Mahabharata (English)

by Kisari Mohan Ganguli | 2,566,952 words | ISBN-10: 8121505933

The English translation of the Mahabharata is a large text describing ancient India. It is authored by Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa and contains the records of ancient humans. Also, it documents the fate of the Kauravas and the Pandavas family. Another part of the large contents, deal with many philosophical dialogues such as the goals of life. Book...

Section XXVI (Bhagavad Gita Chapter II)

Sanjaya said,—

"Unto him thus possessed with pity, his eyes filled and oppressed with tears, and desponding, the slayer of Madhu said these words."

The Holy One said,—

"Whence, O Arjuna, has come upon you, at such a crisis, this despondency that is unbecoming a person of noble birth, that shuts one out from heaven, and that is productive of infamy? Let no effeminacy be thine, O son of Kunti. This suits you not. Shaking off this vile weakness of hearts, arise, O chastiser of foes.—"

Arjuna said,—

"How, O slayer of Madhu, can I with arrows contend in battle against Bhishma and Drona, deserving as they are. O slayer of foes, of worship?[1] Without slaying (one’s) preceptors of great glory, it is well (for one), to live on even alms in this world. By slaying preceptors, even if they are avaricious of wealth, I should only enjoy pleasures that are bloodstained![2] We know not which of the two is of greater moment to us, viz., whether we should conquer them or they should conquer us. By slaying whom we would not like to live,—even they, the sons of Dhritarashtra, stand before (us). My nature affected by the taint of compassion, my mind unsettled about (my) duty, I ask you. Tell me what is assuredly good (for me). I am your disciple. O, instruct me, I seek your aid.[3] I do not see (that) which would dispel that grief of mine blasting my very senses, even if I obtain a prosperous kingdom on earth without a foe or the very sovereignty of the gods.[4]'"

Sanjaya said,—

Having said this unto Hrishikesa, that chastiser of foes-Gudakesa—(once more) addressed Govinda, saying,—'I will not fight,'—and then remained silent.[5] Unto him overcome by despondency, Hrishikesa, in the midst of the two armies, said.

"The Holy One said,—

'You mournest those that deserve not to be mourned. You speakest also the words of the (so-called) wise. Those, however, that are (really) wise, grieve neither for the dead nor for the living. It is not that, I or you or those rulers of men never were, or that all of us shall not hereafter be. Of an Embodied being, as childhood, youth, and, decrepitude are in this body, so (also) is the acquisition of another body. The man, who is wise, is never deluded in this.[6] The contacts of the senses with their (respective) objects producing (sensations of) heat and cold, pleasure and pain, are not permanent, having (as they do) a beginning and an end. Do you. O Bharata, endure them. For the man whom these afflict not, O bull among men, who is the same in pain and pleasure and who is firm in mind, is fit for emancipation.[7]

There is no (objective) existence of anything that is distinct from the soul; nor non-existence of anything possessing the virtues of the soul. This conclusion in respect of both these has been arrived at by those that know the truths (of things).[8] Know that [the soul] to be immortal by which all this [universe] is pervaded. No one can compass the destruction of that which is imperishable. It has been said that those bodies of the Embodied (soul) which is eternal, indestructible and infinite, have an end. Do you, therefore, fight, O Bharata.

He who thinks it (the soul) to be the slayer and he who thinks it to be the slain, both of them know nothing; for it neither slays nor is slain. It is never born, nor does it ever die; nor, having existed, will it exist no more. Unborn, unchangeable, eternal, and ancient, it is not slain upon the body being perished. That man who knows it to be indestructible, unchangeable, without decay, how and whom can he slay or cause to be slain? As a man, casting off robes that are worn out, puts on others that are new, so the Embodied (soul), casting off bodies that are worn out, enters other bodies that are new. Weapons cleave it not, fire consumes it not; the waters do not drench it, nor does the wind waste it. It is incapable of being cut, burnt, drenched, or dried up. It is unchangeable, all-pervading, stable, firm, and eternal. It is said to be imperceivable, inconceivable and unchangeable. Therefore, knowing it to be such, it behoves you not to mourn (for it). Then again even if you regardest it as constantly born and constantly dead, it behoves you not yet, O mighty-armed one, to mourn (for it) thus.

For, of one that is born, death is certain; and of one that is dead, birth is certain. Therefore. it behoves you not to mourn in a matter that is unavoidable. All beings (before birth) were unmanifest. Only during an interval (between birth and death), O Bharata, are they manifest; and then again, when death comes, they become (once more) unmanifest. What grief then is there in this? One looks upon it as a marvel; another speaks of it as a marvel. Yet even after having heard of it, no one apprehends it truly.

