Sunday, April 3, 2011

Lecture (Chapter) 1: The Grief of Ărjŏŏn.

The following series of posts consists of the chapters of Bhagavad-gita as translated by Charles Wilkins and published in 1785 with the title The Bhăgvăt-Gēētā, or Dialogues of Krĕĕshnă and Ărjŏŏn.

The numbers in parentheses refer to the numbered notes below them, also enclosed in parentheses, which I have inserted into the text for convenience of reference.

Lecture I.

The Grief of Ărjŏŏn.

Dhrĕĕtărāshtră said,

“Tell me, O Sănjăy, what the people of my own party, and those of the Pāndŏŏs, who are assembled at Kŏŏrŏŏ-kshētră resolved for war, have been doing.

Sănjăy replied,

“Dŏŏryōdhăn having seen the army of the Pāndŏŏs drawn up for battle, went to his Preceptor, and addressed him in the following words:”

“Behold! O master, said he, the mighty army of the sons of Pāndŏŏ drawn forth by thy pupil, the experienced son of Drŏŏpăd. In it are heroes, such as Bhēēm or Ărjŏŏn: there is Yŏŏyŏŏdhānă, and Vĕĕrāt, and Drŏŏpăd, and Dhrĕĕshtăkētŏŏ, and Chēkĕĕtānă, and the valiant prince of Kāsĕĕ, and Pŏŏrŏŏjĕĕt, and Kŏŏntĕĕbhōjă, and Sīvyă a mighty chief, and Yŏŏdhāmănyŏŏ-Vĕĕkrāntă, and the daring Oŏtāmowjā; so the son of Sŏŏbhădrā, and the sons of Krĕĕshnā the daughter of Drŏŏpăd, all of them great in arms. Be acquainted also with the names of those of our party who are the most distinguished. I will mention a few of those who are amongst my generals, by way of example. There is thyself, my Preceptor, and Bhēēshmă, and Krĕĕpă the conqueror in battle, and Ăswătthāmā, and Vĕĕkărnă, and the son of Sāmă-dăttă, with others in vast numbers who for my service have forsaken the love of life. They are all of them practised in the use of arms, and experienced in every mode of fight. Our innumerable forces are commanded by Bhēēshmă, and the inconsiderable army of our foes is led by Bhēēm. Let all the generals, according to their respective divisions, stand in their posts, and one and all resolve Bhēēshmă to support.”

The ancient chief (1), and brother of the grandsire of the Kŏŏrŏŏs, then, shouting with a voice like a roaring lion, blew his shell (2) to raise the spirits of the Kŏŏrŏŏ chief;

(1 The ancient chief.—Bhēēshmă, brother of Vĕĕchĕĕtră-vĕĕryă, grandfather of the Kŏŏrŏŏs and the Pāndŏŏs.)

(2 Shell.—The conch or chank.)

and instantly innumerable shells, and other warlike instruments, were struck up on all sides, so that the clangour was excessive. At this time Krĕĕshnă (3) and Ărjŏŏn (4) were standing in a splendid chariot drawn by white horses.

(3 Krĕĕshnă.—An incarnation of the Deity.)

(4 Ărjŏŏn.—The third son of Pāndŏŏ, and the favorite of Krĕĕshnă.)

They also sounded their shells, which were of celestial form: the name of the one which was blown by Krĕĕshnă, was Pānchăjănyă, and that of Ărjŏŏn was called Dēvă-dăttă. Bhēēm, of dreadful deeds, blew his capacious shell Powndră, and Yŏŏdhĕĕshtĕĕr, the royal son of Kŏŏntēē, sounded Ănăntă-Vĕĕjăy. Năkŏŏl and Săhădēvă blew their shells also; the one called Sŏŏgōshă, the other Mănĕĕpŏŏshpăkă. The prince of Kāsĕĕ of the mighty bow, Sĕĕkhăndēē, Dhrĕĕshtădhŏŏmnă, Vĕĕrāta, Sātyăkĕĕ of invincible arm, Drŏŏpăd and the sons of his royal daughter Krĕĕshnā, with the son of Sŏŏbhădrā, and all the other chiefs and nobles, blew also their respective shells; so that their shrill sounding voices pierced the hearts of the Kŏŏrŏŏs, and re-echoed with a dreadful noise from heaven to earth.

In the mean time Ărjŏŏn, perceiving that the sons of Dhrĕĕtărāshtră stood ready to begin the fight, and that the weapons began to fly abroad, having taken up his bow, addressed Krĕĕshnă in the following words:


“I pray thee, Krĕĕshnă, cause my chariot to be driven and placed between the two armies, that I may behold who are the men that stand ready, anxious to commence the bloody fight; and with whom it is that I am to fight in this ready field; and who they are that are here assembled to support the vindictive son of Dhrĕĕtărāshtră in the battle.”

