Chapter 1 - Vishada Yoga
Chapter 1, Verse 1
This is the introduction to the setting of the Geetha. Dritarashtra1 who is blind by birth has requested Sanjaya2 to narrate what’s happening on the battle field. Sanjaya has the extra sensory perception to see events happening at a distance without being there. In the first stanza, Dhritarashtra asks Sanjaya what’s happening in the field. Dhritarashtra is a bit nervous to know the events, whether his Sons (Kurus3) will win the war against his Nephew’s (Pandavas4). He is nervous because the war is being fought in the holy land of Kurukshetra5 and he is worried that the holiness of this land will support the virtues of Pandava’s and they will win. Here we should understand that when people are virtuous, then the holy atmosphere supports them. If we develop noble qualities, then in times of war the surrounding universe will help us.
As per my understanding, Geetha is a model to demonstrate the war between good and evil that happens in our minds/hearts. The Kuru’s are the evil/bad and the Pandava’s are depicted as virtuous/Good that is within ourselves. Kurukshetra is the body where the war happens.
Chapter 1, Verse 2
Sanjaya is replying to Dhritarashtra what he has seen on the battle field. Sanjaya says “king Duryodhana has seen the soldiers of Pandava’s arranged in a battle formation and he went to speak to his teacher Dronacharya6 the following words.”
Coming back to see the setting as the fight between good and evil, we can see that the evil Duryodhana though confident of winning the war (Evil is always confident of winning the war against good) is a bit nervous. If the Virtues (Soldiers of Pandava’s) are arranged in a proper fashion for the war against the evil, then evil will fear the fight.
Chapter 1, Verse 3
In this stanza, we observe that Duryodhana is in conversation with Dronacharya, the teacher for both Pandavas and Kurus. Dronacharya is a great teacher and has imparted his skills equally to all who have learnt with him. Though he knows very well that there is a danger to his life from Dhrastadyumna7 (Son of Drupada) he agreed to teach him military skills. This shows the greatness of Dronacharya. With the skills learnt from Dronacharya, Dhrastadumna has arranged the forces of Pandavas ready for the battle in an orderly manner. Duryodhana reminds Dronacharya that his teachings are used against him.
Historical context: Dronacharya had a quarrel with Drupada. Drupada made a yagna and got a boon that his son will kill Dronacharya. Dronacharya knew this but still, he imparted training to Dhristadumna. Dhristadumna became the commander in chief of Pandava forces.
Chapter 1, Verse 4
To fight the battle on the side of good are many warriors along with Arjuna and Bhima. Notable among them are Yuyudhana8 and Virata9. Yuyudhana is related to Lord Shri Krishna and Virata belongs to the Matsya Kingdom.
We can derive confidence that in the fight against evil all the forces of Good nature come together to help us win the battle.
Chapter 1, Verse 5
This Stanza continuous the introduction of warriors on the Pandava Side by Duryodhana to Dronacharya. He introduces Dhristaketu(10) of Chedi Clan and also Chekitana(11) of Vrishni clan and kasirajah(12) as Viryavan meaning heroic or very powerfull. The quality of “Purujit” winner of many battles was given to Kuntibhoja(13).The attribute of “Narapungava” noblest of all men was given to King Saibya. In the end all these warriors are killed by Dronacharya in the battle.
Chapter 1, Verse 6
Here the attribute of “Vikrantah” valient is given to Yudhamanyu(14) and quality of “Viryavaan” meaning powerfull was given to Uttamanuja(14). Both are brothers of the Panchala Kingdom and are assigned to protect Arjuna in the war. At the battle also there are sons of Draupadi (Yudhishthira begat Prativindhya; Bhima, Sutasoma; Arjuna, Srutakriti; Nakula, Satanika; and Sahadeva, Srutakarman) and also Son of Subhadra , Abhimanyu (15) .
