Bhagavad Gita: Understanding One Shloka at a time. (Chp. 1, Verse 36–37) — HBR Patel


निहत्य धार्तराष्ट्रान्न: का प्रीति: स्याज्जनार्दन |
पापमेवाश्रयेदस्मान्हत्वैतानाततायिन: || 36 ||
तस्मान्नार्हा वयं हन्तुं धार्तराष्ट्रान्स्वबान्धवान् |
स्वजनं हि कथं हत्वा सुखिन: स्याम माधव || 37||

What pleasure can be ours, O Janaardana (126th name in the Vishnu Sahastranama which means: One who inflicts suffering on evil men.) derive by killing the sons of Dhritarashtra. We will only incur sin by killing these Aggressors. So, It is not right that we slay our own Kingsmen, the sons of Dhritarashtra. Indeed how can we be happy, O Madhava (72nd name in the Vishnu Sahastranama which means: Husband of Lakshmi), If we kill our own people?


Arjun continues to defend his inactions by various arguments. He has decided not to engage in this battle with his one relatives. He argues that what pleasure can we have by killing our own relatives and friends. He implies that when someone that is near and dear to us passes away, a part within us also goes away with them.

The memories and the feelings associated with that person goes away. Arjuna is talking under the influence of the attachment to relatives of his mortal body. He is not willing to kill his relatives and that is the reason why he addresses Shri Krishna as the Janaardana, the inflictor of suffering on evil people. He highlights the fact that Shri Krishna can act in such a way but not him. He can not inflict suffering on his relatives due to the influence of “Moh” ( a cause of ignorance अज्ञान which is due to worldly illusion माया {Maya}), even though Arjuna knows that they are evil and has done injustice to him.

Arjuna highlights his opinion that even though they are Ātatāyinaḥ ( which means aggressors), killing them would be a sinful activity. He takes the side of “अहिंसा परमो धर्मः” which means non-violence is the highest moral virtue. Thus, he deems it immoral to kill those miscreants.

However, the “अहिंसा परमॊ धर्म” is only half known and half preached Truth. The other part of that shloka is “धर्म हिंसा तथैव च:” The meaning of the entire Shloka is: Non-violence is the ultimate dharma. So too is violence in service of Dharma. Arjuna, due to his attachment, is not willing to slay the Kauravas, although they are Ātatāyinaḥ.

Ātatāyinaḥ are the evil-doers. According to Vasiṣhṭh Smṛiti, Verse III.16, Ātatāyinaḥ are the One who sets fire, gives poison, attacks with a weapon in hand, plunders property, kidnap or dishonor their women, or seize their kingdom.

(Agnido Garadas Caiva Sastrapanir Dhanapahah I Ksetradaraharas Caiva Sad Ete Atatayinah II) Vasiṣhṭh Smṛiti, Verse III.16

The individual who engage in the above mentioned six evil things is Ātatāyinaḥ. The Manusmruti says that such evil-doers should be killed without any qualm of conscience and that there is no sin in doing so. In the shloka of Manusmriti VIII, 350–351

गुरुं वा बालवृद्धौ वा ब्राह्मणं वा बहुश्रुतम् ।
आततायिनमायान्तं हन्यादेवाविचारयन् ॥ ३५० ॥

नाततायिवधे दोषो हन्तुर्भवति कश्चन ।
प्रकाशं वाऽप्रकाशं वा मन्युस्तं मन्युमृच्छति ॥ ३५१ ॥

“Whether he be a teacher, an infant, an old man, or a much learned Brahmin, if he comes as a Ātatāyinaḥ, one should kill him without any consideration. There is no sin in killing such a evil-doer. No evil of any kind accrues to the slayer for killing such a Ātatāyinaḥ, either openly or secretly; as it is only anger killing that anger.”

Arjun is worried that “Eye for an Eye makes the whole world blind”. His inactions are justified by him with so many words and yet, Shri Krishna is listening silently to Arjuna without any counter-argument, just like we saw above. Shri Krishna could have clarified but he chooses to listen to all the things that depressed Arjuna has to say to justify his state of inaction. Just like modern-day psychotherapists listens and listens to the patient problems before giving them a solution.

Shri Krishna is listening to what Arjuna wants to say. After that only, Shri Krishna will cure him of his misunderstanding.



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HBR Patel

HBR Patel


Learning to Read, Write, Design & Pray aptly. Author of Political Fiction POTUS#45 & few more. Inspiring myself with my words to excel. હસતા રહેજો!