Krĕĕshnă being thus addressed by Ărjŏŏn, drove the chariot; and, having caused it to halt in the midst of the space in front of the two armies, bad Ărjŏŏn cast his eyes towards the ranks of the Kŏŏrŏŏs, and behold where stood the aged Bhēēshmă, and Drōn, with all the chief nobles of their party. He looked at both the armies, and beheld, on either side, none but grandsires, uncles, cousins, tutors, sons, and brothers, near relations, or bosom friends; and when he had gazed for a while, and beheld such friends as these prepared for the fight, he was seized with extreme pity and compunction, and uttered his sorrow in the following words:


“Having beheld, O Krĕĕshnă! my kindred thus standing anxious for the fight, my members fail me, my countenance withereth, the hair standeth an end upon my body, and all my frame trembleth with horror! Even Gāndēēv my bow escapeth from my hand, and my skin is parched and dried up.

(Gāndēēv my bow.—The gift of Vărŏŏn the God of the Ocean.)

I am not able to stand; for my understanding, as it were, turneth round, and I behold inauspicious omens on all sides. When I shall have destroyed my kindred, shall I longer look for happiness? I wish not for victory, Krĕĕshnă; I want not dominion; I want not pleasure; for what is dominion, and the enjoyments of life, or even life itself, when those, for whom dominion, pleasure, and enjoyment were to be coveted, have abandoned life and fortune, and stand here in the field ready for the battle? Tutors, sons and fathers, grandsires and grandsons, uncles and nephews, cousins, kindred, and friends! Although they would kill me, I wish not to fight them; no not even for the dominion of the three regions of the universe, much less for this little earth! Having killed the sons of Dhrĕĕtărāshtră, what pleasure, O Krĕĕshnă, can we enjoy? Should we destroy them, tyrants as they are, sin would take refuge with us. It therefore behoveth us not to kill such near relations as these. How, O Krĕĕshnă, can we be happy hereafter, when we have been the murderers of our race? What if they, whose minds are depraved by the lust of power, see no sin in the extirpation of their race, no crime in the murder of their friends, is that a reason why we should not resolve to turn away from such a crime, we who abhor the sin of extirpating the kindred of our blood? In the destruction of a family, the ancient virtue of the family is lost. Upon the loss of virtue, vice and impiety overwhelm the whole of a race. From the influence of impiety the females of a family grow vicious; and from women that are become vicious are born the spurious brood called Vărnă-sănkăr. The Sănkăr provideth Hell (5) both for those which are slain and those which survive;

(5 Hell.—In the original Nărk. The infernal regions, supposed to be situated at the bottom of the earth, where those whose virtues are less than their vices are doomed to dwell for a period proportioned to their crimes, after which they rise again to inhabit the bodies of unclean beasts.)

and their forefathers (6), being deprived of the ceremonies of cakes and water offered to their manes, sink into the infernal regions.

(6 Forefathers, &c.—The Hindoos are enjoined by the Vēds to offer a cake, which is called Pĕĕndă, to the ghosts of their ancestors, as far back as the third generation. This ceremony is performed on the day of the new moon in every month. The offering of water is in like manner commanded to be performed daily, and this ceremony is called Tărpăn, to satisfy, appease.—The souls of such men as have left children to continue their generation, are supposed to be transported, immediately upon quitting their bodies, into a certain region called the Pĕĕtrĕĕ-lōg, where they may continue in proportion to their former virtues, provided these ceremonies be not neglected; otherwise they are precipitated into Nărk, and doomed to be born again in the bodies of unclean beasts; and until, by repeated regenerations, all their sins are done away, and they attain such a degree of perfection as will entitle them to what is called Mŏŏktĕĕ, eternal salvation, by which is understood a release from future transmigration, and an absorption in the nature of the Godhead, who is called Brăhm. These ceremonies, which are called Srādh, were not unknown to the Greeks and Romans, and are still practised by the followers of Mahommed.)

By the crimes of those who murder their own relations, sore cause of contamination and birth of Vărnă-sănkărs, the family virtue, and the virtue of a whole tribe is for ever done away; and we have been told, O Krĕĕshnă, that the habitation of those mortals whose generation hath lost its virtue, shall be in Hell. Woe is me! what a great crime are we prepared to commit! Alas! that for the lust of the enjoyments of dominion we stand here ready to murder the kindred of our own blood! I would rather patiently suffer that the sons of Dhrĕĕtărāshtră, with their weapons in their hands, should come upon me, and, unopposed, kill me unguarded in the field.”

When Ărjŏŏn had ceased to speak, he sat down in the chariot between the two armies; and having put away his bow and arrows, his heart was overwhelmed with affliction.

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