Chapter 1. Yoga of Inconsiderate Compassion (Part 1)

This article is part 13 of 43 in the series Jīvana-dharma-yoga


ಕುರುರಂಗದಿ ಸೇರಿ ಸಮರಶಂಖಂ ಮೊಳಗಲ್ ।
ನರನುತ್ಸಹಿಸದೆ ಕೃಷ್ಣಂ
ಗೊರೆದಂ ತನಗಾದ ಧರ್ಮಸಂಕಟಭಯಮಮ್ ॥

When the two armies of Bharata’s descendants
met at Kurukṣetra, and the war-conch sounded,
Arjuna, having lost his will
told Kṛṣṇa of his fear and doubt about his dharma


When the armies of the Kauravas and Pāṇḍavas gathered at Kurukṣetra, known as dharma-kṣetra—the abode of dharma—Arjuna beheld his elders and relatives in front of him and was overcome with pity. He said that he did not want to enjoy the kingdom that he would obtain by killing his near and dear ones. Thus he became ‘śoka-saṃvigna-mānasaḥ’ – i.e., his mind was agitated by sorrow. He threw his bow and quiver down and told Kṛṣṇa that he would not fight.

Chapter One

Arjuna-viṣāda-yoga (The Yoga of Arjuna's Distress)

or Prākṛta-kāruṇya-yoga (The Yoga of Inconsiderate Compassion)

The first chapter of the Bhagavad-gītā is a story, not instruction. This story relates the reason for the Gītopadeśa. Since the purport of this work can be easily discerned from its commencement, even though this chapter does not have any teaching, it is portentous of the nature of the instruction that follows. This story is in two parts –

1. The description of the preparation for war and

2. Arjuna’s aversion for fighting.


1. Preparation for War

Dhṛtarāṣṭra, the king of Hastināpura, asks Sañjaya what his children—the Kauravas—and his brother’s children—the Pāṇḍavas—did.

Replying to that, Sañjaya said, “O king, your son Duryodhana saw the preparation of the army of the Pāṇḍavas. He came to Droṇācārya and requested him thus – ‘Venerable Sir, there are many mighty heroes on both sides. Still, the force under Bhīṣma’s command is not enough; the army of the enemy led by Bhīma is adequate. Therefore, you and the heroes on our side may please protect Bhīṣma from all sides.’”

aparyāptaṃ tad-asmākaṃ balaṃ bhīṣmābhirakṣitaṃ
paryāptaṃ tv-idam-eteṣāṃ balaṃ bhīmābhirakṣitaṃ॥ (BG 1.10)
...bhīṣmam-evābhirakṣantu bhavantaḥ sarva eva hi॥ (BG 1.11)

Hadn’t Duryodhana, in the beginning, designated Bhīṣma as the commander of the army? Why did he go to Droṇa instead of Bhīṣma? From his words, it appears that Duryodhana had some doubt in his mind. (1) Did he believe that Bhīṣma was partial towards the Pāṇḍavas, and therefore he might not fight with his full might in the battle? (2) Did he think that Bhīṣma was old and lacked physical strength? (3) Did he consider Bhīma to be more competent, even though Bhīṣma was a mighty warrior? (4) Or, if the above three were not the reasons, did he think that Droṇa was beleaguered by jealousy or anger that he was not chosen to be the commander-in-chief of the army, and try to allay that by flattery? (5) Alternatively, did he deem it profitable to have Droṇācārya’s pride stirred up by indicating that deep inside, his own respect and reliance were more in him, even though he had designated Bhīṣma as the commander-in-chief as a mere formality? Thus, we can think of five or six reasons for this supplication of Droṇā by Duryodhana. Let the reasons be as they may, it is clear that Duryodhana was not without doubt. His mind was wandering because of fear and apprehension. This conjecture becomes established later, in the 19th verse.

sa ghoṣo dhārtarāṣṭrāṇāṃ hṛdayāni vyadārayat। (BG 1.19)

The sound from the conches of the Pāṇḍavas tore the hearts of the Kauravas.

As if he guessed at the misgivings in Duryodhana’s mind, Bhīṣma blew his conch loudly with a mighty roar like that of a lion. That was a sign that they were ready for battle. In reply to that, all the commanders sounded their conches.

...śaṅkhān dadhmuḥ pṛthak pṛthak॥ (BG 1.18)

This invitation to battle is the first stage of the story.


2. Arjuna’s Reluctance to Fight

When the time to use his weapons had finally arrived, Arjuna requested Kṛṣṇa –

senayor-ubhayor-madhye rathaṃ sthāpaya me’cyuta॥ (BG 1.21)

“O Imperishable One! Please park my chariot between the two armies. With my own eyes, let me see whom I have to fight with – those who are backing the vile Duryodhana!” Kṛṣṇa parked the chariot as requested and asked Arjuna to look at the Kaurava army. When Arjuna did so, he saw that all the warriors on the Kaurava side were his near and dear ones. Men whom he regarded as he did his own father, his preceptors, uncles, brothers, nephews, grandchildren, friends and relatives; they were all his own people. As soon as he saw them, Arjuna felt the gush of affection and attachment specially reserved for one’s own relatives. As soon as the realization that they were worthy of his respect, love, and affection dawned on him, Arjuna’s heart melted. He became limp and broke down; his face fell, his bow slipped from his unsteady hands and his willpower gave way.

etān-na hantum-icchāmi ghnato’pi madhusūdana। (BG 1.35)

“O slayer of Madhu, let them kill me if they want to, I do not want to slay them!” – thus decided Arjuna.

