A. C. Bhaktivedanta swami acharya, international society for krishna consciousness

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“Evam parampara praptam imam rajarsayo viduh” Bhagavad Gita, ch. IV/2. This Bhagavad Gita As It Is is received through this disciplic succession:

1, Krishna; 2, Brahma; 3, Narada; 4, Vyasa; 5, Madhva; 6, Padmanabha; 7, Nrihari; 8, Madhava; 9, Akshobhya; 10, Jaya Tirtha; 11, Jnanasindhu; 12, Dayanidhi; 13, Vidyanidhi; 14, Rajendra; 15, Jayadharma; 16, Purusottama; 17, Brahmanya Tirtha; 18, Vyasa Tirtha; 19, Lakshmipati; 20, Madhavendra Puri; 21, Iswara Puri (Nityananda, Advaita); 22, Lord Chaitanya; 23, Rupa (Swarupa, Sanatan); 24, Raghunath, Jiva; 25, Krishnadas; 26, Narottama; 27, Visvanath; 28, (Baladev) Jagganatha; 29, Bhaktivinode; 30, Gour Kishore; 31, Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati; 32, Sri Bhaktivedanta, Swami.




1: DHRITARASHTRA SAID : O Samjaya, after assembling in the place of pilgrimage at Kurukshetra, what did my sons and the sons of Pandu do, being desirous to fight?


THE BHAGAVAD GITA is the widely read theistic science summarized in The Gita Mahatma (Glorification of the Gita). There it says that one should read The Bhagavad Gita very scrutinizingly with the help of a person who is a devotee of Sri Krishna, and try to understand it without personally motivated interpretations. The example of clear understanding is in The Bhagavad Gita Itself, in the way the teaching is understood by Arjuna, who heard The Gita directly from the Lord. If somebody is fortunate enough to understand The Bhagavad Gita in that line of disciplic succession, without motivated interpretation, then he surpasses all studies of Vedic wisdom and all scriptures of the world. One will find in The Bhagavad Gita all that is contained in other scriptures, but the reader will also find things which are not to be found elsewhere. That is the specific standard of The Gita. It is the perfect theistic science because it is directly spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krishna.

The topics discussed by Dhritarashtra and Samjaya, as described in The Mahabharata, form the basic principle of this great philosophy. It is understood that this philosophy evolved on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra, which is a sacred place of pilgrimage from the immemorial time of the Vedic age. It was spoken by the Lord when He was present Personally on this planet for the guidance of Mankind.

The word Dharmakshetre (a place where religious rituals are performed) is significant because, on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra, the Supreme Personality of Godhead was present on the side of Arjuna. Dhritarashtra, the father of Arjuna’s enemies, the Kurus, was highly doubtful about the ultimate victory of his sons. In his doubt, he inquired from his secretary Samjaya, "What did my sons and the sons of Pandu do?" He was confident that both his sons and the sons of his younger brother Pandu were assembled in that Field of Kurukshetra for a determined engagement of the war. Still, his inquiry is very significant. He did not want a compromise between the cousin-brothers, and he wanted to be sure of the fate of his sons on the battlefield. Because it was arranged to be fought in the place of pilgrimage, Kurukshetra, which is mentioned elsewhere in the Vedas as a place of worship—even for the denizens of Heaven—Dhritarashtra became very fearful about the influence of the holy ground on the outcome of the battle. Dhritarashtra knew very well that this would influence Arjuna and the sons of Pandu favorably, because by nature they were all virtuous. Samjaya was a student of the sage Vyasa, and therefore, by the mercy of Vyasa, Samjaya was able to envision the Battlefield of Kurukshetra even while he was in the room of Dhritarashtra.

Both the Pandavas and the sons of Dhritarashtra belong to the same family, but Dhritarashtra’s mind is disclosed herein. He deliberately claimed only his sons as Kurus and he separated the sons of Pandu from the family heritage. One can thus understand the specific position of Dhritarashtra in relationship with his nephews, the sons of Pandu. As in the paddy field the unnecessary plants are taken out and real paddy plants are shoved in, so it is expected from the very beginning of these topics that, in the religious field of Kurukshetra where the Father of religion, Sri Krishna, was present, the unwanted plants, Dhritarashtra’s son Duryodhana and others, would be wiped out and the thoroughly religious persons, headed by Yudhisthira, would be established by the Lord. That is the significance of the Sanskrit words Dharmakshetre and Kurukshetre, apart from their usual historical and Vedic importance.

