As a warrior born, you must fight for your right
Don’t tarry, proceed with all your might 2.31
Arjuna, when doors open for a warrior to fight
The heavens open their doors to them as their right 2.32
If you neglect to fight for your right, you sin
And as a warrior you’re done in 2.33
An honorable man, you’ll be condemned and blamed
It’s better for you to die than be ill famed 2.34
Other great warriors who treat you now with respect
Will think you run out of fear and see you as suspect 2.35
Enemies will revile you and treat you with scorn
You’ll suffer in pain and be forlorn 2.36
Arjuna, die as a hero and reach for the heavens or win
To rule the earth; be a man, fight with no chagrin 2.37
Fight for the sake of fighting, with no joy or sorrow, to gain or to lose,
Win or loss, you incur no sin and have nothing to lose 2.38
The question often asked of Krishna’s role in Mahabharata, and specifically in the context of the Bhagavad Gita, is why the Divine encouraged warfare and violence.
Here, Krishna exhorts Arjuna to stand up and fight, as a man would, as a warrior would. He says very clearly that Arjuna would be reviled as a coward if he withdrew from the battlefield. The future generation will have no respect for a warrior who had fled from war.
Krishna tells Arjuna to fight for the sake of fighting in order to fulfill the purpose for which he entered the battlefield. Those who are familiar with the story this epic would know that Arjuna and the rest of the Pandavas decided to fight their cousins, the Kauravas, to avenge the insult to their common wife Draupadi, as well as the refusal by the Kaurava Prince Duryodhan to recognize the right of the Pandavas to a share in the kingdom. This is the right that Krishna says Arjuna must fight for.
Krishna goes a step further. Don’t worry about winning or losing, he tells Arjuna, it’s your duty to fight. By not fighting you are doing wrong, and you incur sin. Fight, he says, because that’s your dharma, the cosmic code of life.
If one understands the Hindu mythology well, one will have no surprises. Gods in the Hindu mythology have been created in the images of men. They all have the foibles of men, while having extraordinarily superior qualities in some respects. They too, like humans, are a mix of good and bad. Or to put it more correctly, neither good nor bad.
In the Hindu philosophy, we are all energy residing in matter. Those who we consider Gods know they are energy. Those of us who are human haven’t discovered yet we are energy. As long as the Gods reside in a human form, as we assume Krishna did during the Mahabharata epic, he too was subject to the material mixture of good and bad. But, as a Divine being with full realization of his energy potential, Krishna realized the impermanence of the material existence. This is why he talked earlier about the impermanence of the the physical material body and the immortality of the spirit.
In this context, Krishna viewed Arjuna’s role as something beyond the normal limitations of non-violence. In the interest of truth and justice, in both the cosmic and material sense, Krishna urges Arjuna and the Pandavas to establish the supremacy of good over evil. One can draw a rough parallel between this and the role of USA in the Second World War.
In these verses, Krishna clarifies and challenges.