Arjuna is unwilling to fight the Kaurava army. Lord Krishna, who is his charioteer, reasons with him. One reason a person could refuse to fight would be the fear of defeat. But Arjuna is a great warrior, and defeat is unlikely in his case. Another reason would be the unwillingness to take another person’s life. But Arjuna is a warrior, and in a battle, a warrior has no such worries. In fact, it is a warrior’s duty to fight. Arjuna, moreover, is from a family of great warriors. So he has a family legacy to live up to. So how can Arjuna refuse to fight?

Arjuna then tells Krishna that he cannot fight, because he sees opposite him his grand uncle Bhishma and his Acharya Drona. Isn’t it unheard of for anyone to kill the eldest member of one’s family or one’s teacher? Arjuna is actually asking Krishna if Krishna Himself would do such a thing. Here Arjuna has in mind Krishna’s reverence for His own guru sage Sandeepini, said Valayapet Ramachariar, in a discourse.

When Krishna’s period of study ended, He asked sage Sandeepini what He should give Him. The sage directed Krishna to his wife so that He could grant her whatever it was that she wished.

The sage’s wife asked Krishna to bring back her son who had died many years ago. Krishna went to great lengths to bring the boy back. So Krishna had treated the wishes of his guru’s wife as sacred. But here, He is asking Arjuna to kill his Acharya! Why the double standards, is the question in Arjuna’s mind.

But there is a difference in the two situations. Here, Drona has not come as an Acharya but as an opponent. So has Bhishma. If Arjuna refuses to fight, will he not be letting down his brothers? Bhishma and Drona will give of their best in the fight that is to ensue, and they will not hesitate to kill the Pandavas, because they will see it as their duty to vanquish the enemy, in this case the Pandavas.

That being the case, is it not Arjuna’s duty too to fight? Krishna speaks to Arjuna to convince him, and it is because of Arjuna’s question to Krishna that the Lord gives him His advice in the form of the Bhagavad Gita, which is advice not just for Arjuna, but for all humanity.