"I think [Robert E.] Lee should have been hanged. It was all the worse that he was a good man, had a good character, and acted conscientiously. It's always the good men who do the most harm."
Henry Adams

"A man's character is his destiny."

General Robert E. Lee
Born a Virginian, and therefore destined by fate to take up arms against his former West Point comrades and the United States of America

General Robert E. Lee

Disgusted by the senseless killing and wastage of war, the warrior Arjuna at the beginning of a great battle throws down his weapons and refuses to kill his brothers. In the following fascinating conversation, the god Krishna persuades Arjuna that as a warrior his role is to fight, no matter how revolting the cause or pointless the deaths, and that no mortal can know the logic of fate or the will of Heaven. Krishna tells Arjuna that the workings of the mind of God is unknowable to human beings; the material world is not real, and life and death are twin illusions. According to Krishna, the role of man on this earth is to endure his lot, and to act in accordance with his place and destiny during his lifetime.

from The Bhagavad-Gita

On the field of Truth, on the battle-field of life, what came to pass, Sanjaya, when my sons and their warriors faced those of my brother Pandu?

When your son Duryodhana saw the armies of the sons of Pandu he went to his master in the art of war and spoke to him these words:

See there, master, the vast army of the Pandavas well set in the order of battle by the son of Drupada, your own wise pupil.

There can we see heroic warriors, powerful archers, as great as Bhima and Arjuna in battle: Yuyudhana and Virata and king Drupada of the great chariot of war.

And Dhrishta-ketu of the steadfast banner, and Chekitana, the king of the Chedis. We see the heroic king of Kasi, the Purujit the conqueror, and his brother Kunti-bhoja, and Saibya mighty among men.

And victorious Yudhamanyu, and powerful Uttamaujas; and Saubhadra, the son of Aruna, and the five princes of queen Draupadi. See them all in their chariots of war.

But hear also the names of our great warriors, the leaders of my own army. I will bring them to your memory.

There is yourself, my master in war, and also Bhishma, old and wise. There is Karna, the enemy of Arjuna, his half brother; and Kripa, victor of battles. There is your own son Asvatthama, and also my brother Vikarna. There is Saumadatti, king of the Bahikas.

And many other heroic warriors ready to give their lives for me; all armed with manifold weapons, and all of them masters of war.

We can number our armies led by Bhishma, but innumerable seem their armies led by Bhishma.

Stand therefore all firm in the line of battle. Let us all defend our leader Bhishma.

To encourage Duryodhana, Bhishma, the glorious old warrior of the Kurus, sounded loud his war-cry like the roar of a lion, and then blew his far-sounding conch-shell.

Then the rumbling war drums, the stirring sound of cymbals and trumpets, and the roaring of conch-shells and horns filled the sky with a fearful thunder.

Thereupon Krishna of Madhava and Arjuna, the son of Pandu, standing in their glorious chariot drawn by white horses, answered the challenge and blew their divine conch-shells.

Krishna, the Lord of the soul, blew his conch-shell Pancha-janya. Arjuna the winner of treasure, sounded forth his own Deva-datta. His brother Bhima, of tremendous feats, blew his great conch-shell the Paundra.

Their eldest brother, king Yudhishthira, sounded his Eternal-Victory; and Nakula and Saadeva the Sweet-sounding and the Jewel-blossom.

And the king of Kasi of the powerful bow, and Sikhhandi of the great war chariot, Dhrishta-dyumna and Virata, and Satyaki the never conquered;

And king Drupada and the sons of his daughter Draupadi; and Saubhadra, the heroic son of Arjuna, sounded from all sides their conch-shells of war.

At that fearful sound the earth and the heavens trembled, and also trembled the hearts of Duryodhana and his warriors.

The flight of arrows was now to begin and Arjuna, on whose banner was the symbol of an ape, saw Duryodhana and his warriors drawn up in their lines of battle. He thereupon took his bow.

And spoke these words to Krishna:


Drive my chariot, Krishna immortal, and place it between the two armies.

That I may see those warriors who stand there eager for battle, with whom I must now fight at the beginning of this war.

That I may see those who have come here eager and ready to fight, in their desire to do the will of the evil son of Dhrita-rashtra.


When Krishna heard the words of Arjuna he drove their glorious chariot and placed it between the two armies.

And facing Bhishma and Drona and other royal rulers he said: "See, Arjuna, the armies of the Kurus, gathered here on this field of battle."

Then Arjuna saw in both armies fathers, grandfathers, sons, grandsons; fathers of wives, uncles, masters; brothers, companions and friends.

When Arjuna thus saw his kinsmen face to face in both lines of battle, he was overcome by grief and despair and thus he spoke with a sinking heart.

When I see all my kinsmen, Krishna, who have come here on this field of battle, Life goes from my limbs and they sink, and my mouth is sear and dry; a trembling overcomes my body, and my hair shudders in horror;

My great bow Gandiva falls from my hands, and the skin of my flesh is burning; I am no longer able to stand because my mind is whirling and wandering.

And I see forebodings of evil, Krishna. I cannot foresee any glory if I kill my own kinsmen in the sacrifice of battle.

Because I have no wish for victory, Krishna, nor for a kingdom, nor for its pleasures. How can we want a kingdom Govinda, or its pleasures or even life,

When those for whom we want a kingdom, and its pleasures, and the joys of life, are here in the field of battle about to give up their wealth and their life?

Facing us in the field of battle are teachers, fathers and sons; grandsons, grandfathers, wives' brothers; mothers' brothers and fathers of wives.

These I do not wish to slay, even if I myself am slain. Not even for the kingdom of the three worlds: how much less for a kingdom of the earth?

If we kill these evil men, evil shall fall upon us: what joy in their death could we have, o Janardana, mover of souls?

I cannot therefore kill my own kinsmen, the sons of king Dhrita-rashtra, the brother of my own father. What happiness could we ever enjoy, if we killed our own kinsmen in battle?

Even if they, with minds overcome by greed, see no evil in the destruction of a family, see no sin in the treachery to friends;

Shall we not, who see the evil of destruction, shall we not refrain from this terrible deed?

The destruction of a family destroys its rituals of righterousness, and when the righteous rituals are no more, unrighteousness overcomes the whole family.

When unrighteous disorder prevails, the women sin and are impure; and when women are not pure, Krishna, there is disorder of castes, social confusion.

This disorder carries down to hell the family and the destroyers of the family. The spirits of their dead suffer in pain when deprived of the ritual offerings.

Those evil deeds of the destroyers of a family, which cause this social disorder, destroy the righteousness of birth and the ancestral rituals of righteousness.

And have we not heard that hell is waiting for those whose familiar rituals of righteousness are no more?

O day of darkness! What evil spirit moved our minds when for the sake of an earthly kingdom we came to this field of battle ready to kill our own people?

Better for me indeed if the sons of Dhrita-rashtra, with arms in hand, found me unarmed, unresisting, and killed me in the struggle of war.

Thus spoke Arjuna in the field of battle, and letting fall his bow and arrows he sank down in his chariot, his soul overcome by despair and grief.