Attachment to Family- The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 1

Chapter 1 of the Bhagavad Gita sets the stage for the fight between good and evil, between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. It’s a fight on the battlefield and within the self, as Arjun tries to muster the resolve to war against family. A difficult choice indeed.

What good can come of fighting kith and kin? Family is an extension of ourselves- how can we take up weapons against brothers? Family stays with us throughout our lives. They are the ones who give us our values, so how can we go against them?

FamilyUnconditional love- that’s family. We get love, we give love. Our family is the first social unit, even if it’s as small as two people. Extend it, and you get vasudev kutumbakam, or all the world’s a family.

Family is where we feel safe, which gives us the courage to step out of our comfort zone. Sometimes we feel stifled and rebel. Still, we often boomerang back, like prodigal sons and daughters.

Only when we feel safe can we rebel. A fight unto death is the ultimate rebellion for any family member- no wonder Arjun hesitates. Abstract ideas of right and justice are all very well, but they are encompassed in people we know, and when we can see the grey in people, we can’t act in a black and white manner.


War is black and white. You’re either with someone or against them.


Arjun pauses midway

Between war and peace


His mind splits in two

Whichever way I choose

I know I’ll rue


But first to mine own self

I must be true


I think Mani Rao’s transcreation of the Bhagavad Gita gets the sense of the first chapter. More literal translations feel a bit dated. In a similar vein to Rao, I’ve imagined Arjun’s conflict poetically.

Eager to know what you think.


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