2: Samjaya said: O King, after looking over the military phalanx arranged by the sons of Pandu, King Duryodhana went to his teacher and began to speak the following words:


DHRITARASHTRA was blind from his very birth. Unfortunately, he was also bereft of spiritual vision. He knew very well that his sons were equally blind in the matter of religiousness, and he was sure that they could never reach an understanding with the Pandavas, who were all pious since birth. Still he was doubtful about the influence of the place of pilgrimage, and Samjaya could understand the motive of his asking about the situation on the battlefield. He wanted, therefore, to encourage the King in his despondency, and thus he assured him that his sons were not going to make any sort of compromise under the influence of the holy field. He therefore informed the King that his son, after seeing the military force of the Pandavas, at once went to the commander in chief, Dronacharya, to inform him of the real position. Although Duryodhana is mentioned as the king, he still had to go to the commander, on account of the seriousness of the situation. He was therefore quite fit to be a politician. But his diplomatic behavior could not disguise his fearful mind when he saw the military arrangement of the Pandavas.

3: O my teacher, behold the great military phalanx of the sons of Pandu, so expertly arranged by your disciple, the son of Drupada.


DURYODHANA, a great diplomat, wanted to point out the defects in Dronacharya, the great Brahmin commander in chief. Dronacharya had had some political quarrel with King Drupada, the father of Droupadi, who was Arjuna’s wife. As a result of this quarrel Drupada had performed a great sacrifice, by which he received the benediction of having a son who would be able to kill Dronacharya. Dronacharya knew this perfectly well and yet, as a liberal Brahmin, he did not hesitate to impart all his military secrets when the son of Drupada, Dhristadumnya, was entrusted to him for military education. Now, on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra, Dhristadumnya took the side of the Pandavas, and it was he who arranged their military phalanx, after having learned the art from Dronacharya. Duryodhana pointed out this mistake of Dronacharya so that he might be alert in the fighting. By this he wanted to point out also that he should not be lenient in fighting with the Pandavas, who were also his affectionate students. Arjuna, especially, was his most affectionate and brilliant student. He also warned that leniency in the fight with the other party would create havoc for themselves.

4: Here in this army there are many heroic bowmen equal in fighting to Bhima and Arjuna; there are also great fighters like Yuyudhana, Virata, and Drupadas.

5: There are also great, heroic, powerful fighters like Dhristaketu, Cekitana, Kasirajas, Purujit, Kuntibhojas, and Saibya.

6: There are very powerful charioteers like Yudhamanyu, Vikranta, Uttamanju, the sons of Saubhadra and Draupadi.

7: O best of Brahmins, for your information, let me tell you about the captains who are especially qualified to lead my military force.

8: These are personalities like yourself, Bhisma, Karna, Kripa, Samitimjayah, Asvatthama, Vikarna, and the son of Somadatta, called Bhurisrava, who are always victorious in battle.

9: There are many other heroes who are prepared to lay down their lives for my sake. All of them are well equipped with different kinds of weapons, and all are experienced in military science.

10: Our strength is immeasurable and we are perfectly protected by Grandfather Bhisma, whereas the strength of the Pandavas, carefully protected by Bhima, is limited.


HEREIN an estimation of comparative strength is made by Duryodhana. He thinks that the strength of his armed forces is immeasurable, being specifically protected by the most experienced general, Grandfather Bhisma. On the other hand, the forces of the Pandavas are limited, being protected by a less experienced general, Bhima, who is like a fig in the presence of Bhisma. Duryodhana was always envious of Bhima because he knew perfectly well that if he should die at all, he would only be killed by Bhima. But at the same time he was confident of his victory on account of the presence of Bhisma, who was a far superior general. His conclusion that he would come out of the battle victorious was well ascertained.

