Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bhagavad Gita Verse 1, Chapter 1

Dhritraashtra uvaacha:
dharmakshetre kurukshetre samavetaa yuyutsavaha |
maamakaaha paandavaashchaiva kimakurvata sanjaya || 1 ||

Dhritraashtra said:
In Kurukshetra, the field of the Kurus and also the field of righteousness, both my sons and Pandu's sons gathered, eager to fight. What did they do, O Sanjaya?

dharmakshetre : in the field of dharma
kurukshetre : in the field of the Kurus
samavetaa : gathered here
yuyutsavaha : in order to fight
maamakaaha : my (sons)
paandavasahcha : Pandu's sons
eva : also
kim : what
akurvata : what did they do?
sanjaya : O Sanjaya
So begins the first chapter of the Gita. The first chapter is a dialog between Dhritraashtra, father of the Kauravas and Sanjaya, his charioteer and also his adviser. Sanjaya was given divine vision so that he could provide a real-time commentary on the Mahabharata war for the sightless Dhritraashtra.
This verse begins to reveal one of the recurring themes of the Gita - the downside of extreme attachment to objects or situations. Dhritraashtra means someone who clings to his kingdom, and Sanjaya means victory. Dhritraashtra was extremely attached to his sons and his kingdom, which is one of the reasons that the Mahabharata war occurred. He refers to his nephews as "Pandu's sons" indicating that they are a 3rd party, whereas his sons are referred to as "my sons".
What exactly is attachment? Here's an example. Let's say Mr. X brought a brand new car. He shows it to all his friends, they ooh and they aah, his spouse is happy, his kids are jumping up and down and so on. When he hears all the praises, there usually is something inside him that "puffs up". That thing is the ego. Now let's say a few weeks have passed. It's morning and as he opens the car door, he notices a large dent on the side of the car. He begins to experience anger, sadness, and a whole host of other emotions.
What just happened? It was attachment to the car. Mr. X's ego created an identification with the new car. In other words, it began to think of the car as an extension of its identity. So any praise for the car became the ego's praise, and any harm to the car became the ego's harm. The ego strengthens itself by attachment, i.e. identification with objects, thoughts (I am smart, I am sincere etc), positions (e.g. right wing vs. left wing). Eckhart Tolle talks about ego and attachment in his books "The Power Of Now" and "A New Earth".
So what is the practical lesson here? Later chapters and verses will go in detail into this subject, but till then, this verse urges us to examine our life and take stock of our attachments. What are our attachments? How strong are those attachments? What can we do to prevent ourselves getting entangled in more and more attachments?
Also - at this point, do we think that all attachments are bad? Or are some good? Upon introspection we will find the answers. The Gita will begin to address those questions as we go further into it.


Raji Menon said...

Good one for a layman like me. So the interpretation is your interpretation or you learned it from other sources?

skr2011 said...

Good question. I will add it to the FAQ page.

Rob Johnson said...

Hey I like the translation it's a great writing but you could have put groups of text longer with interpretation at the bottom and i greatly disagree about some interpretation ; for example during chapter 1 I don't think there is boasting but the narrator's side was set to easily win the battle, i think the intro is cool and when he praises and names his warriors and shows the power of his army, further they blow the horns and 'shattering the hearts of the sons' (against them) it gives more impact to the moral decision/dilemma revealed at the end of the chapter, when he approaches to view the enemy army, he sees his "fatherly and grandfatherly elders, teachers, uncles, brothers, sons, grandsons, as well as friends, in-laws and well-wishers" (in the enemy army) which leads to the rest of the book, the spiritual/philosophical assessment/portrayal of the morality of war, the nature of existence and life.. etc.. it gets a bit complicated for sure unless you can read deeply though, cheers