I remember watching TV Serial Mahabharat, like most of us. However, they rendered this shloka as a song. It was quite impressive to listen to the shloka in the form of a song. This shloka is from the sacred Bhagawat Gita. Moreover, Krishna advises Arjuna (also called as Partha, Kaunteya, Bhārata…). This is the 7th verse of chapter 4.
It is easy to understand the literal meaning. In other words, when we directly translate this shloka from Sanskrit to English. Here you go. Whenever, Whenever, righteousness (which is the closest word to Dharma in English) declines, when evil arises (perhaps in your mind), Arjuna or anyone else’s mind, then is when I take birth, in your soul (could be body, brain, mind, soul)!
Does it sound confusing? No, not really. Let us divide the following shloka into several parts. The complete shloka goes as below:
यदा यदा हि धर्मस्य ग्लानिर्भवति भारत ।
अभ्युत्थानमधर्मस्य तदात्मानं सृजाम्यहम्
यदा यदा हि
You notice here that the word Yada is deliberately used twice. This is just to stress the importance of whenever. It could be like only whenever (on the trigger of something), not otherwise.
If you are an Indian, you would have heard about this word for sure. However, if you are not, there is a very little chance that you would have. Even if you would have heard, to understand it’s meaning, could be a herculean task. Firstly, there is no one book to refer to in India about Sanatana Dharma. Secondly, there is no one path to Moksha. Thirdly, there is no one god to worship. Therefore the interactions between human beings have to be measured and built upon something as the basis. This something that is the basis could be understood as Dharma.
Dharma can be explained better in two contexts. In other words, it can be concerning society, or to the individual.
When it comes to society, there are many types of dharma. This is mostly for the understanding of one another. For instance, there is;
- Matru Dharma
- this Dharma indicates as to what is the responsibility of a mother. How she should be taking care of the child. Why is she referred to as god etc?
- Pitru Dharma
- this Dharma, just like that of the mother, how a father should take care of the family. What should he do in terms of calamity, or dangerous situations, etc?
- Acharya Dharma
- Acharya Dharma speaks about how should his disciples be mentored. Where he should teach. What all a guru has to teach his pupils.
If you observed the above Dharma’s, they are all related. They cannot be followed without considering the other. In other words, Matru Dharma considers the social relationship between the mother and the child. Further, even Pitru Dharma and Acharya Dharma works the same way. There is a mutual connection. This connection is called as Social Dharma.
Here, the stress is given to the individuals and they are conceptual Dharmas. Following these Dharmas, an individual evolves from a mere mortal to a greater soul.
As may be said in any language in India:
मानव से माधव – From Manav (Human) to Madhav (God).
A human being consistently following the Dharma like how to:
- behave in a certain place
- treat a guest
- treat your mother
- face a battle
- speak with a stranger
Let us analyze this very point further. We shall consider the following shloka that Bhishma advises Yudhishtira, also called as Dharmaraj.
Shanti Parva and Bhishma
न राज्यं न च राजाऽसीन्न दण्डयो न च दाण्डिक: |
धर्मेणैव प्रजास्सर्वा रक्षन्ति स्म परस्परम् ||
In conclusion, the above shloka is an outcome of Dharma. In other words, every citizen should follow both the individual as mentioned earlier and social dharma. As a result, firstly, no king is required to rule a kingdom. Secondly, there will be no criminal or any crime. Lastly, there need not be any judge to penalize the criminal. People protect each other by the virtue of Dharma. Dharma is quite natural and what instills long-lasting happiness amongst everyone. Though this shloka might look ideal, it is not impossible to follow, at least to a certain extent.
Bhishma tells this to Yudhishtira, also known as a Dharmaraj that how good a rule book should be. It should be in favor of every person. Therefore everyone should enjoy both individually and in society.
Lastly, religion is nowhere an equivalent word to Dharma. Religion derives from the word, “Religate”. To relegate means sending to a lower level. In other words, religion means the one that sends us to a lower level. So, this word is inappropriate.
To sum up, this is the Dharma that the shloka is trying to explain to us. That is to say when the citizens do not follow Dharma, it is a natural cause of concern.
The declination of Dharma or in other words, Dharma’s dilution. There are so many instances where humans easily compromise on Dharma. For instance, a teacher might compromise on their teachings, by diluting the syllabus to be covered. This is social dharma compromised. This has an impact on the students, maybe at a later stage, when they are not in good positions to handle their work. Similarly, a father getting addicted to alcohol. This for sure disturbs the whole family. Subsequently, it might traumatize the wife and children, destroying the whole family. What were are talking might look small, but they are still not Dharma. When Dushyasana, on the order of Duryodhana, disrobed Draupadi, insulting her, this act could be the cheapest act to the core. These could be some instances of declination of Dharma.
Here, in this context, Krishna is referring to Arjuna. Then why is it that he uses Bharata (भारत). Arjuna is a descendant of Bharata(भरत), the Chandravansh clad, in the lineage. In other words, Bharata (भरत) was the son of Dyshyanta and Shakuntala. Bharata (भरत), Dushyanta, etc. were all from the same vansh or lineage, Chandra Vansh. From Bharata (भरत) comes Bharata (भारत). Therefore Krishna calls him Bharata (भारत).
Adharma is the opposite word to Dharma. Most importantly, if we don’t follow dharma, it means that we are on the side of Adharma. More and more of such atrocities prove to give birth to evil. Subsequently, this evil will contribute to a bad society. To sum up, evil actions are a part of our very own ideas. Ideas took birth in our minds. Our mind is a part of us. In short, the culprit was our mind. Keep this in mind while we try to move ahead to the next phase.
I re-incarnate in your soul. Firstly, I would like to bring to your notice that Sanskrit has several meanings for a single word. For eg., if you consider “amritam“, the first thing that comes to our mind is Nectar. This is of course true. However, one of the other meanings of amritam would be water. Water is called by the following words.
- Aapaha – आपः
- Sthree – स्त्री
- Bhumni – भूम्नि
- Vaarvaari – वारवारी
- Salilam – सलिलं
- Kamalam – कमलं
- Jalam – जलं
- Payaha – पयः
- Keelaalam – कीलालं
- Amritam – अमृतं
- Jeevanam – जीवनं
- Bhuvanam – भुवनं
- Vanam – वनं
If you did not notice, we have marked Amritam – अमृतं bold from the above list. The list of words are all synonyms of the word water. These and other words are all a part of Amarakosha. Amarakosha is an authentic dictionary of Sanskrit. Words and their synonyms are written in the form of Shlokas. Sanskrit is awesome!
Similarly, Aatmanam (आत्मानं), is used in a different context, with a different meaning. In this context it can be any of the following:
- Body – the mortal part of us that everybody first sees about us
- Brain – the logical part of us that takes logical decisions
- Mind – the emotional part of us that takes an emotional decision, connected to the heart
- Soul – the virtual part of us which can also be considered as the collective energy
Reactions are an outcome of our Actions. In this regard, if the part of the action is related to the body, Krishna tells, he uses our body as a medium and warns us. It is now, the responsibility of us to be warned and follow Dharma. However, by not doing so, we might have to face the consequence all by ourselves.
This shloka is a part of Bhagawat Gita. Krishna has always clearly told us that we are responsible for what we are. If we bring out the godly part that is within us, we will follow dharma. On the other hand, if we bring out the demon that is within us, we are bound to follow adharma. We should not wait for a god in a form or shape to incarnate and protect us. That will be like saying that we will only sit and wait. We should not stop waiting to protect ourselves from third party atrocities. If we have to do that, this shloka would be an inspiration.