11: Now all of you may give full support to Grandfather Bhisma, standing at your respective strategic points in the phalanx of the army.

12: Thereafter, the great valiant grandsire of the Kuru dynasty, the grandfather of the fighters, blew his conchshell very loudly, like the sound of a lion, giving Duryodhana joy.

13: After that, the conchshells, bugles, trumpets, and horns all suddenly vibrated simultaneously and the sound was tumultuous.

14: On the other side, both Lord Krishna and Arjuna, being situated on a chariot yoked with white horses, sounded their transcendental conchshells.


IN CONTRAST with the conchshell blown by Bhismadeva, the conchshells in the hands of Krishna and Arjuna are described as transcendental. The sounding of the transcendental conchshells indicated that there was no hope of victory on the other side, because Krishna was with the Pandavas. Yayastu padu putranam yesam pakse janardana. Victory is always with persons like the sons of Pandu, because Lord Krishna is associated with them. And whenever the Lord is present, the Goddess of Fortune is also there because the Goddess of Fortune never lives alone without her husband. Therefore, Victory and Fortune were awaiting Arjuna, as is indicated by the transcendental sound produced by the conchshell of Vishnu, or Lord Krishna. Besides that, the chariot on which both the friends were seated was donated by the Agni (Firegod) to Arjuna, and this indicated that that chariot was meant for conquering all sides, wherever it was drawn, over all the three worlds.

15: Thereafter, Lord Krishna blew His conchshell, named Pancajanya, Arjuna blew his, the Devadatta, and Bhima, the voracious eater and performer of Herculean tasks, blew his terrific conchshell named Paundram.


HRISHIKESHA is a name for Lord Krishna because He is the Owner of all senses. The living entities are part and parcel of Him, and therefore the senses of the living entities are also part and parcel of His senses. The impersonalists cannot account for the senses of the living entities, and therefore they are always anxious to describe all living entities as sense-less, or impersonal. The Lord, situated in the hearts of all living entities, directs their senses. But, He directs in terms of the surrender of the living entity, and in the case of a pure devotee, He directly controls the senses. Here on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra, the Lord directly controls the transcendental senses of Arjuna, and thus His particular Name in that connection. The Lord has different Names in terms of His activities. For example, His Name is Madhusudana because He kills the demon named Madhu; His Name is Govinda because He gives pleasure to the cows and to the senses; His Name is Vasudeva because He appeared as the son of Vasudeva; His Name is Devakinandana because He accepted Devaki as His mother; His Name is Yasodanandana because He awarded His childhood Pastimes to Yasoda at Vrindaban; His Name is Parthasarathi because He worked as Charioteer of His friend Arjuna. Similarly, His Name is Hrishikesha because He gave direction to Arjuna on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra.

Dhanamjaya is a name for Arjuna, because he helped his elder brother in fetching wealth, when they were required by the King to make expenditures for different sacrifices. Similarly, Bhima is known as Vrikodara because he could eat as voraciously as he could perform Herculean tasks, such as killing the demon Hiramba. So, the particular types of conchshell blown by the different personalities on the side of the Pandavas, beginning from the Lord’s, were all very encouraging to the fighting soldiers. On the other side there were no such credits, nor was there the presence of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Director, nor that of the Goddess of Fortune. So they were predestined to lose the battle, and that was the message announced by the sounds of the conchshells.

16–18: Prince Yudhisthira, Kunti’s son, blew his conchshell, named Anantavijaya, and Nakula and Sahadeva blew theirs, named Sughosa and Manipuspaka. That great archer, the King of Kasi, the great fighter Sikhandi, Dristadumnya, Virata, and the unconquerable Satyaki; Drupada, the sons of Droupadi, and the others, O King, such as the son of Subhadra, greatly armed—all blew their respective conchshells.

19: The blowing of all these different conchshells became uproarious, and, vibrating both in the sky and on the earth, it shattered the hearts of the sons of Dhritarashtra.


