Bhagavad Gita 1.23 Explained: The Ethical Dilemmas of Loyalty and Duty

योत्स्यमानानवेक्षेऽहं य एतेऽत्र समागताः।
धार्तराष्ट्रस्य दुर्बुद्धेर्युद्धे प्रियचिकीर्षवः।।1.23।।

श्रीमद्भगवद्गीता 1.23

Yotsyamananavekshe’ham Ya Ete’tra Samagatah
Dhartarashtrasya Durbuddheryuddhe Priyachikirshavah

Shrimad Bhagavad Gita 1.23

And gaze over this array of soldiers, eager to please the sinful sons of Dhritarashtra.

English Translation of BG 1.23

At this juncture in the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna expresses his desire to observe the warriors assembled on the battlefield, those who, driven by loyalty or ambition, have chosen to support Duryodhana, the son of Dhritarashtra, whose intentions are driven by malice and greed. This verse is a profound reflection on the nature of conflict, loyalty, and the moral dilemmas faced by individuals caught in the web of duty and righteousness.

Insights into BG 1.23: Reflecting on Swami Ramsukhdas Ji’s Divine Commentary

The Mirror of Choices

Arjuna’s request to Krishna to observe the warriors on the battlefield symbolizes the introspection into the choices made by individuals when faced with moral dilemmas. The warriors, by aligning with Duryodhana, have made their choice, prioritizing personal loyalty, ambition, or kinship over the broader considerations of righteousness and justice. This moment serves as a mirror for us to reflect on our own choices, especially when they are made under the influence of relationships or personal gain, often blurring the lines between right and wrong.

The Consequence of Ill-Advised Loyalty

The verse highlights the tragedy of misplaced loyalty, where warriors have rallied to support Duryodhana’s unjust cause. This ill-advised loyalty not only propels them towards a destructive war but also serves as a testament to the blinding power of allegiance to flawed leadership. It teaches us the importance of discernment in our allegiances, urging us to consider the ethical implications of our support and the broader impact of our actions on society and dharma.

The Futility of Evil Ambitions

By referring to Duryodhana as “Dhritarashtra’s son with evil intentions,” the verse points to the futility and destructiveness of pursuing power through unrighteous means. Duryodhana’s ambitions, fueled by envy and greed, lead not only to his downfall but also to a catastrophic war. This serves as a cautionary tale about the consequences of actions driven by negative emotions and unethical intentions, emphasizing the need for self-awareness and moral integrity in our pursuits.

The Role of the Warrior

Arjuna’s desire to survey the battlefield reflects the dilemma of the warrior caught in the ethical complexities of duty (dharma) versus personal morals. This moment foreshadows Arjuna’s deeper spiritual crisis and sets the stage for the profound philosophical discourse that follows. It reminds us of our own roles in life’s battles, encouraging us to seek guidance and clarity in navigating our responsibilities, especially when they conflict with our inner moral compass.


Verse 1.23 of the Bhagavad Gita captures a moment of moral clarity and introspection, as Arjuna prepares to face the realities of war and the complexities of human nature. It urges us to examine our own choices, loyalties, and the motivations behind them, pushing us to consider the higher principles of righteousness and justice. This verse is a call to align our actions with a deeper understanding of dharma, encouraging us to act with wisdom, compassion, and integrity in the face of life’s ethical dilemmas. Through Arjuna’s reflections, we are invited to ponder the true meaning of duty, the importance of righteous action, and the power of discernment in shaping the course of our lives and the world around us.