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In the Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna to fulfil his dharma of Kshatriya by fighting to establish dharma and order in the world. What would Krishna have told an soldier in Duryodhanas side, to disobey his master and dishonor being a Kshatriya and lay down his arms or fight for an adharmic force, this is assuming every human has the capacity to know what is dharma and adharma, as we see in our complex world, things arent so black and white and good vs evil. Krishan himself sent his soldiers to fight for Duryodhana giving them no choice but to join an adharmic force.

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  • That is exactly what Krishna tried to do - dissuade various people who wanted to fight on Duryodhana's side by telling them that Duryodhana is adharma. For example, Bhishma, Drona, Karna, etc. were all aware that Krishna's side is dharma and Duryodhana's is adharma. But they misplaced the various levels of dharma. They ignorantly held their own personal dharma above the bigger national or cultural dharma. They mistakenly thought that their personal allegiance was their highest dharma. Krishna himself has demonstrated that to be wrong. – RamAbloh Feb 19 at 21:57
  • As we also see that two brothers of Duryodhana, Vikarna and Yuyutsu change sides before the war started. – RamAbloh Feb 19 at 21:59
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Before I can answer this question it is necessary to understand the concept of svadharma.

It is indeed difficult in today's world to figure out one's svadharma.

One's own duty, even if without excellence (i.e. inferior in the scale of worldly values)is more meritorious spiritually than the apparently well-performed duty of another. For no sin is incurred by one doing works ordained according to one's nature.

[Gita 18.47]

This verse was interpreted by old commentators as jobs ascribed to particular castes. This verse is interpreted differently by those who think of varna as dependent on guna and karma.

These verses, which were easy for our ancients to understand, pose great difficulty for us today. So long as Varna was identified with the endogamous caste, and valid texts ascribed particular works to each caste it was easy to find out one's Svadharma, and if one had a will, to perform it too. That a priest's son should be a priest, a soldier's son a soldier, a merchant's son a merchant, an agriculturist's son an agriculturist, a serf's son a serf - is an arrangement that could be practised to some extent in the old feudal society when educational opportunities were restricted, when there was no choice in following professions, when social contacts were limited, and when the validity of the system was accepted by the people in general. But today such an idea of Svadharma hereditarily determined, is impossible of practice. Society and professions have become competitive. The imparting of education without any restriction imposed by caste, has helped the shuffling of professional abilities among all members of society, setting aside hereditary factors. So it has become honourable for any one to follow any profession, and the determination of Svadharma based on birth as in a caste based economy, has become impractical and impossible, and also undesirable. In a democratic society, the same kind of education is open to all, and every one is eligible, according to one's qualification and capacity, to positions of power, prestige and high income. In these days of national armies every able-bodied citizen has the eligibility to be recruited - he may even be conscripted - in the armed forces of the country. In such a milieu, if the Gita idea of Svadharma is accepted as caste based, as it was understood a few generations back, and as it used to be interpreted by old commentators, then it has become thoroughly outmoded and will be rejected by every section of society in India and outside.

But as already pointed out, the wording of the Gita about Caturvarnya, except as interpreted by old commentators, does not mean endogamous castes, but the four psychological types. If this is accepted, Svadharma would mean only work that springs out of one's own nature and therefore adapted to one's natural development. But how to recognise these types and how to provide them with work suited to their nature - is a problem that cannot be solved. We have to leave work based on psychological type as an ideal arrangement in a more rationally organised society of the future. There is no other way today but to understand Svadharma as the duty devolving on oneself in society, inclusive of the profession one follows. If that is done well with God in view, and not merely for remuneration or with a worldly master in view, then one may be said to follow Svadharma.

Commentary on Gita 18.47 by Swami Tapasyananda in his English translation of Srimad Bhagavad Gita.

The example you have given is not about svadharma but about moral choice. The troops on either side were doing their duty in the belief that fighting in a war is their svadharma. Whether any of the troops fighting on the Kaurava side should have refused to fight would be a moral question and has nothing to do with svadharma.



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  • Pardon my ignorance, so hypothetically, if Krishna was delivering the gita to his solider in the Kauravas side, and if the solider was trembling and not willing to kill his enemies and relatives on the other side, should he have lifted his bow and fulfilled his duty as a Kshatriya and get killed to reach heaven? Or should he have laid down his arms so that Dharma is established and fail his svadharma and incurred sin? – Lim Gaye Feb 18 at 14:55
  • Fighting for adharma is not fulfilling his duty and will not result in a heavenly stay. Laying down his arms because he doesn't want to fight against dharma is a moral choice and does not imply failing his svadharma. – Pradip Gangopadhyay Feb 19 at 13:58
  • You should notice the person who asked this soldier to fight for Duryodhana was Krishna himself as part of a deal when he sided with Arjuna and left his solders not to fulfil their duties by forcing them to fight for an adharmic force. – Lim Gaye Feb 19 at 16:25
  • You do not seem to understand the concept of svadharma. A person is asked to choose a profession based on his svadharma in the Gita. So let us assume that a person A has joined Krishna's army. So A has behaved according to what A believes is his svadharma. Later one Krishna offered Duryadhana the choice of himself or his army. If Krishna had joined Duryadhana then he would have either convinced D not to fight or ensured his defeat so that Dharma wins. TO BE CONTINUED – Pradip Gangopadhyay Feb 20 at 6:07
  • Since D chose the Army, the soldier named A now has a choice whether he will fight for Kaurava or refuse to fight, i.e., A now has to make a moral choice between fighting for adharma or refusing to fight. It has nothing to do with svadharma. You may now ask why Krishna asks his army to fight for adharma. The reason is explained in the Gita where Krishna showed Arjuna that the Kauravas would not win. So Dharma would not have been in peril whatever choice Krishna made. – Pradip Gangopadhyay Feb 20 at 6:16

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