Wednesday, April 29, 2009

II: 31

Chapter 2, Verse 31

“Know what your duty is
And perform it without hesitation.
For a warrior, there is nothing better
Than a battle that duty enjoins.”

Ram Dass:

“Krishna shifts gears here. His call, ‘do your duty’ speaks very forcefully to Arjuna, because it comes from a level that Arjuna is especially tuned to hear. In the Hindu tradition, the castes were divisions in society based on birth and role. Your caste defined your life through one set of coordinates. Then there were the Ashramas, or stages of life, of which there are four. There is the period from birth to twenty, when you’re a student. Then there’s the time from twenty to forty, when you’re a householder. You make the money that supports the whole system. Next there’s the stage from forty to sixty, when you do your religious study. And then from sixty on, you become a renunciate, a Sannyasin. You let go of everything worldly, and turn your attention completely towards God.

Between caste on the one hand and Ashrama on the other, your life was laid out pretty clearly, like a plot on a grid. If you were a Kshatriya of a certain age, for example, there would be a well-defined prescription for just what you ought to be doing, your Swadharma. It was an absolutely clear-cut structure, and it defined appropriate action. Krishna is standing squarely within that system when he says to Arjuna, Do your duty. Do what is appropriate.

‘Duty’ is one of the highest obligations for a Kshatriya. It goes very deep. So when Krishna frames Dharma in those terms and exhorts Arjuna to do his duty, it’s a powerful argument from Arjuna’s Kshatriya perspective. But although that’s the power of the argument for Arjuna, it’s not really where Krishna is coming from. He’s not calling on Arjuna to do his duty out of a set of social demands, but out of his responsibility to a higher law.”

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi:

“The event of war is a natural phenomenon. It is a process of restoring the balance between the negative and positive forces of nature. To rise to the call of a war to establish righteousness is to respond to the cosmic purpose, the will of God. To live and die to maintain law and order in society, thereby remaining a faithful instrument in the hands of God, is the privilege of a man born into a Kshatriya family.

Krishna’s purpose is to convince Arjuna that, from the point of view of his duty, the only worth while course is to shake off his reluctance to fight and face up to the action for which he has been born. He seeks to bring home to Arjuna, that to him, born a Kshatriya, fighting is natural. ‘For a warrior, there is nothing better than a battle that duty enjoins’ because establishing righteousness for the good of the world is the most glorious and justifiable way of fulfilling the life of a Kshatriya, who is born to protect Dharma at whatever the cost. Dharma maintains the stream of evolution in life. The Kshatriya who does not accept a just fight is not aligned with this natural stream of evolution.”

[Stephen King’s magnum opus, The Dark Tower, features a mythical Kshatriya named Roland, a gunslinger… “He never felt so fine as he did at this moment of beginning (of battle); never felt so completely and truly himself. Here were the tag ends of glory’s old cloud. It didn’t matter that they (his enemies) were robots. What mattered was that they had been preying on the helpless for generations, and this time they had been caught utterly and completely by surprise.”]

1 comment:

DrDeb said...

It helped me to understand this verse better when I read that we are following the Divine will when we shed our own ego, letting the Divine work through us even in battle (if that be the Divine will), and we no longer accumulate any additional karma. The concept of allowing the Divine to work through us can be found in all spiritual Teachings.

Thank you for posting this!

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