yady apy ete na paśyanti
mitra-drohe ca pātakam
kathaḿ na jñeyam asmābhiḥ
pāpād asmān nivartitum
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 1.37-38
O Janardana, although these men, their hearts overtaken by greed, see no fault in killing one’s family or quarreling with friends, why should we, who can see the crime in destroying a family, engage in these acts of sin?
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
A kshatriya is not supposed to refuse to battle or gamble when he is so invited by some rival party. Under such an obligation, Arjuna could not refuse to fight, because he had been challenged by the party of Duryodhana. In this connection, Arjuna considered that the other party might be blind to the effects of such a challenge. Arjuna, however, could see the evil consequences and could not accept the challenge. Obligation is actually binding when the effect is good, but when the effect is otherwise, then no one can be bound. Considering all these pros and cons, Arjuna decided not to fight.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
“Why does the opposing side want to fight then?” He answers with this verse.
“They, overcome by greed, and do not see any fault in destroying the family, or any sin in killing friends.”
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
1.26 – 1.47 Arjuna said — Sanjaya said — Sanjaya continued: The high-minded Arjuna, extremely kind, deeply friendly, and supremely righteous, having brothers like himself, though repeatedly deceived by the treacherous attempts of your people like burning in the lac-house etc., and therefore fit to be killed by him with the help of the Supreme Person, nevertheless said, ‘I will not fight.’ He felt weak, overcome as he was by his love and extreme compassion for his relatives. He was also filled with fear, not knowing what was righteous and what unrighteous. His mind was tortured by grief, because of the thought of future separation from his relations. So he threw away his bow and arrow and sat on the chariot as if to fast to death.
The Supreme Lord Krishna, Hrsikesa, the master of the senses. The Supreme Controller, internally and externally of all living entities evolving and evolved. Who although the Supreme Lord of all, yet descended down to Earth out of His causeless mercy for the redemption of the faithful and even more, He condescended to be Arjuna’s chariot driver, carrying out his wish to station their chariot in such a commanding position as to be able to readily view the belligerent Kauravas and put within the range of his vision such heroes as Bhishmadeva, Dronacarya and Kripa and the Kings of royal dynasties. At that time the Supreme Lord Krishna said to Arjuna: see what chances there are for the Kauravas victory over thee.
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
It may be argued to Arjuna that if he does not slay his enemies due to feeling compassion for them, then they out of greed for power they will surely slay him; therefore it would be better for him to slay them and enjoy sovereignty. This is answered in a verse and a half beginning with: I do not like etc. Even if they kill us I do not like to kill them even for attaining the sovereignty of all the three worlds much less for gaining only this earth.
The Vedic scriptures declare that those who commit the following six types of crimes being : arson, poisoning, assaulting with weapons, stealing ones wealth, usurping ones land or kidnapping one’s wife are aggressors and Duryodhana and the Kauravas were definitely aggressors having committed all six offences against the Pandavas beginning with arson. The slaying of aggressors is justifiable and the Vedic scriptures state that one should slay an aggressor coming with the intention of committing a criminal act without hesitation and that the slayer of such an aggressor incurs no sin whatsoever. This is being answered by the verse and a half beginning with: sin alone etc. The text which states one should kill belongs to what is called an Artha Sastra which is a scripture dealing with the rules and laws regarding wealth. Artha Sastra is considered less authoritative than Dharma Sastra which are scriptures dealing with righteousness. Dharma Sastra is superior to Artha Sastra. As it is stated by the sage Yagnavalkya: when two scriptures differ the one whose conclusion is the most reasonable and most logical is to be considered superior. This is the understanding. Therefore by the slaying of preceptors etc. although they are aggressors, Arjuna is stating that sin shall be incurred because such slaying is unwarranted and unrighteous. There can be no happiness from this. This is being given by: How can we adopt this course of action?
Although Duryodhana and the Kauravas being deprived of all discrimination are determined to fight; why should we who are not deprived of discrimination become degraded as well by such sinfulness? We should resolve not to engage in this battle.
It may be argued that the action of slaying kinsman is common to both the Pandavas and the Kauravas; so even as the Kauravas adopting such a contingency are determined to fight; it is better for Arjuna to likewise engage himself in the battle, what is the value of despondency? This is being answered by these two verses.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
Sri Madhvacharya did not comment on this sloka.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
Why are they trying to kill the Pandavas in the first place might now be asked? In this verse Arjuna is stating that the Kauravas their hearts full of greed, devoid of piety see no fault and perceive no sinful reaction in the slaying of family members and hence they act in ignorance. Now in support of his reason for not fighting Arjuna states that the Pandavas are not like the Kauravas because of knowing fully the sinful reaction of slaying kinsman. So why should they engage in this abominable act. Being a devotee of the Supreme Lord Krishna who is the propounder of dharma or righteousness, Arjuna addresses him by the vocative Janardana meaning as the remover of his devotees ignorance; why should they not refrain themselves from such ignorance being cognizant of the implications of unrighteousness?
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
1.37 Sri Sankaracharya did not comment on this sloka. The commentary starts from 2.10.
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
1.35 1.44 Nihatya etc. upto anususruma. Sin alone is the agent in the act of slaying these desperadoes. Therefore here the idea is this : These ememies of ours have been slain, i.e., have been take possession of, by sin. Sin would come to us also after slaying them. Sin in this context is the disregard, on account of greed etc., to the injurious consequences like the ruination of the family and the like. That is why Arjuna makes a specific mention of the [ruin of the] family etc., and of its duties in the passage ‘How by slaying my own kinsmen etc’. The act of slaying, undertaken with an individualizing idea about its result, and with a particularizing idea about the person to be slain, is a great sin. To say this very thing precisely and to indicate the intensity of his own agony, Arjuna says only to himself [see next sloka]:
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
yady apy ete na pasyanti
mitra-drohe ca patakam
katham na jneyam asmabhih
papad asman nivartitum
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
yadi — if; api — even; ete — they; na — do not; paśyanti — see; lobha — by greed; upahata — overpowered; cetasaḥ — their hearts; kula-kṣaya — in killing the family; kṛtam — done; doṣam — fault; mitra-drohe — in quarreling with friends; ca — also; pātakam — sinful reactions; katham — why; na — should not; jñeyam — be known; asmābhiḥ — by us; pāpāt — from sins; asmāt — these; nivartitum — to cease; kula-kṣaya — in the destruction of a dynasty; kṛtam — done; doṣam — crime; prapaśyadbhiḥ — by those who can see; janārdana — O Kṛṣṇa.