kathaḿ bhīṣmam ahaḿ sańkhye
droṇaḿ ca madhusūdana
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 2.4
Arjuna said: O killer of enemies, O killer of Madhu, how can I counterattack with arrows in battle men like Bhishma and Drona, who are worthy of my worship?
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
Respectable superiors like Bhishma the grandfather and Dronacarya the teacher are always worshipable. Even if they attack, they should not be counterattacked. It is general etiquette that superiors are not to be offered even a verbal fight. Even if they are sometimes harsh in behavior, they should not be harshly treated. Then, how is it possible for Arjuna to counterattack them? Would Krishna ever attack His own grandfather, Ugrasena, or His teacher, Sandipani Muni? These were some of the arguments offered by Arjuna to Krishna.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
“According to scriptures of dharma, not respecting those worthy of worship is a cause of bondage: pratibadhnati hi sreyah pujya-puja-vyatikramah. Therefore I withdraw from fighting. How can I kill them?” The form prati yotsyami (parasmaipada) is used instead of the form prati yotsye (atmanepada, for oneself).
“But those two elders are fighting. Are you not able to fight against them?”
“No I cannot do so, for they are worthy of worship (pujarhau): I should offer flowers to their feet in devotion rather than sharp arrows in anger. O friend Krishna! Even you injure only the enemies in battle, and not your own guru Sandipani Muni or your friends the Yadus, O Madhusudana, killer of Madhu!”
“But I am a descendent of Madhu, therefore called Madhava, in the ancient lineage of the Yadu dynasty. How could I have killed Madhu?”
“No, 1 do not mean that Madhu. I am speaking about the demon named Madhu who was your enemy (ari sudana).”
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
2.4 – 2.5 Arjuna said — Again Arjuna, being moved by love, compassion and fear, mistaking unrighteousness for righteousness, and not understanding, i.e., not knowing the beneficial words of Sri Krsna, said as follows: ‘How can I slay Bhisma, Drona and others worthy or reverence? After slaying those elders, though they are intensely attached to enjoyments, how can I enjoy those very pleasures which are now being enjoyed by them? For, it will be mixed with their blood.
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
I am not withdrawing from battle out of cowardice but because it is improper to attack my superiors. This is what Arjuna meant by asking the Supreme Lord Krishna: How shall I fight against Bhishma and Drona? When it is wrong to even speak of fighting against them, how can I then even consider actually fighting them. This is the factual meaning of these words expressed by Arjuna.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
Sri Madhvacharya did not comment on this sloka.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
Although Lord Krishna’s instructions are perfectly correct still it might be submitted that one coming from noble lineage should only fight a battle which is not antagonistic to ones family traditions regarding righteousness and not fight a battle which would be instrumental in destroying these family traditions. Arjuna is asking how can he engage in battle with his superior Bhishma and his preceptor Drona. When even to argue against them is improper then what to think against attacking them with deadly arrows in earnest. Why? Because preceptors and superiors are always to be respected. Duryodhana by placing Bhishma and Drona directly in the forefront caused the ever righteous Pandavas discomfort at the thought of having to fight against them as it was opposed to the time honored noble traditions of their family lineage. So what Arjuna in fact is stating is why should they engage themselves in this battle being aware of the great sinfulness declared in the Vedic scriptures of disregarding superiors and showing aggression against the preceptor which results in the perpetrator becoming a ghostly demon known as a brahma-raksasa.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
2.4 Sri Sankaracharya did not comment on this sloka. The commentary starts from 2.10.
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
2.4 See Comment under 2.6
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
katham bhismam aham sankhye
dronam ca madhusudana
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
arjunaḥ uvāca — Arjuna said; katham — how; bhīṣmam — Bhīṣma; aham — I; sańkhye — in the fight; droṇam — Droṇa; ca — also; madhu-sūdana — O killer of Madhu; iṣubhiḥ — with arrows; pratiyotsyāmi — shall counterattack; pūjā-arhau — those who are worshipable; ari-sūdana — O killer of the enemies.