Significance of Chapter 1
The ancient Hindu writers often used the first chapter to indicate their purpose . Thus the first chapter of Bhagvadgita serves as a holy discourse to the fore coming discourses.
When one reads it as a symbolic work of its author Vyasa, it introduces the basic principles of the science of Yoga and describes the initial spiritual struggles of the yogi who sets out on the path to kaivalya, liberation, oneness with God, the goal of Yoga.
Note – It is interesting that the name of characters in the epic are so chosen by the author so that they describe the qualities of that particular character.
Verses : 1 2 3 4 5 6
|| धृतराष्ट्र उवाच धर्मक्षेत्रे कुरुक्षेत्रे समवेता युयुत्सवः। मामकाः पाण्डवाश्चैव किमकुर्वत सञ्जय ।।1.1।। ||
dharmakṣetre kurukṣetre samavetā yuyutsavaḥ
māmakāḥ pāṇḍavāś caiva kim akurvata saṁjaya ||
Dhritarashtra said: On the holy plain of Kurukshetra (dharmakshetra kurukshetra), when my offspring and the sons of Pandu had gathered together, eager for battle, what did they, O Sanjaya?
- Dhritrashtra ( the blind mind)
- Sanjaya (impartial introspection)
- Pandu (pure discriminative tendencies)
- Kurus ( the wicked sense tendencies)
- Dhramakshetra ( the holy plain)
- Kurukshetra ( the bodily field of activity)
The blind king Dhritrashtra enquired through honest Sanjaya ” When my offspring, the Kurus and the sons of virtous Pandu gathered together on the holy plain of Kurukshetra ,eager to do battle for supremacy ,what was the outcome ? “.
The earnest enquiry of Dhritrashtra from Sanjaya , for an unbiased report of the events happening in the battlefield is symbolically the question asked by a spiritual aspirant as he reviews his own actions of his inner battle seaking the victory of Self Realization.
Kurukshetra (Kuru, from the Sanskrit root kṛi, “work, material action”; and kṣetra, “field”) is the ‘field of action’ referring to the human body . This is called Dharmakshetra for on this field the righteous battle is waged between the virtues of the soul’s discriminative intelligence (sons of Pandu) and the ignoble, uncontrolled activities of the blind mind (the Kurus, or offspring of the blind King Dhritarashtra).
The mind (manas, or sense consciousness) gives coordination to the senses as the reins keep together the several horses of a chariot. The body is the chariot; the soul is the owner of the chariot; intelligence is the charioteer; the senses are the horses. The mind is said to be blind because it cannot see without the help of the senses and intelligence. The reins of a chariot receive and relay the impulses from the steeds and the guidance of the charioteer. Similarly, the blind mind on its own neither cognizes nor exerts guidance, but merely receives the impressions from the senses and relays the conclusions and instructions of the intelligence. If the intelligence is governed by buddhi, the pure discriminative power, the senses are controlled; if the intelligence is ruled by material desires, the senses are wild and unruly.
Sanjaya means ‘ completely victorious ‘ . He symbolizes the power of impartial self analysis ,the ability to stand aside and observe oneself without any prejudice and judge accurately . Sanjaya is the power of introspection – that power of intuition by which the consciousness can watch its thoughts. It does not reason, it feels—not with biased emotion, but with clear, calm intuition.
In the Mahabharata , of which Gita is a part, Vyasa bestowed upon Sanjaya the spiritual power of being able to see from a distance everything taking place over the entire battlefielmd. Therefore it is expected that the king’s enquiry about the battle must be in present tense. Author Vyasa purposely had Sanjaya narrate the Gita dialogue retrospectively, and used a past tense of the verb (“What did they?”), as a clear hint to discerning students that the Gita is referring only incidentally to a historical battle on the plain of Kurukshetra in northern India. Primarily, Vyasa is describing a universal battle—the one that rages daily in man’s life.
