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Arjuna was one of the greatest warriors{Kshatriya} of the Mahabharata epic.He was a warrior, who remained undefeated in every war{a similar example, being that of the illustrious Bhishma}.

The prelude to the Mahabharata war, was a a dynastic succession tangle, between two groups of cousins, the Kauravas and Pandavas, for the throne of Hastinapura.

And, as all efforts at peace-negotiations failed, the Pandavas and the Kauravas, fought one of the fiercest wars of their times, at Kurukshetra, viz the Mahabharata War.The Mahabharata war also involved a number of ancient kingdoms participating as allies of the rival groups.

Arjuna was on the battlefield, ready to fight the greatest war of his lifetime.And at that point, he faced the greatest "emotional" challenge of his life. Arjuna was "besieged" by questions, for which he could not find satisfactory answers.

अहो बत महत्पापं कर्तुं व्यवसिता वयम् | यद्राज्यसुखलोभेन हन्तुं स्वजनमुद्यता: || 44||

यदि मामप्रतीकारमशस्त्रं शस्त्रपाणय: | धार्तराष्ट्रा रणे हन्युस्तन्मे क्षेमतरं भवेत् || 45||

BG 1.44–1.45:

Alas! How strange it is that we have set our mind to perform this great sin. Driven by the desire for kingly pleasures, we are intent on killing our own kinsmen. It will be better if, with weapons in hand, the sons of Dhritarashtra kill me unarmed and unresisting on the battlefield.

Arjuna placed his celestial bow, Gandiva, down on earth and said that- he did not want to fight.

सञ्जय उवाच |

एवमुक्त्वार्जुन: सङ्ख्ये रथोपस्थ उपाविशत् |

विसृज्य सशरं चापं शोकसंविग्नमानस: || 46||

BG 1.46:

Sanjay said: Speaking thus, Arjuna cast aside his bow and arrows, and sank into the seat of his chariot, his mind in distress and overwhelmed with grief.

Finally,Arjuna found answers to all his questions, through the medium of Gita Upadesha(advice given in the Bhagavad Gita) by Lord Sri Krishna.

As mentioned in the Purport to SB 1.9.36, the Gita Upadesha was meant as a guide, for all souls.

The Bhagavad-gītā was delivered to the conditioned souls of the world to deliver them from the wrong conception of identifying the body with the soul and to re-establish the soul’s eternal relation with the Supreme Lord. Ātma-vidyā, or transcendental knowledge of Himself, was primarily spoken by the Lord for the benefit of all concerned in all parts of the universe.

What were the sort of questions that perplexed Arjuna, before the start of the Mahabharata war? Please explain in brief.

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Since, it's a simple copy paste, this answer is opened to be edited by all. Here is another reference from scared-texts.


"What were the questions running through Arjuna’s mind that perplexed him, before the start of the Mahabharata war? Explain in brief."

The sort of questions which perplexed Arjuna basically originated in issues related to destruction and death during war, sin, preservance of eternal family traditions and family welfare activities etc.These details are explained as under

Majority of the Bhagavad Gita chapter - 1 is dedicated to the exact question that has been asked. Important quotes are in bold.

