In Krsna's instructions to Arjuna, He emphasizes duty both
for the common man and for the self-realized soul.
sva-dharmam api caveksya
na vikampitum arhasi
dharmyad dhi yuddhac chreyo 'nyat
ksatriyasya na vidyate
"Considering your specific duty as a ksatriya, you should know that there is no better engagement for you than fighting on religious principles; and so there is no need for hesitation." (Bhagavad-gita 2.31)
Sva-dharmam. Sva means "own," and dharmam means "occupation." According to Vedic civilization, everyone has his sva-dharma. This has been misinterpreted by rascals who say that sva-dharma means anyone can discover his own religious principle. Yata mata tata patha: "Whatever you think is a religious principle, that's all right." This is going on. But that is not the meaning. Sva-dharma means "own occupation." Actually, dharma means "that which you cannot give up." You have to capture it to keep your existence.
Because we have got body and soul two different things we are a combination: body and soul. So sva-dharma means the occupation of the soul. In the material condition we do not understand what I am, whether I am this body or I am soul. Mostly, people do not know that they are soul, not this body.
The body is the dress, or outward covering, but so long as one is in the bodily concept of life, one has a different occupational duty according to the conception of the body. Everyone's nature is being conducted by the three modes of material nature: goodness, passion, and ignorance. Therefore, according to one's nature, there is occupational duty. That is the scientific division of society. At the present moment, there is no such division. Therefore, gradually people are becoming degraded to the lowest quality: ignorance, sudra. They are taking to the sudra principles.
Yesterday I was presented with a paper: the Indian government's scheme to help people start small-scale industries. They want to help people start small industries for making motor parts. But the government does not know that to engage people in such industrial affairs means to bring them to the sudra platform. Every government is encouraging people to become sudras. But actually, human society must be divided into four parts brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, and sudra just as in our body there is division: the head department, the arms department, the belly department and the legs department.
You cannot say. "Let there be only the legs department There is no use of head and arms and belly." Will that go on nicely? If you cut off all other parts and simply keep the legs, will that be a very nice proposal? The legs are required, but if you keep the body with legs only, then this kind of body is a dead body.
The head is especially required. If you cut off the head. then the body is dead. You can cut off the arms, you can cut off the legs, but if you cut off the head or the belly, also it will be a dead body.
So, sva-dharma means the divisions of society: the brahmanadivision, the ksatriya division, the vaisya division, and the sudra division. Everything is required. It is not that sudra is not required. The sudra is required, but if you make propaganda simply to make people sudras, then who will give direction? If there is no head, who will give direction?
So a ksatriya has got a very difficult task. Ksatriya means the governing division. The governing division has got a very important duty: to see that everyone is following his duty that the brahmana is following his duty, the ksatriya is following his duty. the vaisya is following, the sudrais following.
India nowadays has become a secular government "Secular government" means one that is impartial to any religious system. But the government should not be so callous in religious principles that it lets people do whatever they like. No. The government cannot do so. The government should declare. "You are a Hindu? You execute your own system of religion. You are a Muslim? You execute your system of religion. You are a Buddhist? You follow your system of religion. You are a Christian? You follow your system of religion."
But the government cannot be callous that whatever they may follower whatever they may not do, the government is neutral. No. If anyone is professing that "I am a Hindu." then it is the governments duty to see whether he is actually executing the Hindu principles of religion. That is a secular state. If you are calling yourself a Muslim, then it is the government's duty to see whether you are actually following the Muslim principles of religion. If you are a Christian, it is the government's duty to see that you are following the Christian principles of religion. Not that "you can do whatever you like."
Similarly, if one is claiming that he is a brahmana, it is the government's duty to see whether he's strictly following the brahminical principles sama, dama, titiksava, arjavam whether he is strictly following how to become self-controlled, how to remain always pure, clean, suci. Another name for brahmana is suci, "always clean." Similarlyarjavam, simplicity. The brahmanas' life should be very simple. They should not imitate the ksatriya s and the vaisyas and the sudras.
This is the principle: the government must see whether one is actually following the brahminical principles. So here Krsna is pointing out that "As a ksatriya you must follow your principles, ksatriya principles." What are the ksatriya principles? Dharmyad dhi yuddhac chreyo 'nyat ksatriyasya na vidyate. A ksatriya must be always prepared to insure even by fighting that people are keeping their own principles of religion. That is the ksatriya's duty.
If a brahmana is bluffing people, saying "I am brahmana" but acting like a sudra, immediately a ksatriya should point this out and challenge him to fight "Why are you cheating people?" Similarly, if a ksatriya is declaring "I am ksatriya" but he's acting as a sudra, it is the ksatriya's or the government's duty to challenge him: "Why are you cheating people?"
So a ksatriya's business is always to fight, because if you are not acting nicely and I say. "You are not acting nicely," you'll be angry. If one is actually a brahmana. he must act as a brahmana. So if somebody says. "You are declaring yourself a brahmana, but you are not following the brahminical principles," he will be angry. But a ksatriya 's duty is that if the so-called brahmana is angry, he should be punished immediately. Theksatriya should challenge. Challenging means yuddhac fight. So aksatriya cannot be nonviolent. It is not possible. Violence is required to keep the social system strictly in order. Just like the government has violence departments: the police department, the military department. That is required to keep the society in order.
So here Krsna says. "You are a ksatriya; your duty is to fight."Dharmyad dhi yuddhac: "This fight arranged by Me on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra because it is sanctioned by Me. it is dharma-yuddha,religious fighting." It is not like the political diplomats declaring war to keep the people in ignorance. No. It is sanctioned by Lord Krsna. Whatever is sanctioned by Krsna, that is actually dharma. I have several times given you the explanation of dharma: dharmam tu saksad bhagavat pranitam. Whatever God sanctions, that is dharma.
