In the first chapter of Bhagavad Geeta, Arjuna after seeing his kith and kin on the other side of the army becomes completely drowned in his own sorrow. He falls into this state because of the sense of ‘I’ and ‘My’ concerning who is fighting and hence he loses his objectivity, and clarity of mind. With utter confusion, efficiency and capacity are lost. He gives numerous reasons trying to justify the conclusion he derives to not fight. Hence the first chapter is called Arjuna Vishāda Yoga as Arjuna tells the Lord, Sri Krishna his sorrow, thereby seeking means for getting out of that state.
Arjuna is not able to do his duty (svadharma) as a soldier because of delusion. This delusion (moha) has come because of his sorrow (shoka) which has overpowered him due to the sense of ‘I’ (aham) and ‘My’ (mama) and this cannot be avoided if there is ignorance (ajñāna) about one’s true nature. The second chapter of the Bhagavad Geeta is called Sānkhya Yoga where Sri Krishna gives the solution to Arjuna’s sorrow by providing Knowledge which is the means to realizing one’s true nature. By doing that he tackles the root of the problem which is to remove ignorance of his nature by which he stops identifying with ‘I’ or ‘My’, thereby having a mind free of sorrow and can perform his duty without any confusion.
Chapter 2, Verse 1
तं तथा कृपयाविष्टमश्रुपूर्णाकुलेक्षणम् ।
विषीदन्तमिदं वाक्यमुवाच मधुसूदनः ॥१॥
taṁ tathā kṛpayāviṣṭamaśrupūrṇākulekṣaṇam,
viṣīdantamidaṁ vākyamuvāca madhusūdanaḥ. (1)
Seeing Arjuna overwhelmed with compassion, grief-stricken, and with distressed eyes full of tears, Sri Krishna spoke these words.
Arjuna’s mind is filled with sorrow because of overwhelming pity for Kith and Kin. This distress expressed itself physically through tears in his eyes. He becomes despondent and sat down giving up the idea of fighting the war. Sri Krishna (referred to as Madhusudana because he is the slayer of the demon named Madhu) says the following words as indicated in the next two verses to Arjuna.
Chapter 2, Verse 2
कुतस्त्वा कश्मलमिदं विषमे समुपस्थितम् ।
kutastvā kaśmalamidaṁ viṣame samupasthitam,
The Lord said:
Arjuna, wherefrom has this delusion come to you in this hour of peril? It is something that is resorted to by ignoble people. It does not lead to higher abodes and leads to infamy.
Krishna reprimands Arjuna saying that his thinking is unreasonable and impure. He explains that this behavior is not befitting Arjuna who is well-known for his nobility and virtue.
Chapter 2, Verse 3
क्लैब्यं मा स्म गमः पार्थ नैतत्त्वय्युपपद्यते ।
क्षुद्रं हृदयदौर्बल्यं त्यक्त्वोत्तिष्ठ परन्तप ॥३॥
klaibyaṁ mā sma gamaḥ pārtha naitattvayyupapadyate,
kṣudraṁ hṛdayadaurbalyaṁ tyaktvottiṣṭha parantapa. (3)
O Partha (Arjuna), do not yield to unmanliness, it does not befit you. Give up such petty weakness of heart and arise, O conqueror of enemies.
Sri Krishna is a very skillful teacher, he reprimands Arjuna to get his attention and then gives him internal strength to tackle the current situation by encouraging him. He refers to Arjuna as Partha to remind him of his extraordinary lineage to encourage him not to yield to this unmanliness and that it doesn’t befit him at all being born to such illustrious parents.
He addresses him as parantapa reminding him of his strength and to conquer the enemy that has risen within him, making him not do his duty as a warrior. Unmanliness refers to being weak mentally. The feelings he is having in his mind are coming out of delusion and are not moral or noble. If it was based on wisdom, he wouldn’t be having this grief and doubt in his mind.
Chapter 2, Verse 4
कथं भीष्ममहं सङ्ख्ये द्रोणं च मधुसूदन ।
इषुभिः प्रतियोत्स्यामि पूजार्हावरिसूदन ॥४॥
kathaṁ bhīṣmamahaṁ saṅkhye droṇaṁ ca madhusūdana,
iṣubhiḥ pratiyotsyāmi pūjārhāvarisūdana. (4)
O Madhusudhana, how can I shoot arrows in battle on Dronacharya and Bheeshma, who is worthy of my worship, O Arisudhana?
Arjuna refers to Sri Krishna as Madhusudhana meaning one who killed asura named Madhu and Arisudhana meaning one who is the destroyer of enemies. He says to Sri Krishna that all he sees in front of him are Dronacharya and Bheeshma who are worthy of worship and he doesn’t understand how he can kill people of that caliber.
Chapter 2, Verse 5
गुरूनहत्वा हि महानुभावान्
श्रेयो भोक्तुं भैक्ष्यमपीह लोके ।
भुञ्जीय भोगान् रुधिरप्रदिग्धान् ॥५॥
gurūnahatvā hi mahānubhāvān
śreyo bhoktuṁ bhaikṣyamapīha loke,
bhuñjīya bhogān rudhirapradigdhān. (5)
It would certainly be better to live by begging, rather than to enjoy life by killing these noble elders who are my teachers. If we kill them, the wealth and pleasure we enjoy in this world will be tainted with their blood.
Arjuna is so identified with the people on the other side thinking of them as his teachers and great people of glory that he thinks it would be a sin to kill them and anything they achieve by doing that will be tainted by their blood. He thinks it’s better to beg and live rather than kill these great people. While talking, Arjuna seems to see the weakness of his argument and starts doubting it as seen in the next verse.
Chapter 2, Verse 6
न चैतद्विद्मः कतरन्नो गरीयो-
यद्वा जयेम यदि वा नो जयेयुः ।
यानेव हत्वा न जिजीविषाम-
स्तेऽवस्थिताः प्रमुखे धार्तराष्ट्राः ॥६॥
na caitadvidmaḥ kataranno garīyo-
yadvā jayema yadi vā no jayeyuḥ,
yāneva hatvā na jijīviṣāma-
ste’vasthitāḥ pramukhe dhārtarāṣṭrāḥ. (6)
We do not know which result is preferable for us – conquering them or being conquered by them. Certainly, after killing them, we will not desire to live. Yet they have taken the side of Dhritarashtra, and now are standing before us on the battlefield.
This is where Arjuna shows a little bit of doubt and starts expressing he is confused as to what is right. He is not sure and he confesses that to Krishna. He doesn’t know which is better, to win or lose. As if they lose, he will feel terrible for not defeating those who have taken the wrong side of Dhritarashtra and if they win after killing them, he would feel terrible to have slain all these noble teachers and elders and not desire to live.
When one is unsure of one’s thoughts and doesn’t know what the right thing to do is, he/she should at some point admit the confusion and give some space for someone to help. Arjuna, in a very timely way, sought the help of Sri Krishna. Sri Krishna methodically lays out the Knowledge to Arjuna from this point on, to clear all of his doubts and remove his ignorance.