Failure is such Joy! :) I have spent 3 months contemplating this. I simply cannot write meaningfully of what these words mean to me.
My scrambled notes are below. Please feel free to assist in interpreting!
The very first words of Verse 1 of the Bhagavad Gītā are dharmakṣetre kurukṣetre.
These first two words are incredibly potent, they speak of so much more than the identity of a location. They foreshadow and encapsulate the whole of the Bhagavad Gītā.
These first two words point particularly to Discourse 13 in its entirety – the most significant and illuminating, sublimely mystical discourse of the Bhagavad Gītā, a wonderfully revealing insight into the human be-ing. It is the metaphysics of humanity. The immortal being, its physical embodiment, it’s purpose and law are main themes of the 13th discourse. Transcendental, eternal, is the knower of the field. The ‘knower’ liberates.
So, he the knowledge of the Field and the Knower of the Field are illuminated – and this life, this individuation, this body in which we dwell is the Field. Our self is the one, the all is one universal spirit everpresent, everywhere, allpervading.
Dharmaksetre is such a vast a concept. Though often translated in a fairly mundane, seemingly literal sense almost as though it were some ordinary descriptor: “On the hallowed field”; “On the holy plain”. Other translators name it more carefully – “the Sacred Place”.
Kuruksetre is often simply rendered as the field of the Kurus.
धर्म Dharma is mighty – to try to define encapsulate it’s meaning would take a very long treatise, beyond my scope. It can be defined simply as “righteous’, “holy”, “relating to spiritual duty”. In this context it pertains to the moral code of life, spiritual law, acting in accordance with that code, but also in accord with the nature of one’s being.
The word Dharma is derived from the Sanskrit root dhri , to hold. In a macrocosmic sense it refers to the principles and agent that sustains, upholds, supports or maintains the regulatory order of the universe, the mighty all-pervading order and power which underlies all of existence, the natural law that sustains the universe, and that keeps all of nature, existence in harmony and balance. What then is Dharma? The ultimate underlying motive principle, law and truth. Dharma is the ultimate principle of all, and all that encompasses and implies.
Ksetre can be translated as “in the field” There is also much more to this term – ksetra the ‘field’ is referred to in Discourse 1 of the Gita in these contexts:
धर्मक्षेत्र Dharmaksetra – “the field of Dharma”
कुरुक्षेत्र Kuruksetra – “the field of the Kurus”
The word ksetra, ‘field’ does not appear again until the 13th of the 18 discourses of the Bhagavad Gita. This chapter is deals with ‘the field’ and the ‘knower of the field’.
13.1 Arjuna spoke forth:
I wish to know about Prakruti (nature), Purusa (the Enjoyer), Kshetra (the field), Kshetrajna (the Knower of the field), Jnana(Knowledge), and Jneya (the object of knowledge). O Keshava,
Clearly, in Ch 13 we are dealing with far more than a paddock turned battefield!
The Satapatha Brahmana, Part 5, 18.104.22.168 speaks of Kuruksetra as a place of sacrifice and worship of the Gods:
teṣām kurukṣetram devayajanamāsa tasmādāhuḥ kurukṣetram devānāṃ
Their place of divine worship was Kuruksetra.
Therefore people say that Kuruksetra is the gods’ place of divine worship:
hence wherever in Kuruksetra one settles there one thinks
This is a place for divine worship;’ for it was the gods’ place of divine worship.
devayajanamiti tasmādyatra kva ca kurukṣetrasya nigacati tadeva manyata idam
devayajanamiti taddhi devānāṃ devayajanam
Back then to ‘dharmakṣetre kurukṣetre’ and where do ‘I’ stand? Not alone, not a singular being, but a minute organ of the great I Am, charged with a holy duty to know who I am, to do my duty, enact my Dharma in this eternal holy place.