gurūn ahatvā hi mahānubhāvān
śreyo bhoktuḿ bhaikṣyam apīha loke
hatvārtha-kāmāḿs tu gurūn ihaiva
bhuñjīya bhogān rudhira-pradigdhān
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 2.5
It would be better to live in this world by begging than to live at the cost of the lives of great souls who are my teachers. Even though desiring worldly gain, they are superiors. If they are killed, everything we enjoy will be tainted with blood.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
According to scriptural codes, a teacher who engages in an abominable action and has lost his sense of discrimination is fit to be abandoned. Bhishma and Drona were obliged to take the side of Duryodhana because of his financial assistance, although they should not have accepted such a position simply on financial considerations. Under the circumstances, they have lost the respectability of teachers. But Arjuna thinks that nevertheless they remain his superiors, and therefore to enjoy material profits after killing them would mean to enjoy spoils tainted with blood.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
“If you don’t want the kingdom, then how will you live?”
“Not killing my elders, I will live by begging, though it is condemned for the ksatriya to do so. It is better to eat that food got from begging. That is, though it will bring infamy in this life, it will not be inauspicious for future lives. These gurus have not become proud. One should reject only the followers of Duryodhana who do not know right from wrong. The scriptures say:
guror apy avaliptasya karyakaryam ajanatah utpathapratipannasya parityago vidhlyate
One should reject the guru who is proud, does not know proper behavior, who becomes engaged in sinful life. Mahabharata 5.178.24
They, on the contrary, are great souls (mahanubhavan). What fault is there in Bhisma and others who have control over time and lust?”
“But Bhisma said to Yudhisthira,
arthasya puruso daso dasas tv artho na kasyacit iti satyam maharaja baddho ‘smy arthena kauravaih
Man is a servant of wealth. Wealth is not a servant of anyone. O king, I have been bound by wealth to the Kauravas. Mahabharata 6.41.36
Therefore, has not their great character been destroyed by such desire for wealth?”
“That is true, but if I kill them, I will be unhappy. Though in killing those Kurus who are greedy for wealth (artha kaman), I should enjoy the wealth, it is contaminated with their blood. The meaning is this: though they have desire for wealth, they are still my gurus. Therefore in killing them, because I commit the sin of killing guru, my enjoyment will be mixed with that sin.”
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:
It may be argued: That without slaying them it would not be possible for Arjuna to even maintain his own body. So Arjuna is responding that without slaying his superiors like Bhishma and Drona which bars one from the heavenly kingdoms it would be better to live in this world even on food obtained by begging without causing the death of anyone. Otherwise misery will be the result not only in the next life but even in the present Arjuna was stating he would be experiencing the miseries of hellish existence. This is verified by Arjuna saying that by slaying elders and superiors even in the present life all the spoils he would be enjoying would be tainted with their blood.
Another interpretation is that the word arthakaman may be also taken as qualifying the elders and superiors. These elders being consumed by greed of wealth are not likely to refrain from war. Therefore they will have to be slain. Bhishma for an example spoke to King Yudhisthira saying: Man is a slave to wealth but wealth is the slave of no man, this is the truth. O Emperor I am bound to the Kauravas by the acceptance of wealth.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
Sri Madhvacharya did not comment on this sloka.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
It may be further submitted that although Bhishma and Drona are both always to be respected, but as they are superiors and perceptors to both the Pandavas and the Kauravas they should all be looked after equally regarding aquisition and preservation. Why should Bhishma and Drona fight for the unlawful kingdom of the Kauravas on the side of the wicked Duryodhana? It appears that being devoid of discrimination of what should be done and what should not be done have gone afoul of righteousness and thus according to Vedic scriptures have the right to be slain. Bishma himself has stated that a superior who is degraded by these qualities deserves to be abandoned. To this Arjuna is replying that refraining from slaying great souls it is better to live in this world by begging alms as by this no sin will be incurred to reap in the next life. But if as Arjuna states they are great souls then how can they be degraded and if they are degraded how can they be considered great souls and hence there abandonment is proper. One who is inferior should normally never even think of abandoning a preceptor otherwise one will perish out of folly. But Bhisma’s statement that a man is slave to wealth but wealth is slave to no man; therefore due to accepting wealth he was controlled by the Kauravas. So this proves that controlled by wealth and not righteousness and thus slaying them incurs no sin. But to this Arjuna states that by slaying elders we may undoubtedly enjoy some pleasures in this world but these pleasures would be tainted with blood as they are derived from the sin of slaying superiors.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
2.5 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:
gurun ahatva hi mahanubhavan
sreyo bhoktum bhaiksyam apiha loke
hatvartha-kamams tu gurun ihaiva
bhunjiya bhogan rudhira-pradigdhan
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
gurūn — the superiors; ahatvā — not killing; hi — certainly; mahā-anubhāvān — great souls; śreyaḥ — it is better; bhoktum — to enjoy life; bhaikṣyam — by begging; api — even; iha — in this life; loke — in this world; hatvā — killing; artha — gain; kāmān — desiring; tu — but; gurūn — superiors; iha — in this world; eva — certainly; bhuñjīya — one has to enjoy; bhogān — enjoyable things; rudhira — blood; pradigdhān — tainted with.