The Embodied (soul), O Bharata, is ever indestructible in everyone’s body. Therefore, it behoves you not to grieve for all (those) creatures. Casting your eyes on the (prescribed) duties of your order, it behoves you not to waver, for there is nothing else that is better for a Kshatriya than a battle fought fairly. Arrived of itself and (like unto) an open gate of heaven, happy are those Kshatriyas, O Partha, that obtain such a fight. But if you dost not fight such a just battle, you shalt then incur sin by abandoning the duties of your order and your fame. People will then proclaim your eternal infamy, and to one that is held in respect, infamy is greater (as an evil) than death itself. All great car-warriors will regard you as abstaining from battle from fear, and you will be thought lightly by those that had (hitherto) esteemed you highly. Your enemies, decrying your prowess, will say many words which should not be said. What can be more painful than that? Slain, you will attain to heaven; or victorious, you will enjoy the Earth. Therefore, arise, O son of Kunti, resolved for battle. Regarding pleasure and pain, gain and loss, victory and defeat, as equal, do battle for battle’s sake and sin will not be thine.[9] This knowledge, that has been communicated to you is (taught) in the Sankhya (system).

Listen now to that (inculcated) in Yoga (system). Possessed of that knowledge, you, O Partha, will cast off the bonds of action. In this (the Yoga system) there is no waste of even the first attempt. There are no impediments. Even a little of this (form of) piety delivers from great fear.[10] Here in this path, O son of Kuru, there is only one state of mind, consisting in firm devotion (to one object, viz., securing emancipation). The minds of those, however, that are not firmly devoted (to this), are many-branched (un-settled) and attached to endless pursuits. That flowery talk which, they that are ignorant, they that delight in the words of the Vedas, they, O Partha, that say that there is nothing else, they whose minds are attached to worldly pleasures, they that regard (a) heaven (of pleasures and enjoyments) as the highest object of acquisition,—utter and promises birth as the fruit of action and concerns itself with multifarious rites of specific characters for the attainment of pleasures and power,—delude their hearts and the minds of these men who are attached to pleasures and power cannot be directed to contemplation (of the divine being) regarding it as the sole means of emancipation.[11]

The Vedas are concerned with three qualities, (viz., religion, profit, and pleasure). Be you, O Arjuna, free from them, unaffected by pairs of contraries (such as pleasure and pain, heat and cold, etc.), ever adhering to patience without anxiety for new acquisitions or protection of those already acquired, and self-possessed, whatever objects are served by a tank or well, may all be served by a vast sheet of water extending all around; so whatever objects may be served by all the Vedas, may all be had by a Brahmana having knowledge (of self or Brahma).[12] Your concern is with work only, but not with the fruit (of work). Let not the fruit be your motive for work; nor let your inclination be for inaction.

Staying in devotion, apply thyself to work, casting off attachment (to it), O Dhananjaya, and being the same in success or unsuccess. This equanimity is called Yoga (devotion). Work (with desire of fruit) is far inferior to devotion, O Dhananjaya. Seek you the protection of devotion. They that work for the sake of fruit are miserable. He also that has devotion throws off, even in this world, both good actions and bad actions. Therefore, apply thyself to devotion. Devotion is only cleverness in action. The wise, possessed of devotion, cast off the fruit born of action, and freed from the obligation of (repeated) birth, attain to that region where there is no unhappiness. When your mind shall have crossed the maze of delusion, then shalt you attain to an indifference as regards the hearable and the heard.[13] When your mind, distracted (now) by what you have heard (about the means of acquiring the diverse objects of life), will be firmly and immovably fixed on contemplation, then will you attain to devotion.'

"Arjuna said,—

'What, O Kesava, are the indications of one whose mind is fixed on contemplation? How should one of steady mind speak, how sit, how move?'

"The Holy One said,—

'When one casts off all the desires of his heart and is pleased within (his) self with self, then is one said to be of steady mind. He whose mind is not agitated amid calamities, whose craving for pleasure is gone, who is freed from attachment (to worldly objects), fear and wrath, is said to be a Muni of steady mind. His is steadiness of mind who is without affection everywhere, and who feels no exultation and no aversion on obtaining diverse objects that are agreeable and disagreeable. When one withdraws his senses from the objects of (those) senses as the tortoise its limbs from all sides, even his is steadiness of mind.

