Chapter 1 – Arjuna Visada Yoga
Chapter one introduces the scene, the setting, the circumstances and the characters involved determining the reasons for the Bhagavad-Gita’s revelation. The scene is the sacred plain of Kurukshetra. The setting is a battlefield. The circumstance is war. The main characters are the Supreme Lord Krishna and Prince Arjuna, witnessed by four million soldiers led by their respective military commanders. After naming the principal warriors on both sides, Arjuna’s growing dejection is described due to the fear of losing friends and relatives in the course of the impending war and the subsequent sins attached to such actions. Thus this chapter is entitled: Lamenting the Consequence of War.
Bhagavad Gita 1.1
mamakah pandavas caiva
kim akurvata sanjaya
Dhritarashtra said – What did the sons of Pandu and also my people do when they had assembled together, eager for battle on the holy plain of Kurukshetra, O Sanjaya?
Dhritarashtra is the blind Kuru King. Just before the war, sage Vyasa offered him vision so that he could witness the war, but refused to accept it, instead pleaded with the Sage to give divine vision to his Minister cum Charioteer Sanjay, so that by sitting in his palace, Sanjay could see the developments in Kurukshetra. Dhritarashtra is blind, both physically and mentally. He is neither able to see with his physical eye nor through his mental eye. His love towards his own children, particularly Duryodhana, was so much blinding that he could not see all the adharma that is being perpetuated by them. In fact at times even he permitted and encouraged such acts.
Kurukshetra is the place where Mahabharata war is fought and is also known as “Dharma Kshetra”. It is said that anyone who dies in this holy place goes to heaven directly. The name Kurukshetra is derived from the fact that King Kuru, the king who started the Kuru dynasty did penance here. This is also the place where Parasuram did obeisance to his father by killing all the Kshatriya kings on earth five times and collected their blood as a revenge for his father’s murder.
The very question that the blind king asked is irrelevant as there is no point in asking “what my children and the sons of Pandu is doing in Kurukshetra where they have assembled eager for the war”. Because that exactly what they would be doing, war, fighting each other, except that Dhritarashtra had a glimpse of hope due to the significance of the place. The phrase dharma-Kshetra Kurukshetra used by Dhritarashtra signifies two things. The first is that he is inwardly thinking that his sons who are not righteous might give back the kingdom to the Pandavas which they appropriated by fraudulent means, due to being influenced by the righteousness and holiness of the land where they have assembled for the war. The second is that if the Pandavas who are virtuous by nature, increase in righteousness due to contact with the holiness of Kurukshetra and thereby lose all desire in regaining the kingdom after duly weighing the sinful consequences of slaying their kinsman and relatives.
Sanjaya means a person who has become free from attachment and aversion and thus speak only the truth. By addressing Sanjaya, Dhritarashtra expects him to speak the truth as it is. By using the word ‘mamakah’ and ‘Pandava’ in referring to his sons and the sons of Pandu indicates disparity and shows that Dhritarashtra did not accept the sons of his deceased brother Pandu as he did his own sons and this reveals his enmity or dislike towards them.
Nepotism and favouritism is a common problem in many organizations that demotivates loyal and committed employees. If a Manager shows or showers special favour to a person, because of his religion, cast, creed, language or region, colour, sex or cronyism, the very structure and essence of that team loses and infighting, demotivation and disintegration starts. Whether it is hiring, promotions or compensation, performance and merit should be the only criteria for decision making.
In Government departments or organizations hiring and staffing is done based on religion or cast (reservation policy) but their main objective is social equity rather than performance or profitability. However hiring in private industries or organizations have to be based on merit as performance is critical for survival and growth of the company. As a manager if you compromise, you are not only compromising the company’s growth but also that of yours as well as those working with you. If the situation continues then good people will leave the company making it even more vulnerable to performance deterioration. If Dhritarashtra has shown equanimity, being the king, towards his as well as his brother’s sons, who consider and respect him as their father, Mahabharata war would not have taken place. Large scale destruction and death would have been avoided. Similarly you as a manager can avoid demoralisation of your team and destruction of your company by treating all your employees equally and reward them based on performance only.
drishtva tu pandavanikam
vyudham duryodhanas tada
raja vacanam abravit
“Sanjaya said: O King, after looking over the army arranged in military formation by the sons of Pandu, King Duryodhana went to his teacher and spoke the following words.”
Sanjaya, the minister and charioteer of Kind Dhritarashtra, was loyal to him but always advised the king not to ill-treat Pandavas. Having given special powers by sage Vyasa, Sanjaya was able to view the war as well as hear what they say and think wherever he is and will not be killed by weapons even if he walks through the battlefield unarmed.
Pandavas had 7 Akshouhini or regiments while Kauravas had much larger army of 11 Akshouhini. Yet, Duryodhana was concerned about the strength of Pandava army and therefore went to the teacher to discuss the subject.
Duryodhana is the eldest son of Dhritarashtra and who was solely responsible for the war against Pandavas due to his greed and jealousy and by refusing to give them their rightful share of the kingdom. The word means ‘one who could not easily be fought against, He is also known as Suyodhana, ‘one who fights with ease’ denoting his valour. He is said to be an Avatar of the demon Kali, and was an incredibly powerful person.
Drona is the preceptor for both the Kauravas and Pandavas. Born as the son of Sage Bharadwaja, Drona got his early education, including training in Dhanurvidya (archery) from Rishi Agnivesa. Drupada, who became the King of Panchala was his classmate and best friend and also promised any kind of help when in need. However Drona was humiliated by the king when approached for financial help due to extreme poverty and the hurt Drona decided to take revenge. Drona took higher education under Parasuram and gained many divine weapons. On advice from his brother in law Kripacharya, Drona approached Bhishma and got appointed as the teacher for the young Kaurava and Pandava princes. With the help of his most loved and favourite student Arjuna, Drona attacked the Panchala kingdom, took King Drupada as prisoner and usurped half his kingdom.
Throughout the conflict Drona advised the king and Duryodhana to desist from evil ways and make peace with the Pandavas, but all in vain. He fought the war with the Kauravas, first under Bhishma and then as Commander in Chief of the Kaurava army. Born a Brahmin, he lived a life of Kshatriya, like his Guru Parasuram.
There are many questions that arise from this stanza. Why did Duryodhana go to Acharya Drona and not to Bhishma, who is the Commander in Chief? Was it a political move, particularly when Drona’s love towards Pandavas in general and Arjuna in particular was a well-known fact? Or is it because Bhishma’s loyalty towards the Kaurava side is taken for granted because of his oath taken earlier to protect the kingdom and lineage? And finally why did Sanjay address Duryodhana as King when he is only a princess and representing the king in the battle field.
Was Duryodhana behaving like a king even though he was not already the king? Those who are working in family owned companies such experiences are very common. You may be working there for many years and may already be the head of sales or marketing. The owner director of the company has full trust in you, having seen you perform over the years, yet, when his young sons joins the company after his graduation becomes your Boss and starts guiding you as to what and how to do the job! Some withstand the humiliation but many others look out for alternate opportunities!