Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 1, Slokas 40 to 42

Newsletter on Bhagavadgita by Dr. P.V. Nath

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Original English version of text follows after German translation.
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Sloka 40, 41 and 42

KULAKSHAYE PRANASHYANTI KULADHARMA SANATANAHA
DHARME NASHTE KULAM KRITSNAM ADHARMO’BHIBHAVATYUCHA

ADHARMABHIBHAVAAT KRISHNA PRADUSHYANTI KULASTRIYAHA
STREESHU DRISHTVASU VARSHNEYA JAYATE VARNA SANKARAHA

SANKARO’ NARAKAYAIVA KULAGHNANAM KULASYA CHA
PATANTI PITARO HYESHAAM LUPTA PINDODAKA KRIYAHA

O Krishna, when the family is destroyed, immemorial religious rites and rituals perish, when these perish, they fall into a state of impiety. By impiety, the women of the family become corrupt. When women become corrupt, the purity of the caste is polluted by confusion and admixture. Caste pollution leads to hell for both the family and the slayers of the family. The dead forefathers fall form the higher realms of existence being deprived of the rites of sraddha and tarpana.

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Arjuna is indirectly giving us some information on the family system of the days gone bye. We have to understand that the family was the unit and families together formed the society. The elders in the family conducted various religious rites and rituals. These were passed on from generation to generation. The entire family took part in the rituals conducted with family and friends. The children as they grow up continue the same tradition. If not for the traditions, the religion would be dead by now. (We need to understand the intellectual meaning and significance of many of the rituals conducted. If not they become actions of blind faith and the present generation of youngsters loose interest and sometimes turn against the religion itself.)

> When the family is destroyed:
The men in the olden days were the breadwinners and the women were responsible for bringing up the children. There were no universities and teaching institutions like what we have now. The Brahmin and Kshatriya children went to the Gurukula ashrama to learn the Vedas and Upanisads. The children from the Vysya (business) community learnt the trade by observing and assisting their father. The art was passed from generation to generation and kept alive by this method.

In those days there were wars frequently between the adjoining kingdoms. The men went as soldiers to protect their country. War as we know leads to a number of catastrophes.

Death of the soldiers in the war is unavoidable. The death of the soldier would mean death of the breadwinner for that family. This means destruction of the families’ infrastructure. Hence the statement “when the family is destroyed.”

Without the men, the religious rites come to a halt.

The children would have no one to control their actions. They would take part in acts of crime and sin.

> The women in the family become corrupt:

There are mainly two reasons for this to happen. 1) The women not having the financial support would become pray to unscrupulous men who take advantage of the situation. 2) The invading soldiers would conduct sinful acts on the helpless widows.

This brings about the pollution of the caste. The method of transmitting the skills from father to son comes to a halt. There would ensue a major confusion in the society. The assault from foreign soldiers brings about admixture of various castes.

As this destroys the society the learned elders use strong words like: “Caste pollution leads to hell for both the family and the slayers of the family.” In the name of hell and suffering in hell, they wanted the men and women not to undertake sinful acts that bring destruction of the entire society.

One of the Hindu customs is conduct of religious rites (sraddha) to the departed forefathers of the family. Sraddha and tarpana are supplementary rites to the funeral ceremony performed in honour of the deceased elder/elders. It includes offering a cake of rice to the immediate three generations of the deceased. The subtle bodies of the forefathers would come down and partake the cake offered. Through the medium of the cake, the merits collected by the living family members are passed on the deceased elders. This would assist them in their final union with “Brahman”.

Failure to conduct the sraddha would prevent the deceased from attaining the moksha. They would fall down from the heights of spiritual progress achieved.

Copyright for the texts on Bhagavad Gita by Dr. P.V. Nath, UK.
Questions concerning the text please direct to Dr. Nath at “snath@btinternet.com“.

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