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

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ARJUNA HAS addressed Lord Krishna as Govinda because Krishna is the object of all pleasures for the cows and for the senses. By using this significant word, Arjuna intends Krishna to understand what will satisfy his senses. Actually, Govinda is not meant for satisfying our senses; but, if we try to satisfy the senses of Govinda, then automatically our senses are satisfied. Materially everyone wants to satisfy his senses and he wants God to be the order-supplier for such satisfaction. The Lord can satisfy the senses of the living entities as much as they deserve, but not to the extent that one may covet. But when one takes the opposite way—when one tries to satisfy the senses of Govinda without desiring to satisfy one’s own, then by the Grace of Govinda all desires of the living entity are satisfied. Arjuna’s deep affection for community and family members is exhibited herewith, partly due to his natural compassion for them. He is not, therefore, prepared to fight with them. Everyone wants to show his opulence to friends and relatives, but Arjuna fears that all his relatives and friends will be killed in the battlefield and he will be unable to share his opulence after victory. This is a typical calculation of material life. The transcendental life is, however, apart from such calculations. Since a devotee wants to satisfy the desires of the Lord, he can, Lord willing, accept all kinds of opulence for the service of the Lord; and if the Lord is not willing, he should not accept a farthing. Arjuna did not want to kill his relatives and if there were any need for killing them he desired that Krishna kill them Personally. At this point he did not know that Krishna had already killed them before their coming onto the battlefield, and that Arjuna was only to become an instrument for Krishna. This fact is disclosed in the subsequent chapters of The Bhagavad Gita. As a natural devotee of the Lord, Arjuna did not want to retaliate against his miscreant cousins and brothers, but it was the Lord’s plan that they all be killed. The devotee of the Lord does not retaliate against the wrongdoer, but the Lord does not tolerate any mischief done to the devotee by the miscreants. The Lord can excuse a person on His own account, but He excuses nobody who has done harm to His devotees. Therefore the Lord was determined to kill the miscreants, although Arjuna wanted to excuse them.

36–37: Sin will overcome us by slaying such aggressors. Therefore it is not proper for us to kill the sons of Dhritarashtra and his friends. What should we gain, O Krishna, O Husband of the Goddess of Fortune? And how should we be happy by killing our own kinsmen?


ACCORDING TO VEDIC injunctions there are six kinds of aggressors: 1) the poison giver, 2) the one who sets fire to the house, 3) one who attacks with deadly weapons, 4) one who plunders riches, 5) one who occupies another’s land, and 6) one who kidnaps the wife. Such aggressors are at once to be killed, and no sin is incurred by killing such aggressors. The killing of aggressors is quite befitting any ordinary man; but Arjuna was not an ordinary person. He was saintly by character and therefore he wanted to deal with them accordingly. Saintliness is not, however, for a Kshatriya. A responsible man involved in the administration of a state should not be cowardly. Of course, he is required to be saintly in his behavior. For example, Lord Rama was so saintly that people were anxious to live in His kingdom (Rama Rajya); yet Lord Rama never showed any example of cowardliness. Ravana was an aggressor against Rama, having kidnapped Lord Rama’s wife Sita; and Lord Rama gave him sufficiently stern lessons, unparalleled in the history of the world. In Arjuna’s case, however, one should consider the special type of aggressors—namely, his own grandfather, own teacher, friends, sons, grandsons, etc. Because of them, Arjuna thought that he should not take the severe steps necessary against ordinary aggressors. Besides that, saintly persons are advised to forgive. Such injunctions for saintly persons are more important than any political emergency. Arjuna considered that rather than kill his own kinsmen for political reasons, it would be better to forgive them on grounds of religiousness and saintly behavior. He did not, therefore, consider such killing business profitable simply for the matter of temporary bodily happiness. After all, kingdoms and the pleasures derived therefrom are not permanent, so why should he risk his life and eternal salvation by killing his own kinsmen? Arjuna’s addressing of Krishna as Madhava, or the Husband of the Goddess of Fortune, is also 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, much less to His devotees.

38–39: O Janardana, although these men, overtaken by greed, see no fault in killing a family or fighting with friends—why should we, with knowledge of the sin, engage in these acts?

40: By the destruction of a dynasty, the eternal family tradition is vanquished, and thus the rest of the family becomes involved in irreligion.


