I read the Bhagvad Gita once again…yes, because the profound messages that the short text contains, cannot be internalized by reading the book once, twice or even ten times. And as the deconstruction theorists say, one always brings his repertoire of experiences to the book and unfolds the unique message for himself.
However, what I’m intrigued about this time is a little doubt about the nature of ‘karma’ or duty that Lord Krishna instructs Arjuna about. When Lord Krishna says that one ought to do his karma without thinking about the fruits of his action, that was pretty simple for a warrior like Arjuna. Arjuna was a kshatriya, belonging to the class of warriors, in a time when the duties of the four different castes were explicitly differentiated and structured. The four classes, Brahmins, kshatriyas, vaishyas and shudras, had different roles to play and so in a way nobody demonstrated an ambition to usurp the functions or privileges of another class. So as a kshatriya, Arjuna’s role was to fight his opponent, even if it was his own relatives.
But as a modern day woman living in a society where caste and class restrictions do not obstruct my decisions and the way I conduct my business, how am I going to decide my ‘karma’? What defines the nature of my birth? What is my role as a woman in a 21st century educated on a borrowed system of education? How can I say whether my actions are well within the scope of my nature and what lies outside it? How should I validate my existence?
If my middle class society defines me, then what about people who have transgressed such limits? And if my country of birth defines me, then what about the immigrants? If my role as a wife defines me, then what about the women who divorce or mothers who sacrifice their motherhood for the greater good? Every decision that I make can well be according to my nature or may be not.
So, does it mean that when I’m faced with a crisis, I take into consideration my position and then do my duty that is right or proper? But even in that case, how will I know if I’m doing the karma that I’m assigned to do?
And if I’m going to do my karma in any case (as the Bhagvad Gita states), it just means that Lord Krishna was assigned as a charioteer to encourage Arjuna so that he does not deviate (if we can say so) from his Karma.