Krishna declares emphatically that societal divisions do occur by nature and they are a mere representation of their vasana expression. We deliberated this in detail in Varnas – A journey to its roots.
तस्य कर्तारमपि मां विद्ध्यकर्तारमव्ययम् ||
chātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛiṣhṭaṁ guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśhaḥ
tasya kartāram api māṁ viddhyakartāram avyayam (4 - 13)
According to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by ME. And, although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the non-doer, being unchangeable.
Historically, we know, there have been times when there was no proper ruler, anarchy prevails or societal degradation happens. In fact, Arjuna cites this as one of his very powerful arguments on why he must renounce his duties in BG 1.42 verse. Though individual monarchs not being suitably replaced has led to localized breakdown, we can observe large scale meltdown happened during few instances.
Parasurama exterminated the trace of all existing Kshatriyas. We notice that a unique group of humans appear in our Itihasa, only in Ramayana – namely Vanaras. Are they Kshatriyas masquerading to protect their identity from Parasurama? Jayashree has argued very powerfully that Dravidas are none other than Kshatriyas who lost their Kshatriyata for generations.1 Parasurama’s actions did cause a massive disruption in the nature and numbers of Kshatriyas, causing confusion in the society.
In Mahabharata we see a similar situation with so many kingdoms losing not just their Kings in the massive war, but also huge populations of Kshatriyas. The one large kingdom that escaped this butchering was Krishna’s Yadavas in Dwarka. But they also succumb to Gandhari’s curse and Krishna’s Will as they all perish in the civil war that ensued the drunken brawl. We see even Mahabharata hero, Arjuna, ineffective in thwarting the designs of the mlechcha robbers as he attempts to relocate the grief striken Dwarka residents to the Saraswati/Indus river regions. (Is this the origin of the Saraswati Valley Civilization?)
Though the above two incidents amongst many others brought shocks to the societal organization, they never destroyed the framework. But the last one that originated with British colonial rule that emasculated numerous rulers and the spirit of Kshatriyata, only to be replaced with a western outlook, seems to have not only eliminated the Kshatriya spirit, but also the values they stood for. We are going to look merely at the need for these missing values, not for the class of people called Kshatriyas. We saw in Varnas – A journey to its roots that the values expressed in actions define the person’s varna.
Bhishma in Mahabharata, Shanti Parva, takes a classic stance. Given below is an excerpt from K.M. Ganguly’s Mahabharata translation.
A Kshatriya, O king, should give but not beg, should himself perform sacrifices but not officiate as a priest in the sacrifices of others. He should never teach (theVedas) but study (them with a Brahmana preceptor). He should protect the people. Always exerting himself for the destruction of robbers and wicked people, he should put forth his prowess in battle. Those among Kshatriya rulers who perform great sacrifices, who are possessed of a knowledge of theVedas, and who gain victories in battle, become foremost of those that acquire many blessed regions hereafter by their merit. Persons conversant with the old scriptures do not applaud that Kshatriya who returns unwounded from battle. This has been declared to be the conduct of a wretched Kshatriya. There is no higher duty for him than the suppression of robbers. Gifts, study, and sacrifices, bring prosperity to kings. Therefore, a king who desires to acquire religious merit should engage in battle. 2 Establishing all his subjects in the observance of their respective duties, it king should cause all of them to do everything according to the dictates of righteousness. Whether he does or does not do any other act, if only he protects his subjects, he is regarded to accomplish all religious acts and is called a Kshatriya and the foremost of men.
Given the changing times, Bhishma’s prescription seems to be dated, or rather too classical. In comes Krishna to the rescue. We observed in Varnas – A journey to its roots, in Sanatana Dharma and from Krishna’s point of view, it is one’s actions that determine one’s varna and role in society. Actions are a factor of one’s Vasanas. (Read more Vasanas – A key to understand our past, present and future). If one were to revive the qualities of what we like to, then we will end up like the very thing we aspire to be. The Duck Test in modern parlance defines it as “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”
Krishna gives the following sloka to give definitive clues as to what qualities define a Kshatriya.