This conduct of Arjuna was unexpected. Arjuna was no fledgling in battle; that was certainly not the first time he saw huge armies. He was a renowned warrior and had won hundreds of wars. He was familiar with the brutality and horrors of battle. Secondly, he also knew that his opponents were his own people. He had not forgotten that elders such as Śalya were deserving of respect and that Duryodhana, Duśśāsana, and others were his cousins. The pity that had not surfaced in him until then arose in him at that very moment. How did that happen?

We must ponder upon this. Our mental speculations about a far-off object, based only on our imagination and hearsay, will all undergo an abrupt sea-change when it comes nearer. We may hear and consider the bereavement of a friend and may think that we have understood its nature; but when we experience the same thing, we think of it as a new calamity and suffer. This is the power of direct experience. The mind is more agitated and frenzied with direct experience, rather than hearing in detail about the same thing. Thus, Arjuna’s experience in the battlefield of Kurukṣetra is an unfamiliar experience for him, in a way.

...hatvā sva-janam-āhave॥ (BG 1.31)

The feeling of ‘sva’ in ‘sva-jana’ (1.28, 31, 37, and 45) became intense when Arjuna saw his elders and relatives. That is the extreme result of his cognizance of the fact that he, himself was now about to fight them. The grim spectacle of his kindred geared up for battle at Kurukṣetra excited the passionate proprietorship of Arjuna.

To be continued...

The present series is a modern English translation of DVG’s Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award-winning work, Bhagavad-gītā-tātparya or Jīvana-dharma-yoga. The translators wish to express their thanks to Śatāvadhāni R Ganesh for his valuable feedback and to Hari Ravikumar for his astute edits.



Devanahalli Venkataramanayya Gundappa (1887-1975) was a great visionary and polymath. He was a journalist, poet, art connoisseur, philosopher, political analyst, institution builder, social commentator, social worker, and activist.



Engineer. Lapsed blogger. Abiding interest in Sanskrit, religion, and philosophy. A wannabe jack-of-all.


Mother of two. Engineer. Worshiper of Indian music, poetry, and art.

Prekshaa Publications

The Mahābhārata is the greatest epic in the world both in magnitude and profundity. A veritable cultural compendium of Bhārata-varṣa, it is a product of the creative genius of Maharṣi Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa. The epic captures the experiential wisdom of our civilization and all subsequent literary, artistic, and philosophical creations are indebted to it. To read the Mahābhārata is to...

Shiva Rama Krishna

சிவன். ராமன். கிருஷ்ணன்.
இந்திய பாரம்பரியத்தின் முப்பெரும் கதாநாயகர்கள்.
உயர் இந்தியாவில் தலைமுறைகள் பல கடந்தும் கடவுளர்களாக போற்றப்பட்டு வழிகாட்டிகளாக விளங்குபவர்கள்.
மனித ஒற்றுமை நூற்றாண்டுகால பரிணாம வளர்ச்சியின் பரிமாணம்.
தனிநபர்களாகவும், குடும்ப உறுப்பினர்களாகவும், சமுதாய பிரஜைகளாகவும் நாம் அனைவரும் பரிமளிக்கிறோம்.
சிவன் தனிமனித அடையாளமாக அமைகிறான்....

ऋतुभिः सह कवयः सदैव सम्बद्धाः। विशिष्य संस्कृतकवयः। यथा हि ऋतवः प्रतिसंवत्सरं प्रतिनवतामावहन्ति मानवेषु तथैव ऋतुवर्णनान्यपि काव्यरसिकेषु कामपि विच्छित्तिमातन्वते। ऋतुकल्याणं हि सत्यमिदमेव हृदि कृत्वा प्रवृत्तम्। नगरजीवनस्य यान्त्रिकतां मान्त्रिकतां च ध्वनदिदं चम्पूकाव्यं गद्यपद्यमिश्रितमिति सुव्यक्तमेव। ऐदम्पूर्वतया प्रायः पुरीपरिसरप्रसृतानाम् ऋतूनां विलासोऽत्र प्रपञ्चितः। बेङ्गलूरुनामके...

The Art and Science of Avadhānam in Sanskrit is a definitive work on Sāhityāvadhānam, a form of Indian classical art based on multitasking, lateral thinking, and extempore versification. Dotted throughout with tasteful examples, it expounds in great detail on the theory and practice of this unique performing art. It is as much a handbook of performance as it is an anthology of well-turned...

This anthology is a revised edition of the author's 1978 classic. This series of essays, containing his original research in various fields, throws light on the socio-cultural landscape of Tamil Nadu spanning several centuries. These compelling episodes will appeal to scholars and laymen alike.
“When superstitious mediaevalists mislead the country about its judicial past, we have to...

The cultural history of a nation, unlike the customary mainstream history, has a larger time-frame and encompasses the timeless ethos of a society undergirding the course of events and vicissitudes. A major key to the understanding of a society’s unique character is an appreciation of the far-reaching contributions by outstanding personalities of certain periods – especially in the realms of...

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective...


इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।


अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...


ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...


“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...