All the above warriors are mentioned as Maha-rathas meaning they can fight 10,000 bow-men at a time and a master of Warcraft. By using the word Sarve –Maha rathe , Duryodhana tries to instigate Dronacharya by including Artha-rathas as Maha rathas.
Chapter 1, Verse 7
Now after introduction of forces of Pandavas, Duryodhana tunrs towards his forces and starts describing them. He addresses Dronacharya as Dwijottama, meaning he is a Brahman and he is also confident that the best leaders are on his side. He thinks that Drona who is teacher of Military skills is on his side and there should be no problem whatsoever for him in defeating Pandavas.
From the earlier stanzas we can infer that there is doubt in the mind of Duryodhana, Drithrashtra whether they can win this battle. We can infer that even evil has doubts whether it can win the battle.
Chapter 1, Verse 8
Duryodhana describes the names of leaders of Kaurava army. He mentions “ever victorious” leaders for Bhishma(16), Dronacharya,karna (17) and Kripa(18). They have never been defeated in a war and their presence has enhanced the strength of the Kauravas. Also mentioned are leaders like Aswathama(19), Vikarna(20), Saumadatti(21). These are all great leaders on the side of kauravas.
Chapter 1, Verse 9
Duryodhana makes a very powerful statement in this stanza. He says not only the great warriors described above, but also there are many warriors on his side. He says not only on his side, but also they are ready to lay his life for his desire (to in the battle). We can observe he is slowly getting confidence. He commands the warriors on his side that they are not only well-versed in various military tactics, they are equipped with various weapons.
In a normal individual’s life also there are various weapons that make him/her do wrong. They are specifically greed, lust, Anger etc. The virtues of the person should face these weapons constantly in life to make good choices to lead a happy life. A person has to develop defences against these warriors and their weapons which makes his life unhappy.
Chapter 1, Verse 10
In this Duryodhana lines to increase his confidence by comparing the strengths of Bhishma and Bhima. Everyone knows the strengths of Bhishma. He has the blessing of icha mrityu and he is an invincible person. His strengths can always overpower the Bhima of Pandava army. Now Duryodhana gets the confidence that he can beat the Pandavas.
An excellent poem written by Veda Vyasa. The last word of the first line ( Bhismabhi Rakshitam) and the last word of the second line ( Bhimabhi rakshitam ) both rhyme and creates a good sound in the ears. The first word of first line “aparyaptam” and the first word of the second line “paryaptam” creates contrast in the poem.
Chapter 1, Verse 11
Here Duryodhana is telling Dronacharya the importance of protecting the top leader. It is very much important in the modern-day context, as for how good leaders have to be protected from different onslaughts. The entire formations must be used to protect the leader, if the leader is safe then the community is safe.
This stanza also opens up a weak link. Durodhana is making a lot of bets in one person, Bhishma. Though Bhishma is a mighty warrior but putting all eggs in one basket may prove counter-productive for Duryodhana army.
Chapter 1, Verse 12
Now Bhishma blows the conch-like a lion to fill the spirits of not only Duryodhana but also of the army. It shows the importance of music in uplifting the spirits of the people. It also shows the commitment of Bhishma to the Kaurava army so that doubts in the mind of Duryodhana are erased out and the king become cheerful.
Veda Vyasa initially starts Geetha with the introduction of the battle of Kurukshetra and shows both sides of the battle are equally poised for the battle. There is no mention of Lord Krishna till now. It shows how one person can tilt the balance in equally balanced war.
Chapter 1, Verse 13
After Bhisma’s blowing of the Conch like a lion, the Kaurava army got energized and they started the war cry with the blowing of various instruments used during that time. They used Conchs, Bugles, trumpets, kettle drums, cow horns to make a sound. They all blew their instruments suddenly and simultaneously. These battle cries help invoke the sentiments of the people and up the mood and help all the members of a group to concentrate on the cause. The battle cries are a form of human aggression performed during the warming up phase for the actual physical violence.
The combined sound would have created a terrifying sound for the opponents.