Objects of senses fall back from an abstinent person, but not so the passion (for those objects). Even the passion recedes from one who has beheld the Supreme (being).[14] The agitating senses, O son of Kunti, forcibly draw away the mind of even a wise man striving hard to keep himself aloof from them. Restraining them all, one should stay in contemplation, making me his sole refuge. For his is steadiness of mind whose senses are under control. Thinking of the objects of sense, a person’s attachment is begotten towards them.

From attachment springs wrath; from wrath arises want of discrimination; from want of discrimination, loss of memory; from loss of memory, loss of understanding; and from loss of understanding (he) is utterly ruined. But the self-restrained man, enjoying objects (of sense) with senses freed from attachment and aversion under his own control, attains to peace (of mind). On peace (of mind) being attained, the annihilation of all his miseries takes place, since the mind of him whose heart is peaceful soon becomes steady.[15] He who is not self-restrained has no contemplation (of self). He who has no contemplation has no peace (of mind).[16] Whence can there be happiness for him who has no peace (of mind)? For the heart that follows in the wake of the sense moving (among their objects) destroys his understanding like the wind destroying a boat in the waters.[17]

Therefore, O you of mighty arms, his is steadiness of mind whose senses are restrained on all sides from the objects of sense. The restrained man is awake when it is night for all creatures; and when other creatures are awake that is night to a discerning Muni.[18] He into whom all objects of desire enter, even as the waters enter the ocean which (though) constantly replenished still maintains its water-mark unchanged—(he) obtains peace (of mind) and not one that longs for objects of desire. That man who moves about, giving up all objects of desire, who is free from craving (for enjoyments) and who has no affection and no pride, attains to peace (of mind). This, O Partha, is the divine state. Attaining to it, one is never deluded. Abiding in it one obtains, on death, absorption into the Supreme Self.'

Footnotes and references:


The commentators betray their ingenuity by emphasizing the word ishubhis (with arrows), explaining, "how can I encounter them with arrows whom I cannot encounter with even harsh words?"


Arthakaman is an adjective qualifying Gurun. Some commentators particularly Sreedhara, suggest that it may, instead, qualify bhogan. The meaning, however, in that case would be far-fetched.


Sreedhara explains that Karpanya is compassion (for kinsmen), and dosha is the fear of sin (for destroying a race). The first compound, therefore, according to him, means,—"My nature affected by both compassion and fear of sin, etc. It is better, however, to take Karpanya itself as a dosha (taint or fault). K. T. Telang understands it in this way. Upahata, however, is affected and not contaminated.


What Arjuna says here is that "Even if I obtain such a kingdom on Earth, even if I obtain the very kingship of the gods, I do not yet see that will dispel that grief which will overtake me if I slay my preceptor and kinsmen." Telang’s version is slightly ambiguous.


The Bengal texts have Parantapa with a Visarga, thus implying that it refers to Gudakesa. The Bombay edition prints it without the Visarga, implying that it is in the vocative case, referring to Dhritarashtra, the listener.


One of the most useful rules in translating from one language into another is to use identical words for identical expressions in the original. In translating, however, from a language like Sanskrit which abounds in synonyms, this is not always practicable without ambiguity. As an example, the word used in 13 is Dhira; that used in 11 is Pandita. There can be little doubt, however, that Pandita and Dhira have exactly the same meaning.


Amritatwa is really emancipation or non-liability to repeated death or repeated rebirth. To render it as "immortality" is, perhaps, a little slovenly, for every soul is immortal, and this particular section inculcates it.


Sat and asat are the two words which must be distinctly understood as they occur often in Hindu philosophy. Sat is explained as the real, i.e., the soul, or anything as real and permanent as the soul. Asat is the reverse of this, i.e., the unreal or the Non-soul. What is said here by Krishna is that the unreal has no existence; the real, again can have no non-existence. Is not this a sort of cosmothetic idealism?


Most texts read Yudhaya Yujyasva. A manuscript belonging to a friend of mine has the correction in red-ink, Yudhaya Yudhaya Yudhaywa. It accords so well with the spirit of the lesson sought to be inculcated here that I make no scruple to adopt it.


A life in this world that is subject to decay and death. So say all the commentators.


