Bhagavan Krishna further elaborates the importance of doing one’s prescribed duties or follow their Sva-dharma in these ten verses. Arjuna, as a Kshatriya, is duty bound to engage in a battle to protect Dharma. Shri Krishna explains that by not choosing to fight, he will not only incur sins but also lose his fame as he will not be lauded as a kind and benevolent. Bhagavan says that he would be ridiculed by his enemies and his people as a coward and for an honourable person like Arjuna that would be worse than death. Lord Krishna makes his final argument that if Arjuna fought and is killed he will get heavenly planes while if he was victorious, he would enjoy in this world and either ways, he had nothing to lose.
Bhagavan has now set the scene for explaining the discipline of Karma Yoga in his next set of verses.
2.31 Shloka 2.31
स्वधर्ममपि चावेक्ष्य न विकम्पितुमर्हसि।
धर्म्याद्धि युद्धाछ्रेयोऽन्यत्क्षत्रियस्य न विद्यते।।2.31।।
Sva-dharmam api caveksya na vikampitum arhasi
Dharmyad dhi yuddhac chreyo ‘nyat ksatriyasya na vidyate ||2.31||
Meaning: Considering your specific duty as a Kshatriya, you should know that there is no better engagement for you than fighting on religious principles; and so there is no need for hesitation.
Svadharma means specific or ordained duties. The of “Varna-Ashrama Dharma” defines specific duties in terms of the specific modes of one’s field of specialisation. Kshatriyas are warriors and hence duty bound to take up arms to protect and maintain rule of law. Brahmins are ordained to acquire and impart knowledge and are required to lead a life of austerity. Discharging one’s specific duty in any field of action in accordance with Varna-Ashrama Dharma serves to elevate one to higher planes of life.
Following of Svadharma is ordained by the Lord and this is elaborated in the Fourth Chapter. Until the attainment of “Jivanmukti” or liberation, one has to perform the duties in accordance with the “varna” principles in order to achieve liberation.
‘Kshat’ means hurt and one who gives protection from harm is called Kshatriya (trayate—to give protection). Bhagavan Krishna responds to Arjuna’s question of what is the highest good with the explanation of “Svadharma” or the principles of righteousness. For a Kshatriya there is nothing more righteous than to engage in a battle to protect dharma.
2.32 Shloka 2.32
यदृच्छया चोपपन्नं स्वर्गद्वारमपावृतम्।
सुखिनः क्षत्रियाः पार्थ लभन्ते युद्धमीदृशम्।।2.32।।
Yadrcchaya copapannam svarga-dvaram apavrtam |
Sukhinah kshatriyah partha labhante yuddham idrsam ||2.32||
Meaning: O’ Partha, happy are the Kshatriyas who get such opportunities to engage in a righteous battle that comes on its own accord, thereby opening the doors of the heavenly planes for them.
As Supreme teacher of the world, Lord Krishna censures the attitude of Arjuna who said, ‘I do not find any good in this fighting as it will cause perpetual habitation in hell.’ For a Kshatriya, it is his prime duty to engage in a battle to protect dharma. In the Parasara-smriti, Sage Parasara (father of Vyasa) states:
Kshatriyo hi praja raksan sastra-panih pradandayan |
Nirjitya parasainyadi ksitim dharmena palayet ||
Meaning: A Kshatriya’s duty is to protect the natives from all kinds of harm, and for that reason he has to engage in violent acts where required to maintain law and order. Therefore he has to conquer hostile kings and govern righteously.
Considering all aspects, Arjuna had no reason to refrain from fighting. If he should conquer his enemies, he would enjoy the kingdom; and if he should die in the battle, he would be elevated to the heavenly planes whose doors will be wide open for him. Either ways, there was no reason for him to lament.
The words ‘Yadrcchaya upapannam’ means ‘arrived at on its own accord’; Bhagavan is emphasising that this opportunity has presented itself and any Kshatriya would embrace it with glee. It is only the most fortunate among Kshatriyas who get such unsolicited opportunities. For a Kshatriya who fights bravely, a war brings fame and opulence in this life and the next. By engaging in battle for a righteous cause exhibiting outstanding valour one’s glory is guaranteed. But what happens to those who are slain in battle? Here Lord Krishna confirms that for the valorous who fall in battle there is an open door directly to the heavenly planes, the same as for the yogis who fall short of achieving liberation.