Chapter 1, Verse 17
Along with the Pandavas, their allies also blew their Shankhas. Notable among them are Kasirajah ( 12) who is the expert archer, Shikhandi(26) who is a maha ratha, Dristadyumna(27), Virata(9) and Satyaki the invincible.
Chapter 1, Verse 18
Drupada, the king of Panchala Kingdom, the sons of Draupadi, Abhimanyu son of Subhadra and Arjuna also blew their Conch shells.
Chapter 1, Verse 19
Importance of sound on the psyche of people: We can see that the sound created by all these conch shells has created a tumultuous uproar and shattered the hearts of sons of Dritarashrtra. It is mentioned that the sound not only shattered the sky and earth but it also shattered the hearts of the Kauravas. We can see the importance of sound as a good management strategy. It can cause and change emotions in people. Even when we go to horror movies sound is used as an important tool other than visuals to create the right impact in the hearts and minds of people.
How to use sound in our daily life: in modern days the way we speak before an audience is very important to win the modern day management games. We can develop the art of public speaking to create the right impact in the hearts of the audience. The various modulations of our tone will create the right impact on the audience. We can see that when Kauravas made the sound no effect was there in the Pandavas but when there was the sound made by Pandavas it has a shattering effect on Kauravas.
The sight of formation of Pandavas initially demotivated Duryodhana, now with the sound made by the Pandavas he is more demotivated.
Chapter 1, Verse 20
Sanjaya with his divine vision is mentioning to Dhritarashtra that “o-king after the tumultuous sound, now Arjuna has picked up his weapon especially Gandiva and spoke to Lord Hrishikesha”.
In this stanza, it is mentioned that on the chariot of Arjuna is the flag of Lord Hanuman. This shows that even the fearless God Hanuman is with the Pandavas during the war. The importance of Visuals is again demonstrated here in the form of Showing Hanuman on the flag of the righteous side. This culture of carrying flags to the war is still prevalent today and indeed these days it is very important. They help to identify who is on which side. Flags are just like logos for private companies. They help to identify the companies, what they stand for, what values they have. Flags and logos are like branding for the countries and companies. Proper care must be made in designing them.
Chapter 1, Verse 21
Now Arjuna is requesting Lord Krishna to place the chariot in the middle of both the armies. Here the word Achyutha (28) is used for Lord Krishna. Achyutha means who never loses his inherent nature and powers. As human beings, we tend to change as per our circumstances and here Lord Krishna is praised as one who never loses his basic nature. We should all aspire to develop this capacity of not losing our basic nature irrespective of the circumstances around us. Achyutha also means one who has never fallen or immovable.
Chapter 1, Verse 22
Arjuna desires to be placed between the armies so that he can see who are all on both sides of the army. He wants to see who is fighting with whom. The common strategy of management games is to see who are the major players on each side. First Duryodhana has done the same while speaking to Dronacharya and now Arjuna is doing the same.
Chapter 1, Verse 25
Lord Krishna upon request by Arjuna, took the chariot between the two forces and in front of Kauravas and told Arjuna to look at the warriors on the side of Kauravas including Bhishma, Dronacharya. Here Arjuna is addressed as Partha, which means Son of Pritha, Kunthi. Only Arjuna is addressed as Partha, no other Pandava is mentioned as Partha. Even Lord Krishna is named as Partha-Sarathi, meaning the leader of Partha, Driver of Partha.
Chapter 1, Verse 26
After the chariot was placed between the two armies, Arjuna could see all his relatives in both the armies. He could see well wishers and also all kinds of relatives including grand father, grand son, teachers, brothers (The word brother might be derived from Sanskrit word Bhartarn), father in law etc.
