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THE BHAGAVAD GITA
Translated by Edwin Arnold
Of the Distress of Arjuna
Dhritirashtra. Ranged thus for battle on the sacred plainOn Kurukshetra- say, Sanjaya! say
What wrought my people, and the Pandavas?
Sanjaya. When he beheld the host of Pandavas,
Raja Duryodhana to Drona drew,
And spake these words: “Ah, Guru! see this line,
How vast it is of Pandu fighting-men,
Embattled by the son of Drupada,
Thy scholar in the war! Therein stand ranked
Chiefs like Arjuna, like to Bhima chiefs,
Benders of bows; Virata, Yuyudhan,
Drupada, eminent upon his car, Dhrishtaket, Chekitan, Kasi’s stout lord,
Purujit, Kuntibhoj, and Saivya,
With Yudhamanyu, and Uttamauj
Subhadra’s child; and Drupadi’s; all famed!
All mounted on their shining chariots!
On our side, too, thou best of Brahmans! see
Excellent chiefs, commanders of my line,
Whose names I joy to count: thyself the first,
Then Bhishma, Karna, Kripa fierce in fight,
Vikarna, Aswatthaman; next to these
Strong Saumadatti, with full many more
Valiant and tried, ready this day to die
For me their king, each with his weapon grasped,
Each skilful in the field. Weakest- meseems-
Our battle shows where Bhishma holds command,
And Bhima, fronting him, something too strong!
Have care our captains nigh to Bhishma’s ranks
Prepare what help they may! Now, blow my shell!”
Then, at the signal of the aged king,
With blare to wake the blood, rolling around
Like to a lion’s roar, the trumpeter
Blew the great Conch; and, at the noise of it,
Trumpets and drums, cymbals and gongs and horns
Burst into sudden clamour; as the blasts
Of loosened tempest, such the tumult seemed!
Then might be seen, upon their car of gold
Yoked with white steeds, blowing their battle-shells,
Krishna the God, Arjuna at his side:
Krishna, with knotted locks, blew his great conch
Carved of the “Giant’s bone;” Arjuna blew
Indra’s loud gift; Bhima the terrible-
Wolf-bellied Bhima- blew a long reed-conch;
And Yudhisthira, Kunti’s blameless son,
Winded a mighty shell, “Victory’s Voice;”
And Nakula blew shrill upon his conch
Named the “Sweet-sounding,” Sahadev on his
Called “Gem-bedecked,” and Kasi’s Prince on his.
Sikhandi on his car, Dhrishtadyumn,
Virata, Satyaki the Unsubdued,
Drupada, with his sons, (O Lord of Earth!)
Long-armed Subhadra’s children, all blew loud,
So that the clangour shook their foemen’s hearts,
With quaking earth and thundering heav’n.
Beholding Dhritirashtra’s battle set,
Weapons unsheathing, bows drawn forth, the war
Instant to break- Arjun, whose ensign-badge
Was Hanuman the monkey, spake this thing
To Krishna the Divine, his charioteer:
“Drive, Dauntless One! to yonder open ground
Betwixt the armies; I would see more nigh
These who will fight with us, those we must slay
To-day, in war’s arbitrament; for, sure,
On bloodshed all are bent who throng this plain,
Obeying Dhritirashtra’s sinful son.”
Thus, by Arjuna prayed, (O Bharata!)
Between the hosts that heavenly Charioteer
Drove the bright car, reining its milk-white steeds
Where Bhishma led, and Drona, and their Lords.
“See!” spake he to Arjuna, “where they stand,
Thy kindred of the Kurus:” and the Prince
Marked on each hand the kinsmen of his house,
Grandsires and sires, uncles and brothers and sons,
Cousins and sons-in-law and nephews, mixed
With friends and honoured elders; some this side,
Some that side ranged: and, seeing those opposed,
Such kith grown enemies- Arjuna’s heart
Melted with pity, while he uttered this:
Arjuna. Krishna! as I behold, come here to shed
Their common blood, yon concourse of our kin,
My members fail, my tongue dries in my mouth,
A shudder thrills my body, and my hair
Bristles with horror; from my weak hand slips
Gandiv, the goodly bow; a fever burns
My skin to parching; hardly may I stand;
The life within me seems to swim and faint;
Nothing do I foresee save woe and wail!
