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Bhagavad-gita 2.31

London, September 1, 1973
Pradyumna: "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."
sva-dharmam api caveksya
na vikampitum arhasi
dharmyaddhi yuddhac chreyo 'nyat
ksatriyasya na vidyate
[Bg. 2.31]
Sva-dharmam. Sva means "own." And dharmam means "occupation." Dharma means occupation and... (to Pradyumna:) You finished?
Pradyumna: Yes.
Prabhupada: Sva means "own." Sva-dharmam: "one's own occupation." So according to Vedic civilization, everyone has his own sva-dharma. This has been misinterpreted by the rascals. Sva-dharma means anyone can discover his own religious principle. Yato mata tato patha. Whatever you think is religious principle, that's all right. This is going on. But that is not the meaning. Sva-dharma means "own occupation." Actually dharma means which you cannot give up. Dhr-dhatu. You have to capture it; to keep your existence you must capture it.
So because we have got body and soul, two different things, we are combination, body and soul. That is already explained very nicely in so many ways. So actually sva-dharma means the occupation of the soul. Because in the material condition we do not understand what I am—whether I am this body or I am soul. Mostly people they do not know that one is soul, not this body. Body is the dress or outward covering, external covering. Subtle covering and gross covering. But so long one is in the bodily concept of life, so one has got different occupational duty according to the conception of the body. So the nature is being conducted by three modes of nature. Therefore, according to one's nature there is occupational duty. That is scientific division. At the present moment there is no such division. Therefore gradually people are degrading to the lowest quality—ignorance, sudra. They are taking to the sudra principles. Yesterday I was presented with a paper, Indian government scheme to help people starting small-scale industries, and government is ready to help. (aside:) You sit cross-legged, not like that. All of you. So a small industry, there are so many motor parts, so many other parts. About 200, 300 items, government is ready to help a small industry. But the government does not know or the leaders do not know that to engage people in such industrial affair means to bring them to the sudra platform. Sudra platform. Every government is encouraging people how to become sudra. But actually, the human society must be divided into four parts. Four divisions: brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya and sudra. Just like in our body there is division. The head department, the arms department, the belly department and the leg department. You cannot say, "Let there be only leg department. There is no use of head and arms and belly." Will that go on nicely? If your body, you cut off all other parts and simply keep the legs, will that be very nice proposal? Leg is required. But if you keep the body only by the legs, then this kind of body is dead body. Any part of the body. Especially the head. If you cut off the head then the body is altogether dead. You can cut off the arms, you can cut off the legs, but it is very difficult to cut off the belly also. Then it will be dead.
So, sva-dharma. Sva-dharma means the division, ksatriya division of the society. The brahmana division, the ksatriya division, the vaisya division and the sudra division. Everything is required. It is not that sudra is not required. 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 the direction? So a ksatriya, ksatriya has got a very difficult task to see. Ksatriya means government, the governing division. So the governing division has got a very important duty to see that everyone is following his duty. The brahmana is following his duty, a ksatriya is following his duty, vaisya is following the duty, and sudra... That is, government's duty is... Just like in India nowadays it has become a secular government. Secular government means impartial to any religious system. But the government should not be so callous that in religious principle, let people do whatever he likes. No. The government cannot do so. You can say that "You are Hindu; you execute your own system of religion. You are Muslim; you can execute your system of religion. You are Christian; you follow your system of religion. You are Buddhist; you follow your system of religion." But the government cannot be callous that whatever they may follow or whatever they may not do, and government is neutral. No. Anyone, if he is professing himself that "I am Hindu," then it is the government's duty to see whether he is actually executing the Hindu principles of religion. That is secular state. If you are calling himself Muslim, then it is government's duty to see that whether actually you are following the Muslim principles of religion. If you are a Christian, it is the government's duty is to see that you are following the Christian principle of religion. Not that callous, "You can do whatever you like." No. Ksatriya's duty is to see. The king, government's duty is to see. Similarly, if one is claiming that he is a brahmana, it is the government's duty to see whether he's strictly following the brahmana principles: samo damas titiksa, arjavam, whether he is strictly following how to become self-controlled, how to remain always pure, clean, suci. Brahmanas' another name is suci, always cleansed. Similarly arjavam, simplicity. Brahmana's life should be very simple. They should not imitate the ksatriyas and the vaisyas and the sudras. So this principle, whether one is actually following the brahminical principle...
