Reading Guide. The Bhagavad-Gita, or "Lord's Song," is the most famous part of the Mahabharata. When the battle is about to begin, Arjuna looks at the opposing side and sees his relatives and his gurus, and he despairs, but Krishna persuades him to fight. The reading here comes from the first two chapters of the Gita; you can choose to read the whole Gita later this semester if you are curious to learn more. This version by the English author Edwin Arnold happens to be the first version of the Gita that Mahatma Gandhi read!
Source. The Song Celestial; Or, Bhagavad-Gita, rendered into English verse by Edwin Arnold (1885) [500 words]
Krishna! As I behold, come here to shed
Their common blood, yon concourse of our kin,
My members fail, my tongue dries in my mouth,
A shudder thrills my body, and my hair
Bristles with horror; from my weak hand slips
Gandiv, the goodly bow; a fever burns
My skin to parching; hardly may I stand;
The life within me seems to swim and faint;
Nothing do I foresee save woe and wail!
Better I deem it, if my kinsmen strike,
To face them weaponless, and bare my breast
To shaft and spear, than answer blow with blow.
So speaking, in the face of those two hosts,
Arjuna sank upon his chariot-seat,
And let fall bow and arrows, sick at heart.
Thou grievest where no grief should be! Thou speak'st
Words lacking wisdom! For the wise in heart
Mourn not for those that live, nor those that die.
Nor I, nor thou, nor any one of these,
Ever was not, nor ever will not be,
For ever and for ever afterwards.
All, that doth live, lives always! To man's frame
As there come infancy and youth and age,
So come there raisings-up and layings-down
Of other and of other life-abodes,
Which the wise know, and fear not. This that irks —
Thy sense-life, thrilling to the elements —
Bringing thee heat and cold, sorrows and joys,
'Tis brief and mutable! Bear with it, Prince!
As the wise bear. The soul which is not moved,
The soul that with a strong and constant calm
Takes sorrow and takes joy indifferently,
Lives in the life undying! That which is
Can never cease to be; that which is not
Will not exist. To see this truth of both
Is theirs who part essence from accident,
Substance from shadow. Indestructible,
Learn thou! The Life is, spreading life through all;
It cannot anywhere, by any means,
Be anywise diminished, stayed, or changed.
But for these fleeting frames which it informs
With spirit deathless, endless, infinite,
They perish. Let them perish, Prince! And fight!
He who shall say, "Lo! I have slain a man!"
He who shall think, "Lo! I am slain!" — those both
Know naught! Life cannot slay. Life is not slain!
Never the spirit was born; the spirit shall cease to be never;
Never was time it was not; End and Beginning are dreams!
Birthless and deathless and changeless remaineth the spirit forever;
Death hath not touched it at all, dead though the house of it seems!
Who knoweth it exhaustless, self-sustained,
Immortal, indestructible — shall such
Say, "I have killed a man, or caused to kill" ...?
Nay, but as when one layeth
His worn-out robes away,
And, taking new ones, sayeth,
"These will I wear today!"
So putteth by the spirit
Lightly its garb of flesh,
And passeth to inherit
A residence afresh.
This Life within all living things, my Prince!
Hides beyond harm; scorn thou to suffer, then,
For that which cannot suffer. Do thy part!
Be mindful of thy name, and tremble not!