Gita 1(28, 29, 30)
drstvemam sva-janam krsna
sidanti mama gatrani
mukham ca parisusyati
vepathus ca sarire me
roma-harsas ca jayate
gandivam sramsate hastat
tvak caiva paridahyate
na ca saknomy avasthatum
bhramativa ca me manah
nimittani ca pasyami
Meaning – Arjuna said: Oh Krishna, seeing my friends and relatives present before me in such a fighting spirit, I feel the limbs of my body quivering and my mouth drying up. My whole body is trembling, and my hair is standing on end. My bow Gandiva is slipping from my hand and my skin is burning. I am now unable to stand here any longer. I am forgetting myself, and my mind is reeling. I foresee only evil, O killer of the Kesi demon.
Explanation – Dhritarashtra, in the first verse of this chapter, uses the phrase ‘Samaveta Yuyutsavah’ (gathered together desirous to fight) and Arjuna here has said, ‘Yuyutsum Samupasthitam’ (arrayed eager to fight). But there is a vast difference, in the views of the two. Dhritarashtra is partial to his sons. So, he uses the words ‘Mamaka’ (Mine), and ‘Pandava’ (Pandu’s), But Arjuna is impartial. So he uses the term ‘Svajanam’ (Kinsmen), which includes persons of both sides. It means, that Dhritarashtra is worried about the death of his sons in the warfare, while Arjuna is worried about the death of warriors, in both armies, because he thinks that both the warring groups, are his own kith and kin.
Thinking of the consequences of the war, Arjuna is worried and sad. So his limbs are giving way, his mouth is getting parched, his body shakes, and his hair is standing on an end. The same Gandiva bow, the sound of whose string, terrified enemies, is dropping from his hand and his skin is burning all over. His mind is reeling, he is in a dilemma, and he is unable even to stand at the war-front. He feels, as if he will fall unconscious, and thinks it is a sin to wage war.
This is what usually happens when we confront difficult situations in life. Sitting in the examination hall eagerly waiting for the question paper and if you see the first question itself is so difficult that you do not know the answer, this will happen to you. What happens when you are anxiously sitting outside the operation theatre where one of your very close relative is undergoing a major operation? Similarly we find that Arjuna is suffering from some kind of anxiety attack or hysteria.
The physical symptoms of anxiety attacks are themselves so frightening that many people believe they’re having a heart attack. After an anxiety attack is over, you may be worried about having another one, particularly in a public place where help isn’t available or you can’t easily escape.
Symptoms of anxiety attacks include:
• Surge of overwhelming panic
• Feeling of losing control or going crazy
• Heart palpitations or chest pain
• Feeling like you’re going to pass out
• Trouble breathing or choking sensation
• Hot flashes or chills
• Trembling or shaking
• Nausea or stomach cramps
• Feeling detached or unreal
Common symptoms and signs of anxiety can include
• Restlessness or feeling edgy,
• becoming tired easily,
• Trouble concentrating,
• feeling as if the mind is going “blank,”
• Muscle tension,
• Sleep problems (trouble falling or staying asleep or having sleep that is not restful).
Neuropsychologists have noted that generally the left side of the brain which specialises in analytical, logical and verbal tasks is more active in men while the right side which activates the artistic and creative functions, working with emotions, feelings and metaphor are more active in women. The masculine side reveals itself as the powers of discrimination, self-control, exacting judgement – qualities that express or respond to reason. The feminine nature consists of feeling, sympathy, kindness, mercy, joy, etc. In the ideal person, these two aspects are perfectly balanced. But if reason lacks feeling, it becomes calculating, harsh and judgemental, but if feeling lacks reason, it becomes blind emotion.
By addressing Arjuna by names such as ‘Kaunteya’ and ‘Partha’, he is indicating that in Arjuna the balancing has not taken place and he is more prone to the feminine qualities of kindness and sympathy.