सञ्जय उवाच ।
दृष्ट्वा तु पाण्डवानीकं व्यूढं दुर्योधनस्तदा ।
आचार्यमुपसङ्गम्य राजा वचनमब्रवीत् ।। 2।।
dṛiṣhṭvā tu pāṇḍavānīkaṁ vyūḍhaṁ duryodhanastadā
āchāryamupasaṅgamya rājā vachanamabravīt
Then King Duryodhana, after having seen the armies of the
Pandavas in battle array, repaired to his preceptor (Drona), and
spoke as follows:
- Sanjaya (Impartial introspection of devotees)
- Pandavas ( the discriminative qualities)
- Duryodhan (Material desire)
- Drona (Samskara, the impressions left by results of past action , creating an urge for repetition).
Sanjaya reveals that after beholding the armies of Pandavas ( the discriminative forces) , Duryodhana( material desires born out of sense mind) discussed with Drona ( impressions of previous actions).
Duryodhana represents the material desire which is the ruler of all sense inclinations of bodily kingdom.His very name comes from the Sanskrit dur, “difficult” and yudh, “to fight” – one who is difficult to fight or conquer.
This verse points out that when a spiritual aspirant starts training his objects of discrimination , he is immediately confronted by the material desire- the king of all sense tendencies. When the king desire sees that he is going to lose his mental and bodily kingdom, he reinforce itself and consults with his perceptor Drona , the impressions of the results of the actions performed previously that cause an urge to repeat the sensory action.
According to the historical story in the Mahabharata, Drona was the masterly preceptor who had taught archery to both the Kurus and the
Pandavas. During the battle between the two parties, however, Drona sided with the Kurus.
In the same way the good discriminative tendencies as well as evil sensory tendencies have both learned from inner tendencies.
Drona(samskara) , joins the wicked side of Kauravas(material desire) when they are dominant . Therefore unless the Samskara are purified by wisdom they would help the material desire to take power.
An ordinary person under ignorance remains entangled in the sensory pleasure neglection the ultimate bliss of meditation and yoga.This sense pleasure yields a fleeting happiness, but shuts off the manifestation of the subtle, more pure and lasting enjoyments—the taste of silent blessedness and the innumerable blissful perceptions that appear whenever the meditating yogi’s consciousness is turned from the
outer sensory world to the inner cosmos of Spirit.
Bhagwadgita commands a spiritual aspirant to avoid this mere existence , and gain a blissful consciousness by practicing yoga .Discontent, boredom, and unhappiness are the harvest of a mechanical life; whereas the infinite spiritual perceptions gained in meditation whisper joyously to man countless thrilling inspirations of wisdom that enlighten and enliven every aspect of his life.
The second verse says that when a devotee starts strengthening his tendency of discrimination , the material desires confronts him through various means with the help of prebuilt impressions of results or pleasures. When the mind is dominated by wisdom the rule of material desire is overthrown easily .
पश्यैतां पाण्डुपुत्राणामाचार्य महतीं चमूम् ।
व्यूढां द्रुपदपुत्रेण तव शिष्येण धीमता ॥
paśyaitāṁ pāṇḍuputrāṇām ācārya mahatīṁ camūm
vyūḍhāṁ drupadaputreṇa tava śiṣyeṇa dhīmatā
O Teacher, behold this great army of the sons of Pandu, arranged in battle order by thy talented disciple, the son of Drupada.
- Dhristadyumna- inner light of intuitive awakening.
- Drupada- dispassion for material desire.
Duryodhana says to Drona ” Behold the mighty army of Pandavas all poised in the battle under the direction of your disciple- Drishtadyumna (inner inner light of intuitive awakening) , who is the son of Drupada( dispassion for material desire),who is skillful in psychological wars . He stands against us as the commander of Pandavas army.