IN THE SYSTEM of the Varnasram, there are many principles and religious traditions to help the members of the family grow properly in spiritual values. The elderly members are responsible for such purifying processes in the family, beginning from birth to death. But on the death of elderly members, such family traditions of purification might stop, and the remaining minor family members would develop irreligious habits, thereby losing their chance for spiritual salvation. Therefore, for no purpose should the elderly members of the family be slain.

41: When irreligion is prominent in the family, O Krishna, the ladies of the family become corrupt, and from the degradation of womanhood, O descendant of Vrishni, comes unwanted progeny.


GOOD POPULATION in human society is the basic principle for peace, prosperity, and spiritual progress in life. The Vedic religion’s principles were so designed that the good population might prevail in society for the all-around spiritual progress of state and community. Such population in society depends on the chastity and faithfulness of its womanhood. As the children are very prone to being misled, similarly, women are also very prone to degradation. Therefore, both the children and the women require protection by the elderly members of the family. By being engaged in various religious practices, women may not be misled into adultery. According to the sage Chankya Pandit, women are not very intelligent generally, and therefore not trustworthy. So the different family traditions of religious activities should always engage them, and thus their chastity and devotion would give birth to a good population, eligible for participating in the Varnasram system. On the failure of such Varnasram Dharma, naturally the women become free to act and free to mix with men, and thus adultery is indulged in at the risk of unwanted population.

42: When there is an increase of unwanted population, a hellish situation is created both for the family and for those who destroy the family tradition. In such destroyed families, there is no offering of oblations of food and water to the ancestors.


ACCORDING TO THE RULES and regulations of fruitive activities, there is the need for offering periodical food and water to the forefathers of the family. The food and water offering to the deceased forefathers is done by worship of Vishnu, because eating the remnants of food offered to Vishnu can deliver one from all kinds of sinful actions. The forefathers may be suffering from various types of sinful reactions, and some of them cannot even acquire a gross material body, and are forced to remain in subtle bodies, as ghosts. Thus, when remnants of Prasadam food are offered to the forefathers by descendants, the forefathers are released from ghostly or other kinds of miserable life. Such help rendered to forefathers is a family tradition, and those who are not in devotional life are required to perform such rituals. One who is engaged in the devotional life is not required to perform such actions. Simply by performing devotional service, one can deliver hundreds and thousands of forefathers from all kinds of miserable life. It is stated in The Srimad Bhagwatam: "Anyone who has taken shelter of the Lotus Feet of Mukunda, the Giver of liberation, giving up all obligations, and has taken to the path in all seriousness, owes neither duties nor obligations to the demigods, sages, general living entities, family members, humankind or forefathers." Such obligations are automatically fulfilled by performance of devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

43: By the evil deeds of the destroyers of family tradition, all kinds of community projects and family welfare activities are devastated.


THE FOUR ORDERS of human society, combined with family welfare activities as they are set forth by the institution of the Sanatan Dharma, or Varnasram Dharma, are designed to enable the human being to attain his ultimate salvation. Therefore, the breaking of the Sanatan Dharma tradition by irresponsible leaders of society brings about chaos in that society, and consequently people forget the aim of life—Vishnu, God. Such leaders are called blind, and persons who are led by such leaders are sure to be brought into chaos.

44: O Krishna, Maintainer of the people, I have heard by disciplic succession that those who destroy family traditions dwell always in hell.

45: Alas, how strange it is that we are preparing ourselves to commit great sinful acts, driven by the desire to enjoy royal happiness.

46: I would consider it better if the sons of Dhritarashtra killed me unarmed and unresisting, rather than fight with them.


IT IS THE CUSTOM—according to Kshatriya fighting principles—that an unarmed and unwilling foe should not be attacked. Arjuna, however, in such an enigmatic position, decided he would not fight even if he were attacked by the enemy. He did not care how much the other party was bent upon fighting. All these symptoms are due to softheartedness resulting from his being a great devotee of the Lord.

47: Samjaya said: Arjuna, having thus spoken, cast aside his bow and arrows, and sat down on the chariot, his mind overwhelmed with grief.


