Chapter 2, Section 1 – Inciting to Duty

Chapter Two is the second longest chapter in the Gītā and is going to get into some of the most essential and fundamental philosophy in the book. But there is still some introductory material at its beginning.

2:1 Inciting to Duty

This section is the remainder of the introductory portion of Gītā, prior to the main philosophical section.

Seeing Arjuna depressed, crying, and confused, Kṛṣṇa said, “Where did this come from? This does not befit a moral man like you. This will not lead you anywhere good, only into infamy. Don’t give in to this weakness and fear, arise Hero!”

I’ll bring up two reasons Krishna reacts like this to Arjuna’s sympathy.

First: Arjuna’s argument is fundamentally selfish, “nothing good can happen to me if I do this, therefore I won’t.” That does not befit a holy or moral man. A moral man like Arjuna will do anything that he MUST do, regardless of how it helps or hurts himself. A moral man does not make decisions based on what brings him happiness or unhappiness. But Arjuna says, “All I can see is unhappiness coming from this fight, so I can’t do it.”

Second: it is just plain surprising that Arjuna would fight tooth and nail for years against the wrong perpetrated on his immediate family by his cousins, only to suddenly have a complete change of heart right on the verge of ending and closing the entire ordeal.

 

Arjuna counters Krishna’s rally, “How can you ask me to attack my grandfather and my guru! I should throw flowers at their feet, not arrows at their heart! I would rather become a beggar than a king if becoming a king means I have to kill people like my grandfather and my guru! Yes, maybe they have taken the side of an evil man, but they are still my respectable and beloved superiors! I will not be able to enjoy any victory with their blood on my hands.

“I can’t fight when I don’t even know if I prefer to win or lose! If I have to kill my family members I would rather die, yet here they all are standing before me with weapons in hand.

“I admit that weakness of heart is confusing me and I cannot clearly see where the path of my duty lies. I am turning to you for help. Treat me as a student, I am surrendered to your guidance, please instruct me!

“I cannot help myself. I cannot figure out how to escape these emotions that are confusing me so badly. I fear that this depression will continue even if I won a kingdom as great as the gods.

“Oh Govinda,” Arjuna said, on the verge of exhaustion, “I shall not fight.”

He then became quiet and prepared to listen.

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2 thoughts on “Chapter 2, Section 1 – Inciting to Duty

  1. Nice summary. Can you please include verse numbers that correspond to your summaries? I think this one is obvious, but it will really help going forward. Thanks!

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