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

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Fri Jan 19 01:54:29 EST 2018

On Fri, 12 Jan 2018, Raghav Kumar Dwivedula via Advaita-l wrote:

> The general sense i get is that the kshatriya king who is committed to
> dharma and protection of shrotiyas is to challenge and wage war against
> unrightoeus kshatriyas who do not become his allies or vassals. This is of
> course quite natural. However i did not come across any explicit shastra
> reference to a 'dharma yuddha'  idea yet. What should be the primary
> *motive* for war for a kxatriya? The smRti seems more intent to look at war
> as an inherent dharma of kshatriya.

It is well-known that that the Mahabharata consists of 18 books or 
parvas.  And that the Bhagavadgita is embedded as an episode in the 
Mahabharata.  But fewer people know exactly where.

The parvans are divided into 100 sections also called parvans.  (the 
larger divisions are often referred to as mahaparvans to distinguish the two. 
The sixth mahaparvana is called Bhishmaparvan.  The third of its sections 
(63rd in the Mahabharata overall) is called Gitaparvan.  The Gitaparvan 
consists of 43 adhyayas.  The 18 adhyayas of the Gita proper are preceded 
by 22 and followed by one.  These other adhyayas provide valuable context 
for how and why the Bhagavadgita came to be given.

The english translations given here are mostly based on the translation of 
the BORI critical edition of the Mahabharata by the late Prof. J.A.B. Van 
Buitenen of the University of Chicago.  They are part of a longer essay I 
wrote for Gita Jayanti some years back.

The Gitaparvan begins with Sanjaya hastening back to Hastinapur to report 
to Dhrtarashtra (who being old and blind has been left behind) that 
Bhishma has been killed.  Dhrtarashtra is in shock that this could have 
happened and gives a long eulogy to Bhishma in which he observes:

dAruNaH kShatradharmo.ayam R^iShibhiH saMpradarshitaH |
yatra shaMtanavaM hatvA rAjyam ichchhanti pANDavAH ||6|15|60||

“Cruel is this Kshatriya dharma which the Rshis have passed down to us if 
after killing that son of Shantanu the Pandavas still desire the kingdom…”

vayaM vA rAjyam ichchhAmo ghAtayitvA pitAmaham |
kShatradharme sthitAh pArthA nAparAdhyanti putrakAH ||6|15|61||

“…or if we still desire the kingdom after causing the death of Grandfather[1]
but [their actions are] based on Kshatriya dharma so neither the Parthas[2] or
my sons are to blame.”

[1] i.e. Bhishma in the sense of being the oldest male relative. More 
accurately he is the great-uncle of the clan being the half-brother of 
Dhrtarashtra and Pandu the father of the Pandavas.

[2] Sons of Prthu. i.e. the Pandavas.

etadAryeNa kartavyam kR^ichchhrAsvApatsu saMjaya |
parAkramaH paraM shaktyA tachcha tasmin pratiShThitam ||6|15|61||

“For that is noble[3] behavior even in the worst crisis Sanjaya. To be brave
to the best of his ability and this is rooted in it.[4]”

[3] The actual word used here is Aryan but there is no reason to take it 
in a racial sense.

[4] it = Dharma.

Later on, the assembly of the Kaurava army on the field of battle is 
described.  At that time Bhishma, the commander-in-chief, gives a speech 
to his troops during which he says:

idaM vaH kShatriyA dvAraM svargAyApAvR^itaM mahat |
gachchhadhvaM tena shakrasya brahmaNashcha salokatAm ||6|17|8||

“This is, Kshatriyas, the door to Heaven swung wide open! pass through it 
and earn the worlds of Shakra[5] and Brahma.”

[5] i.e. Indra.

eSha vaH shAshvataH panthAH pUrvaiH pUrvatarairgataH |
saMbhAvayata chAtmAnam avyagramanaso yudhi ||6|17|9||

“This is the hallowed path trod by your ancestors and theirs. gladden 
their souls by your zeal in this war.”

nAbhAgo hi yayAtishcha mAndhAtA nahuSho nR^igaH |
saMsiddhaH paramaM sthAnaM gatAH karmabhirIdR^iShaiH ||6|17|10||

“Nabhaga and Yayati, Mandhata, Nahusha, and Nrga[6] were blessed and 
reached the highest place by deeds such as you will do.”

[6] illustrious kings; ancestors of the Kauravas and Pandavas.

adharmaH kShatriyasyaiSha yadvyAdhimaraNaM gR^ihe |
yadAjau nidhanaM yAti so.asya dharmaH sanAtanaH ||6|17|11||

“It is adharma for a Kshatriya to die of sickness at home but is his 
eternal dharma[7] to find death on the battlefield.”

[7] Note the use of the phrase sanatana dharma

As this post has already gotten quite long, I will add some further 
excerpts from gitaparvan in a part two tomorrow.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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