hato vaa praapsyasi svargam jitvaa vaa bhokshyase maheem |
tasmaaduttishta kaunteya yuddhaaya kritanishchayaha || 37 ||

If you are killed, you will obtain heaven; and if you win, you will enjoy this earth. Therefore, O Kaunteya, arise and decide to engage in war.

hataha : you are killed
vaa : if
praapsyasi : obtain
svargam : heaven
jitvaa : you win
vaa : if
bhokshyase : enjoy
maheem : earth
tasmaat : therefore
uttishta : arise
kaunteya : O Kaunteya
yuddhaaya : in war
kritanishchayaha : decide to engage

Here Shri Krishna makes yet another plea to Arjuna not to shirk away from duty. This time, however, the message is more specific – Shri Krishna does not want Arjuna to resort to inaction or stasis.

Here Shri Krishna is saying : “Arjuna, regardless of whether you win or lose, the outcome will always be favourable. But the longer you keep pondering over your fight or not-to-fight dilemma, the further you move away from action towards inaction. Under no circumstances is inaction permissible. Therefore, fight!”

When faced with tough situations, our natural instinct is to move away from action towards inaction. There is always a hesitation, sometimes procrastination. And usually, this hesitation is caused by a fear of failure, or fear of trying something that we have not done before.

But Shri Krishna advises us that as long as we are performing actions that are aligned to our svadharma, our duty, action is always preferable to inaction or procrastination. The outcome of performing an action in accordance with our duty will always be favourable.

1. In common usage, Dharma means religion, so sva-dharma could mean “one’s religion”. And so, this verse has the potential to be translated as “everyone should fight a war for one’s religion”. This is a misinterpretation. If one really is a warrior (in the army, navy etc.) then they should definitely fight for their country. But if one is not a warrior by profession, there is no need to fight.