Dhritarashtra and Pandu were brothers. Dhritarashtra married Gandhari, and Pandu was married to Kunti and Madri. King Pandu was cursed for a sin while hunting, due to which he was not permitted to unite with his wife. Kunti got a boon through her sincere service of a wise sage in her younger age, and she begot three children, namely, Yudhisthira, Bhima and Arjuna from Yama, Vayu and Indra respectively. Madri had twins, Nakula and Sahadeva, through the celestial physicians called Asvini-Devatas. Dhritarashtra had a hundred and one children by his wife Gandhari. Pandu passed away and his sons, the Pandavas, were all brought up by Dhritarashtra along with his sons known as Kauravas. The Pandavas and Kauravas grew up together, but due to the braveness and intelligence of the former, the Kauravas were unable to tolerate them. Hence the Pandavas decided to live separately, sharing half of their kingdom.
The Pandavas’ pomp, wealth and glory displayed during the Rajasuya Yajna aroused deep jealousy and greed in the mind of Duryodhana, the chief of the Kauravas, who, with the cunning advice of his uncle, Sakuni, invited Yudhisthira to a game of dice and fraudulently defeated him, whereby all his wealth and possessions, including Draupadi, were lost. Finally it was settled that the Pandavas, including Draupadi, should repair to the forest for twelve years in exile, after which they had to live incognito for another year, untraced by the Kauravas. During this period the kingdom was to be ruled by the wicked Duryodhana.
Having successfully completed these thirteen years of exile, facing many obstacles and dangers instigated by the Kauravas, the Pandavas, as per the terms of the agreement, approached the Kauravas for their share of the kingdom. Duryodhana, however, flatly refused to part with as much land as could be covered by the point of a needle. According to the advice of Mother Kunti and with the inspiration of Lord Krishna, the Pandavas decided upon war and tried to establish their rightful claim on the kingdom by overcoming the Kauravas.
Duryodhana and Arjuna, from the side of the Kauravas and Pandavas respectively, were sent to Dwaraka to seek the help of the Yadava hero, Lord Krishna, in the battle. They both found Krishna resting on a couch in His palace. Duryodhana went in and occupied a seat at the head of the couch while Arjuna stood near the feet of the Lord. The moment Sri Krishna opened His eyes, He naturally saw Arjuna first, and then Duryodhana sitting on a chair. After enquiry of their welfare and the purpose of their visit, Sri Krishna, according to the prevailing custom, gave the first choice to Arjuna, because of his age, and also because of His sight of Arjuna first. Krishna asked Arjuna to fulfil his desire by selecting Him unarmed or His powerful army called Narayani Sena. Arjuna, who was a devotee of Sri Krishna, expressed his desire to have the Lord with him, neglecting the powerful Narayani Sena, even though Krishna warned that He would remain a witness, bound by the vow of not participating in battle and not taking up arms. Duryodhana, with great delight, thinking that Arjuna was foolish, expressed his wish for the powerful army to help his side in the battle.
When Krishna asked Arjuna why he chose Him when He was not for taking up arms, Arjuna said, “O Lord! You have the power to destroy all the forces by a mere sight. Why then should I prefer that worthless army? I have for a long time been cherishing a desire in my heart that you should act as my charioteer. Kindly fulfil my desire in this war.”
The Lord, who is ever the most devoted lover of His devotees, accepted his request with pleasure; and thus Krishna became the charioteer of Arjuna in the battle of the Mahabharata.
After the return of Duryodhana and Arjuna from Dwaraka, Lord Krishna Himself went once to Hastinapura as the emissary of the Pandavas and tried to prevent the war. But then, under the guidance of Sakuni, the egoistic Duryodhana refused to agree to the peace mission and tried to imprison Lord Krishna, at which Krishna showed His Supreme Form (Viswarupa). Even the blind Dhritarashtra saw it by the Lord’s Grace. King Dhritarashtra, due to his attachment to his sons, failed to control them, and the Kaurava chief, Duryodhana, with vain hope, decided to meet the powerful Pandavas in war.
When both sides were prepared to commence the battle, the sage Veda Vyasa approached blind Dhritarashtra and said, “If you wish to see this terrible carnage with your own eyes I can give you the gift of vision.” The Kaurava king replied, “O Chief of the Brahmarishis! I have no desire to see with my own eyes this slaughter of my family, but I should like to hear all the details of the battle.”
Then the sage conferred the gift of divine vision on Sanjaya, the trusty counsellor of the king, and told the king, “Sanjaya will describe to you all the incidents of the war. Whatever happens in the course of the war, he will directly see, hear or otherwise come to know. Whether an incident takes place before his eyes or behind his back, during the day or during the night, privately or in public, and whether it is reduced to actual action or appears only in thought, it will not remain hidden from his view. He will come to know everything, exactly as it happens. No weapon will touch his body nor will he feel tired.”
