dharmakshetre kurukshetre samavetaa yuyutsavaha |
maamakaaha paandavaashchaiva kimakurvata sanjaya || 1 ||
In Kururkshetra, the field of the Kurus and also the field of righteousness, both my sons and Pandu’s sons gathered, eager to fight. What did they do?
dharma-kshetre: in the field of dharma
kuru-kshetre: in the field of the Kurus
samavetaa yuyutsavaha: gathered here in order to fight
maamakaaha paandavasahcha-eva: my sons and also Pandu’s sons
kim-akurvata sanjaya: what did they do?
So begins the first chapter of the Gita. The first chapter is a dialog between Dhritrashtra, father of the Kauravas and Sanjaya, his charioteer and also his adviser. Sanjaya was given divine vision so that he could provide a real-time commentary on the Mahabharata war for the sightless Dhritrashtra.
This verse begins to reveal one of the recurring themes of the Gita – the downside of extreme attachment to objects or situations. Dhritrashtra means someone who clings to his kingdom, and Sanjaya means victory. Dhritrashtra was extremely attached to his sons and his kingdom, which is one of the reasons that the Mahabharata war occurred. He refers to his nephews as “Pandu’s sons” indicating that they are a 3rd party, whereas his sons are referred to as “my sons”.
What exactly is attachment? Here’s an example. Let’s say Mr. X brought a brand new car. He shows it to all his friends, they ooh and they aah, his spouse is happy, his kids are jumping up and down and so on. When he hears all the praises, there usually is something inside him that “puffs up”. That thing is the ego. Now let’s say a few weeks have passed. It’s morning and as he opens the car door, he notices a large dent on the side of the car. He begins to experience anger, sadness, and a whole host of other emotions.
What just happened? It was attachment to the car. Mr. X’s ego created an identification with the new car. In other words, it began to think of the car as an extension of its identity. So any praise for the car became the ego’s praise, and any harm to the car became the ego’s harm. The ego strengthens itself by attachment, i.e. identification with objects, thoughts (I am smart, I am sincere etc), positions (e.g. right wing vs left wing).
So what is the practical lesson here? Later chapters and verses will go in detail into this subject, but till then, this verse urges us to examine our life and take stock of our attachments. What are our attachments? How strong are those attachments? What can we do to prevent ourselves getting entangled in more and more attachments?
Also – at this point, do we think that all attachments are bad? Or are some good? Upon introspection we will find the answers.The Gita will begin to address those questions as we go further into it.
1. Eckhart Tolle talks about ego and attachment in his books “The Power Of Now” and “A New Earth”
2. Per the Dnyaneshwari commentary, the word “dharmakshetre” here suggests that Kurukshetra battleground had a positive energy that was known to bring senseless warriors to their senses and make them behave rationally. Perhaps Dhritrashtra wanted to know whether that positive energy compelled his sons the Kauravas to give up the idea of war altogether.