Bhagavad Gita 1.39 Explained: The Ethical Dilemma of Clan Destruction

कथं न ज्ञेयमस्माभिः पापादस्मान्निवर्तितुम्।
कुलक्षयकृतं दोषं प्रपश्यद्भिर्जनार्दन।।

श्रीमद्भगवद्गीता 1.39

Katham Na Gneyamasmabhih Papadasmannivartitum
Kulakshayakritam Dosham Prapashyadbhirjanardana

Shrimad Bhagavad Gita 1.39

Should not we, whose eyes are open, who consider it to be wrong to annihilate our house, turn away from so great a crime?

English Translation of BG 1.39

In this verse, Arjuna expresses a deep moral concern over the impending destruction of kinship ties and the ensuing sin, thus highlighting the inner conflict between duty as a warrior and the moral implications of his actions. This moment is a poignant reflection on the ethical dilemmas that often confront us, urging a deeper introspection into our responsibilities and the consequences of our decisions.

Insights into BG 1.39: Reflecting on Swami Ramsukhdas Ji’s Divine Commentary

The Moral Dilemma of Duty vs. Sin

Arjuna’s question to Krishna represents the universal moral dilemma of choosing between one’s duty and the ethical consequences of fulfilling that duty. The verse encapsulates the struggle between the duty of a Kshatriya to fight in the battlefield and the sin of causing familial destruction, underscoring the complexity of dharma (righteous duty) in life’s conflicting situations.

The Evil of Clan Destruction

The destruction of a clan is not just a physical annihilation but a disintegration of social, moral, and spiritual fabric that sustains a community. Arjuna’s foresight into the catastrophic consequences of war, including the loss of traditions and values, resonates with the importance of preserving societal integrity. It beckons us to weigh our actions against their impact on the collective well-being of our communities.

Turning Away from Sin

Arjuna’s inclination to turn away from sin, despite the expectations placed upon him as a warrior, underscores the importance of ethical considerations over societal roles or duties. It highlights the principle that true righteousness sometimes requires the courage to question and, if necessary, defy conventional roles in favor of a higher moral law.

The Role of Wisdom in Decision-Making

The verse also points to the role of wisdom and discernment in making ethical decisions. Arjuna, guided by his moral clarity, questions the justifiability of war, illustrating that wisdom must guide our actions, especially when faced with choices that have far-reaching consequences.


Verse 1.39 of the Bhagavad Gita is a profound exploration of the ethical challenges we face in fulfilling our duties. It teaches us that true dharma is not merely about adhering to our roles but also about upholding the greater good, even if it means questioning the path laid before us. As we navigate through our lives, let us remember Arjuna’s reflective inquiry and strive to act with wisdom, compassion, and a deep sense of moral responsibility, ensuring that our actions contribute positively to the world around us. This verse calls us to a higher understanding of duty, one that harmonizes our actions with the universal principles of righteousness and compassion.