After the ten days of continued war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, when the great warrior Bhishma was thrown down from his chariot by Arjuna, Sanjaya announces the news to Dhritarashtra. In agony the king asks Sanjaya to narrate the full details of the previous ten days war, from the very beginning, in all detail as it happened. Here commences the Bhagavad Gita.
Prayer to Vyasa
Namostu te vyaasa visaalabuddhe
Yena twayaa bhaaratatailapoornah
prajwaalito jnaanamayah pradeepah.
Salutations unto thee, O Vyasa, of broad intellect and with eyes large like the petals of a full-blown lotus, by whom the lamp of divine knowledge, filled with the oil of the Mahabharata, has been lighted!
Prayer to the Guru
Gururbrahmaa gururvishnurgururdevo maheshwarah;
Guruh saakshaat param brahma tasmai shree gurave namah.
Guru is the creator (Brahma); Guru is the preserver (Vishnu); Guru is the destroyer (Maheshvara); Guru is verily the Supreme Absolute. To that Guru we prostrate.
Dhyaanamoolam gurormoortih poojaamoolam guroh padam;
Mantramoolam gurorvaakyam mokshamoolam guroh kripaa.
The Guru’s form is the root of meditation; the Guru’s feet are the root of worship; the Guru’s word is the root of Mantra; the Guru’s Grace is the root of liberation.
Prayer to Lord Krishna
Krishnaaya vaasudevaaya devakeenandanaaya cha;
Nandagopakumaaraaya govindaaya namo namah.
I bow again and again to Lord Krishna, son of Vasudeva, the delighter of Devaki, the darling of Nandagopa, the protector of cows.
O Krishna! Thou art my sweet companion now. Thou hast a soft corner for me in Thy heart. Teach me now the mysteries of Thy divine play and the secrets of Vedanta. Thou sayest in the Gita: “I am the author of Vedanta and the knower of the Vedas”. Thou art my best teacher. Explain to me the intricate details of Vedanta. Give me easy lessons.
Kindly explain; why did Sukadev, a Brahma Jnani who was always absorbed in Brahman, teach the Bhagavata to King Parikshit? What are the differences in the experiences of a Bhakta who enjoys union with God, of a Yogi who is established in the highest Superconscious State, and of a Jnani firmly established in the state of oneness or Brahman? What is the real difference between liberation while living and disembodied liberation, between the transcendent state and the state beyond it, between the perishable Person, the imperishable Person and the Supreme Person?
Let me be frank with Thee, O Krishna, because Thou art the indweller of my heart, the witness of my mind, and the Lord of my life-breath! I cannot hide anything from Thee, because Thou directly witnesseth all the thoughts that emanate from my mind. I have no fear of Thee. Thou art my friend now. Treat me like Arjuna. I shall sing and dance. You can play on the flute. Let us eat sugar-candy and butter together. Let us sing. Teach me the Gita. Let me hear it directly from Thy lips once more.
O Thou invisible One! O adorable and Supreme One! Thou penetratest and permeatest this vast universe from the unlimited space down to the tiny blade of grass at my feet. Thou art the basis of all names and forms. Thou art the apple of my eye, the divine love of my heart, the life of my life, the very soul of my soul, the illuminator of my intellect and senses, the sweet mystic music of my heart, and the substance of my physical, mental and causal bodies.
I recognise Thee alone as the mighty ruler of this universe and the inner controller of my three bodies. I prostrate again and again before Thee, my Lord. Thou art my sole refuge. I trust Thee alone, O ocean of mercy and love! Elevate, enlighten, guide and protect me. Remove the obstacles on my spiritual path. Remove the veil of ignorance.
O Thou supreme world-teacher! I cannot bear any longer, even for a second, the miseries of this physical body, this life and this worldly existence. Meet me quickly, O Prabhu! I am pining, I am melting. Listen, listen, listen to my fervent, innermost prayer. Do not be cruel, my Lord. Thou art the friend of the afflicted. Thou art one who raises the downtrodden. Thou art the purifier of the fallen.
O magnificent Lord of love and compassion! O fountain-head of bliss and knowledge! Thou art the eye of our eye, the ear of our ear, the breath of our breath, the mind of our mind, the soul of our soul. Thou art the unseen seer, the unthought thinker, the unheard hearer, the unknown knower. Pray, deliver us from temptation. Give us light, knowledge and purity.
O Lord of my breath! O all-pervading Lord of the universe, accept my humble prayer! Guide me. Lift me from the mire of worldliness. Enlighten me. Protect me. Thee alone I adore; Thee alone I worship; on Thee alone I meditate in Thee alone I take sole refuge.