Chapter 2: Contents of the Gita Summarized
sva-dharmam api caveksya
na vikampitum arhasi
dharmyad dhi yuddhac chreyo 'nyat
ksatriyasya na vidyate
svadharmam—one's own religious principles; api—also; ca—indeed; aveksya—considering; na—never; vikampitum—to hesitate; arhasi—you deserve; dharmyat—from religious principles; hi—indeed; yuddhat—of fighting; sreyah—better engagements; anyat—anything else; ksatriyasya—of the ksatriya; na—does not; vidyate—exist.
Considering your specific duty as a ksatriya, you should know that there is no better engagement for you than fighting on religious principles; and so there is no need for hesitation.
Out of the four orders of social administration, the second order, for the matter of good administration, is called ksatriya. Ksat means hurt. One who gives protection from harm is called ksatriya (trayate—to give protection). The ksatriyas are trained for killing in the forest. A ksatriya would go into the forest and challenge a tiger face to face and fight with the tiger with his sword. When the tiger was killed, it would be offered the royal order of cremation. This system is being followed even up to the present day by the ksatriya kings of Jaipur state. The ksatriyas are specially trained for challenging and killing because religious violence is sometimes a necessary factor. Therefore, ksatriyas are never meant for accepting directly the order of sannyasa or renunciation. Nonviolence in politics may be a diplomacy, but it is never a factor or principle. In the religious law books it is stated:
ahavesu mitho 'nyonyam jighamsanto mahiksitah
yuddhamanah param saktya svargam yanty aparanmukhah
yajnesu pasavo brahman hanyante satatam dvijaih
samskrtah kila mantrais ca te 'pi svargam avapnuvan.
"In the battlefield, a king or ksatriya, while fighting another king envious of him, is eligible for achieving heavenly planets after death, as the brahmanas also attain the heavenly planets by sacrificing animals in the sacrificial fire." Therefore, killing on the battle on the religious principle and the killing of animals in the sacrificial fire are not at all considered to be acts of violence, because everyone is benefitted by the religious principles involved. The animal sacrificed gets a human life immediately without undergoing the gradual evolutionary process from one form to another, and the ksatriyas killed in the battlefield also attain the heavenly planets as do the brahmanas who attain them by offering sacrifice.
There are two kinds of svadharmas, 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 svadharma—specific duty—becomes spiritual and is not in the material bodily concept. In the bodily conception of life there are specific duties for the brahmanas and ksatriyas respectively, and such duties are unavoidable. Svadharma is ordained by the Lord, and this will be clarified in the Fourth Chapter. On the bodily plane svadharma is called varnasrama-dharma, or man's steppingstone for spiritual understanding. Human civilization begins from the stage of varnasrama-dharma, or specific duties in terms of the specific modes of nature of the body obtained. Discharging one's specific duty in any field of action in accordance with varnasrama-dharma serves to elevate one to a higher status of life.