[Advaita-l] kshatriya dharma according to manu smriti and its interpretation today?

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Tue Feb 13 01:17:15 EST 2018

Sorry for the delay in continuing this series but I've been very busy 
preparing for Shivaratri.

We have seen that the "mainstream" kshatriya view as articulated by 
Dhrtarashtra and Bhishma amongst others is that war is good and whether 
one kills or gets killed leads to heaven.  And Krishna Bhagavan 
seems at first to echoe that view in the Gita.  However ultimately His 
interpretation is very different.

eSha te.abhihitA sAMkhye buddhiryoge tva imAM shR^iNu |
buddhyA yukto yayA pArtha karmabandhanaM prahAsyasi ||6|24|39|| (Gita 2:39)

"This which has been taught to you is the theoretical wisdom now listen to 
the practical [wisdom]. When bound to it Partha[1] you will cast off the 
bonds of karma."

[1] Descendent of Prthu i.e. Arjuna.

We have previously discussed in the list how "samkhya" and "yoga" in 
the Gita do not refer to the two formal darshanas of those names but to
"theory" and "practice." In particular, Krishna Bhagavan means the 
practice that leads to bhakti towards Himself and ultimately knowledge of 
His true nature as non-different from ones self.

In the preceding shlokas of the 2nd adhyaya which I mentioned in the 
previous post Krishna Bhagavan exhorted Arjuna to fight explaining that it 
is his duty.  Now He will explain what it means to "fight" and it is not 
what Bhishma understands by the term.

nehAbhikramanAsho.asti pratyavAyo na vidyate |
svalpam apyasya dharmasya trAyate mahato bhayAt ||6|24|40|| (Gita 2:40)

"In this there is no loss of effort nor obstacle to completion. Even a 
little of this dharma delivers one from great fear."

vyavasAyAtmikA buddhirekeha kurunandana |
bahuShakhA hyanantAshcha buddhayo.avyavasAyinAm ||6|24|41|| (Gita 2:41)

"Here there is one-pointed resolve.  But many-branched and endless indeed 
are the thoughts of the irresolute."

The problem with the vidhis of karmakanda is that it is difficult to 
be sure some mistake hasn't crept in that could make the result void. 
When the karma is done based on desire this is more likely because we 
become impatient, distracted and so on.  But in "this dharma" in which we 
assign all outcomes to Bhagavan and trust He will take care of things, there
is no such fears.

This is why at the end of puja we do kshamapana ("avahanam na janami" 

There is also a pun here.  The Vedas are bahuShakhA ("having many 
branches") so there can be multiple actions to produce a certain outcomes 
or multiple outcomes of the same action depending on which text is 
consulted.  The function of mimamsa both purva and uttara is to end 
confusion by harmonizing the views of the karma and jnana kandas 

yAm imAM puSpitAM vAchaM pravadantyavipashchitaH |
vedavAdaratAH pArtha nAnyadastIti vAdinaH ||6|24|42|| (Gita 2:42)

"The flowery speech which the ignorant declaim, those who are
fond of quibbling on the meanings of the Veda saying 'there is nothing 
more' oh Partha"

kAmAtmAnaH svargaparA janmakarmaphalapradAm |
kriyAvisheShabahulAM bhogaishvaryagatiM prati ||6|24|43|| (Gita 2:43)

"desire-filled, obsessed with svarga, [such language is] the cause of 
rebirth due to the fruits of karma comprised of a great variety of actions 
aimed at pleasure and power."

bhogaishvaryaprasaktAnAM tayApahR^itachetasAm |
vyavasAyAtmikA buddhiH samAdhau na vidhIyate ||6|24|44|| (Gita 2:44)

"Those who lust after pleasure and power have distracted minds; they 
cannot achieve mental stability[3]."

[3] samadhi. It does not necessarily mean what the same term means in 
samkhya/yoga.  In the field of karma too, an act must be performed with 
intention (saMkalpa) If it is vague or distracted there will be a doSha in 
the performance.

Right now Krishna Bhagavan is sounding a lot like a nastika, crticising 
the Vedas for being unable to deliver the supreme good and in fact being a 
hindrance to that goal.  But hold on!

traiguNyaviShayA vedA nistraiguNyo bhava arjuna |
nirdvaMdvo nityasattvastho niryogakShema AtmavAn ||6|24|45|| (Gita 2:45)

"The Vedas are concerned with the three gunas[4].  Be beyond the three 
gunas Arjuna! Be beyond the pairs of opposites[5], be ever remaining in 
sattva[6], be beyond receiving and taking[7], be self-controlled.

[4] Prakriti (the material universe) is composed of a mix of the three 
gunas: sattva, rajas, and tamas.  This is a doctrine shared by 
Samkhya/yoga as well as Vedanta.

[5] i.e. beyond all duality.

[6] This is an area where samkhya/yoga and Vedanta part company.  Whereas 
in the former, purusha is wholly separate from the trigunatmaka prakrti, 
Brahman in vedanta is pure, unmixed sattva.