WHEN BHISMA and the others on the side of Duryodhana blew their respective conchshells, there was no heartaching on the part of the Pandavas. Such occurrences are not mentioned, but in this particular verse it is mentioned that the hearts of the sons of Dhritarashtra were shattered by the sounds vibrated by the Pandava’s party. This is due to the Pandavas, and their confidence in Lord Krishna. One who takes shelter of the Supreme Lord has nothing to fear, even in the midst of the greatest calamity.

20: O King, at that time Arjuna, the son of Pandu, who was seated in his chariot, his flag marked with Hanuman, was taking up the bow and was about to shoot his arrows, looking off at the sons of Dhritarashtra.


THE BATTLE was just about to begin. It is understood from the above statements that the sons of Dhritarashtra were more or less disheartened by the unexpected military force of the Pandavas, who were endowed with the direct instructions of Lord Krishna on the battlefield. The emblem of Hanuman on Arjuna’s banners, as mentioned here, is another sign of victory, because Hanuman cooperated with Lord Rama in the battle between Rama and Ravana, and Lord Rama emerged victorious. Now both Rama and Hanuman were present on the chariot of Arjuna to help him. Lord Krishna is Rama Himself, and wherever there is Lord Rama, His eternal servitor Hanuman and His eternal consort Sita, the Goddess of Fortune, are also present. Therefore, Arjuna had no cause to fear any enemies whatever. And, above all, the Lord of the Senses—Lord Krishna—was personally present to give him direction. Thus, all good counsel was available for Arjuna in the matter of executing the battle. In such auspicious conditions, arranged by the Lord for His eternal devotee, lay the signs of assured victory.

21–22: O my Lord, he then spoke to Hrishikesha these words: O Infallible One, please place my chariot between the two armies so that I may see who is present here, who is desirous of fighting, and with whom I must fight in this great trial of arms.


ALTHOUGH LORD KRISHNA is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, out of His causeless mercy He was engaged in the service of His friend. He never fails in His affection for His devotees, and thus He is addressed herein as the Infallible. As Charioteer, He had to carry out the orders of Arjuna. Since He did not hesitate to do so, He is addressed as the Infallible. Although He had accepted the position of a Charioteer to His devotee, there was no chance of His Supreme position being challenged. In all circumstances, He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hrishikesha, the Lord of the Total Senses. The relationship between the Lord and His servitor is very sweet and transcendental. The servitor is always ready to render a service to the Lord and, similarly, the Lord is always seeking an opportunity to render some service to the devotee. He takes greater pleasure in His pure devotee assuming the advantageous position of ordering Him than He does in being the Giver of orders. As Master, everyone is under His orders and no one is above Him to order Him. But when he finds that a pure devotee is ordering Him, He obtains transcendental pleasure.

As a pure devotee of the Lord, Arjuna had no desire to fight with his cousin-brothers, but he was forced to come onto the battlefield by the obstinacy of Duryodhana, who was never agreeable to any terms of peaceful negotiation. Therefore, he was very anxious to see who the leading persons present on the battlefield were. Although there was no question of a peacemaking endeavor, he wanted to see them again, and to see how much they were bent upon demanding an unwanted war.

23: Let me see those who have come here to fight, wishing to please the evil-minded son of Dhritarashtra.

24: Samjaya said, O Descendant of Bharata, being thus addressed by Arjuna, Lord Krishna drew the fine chariot up in the midst of the armies of both parties.

25: In the presence of Bhisma, Drona, and all other chieftains of the world, Hrishikesha, the Lord, said, Just behold, O Partha, all the Kurus that are assembled here.


AS THE SUPERSOUL of all living entities, Lord Krishna could understand what was going on in the mind of Arjuna. The use of the word Hrishikesha in this connection indicates that He knew everything. And the word Partha, or the son of Pritha, is also similarly significant. As a friend He wanted to inform Arjuna that because Arjuna was the son of Pritha, the sister of His own father Vasudeva, He had agreed to be Charioteer to Arjuna. Now what did Arjuna mean by beholding the Kurus? Did he want to stop there and not fight? Krishna never expected such things from the son of His aunt Pritha. The mind of Arjuna was thus predicated by the Lord in friendly joking.

