Chapter 3 Verse 36

Now Arjuna asks a question. The last time, he had asked a question was in verse 1 & 2 of this chapter where he had asked Krishna as to why he is being forced to fight when he does not want to. That triggers of a series of topics on Karma Yoga which we have seen so far.

This time Arjuna asks another question.

atha kena prayuktoyaṃ pāpaṃ carati pūruṣaḥ
anicchann api vārṣṇeya balād iva niyojitaḥ

varsneya – O’ Descendant of the Vrsnis (Krishna)
atha – now
anichan api – even though not desiring
ayam – this
purusah – person
kena – by what
prayktah – impelled
balat iva – as though by force
niyojitah – pushed
papam – sin
carati – commits

Varsneya! Impelled by what a person commits sin, as though pushed by some force even though not desiring to.

Previously we saw that there are likes and dislikes with reference to every object and we must not come under their spell. Better is to follow svadharma than follow another person’s dharma. Hearing all these, Arjuna now asks, why a person does a karma that he or she knows to be an improper action – (kena prayuktah papam carati purusah?)

Arjuna here addressed Krishna as Varsneya, one who is born in the family of Vrsnis. Vrsni is one of the name of the ancestors of Krishna by whose name the entire clan is known. Because he belongs to this clan, he is interpreted by Arjuna as Varsneya. This also has another interpretation. Varsneyah – that which showers on one the fullness of brahman is called Vrsni, the clear knowledge of Brahman, brahma vidya.

Arjuna still was not satisfied as to why when he does not want to, he is forced to do something which he knows has no intellectual value. Duryodhana was once asked, ‘ Why do you do all this papa karma? You come from a good family and have been brought up well. You are a prince. What impels you to do such things?’.

In a verse from Mahabharata attributed to him, Duryodhana responded, ‘ I know what is right, (janami dharmam) and I also know what is not right, (janami adharmam). My problem is not that I have any innoncence or confusion with reference to what is right or wrong. The problem is that I know Dharma, but I do not pursue it. And I know Adharma but I cannot refrain from it. Duryodhana then went on to day, ‘in whichever way I am impelled by the one sitting in my heart, in that way I do, (kenapi devena hrdi sthitena yatha niyukto ‘smi’ ‘ thatha karomi’. What this meant was that there is a person or a force, but I don’t know who it is.)

Thus Duryodhana and Arjuna had the same question, ‘Who or what is that sitting in the mind forcing the person to do what he or she knows to be wrong, even when the person does not want to do it’.

Arjuna is now more inquisitive and is doing retrospection to make sure that if he has to do this action, he has the right mind set and all his questions are answered.

Verse 37 onwards Krishna gives response to Krishna spread in 4 verses.