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THE CONCEPT OF PERSONAL DUTY

By Gururaj Mutalik

Having addressed Arjuna’s main concerns that led to his emotional meltdown, namely his abhorrence of causing death to his dear and near ones, in particular to his teachers, Sri Krishna moves on to focus on his friend’s other major concern: the ethical implications of his actions.
Arjuna is firmly convinced that battling his gurus with intent to kill is an unmitigated act of A-Dharma. It is a sin. It is against all principles of Sanatana Dharma. More than Arjuna’s concern about the bloodshed and mayhem of the battle, this issue is a major hurdle for him in taking up arms. “How can I attempt to cut down with my arrows, my most venerable teachers, Bhishma and Drona, who deserve so much reverence and respect?” (2–4[1]) Knowing that emotionally, Arjuna is now on the verge of recovery, Sri Krishna engages him, with incisive logic, in order to convince Arjuna that his perception of right and wrong, merit and sin, and Arjuna’s overall take on Dharma (righteous duty) and A-Dharma (opposite of Dharma) is wrong. In nine telling points, Sri Krishna covers the entire domain of ethics, in order to convince Arjuna that fighting as a supreme soldier, irrespective of whom he is facing, is the right thing to do.

1. Arjuna should realize that this is a war for the protection of Dharma—a righteous war fought to redeem the injustices based on greed, hatred, and vengeance, that were heaped on Arjuna’s side by Duryodhana, and his team. Arjuna is a Kshatriya, a great warrior, whose call of duty is to champion the cause of justice and Dharma. Arjuna’s righteous duty (Swa-Dharma) is to fight, no matter who opposes the cause of justice. Arjuna must be the defender of the faith of everything he believes in. If Bhishma and Drona willfully chose to support, and fight for the evil Duryodhana, and what he stands for, so be it. They deserve to be treated as those who oppose the rule of law, and the concept of fair play, and hence Arjuna must fight them with all the prowess of the warrior he is. This is not a moment for trembling with the symptoms of a nervous breakdown, or to be faint of heart. As a matter of fact, there is no greater good for a true Kshatriya than a battle for a righteous cause (2–31[2]).
2. Not many Kshatriyas get an opportunity to be involved in such a war. In fact, when they get such a chance, Kshatriyas should grab it, as such a fight will open the gates of entry to heaven, even if they were to lose their life in the battle! By His inscrutable design, Arjuna has the good fortune, as a leading warrior, to wage this war. It would be wrong for him to shy away from his duty (2–32[3]).
3. Sri Krishna gently warns Arjuna that if he refuses to lead, and wage this war, he will surely be abandoning his call of sacred duty, and sacrificing his glory as a warrior. Clearly it would be a sin to do so (2.33[4]).
4. Apart from the obligatory responsibilities of Swa-Dharma, Sri Krishna appeals to Arjuna’s mettle as a Kshatriya (warrior), where honor, and the glory of victory are important. Sri Krishna says, “If Arjuna continues to disengage himself in this war, he would be in perpetual disgrace in the eyes of the peers; Dishonor to a proud Kshatriya is worse than death” (2–34[5]).
5. “If you turn back from the battlefield, you will lose your reputation as a great warrior; you will be belittled by everyone as a coward. The great chieftains in these armies will think that you have run away from the battlefield due to fear”[6] ( 2–35[7]).
6. Sri Krishna’s coaxing of Arjuna continues relentlessly. Sri Krishna says, “Oh Arjuna, if you abandon this war, people will condemn you in all kinds of abusive epithets of ignominy, and infamy. Is there anything to bear more painful than this?”( 2–36[8])
7. Now the master manager of the human mind switches tracks by telling Arjuna that in the looming battle in which he should engage actively, there is nothing to lose, irrespective of the outcome. If death were to be a consequence, entry to heaven is assured. If victory were to be secured, he, with his brothers, will rule the kingdom without any opposition. “So, Arjuna, take hold of yourself, and decide to get fully engaged in this war” (2–37[9]).
8. Here comes the end of this divine melody, gently soothing, and leading to the subtle unfolding of next paradigm. Arjuna, fighting with the right attitude is the key to achieving glory. It will need your equanimity for grief or happiness, loss or gain, victory or defeat. That will provide you with the strength and resolve. And so, take up your weapons of war, and you shall incur no sin in this engagement! (2–38[10])

The exquisite melody of Divine Symphony continues having gently dismantled Arjuna’s psychological meltdown and restoring him to reason. The melody shifts to loud and clear drums where it dins the message that Arjuna’s act of abandoning war will be an act of sin. Arjuna’s return to arms is an act of faith in the highest tradition of Swa-Dharma of a Kshatriya. Thus concludes the crescendo of the entire symphony, ending with earnest appeal to the pride and self-respect of the great warrior. Win or lose, with right attitude of equanimity, Arjuna will always be the winner! Not only in the outcome of war, but also in performing his righteous duty – the quintessence of Swa-Dharma.
NEXT: Equanimity of Living (Sthitaprajnataa) as the Foundation of Yoga.

