What were Arjuna’s five reasons to not fight the Mahabharat war?

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Arjuna’s five reasons to not fight the Mahabharat war

What were Arjuna’s five reasons to not fight the Mahabharat war at Kurukshetra? The Pandavas and the Kauravas had assembled at Kurukshetra for the epic war. Arjuna was one of the most formidable warriors. But just before the war, he felt that he should not fight. He was overwhelmed with the situation.

In fact, once he thought that it would be better if he flees the battlefield. At this moment of crisis he turned towards Krishna, the Supreme Lord, who was his charioteer, to share his feelings. He explained to Krishna why he did not want to fight.

Let us what were Arjuna’s five reasons to not fight the Mahabharat war:

1. Compassion

Arjuna was full of compassion. Although a fearsome warrior yet kind-hearted. A dear friend of Krishna and a well-wisher of all. He did not want war.

Krishna had tried his best to convince Duryodhana to not compel Pandavas for the war. But the evil son of the blind king, Dhritarashtra, was adamant. So Pandavas and Kauravas had assembled at Kurukshetra. Both the armies were facing each other.

But Arjuna shuddered at the thought that he will be fighting to kill his own family members. He will be shooting arrows towards Bhisma, his great grandfather, and Dronacharya, his guru. 

He remembered his childhood days when he would sit on the lap of Bhisma and the great grandfather would caress him. Bhisma loved him so much. But today he was standing opposite to him to kill him. How can he do so?

Arjuna was one of the the greatest archer. Everyone accepted it. No one could face him in the battle. Even he pleased Lord Shiva with his archery skill. And all this was possible only because of Dronacharya, the great martial teacher. Dronacharya loved Arjuna like his own son.  He put in his best efforts to make Arjuna the best archer of the world.

How can Arjuna fight against his guru, who was like his father?

The hundred Kauravas were his cousins. All were not bad.  For example, Vikarna was a righteous person. Many were his younger brothers.

And then there were thousands of soldiers on both the sides. What were their crimes? Why to put their lives on risk? Why should they die?

Arjuna shares his feelings with Krishna

These thoughts filled Arjuna’s heart with compassion.  He lost his composure. He was torn apart internally. At this hour of crisis, he turned towards Krishna, his friend, his ever well wisher and said,

  • “My whole body is trembling, my hair is standing on end, my bow Gāṇḍīva is slipping from my hand, and my skin is burning.” Bhagavad Gita 1.29
  • “I am now unable to stand here any longer. I am forgetting myself, and my mind is reeling. I see only causes of misfortune, O Kṛṣṇa, killer of the Keśī demon.” Bhagavad Gita 1.30
  • “I do not see how any good can come from killing my own kinsmen in this battle, nor can I, my dear Kṛṣṇa, desire any subsequent victory, kingdom or happiness.” Bhagavad Gita 1.31

2. Enjoyment

Arjuna further said that even if I am victorious still, I won’t be able to enjoy the kingdom. To win the war I will have to kill my own family members. The kingdom will be soaked with the blood of my family members. My adorable grandfather, Bhisma, guru Drona who is like my father, my uncles, brothers, all will be killed. In their absence even if I win still I will be a loser. Fame and fortune cannot be enjoyed alone. To enjoy it we need to share it. But if they are killed then with whom I will share my joy.

Arjuna said, “O maintainer of all living entities, I am not prepared to fight with them even in exchange for the three worlds, let alone this earth. What pleasure will we derive from killing the sons of Dhṛtarāṣṭra?” Bhagavad Gita 1.32-35

3. Fear of sinful reactions

Killing is a sinful activity. If we kill others, we will incur sins. Sins will lead to suffering. I understand that Duryodhana and his ilks are aggressors, they are ruffians. So what? If they are acting impiously then should we also act irreligiously. What will be the difference between them and us? If like them we engage in this ghastly war and kill the enemies then we will be committing sins. So, it will be better Krishna if I do not fight.

“O Janārdana, although these men, their hearts overtaken by greed, see no fault in killing one’s family or quarreling with friends, why should we, who can see the crime in destroying a family, engage in these acts of sin?” Bhagavad Gita 37 – 38

4. Destruction of Dynasty

When all the assembled warriors will be killed then what will happen to their family? Who will give protection to the elders of the family? Children will become orphans. Women will be unprotected. If the elders of the family are not there, then who will guide the younger generation. In absence of proper guidance dynasty will be destroyed. And destruction of the dynasty will create chaos in the society and bring great disaster.

Consequences of destruction of the dynasty (Bhagavad Gita 1.39 – Bhagavad Gia 1.43)

  • With the destruction of dynasty, family tradition is destroyed.
  • When family tradition is destroyed then family members start practicing irreligion. 
  • And when irreligion increases then women of the family become polluted.
  • When women become polluted then there is unwanted progeny.
  • Unwanted progeny causes hellish life for the family and for those who are responsible for destroying family tradition.  These unwanted population will not follow religious tradition because of which:
  • Ancestors fall down because no one is there to offer them food and water i.e. pinda daan is stopped.
  • Community projects and family welfare activities also stop.

Arjuna contemplated that destruction of the dynasty will bring calamity upon all. He said, “Kṛṣṇa, maintainer of the people, I have heard by disciplic succession that those whose family traditions are destroyed dwell always in hell.” Bhagavad Gita 1.43

Arjuna did not want hellish life for anyone. And he did not want to be the cause of hellish for others. Expressing his anguish, Arjuna said, “Better for me if the sons of Dhṛtarāṣṭra, weapons in hand, were to kill me unarmed and unresisting on the battlefield.” Bhagavad Gita 1.45

5. Indecision

Arjuna gave reasons as why he did not want to fight the Mahabharat war. But still he did not know if this was the right decision. He was confused. He was not convinced by his own argument. Bewildered and undecided he turned towards Krishna and expressed the feelings of his heart, “O Krishna, I do not know what is better for me. I see that the sons of Dhritarashtra are standing before me. But whether I should conquer them or be conquered by them, I do not know.”  Bhagavad Gita 2.6

Arjuna was thinking why to be part of unnecessary violence.  If Duryodhana was so adamant to be the king, let he be the king. I can live by begging. But he also knew that Duryodhana was cruel. He has committed so many sins.

Commenting on this verse Srila Prabhupada writes, “All these considerations by Arjuna definitely proved that not only was he a great devotee of the Lord but he was also highly enlightened and had complete control over his mind and senses.” Bhagavad Gita 2.6 purport

Finally Arjuna takes shelter of Krishna

Standing between both the armies the fearsome warrior was feeling helpless.  Arjuna had given five reasons to Krishna as why he did not want war.  But still he was not sure if not fighting was the right decision. He was not able to take the right decision. Arjuna the mightiest of the warrior on the battlefield of Kurukshetra decided to take shelter of Krishna. He beseeched Krishna to become his guru and guide him, who was now his surrendered disciple.

“Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of miserly weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me for certain what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me.” Bhagavad Gita 2.7

Arjuna’s five reasons to not fight the Mahabharat war did not convince Krishna. Krishna ultimately persuaded Arjuna to not run away from Kurukshetra. The Supreme Lord made sure that his friend and devotee fight for the right cause and establish dharma.

To know the details, please read – Why Krishna wanted Arjuna to fight the Mahabharat war?

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