2.33 Shloka 2.33
अथ चैत्त्वमिमं धर्म्यं संग्रामं न करिष्यसि।
ततः स्वधर्मं कीर्तिं च हित्वा पापमवाप्स्यसि।।2.33।।
Atha cet tvam imam dharmyam sangramam na karisyasi |
Tatah sva-dharmam kirtim ca hitva papam avapsyasi ||2.33||
Meaning: If, however, you do not fight this righteous war, then you will certainly incur sins for neglecting your duties and thus lose your reputation as a fighter.
Arjuna was a brave warrior who attained fame by fighting many great adversaries. After fighting Lord Shiva, who was in the guise of a hunter, Arjuna pleased the Lord and received Pashupata-Astra as a reward. Everyone knew that he was a great warrior and even Dronacharya gave him the special weapon, the Brahmastra (which Drona didn’t even teach his son, Ashwatthama). But if he abandoned the battle, he would not only neglect his ordained duty as a Kshatriya, but he would lose all his fame and good name and incur sins.
Now Bhagavan Krishna responds to Arjuna’s distress of not wanting to slay his kins such as Bhishma and Drona but instead is willing to be slain by them. The use of the word ‘atha’ is to emphasise another point of view that if Arjuna declines to fight this righteous war and chooses to disregard the instruction he will neither be happy this world or the world beyond.
2.34 Shloka 2.34
अकीर्तिं चापि भूतानि कथयिष्यन्ति तेऽव्ययाम्।
Akirtim capi bhutani kathayisyanti te ‘vyayam
Sambhavitasya cakirtir maranad atiricyate ||2.34||
Meaning: People will always speak of your infamy, and for one who is honoured, dishonour is worse than death.
Both a friend and philosopher to Arjuna, Lord Krishna now gives His final view on Arjuna’s refusal to fight. The Lord says, ‘Arjuna, if you leave the battlefield, people will call you a coward and taunt you. For an honourable man like you, infamy is worse than death’.
By abandoning this war of righteousness, Arjuna would not only lose his excellent reputation but great misfortune would also befall on him. Bhagavan Krishna uses the word ‘akirtim’ meaning ‘infamy’ to emphasise that for an honourable man is worse than death. Instead of being called a valiant warrior, Arjuna, the wielder of the intrepid ‘Gandiva’ bow, would be known as a timid and meek person who fled the battlefield. Not only will happiness and fame elude him but the people will chastise him and speak of his act of cowardice openly.
The Supreme Lord Krishna is telling Arjuna that forever history will brand him for his cowardice. If Arjuna was to reply that public opinion is of no consequence to him, the Supreme Lord neutralises that by stating that for a person of honour possessing the qualities of heroism, determination, strength, courage etc., to accept infamy is worse than death. If he was to acquire disgrace of this kind death for him would certainly be much better.
2.35 Shloka 2.35
भयाद्रणादुपरतं मंस्यन्ते त्वां महारथाः।
येषां च त्वं बहुमतो भूत्वा यास्यसि लाघवम्।।2.35।।
Bhayad ranad uparatam mamsyante tvam maha-rathah |
Yesam ca tvam bahu-mato bhutva yasyasi laghavam ||2.35||
Meaning: The great generals who held you in high esteem will think that you have left the battlefield out of fear; thus they will consider you a coward and you will fall into disgrace.
Bhagavan Krishna continued to give His discourse to Arjuna: ‘Do not think that the great generals like Duryodhana, Karna, and other contemporaries will think that you have left the battlefield out of compassion for your brothers and grandfather. They will think that you have left out of fear for your life. And thus their high opinion of your personality will be ruined’.
Arjuna would belittle himself in front of all the mighty warriors headed by Bhishma, Drona and Karna if he was to leave the battlefield exhibiting grief. All the warriors on both sides would think he left the war out of fear. As a Kshatriya never refuses to engage in battle.