Chapter 1, Verse 27
After seeing all his relatives, Arjuna is overtaken by compassion and grief.is it good to have these feelings? it is quite natural before going to a war whether it is your relatives on the other side or whether it is anyone to have a feeling of compassion. Also, such feelings sprout in you when you try to eliminate some bad habits in you. Those habits are so dear to you feel like having some compassion for them, and feel like is it necessary to get rid of them? The bad habits look like relatives and you don’t feel like eliminating them.
Chapter 1, Verse 28
In this verse for the first time the word Krishna is used. Arjuna addresses Krishna as “o Krishna, my mouth dries up and my limbs quiver whenever I see all my people(sva-Janam) in the war. These two feelings show the feeling of fear. A person’s legs quiver whenever he is having fear and he is completely uncomfortable with it. Mouth dries up because of the condition when saliva is not made. This happens because of nervousness and stress. We cannot say Arjuna is nervous, but he is under tremendous stress.
Chapter 1, Verse 29
Sanjaya continues to explain the situation of Arjuna, seeing all his kith and kin in the battle field. He explains that Arjuna’s hair is standing ( happens only when there are goose bumps). It is described that people get goosebumps when they experience strong emotional situation.(29). The reason for such a response is due to secretion of hormone Adrenaline. Adrenaline hormone which is called “fight or flight ‘harmone is secreted when the person is afraid or is under stress(Like anger, excitement). The other symptoms caused by adrenaline secretion are sweaty palms, trembling palms, increased heart beat.
The feelings Arjuna is experiencing can be correlated to the secretion of Adrenaline. His bow is getting dropped due to the sweaty palms, his body is trembling, and there is burning sensation on the skin(30). All these symptoms experienced by Arjuna are due to stress caused by anxiety and fear. Veda Vyasa has clearly captured those feelings in a scientific way. Modern scientists now know the reason for all these symptoms as Adrenaline secretion in the body.
Chapter 1, Verse 30
Here Lord Krishna is addressed as Kesava(31). Kesava means curly long haired and also dispeller of bad omens. After reading this I am awed by the use of words by Veda Vyasa. In one line Arjuna says he sees all bad omens and in the next line Lord Krishna is addressed as Kesava dispeller of bad omens. Arjuna says he is unable to stay composed and sees all inauspicious omen. Again the symptoms are stress in Arjuna are very clear. People in stress cannot see things clearly. That’s why they say we should meditate and make ourselves stress-free so that we can see things clearly. Stress causes us not to see things clearly.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Pranayama is called as Sudarshan Kriya which means the right vision Kriya, or which helps to see things clearly.
Chapter 1, Verse 31
Here Arjuna moves from a condition of stress, anxiety to despair. He says O Krishna, I do not foresee any good in the killing of my kinsmen. He says he do not desire any kingdom, victory and happiness. The reason why he may not be desiring kingdom is that he completed his Vana vasa recently and lived many years in forests on very frugal subsistence. Hence it’s easy for him to live without any kingdom. He doesn’t need money to sustain himself or his family and he is confident of that fact. Hence he does not desire any kingdom. He is not desirous of any victory is because he will be killing his own kins man in this process. And in the last, he says he does not desire any happiness too. This shows his emotions for relatives is overpowering him.
We started Mahabharatha telling that this is a war between evil and virtuous within us.we can see that when we start a fight between the bad and the good with in us, there is always a sense of despair in us. What happiness and what good will I get by over coming and killing the bad things in my body to improve myself? I will move from point “x” where I am now to point ‘Y” in life. Is it worth the effort to remove those things that are stopping me from excelling ? is it worth it to remove them because they helped me sustain till now in my life? All my bad thoughts feel like so close relatives, I why should I fight with them? Why should I improve myself? Why should I exercise? Why should I read and write Geetha? What benefit do I get? Better relax.
These thoughts are common when people decide to wage a war against themselves, to move from good to great. The predicament Arjuna has is present in every human being.
