On the field of Kurukshetra all was tranquil the evening before the battle between the forces of the Kauravas and the Pandavas. Arjuna who was the greatest archer of the latter group, pondered heavily on what was to come. For you see, the Kauravas were his brothers too and when the slaughter began, he knew he would be killing members of his own family.
He turned to the Lord Krishna in anguish:
"Alas what heinous sin are we about to commit from greed of sovereign and power, that we are prepared to slay our kith and kin! Happier would I be if my Kaurava brothers were to strike me down on the battlefield, unresisting and unarmed."
Krishna proceeded to instruct him on how delusion leads one to differentiate between atman, the permanent universal spirit and the transitory body, which is mistaken for the true self. He taunted Arjuna:
"How is it that at this perilous moment, thoughts unworthy of the noble have overtaken thee?"
"How can I engage with arrows my teachers Bhishma and Drona who are worthy of my reverence? Nor do we know whether it is better that we conquer them or they conquer us. I will not fight. I will not kill my teachers or my kinsmen."
Krishna then spoke:
"You are a kshatriya [warrior caste] and it is your duty to fight injustice and oppose wrongfulness. The struggle you seek to avoid is the struggle within your own self. It cannot be escaped …
Renunciation [sannyasa] and action [karmayoga] can both lead to salvation, Arjuna, but of the two the latter is essential, while the former is necessary.
One who is always in action can be a good renouncer, but the one who avoids action, excused through poetic lies told to oneself repeated to oneself like a monotonous mantra, is a hypocrite.
We all must act, but it is the attachment to the result of our action, that we must renounce.
You grieve for naught, O shining prince.
\\ You kill no one, for I have already slain everyone!"