24. Now comes the threat, the last resort. Arjuna has reacted to the disastrous consequences of Krsna not acting. Krsna continues in the same vein and issues a warning.
The devotional meaning is that Krsna protects all beings and maintains harmony in the world. Without Him there would be chaos and confusion resulting in widespread destruction.
The intellectual interpretation is that Atman has put all the laws in place – external as well as internal. External laws are the myriad physical, chemical and biological laws. Internal laws are the three gunas or traits. All humans have all three gunas. Their varying proportion creates the four varnas or castes.
Brahmanas are the head of society. They are predominantly sattvika by nature with a little rajas and traces of tamas. They are the intellectuals – thinkers, contemplators, visionaries. A Brahmana naturally becomes teacher, preacher, philosopher, musician, artist, scientist, or research scholar.
Ksatriyas are the hands of society. They are largely rajasika with a little sattva and more tamas. They are the administrators, warriors, rulers, law-givers who are active and ambitious. They expand their kingdoms and protect their people from invaders.
Vaisyas are the belly of society. Tamas has increased and they have less sattva and rajas. They engage in trade, commerce, industry and finance.
Sudras are predominantly tamasika with a little rajas and traces of sattva. They take to manual work. They are the artisans, skilled labour, who were also highly regarded in society.
The Brahmanas were the highest caste, leaders. They were followed by the ksatriyas, vaisyas and sudras. Thus India was led by people of wisdom, not the wealthy. Every king had an in-house sage who was consulted on important matters. Thus society was protected from the corruptive influence of wealth.
The caste system was an intelligent vocational guidance designed to help each individual evolve to the highest state of Realisation in his/her respective field. All castes were respected and given their due. The system worked well for centuries. As deterioration set in the wise segregated the Brahmanas with the idea of maintaining high values at least among the leaders. When the Brahmanas also lost their sattvika content they began to claim privileges rather than serving people. Thus the system that was designed to benefit humanity became a curse.
This classification exists all over the world. The world has a beautiful balance of carpenters, electricians, research scientists, economists, musicians, soldiers etc. Together they make a harmonious world. There would be chaos if suddenly everyone became physicist or plumber!
25. This is the first of 11 verses that comprise the topic ‘Critical Steps to Right Action’. The portion is acclaimed as the most valuable guide to right action.
The human species alone is gifted with the choice of action. Hence it is important to know how to make the right choice.
Krsna begins by addressing Arjuna as Bharata – one who rejoices in the light of Consciousness. Every aspect of Indian culture is permeated with the thought of the Divine. Every Indian is exhorted to reach Perfection. Krsna reminds Arjuna of his divine mission.
Krsna adheres to the basic tenet of education – He proceeds from the known to the unknown. As the ignorant act attached to action so should you act with the same vigour and enthusiasm, but without attachment. We only understand two kinds of people. The tamasika, lethargic people have no motivation and are inactive. The rajasika are active but selfish. They are attached to action. The sattvika one acts without attachment as s/he is attached to the higher ideal. In this verse he refers to the rajasika as ignorant and the sattvika as the wise. The ignorant are many, the wise few.
Both the ignorant and wise act. The ignorant are obsessed, involved and attached. They are bound to their respective fields of activity. They have no higher purpose or goal. A lady will talk incessantly about her kids, a sportsperson about his field and a businessman about business! The wise one acts as enthusiastically as the ignorant but with detachment. S/he is attached to a higher ideal, the welfare of society.
Attachment is caused by constant thinking. It creates bondage and stress. Detachment comes by shifting the thought to the higher – welfare of others rather than just ‘my’ wellbeing. So continue to act. Just expand your mind to accommodate the wellbeing of others.