Chapter 1, Verse 32
From despair, we notice that Arjuna is becoming negatively minded about the entire initiative of war. He addresses Krishna as Govinda(31). Govinda is a very popular word in Southern India and it is one of the words used for Lord Vishnu in Vishnu Sahasra Nama. Adi Shankara has written a famous prayer called “Bhaja Govindam” (32) in says if we pray to the Lord we can remove all the obstacles in this life. Arjuna questions the Lord, what is the use of the kingdom, what is the use of the enjoyment derived from the kingdom if for whom you are doing all this will no longer be there to enjoy the fruits of my labour?
This shows clearly that Arjuna is trying to justify this negative mood by questioning Sri Krishna? This is like wanting to validate his mood.
Chapter 1, Verse 33 & 34
In these two stanzas, Lord Krishna is addressed by two names Madhusudhana(33) and Janardhana(34). Arjuna says what happiness will I derive from the victory when all the relatives are going to get killed. He recounts that his teachers, grand father, grand son, father in law (shashur), brother in law (Syalah) will all be killed in this battle for this small piece of the kingdom. He uses the word Madhusudhana- with reference to the killing of Madhu as the killer of evil ones. The words Janardhana are used as a reference for one who inflicts suffering on evil men. Thus we can see the context of using these names for Krishna, in the context of the killing of bad people.
Arjuna goes to the extent of saying that he will not kill his relatives even for the benefit of having all the three kingdoms.
Chapter 1, Verse 35
Arjuna asks Krishna, what benefits will be accrued from the kingdom in exchange for the killing of the Sons of Dhritarashtra. Is the happiness worth having three kingdoms?
Arjuna’s despair here can be compared to our feelings when we take on big battles in life. Those battles can be like preparing for an exam or solving a complex issue in the office. We may start the battle initially and then slowly and slowly despair comes to our mind. We keep on asking ourselves should I do this? What happiness will I get from this, when I am loosing all happiness in the present?
The despair can only be overcome if we have a friend/charioteer like Sree Krishna in life who can guide us properly in times of difficulty.
Chapter 1, Verse 36
In this Stanza Lord Krishna is addressed as Madhava, the giver of fortunes. Veda Vyasa has named Krishna in the context of Stanza. His use of words Govinda, Janardhana, Madhusudhana and Madhava are all used in the particular context of the stanza. Here in the poem when Arjuna is talking about having three kingdoms( prosperity) he is addressing Krishna as Madhava. He says to Lord Krishna, that he will be committing sin by killing his relatives and teachers in the battle because killing is a sin as per Dharma Shastra. He may be right in the Niti Shastra but he is committing sin as per Dharmashastra. We may think that because they have committed the wrong against the Pandavas, they are very right in taking revenge, but killing a human being is a sin as per Dharmashastra.
Chapter 1, Verse 37 & 38
In these Stanzas, Arjuna addresses Krishna again as Janardhana. Janardhana means the one who removes ignorance. Arjuna is asking Lord Krishna a question out of ignorance and he is asking him to dispel his ignorance. Arjuna asks Lord Krishna, the Kauravas has committed sin and they can commit this sin of killing the kinsmen, why should we (Pandavas) do the same of killing kinsmen. What advantage do we get out of it? Is it not a sin to kill own people?
Lessons learnt: When in doubt ask… Like what Arjuna is doing. He is not afraid to ask. When people tell their doubts, questions. Listen carefully like Krishna does.
Chapter 1, Verse 39
Here Arjuna uses the word “Kula” three times. We should know that Kulam in Sanskrit means –Race, Lineage,Community, Family. If we see the context of the setting I think he is talking about the family and dynasty. He says that if the whole dynasty vanishes and the people who hold the eternal values of Dharma vanishes then the rest of the family will take up values that are not good. They may take up entirely different values.
This is a powerful stanza in many ways. It shows the importance of elder people in the family/dynasty should uphold the values of righteousness, otherwise, the future family will take up other values.
We can also imply that if we give up good qualities/habits now we may end up in having habits that are not good for ourselves and for the future. In a family, it is the responsibility of elders to protect the right values.if they go to battle and get killed or if they become wayward and get spoilt, then the whole family changes.
