Chapter 1 – Arjuna’s Despair

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On the battlefield at Kurukshetra, two great armies have assembled. Their mighty legions stand facing one another, poised to engage in a civil war.

Within the opposing armies are the family members of the royal Kuru dynasty. Unable to reach a peaceful settlement, they have taken up their weapons to fight for sovereignty of their kingdom.

With a war cry like the roar of a lion, Bishma, the venerable grandfather of the Kuru dynasty, loudly sounded his conch shell.

Lord Krishna and Prince Arjuna, standing in a magnificent chariot drawn by white horses, loudly blew their divine conch shells.

All at once, a tumultuous vibration of conch shells, trumpets, drums and horns arose from the battlefield and resounded throughout the earth and the sky.

Seeing that the battle was about to start, Arjuna took up his bow and prepared to shoot his arrows. Observing the soldiers arranged for battle, Arjuna said,

Krishna, please draw my chariot between the two armies so I can see who is present here desiring to fight and those I must compete with in this battle.

At Arjuna’s request, Lord Krishna positioned the chariot between the opposing armies and said, Behold Arjuna, all the members of the Kuru dynasty who are assembled here for battle.

Within both the armies, Arjuna saw his grandfathers, fathers, uncles, cousins, brothers, sons, grandsons, teachers and friends. Seeing all his relatives and friends gathered on the battlefield, Arjuna was overcome with pity and he said, 

O Krishna, as I look at all my relatives and friends standing before me so eager to fight, I feel the strength draining from my limbs and my mouth is becoming parched. I am trembling and the hairs on my body are standing on end.

My bow is slipping from my weakened hand and my skin is burning. I cannot maintain my composure any longer. My head is spinning and I see bad omens. Nothing good can come from killing my relatives in this battle.

I have no desire for victory, sovereignty or the enjoyments of a kingdom. What is the value of a kingdom, royal pleasures or even life itself, when those for whom we desire these things are standing on this battlefield?

My relatives and friends are present before me ready to risk their wealth and their lives. Even if they want to kill me, I have no desire to kill them.

I am unwilling to fight with them in exchange for the entire universe, much less for a kingdom on this earth. Misfortune will overcome us if we kill our teachers and guardians even though they are adversaries.

O Krishna, how can we take the lives of our own relatives? What peace or happiness could we gain by killing our own family?

Greed has overpowered these men, so they cannot see the error in killing their family and destroying the dynasty. But we are aware of the consequences of such actions, so how can we perform such terrible deeds?

My dear Krishna, destroying the dynasty causes the traditional spiritual practices of the family to be lost and thus irreligion permeates the family.

Destroying the spiritual practices of the family ruins the civilised culture of society, as well as the noble lineage. Those who destroy family and religious traditions always reside in a hellish situation.

It is regrettable that we have resolved to commit such terrible and evil deeds. Because of greed for royal power and pleasure, we are prepared to kill our relatives and friends.

I would prefer to die without drawing my weapon or defending myself than to fight with any of them. Then Arjuna cast aside his bow and arrows and sank down on the chariot, his heart overwhelmed with sorrow.

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