The Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 1

The Bhagavad Gita translated by Antonio T. De Nicolas

Chapter 1:
The Yoga of Arjuna’s Crisis

Dhrtarāstra said:
1. My sons and those of Pāndu,
What did they do, Samjaya,
When, eager to fight, they assembled
In the field of the Kurus, the field of dharma?

Samjaya said:
2. Having looked over
The Pāndava troop drawn up in battle order,
then Prince Duryodhana approached his teacher (Drona)
And spoke these words:

3. Behold, O Teacher, this great army of the sons of Pāndu,
Gathered by an intelligent pupil of yours,
The son of Drupada.

4. Here are great archers who are equal in battle
To Bhīma and Arjuna, heroes
Like Yuyudhāna and Virāta, and Drupada,
A great chariot-warrior;

5. Together with Dhrsteketu, Cekitāna,
And the courageous King of Kāśi;
Then, too, Purujit, Kuntībhoja, and Śaibya,
The best of men.

6. And then there is Yudhāmanyu the strong,
And Uttamaujas the brave,
And the son of Subhadrā and the sons of Draupadi,
All of them mighty chariot-warriors.

7. O Highest of the Twice-Born,
Know also the most distinguished of our men,
Leaders in my army.
Let me name them for your recognition.

8. There is yourself (Drona), and Bhīsma and Karna,
And Krpa victorious in battle,
Asvatthāman and Vikarna, and also the. son of Somadatta.

9. Many other heroes are also willing to risk
Their lives for my sake,
And all of them are skilled in war
And armed with many kinds of weapons.

10. Our force, however, commanded by Bhīshma,
Appears to be unlimited
While theirs, commanded by Bhīma, appears to be small.

11. Therefore above all let all you lords,
Posted in all directions, Support Bhīsma.

12. To bring him (Duryodhana) joy,
The oldest grandson of the Kurus (Bhīshma)
Roared loudly like a lion,
And blew his conch shell.

13. Then conches and kettledrums,
Cymbals and drums and horns,
All were suddenly sounded,
And the noise was tumultuous.

14. Then Mādhava (Krsna)
And the son of Pāndu (Arjuna),
Both stationed in a great chariot
Yoked to white horses,
Blew their wondrous conches.

15. The Lord-of-the-Senses (Krsna) blew Pāncajanya,
Wealth-Winner (Arjuna), Devadatta,
And Bhīma, voracious, of terrible deeds,
Blew his great conch, Paundra.

16. Soon Prince Yudhisthira, son of Kuntī,
Was blowing Anantavijaya, Nakula and Sahadeva
Were blowing Sughosa and Manipuspaka.

17. They were joined by the supreme archer of Kāśi,
And the great warrior Sikhandin, and Dhrstadyumna,
Virāta, and the invincible Sātyaki;

18. Drupada, the sons of Draupadī,
And the strong-armed son of Subhadrā:
O Lord of Earth, all these also blew their conches.

19. The tumultuous noise,
Resounding through heaven and earth,
Rent open the hearts of the sons of Dhrtarāstra.

20. Then, Lord of Earth, with the fighting about to begin,
The ape-bannered son of Pāndu (Arjuna)
Seeing Dhrtarāstra’s sons
Stationed in battle order, took up his bow.

21. And to Hrsīkesa (Krsna), then, O Lord of Earth,
He spoke these words:
Stop my chariot in the middle of the two armies, Unshaken one,

22. That I may behold these men
Standing there eager to fight,
With whom I am to engage in this war.

23. I want to see those who, about to fight, are assembled here
Desirous of accomplishing in battle
What is dear to the evil-minded son of Dhrtarāstra.

24. Thus addressed by Gudākāsa (Arjuna),
O Descendant of Bhārata (Dhrtarāstra),
Hrsīkesa (Krsna) placed the best of chariots
In the middle of the two armies.

25. And when they were placed facing Bhīsma,
Drona and all the princes,
He said: O Son of Prthā (Arjuna),
Behold the assembled Kurus!

26. Arjuna saw standing there
Fathers and grandfathers,
Teachers, uncles, brothers,
Sons, grandsons, companions,

27. Fathers-in-law and friends,
Belonging to both armies.
And having looked closely
At all these relations standing there,
The son of Kuntī (Arjuna)

27. Fathers-in-law and friends,
Belonging to both armies.
And having looked closely
At all these relations standing there,
The son of Kuntī (Arjuna)

28. Filled with the utmost sadness,
And weighed down by his sorrow, he said:
Krsna, seeing my own kin on hand and eager to fight,

29. My limbs become weak, my mouth dries up,
My body trembles, and my hair stands on end.

30. Gāndīva (the bow) slips from my hand;
My skin is also burning, I can scarcely remain standing;
My mind is reeling.

31. And I see bad omens, O Késava (Krsna),
And I forsee no good that could come
From having slain my own kin in war.

32. I do not crave victory for myself, Krsna,
Nor kingdom nor pleasures.
Of what use is kingdom to us, O Govinda (Krsna)
Of what use pleasure, or even life?

33. Those for whose sake kingdom
And enjoyments and pleasures we desire,
Are entering the fight
Relinquishing their lives and riches.

34. Teachers, fathers, sons, grandfathers, uncles,
Fathers-in-law, grandsons, brothers-in-law, and (other) relations:

35. Though I am slain,
I do not desire to slay them. O Madhusūdana (Krsna),
Even for the kingship of the three worlds.
Why, then, for the sake of the earth?

