistic science summarized in the Gita-mahatmya (Glorification of the Gita). There it says that one should read Bhagavad-gita very scrutinizingly with the help of a person who is a devotee of Sri Krsna and try to understand it without personally motivated interpretations. The example of clear understanding is there in the Bhagavad-gita itself, in the way the teaching is understood by Arjuna, who heard the Gita directly from the Lord. If someone is fortunate enough to understand Bhagavad-gita in that line of disciplic succession, without motivated interpretation, then he surpasses all studies of Vedic wisdom, and all scriptures of the world. One will find in the Bhagavad-gita all that is contained in other scriptures, but the reader will also find things which are not to be found elsewhere. That is the specific standard of the Gita. It is the perfect theistic science because it is directly spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krsna.
The topics discussed by Dhrtarastra and Sanjaya, as described in the Mahabharata, form the basic principle for this great philosophy. It is understood that this philosophy evolved on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra, which is a sacred place of pilgrimage from the immemorial time of the Vedic age. It was spoken by the Lord when He was present personally on this planet for the guidance of mankind.
The word dharma-ksetra (a place where religious rituals are performed) is significant because, on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra, the Supreme Personality of Godhead was present on the side of Arjuna. Dhrtarastra, the father of the Kurus, was highly doubtful about the possibility of his sons' ultimate victory. In his doubt, he inquired from his secretary Sanjaya, "What did my sons and the sons of Pandu do?" He was confident that both his sons and the sons of his younger brother Pandu were assembled in that Field of Kuruksetra for a determined engagement of the war. Still, his inquiry is significant. He did not want a compromise between the cousins and brothers, and he wanted to be sure of the fate of his sons on the battlefield. Because the battle was arranged to be fought at Kuruksetra, which is mentioned elsewhere in the Vedas as a place of worship—even for the denizens of heaven—Dhrtarastra became very fearful about the influence of the holy place on the outcome of the battle. He knew very well that this would influence Arjuna and the sons of Pandu favorably, because by nature they were all virtuous. Sanjaya was a student of Vyasa, and therefore, by the mercy of Vyasa, Sanjaya was able to envision the Battlefield of Kuruksetra even while he was in the room of Dhrtarastra. And so, Dhrtarastra asked him about the situation on the battlefield.
Both the Pandavas and the sons of Dhrtarastra belong to the same family, but Dhrtarastra's mind is disclosed herein. He deliberately claimed only his sons as Kurus, and he separated the sons of Pandu from the family heritage. One can thus understand the specific position of Dhrtarastra in his relationship with his nephews, the sons of Pandu. As in the paddy field the unnecessary plants are taken out, so it is expected from the very beginning of these topics that in the religious field of Kuruksetra where the father of religion, Sri Krsna, was present, the unwanted plants like Dhrtarastra's son Duryodhana and others would be wiped out and the thoroughly religious persons, headed by Yudhisthira, would be established by the Lord. This is the significance of the words dharma-ksetre and kuru-ksetre, apart from their historical and Vedic importance.