26–29: There Arjuna could see, within the midst of both parties, fathers and grandfathers, brothers, sons, grandsons, friends, and also fathers-in-law and well-wishers—all present there. The son of Kunti, Arjuna, after seeing all different grades of friends and relatives, became overwhelmed by compassion and spoke thus: My dear Krishna, seeing my friends and relatives present before me with such fighting spirit, the limbs of my body are quivering and my mouth is drying up.


ANY MAN who has genuine devotion to the Lord has all the good qualities which are found in godly persons or in the demigods. Whereas the non-devotee, however advanced he may be in material qualifications through education and culture, will lack in godly qualities. As such, Arjuna, just after seeing his kinsmen, friends, and relatives on the battlefield, was at once overwhelmed by compassion for those who had so decided to fight amongst themselves. So far as his soldiers were concerned, he was sympathetic from the beginning, but he felt compassion even for the soldiers of the opposite party, foreseeing their imminent death. And so thinking, the limbs of his body began to quiver, and his mouth became dry. He was more or less astonished to see their fighting spirit. Practically the whole community, all in blood relationship with Arjuna, came there to fight against him. This was too much for a devotee like Arjuna. Although it is not mentioned here, still one can easily imagine that not only were Arjuna’s bodily limbs quivering and his mouth drying up, but that he was also crying out of compassion. Such symptoms in Arjuna were not due to weakness, but to his softheartedness, a characteristic of a pure devotee of the Lord. It is said therefore: "One who has unflinching devotion for the Personality of Godhead has all the good qualities of the demigods. But one who is not a devotee of the Lord has only material qualifications, which are of little value. This is because he is hovering on the mental plane, and is certain to be attracted by the glaring material energy.”

30: My whole body is trembling and my hairs are standing on end. My bow Gandiva is slipping from my hand, and my skin is burning.

31: I am now unable to stand here any longer, and I am forgetting myself and my mind is reeling. I foresee only evil, O Killer of the Kesi demon.


DUE TO HIS IMPATIENCE, Arjuna was unable to stay on the battlefield, and he was forgetting himself on account of the weakness of his mind. Excessive attachment for material things puts a man in such a bewildering condition of existence. Such fearfulness and loss of mental equilibrium take place in persons who are too much affected by material conditions. Arjuna envisioned only unhappiness in the battlefield—namely, he was not going to be happy even by gaining victory over the foe. When a man sees only the frustration of his expectations, he thinks ‘Why am I here?’ Everyone is interested in himself and his own welfare. No one is interested in the Supreme Self, Krishna. Arjuna is supposed to show disregard for self-interest by the Will of the Lord. Real self-interest is Vishnu, or Krishna. The conditioned soul forgets this, and therefore suffers the symptoms of bodily degradations. Arjuna thought that his victory in the battle would only be a cause of lamentation for him.

32: 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 consequent victory, kingdom, or happiness.


WITHOUT KNOWING one’s self-interest in Vishnu, conditioned souls are attracted by bodily relationships, hoping to be happy in such situations. By such a blind conception of life one forgets the causes of material happiness also. Arjuna appears to have even forgotten the moral codes for a warrior. It is said that two kinds of men—namely, the Kshatriya who dies directly in front of the battlefield, and the person in the renounced order of life absolutely devoted to spiritual culture—are eligible for entering into the sun-globe, which is so powerful and dazzling. Arjuna is reluctant even to kill his enemies, let alone his relatives. He thought that by killing his kinsmen there would be no happiness in his life, and therefore he was not willing to fight, just as a person who does not feel any hunger is not inclined to cook. He has now decided to go into the forest and live a secluded life in frustration. As a Kshatriya, he required a kingdom for his subsistence, because the Warriors cannot engage themselves in any other occupation. But Arjuna had no kingdom. His sole opportunity for gaining one lay in fighting with his cousin-brothers and reclaiming the kingdom he originally inherited from his father, which he does not want to do. Therefore he considers himself fit for going to the forest and living a secluded life of frustration.

33–35: 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 livesand properties and are standing before me, then why should I wish to kill them, though I may survive? O Maintainer of all living entities, I am not prepared to fight with them even in exchange for all the three worlds, let alone this earth.
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