शौर्यं तेजो धृतिर्दाक्ष्यं युद्धे चाप्यपलायनम् ।
दानमीश्वरभावश्च क्षात्रं कर्म स्वभावजम् ॥१८- ४३॥
śauryaṁ tejo dhṛtir dākṣyaṁ yuddhe cāpy apalāyanam
dānam īśvarabhāvaś ca kṣātraṁ karma svabhāvajam 18.43
dānam īśvarabhāvaś ca kṣātraṁ karma svabhāvajam 18.43
Prowess, splendour, firmness, dexterity and also not fleeing from battle, generosity and
lordliness are the duties of Kshatriyas, born of (their own) nature.
Let us examine each one of them in the present context, especially with reference to Sanatana Dharma.
शौर्य – Heroism, Prowess – This is normally seen in battlefront by some soldier’s display or some rare incident that makes the news. Yet this is critical component is practically missing in our daily lives. We come across so many Adharmic happenings all around us, but we fail to display our Heroism. We have developed a very Tamasic, lazy attitude. Why should I bother as it is not affecting the three most important people in life – I, Me, Myself? Selfish outlook has colored the attitude and this blunts our actions, as we act in an emasculated fashion. Instead of actions governed by Dharma, selfishness weakens our stance. Mere Dharmic alignment of values and actions expresses as heroic deeds, as it is neither easy to overcome the internal Tamas nor common.
तेज – Power, Splendour – This again is a factor of alignment with Dharma and tapasya. Power or tejas comes from consistently effort in one area. With a microwave generation, the masses believe in having results and not putting efforts. In our context, the ability to stick to the side of Dharma, gives us the Tejas. In the past, Rishis who persisted in Brahmavichar developed BrahmaTejas. Can Intellectual Kshatriyas remain committed to DharmaRakshana, in the face of adversity from Adharmic forces? This commitment shines as splendor.
धृति – Determination, Firmness – This trait is a factor of our belief system. Again, we can see easily observe Selfishness coloring our understanding of Dharma as the cause for our lack of this key trait. During our Freedom struggle, the freedom fighters were determined, irrespective of their paths on the mission to dislodge the colonial power. Our commitment to be on the righteous, Dharmic side, strengthens our resolve. Our belief is a factor of our clarity in understanding Dharma. A Rajasic or Tamasic mind will not have the ability to comprehend correctly.
र्दाक्ष्यं – Skill, Resourcefulness, Dexterity – Dexterity is a factor of Determination. What is the skill a Kshatriya needs in today’s context? Navigating the Adharmic forces, knowing how to diffuse or confront sickular elements, exposing proselytizing hordes and sticking to the path of Dharma irrespective of the vehement opposition requires incredible amount of Skill and resourcefulness.
युद्धे चाप्यपलायनम् – Eagerness to fight, Not fleeing from battle – In the modern context, this cannot be a physical battle, not an emotional blackmail. But in the defense of Dharma, can we do purvapaksha on these opposing forces, like Rajiv Malhotra keeps reminding? Can we be astute to understand how these forces are slowly digesting our culture and resist it? Can we be alert like a soldier in fighting for every inch of Dharma? Can we stop being docile and stand for what is right, instead of hiding behind a pseudo sickular façade? Can we learn to call a spade a spade and deal with the consequences like a warrior? This does not mean we pick quarrels with everyone. All this implies is can we take the side of Dharma, even when thrust under harsh conditions or when a big price needs to be paid.
दानम - Generosity – This comes with relating with others. Unlike Abrahamic religions which emphasize that the world was created only for man to enjoy and the strong attitude against unbelievers, Sanatana Dharma has emphasized on vasudaiva kutumbakam and an understanding that God Himself has become the world. This mindset makes one charitable to not only others, but every creation in the Universe. But again thanks to a materialistic outlook and an ever increasing distancing from Dharmic principles, the modern Hindu is trapped in a very selfish, egoistic, self created quicksand which keeps pulling him down with every attempt to break it. But what is worse is the ignorance about the existence of such a quicksand. Realignment to Dharma will be the only cure to amplify this trait in an organic way. Else it will be a knee jerk reaction or an artificial moral idea to be generous.
