I acknowledge this graphic from the Net.
As the family is destroyed dharma is destroyed
As dharma dies anarchy ensues
With anarchy women become immoral
With immoral women societal divisions mingle
Mingled society leads us sinner to hell
Their ancestors fall into hell deprived of offerings
Evils of sinners causing mingling of society
Destroy the dharmic fibre of society
Arjuna’s lament rises to an emotional feverish pitch. He starts lamenting in previous verses about the sin he is about to commit by killing his kinsmen. This he fears is not worth the status of acquiring supremacy of all three worlds, let alone the earth. In this verse he raises the bar by outlining consequences far more severe.
These four verses from the first chapter of Bhagavad Gita, a few before and a few after, introduce us to the concepts of dharma and karma, as they were practiced perhaps a few thousand years ago. Arjuna sees his kinsmen and elders arrayed in front in battle. The greatest warrior of all in his days, he knows that he will destroy many of them. The thought of his own destruction does not even occur to him. Compassion arising out of the consequences of what he may do consumes him. He lays down arms and turns to Krishna for counsel.
Dharma loosely defined is a moral code of societal conduct. There are various levels of dharma and dharmic conduct for individuals, families, tribes, societies, nations, the world and the universe. Dharmic conduct, in the form of yama and niyama, the first two limbs of Ashtanga Yoga, is the foundation of the yoga union of mind, body and energy. It is the foundation as well as the pillar of society.
Arjuna starts with destruction of dharma through the destruction of families he is associated with. He establishes various effects, which in turn cause other effects, till he finally completes the circle by looping back to destruction of dharma. The concept of karma is intertwined with dharma. Karma is cause and effect, consequences of our thought, speech and action. Anything that we do in violation of dharma attracts a negative karma. It is that simple.
There is a new science of epigenetics, which addresses how our behavior in this life affects our own genes and in turn of our progeny. Bruce Lipton through his Biology of Beliefs and Sharon Moalem through Inheritance explain this science well. To my mind this is a vindication of the karma theory and also the concept of reincarnation, in another sense. Reincarnation is not about being reborn in another body, but as Krishna says in another part of Bhagavad Gita recreating our intents and thoughts in another body form. Epigenetics provides proof of this.
It is interesting to note the role of women and caste in Arjuna’s verses. He makes the woman responsible for upholding the honor of society. Many interpretations are possible, but these need to be inline with time and space context. The same is true about caste mixing that Arjuna fears will lead to disaster. Here too one can view this not as a justification for the caste system as is practiced today or even in Arjuna’s days, which limited the potential of people like Karna and Ekalavya in Mahabharata, but in broader context of what perception of dharma is.
What strikes me here is how the common reality of what happens around one is interpreted in specific context of one’s own mind map. It is not that Arjuna did not destroy warriors before, many kinsmen. He fought against the Kauravas when he was in exile to support Uttara in the form of a transsexual with no qualms. What had changed?
The interpretation of dharma and karma by Arjuna is highly situational based on his conditioning.
It is possible to write an entire book on these verses, both for and against Arjuna’s views. As we move to Krishna’s counsel later we shall be viewing these issues from a different perspective, one of the universal dharma from the creator.