Drona and Drupada were close friends. Later when Drupad became the king , considering him as a friend Drona went to him for a favor , but he was scorned. Angered Drona defeated Drupad with the help of Pandavas and took him captive. Later he was freed by him out of mercy and given southern kingdom to rule. But Drupada decided to revenge Drona and performed a sacrifice asking for a son who could kill Drona. As a result of the sacrifice Drishtadyumna was born , who later killed Drona in Kurukshetra.
Similarily , in the beginning the devotee finds that his spiritual desire and his inner inclinations (habits) are friends . But when the habits extends its sense material desire , spiritual desire leave that company. Then habits try to take revenge and captivate the spiritual desire . The devotee would find that his cherished sovereign kingdom is not wholly free and he can rule only over the southern (lower) body parts ,lower spinal centers, which govern the sensory activities of the physical bodily kingdom .
The determined devotee then rouses his spiritual ardor with the resolution to liberate the soul from all bondage. His persistent, deep devotion gives him an offspring, a son, which is the truth-revealing light and power of awakening intuition, Dhrishtadyumna. This inner conviction, trained by the habit of meditation, becomes the general of the devotee’s spiritual forces, determining the requisite battle array and strategy that controls his restless mind in meditation and leads the discriminative forces to victory.
The man who is always restless and who never meditates believes that he is “all right” because he has become accustomed to being a sense slave. He realizes his true plight as soon as spiritual desire awakens in him and he
tries to meditate and be calm; he then naturally meets fierce resistance from the bad habits of mental fickleness.
Later when the spiritual desires is strengthened by meditation , the attack of sense habit is strongly confronted by them.
अत्र शूरा महेष्वासा भीमार्जुनसमा युधि।
युयुधानो विराटश्च द्रुपदश्च महारथः।।1.4।।
atra śūrā maheṣvāsā bhīmārjunasamā yudhi
yuyudhāno virāṭaś ca drupadaś ca mahārathaḥ (4)
(4) Here present are mighty heroes, extraordinary bowmen as
skillful in battle as Bhima and Arjuna—the veteran warriors,
Yuyudhana, Virata, and Drupada;
धृष्टकेतुश्चेकितानः काशिराजश्च वीर्यवान्।
पुरुजित्कुन्तिभोजश्च शैब्यश्च नरपुङ्गवः।।1.5।।
dhṛṣṭaketuś cekitānaḥ kāśirājaś ca vīryavān
purujit kuntibhojaś ca śaibyaś ca narapuṁgavaḥ (5)
(5) The powerful Dhrishtaketu, Chekitana, and Kashiraja;
eminent among men, Purujit; and Kuntibhoja, and Shaibya;
युधामन्युश्च विक्रान्त उत्तमौजाश्च वीर्यवान्।
सौभद्रो द्रौपदेयाश्च सर्व एव महारथाः।।1.6।।
yudhāmanyuś ca vikrānta uttamaujāś ca vīryavān
saubhadro draupadeyāś ca sarva eva mahārathāḥ (6)
(6) The strong Yudhamanyu, the valiant Uttamaujas, the son of
Subhadra, and the sons of Draupadi—all lords of great chariots.
- Arjuna – Self control
- Bhima- Life control
- Yuyudhana -divine devotion
- Virata – Samadhi
- Drupada- Extreme dispassion
- Drishtaketu- Power of mental resistance
- Chekitana – Spiritual memory
- Kashiraja – Discriminative intelligence
- Purujit- Mental interiorization
- Kuntibhoja – right posture
- Shaibya – Power of mental adherence
- Yudhamanyu- Life-force control
- Uttamaujas-vital celibacy
- Abhimanyu- Self mastery
- Five sons of Draupadi- Five awakened spinal centres
The fourth fifth and sixth stanza can be taken together due to theri related meaning. These characters describe the metaphysical soldiers of the soul fighting the inner spiritual battle against the sense habits.
The soul enters this highest metaphysical battle after winning the moral fight between good and evil thoughts and actions.It is connected with deeper conflict of inner forces ,when the yogi has begun to experience in meditation the fruit of his spiritual practices.