So here Krsna is pointing out that "As a ksatriya you must follow your principle, ksatriya principle." What is ksatriya principle? Ksatriya principle is that dharmyaddhi yuddhat, dharmyaddhi yuddhac chreyo 'nyat ksatriyasya na vidyate. Ksatriya must be always prepared, and if required, to fight also, whether people are keeping their own principle of religion. That is ksatriya's duty. He, if (a) brahmana is bluffing people, that "I am brahmana," but he is acting as a sudra, immediately ksatriya should point out and offer him fight, "Why you are cheating people? Why you are cheating people?" Similarly, a ksatriya is declaring himself that "I am ksatriya," but he's acting as a sudra, it is the ksatriya's or the government's duty, that, "Why you are cheating people?" So a ksatriya's business is always prepared to fight. Fight means that to see that everyone is acting nicely. Because if you are not acting nicely, and if I say that "You are not acting nicely," you'll be angry. Upadeso hi murkhanam prakopaya na santaye. Because if one is actually brahmana, he must act as a brahmana. So if somebody says that "You are declaring yourself as brahmana but you are not following the brahmana principle," he will be angry. But a ksatriya's duty is that if he is angry, he should be punished immediately. He should be punished immediately. Ksatriya's yuddhac, dharmyaddhi yuddhat. He should challenge. Challenging means yuddha, fight.
So ksatriya cannot be nonviolent. It is not possible. Violence is also required to keep the social system strictly in order. Just like the government has violence department, the police department, the military department. That is required to keep up the society in order. So here Krsna says that "You are ksatriya; your duty is to fight." Dharmyaddhi yuddhat. "This fight arranged by Me in the battlefield of Kuruksetra, because it is sanctioned by Me, it is dharma-yuddha, it is religious fighting." It is not the political diplomats declaring war to keep the people in ignorance. No. It is sanctioned by Krsna. Whatever is sanctioned by Krsna, that is dharma. Dharma, the explanation of dharma I have several times given you. Dharmam hi saksad bhagavat-pranitam: Whatever God sanctions, that is dharma. So God, Krsna personally has sanctioned this Battle of Kuruksetra. So therefore it is dharma, dharma-yuddha religious fight. It is not ordinary fighting of the diplomats and the politicians. It is dharma-yuddha. Therefore He says, dharmyaddhi yuddhac chreyo 'nyat ksatriyasya na vidyate: "You are ksatriya. You are fighting for the sake of religious system. That is the, your first-class duty." Sreyah.
So a ksatriya... These four principles must be there in the society, brahmana, ksat... The brahmana will not be required to fight. A brahmana will not be required to work like sudra. A brahmana will not be required to work like vaisya. Therefore brahmana can beg. Pathana pathana yajana yajana dana pratigrahah. This is brahmana's business. He must be good scholar in Vedic literature and he must teach others. Not that "I have learned everything; I'll not teach anything." No. Brahmana must be well-versed in the Vedic literature and he must preach also, make others also brahmana, pathana pathana. Not that "I have become brahmana. So there is no need of others becoming brahmana. There will be competition." Just like in India they 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 brahmanas, these Europeans and Americans? This is not good." "And why not?" So we had some discussion. So actually it is not that brahmana is made by birth. Brahmana means, catur-varnyam maya srstam guna-karma-vibhagasah [Bg. 4.13]. By quality and work. Similarly, everything, by quality and work. This is confirmed by Narada Muni.
yasya yal laksanam proktam
pumso varnabhivyanjakam
yad anyatrapi drsyeta
tat tenaiva vinirdiset
[SB 7.11.35]
Yad anyatra. If the brahminical qualities are visible, manifest, elsewhere. Elsewhere, may be he's sudra, may be candala. Tat tenaiva vinirdiset. So you, one should accept him as brahmana. Similarly, if one is born in brahmana family but his qualities are like sudra, tat tenaiva vinirdiset [SB 7.11.35]. He should be accepted as sudra. This is the injunction given by Narada Muni. Not ordinary person. Tat tenaiva vinirdiset. And upon this the greatest authority of comment on Srimad-Bhagavatam, Sridhara Svami, he has commented that janma, birth, is not the chief requisition to become...sama-damadi. One must be qualified with samo damas titiksah suci. Then he should be accepted.