2.36 Shloka 2.36
अवाच्यवादांश्च बहून् वदिष्यन्ति तवाहिताः।
निन्दन्तस्तव सामर्थ्यं ततो दुःखतरं नु किम्।।2.36।।
Avacya-vadams ca bahun vadisyanti tavahitah |
Nindantas tava samarthyam tato duhkhataram nu kim ||2.36||
Meaning: Your enemies will describe you in many unkind words and scorn your ability. What could be more painful than that?
Arjuna should properly fortify his mind and prepare for war with the firm conviction that embarking on the course of a righteous war is the guaranteed means for him to achieve moksha or final salvation.
2.37 Shloka 2.37
हतो वा प्राप्स्यसि स्वर्गं जित्वा वा भोक्ष्यसे महीम्।
तस्मादुत्तिष्ठ कौन्तेय युद्धाय कृतनिश्चयः।।2.37।।
Hato va prapsyasi svargam jitva va bhoksyase mahim |
Tasmad uttistha kaunteya yuddhaya krta-niscayah ||2.37||
Meaning: O’ son of Kunti, either you will be killed on the battlefield and attain the heavenly planes, or you will conquer and enjoy the earthly kingdom. Therefore, get up and fight with determination.
Even though there was no certainty of victory for Arjuna’s side, he still had to fight; for, even being killed there, he could be elevated into the heavenly planes. Arjuna is called as Kaunteya to remind him that such conduct is indeed expected from him as the son of the great Queen Kunti.
In this verse, Bhagavan emphasises the word ‘hata’ meaning ‘slain’ that there is benefit in both scenarios i.e. if slain in the line of duty, he would be elevated to heavenly plane and if he was victorious he can enjoy the kingdom in this world. As both results give benefit, Arjuna should rise up and fight.
2.38 Shloka 2.38
सुखदुःखे समे कृत्वा लाभालाभौ जयाजयौ।
ततो युद्धाय युज्यस्व नैवं पापमवाप्स्यसि।।2.38।।
Sukha-duhkhe same krtva labhalabhau jayajayau |
Tato yuddhaya yujyasva naivam papam avapsyasi ||2.38||
Meaning: Being equipoised in happiness and distress, profit and loss, victory and defeat; thereafter prepare for the battle with that mind-set and, by so doing, you will never incur sin.
That everything should be performed as a righteous duty with equipoise and without attachment to the results, so that there is no sinful reaction. He who acts for his own sense gratification, either in goodness or in passion, is subject to the reaction, good or bad. But he who has completely surrendered all the activities in the name of the Lord, that person no longer accrues any karmic reaction from the course of his activities. It is said:
Devarsi-bhutapta-nrnam pitrnam na kinkaro nayamrni ca rajan |
Sarvatmana yah saranam saranyam gato Mukundam parihrtya kartam ||(SB 11.5.41)
Meaning: O’ King, one who has given up all material duties and has taken full refuge of the lotus feet of Mukunda (who offers shelter to all), is not indebted to the Devas, the great sages, ordinary living beings, relatives, friends, mankind or even one’s forefathers who have passed away. Since all such classes of living entities are part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, one who has surrendered to the Lord’s service has no need to serve such persons separately.
Now Lord Krishna refutes Arjuna previous worry about accruing sin by killing his kins with the words ‘sukha’ and ‘dukha’ meaning happiness and sorrow. Although the pleasure of happiness and the pain of sorrow in fighting this righteous war is inevitable; it must still be considered as pertaining to the body only and not to the soul which is distinctly different from the physical body. Profit and gain, victory and defeat even without considering the goal of heaven, Arjuna should prepare to fight for the sole purpose of exclusively fulfilling his duty. Thus fixed in this determination with proper understanding if he slays anyone he will not incur sin. By doing so, Arjuna will avoid the sin he would otherwise incur by refraining from the battle and not performing his duty.