WHILE OBSERVING the situation of his enemy, Arjuna stood up on the chariot, but he was by now so afflicted with lamentation that he sat down again, setting aside his bow and arrows. Such a kind and softhearted person, in the devotional service of the Lord, is fit for receiving self-knowledge.

Thus end the Bhaktivedanta Purports to the First Chapter of The Srimad Bhagavad Gita, in the matter of Observing the Armies on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra.




1: SAMJAYA SAID: Seeing Arjuna full of compassion and very sorrowful, his eyes brimming with tears, Madhusudana, Krishna, spoke the following words:

2: The Supreme Personality said: My dear Arjuna, how have these impurities come upon you? They are not at all befitting a man who knows the progressive values of life. They do not lead to higher planets, but to infamy.


THE SANSKRIT word Bhagavan is explained by the great authority, Parasara Muni, the father of Vyasadeva. The Supreme Personality who possesses all riches, entire strength, entire fame, entire beauty, entire knowledge, and entire renunciation is called Bhagavan. There are many persons who are very rich, very powerful, very beautiful, very famous, very learned, and very much detached—but no one can claim that he is possessor of all these opulences entirely. Such a claim is applicable to Krishna only, and as such He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. No living entity, including Brahma, can possess such opulence—neither Lord Shiva, nor even Narayana can possess such opulence as fully as Krishna. By analytical study of such possessions, it is concluded in The Brahma Samhita by Lord Brahma himself that Lord Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Nobody is equal to or above Him. He is the Primeval Lord, or Bhagavan, known as Govinda, and He is the Supreme Cause of all causes. It is stated as follows: "There are many personalities possessing the qualities of Bhagavan, but Krishna is Supreme over all of them, because none can excel Him. He is the Supreme Person and His Body is eternal, full of knowledge and bliss. He is the Primeval Lord Govinda, and the Cause of all causes."

In The Bhagwatam also there is a list of many incarnations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but Krishna is described therein as the Original Personality, from Whom many, many incarnations and Personalities of Godhead expand. It is stated in this way: "All the lists of the incarnations of Godhead submitted herewith are either plenary expansions or parts of the plenary expansions of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself."

Therefore, Krishna is the Original Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Absolute Truth, the Source of both Supersoul and the impersonal Brahman.

In the presence of the Supreme Person, Arjuna’s lamentation for his kinsmen is certainly unbecoming; and therefore Krishna expressed His surprise with the word kutas, "wherefrom." Such unmanly sentiments were never expected from a person belonging to the civilized class of men known as Aryans. The word Aryan is applicable to persons who know the value of life and have a civilization based on spiritual realization. Persons who are led by the material conception of life do not know that the aim of life is realization of the Absolute Truth, Vishnu, or Bhagavan. Such persons are captivated by the external features of the material world, and therefore they do not know what liberation is. Persons who have no knowledge of liberation from material bondage are called non-Aryans. Arjuna was trying to deviate from his prescribed duties, declining to fight, although he was a Kshatriya, or warrior. This act of cowardice is described as befitting the non-Aryans. Such deviation from duty does not help one in the progress of spiritual life, nor does it even give one the opportunity of becoming famous in this world. Lord Krishna did not approve of the so-called compassion of Arjuna for his kinsmen.

3: O son of Pritha, do not yield to this degrading impotence. It does not become you. Give up such petty weakness of heart and arise, O chastiser of the enemy!

4: Arjuna said: O killer of Madhu [Krishna], how can I counterattack with arrows in battle personalities like Bhisma and Drona, who are worthy of my worship?

5: It is better to live in this world by begging than to live at the cost of the lives of great souls who are my teachers. Even though they are avaricious, they are nonetheless superiors. If they are killed then our spoils will be tainted with blood.

6: Nor do we know which is better—conquering them or being conquered by them. The sons of Dhritarashtra, whom if we killed we should not care to live, are now standing before us on this battlefield.