So God, Krsna, has personally sanctioned the Battle of Kuruksetra. Therefore it is dharma-yuddha, a religious fight It is not the ordinary fighting of diplomats and politicians. It is dharma-yuddha. Therefore Krsna says, dharmyad dhi yuddhac chreyo 'nya ksatriyasya na vidyate: "You are a ksatriya. You are fighting for the sake of the religious system. That is your first-class duty."
So the four principles must be there in the society. The brahmana will not be required to fight. A brahmana will not be required to work like asudra. A brahmana will not be required to work like a vaisya. Therefore a brahmana can beg. Pathan pathan yajan yajan dana pratigraha.This is the brahmana's business. He must be a good scholar in Vedic literature, and he must teach others. Not that "I have learned everything; I'll not teach anything." No. A brahmana must be well versed in the Vedic literature, and he must preach also, make others brahmana. Not that "I have become brahmana. So there is no need of others becomingbrahmana. There will be competition."
In India some people have become very much afraid that I am making Europeans and Americans brahmanas, so they are very much against me. They come to fight with me. In Hyderabad they came to fight. "Sir, you are making these Europeans and Americans brahmanas? This is not good." I said, "And why not?" So we had some discussion.
So actually it is not that a brahmana is made by birth. Catur-varnyam maya srstam guna-karma-vibhagasah. A brahmana is qualified by his quality and his work. Similarly, all classifications are by quality and work. This is confirmed by Narada Muni, yasya yal laksanam proktam pumso varnabhivyanjakam/ yad anyatrapi drsyeta tat tenaiva vinirdiset. Yad anyatra means that if the brahminical qualities are visible, manifest in a person of another class even in a sudraor candala [outcaste] tat tenaiva vinirdiset: one should accept him as a brahmana. Similarly, if one is born in a brahmana family but his qualities are like those of a sudra, he should be accepted as a sudra. This is the injunction given by Narada Muni, who is not an ordinary person. And upon this, Sridhara Swami the greatest commentator on the Srimad-Bhagavatam, has written that janma, birth, is not the chief requirement for becoming a brahmana; one must be qualified with sama, dama, titiksava, suci. Then he should be accepted.
So it is the duty of the ksatriyas to see that everyone is performing his religious duty according to his position. Unfortunately. the so-called government men are also sudras. The so-called priests are sudras. The so-called vaisyas are sudras. The whole world is now full of sudras. You cannot expect anything very nice in this situation, because everything is being conducted by sudras.
Krsna is advising Arjuna: "This is not an ordinary fight. It is dharma-yuddha, and you should accept it; you should not hesitate. After all, the soul is never killed." As long as one is in the bodily concept of life, sva-dharma means this brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, and sudra. Arjuna was a ksatriya; therefore his sva-dharma, his occupational duty, was to fight.
The real sva-dharma is spiritual sva-dharma. When you go deep into the matter when you understand that "I am not this body, I am soul" that is real sva-dharma. And what is the occupation of that sva-dharma? That is to be engaged in the service of the Lord. Jivera 'svarupa' haya krsnera 'nitya-dasa.' Actually that is sva-dharma.Every soul is eternally a servant of Lord Krsna. That is spiritual sva-dharma. And material sva-dharma means this brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, and sudra.
Therefore the sva-dharma changes as soon as one is elevated to the spiritual platform. That is explained in Bhagavad-gita: sa gunan samatityaitan brahma-bhuyaya kalpate. One who is engaged in devotional service is transcendental. He has no more sva-dharma in the bodily concept of life, because he's neither brahmana nor ksatriya norvaisya nor sudra. Caitanya Mahaprabhu has said. "I am not abrahmana: I am not a sudra; I am not a ksatriya: I am not abrahmacari: I am not a sannyasi." In this way He negated all eight items of varnasrama-dharma. Sva-dharma means varnasrama-dharma: varna and asrama. Four castes: brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, andsudra. And four spiritual orders: brahmacari, grhastha, vanaprastha,and sannyasa.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu denied that He belonged to any of them "I am not this: I am not this: I am not that." Then what are You? Gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah. Gopi-bhartuh means "the maintainer of the gopis [Krsna]." "I am the servant of the servant of the servant of the servant of whoever is engaged in the service of the lotus feet of Krsna."
Those who are in Krsna consciousness, those who have decided to serve Krsna only, are no longer in the categories of the bodily sva-dharma of brahmana, ksatriya , vaisya, sudra, or brahmacari, vanaprastha, and so on. They are transcendental. That is confirmed in every sastra [scripture].
But as long as our bodily concept of life is not completely eradicated, we must follow the sva-dharma of the body. When one is actually advanced, he is a maha-bhagavata. We should not imitate that, but as we advance in Krsna consciousness, we become transcendental to this bodily concept of life. Krsna says, mam ca yo 'vyabhicarena bhakti-yogena sevate/ sa gunan samatityaitan brahma-bhuyaya kalpate.
So anyone who engages without any reservation in the service of the Lord is not within the eight categories of varnasrama-dharma. He is transcendental. And as a Krsna conscious person, he can act in any category by the order of Krsna. He can act as a brahmana, or he can act as a sudra, because his main business is to carry out Krsna's order. He's no longer within the category of this sva-dharma.
So Krsna is leaving no option for Arjuna but to fight: "This way or that way, you must fight. If you think you are not in the bodily concept, then it is My order 'You must fight.' If you think you are in the bodily concept of life, then you are a ksatriya you must fight Both ways you must fight" This is Krsna's conclusion.
Thank you very much