2.39 Shloka 2.39
एषा तेऽभिहिता सांख्ये बुद्धिर्योगे त्विमां श्रृणु।
बुद्ध्यायुक्तो यया पार्थ कर्मबन्धं प्रहास्यसि।।2.39।।
Esa te ‘bhihita sankhye buddhir yoge tv imam srnu |
Buddhya yukto yaya partha karma-bandham prahasyasi ||2.39||
Meaning: Thus far I have explained to you the spiritual knowledge of Sankhya philosophy. Now listen to the knowledge of Karma Yoga which will bestow you with spiritual intelligence when you perform actions without fruitive desires. This will completely release you from the bondage of reactions arising from actions.
The use of the word ‘Sankhya’ in this Shloka denotes proper understanding. The principle of Soul as the eternal, immortal and unchanging must be understood properly and once Arjuna comprehends it fully, he would know that there is no cause to grieve as the soul is immortal.
The word ‘Yoga’ in this Shloka denotes ‘Karma Yoga’ which is the science of the individual consciousness attaining communion with the Ultimate Consciousness through desire-less actions. It is to be understood that the spiritual intelligence acquired by following the yoga of actions when based on Sankhya or proper understanding of the knowledge of the soul is the path that leads to salvation. Imbibing the wisdom from it will cut asunder the bonds of karmic reactions.
It is important to draw the distinction between ‘Sankhya’ mentioned in this Shloka and the Sankhya philosophy of Sage Kapila which is atheistic. The Sankhya mentioned here takes an analytical approach to explain the distinction between the body and the soul. Bhagavan Shri Krishna gives a description of the soul to make Arjuna understand it from a different perspective.
Having instructed the true knowledge of the soul as being distinctly different from the physical body and seeing that this knowledge has still not been firmly embedded in Arjuna’s heart, Lord Krishna reiterates this truth again in order to illustrate that this knowledge never becomes firmly embedded without practice of the means which is yoga. To do this He introduces the yoga path of selfless actions as the means to this end.
Thus, the reality is to perform all actions under the direction of one’s mind well nurtured with spiritual knowledge. Bhagavan explains that the performance of actions by the renunciation of the rewards, Arjuna will be completely free from transmigration in the material existence.
2.40 Shloka 2.40
नेहाभिक्रमनाशोऽस्ति प्रत्यवायो न विद्यते।
स्वल्पमप्यस्य धर्मस्य त्रायते महतो भयात्।।2.40।।
Nehabhikrama-naso ‘sti pratyavayo na vidyate |
Sv-alpam apy asya dharmasya trayate mahato bhayat ||2.40||
Meaning: In this endeavour there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.
While one should strive to achieve a complete state of equipoise and perform duties without desiring fruitive results, even a small advancement towards such a path is better than engaging in actions purely for material gains. Bhagavan basically is saying “well begun is half done” and even if such pursuits are not fully completed, it will protect one from the gravest of fears. In the case of Ajamila, while he performed his duty in some small measure early in his life, he still benefited from it in the end by the grace of the Lord.
In Srimad-Bhagavatam, it states:
tyaktva sva-dharmam caranambujam harer bhajan na pakko ‘tha patet tato yadi
yatra kva vabhadram abhud amusya kim ko vartha apto ‘bhajatam sva-dharmatah ||SB 1.5.17||
Meaning: If someone gives up material pursuits and occupation and then falls short on account of not being able to fully complete it, what unfavourable thing can happen to him (i.e. nothing is lost)? And, what can one gain if one performs his material activities perfectly?”
All actions executed by a living entity as a Yoga, by surrendering the results to the Supreme, it leads to attaining salvation, which is the science for the Soul (Self) to attain communion with the Ultimate Consciousness.
The essence of this verse is that all ordained daily duties (nitya karmas) and all occasional rites (naimittika karmas) for specific times as prescribed in the Vedic scriptures shall be performed with the sole aim of ultimate salvation. Although each rite individually is capable of giving its own temporary material reward; but all such rewards are to be accepted with humility (as ‘Ishwara prasada’) while holding focus solely on salvation.
जय श्री कृष्णा – Jai Shri Krishna!
Hari Om Tat Sat