The Mahabharata War takes place on the holy plain of Kurukshetra. The Bhagavad Gita starts on the tenth day of the war. Dhritarashtra, the blind king, asks his counselor Sanjaya, who has psychic vision, to tell him everything that has happened. Dhritarashtra asks with an ego-conscious mind, blinded with selfishness. The land is called Dharma-kshetra, because the battlefield is the place where celestials like Agni, Indra and Brahma performed their austerities. It is known as Kurukshetra because their ancestor Kuru also performed severe austerities on it.
Famous warriors on both sides are assembled on the battlefield. As family-chief as well as army-chief, Bhishma blows his conch as a sign to begin the battle. All others, on both sides, follow him, producing a tremendous sound. Arjuna, chief of the Pandavas, wants to see who is fighting on both sides. He requests Krishna, to place his chariot, between the two armies. Krishna places the chariot directly in front of Bhishma, Drona and other great warriors. On seeing his teachers, friends and relatives on both sides, the evils of war come to Arjuna's mind. He is stricken with grief and refuses to fight.
Forgetting his duty, Arjuna is depressed and unable to even hold his bow. He mentions other bad omens foreboding failure in the battle. Full of fear and anxiety, Arjuna apparently speaks wisely about the evil consequences of war. He says that he wants neither pleasure after killing his own relatives and teachers, nor even the three worlds to rule as a result of war. In his delusion and grief, Arjuna forgets Krishna's omniscient power and argues with him. Having expressed his inability to fight, laden with sorrow, Arjuna sits on the chariot, casting down his weapons.
Chapter 1 teaches that when the mind is blinded with affection and selfishness, as with Dhritarashtra, one will not bother about the welfare of others. When the mind is clouded with pride, jealousy, greed, ego, and desire for fame and power, as with Duryodhana, a person will not hesitate to destroy his own friends and relatives, as well as the nation. In the end this results in his own destruction. Anyone failing to do his duty as a result of attachment and desire, as Arjuna is doing, cannot utilize his own strength and courage. He will also be unable to feel the presence of God, even though God is seated before him and ready to help him. A sincere person, devoted to God, faithful and desireless, who treats friends and foes alike, like Sanjaya, will have peace of mind, and see the cosmic form of the Almighty. Arjuna's suffering may be seen as a result of disharmony between his mind and heart, his thoughts and feelings. The mind of Arjuna insists on performing the duty as a Kshatriya, to destroy the unrighteous enemy. His heart wants to protect his relatives and preceptors from destruction. This internal disharmony has created an imbalance between his physical, mental, intellectual, moral and spiritual levels.