It is not good, O Keshav! nought of good
Can spring from mutual slaughter! Lo, I hate
Triumph and domination, wealth and ease,
Thus sadly won! Aho! what victory
Can bring delight, Govinda! what rich spoils
Could profit; what rule recompense; what span
Of life itself seem sweet, bought with such blood?
Seeing that these stand here, ready to die,
For whose sake life was fair, and pleasure pleased,
And power grew precious: grandsires, sires, and sons,
Brothers, and fathers-in-law, and sons-in-law,
Elders and friends! Shall I deal death on these
Even though they seek to slay us? Not one blow,
O Madhusudan! will I strike to gain
The rule of all Three Worlds; then, how much less
To seize an earthly kingdom! Killing these
Must breed but anguish, Krishna! If they be
Guilty, we shall grow guilty by their deaths;
Their sins will light on us, if we shall slay
Those sons of Dhritirashtra, and our kin;
What peace could come of that, O Madhava?
For if indeed, blinded by lust and wrath,
These cannot see, or will not see, the sin
Of kingly lines o’erthrown and kinsmen slain,
How should not we, who see, shun such a crime-
We who perceive the guilt and feel the shame-
O thou Delight of Men, Janardana?
By overthrow of houses perisheth
Their sweet continuous household piety,
And- rites neglected, piety extinct-
Enters impiety upon that home;
Its women grow unwomaned, whence there spring
Mad passions, and the mingling-up of castes,
Sending a Hell-ward road that family,
And whoso wrought its doom by wicked wrath.
Nay, and the souls of honoured ancestors
Fall from their place of peace, being bereft
Of funeral-cakes and the wan death-water.
So teach our holy hymns. Thus, if we slay
Kinsfolk and friends for love of earthly power,
Ahovat! what an evil fault it were!
Better I deem it, if my kinsmen strike,
To face them weaponless, and bare my breast
To shaft and spear, than answer blow with blow.
So speaking, in the face of those two hosts,
Arjuna sank upon his chariot-seat,
And let fall bow and arrows, sick at heart.
HERE ENDETH CHAPTER I OF THE BHAGAVAD-GITA,
Or “The Book of the Distress of Arjuna.”
Sanjaya. Him, filled with such compassion and such grief,With eyes tear-dimmed, despondent, in stern wordsThe Driver, Madhusudan, thus addressed:Krishna. How hath this weakness taken thee?Whence springsThe inglorious trouble, shameful to the brave,Barring the path of virtue? Nay, Arjun!Forbid thyself to feebleness! it marsThy warrior-name! cast off the coward-fit!Wake! Be thyself! Arise, Scourge of thy Foes!Arjuna. How can I, in the battle, shoot with shaftsOn Bhishma, or on Drona- O thou Chief!Both worshipful, both honourable men?
Better to live on beggar’s breadWith those we love alive,Than taste their blood in rich feasts spread,And guiltily survive!Ah! were it worse- who knows?- to beVictor or vanquished here,When those confront us angrilyWhose death leaves living drear?In pity lost, by doubtings tossed,My thoughts- distracted- turnTo Thee, the Guide I reverence most,That I may counsel learn:I know not what would heal the griefBurned into soul and sense,If I were earth’s unchallenged chief-A god- and these gone thence!
