papam evasrayed asman
tasman narha vayam hantum
sva-janam hi katham hatva
sukhinah syama madhava
Meaning – Sin will overcome us if we slay such aggressors. Therefore it is not proper for us to kill the sons of Dhritarashtra and our friends. What should we gain, O Krishna, husband of the goddess of fortune, and how could we be happy by killing our own kinsmen?
Explanation – An ‘Atatayi’ is someone who commits any of the following major sins and killing them is permitted and justified as per scriptures such as ‘Manusmriti’ and ‘Vasishta Samhita’. The sins are 1) one who administers poison 2) one who commits arson 3) one who attacks with deadly weapons 4) one who steals ones wealth 5) one who usurps another’s property 6) and one who kidnaps another’s wife. Duryodhana and his companions have committed all these criminal offences. They secretly set fire to the residence, where Pandavas were expected to be sleeping, they poisoned Bhima and threw him into water; they made an attempt on the life of Pandavas; while gambling, deceitfully they deprived Pandavas of their wealth and kingdom, and in the assembly, Duryodhana insulted Draupadi, by calling her his waiting-maid and persuaded Jayadratha to kidnap Draupadi, and he kidnapped her.
However Arjuna thought it better not to kill his own close relatives, whatever they may have done and forgive them on the grounds of religion and saintly behaviour. After all, kingdoms and pleasures derived therefrom are not permanent, so why should he risk his life and eternal salvation by killing his own kinsmen? Arjuna addressing Krishna as “Madhava,” or the husband of the goddess of fortune, is very significant in this connection. He wanted to point out to Krishna that, as husband of the goddess of fortune, He should not induce Arjuna to take up a matter which would ultimately bring about misfortune. Krishna, however, never brings misfortune to anyone, to say nothing of His devotees.
Many times we try to justify our actions quoting precedence or law, irrespective of what we are doing is good for the society or organization that we are associated in the short as well as long term. Arjuna through his knowledge and discretion is showing us the way forward through these stanzas.
Gita 1(37, 38)
yady apy ete na pasyanti
mitra-drohe ca patakam
katham na jneyam asmabhih
papad asman nivartitum
Meaning – O Janardhana, although these men, overtaken by greed, see no fault in killing one’s family or quarrelling with friends, why should we, with knowledge of the sin, engage in these acts?
Explanation – Now in support of his reason for not fighting Arjuna states that the Pandavas are not like the Kauravas because of knowing fully the sinful reaction of slaying kinsman. So why should they engage in this abominable act. Addressing Lord Krishna as ‘Janardhana’ meaning the remover of his devotees ignorance; why should Pandavas, who are his devotees, not refrain themselves from such ignorance being cognizant of the implications of unrighteousness?
Here, Arjuna is thinking about the greed of Duryodhana etc., but he is not thinking about his own, infatuation and delusion. He feels rather proud of his superiority, that he has no defect, while the fact is that, everyone generally, possesses one defect or the other. If we find fault with others, it is also a defect. Beings proud of one’s own virtues and finding fault with others are the two defects which we do not perceive in us, though we do possess these.
dharme naste kulam krtsnam
adharmo ‘bhibhavaty uta
Meaning – With the destruction of dynasty, the eternal family tradition is vanquished, and thus the rest of the family becomes involved in irreligious practice.
Explanation – When the spiritual traditions and spiritual values are destroyed in society, unrighteousness predominates and the surviving family members become degraded. In a family it is the father who is the head of the family. He insures that the family traditions are maintained. In times of war it is the father who goes to fight and sometimes the older sons who are the fathers of the future also go to war. If they are slain in battle it is understood that the family is effectively destroyed and righteousness along with the age- old family customs and Vedic traditions eventually cease to exist. The women and children not being properly protected, having lost the shelter of the father are thus overcome by the realities of basic survival and become victims of unrighteousness.
strisu dustasu varsneya
Meaning – When irreligion is prominent in the family, O Krishna, the women of the family become corrupt, and from the degradation of womanhood, O descendant of ‘Vrsni’, comes unwanted progeny.
Explanation – when unrighteousness becomes predominant in the family due to the loss of the father who insures the continuation of the family customs and the propagation of the Vedic tradition, the females of the family become easily accessible and are placed in conditions of compromise. From this polluted and degraded position arises undesirable progeny. The purpose of Arjuna addressing Lord Krishna by the vocative ‘Varsneya’ is to remind Him that He took birth in the exalted royal ‘Vrsni’ dynasty and as such should be fully aware of all these things.
Good population in human society is the basic principle for peace, prosperity and spiritual progress in life. The varnasrama religion’s principles were so designed that the good population would prevail in society for the general spiritual progress of state and community. Such population depends on the chastity and faithfulness of its womanhood. As children are very prone to be misled, women are similarly very prone to degradation. Therefore, both children and women require protection by the elder members of the family. By being engaged in various religious practices, women will not be misled into adultery.