BG 1.28 — Arjuna said: My dear Kṛṣṇa, seeing my friends and relatives present before me in such a fighting spirit, I feel the limbs of my body quivering and my mouth drying up.
BG 1.29 — My whole body is trembling, my hair is standing on end, my bow Gāṇḍīva is slipping from my hand, and my skin is burning.
BG 1.30 — I am now unable to stand here any longer. I am forgetting myself, and my mind is reeling. I see only causes of misfortune, O Kṛṣṇa, killer of the Keśī demon.
BG 1.31 — I do not see how any good can come from killing my own kinsmen in this battle, nor can I, my dear Kṛṣṇa, desire any subsequent victory, kingdom or happiness.
BG 1.32-35 — O Govinda, of what avail to us are a kingdom, happiness or even life itself when all those for whom we may desire them are now arrayed on this battlefield? O Madhusūdana, when teachers, fathers, sons, grandfathers, maternal uncles, fathers-in-law, grandsons, brothers-in-law and other relatives are ready to give up their lives and properties and are standing before me, why should I wish to kill them, even though they might otherwise kill me? O maintainer of all living entities, I am not prepared to fight with them even in exchange for the three worlds, let alone this earth. What pleasure will we derive from killing the sons of Dhṛtarāṣṭra?
BG 1.36 — Sin will overcome us if we slay such aggressors. Therefore it is not proper for us to kill the sons of Dhṛtarāṣṭra and our friends. What should we gain, O Kṛṣṇa, husband of the goddess of fortune, and how could we be happy by killing our own kinsmen?
BG 1.37-38 — O Janārdana, although these men, their hearts overtaken by greed, see no fault in killing one’s family or quarreling with friends, why should we, who can see the crime in destroying a family, engage in these acts of sin?
BG 1.39 — With the destruction of the dynasty, the eternal family tradition is vanquished, and thus the rest of the family becomes involved in irreligion.
BG 1.40 — When irreligion is prominent in the family, O Kṛṣṇa, the women of the family become polluted, and from the degradation of womanhood, O descendant of Vṛṣṇi, comes unwanted progeny.
BG 1.41 — An increase of unwanted population certainly causes hellish life both for the family and for those who destroy the family tradition. The ancestors of such corrupt families fall down, because the performances for offering them food and water are entirely stopped.
BG 1.42 — By the evil deeds of those who destroy the family tradition and thus give rise to unwanted children, all kinds of community projects and family welfare activities are devastated.
BG 1.43 — O Kṛṣṇa, maintainer of the people, I have heard by disciplic succession that those whose family traditions are destroyed dwell always in hell.
BG 1.44 — Alas, how strange it is that we are preparing to commit greatly sinful acts. Driven by the desire to enjoy royal happiness, we are intent on killing our own kinsmen.
BG 1.45 — Better for me if the sons of Dhṛtarāṣṭra, weapons in hand, were to kill me unarmed and unresisting on the battlefield.
BG 1.46 — Sañjaya said: Arjuna, having thus spoken on the battlefield, cast aside his bow and arrows and sat down on the chariot, his mind overwhelmed with grief.

  • @UdayKrishna, since this is a "community wiki", I no longer have any ownership of it. No reputation change incurs whenever it's voted. If you feel that your edit adds value, then instead of commenting, you may feel free to directly add/remove/change those things into the above answer. – iammilind Oct 10 '16 at 11:29
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To add to the other answer, before the imminent war, Yudhiṣṭhira also expressed some doubts on whether war is really worth it. He asks:

O Krishna. We have numerous kinsmen, and numerous also are the revered seniors that have taken this or that other side. The slaughter of these would be highly sinful. What good, therefore, can there be in battle? Alas, such sinful practices are the duties of the Kshatriya order! Ourselves have taken our births in that wretched order! ...

Under all circumstances, however, war is a sin ...

The learned have noticed all this in a canine contest. First, there comes the wagging of tails, then the bark, then the bark in reply, then the circumambulation, then the showing of teeth, then repeated roars, and then at last the fight. In such a contest, O Krishna, the dog that is stronger, vanquishing his antagonist, taketh the latter's meat. The same is exactly the case with men. There is no difference whatever. They that are powerful should be indifferent to avoid disputes with the weak who always bow down.

The father, the king, and he that is venerable in year, always deserve regard. Dhritarashtra, therefore, O Janardana, is worthy of our respect and worship. But, O Madhava, Dhritarashtra's affection for his son is great. Obedient to his son, he will reject our submission.

What dost thou, O Krishna, think best at this juncture?

How may we, O Madhava, preserve both our interest and virtue?

Bhīma says:

All of us, O Krishna, would rather in humiliation follow Duryodhana submissively, but, oh, let not the Bharatas be annihilated. O Vasudeva, act in such a way that we may rather live as strangers to the Kurus than incurring the sin of bringing about the destruction of the whole race...

Nakula also mentions that during their exile they did not desire kingdom:

While we were living in the woods, our hearts were inclined towards a particular course of action. While we were passing the period of concealment, our wishes were of one kind, and now, at the present time, O Krishna, when concealment is no longer necessary, our wishes have become different. O thou of the Vrishni race, while we wandered in the woods, attachment for the kingdom was not so great as now.

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