Bhagavad Gita 1.36 Explained: The Sin of War and the Quest for Righteousness

निहत्य धार्तराष्ट्रान्नः का प्रीतिः स्याज्जनार्दन।

श्रीमद्भगवद्गीता 1.36

Nihatya Dhartarashtran Nah Ka Pritih Syajjanardana
Papamevashrayedasman Hatvaitanatatayinah

Shrimad Bhagavad Gita 1.36

My Lord! What happiness can come from the death of these sons of Dhritarashtra? We shall sin if we kill these desperate men.

English Translation of BG 1.36

This verse captures Arjuna’s heart-wrenching dilemma as he stands on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, overwhelmed by the thought of killing his own kin. Arjuna’s invocation of Krishna as Janardana, the one who looks after the welfare of the people, highlights his appeal to the divine for guidance in this moral crisis.

Insights into BG 1.36: Reflecting on Swami Ramsukhdas Ji’s Divine Commentary

The Moral Quandary of Kinship versus Duty

Arjuna’s conflict underscores a profound moral question that transcends the battlefield: how can one find joy or righteousness in victory that comes at the cost of family and loved ones? This verse speaks to the universal struggle between duty and the bonds of kinship, urging us to consider the weight of our actions and their impact on our inner peace and moral integrity.

The Consequence of Actions

Arjuna’s concern about incurring sin by killing aggressors, despite their wrongdoing, reflects the deep Vedic principle of karma — the law of cause and effect. His hesitation reminds us that every action has consequences, not just in the external world but on our spiritual journey. It challenges us to act with awareness and consideration of the ethical dimensions of our choices.

The Duality of Dharma

This verse reveals the complexity of dharma, the sacred duty. Arjuna, a warrior, is bound by his dharma to fight against adharma, or unrighteousness. Yet, his heart recoils at the thought of harming his own kin, revealing the sometimes conflicting nature of our duties and the need for divine wisdom to navigate these waters. It highlights the necessity of discernment and the guidance of higher wisdom in fulfilling our responsibilities without losing sight of universal compassion.

The Quest for Higher Guidance

Arjuna’s questioning is a powerful invocation for divine guidance in moments of moral ambiguity. It is a call to all seekers to look beyond the immediate and apparent, seeking a higher, spiritual perspective that harmonizes the apparent contradictions between duty and compassion, action and consequence, victory and loss.


Verse 1.36 of the Bhagavad Gita speaks directly to the heart of the human condition — the struggle to act righteously in a world where moral choices are often fraught with complexity and pain. It calls upon us to seek a deeper understanding of our duties, the nature of right action, and the pursuit of spiritual wisdom. As we face our own battles, may we, like Arjuna, have the courage to question, the humility to seek divine guidance, and the wisdom to act in accordance with the highest principles of dharma, compassion, and universal love.