The Bhagavat Gītā is set up in a battle field which is raging to war between blood of the same family/ clan i.e. the Pāṇḍavas and the Kauravas (cousins amongst themselves). The battle field is chosen probably to signify that humans realize their truths when the end is near and when all they strived for is now going to be left behind Indicating the distressed state of Arjuna. It is then man surrenders to the powers of the Divine (Kṛṣṇa, here). This follows the great wisdom and in order to understand it, one has to go through certain phases in life. These could be
- It is said that one does not seek a cure until he/she realises the disease, so is the case with the world (samsāra).
- Then comes the longing for freedom. Freedom from this world can alone lead to a committed and fruitful pursuit.
- Thirdly one can visit and revisit the problem but cannot solve it alone. If it could be so, one would never have any problem at all.
- This leads to self-realisation of being a student (śiṣya) and surrendering to a Guru (teacher).
The first chapter and the first part of the second chapter are devoted to the same.
The problem as shown in the first chapter pertains to attachment (rāga), grief ( śoka or viṣāda) and disillusion (moha) of basic fantasies.
When one is unhappy inside, he seeks external help. Again, this leads to attachment and dependence. The factors of dependence are however very unpredictable; they tend to disturb the mental peace of the person. A disturbed mind can make only faulty judgements complicating matters further. Thus, it creates the vicious cycle of samsāra.
The first twenty verses contain a vivid description of the armies arrayed for battle.
After a brief instruction of Duryodhana to his commanders, Bhīṣma, Lord Kṛṣṇa, Arjuna, and others blow their conches, signalling the commencement of the battle.
At this fateful moment, Arjuna commands Lord Kṛṣṇa, his charioteer, to place the chariot in the middle of the army to scrutinize the enemy-forces. The reverend Lord brings the chariot in front of Bhīṣma and Droṇa and asks Arjuna to survey the army.
(Till now Arjuna was convinced that his cousins are unrighteous and he, as a kṣatriya, has to fight the battle to establish righteousness.)
Then dawns the moment of weakness, when Arjun slips from reason to relation. Instead of visualising the sinners, he saw in them his beloved kith and kin. Overpowered by attachment Arjuna is dejected. Then follow grief and delusion. Arjuna, completely shaken, then expresses his intense grief.
Thus, veiled by attachment, his discriminative power becomes inoperative and he commits a series of false judgements. To support his stand, he even quotes the scriptures. Arjun thus gets caught up in delusion (verses 36 to 47).
Thus, Arjuna finds himself in the deep sea of attachment, sorrow and delusion (rāga, śoka, moha). The only solution that Arjun sees is to drop the battle. At the same time, he is also not mentally convinced. He didn’t realize that the problem was too deep to be solved independently. Dejected, he sits back on his chariot in sorrow and has not even surrendered to Kṛṣṇa.
This chapter is aptly called Arjunaviṣāda-yoga, since Arjuna’s grief is the main topic here.