Fulﬁllment In One’s Svadharma:
Arjuna lamented, fearing that killing his relatives for the sake of right to kingdom and comforts, would incur great paapa (BG 1.45). Sri Krishna replies to him in these slokas.
अथ चेत्त्वमिमं धर्म्यं संग्रामं न करिष्यसि।
ततः स्वधर्मं कीर्तिं च हित्वा पापमवाप्स्यसि।।2.33।।
atha – in case,
tvam – you
imam dharmyam sangrāmam na karisyasi cet – if however [As ‘chet’ comes in this clause] you choose your mind’s will to not ﬁght this dharmic war
tatah – then
svadharmam kīrtim ca hitvā – [and] leaving your dharma, losing your reputation,
pāpam avāpsyasi – [then you] will incur paapam.
Sri Krishna impresses upon Arjuna how the war is a great opportunity to perform his dharma, which will also protect his reputation as a kshatriya and gain for him praiseworthy position on this earth. If however he chooses to not ﬁght this war of dharma, — and thereby abandon this teaching – consequent to succumbing to emotions – he will incur paapam and lose reputation as adrishta and drishta phalam (unseen & seen result) respectively.
Arjuna had earlier surrendered to Sri Krishna seeking His guidance as a disciple (Gita Chap II.7). This sloka is a nudge to disciples who grow their ego (abandoning their svadharma) and expect the Guru to say what pleases them, rather than following the Guru’s words.
Having seen Krishna’s advice, let us see the implications from an adhyatmic or spiritual standpoint (Dharma drishti) as well as from a worldly, transactional standpoint (Laukika drishti).
Sri Krishna repeats the word ‘dharma’ (earlier sloka Gita Chap II.31). One should avoid what is condemned by the sastras (nishiddha karma such as killing, stealing, illicit relationships, gambling, alcoholism). One should perform dharma whole- heartedly with shraddha, as ordained, all the time, to the best of one’s ability. Omission to carry out one’s ordained duty results in pratyavaya dosha (the sin of omission). Thiruvalluvar says one who does what he should not, and one who does not do what he should, both head towards ruin (Kural #466)
Arjuna has a choice between his duty to ﬁght (wherein he may be compelled to slay his grandfather Bhishma and Guru Drona), and not to ﬁght, by which he may incur pratyavaya dosha – the sin of omitting to do his duty.
Yena yena sarirena yadyad karma karoti yaha Tena Tena sarirena tadtad phalam ashnute – You will reap the consequences, by the same organ of action.
śauryam tējō dhrtirdāksyam yuddhē cāpyapalāyanam
dānamīśvarabhāvaśca ksātram karma svabhāvajam ৷৷18.43৷৷
The natural qualities/ duties of the kshatriyas are heroism, boldness, fortitude, capability, generosity, leadership and also not retreating from battle.
Thus, we see in this verse, that a king or warrior, should not retreat from battle. As a kshatriya it is his duty to face the battle.
Laukika drishti (worldly angle)
Now from practical point of view, Krishna presents the same message to Arjuna.
अकीर्तिं चापि भूतानि कथयिष्यन्ति तेऽव्ययाम्।
Cha-api – further
bhūtāni – people
avyayām–persistently (more like indelible, everlasting, long lasting…)
kathayisyanti tē – will speak of you, about your action
akīrtim – infamy.
sambhāvitasya – (for) an honourable one
akīrti ca – facing defamation,
maranāt atiricyatē – is greater than death.
What Krishna meant was, that Arjuna who was a renowned kshatriya, known for his valor and archery, as Drona’s best disciple and so on, if he were to abandon the war, the same people who praised him would taunt him for being a coward; and that infamy would be worse than death.
Here are some subhashitaas and verses that
reinforce these words of counsel from Krishna:
चिता-चिंता द्वयोर्मध्ये चिंता एव गरीयसी
चिता दहति निर्जीवं चिंता प्राणयुतम् वपु:
Citaa cintaa dvayor madhye cintaa eva gariasi Citaa dahati nirjiivam cintaa prannayutam vapuhu – Between the ﬁre that burns the corpse and anxiety, anxiety is stronger (in its ability to burn). Fire burns only the lifeless body whereas worry burns one even when living.
Life is temporary, honor is eternal
Praanam chaapi parityajya maanamevaabhi rakshatu Anityo bhavati prano maanamaa Chandra taarakam – Honor should be protected and preserved even at the cost of one’s life, for life is transient; honor is eternal like the moon and stars.
Praise earned by performing punya is very important especially for a ruler.
भयाद्रणादुपरतं मंस्यन्ते त्वां महारथाः।
येषां च त्वं बहुमतो भूत्वा यास्यसि लाघवम्।।2.35।।
mahārathāh – mighty warriors
mamsyantē – will think,
tvām – you
Bhayāt ranād uparatam – desisted from battle out of fear.
Ca – further,
yēsām tvam bahumata: bhūtvā – for them who have held you in high regard for your skills in warfare,
yāsyasi l āghavam – you will fall to disgrace/infamy.
Arjuna’s skills in warfare were commended even by the great warriors in the enemy army. If however, Arjuna ran away from the battleﬁeld (out of his present confusion and doubt), those same great warriors who respected him, would grab the chance to speak poorly of him and despise him for having desisted from battle out of fear.
He may be a kind-hearted man; but no one will appreciate his kind heartedness. Even his guru would feel disappointed about a shishya having brought ill-repute.
Thus, carrying forth His argument and justiﬁcation, upto the 18th Chapter, Krishna says in 18:59 that, forced by such circumstances and by his own nature (that will propel him to pick up his bow), Arjuna will return to the battleﬁeld.
अवाच्यवादांश्च बहून् वदिष्यन्ति तवाहिताः
निन्दन्तस्तव सामर्थ्यं ततो दुःखतरं नु किम्।।2.36।।
tava ahitāh – your enemies
avācya vādāmśca bahūn vadisyanti – will speak many malicious and humiliating words that should not be spoken (malicious, cruel, defaming)
Nindanta: tava sāmarthyam – belittling your prowess and valor
tatah duhkhataram nu kim – What could be more painful than that?
Arjuna would not stand worthless words of reproach spoken by the enemy camp. Arjuna was ambidextrous – the skill of shooting with both hands at the same time — and that had earned him the name Savyasachin. Sri Krishna warns that such glory, such fame, such name, all
would come to naught when his earned fame and prowess would be belittled by his opponents who would say extremely malicious and insulting words that his greatness was transitory, not capable of withstanding the test of a battle (which is why he ran away). Nothing, says Krishna, can be more painful for Arjuna, than hearing those words.
A ruler should always do punyam & be praiseworthy and avoid infamy & paapam.
Lessons for us:
* Any amount of joy or sorrow should not cause one to abandon dharma.
* Fault finding and finger pointing is a natural human tendency.
परगुण परमाणून् पर्वतीकृत्य नित्यं
निजह्रदि विकसन्तः सन्ति सन्तः कियन्तः ७९
Paraguna paramānun parvatīkrtya nityam nija-hrdi vikasantah santi santah kiyantah ||
–Bhartruhari’s Niiti Shatakam verse 79
Meaning: How many men are there who with their nectarine thoughts, words and actions, fill the three worlds with their service-filled blessings? Who have the grace to laud even a small virtue in another to the size of a mountain, feeling fulfilled and happy in themselves?
For that, we should see this entire world as the Self using atma jnana. This broad, inclusive thinking is unique to our philosophy that makes Bharat a land of the happy and the wise.