ARJUNA BECAME perplexed in this connection, not knowing whether he should execute the fighting with the risk of committing unnecessary violence, although it is the duty of the Kshatriyas; or whether he should not, and prefer instead to live by begging, because if he did not conquer the enemy, begging would be the only means left for his living. There was no certainty of victory, because either side might emerge victorious. Even if there were victory awaiting them, because their cause was justified, still, if the sons of Dhritarashtra should die in battle, it would be very difficult to live in their absence. Under the circumstances, that would be another kind of defeat. All these considerations by Arjuna definitely prove that he was not only a great devotee of the Lord, but that he was also highly enlightened and had complete control over his mind and senses. His desire to live by begging, although he was born in the royal household, is another sign of detachment. He was fully in the quality of forbearance, as all these qualities, combined with his faith in the words of instruction of Sri Krishna (his Spiritual Master), give evidence. It is concluded that Arjuna was quite fit for liberation. Unless the senses are controlled, there is no chance of elevation to the platform of knowledge, and without knowledge and devotion there is no chance of liberation. Arjuna was competent in all these attributes, over and above his enormous attributes in his material relationships.

7: Now I am confused about duty, and have lost all composure because of weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me clearly what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me.


BY NATURE’S OWN WAY the complete system of material activities is a source of perplexity for everyone. In every step there is perplexity, and it behooves one therefore to approach the bona fide spiritual master who can give one the proper guidance for executing the purpose of life. All Vedic literatures advise us to approach a bona fide spiritual master to get free from the perplexities of life, which happen without our desire. They appear like a forest fire, which takes place without being set by anyone. Similarly, the world situation is such that perplexities of life automatically appear, without our wanting such confusion. Nobody wants fire, and yet it takes place and we are perplexed. The Vedic wisdom therefore advises that, in order to solve the perplexities of life and to understand the science of the solution, one must approach a spiritual master, who is in the disciplic succession. A person with a bona fide spiritual master is supposed to know everything. One should not therefore remain in material perplexities, but should approach such a teacher—this is the purport of this verse.

Who is the man in material perplexities? It is he who does not understand the problems of life. In The Garga Upanishad this is described as follows: "He is a miserly man who does not solve the problems of life as a human, and who thus quits this world like the cats and dogs—without understanding the science of self-realization. He is called a miserly man." This human form of life is a most valuable asset for the living entity who can utilize it for solving the problems of life. Therefore, one who does not utilize this opportunity is a miser. On the other hand, there is the Brahmana, or the Brahmin who is intelligent enough to utilize this body for solving all the problems of life.

The Kripanas, or miserly persons, waste their time in being overly affectionate for family, society, country, etc. in the material conception of life. One is often attached to family life, to wife, children, and other members on the basis of "skin disease." The Kripanas think that they are able to protect their family members from death; or the Kripana thinks that his family or society can save him from death. Such family attachment can be found even in the lower animals, who also take care of children. Being intelligent, Arjuna could understand that his affection for family members and his wish to protect them from death were the causes of his perplexities. Although he could understand that his duty to fight was awaiting him, still, on account of miserly weakness, he could not discharge the duty. He is therefore asking Lord Krishna, the Supreme Spiritual Master, to make a definite solution. He offers himself to Krishna as a disciple; he wants to stop friendly talks. Talks between the master and disciple are serious, and now Arjuna wants to talk very seriously before the recognized Spiritual Master. Krishna is therefore the Original Spiritual Master in the science of The Bhagavad Gita, and Arjuna is the original disciple in understanding The Gita. How Arjuna understands The Bhagavad Gita is stated in The Gita itself. And yet foolish mundane scholars explain that one need not submit to Krishna as a Person, but to the Unborn within Krishna. There is no difference between Krishna’s within and without; and one who has no sense of this understanding is the greatest fool; the greatest pretender.

8: I can find no means to drive away this grief which is drying up my senses. I will not even be able to destroy it if I win an unrivaled kingdom on the earth with sovereignty like the demigods in heaven.

9: Samjaya said: Having spoken thus, Arjuna, chastiser of enemies, told Krishna, Govinda, I shall not fight, and fell silent.

10: O descendant of Bharata, at that time Krishna, smiling, in the midst of both the armies, spoke the following words to the grief-stricken Arjuna.

11: The Blessed Lord said: While speaking learned words you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor the dead.


