6. Bhagavad Gita Online Course – Chapter 1, Verse 13-23 (Refining Your Responses)


Chapter 1, Verses 13-18:

The battlefield was suddenly filled with a cacophony of sounds as conches, kettledrums, tabors, trumpets, and cow-horns were blasted simultaneously, creating an overwhelming, earth-shaking noise. Amidst this tumultuous setting, Krishna (the charioteer) and Arjuna (the warrior), seated in a resplendent chariot drawn by white horses, raised their divine conches and blew them, producing a sound that stood out even amidst the din. Krishna blew his conch (Panchajanya), Arjuna sounded his (Devadatta), and Bhima (known for his immense strength and fierce deeds) blew his mighty conch (Paundra). King Yudhishthira (eldest of the Pandavas) blew his conch (Anantavijaya), while his brothers Nakula blew his (Sughosha) and Sahadeva blew his (Manipushpaka). The king of Kasi (renowned for his expertise in archery), Sikhandi, Drishtadyumna, Virata (king of his Matsya kingdom), the unmatched Satyaki (a Yadava warrior), Drupada (king of Panchala kingdom), the sons of Draupadi, and Abhimanyu (the mighty-armed son of Subhadra) all blew their conches as well. This collective act symbolized their unity and readiness to fight, each conch contributing to the grand chorus of impending battle.

Chapter 1, Verse 19:

The deafening sound of the conches, resonating through the earth and sky, struck fear into the heart of Dhritarashtra, symbolizing the shattering of his illusions and the unavoidable reality of the impending war. This moment exemplifies how actions rooted in adharma (immorality) eventually return to the doer, as illustrated by the Mahabharata stories where aggression and revenge lead to greater destruction and suffering. For example, Drona's death following Yudhishthira's strategic deceit and Ashwatthama's retaliatory actions with devastating weapons highlight the lesson that letting go of aggression can neutralize powerful threats, much like the peaceful protests led by Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi. The verse underscores the inevitability of facing the consequences of one's actions and the ultimate collapse of false hopes and safety. In the following verses, Sanjaya shifts focus to Arjuna, setting the stage for his dialogue with Krishna.

Chapter 1, Verse 20:

As the battle was about to begin, Arjuna, bearing Hanuman on his banner, saw the sons of Dhritarashtra assembled. Lifting his bow, he prepared to speak to Krishna, his charioteer. Background Story how Krishna Got Involved in War: Both the Pandavas and Kauravas sought Krishna's help. Duryodhana stood at Krishna's head while he slept, and Arjuna sat by his feet. Upon awakening, Krishna first saw Arjuna and offered them a choice: his entire army and weapons or Krishna himself, who would not fight. Duryodhana chose the army, while Arjuna chose Krishna, valuing his wisdom over military strength. This choice symbolized humility (Arjuna at Krishna's feet) versus control (Duryodhana at Krishna's head).

Chapter 1, Verse 21-23:

Arjuna asks Krishna to position the chariot in the middle of the battlefield to clearly see both sides, aiming to assess the situation and determine the right course of action, considering the moral implications of the war. While Arjuna seeks clarity and moral insight, Duryodhana's strategy is to self-soothe by believing his soldiers are there to protect Bhishma and fight for him.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 1, Verse 13-18:

tataḥ śaṅkhāḥ ca bheryaḥ ca paṇava-ānaka-gomukhāḥ । sahasā eva abhyahanyanta saḥ śabdaḥ tumulaḥ abhavat ॥ 1-13॥
Then, suddenly, conches, kettledrums, tabors, trumpets, and cow-horns were blasted forth and the sound was indeed earth shaking.

tataḥ śvetaiḥ hayaiḥ yukte mahati syandane sthitau । mādhavaḥ pāṇḍavaḥ ca eva divyau śaṅkhau pradadhmatuḥ ॥ 1-14॥
Thereafter, Krsna and Arjuna, seated in a grand chariot with white horses, blew (their) divine conches. 

pāñcajanyam hṛṣīkeśaḥ devadattam dhanañjayaḥ । pauṇḍram dadhmau mahā-śaṅkham bhīma-karmā vṛka-udaraḥ ॥ 1-15॥
Kṛṣṇa (blew) the Pāñcajanya and Arjuna the Devadatta. Bhīma, the man of fierce deeds and one with the stomach of a wolf, blew his huge conch, Pauṇḍra. 

anantavijayam rājā kuntī-putraḥ yudhiṣṭhiraḥ । nakulaḥ sahadevaḥ ca sughoṣa-maṇi-puṣpakau ॥ 1-16॥
King Yudhiṣṭhira, the son of Kuntī, blew Anantavijaya and Nakula and Sahadeva blew Sughoṣa and Maṇipuṣpaka respectively. 