So it is the duty of the ksatriya... Unfortunately, the so-called government men, they are also sudras. The so-called priests, they are also sudras. The so-called vaisyas, they are sudras. The whole world is now full of sudras. So you cannot expect anything very nice in this situation because everything is being conducted by sudras. So Krsna is advising Arjuna that "This fight is not ordinary fight. It is dharma-yuddha, and you should accept it, you should not hesitate. After all, the soul is never killed. It is the duty, it is the duty of different dharma." Sva-dharma, sva-dharma means so long one is in the bodily concept of life, this sva-dharma means this brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, sudra. This is sva-dharma. And Arjuna belonged to the ksatriya; therefore his sva-dharma, his occupational duty, is to fight. So, and real sva-dharma is spiritual sva-dharma. In the spiritual. So when you go deep into the matter, when you understand that "I am not this body; I am soul," then 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 nitya-krsna-dasa [Cc. Madhya 20.108-109]. Actually that is sva-dharma. Every soul is eternally servant of Krsna. That is spiritual sva-dharma. And material sva-dharma means this brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, sudra.
Therefore the sva-dharma changes. Sva-dharma changes as soon as one is elevated to the spiritual platform. That is explained in the Bhagavad-gita. Sa gunan samatityaitan brahma-bhuyaya kalpate [Bg. 14.26]. Who? Brahma-bhuyaya kalpate. One who is engaged in devotional service. A devotee's position is transcendental. He has no, no more sva-dharma in the bodily concept of life. Because he's neither brahmana, neither ksatriya, nor vaisya nor sudra. Caitanya Mahaprabhu has said, "I am not a brahmana, I am not a sudra, I am not a ksatriya, I am not a brahmacari, I am not a sannyasi." In this way He negativated all the eight items because sva-dharma means varnasrama dharma. Varna and asrama. Four castes: brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, sudra. And four spiritual order: brahmacari, grhastha, vanaprastha and sannyasa. So Caitanya Mahaprabhu denied, that "I am not this, I am not this, I am not that, I am not that." Then what you are? Gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah [Cc. Madhya 13.80]. Jivera svarupa haya nitya-krsna-dasa [Cc. Madhya 20.108-109]. Gopi-bhartuh means this maintainer of the gopis, Krsna. Gopi-bhartuh. Gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayoh. "I am the servant of the servant of the servant of the servant who is engaged in the service of the lotus feet of Krsna [Cc. Madhya 13.80]."
So this is... Those who are in Krsna consciousness, those who have decided to serve Krsna only, they are no longer in the categories of sva-dharma, the bodily sva-dharma, brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, sudra, or brahmacari, vanaprastha. He is transcendental. That is confirmed in every sastra. So so far we are concerned, Krsna conscious, so long our bodily concept of life is not completely eradicated, we must follow the sva-dharma of the body. Brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, sudra, ity adi. But when actually advanced, that is maha-bhagavata. We should not imitate that, but our process is the more we advance in Krsna consciousness, we become transcendental to this bodily concept of life, brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, sudra. But Krsna says:
mam ca yo 'vyabhicarena
bhakti-yogena sevate
sa gunan samatityaitan
brahma-bhuyaya kalpate
[Bg. 14.26]
So anyone who engages himself without any reservation to the service of the Lord, he is not within the category of these eight varnasrama-dharma. He's transcendental. Sa brahma-bhuyaya kalpate. So as a Krsna consciousness person, he can act like anything by the order of Krsna. He can act as a brahmana, 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 asking Arjuna, that "If you are thinking in the bodily concept of life, then also..." Means "First of all, when I have ordered, I have sanctioned, you can work it beyond the bodily concept of life. But if you are thinking still that you are in the bodily concept of life, then, as a ksatriya, it is your duty to fight." Krsna is trying to put Arjuna in the dilemma, "This way or that way, you must have to fight. If you think that you are not in bodily concept of life, then it is My order, 'You must fight.' If you think that you are in bodily concept of life, then you are a ksatriya, you must fight. Both ways you have to fight." This is Krsna's conclusion.
Thank you very much. (end)

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