sva-dharmam api caveksya
na vikampitum arhasi
dharmyad dhi yuddhac chreyo ‘nyat
ksatriyasya na vidyate
Considering your specific duty as a Kshatriya, you should know that there is no better engagement for you than fighting on principles; hence no need for hesitation.
There are two kinds of ‘swa-dharmas’, specific duties. As long as one is not liberated, one has to perform the duties of that particular body in accordance with religious principles in order to achieve liberation. When one is liberated, one’s swa-dharma-specific duty-becomes spiritual and is not in the material bodily concept. In the bodily concept of life there are specific duties for the Brahmans and Kshatriyas respectively, and such duties are unavoidable.
Kshatriya is the one who protects us from harm. That is, it is the dharma of a Kshatriya to fight for the right cause. There is nothing more welcome to a man of the warrior class than a righteous war viz., which is his main duty. Similar is the case with the people of other classes-the priest, the business and the labour classes.
We all must perform our duties and responsibilities to the best of our abilities. Doing someone else job, however nicely, and not doing yours will result in the failure of the individual as well as the team.
sukhinah ksatriyah partha
labhante yuddham idrsam
O Partha, happy are the Kshatriyas to whom such fighting opportunities come
Duryodhana imposed a condition on the Pandavas, “If you lose while gambling, you will be exiled for twelve years and will reside in an unknown place for one year. Then after thirteen years you will regain your empire. But, if you are identified during that one year period, you will again be exiled for twelve years.” The Pandavas accepted the condition and suffered twelve years in exile, and one year’s incognito existence. After expiration of the period, when the Pandavas demanded their empire, Duryodhana refused to give them, even as much land as could be covered by the point of a needle, without waging war. The Pandavas made several efforts for a compromise, but Duryodhana bluntly refused. Therefore, Lord Krishna says to Arjuna, “You have got this unsought and unsolicited opportunity, for waging a war. Such a righteous war is an open gateway to heaven.” Only those who are greatly fortunate get the opportunity to fight such a battle which has manifested unsought of its own accord which is verily a direct gateway to the heavenly spheres.
Here ‘Kshatriya’ only indicates your duty in a given profession and should never hesitate to perform your duty to your best of abilities. If you are a police officer, you must fire at a robber to protect the innocent. A soldier must kill the enemy to protect his country and so on.
atha cet tvam imam dharmyam
sangramam na karisyasi
tatah sva-dharmam kirtim ca
hitva papam avapsyasi
If, however, you do not fight this religious war, then you will certainly incur sins for neglecting your duties and thus lose your reputation as a fighter.
Arjuna was a famous fighter, and he attained fame by fighting many great demigods, including even Lord Siva. After fighting and defeating Lord Siva in the dress of a hunter, Arjuna pleased the lord and received as a reward a weapon called ‘pasupata-astra’. Everyone knew that he was a great warrior. Even Dronacharya gave him benedictions and awarded him the special weapon by which he could kill even his teacher. So he was credited with so many military certificates from many authorities, including his adopted father Indra, the heavenly king. But if he abandoned the battle, he would not only neglect his specific duty as a Kshatriya, but he would lose all his fame and good name and thus prepare his royal road to hell. In other words, he would go to hell, not by fighting, but by withdrawing from battle.
Essentially not doing ones duty is as bad as doing someone else’s.
akirtim capi bhutani
kathayisyanti te ‘vyayam
People will always speak of your infamy, and for one who has been honoured, dishonour is worse than death.
For a respectable man like you, ill fame is worse than death. So, you should not flee for fear of your life; better to die in the battle. Nothing is lost, if wealth is lost; something is lost if health is lost, everything is lost if character is lost. Character is like a tree and reputation is like its shadow.
Not only will happiness and fame elude Arjuna if he disregards his duty as a Kshatriya but the whole world will chastise him and speak of his act of disgrace in public as well as in private. They will say Arjuna was a coward for when the battle was about to begin he gave only excuses and retreated hastily from the battlefield. Lord Krishna is telling him that forever history will brand him for cowardice. If Arjuna was to reply that what the public think is of no consequence to him, Sri Krishna neutralises that by stating that for a person of honour possessing the qualities of heroism, determination, strength, courage etc. which are all contrary to cowardice to have to accept infamy is worse than death.
bhayad ranad uparatam
mamsyante tvam maha-rathah
yesam ca tvam bahu-mato
bhutva yasyasi laghavam
The great generals who have highly esteemed your name and fame will think that you have left the battlefield out of fear only, and thus they will consider you a coward.
Do not think that the great generals like Duryodhana, Karna, and other contemporaries will think that you have left the battlefield out of compassion for your brothers and grandfather. They will think that you have left out of fear for your life. Arjuna is generally known as a mighty warrior and a renowned hero, a worthy opponent for any of the valiant warriors of the Kauravas such as Karna, Duryodhana etc. If Arjuna were to retire from the fight on the eve of battle they would all consider him a coward and they immediately would assume that Arjuna had abstained from battle due to feeling dread at their prowess. Therefore, if you desist from the war, all the living beings will think that you have done so out of fear, not out of a sense of duty and righteousness, as it is the first and foremost duty of a Kshatriya to fight.