Sanjaya. So spake Arjuna to the Lord of Hearts,And sighing, “I will not fight!” held silence then.To whom, with tender smile, (O Bharata!)While the Prince wept despairing ‘twixt those hosts,Krishna made answer in divinest verse:Krishna. Thou grievest where no grief should be! thou speak’stWords lacking wisdom! for the wise in heartMourn not for those that live, nor those that die.Nor I, nor thou, nor any one of these,Ever was not, nor ever will not be,For ever and for ever afterwards.All, that doth live, lives always! To man’s frameAs there come infancy and youth and age,So come there raisings-up and layings-downOf other and of other life-abodes,Which the wise know, and fear not. This that irks-Thy sense-life, thrilling to the elements-Bringing thee heat and cold, sorrows and joys,‘Tis brief and mutable! Bear with it, Prince!As the wise bear. The soul which is not moved,The soul that with a strong and constant calmTakes sorrow and takes joy indifferently,Lives in the life undying! That which isCan never cease to be; that which is notWill not exist. To see this truth of bothIs theirs who part essence from accident,Substance from shadow. Indestructible,Learn thou! the Life is, spreading life through all;It cannot anywhere, by any means,Be anywise diminished, stayed, or changed.But for these fleeting frames which it informsWith spirit deathless, endless, infinite,They perish. Let them perish, Prince! and fight!He who shall say, “Lo! I have slain a man!”He who shall think, “Lo! I am slain!” those bothKnow naught! Life cannot slay. Life is not slain!Never the spirit was born; the spirit shall cease to be never;Never was time it was not; End and Beginning are dreams!Birthless and deathless and changeless remaineth the spirit forever;Death hath not touched it at all, dead though the house of itseems!Who knoweth it exhaustless, self-sustained,Immortal, indestructible, shall suchSay, “I have killed a man, or caused to kill?”
Nay, but as when one layethHis worn-out robes away,And, taking new ones, sayeth,“These will I wear to-day!”So putteth by the spiritLightly its garb of flesh,And passeth to inheritA residence afresh.
I say to thee weapons reach not the Life;Flame burns it not, waters cannot o’erwhelm,Nor dry winds wither it. Impenetrable,Unentered, unassailed, unharmed, untouched,Immortal, all-arriving, stable, sure,Invisible, ineffable, by wordAnd thought uncompassed, ever all itself,Thus is the Soul declared! How wilt thou, then,Knowing it so,- grieve when thou shouldst not grieve?How, if thou hearest that the man new-deadIs, like the man new-born, still living man-One same, existent Spirit- wilt thou weep?The end of birth is death; the end of deathIs birth: this is ordained! and mournest thou,Chief of the stalwart arm! for what befallsWhich could not otherwise befall? The birthOf living things comes unperceived; the deathComes unperceived; between them, beings perceive:What is there sorrowful herein, dear Prince?
Wonderful, wistful, to contemplate!Difficult, doubtful, to speak upon!Strange and great for tongue to relate,Mystical hearing for every one!Nor wotteth man this, what a marvel it is,When seeing, and saying, and hearing are done!
This Life within all living things, my Prince!Hides beyond harm; scorn thou to suffer, then,For that which cannot suffer. Do thy part!Be mindful of thy name, and tremble not!Nought better can betide a martial soulThan lawful war; happy the warriorTo whom comes joy of battle- comes, as now,Glorious and fair, unsought; opening for himA gateway unto Heav’n. But, if thou shunn’stThis honourable field- a Kshattriya-If, knowing thy duty and thy task, thou bidd’stDuty and task go by- that shall be sin!And those to come shall speak thee infamyFrom age to age; but infamy is worseFor men of noble blood to bear than death!The chiefs upon their battle-chariotsWill deem ‘twas fear that drove thee from the fray.Of those who held thee mighty-souled the scornThou must abide, while all thine enemiesWill scatter bitter speech of thee, to mockThe valour which thou hadst; what fate could fallMore grievously than this? Either- being killed-Thou wilt win Swarga’s safety, or- aliveAnd victor- thou wilt reign an earthly king.Therefore, arise, thou Son of Kunti! braceThine arm for conflict, nerve thy heart to meet-As things alike to thee- pleasure or pain,Profit or ruin, victory or defeat:So minded, gird thee to the fight, for soThou shalt not sin!