36. What pleasure would there be for us
In slaying Dhrtarāstra’s sons,
O Janārdana (Krsna), Exciter-of-Men?
Only evil would attach to us i
If we slayed these (our would be) murderers.

37. Hence we ought not slay Dhrtarāstra’s sons, our kinsmen;
For having slain our own kin,
How will we be happy, O Mādhava?

38. Even if they, whose minds are afflicted with greed,
Do not see the evil caused by destruction of a family
And the crime incurred in the harming of a friend;

39. Why is it not wise for us, O Janārdana (Krsna), 
Who see this evil of causing the destruction of a family, 
To hold back from this sin?

40. In the ruin of a family, the ancient family dharma disappears,
And with the destruction of dharma,
Adharma overcomes the whole family.

41. When adharma conquers, O Krsna,
The women in a family become corrupt;
And among fallen women, O Vārsneya (Krsna), caste-mixture arises.

42. This mixing brings both the family and its destroyers to hell,
For the spirits of their ancestors fall
When deprived of their offerings of rice and water.

43. By these evils of those who
Destroy a family And create caste mixtures,
The immemorial dharmas of caste and family are destroyed.

44. We have heard, O Janārdana,
That a place in hell is reserved
For men of a family whose dharmas are destroyed.

45. Alas, we have resolved to commit a great sin
By undertaking to slay our own kin
Out of greed for the joys of kingship.

46. It would be better for me if Dhrtarāstra’s sons,
Would slay me, weapons in hand,
Unarmed and unresisting, in battle.

47. Having spoken thus in the battle field, Arjuna threw down his bow and arrow And sank down upon his chariot seat, His mind overcome by grief.

This is the end of the first chapter, entitled
“The Yoga of Arjuna’s Crisis”

About Sunday morning

Sunday Morning Contemplation is informed by Eastern and Western contemplative traditions. The first, lectio divina has its origins in 6th century Europe. It unfolds in four steps or stages: reading (lectio), reflecting (meditatio), responding (oratio), and silent abiding (contemplatio). Our Eastern inspiration come from the Indian Upanishads (800-200 BCE), where contemplative practice consists of three steps or stages: listening (śravana), reflecting (manana), and meditating (nididhyāsana or dhyāna). Our contemplative practice on Sundays embraces both approaches, and each contemplation will be based on a reading from either tradition.

The texts and teachers I have chosen played a significant role in my life and I believe have much to offer. I will read presellected texts, slowly, with pauses between verses or quotes. The readings will be accompanied by soothing background music. To lessen distraction, I suggest participants close their eyes and listen. However, the screen will display the text so that people can choose to read along or mute the sound and read on their own. If there is time remaining after the contemplative period, participants can choose to either leave or stay for a short discussion.

As a preface to the reading, I will provide a 10-15 minute introduction to the text. When relevant, I’ll review facts about the author/teacher’s life. I will also present a brief explanation of the terms and language encountered in the reading.

Finally, when the contemplation is over, all texts read will be available online to read and/or download at any time on the website.

What I mean by
The Symbolic Life

This website makes liberal use of classical Indian visual art and refers mostly to traditional Indian texts (for example, the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutras) in the courses, seminars, and discussions on offer. However, I am not presenting lessons in Hinduism; in fact, teaching mainstream Hinduism is neither my area of interest nor expertise. Rather, my interest in Yoga and Tantra is grounded in the concrete situation in which we find ourselves, in the places where we arrive and from which we depart. Beginning in the here and now, we will explore the underlying meaning of the symbols, stories, images, philosophies, and techniques found in Indian philosophical texts and practice, in light of our world and our current circumstance. We will excavate the meaning of the aphorisms and teaching stories; the symbolic figures of gods, people, and nature; and the sometimes terse, sometimes poetic, philosophy of the texts. Thus, in referring to the Symbolic Life of Yoga and Tantra, I mean not just the symbols themselves, but the rich explication of life that the symbols represent.

Our lived, concrete situation is wonderfully captured in the Sanskrit word loka, whose ancient meaning is “the world.”  The root meaning of both the Sanskrit loka and the English locate (and local, locale, and location) is identical. In the ancient Indian mind, the world is where we are located, in our current circumstance. Thus, the meaning of the symbols of Yoga and Tantra can occur only in the now, in the places where we find ourselves, and not in any imagined ancient and/or foreign world.

To emphasize our place of origin and return, I use the terms “archetypal” and “symbolic” quite frequently. Archetypal meaning is associated with the universal and collective aspects of human experience—what we intimately share with all others regardless of culture or era or epoch—while symbolic language forms a bridge between the realms of the universal with the culturally specific and local. Symbols are the scaffolding upon which human beings build a world and imbue it with meaning.

Think for a moment of pain and pleasure, sorrow and joy, hatred and love, and greed and generosity—universal experiences that ancient Indian thinkers called the dvandva-s. This Sanskrit term is a combination of two words, or rather, one word spoken twice: the word dva (meaning the same as the English “two”) duplicated. Dvandva is commonly translated as “the pair of opposites” or literally “the two-twos” (dvadva). The ancients who coined this compact symbol gave voice to an archetypal human experience that can be further unpacked to reveal deep insights into the human condition. Once we gain an understanding of the various symbols of Yoga and Tantra, we can further excavate their meaning and the archetypes they convey, and thus gain access to, in a practical and meaningful way, the vision of life experienced by the sages. These insights are available to us and are still relevant today, as are the resilient and adaptable techniques and forms of practice that can help us lead richer and more fulfilling lives