Gita 1. 31
na ca sreyo ‘nupasyami
hatva sva-janam ahave
na kankse vijayam krsna
na ca rajyam sukhani ca
Meaning – I do not see how any good can come from killing my own kinsmen in this battle, nor can I, my dear Krishna, desire any subsequent victory, kingdom, or happiness.
Explanation – Here Arjuna exclaims that he cannot foresee any benefit from slaying his own kinsman in battle. In the Vedic scriptures it is revealed that in this world two types of living entities are automatically granted entrance to the heavenly planets: one being the renunciate who is disciplined in the practice of yoga and the other is the warrior slain in battle. So Arjunas argument is that although there is provision for the slain, there is no declaration of any merit for the slayer.
The meaning of this sloka can also be analysed differently. Here Arjuna is not discussing killing his own people, but his habits. Our habits are also our own and we are very reluctant to change it, whether they are good or bad. Particularly it is very difficult give up pleasurable habits.
Gita 1. 32-35
kim no rajyena govinda
kim bhogair jivitena va
yesam arthe kanksitam no
rajyam bhogah sukhani ca
ta ime ‘vasthita yuddhe
pranams tyaktva dhanani ca
acaryah pitarah putras
tathaiva ca pitamahah
matulah svasurah pautrah
syalah sambandhinas tatha
etan na hantum icchami
ghnato ‘pi madhusudana
hetoh kim nu mahi-krte
nihatya dhartarastran nah
ka pritih syaj janardana
Meaning – O Govinda, of what avail to us are kingdoms, happiness or even life itself when all those for whom we may desire them are now arrayed in this battlefield? O Madhusudana, when teachers, fathers, sons, grandfathers, maternal uncles, fathers-in-law, grandsons, brothers-in-law and all relatives are ready to give up their lives and properties and are standing before me, then why should I wish to kill them, though I may survive? O maintainer of all creatures, I am not prepared to fight with them even in exchange for the three worlds, let alone this earth.
Explanation – When we do not desire anything (victory, kingdom and pleasure) of what use to us, is kingdom or pleasure? Victory, kingdom and pleasure, seem pleasant only, when there is desire for these. But we have no desire for these. So, how can these be pleasant to us? After killing our kith and kin, we have no desire to live, because after death, who will enjoy pleasure? The so-called pleasure, will rather lead us to worry and ‘unhappiness.
By Arjuna addressing Lord Krishna as Govinda expresses that since Lord Krishna is the knower of all the functions of the senses, Lord Krishna is also the knower of his mind. The reasons for not desiring the kingdom etc. are given in the second half of verse 32 beginning: yesam arthe. One can desire a kingdom for the happiness of one’s kinsman even at the cost of one’s own life; but in this battle when the destruction of ones kin is certain it is a fruitless desire to engage in battle. If it is put forth that although Arjuna out of compassion might not wish to slay his enemies; but it is certain that his enemies will surely slay him to keep the kingdom free from thorns. To answer this Arjuna is saying even if they intend to slay him he will not slay them. He says: I do not desire the ruler ship of the three worlds let alone this tract of land called Earth. If it is argued that Arjuna could slay only the sons of Dhritarashtra who caused the Pandavas so much troubles and leave all the others warriors alive then to answer this Arjuna is saying: what pleasure is there for us the Pandavas to kill the sons of Dhritarashtra? In expectation of temporary, earthly pleasures, fratricide is not in any way an appropriate action and will only insure eternal damnation to hell. By Arjuna addressing Lord Krishna as Janardhana which means He who always naturally protects His devotees; that since He has appeared for removing the sins from this world, then He can just slay all these sinners Himself and since Lord Krishna is the Supreme Lord there is no question of Him incurring any sinful reaction for causing their deaths.
Now a days people kill their own parents and close relatives for property or other silly reasons. Also look at our politicians, government servants or businessmen, for the sake of amassing wealth they are willing to stoop down to any level to eliminate friends and foes alike and achieve their earthly objectives. However Arjuna is displaying a very unique character by abandoning everything for the sake of peace and wellbeing of others.