The Bhagavad Gita

Arjuna Character Analysis

The central protagonist of the Mahabharata and one of the two primary characters in the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna is a Pandava warrior who fights his cousins, the Kauravas, over his kingdom of Hastinapura. Pandava literally means “son of Pandu,” but the king Pandu was cursed to die if he ever slept with a woman, so his wife Kunti asked the gods to impregnate her. Accordingly, Arjuna’s true parents are Kunti and the warrior god Indra. After realizing that he has to fight these cousins on the battlefield, Arjuna turns to his charioteer Krishna for advice, and the entire Bhagavad Gita recounts their lengthy dialogue about dharma, action and renunciation, reincarnation, and enlightenment. At first, Arjuna is captivated by Krishna’s wisdom, but he soon discovers that Krishna is a manifestation of God and proclaims absolute fidelity to him, absorbing his teachings over the course of the Gita. After his dialogue with Krishna, Arjuna ultimately wins the war for the Pandavas.

Arjuna Quotes in The Bhagavad Gita

The The Bhagavad Gita quotes below are all either spoken by Arjuna or refer to Arjuna. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Detachment and Dharma Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of The Bhagavad Gita published in 2008.
Discourse 1 Quotes

The great cry
tore the hearts
of the Sons
of Dhritarashtra
the tumult
made the sky
and the earth
resound.

Related Characters: Sanjaya (speaker), Arjuna, Dhritarashtra
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:
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I see no good
in killing
my people
in battle,
Lovely-Haired Krishna!

Krishna, I long
neither for victory
nor kingship
nor pleasures.
Lord of the Cows,
what is kingship to us,
what are delights,
or life itself?

Related Characters: Arjuna (speaker), Krishna
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:
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The dharma of caste,
and the eternal dharma
of family,
are uprooted
by these wrongful acts
of family-destroyers,
since they create
a blending of caste.

Related Characters: Arjuna (speaker), Krishna
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:
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Discourse 2 Quotes

Son of Bharata,
the embodied self
which exists in the body
of everyone
is eternally
free from harm;
so you should not grieve
for any living beings.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:
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Your authority is
in action alone,
and never
in its fruits;
motive should never be
in the fruits of action,
nor should you cling
to inaction.

Abiding in yoga,
engage in actions!
Let go of clinging,
and let fulfilment
and frustration
be the same;
for it is said
yoga is equanimity.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:
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Discourse 4 Quotes

Brahman is offering;
Brahman is oblation
poured out by Brahman
in the fire of Brahman;
Brahman is attained
by one absorbed
in the action
of Brahman.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:
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Arjuna,
just as the lit fire
makes the kindling
into ashes,
in this same way
the fire of wisdom
makes all actions
into ashes.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:
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Discourse 5 Quotes

This master
creates neither agent
nor action
in this world,
nor the linking
of action with its fruit.
But his own nature
keeps on evolving.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 64-5
Explanation and Analysis:
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Discourse 6 Quotes

The self is
in all beings
and all beings
are in the self.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:
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Discourse 7 Quotes

Understand that
all beings
have their origins
in this nature:
I am
the birth
and the dissolution
of the whole world.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:
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Discourse 8 Quotes

Brahman is
the highest imperishable;
the highest self
is said to be
one’s own nature, giving rise
to all states of being;
action is understood
as ‘sending forth’.

Among the embodied,
the highest being
is finite existence;
the highest god
is the great spirit;
I am the highest sacrifice
here in this body,
Chosen One.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:
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Discourse 9 Quotes

This whole world
is woven through
with me,
in a shape
which is formless;
all beings dwell in me,
while I do not
dwell in them.

Yet neither do beings
dwell in me.
Behold, my powerful yoga:
bearing beings,
and yet not dwelling
in beings,
my own self
causing them to be.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:
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I am the father of the world —
its mother, its arranger
and its grandfather;
I am what is to be known;
the purifier;
the sound ‘Om’;
the Rig, the Sama
and the Yajur Veda.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 105
Explanation and Analysis:
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Those who choose gods
go to the gods.
Those who choose ancestors
go to the ancestors.
Those who honour the ghosts
go to the ghosts.
Those who sacrifice to me
go to me.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 107-8
Explanation and Analysis:
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Discourse 10 Quotes

Among rulers with the sceptre,
I am authority.
Among those who want victory,
I am wise conduct.
Among hidden things,
I am silence.
Among the wise,
I am wisdom.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:
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Understand
that whatever
powerful being there is—
be it splendid,
or filled with vigour,
it comes to be
from only a small part
of my brilliance.

But what, Arjuna,
is the purpose
of this abundant wisdom
to you?
I stand, holding up
this entire world
with only a small part
of my self.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:
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Discourse 11 Quotes

Your Majesty,
when he said this,
Hari, the great lord
of yoga,
showed to Arjuna
the Son of Pritha
his highest,
most powerful, form.