kāśyaḥ ca parama-iṣu-āsaḥ śikhaṇḍī ca mahārathaḥ । dhṛṣṭadyumnaḥ virāṭaḥ ca sātyakiḥ ca aparājitaḥ ॥ 1-17॥
drupadaḥ draupadeyāḥ ca sarvaśaḥ pṛthivī-pate । saubhadraḥ ca mahā-bāhuḥ śaṅkhān dadhmuḥ pṛthak pṛthak ॥ 1-18॥
1.17-18: O The ruler of earth (Dhṛtarāṣṭra)! The king of Kāśī, an expert archer, Śikhaṇḍī of great valour, Dhṛṣṭadyumna, and Virāṭa, and the unsurpassed Sātyaki…  …King Drupada, the sons of Draupadī and the mighty armed son of Subhadrā (Abhimanyu), all blew their own conches. 

  • Bhishma started, everyone else followed conch-blowing. Who blew the conch? Krishna, Arjuna, Bhīma, Nakula, Sahadev, Yudhisthir.
  • Who blows the conch first? The aggressor. Shows Duryodhana has initiated the war. And Pandavas are responding to the challenge, also having contributed as they didn’t set boundaries.
  • When did Pandavas not set boundaries?
    • Situations:
      • (a) Pandu died, and per rules, it’s eldest son of present king who becomes king. Duryodhana resisted and Dhritarashtra succumbed to demands and Pandavas let go as didn’t want to rock the boat, so they accepted Indraprastha.
      • (b) Then they worked hard to build up Indraprastha, and Duryodhana couldn’t stand and invited them to wax palace. It burned, and Pandavas again let go.
      • (c) Duryodhana invited them to game to dice, which was adharmic from the start, and again Pandavas let go, knowing Shakuni was manipulating dice.
      • (d) 13th year was over, and Duryodhana didn’t want to give one inch of land, and finally Pandavas decided, we can’t let go again.
    • LESSON: Indiscriminately letting go doesn’t help anyone. Yet Gita teaches what is appropriate response in this situation, and following up. This requires looking at larger picture, and your role in it.
  • NEXT VERSE: So far Sanjaya has reported to Dhritarashtra what is happening on the field. For example Duryodhana speaks to Drona, shares winning strategy, and reveals his insecurity (“These man have come for me”). Next verse, Sanjaya speaks of what effect this reporting had on Dhritarashtra.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 1, Verse 19:

saḥ ghoṣaḥ dhārtarāṣṭrāṇām hṛdayāni vyadārayat । nabhaḥ ca pṛthivīm ca eva tumulaḥ abhyanunādayan ॥ 1-19॥
That terrible sound, reverberating throughout the earth and sky, pierced the very hearts of the sons of Dhṛtarāṣṭra.

  • Dhritarashtra was shaking hearing the sound, knowing no way to avoid the war anymore. In otherwords, when reality hits you; the personal bubble of false hope has burst. Dhritarashtra has been throwing small adharma (immoral acts) into the field. Eventually the ocean returned it all back to his shore, thus he is disturbed. 
    • Story from Mahabharata showing how immoral acts eventually return to the doer: 
      • Drona killed after Yudhishthira confirms death of “Ashwatthama” (elephant), leading Drona to surrender in grief. Drstadyumna (Drapupadi’s brother) kills him. Ashwatthama, in retaliation, uses the Nārāyaṇāstra (missile) against Pandavas. Fails when Krishna instructs Pandavas to disarm and surrender.
        • LESSON: Letting go of aggression can neutralize most powerful threats. EG: Mark Luther King (50/60’s), in relation to Civil Rights Movement (end racial segregation/separation via peaceful protests).  Gandhi (struggle for independence from British colonial rule) through ahimsa.
      • Later, Ashwatthama releases more powerful Brahmāśira weapon (nuclear weapon). Instructed by sages (rules of game) to withdraw (mass destruction). He ignored it. And rather redirected towards Uttara’s wife (wife of Abhimanyu; son or Arjuna) womb, with Parikshit inside (heir to Kuru dynasty).  Suffered 3000 years of Isolation.
        • LESSON: Boomerang of non-discrimination, desire for revenge doesn’t serve your self-interest.
  • Verse demonstrates the moment when one's illusions are shattered. Isvara eventually pops your bubble of artificial safety. 
  • NEXT VERSE: Having explained what is happening to Duryodhana  Sanjaya explains what is happening to Arjuna, who wants to say something to Krishna. But first context is setup…

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 1, Verse 20:

atha vyavasthitān dṛṣṭvā dhārtrarāṣṭrān kapi-dhvajaḥ । pravṛtte śastra-sampāte dhanuḥ udyamya pāṇḍavaḥ  | hṛṣīkeśam tadā vākyam idam āha mahīpate । ॥ 1-20॥
Then, with the battle ready to begin, O the ruler of earth! seeing the sons of Dhṛtarāṣṭra assembled (on the battlefield), Arjuna, who had Hanumān on his banner, lifting his bow, said these words to Kṛṣṇa.