[1] कथं भीष्ममहं सङ्ख्ये द्रोणं च मधुसूदन |
इषुभिः प्रतियोत्स्यामि पूजार्हावरिसूदन ||२- ४||
kathaṁ bhīṣmamahaṁ saṅkhyē drōṇaṁ ca madhusūdana |
iṣubhiḥ pratiyōtsyāmi pūjārhāvarisūdana ||

[2] स्वधर्ममपि चावेक्ष्य न विकम्पितुमर्हसि |
धर्म्याद्धि युद्धाच्छ्रेयोऽन्यत्क्षत्रियस्य न विद्यते ||२- ३१||
svadharmamapi cāvēkṣya , na vikampitumarhasi |
dharmyāddhi yuddhācchrēyō:’nyat , kṣatriyasya na vidyatē ||

[3] यदृच्छया चोपपन्नं स्वर्गद्वारमपावृतम् |
सुखिनः क्षत्रियाः पार्थ लभन्ते युद्धमीदृशम् ||२- ३२||
yadr̥cchayā cōpapannaṁ svargadvāramapāvr̥tam |
sukhinaḥ kṣatriyāḥ pārtha labhantē yuddhamīdr̥śam ||

[4] अथ चेत्त्वमिमं धर्म्यं संग्रामं न करिष्यसि |
ततः स्वधर्मं कीर्तिं च हित्वा पापमवाप्स्यसि ||२- ३३||
atha cēttvamimaṁ dharmyaṁ saṁgrāmaṁ na kariṣyasi |
tataḥ svadharmaṁ kīrtiṁ ca hitvā pāpamavāpsyasi ||2- 33||

[5] अकीर्तिं चापि भूतानि कथयिष्यन्ति तेऽव्ययाम् |
सम्भावितस्य चाकीर्तिर्मरणादतिरिच्यते ||२- ३४||
akīrtiṁ cāpi bhūtāni kathayiṣyanti tē:’vyayām |
sambhāvitasya cākīrtirmaraṇādatiricyatē ||

[6] It is clear that Sri Krishna has rightly diagnosed that Arjuna’s emotional imbalance has been restored. Therefore, without hesitation, he appeals to Arjuna’s self-respect, his standing as a warrior, and his peerless reputation as a fighter.

[7] भयाद्रणादुपरतं मंस्यन्ते त्वां महारथाः |
येषां च त्वं बहुमतो भूत्वा यास्यसि लाघवम् ||२- ३५||
bhayādraṇāduparataṁ maṁsyantē tvāṁ mahārathāḥ |
yēṣāṁ ca tvaṁ bahumatō bhūtvā yāsyasi lāghavam ||

[8] अवाच्यवादांश्च बहून्वदिष्यन्ति तवाहिताः |
निन्दन्तस्तव सामर्थ्यं ततो दुःखतरं नु किम् ||२- ३६||
avācyavādāṁśca bahūn , vadiṣyanti tavāhitāḥ |
nindantastava sāmarthyaṁ , tatō duḥkhataraṁ nu kim ||

[9] हतो वा प्राप्स्यसि स्वर्गं जित्वा वा भोक्ष्यसे महीम् |
तस्मादुत्तिष्ठ कौन्तेय युद्धाय कृतनिश्चयः ||२- ३७||
hatō vā prāpsyasi svargaṁ jitvā vā bhōkṣyasē mahīm |
tasmāduttiṣṭha kauntēya yuddhāya kr̥taniścayaḥ ||

[10] सुखदुःखे समे कृत्वा लाभालाभौ जयाजयौ |
ततो युद्धाय युज्यस्व नैवं पापमवाप्स्यसि ||२- ३८||
sukhaduḥkhē samē kr̥tvā lābhālābhau jayājayau |
tatō yuddhāya yujyasva naivaṁ pāpamavāpsyasi ||

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