[7] Shankaracharya explains this as being anxious about acquiring more and 
more and worried about losing what has already been acquired.  A wise 
man should be indifferent to profit or loss.  The idea is to take what 
e.g. Bhishma said about accepting victory and defeat with equanimity and 
applying that principle to all facets of life.

yAvAnartha udApane sarvataH saMplutodake |
tAvAn sarveShu vedeShu brAhmaNasya vijAnataH ||6|24|46|| (Gita 2:46)

"Just as a water tank is useless when a flood spills over on all sides, 
there is no use in all the Vedas for a knower of Brahmana."

The nastika and the Vedantin agree that karma does not provide the supreme 
good but the nastika thinks that if karma is given up, there is nothing 
beyond only extinction (nirvana) But the Vedantin says there is something 
positive beyond karma namely Brahman.  So the problem with the Vedas is 
they are limited in scope.  A tank is useless during a flood but a 
lifesaver during a drought.  The nastikas are overreaching by throwing out 
the Vedas altogether while the karmakandis are distorting in the opposite 
direction by insisting they are the be all and end all.  The truth is to 
understand they are of supreme authority but only in their particular 
sphere, trigunatmaka prakrti.

I want to go on a tangent here to point out a particularly pernicious 
modern misinterpretation.  Some people think that just because the Vedas 
are mentioned here and in similar contexts, it is enough to stop doing 
dharma while carrying on as usual with the rest of your life.  But Vedic 
karma is only mentioned because it is the archetype of all other karma 
including laukika ones.  If you stop doing pujas and vratas but keep your 
fancy house, car etc., you are not a jnani you're an atheist.

karmANyevAdhikAraste mA phaleShu kadAchana |
mA karmaphalaheturbhUrmA te sa~Ngo.stvakarmaNi ||6|24|47|| (Gita 2:47)

"You only have adhikara for karma never for its fruit. Do not let 
karmaphala be your motive, nor let your attachment be to inaction."

This is one of the most famous and pivotal shlokas of the Gita.

The karmakandi mimamsaka believes that the adhikara or right to act is 
based on desire only.  The stock example is svarga kamo yajet ("one who 
desires heaven should sacrifice." Therefore the adhikara for yajna belongs 
to one who desires heaven.)  The nastika agrees with him that karma is 
based on desire but concludes based on that, that it is preferable not to 
act at all.  But the Vedantin says it is possible to act for the sake of 
acting not just for the sake of an outcome.

yogasthaH kuru karmANi sa~NgaM tyaktvA dhana~njaya |
siddhyAsiddhyoH samo bhUtvA samatvaM yoga uchyate ||6|24|48|| (Gita 2:48)

"perform your work in yoga, renouncing attachment Dhananjaya[8]. 
Treating success and failure as the same: that equanamity is called yoga."

[8] One who brings prosperity wherever he goes i.e. Arjuna.

Again the idea of equanamity itself is not new.  Bhishma has suggested 
that a warrior be indifferent to success and defeat.  What is new is that 
the indifference should not be selfish but a resolt of devotion to 

dUreNa hyavaraM karma buddhiyogAddhana~njaya |
buddhau sharaNamanvichchha kR^ipaNAH phalahetavaH ||6|24|49|| (Gita 2:49)

"much more inferior indeed is karma[9] to buddhiyoga oh Dhananjaya!  Seek 
refuge[10] in wisdom. Wretched are those whose motive is the fruit."

[9] karma done for selfish reasons.

[10] Is this a subtle poke at the three refuges of Buddhism? (buddham 
sharaNam gacchAmi etc.)

buddhiyukto jahAtIha ubhe sukR^itaduShkR^ite |
tasmAdyogAya yujyasva yogaH karmasu kaushalam ||6|24|50|| (Gita 2:50)

"The one who is embued with buddhiyoga casts off merit and sin. Therefore 
yoke yourself to yoga. Yoga gives action its power [justification]."

The purpose of karma is not to fulfil ones selfish desires or to be 
shunned as evil but to be an offering to Bhagavan.

karmajaM buddhiyuktA hi phalaM tyaktvA manIShiNaH |
janmabandhavinirmuktAH padaM gachchhantyanAmayam ||6|24|51|| (Gita 2:51)

" The Buddhi-yoked ones renounce the fruit [of karma] possessed of 
knowledge, and liberated from the bonds of birth they go to the place 
where there is no evil."

Even svarga so highly praised is not the final goal because after the 
phala of meritorious karma is exhausted one is again subject to rebirth in 
the world of good and evil.  But the yogis are liberated from samsara by 
the knowledge of their non-difference with Brahman.

yadA te mohakalilaM buddhirvyatitariShyati |
tadA gantAsi nirvedaM shrotavyasya shrutasya cha ||6|24|52|| (Gita 2:52)

"When your mind has crossed beyond the mire of delusion then you will 
become disgusted by what is to be heard and what has been heard."

shrutivipratipannA te yadA sthAsyati nishchalA |
samAdhAvachalA buddhistadA yogamavApsyasi ||6|24|53|| (Gita 2:53)

"When your mind which has been confused by what you have heard, becomes 
free of doubts and steady in the self, then you will have attained yoga."

The karmakanda is "what has been heard" and the jnanakanda is "What is to 
be heard" from the standpoint of an ordinary man but for the jnani 
ultimately even these are to be discarded.  But only for the jnani.  For a 
seeker the jnanakanda remains completely valid and authoritative and for 
the worldly man the karmakanda remains completely valid and authoritative.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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