The Completion Of Duty In The Bhagavad Gita
From just societies to strict social classes, however, many religious texts influenced in shaping how society was run. Throughout the realms of Ancient India, social hierarchy reminded the people of India of isolation and categorization existing. The caste system is a prime example of the division of the people of India and how society was driven based on this concept of the four main groups: Brahmins (priests and teachers), Kshatriyas ( warriors and rulers), Vaishyas (farmers and merchants), Shudras (laborers), and the Dalits (outcasts and street sweepers). This division was influenced by the fundamental text, the Bhagavad Gita, a text that had a tremendous effect of the mindset of several people of India. The Bhagavat Gita set an example for the culture of India, introducing certain morals and beliefs that India has to this day chosen to follow and has left a tremendous impact in Indian society. Furthermore, the Bhagavad Gita amplifies the implications of the strict hierarchy in the form of the caste system and encourages social stratification. The Bhagavad Gita is the eternal message of spiritual wisdom from ancient India. The story takes place on a battlefield of an upcoming war between two groups of cousins: the Kauravas and Pandavas. However, the Pandava brother, Arjuna loses his will to fight due to fear of losing his own blood and has a discussion with his charioteer Krishna about duty and action. The idea of duty, or dharma is the key idea in the Gita. Each caste has their own duty and the caste that each person belongs to have the responsibility of completing their specified duty. Duty and caste are kept separate otherwise fear and chaos will strike. Further, the Gita states, “When the family is ruined, / the timeless laws of family duty/ perish; and when duty is lost, / chaos overwhelms the family”. This text ensues that if you do not follow the caste system then you are committing the “sin”. Those who violate the system are violation their family and casing disorder. This makes the individual feel as though they are responsible for causing the chaos in society. Therefore, to keep order, everyone must follow their duty of their caste by following a set of rules. This is a prime example as to why the Gita influences society’s structure by separating family and duty.
The idea of moksha is introduced into the Gita as the ultimate goal of Hinduism. Krishna many times mentioned that if Arjuna completed his duty to fight the adversity, he would complete his part of the dharma and achieve moksha. Because many want to achieve this end goal, many are influenced to complete their part of the duty in their social status. Further, the attainment of moksha is mentioned in the test that follows:” Look at your own duty; / do not tremble before it; / nothing is better for a warrior / than a battle of scared duty”. The statement clearly defines the fact that there is a certain pathway that should be taken to achieve moksha. The link between caste and duty allows for the ultimate goal of moksha to be reached, in other words uniting the people under a universal purpose. This division of hierarchy needs to be divided in order to obtain the release from rebirth. This release of rebirth means having a better life in the next life and that can only be ensured through the suffering of the caste one is born into. That way the suffering is evitable for people and the Gita justifies this as the actions that need to be taken as part of gaining a better life in the next cycle. To emphasize the strictness of the caste system, many still follow is today because of how tremendously influential it is leaving a mark on many Indians. The article, “Profile: Caste-based system of discrimination still infect in India” by Noah Adams demonstrates a small village in Barkia, Rajasthan, India containing of roughly 50 families follow the caste system. Barkia strictly segregates those of different castes by a dirt road that runs through the center of the village, referring to it as a “fence”. One side of the “fence” flourishes with those of the upper caste living in house with tiled roofs and the other side contains the “untouchables” living in mud-dwelled houses working for the upper caste members. The division in this village allows for each member of the caste to complete their duty of their caste. Following he guidelines of the caste system is so strict that there are two wells, one for the upper caste to use and other for the lower caste to use. The lower caste cannot go near the well of the upper caste, in fear that they will pollute it. In another instance, the segregation is exemplified further when it comes to praying at the temple. Those of the upper caste system are free to go upstairs to the temple and pray and provide offerings while those in the lower caste are forbidden from going up and are encouraged to pray from a distance. At one point an old man of the village who had just gotten out of his typhoid illness went up the stairs of the temple to give thanks. A middle-aged man of the upper caste noticed this and yelled at the old man and took and iron clad and beat him to death for going up to the temple to pray. The segregation and the use f the caste system in the village of Barkia is a prime example of how seriously one condones to their duties.
The strict order of the social hierarchy can also be compared to the Civil Rights Movement that occurred during the 1950s with the segregation of the African American people and white people. Everything was separate marking clear signs for the “colored” and “white”. The white people were treated with more respect similarly to the upper caste system and the African Americans were treated like discarded matter full of disrespect similar to the lower caste system. However, the Gita is not a text that completely discouraged the lower caste system and instead gave them hope that if they worked hard according to their caste’s duty, they would fulfill their needs and be born in a higher caste in their next life. Some may argue that the Bhagavat Gita proved to be an egalitarian society, where everyone was treated and of equal membership. Furthermore, the Gita emphasizes, “learned men see with an equal eye/ a scholarly and dignified priest/ a cow, an elephant, a dog, / and even an outcast scavenger”. Although this statement allows the reader to see the equal eye in everyone and the Gita does touch base on the theme of equality, these ideas do not directly mean that an egalitarian society was entirely built. Not everyone shares equal wealth or allow everyone to achieve whatever pursuit they choose. The way that the Gita is structure, it mostly focuses on the division of the castes and how each has their own duty to fulfill. Viewing things from an “equal eye” does not necessarily mean that everyone is seen as equal, it means that all individuals are able to improve themselves and act on their specific duties to succeed. Therefore, the Gita is essentially a text that deciphers the specific order within social class to which Hindus of the caste system must follow. To conclude, the Bhagavad Gita, a text of Ancient India, is an appropriate example that compares and exhibits the importance of strict social structure in the Hindu culture and why is should be practiced. Throughout the text of the Bhagavad Gita, many ideas of the social structure were emphasized with Krishna explaining the emphasis of completing one’s duty, or dharma and fulfilling it to achieve moksha and satisfaction in the next life. The basis of this hierarchical structure has influenced India since the beginning of time as it does still influence life in India today.
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