  • Background of Krishan & Hanuman To Help Explain this Verse:
    • How Krishna ended up participating in the war: When negotiations failed, both Pandavas & Kauravas were getting support from other kings. Both eventually came to Krishna for help. When came, Duryodhana came first and stood at sleeping Krishna’s head. Arjuna came later and sat by his feet. When Krishna got up, he first saw Arjuna. Both said, “We need your help in war”. Krishna agreed, and Arjuna get first chance, being seen first. Condition was, on one said my whole army and weapon. On other side, only me, non-fighting Krishna. Duryodhana thought it was silly to take up non-fighting Krishna, but hoping emotional fool Arjuna will choose Krishna, and Duryodhana will get whole army and be stronger.  Arjuna said, “I have all the skills, weapons, and courage in the world. Only thing that’ll make me lose or win is whether Krishna is on my side. Having him, I have Lord’s wisdom on my side”. So Arjuna choose non-fighting Krishna. Both walked away happy as both got what they wanted.
      • Symbolism:
        • Feet symbolize humility. Head symbolizes desire to assert control via the intellect. 
        • Krishna first seeing Arjuna: Potentially symbolizes Arjuna was aligned to the rules of the game (by standing by Krishna's feet). In this way, he was blessed first by Krishna
    • How Hanuman ended up on side of Arjuna (on his flag blessing him): In forest, Bhima was dwelling around forest and saw huge monkey. Bhima arrogantly told him to move. Monkey explained he is old. Bhima needs to move monkeys tail, as Bhima is young. As he started to move the tail, he couldn’t, and all pride melted. “Who are you?”.  Hanuman introduced himself, explained both are sons of Vayu. Bhima asked Hanuman to join the war. Hanuman replied, “I’ve already fought with Rama, I’m too old, but since both Krishna and Rama are Vishnu incarnations, I’ll join, but as a support; not an active participant”. 
      • About Hanuman: Hanuman was mischievous with the sun and forgot he had strength; and would remember again when he's able to use his talents responsibly. He was reminded when he thought of going to Lanka to save Sita was an impossible task, until Jambavan (king of bears) reminded him. When our devotion or focus is turned to a higher cause, we gain unfounded energy & strength.
      • Arjuna had two people on his chariot, both not participating. Krishna (guided him physically, emotionally and intellectually) and Hanuman (showing his support, blessing him from a distance). Similarly, we need people who will guide us and bless us.
    • Arjuna assigns Krishna to be his charioteer. Because how well you maneuver during challenges, depends on your charioteer (buddhi). At times things are overwhelming, feel overwhelming, need perspective, and Krishna served Arjuna this purpose.
  • NEXT VERSE: First time, Arjuna speaks to Krishna

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 1, Verse 21-23:

arjuna uvāca | senayoḥ ubhayoḥ madhye ratham sthāpaya me acyuta || 1-21
yāvat etān nirīkṣe aham yoddhu-kāmān avasthitān |  kairmayā saha yoddhavyam asmin raṇasamudyame || 1-22
Arjuna said – Oh Krsna! Place my chariot between the two armies till I see those who are assembled with a desire to fight. (Let me see) with whom I should I fight in this event of war. I wish to see those who are  assembled here eager to fight, and who want to fulfill the desire of the evil-mindd Duryōdhanā in this war. 

yotsyamānān avekṣe aham ye ete atra samāgatāḥ । dhārtarāṣṭrasya durbuddheḥ yuddhe priya-cikīrṣavaḥ ॥ 1-23॥
I wish to see those who have gathered here with the intention of fighting, who want to carry out in the war what is pleasing to the son of Dhṛtarāṣṭra (Duryodhana), the one whose thinking is distorted.

  • Arjuna tells Krishna, “Place my chariot in middle of two armies. I want to see clearly both sides, so I can see how to arrange my army and what is the right thing to be done”. 
  • Arjuna vs. Duryodhana’s STRATEGY: Arjuna proceeded to gather additional information for added clarity of what is to be done. To see moral implications of the war. While Duryodhana’s strategy was to self-sooth himself, claiming soldiers have come to fight for his sake, and to protect Bhishma.
  • NEXT VERSE: Sanjaya recounts to Dhṛtarāṣṭra — Kṛṣṇa is fulfilling Arjuna’s command, and goes to middle of the armies…


Course was based on Neema Majmudar's Bhagavad Gita & Swami Dayananda (Arsha Vidya) home study course.

Recorded 2 June , 2024

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