Chapter 1, Verse 40
Arjuna Says with the elder people (fathers etc) not there to guide the family in the right way because of their absence then there will not be anyone who can take care of the family, and protect the remaining members. This will make the future females and children in a vulnerable position and may leave them unprotected.
Though this is applicable in those times in a modern society where females are on their own this stanza may not apply much but this stanza shows how important are the institutions that govern the society.
If the governing institutions are strong (like strong government, maintaining peace and order in the society, strong vibrant economy) then this will ensure that females can be independent and lead their children in a better way. We can say that in modern times a society of the present days based on good values is very much necessary to ensure overall growth and prosperity of the future.
To summarize the above two stanzas: Virtuous elders (both males and females) will lead to a strong vibrant and dynamic society. If they perish because of war or if they get spoilt, the society degrades and future individuals (males, females, children) of that society will be misled and leads to degradation of society.
Chapter 1, Verse 41
Arjuna says children born out of such a situation, where most of the people are wiped out of the war, are bound to corrupt the whole family situation. They are raised with out any family values and virtues and do not perform the prescribed rituals like offering Pinda to forefathers. This creates a situation that forefathers eternally remain in hell.
Arjuna talks about the futility of war where it leads to a destruction of the entire family and what is the need for such a war?
I do not know why Arjuna is in despair because even if he doesn’t want war his opposite side is willing for a war and it may destroy the whole family anyway. Arjuna talks about the importance of children who are raised by values will not only take care of society but also for ancestors. He implies the role of an individual for the society and his ancestors.
Chapter 1, Verse 42
Here in this stanza, Arjuna tries to say that such a children raised by irresponsible parents not only cause ancestors to remain in hell but also cause degradation of present society. The caste system which was dependent upon professions during the Vedic times will be disrupted by such acts and the society will be degraded.
Chapter 1, Verse 43
Here again, Lord Krishna is addressed as Janardhana. He tells Krishna that those whose family traditions are broken, that family forever resides in hell. We can interpret it as saying, if a person is taken to bad habits and leave the path of unrighteousness, then he and his family will be in hell. This we can see everywhere in the modern world, people addicted to drinking or any other vice create a hell kind of situation for the family. Arjuna feels that instead of creating such a situation, where elders are killed, and family becomes unrighteous because of lack of guidance, it is better not to go to war. Arjuna, in this stanza also invokes the authenticity of what he is speaking by telling that he heard it from credible sources.
Chapter 1, Verse 44
Arjuna asks Krishna, how ironic it is that we all decided for the war for sake of royal luxuries and we forgot the ill effects of the war?
I do not understand why Arjuna has to go through all this at the starting of the war? Hasn’t they calculated all this before the war? May be the sight of all his kinsman, that they are all going to die made him remorseful.
Chapter 1, Verse 45
Here Arjuna makes an assertive statement that even if the son’s of Dhritarashtra are keen to fight, he will not fight and is willing to die in this battle.
Reason: The reason he gives for his assertive statement is that instead of committing this sin of destroying families and community and its future generations it is better to die and avoid a war.
Arjuna is willing to make the sacrifice of himself and his team to save the society and its future. Arjuna is overwhelmed by the sight of the formations in the war and he is overtaken by the feeling of compassion by seeing them. He is ready to give up his Kshatriya dharma for the sake of society.
Chapter 1, Verse 46
Sanjaya says that overcome by deep sorrow and compassion Arjuna left his Bow and arrows and sat on the chariot. We should understand the mood of Arjuna, he is over come by grief: As to why he is committing the sin of wiping out entire generations/community/clan.
He is overcome by compassion: about his teachers, relatives that are going to be killed in the battle. It sometimes happens that we may take decisions sitting in our offices but once we come onto the field and see them we may change our decisions by seeing the actual ground situation. That’s why actual ground simulations are very important in decision making.