Related Characters: Sanjaya (speaker), Arjuna, Krishna, Dhritarashtra
Page Number: 126
Explanation and Analysis:
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I see you everywhere:
arms, bellies, faces, eyes—
form without end.
I see you,
Lord of the Universe,
Manifold One,
you have no beginning,
no middle, no end.

Related Characters: Arjuna (speaker), Krishna
Page Number: 127
Explanation and Analysis:
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The form of mine
which you have seen
is hard to discern.
Even the gods
are eternally
wanting to have
the sacred sight
of this form.

Neither through Veda,
nor heated discipline,
nor gift,
nor sacrifice,
is it possible
to see me
in the way
you have seen me.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 137-8
Explanation and Analysis:
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Discourse 14 Quotes

Blameless One,
there sattva is
stainless
and brings light;
it binds by connection
to joy,
and by connection
to wisdom.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 156
Explanation and Analysis:
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Discourse 15 Quotes

The form of the ashvattha
is not to be discerned here,
neither its end,
nor beginning,
nor ongoing life.
When its fully grown roots
are cut by the strong axe
of non-clinging,

then that place must be sought
where, once they have gone,
they will not turn back again,
and they think,
‘I take refuge
in the first spirit
where activity flowed forth
in ancient times.’

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Related Symbols: Ashvattha Tree
Page Number: 163-4
Explanation and Analysis:
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Discourse 17 Quotes

Om tat sat.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 182
Explanation and Analysis:
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Discourse 18 Quotes

The poets know
that the leaving aside
of action based on desire
is renunciation;
and the clear-sighted see
that the giving up
of all fruit of such action
is called letting go.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 184
Explanation and Analysis:
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So this wisdom
told to you by me
is more hidden
than the hidden;
and when you have
pondered this
completely,
then do as you like.

Even further,
listen to
my highest word:
the most hidden of all;
you are greatly
loved by me,
so I will speak
for your benefit.

Devoted to me,
keep your mind intent on me,
give honour to me,
and sacrifice to me.
In this way, you will
truly go to me,
I promise,
for you are my beloved.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 201
Explanation and Analysis:
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One who learns
and recites
this conversation of ours
so filled with dharma
would sacrifice to me
with the sacrifice of knowledge.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 203
Explanation and Analysis:
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Arjuna Character Timeline in The Bhagavad Gita