What Krishna seeks to inculcate here is the simple truth that persons who believe in the Vedas and their ordinances laying down specific acts for the attainment of a heaven of pleasure and power, cannot have the devotion without which there cannot be final emancipation which only is the highest bliss. The performance of Vedic rites may lead to heaven of pleasure and power, but what is that heaven worth? True emancipation is something else which must be obtained by devotion, by pure contemplation. In rendering Janma-Karma-phalapradam I have followed Sankara. Sreedhara and other commentators explain it differently.


This sloka has been variously rendered by various translators. It is the same that occurs in the Sanat-Sujata Parva of the Udyoga. (Vide Udyoga Parva, Section XLV). Both Sreedhara and Sankara (and I may mention Anandagiri also) explain it in this way. Shortly stated, the meaning is that to an instructed Brahmana (Brahma-knowing person and not a Brahmana by birth), his knowledge (of self or Brahma) teaches him that which is obtainable from all the Vedas, just as a man wanting to bathe or drink may find a tank or well as useful to him as a large reservoir of water occupying an extensive area. Nilakantha explains it in a different way.


Srotavyasya Srutasyacha is literally 'of the hearable and the heard', i.e., "what you may or will hear, and what you have heard." European translators of the Gita view in these words a rejection of the Vedas by the author. It is amusing to see how confidently they dogmatise upon this point, rejecting the authority of Sankara, Sreedhara, Anandagiri, and the whole host of Indian commentators. As K. T. Telang, however, has answered the point elaborately, nothing more need be said here.


One may abstain, either from choice or inability to procure them, from the objects of enjoyment. Until, however, the very desire to enjoy is suppressed, one cannot be said to have attained to steadiness of mind. Of Aristotle’s saying that he is a voluptuary who pines at his own abstinence, and the Christian doctrine of sin being in the wish, mere abstinence from the act constitutes no merit.


The particle 'he' in the second line is explained by both Sankara and Anandagiri as equivalent to Yasmat. The meaning becomes certainly clearer by taking the word in this sense. The 'he', however, may also be taken as implying the sense of "indeed."


Buddhi in the first line is explained by Sreedhara as Aintavishayak buddhi. Bhavanta Sreedhara explains, is Dhyanam; and Sankara as Atmajnanabhinivesas. K. T. Telang renders Bhavana as perseverance. I do not think this is correct.


Sankara, Anandagiri, and Nilakantha explain this sloka thus. Sreedhara explains it otherwise. The latter supposes the pronouns yat and tat to mean a particular sense among the Charatam indriyanam. If Sreedhara’s interpretation be correct, the meaning would be—"That (one sense) amongst the senses moving (among their objects) which the mind follows, (that one sense) tosses the mind’s (or the man’s) understanding about like the wind tossing a (drunken boatman’s) boat on the waters." The parenthetical words are introduced by Sreedhara himself. It may not be out of place to mention here that so far as Bengal, Mithila and Benares are concerned, the authority of Sreedhara is regarded as supreme.


The vulgar, being spiritually dark, are engaged in worldly pursuits. The sage in spiritual light is dead to the latter.


This concludes Section XXVI (Bhagavad Gita Chapter II) of Book 6 (Bhishma Parva) of the Mahabharata, of which an English translation is presented on this page. This book is famous as one of the Itihasa, similair in content to the eighteen Puranas. Book 6 is one of the eighteen books comprising roughly 100,000 Sanskrit metrical verses.

FAQ (frequently asked questions):

Which keywords occur in Section XXVI (Bhagavad Gita Chapter II) of Book 6 of the Mahabharata?

The most relevant definitions are: Bharata, Arjuna, Partha, Kunti, Vedas, Yoga; since these occur the most in Book 6, Section XXVI (Bhagavad Gita Chapter II). There are a total of 24 unique keywords found in this section mentioned 44 times.

What is the name of the Parva containing Section XXVI (Bhagavad Gita Chapter II) of Book 6?

Section XXVI (Bhagavad Gita Chapter II) is part of the Bhagavat-Gita Parva which itself is a sub-section of Book 6 (Bhishma Parva). The Bhagavat-Gita Parva contains a total of 112 sections while Book 6 contains a total of 3 such Parvas.

Can I buy a print edition of Section XXVI (Bhagavad Gita Chapter II) as contained in Book 6?

Yes! The print edition of the Mahabharata contains the English translation of Section XXVI (Bhagavad Gita Chapter II) of Book 6 and can be bought on the main page. The author is Kisari Mohan Ganguli and the latest edition (including Section XXVI (Bhagavad Gita Chapter II)) is from 2012.

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