ईश्वरा भावा – Lordliness, Leadership – Leadership comes when one is confident of one’s power and being grounded in Dharma. Leadership can mean different things in different fields. In the context of Dharma, mere following it with an uncompromising attitude, like Rama who was ready to sacrifice his highest love, Sita, for the sake of Dharma. Doesn’t Jatayu appear as a leader, picking a righteous fight against a very powerful adversary, Ravana? Doesn’t Arjuna’s singlehanded challenge to the offensive Kaurava forces at the end of incognito period show leadership? Doesn’t Gandhiji’s repeated attempts against the brutal British rule through various movements like Non-Cooperation, Salt March, Quit India movement showcase his Ishavara bhava? The actions may be small or big, but the ability to comfortably dominate the negative forces will come only by siding with Dharma.
Once we focus on reviving these characters and let them dominate our actions, we will become true Kshatriyas in our actions. We will have the ability to not only defend Dharma but also derive immense benefits which will keep our selfish cravings at bay. This becomes both a panacea for the societal ills, but also a sure fast track for spiritual evolution.
The lack of Kshatriyata in Indian society has caused untold compounding of problems. We easily get persuaded by wrong narratives without taking any effort to understand. We ignore even the most well documented negative elements by having a false interpretation of Ahimsa. To amplify a good message of Ahimsa to the masses and to galvanize them against the colonial rule, Gandhiji emphasized on Ahimsa paramodharma. This is akin to Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) having a logo Yogakshemam Vahamyaha. Does LIC really take care of Yoga and Kshema of the individual?
In the same way, this partial sloka has perhaps done more harm than good, especially for Sanatana Dharma. It has only amplified the Tamasic attitude. The complete Mahabharata sloka can not only revive the Kshatriyata but also set right the wrong understanding.
धर्मः हिंसा तथिव च Dharma himsa tathaiva cha
Non-violence is the ultimate dharma. So too is violence in service of Dharma.
Swami Chinmayananda in Dharma himsa tathaiva cha2 argues for the need for rightful violence in the defense of Dharma. Mahakavi Bharatiyar also towed the same lines with Raudram pazhagu(ரௌதரம் பழகு) – It means train your indignance and express it appropriately. Kanchi Shankaracharya Chandrasekara Saraswati gave a clarion call to assemble an army of Ahimsa Soldiers. It can be read in his book Deivathin Kural. The likes of Rajiv Malhotra have been sounding the bugle call to bring together Intellectual Kshatriyas to take on the forces hurting Sanatana Dharma. In fact, Krishna assures in Bhagavad Gita 4-8, that he will come down again and again to establish Dharma and eliminate the adharmic elements. So all we have to do is follow his example.
But why should we overcome our selfishness and tamas to protect Dharma? Why can I not be merely contended with my family and my business? Are the people who are standing to protect Dharma not communal?? Well a BIG NO. धर्मो रक्षती रक्षितः (Dharmo Rakshathi Rakshitha) The Dharma we protect will protect us. So even if we are on the saner side of selfish personality it still makes sense to protect Sanatana Dharma for our family and our own wellbeing.
We have to be strong enough to replace our selfish, egocentric, delusional, personality worshipping mindset with a value centered Dharmic one. This will enable the Kshatriya values to shine and bring forth stronger values innate in us that will benefit not only us, but the society around. Can any society be safe without Kshatriyas? So how can Dharma escape the onslaught from Adharmic forces without Kshatriyas and kshatriya values. This is part of our spiritual evolution as well.
Let us cultivate the Kshatriya values in us and fulfill our responsibility. Let me repeat Kathopanishad sloka - उत्तिष्ठत जाग्रत प्राप्य वरान्निबोधत - uttishthata jagrata prapya varan nibodhata - Arise, awake, having reached the wise become enlightened.
Om Tat Sat
2. Dharma himsa tathaiva cha – Swami Chinmayananda