The timeline below shows where the character Arjuna appears in The Bhagavad Gita. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Discourse 1
Detachment and Dharma Theme Icon
Forms of Worship Theme Icon
...horn, leading his army’s instruments to create an uproar until, from their chariot, Krishna and Arjuna blow their own conch horns, followed by Bhima, the other Pandava brothers, and their ally,... (full context)
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As he raises his bow, Arjuna asks Krishna to bring their chariot between the armies. Arjuna gazes out on the Kauravas,... (full context)
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Arjuna declares that he cannot slay his cousins and would take no joy in this evil... (full context)
Discourse 2
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As Arjuna weeps on the battlefield, Krishna calls him ignoble, disgraceful, and cowardly; Arjuna wonders how he... (full context)
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Krishna, the Absolute, and Human Knowledge Theme Icon
Reincarnation and the Self Theme Icon
Sanjaya explains that, as Arjuna refused to fight, Krishna grew quiet before apparently starting to laugh and then telling Arjuna... (full context)
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Krishna, the Absolute, and Human Knowledge Theme Icon
Reincarnation and the Self Theme Icon
Accordingly, Krishna tells Arjuna to fight; the self does not kill or get killed because it is eternal. This... (full context)
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The kshatriya warrior’s dharma, Krishna continues, lies precisely in battle, so Arjuna will harm his dharma by refusing to fight. People will speak of his “eternal disgrace”—which... (full context)
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Krishna explains that he has told Arjuna his insights in terms of samkhya and will now explain them in terms of yoga... (full context)
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Krishna explains that Arjuna must free himself from the three gunas, to which the Vedas belong, as well as... (full context)
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...insight supersedes his confusion and he learns to ignore the previous revelations he has heard, Arjuna can achieve yoga. (full context)
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Arjuna asks Krishna what language a wise meditator with unwavering thoughts could have—how could they “speak?... (full context)
Discourse 3
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Arjuna asks how Krishna can consider insight higher than action yet still encourage him to fight,... (full context)
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Arjuna asks why people can be compelled to do harm, and Krishna blames rajas, the guna... (full context)
Discourse 4
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...and passed it down to royal sages until humans lost their knowledge of it. However, Arjuna gets to learn the ancient yoga because he is Krishna’s devotee and friend. (full context)
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Arjuna asks how Krishna told the sun-god, who was purportedly born earlier, but Krishna insists that... (full context)
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Yet, by acting with insight, the ancients sought freedom, as Krishna implores Arjuna to do now. While some poets are confused by the difference between action and non-action,... (full context)
Reincarnation and the Self Theme Icon
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...of material things; surrendering and questioning can lead one to wisdom, and through such discourse, Arjuna can learn to see “all beings” in himself and in Krishna. Even the most evil... (full context)
Discourse 5
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Arjuna notes that Krishna praises both renouncing action and yoga, which seem to be opposites. He... (full context)
Discourse 6
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Arjuna asks how anyone can find a “stable foundation” for yoga since the mind always wanders.... (full context)
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Arjuna asks what happens to one who fails to fulfill yoga, for they must be lost,... (full context)
Discourse 7
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Krishna again implores Arjuna to follow yoga and take refuge in him, which will lead Arjuna to know him... (full context)
Discourse 8
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Arjuna asks Krishna a series of questions. He first asks what Brahman, the highest self, and... (full context)
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Reincarnation and the Self Theme Icon
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...being / one remembers” in that moment, so by always remembering Krishna, even during battle, Arjuna can join him. By practicing yoga and meditating on the formless “ancient one” who supports... (full context)
Discourse 9
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Krishna promises to tell Arjuna a “most hidden secret” because he “does not sneer”: knowledge and wisdom, together, can purify... (full context)
Reincarnation and the Self Theme Icon
Krishna reminds Arjuna that wise, pure, and sacrificial people who follow the Vedas will reach heaven and its... (full context)
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...and shudras can find this “highest path.” Brahmins and sages are nevertheless more devoted, and Arjuna’s devotion will lead him to Krishna, “the highest goal.” (full context)
Discourse 10
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Krishna tells Arjuna that he loves him and desires his well-being. Nobody, even among the gods and sages,... (full context)
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Arjuna acknowledges Krishna as the highest being, an eternal, divine spirit, and notes that the sages... (full context)
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Krishna promises to tell Arjuna about his forms, but only the primary ones, since his other forms are truly endless.... (full context)
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...brilliant, and truth itself among its possessors. He is the greatest of each people, including Arjuna among the Pandavas and Vyasa among the wise. He is authority among rulers, wise conduct... (full context)
Krishna, the Absolute, and Human Knowledge Theme Icon
...small part” of his “brilliance.” And yet Krishna asks what “this abundant wisdom” matters to Arjuna—for he can sustain the entire world with only a fragment of himself. (full context)
Discourse 11
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Arjuna declares that Krishna has told him “the highest mystery” of the “highest self” and banished... (full context)
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Krishna proclaims that he will show Arjuna his thousand different divine forms, in various colors and shapes, which include various other deities... (full context)
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Sanjaya explains to Dhritarashtra that Krishna then showed Arjuna his highest form, with numerous eyes, mouths, weapons, garments, and scents. Krishna contained “every wonder”... (full context)
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Arjuna saw the whole world together, unified yet divided in various ways, and bowed before Krishna... (full context)
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Arjuna saw Krishna filling the realm separating the earth from the sky, causing the world to... (full context)
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Arjuna saw all of the Bharatas, the Pandavas and Kauravas alike, enter Krishna’s mouth and get... (full context)
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...has come “to destroy the worlds,” for the Pandavas and Kauravas will die regardless of Arjuna’s presence. So Arjuna must fight for his honor and kingdom, since his enemies are already... (full context)
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Sanjaya explains that Arjuna again bowed before Krishna, proclaiming that everyone rightly honors and fears him. He declares Krishna... (full context)
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...explains that he showed his highest form for the first time out of favor to Arjuna—not even the greatest Vedic sages or devotees were able to see him, so Arjuna should... (full context)
Discourse 12
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Arjuna asks who is wiser: those who always practice yoga and devote themselves to the personal... (full context)
Discourse 13
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Arjuna asks Krishna about the body and spirit as objects of wisdom. Krishna says that beings... (full context)
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...understands the sacred ground, wisdom, and wisdom’s object can become one with him. He tells Arjuna that matter and spirit have no beginning, and that gunas and transformation come from matter,... (full context)
Discourse 14
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Krishna promises to again tell Arjuna the highest wisdom, which brought the sages fulfillment and the dissolution of self. Krishna declares... (full context)
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Arjuna asks what marks one who has transcended the gunas and how one goes about doing... (full context)
Discourse 16
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...in the “demonic condition.” The divine condition brings freedom and the demonic one bondage, but Arjuna was born to the first. (full context)
Discourse 17
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Arjuna asks Krishna what happens to those who abandon Vedic law but nevertheless perform sacrifices with... (full context)
Discourse 18
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Arjuna asks about what renunciation and letting go truly entail. Krishna explains that renunciation is “the... (full context)
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By investing in a “sense of ‘mine’” and deciding not to fight, Krishna says, Arjuna dooms himself to death and loses all hope of reaching Brahman. Krishna insists that Arjuna... (full context)
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Krishna again tells Arjuna to take refuge in the wisdom he has learned, to ponder it, and then to... (full context)
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Krishna tells Arjuna to never tell these truths to one who lacks discipline or devotion, or sneers at... (full context)
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Krishna asks whether Arjuna has listened “with focused thought” and overcome his “ignorance / and confusion.” Arjuna affirms that... (full context)
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...before his very eyes; he continues to rejoice as he continually remembers the dialogue between Arjuna and Krishna, as well as the latter’s incredible form. He suggests that, wherever Krishna and... (full context)