THE LORD at once took the position of the Teacher and chastised the student, calling him, indirectly, a fool. The Lord said, You are talking like a learned man, but you do not know that one who is learned—one who knows what is body and what is soul—does not lament for any stage of the body, neither in the living nor in the dead condition. As explained in later chapters, it will be clear that knowledge means to know matter and spirit and the Controller of both. Arjuna argued that religious principles should be given more importance than politics or sociology, but he did not know that knowledge of matter, soul and the Supreme is more important than religious formularies. And, because he was lacking in that knowledge, he should not have posed himself as a very learned man. As he did not happen to be a very learned man, he was consequently lamenting for something which is unworthy of lamentation. The body is born and is destined to be vanquished today or tomorrow. Therefore, the body is not as important as the soul. One who knows this is actually learned, and for him there is no cause for lamentation in any stage of the material body.

12: Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.


IN THE VEDAS, in The Katha Upanishad as well as in The Svetasvataro Upanishad, it is said that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the Maintainer of innumerable living entities, in terms of their different situations, according to individual work and the reaction to work. That Supreme Personality of Godhead is also, by His plenary portions, alive in the heart of every living entity. Only saintly persons who can see, within and without, the same Supreme Personality of Godhead can actually attain to perfect peace eternal. The same Vedic truth enumerated herein is given to Arjuna—and, in that connection, to all persons in the world who pose themselves as very learned but factually have but a poor fund of knowledge. The Lord says clearly that He Himself, Arjuna, and all the kings who are assembled on the battlefield are eternally individual beings, and that the Lord is eternally the Maintainer of the individual living entities, both in their conditioned as well as in their liberated situation. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the Supreme individual Person, and Arjuna, the Lord’s eternal associate, and all the kings assembled there, are individual, eternal persons. It is not that they did not exist as individuals in the past and it is not that they will not remain as eternal persons. Their individuality existed in the past and their individuality will continue in the future without interruption. Therefore, there is no cause for lamentation for anyone of the individual living entities.

The Mayavadi, or impersonal, theory that after liberation the individual soul, separated by the covering of Maya, or Illusion, will merge into the impersonal Brahman without individual existence is not supported herein by Lord Krishna, the Supreme Authority. Nor is the theory that we only think of individuality in the conditioned state supported herein. Krishna clearly says that in the future also the individuality of the Lord and others, as it is confirmed in the Upanishads, will continue eternally. This statement of Krishna is authoritative because Krishna cannot be subject to Illusion. If individuality is not a fact, then Krishna would not have stressed it so much—even for the future. The Mayavadi may argue that the individuality spoken of by Krishna is not spiritual, but material. Even accepting the argument that the individuality is material, then how can one distinguish Krishna’s individuality? Krishna affirms His individuality in the past and confirms His individuality in the future also. He has confirmed His individuality in many ways, and impersonal Brahman has been declared as subordinate to Him. Krishna has maintained spiritual individuality all along, and if He is accepted as an ordinary conditioned soul in individual consciousness, then His Bhagavad Gita has no value as an authoritative scripture. A common man with all the defects of human frailty is unable to teach that which is worth hearing. The Bhagavad Gita is above such literature. No mundane book compares with The Bhagavad Gita. When one accepts Krishna as an ordinary man, The Bhagavad Gita loses all importance. The Mayavadi argues that the plurality mentioned in this verse is conventional and that the plurality refers to the body. But previous to this verse such a bodily conception has already been condemned. After condemning the bodily conception of the living entities, how was it possible for Krishna to place a conventional proposition on the body again? Therefore, the plurality is on spiritual grounds, as is confirmed by great teachers like Sri Ramanuja. It is clearly mentioned in many places in The Bhagavad Gita that this spiritual plurality is understood by those who are devotees of the Lord. Those who are envious of Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead have no bona fide access to this great literature. The non-devotee’s approach to the teachings of The Bhagavad Gita is something like a bee licking on a bottle of honey. One cannot have a taste of honey unless one can taste within the bottle. Similarly, the mysticism of The Bhagavad Gita can be understood only by devotees, and no one else can taste it, as is stated in the Fourth Chapter of the book. Nor can The Gita be touched by persons who envy the very existence of the Lord. Therefore, the Mayavadi explanation of The Gita is a most misleading presentation of the whole truth. Lord Chaitanya has forbidden us to read commentaries made by the Mayavadis, and warns that one who takes to an understanding of the Mayavadi philosophy loses all power to understand the real mystery of The Gita. If individuality refers to the empirical universe, then there is no need for teaching by the Lord. The plurality of the individual souls and of the Lord is an eternal fact, and it is confirmed by the Vedas as above mentioned.

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