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In Mahabharata, we know that Drona was a Brahmin. He would refuse to teach any Shudra student citing that it is not their Dharma to become a warrior.

In the same vein, was it not wrong on Drona's part to learn warrior skills and then imparting skills to Kshatriya (Pandavas/Kauravas) despite himself being a Brahmin?

Wasn't he breaking the rules of his Dharma when he acquired warrior skills from Parashurama or even when he actively participated in the Kurukshetra war?

  • Fighting war is against Bramhin Dharma, while learning Martial Arts, and teaching is perfectly okay actually it is the Bramhin Dharma to preach/teach. Just to clarify Lord Parshurama got a boon from Shiva to fight as Kshatriya in the Battlefield. – Yogi Sep 12 '16 at 17:51
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Himself being a Brāhmaṇa, was it not wrong on Droṇa's part to learn warrior skills and impart them to Kṣatriyas?

No. It's not wrong on Droṇa's part. It is actually recommended that a brāhmaṇa learn several skills, not just warrior skills and teach them to others depending on their varṇa (caste). But he should never put those skills to use and earn income off of them. I suspect it's due to this reason, Droṇa asked the young graduates (Pāṇḍavas and Kauravas) to attack and capture Drupada when he could do it all by himself. Though he was quite capable of accomplishing the task himself, he didn't, because he shouldn't.

Swami Chandrasekarendra Saraswati in the book Hindu Dharma: The Universal Way of Life explains as below.

The Brahmin must be conversant with the fourteen branches of the Vedic lore. He must be proficient even in Gandharva-veda or music and must be acquainted with agricultural science, construction of houses, etc. At the same time he must give instructions in these subjects to pupils from the appropriate castes. His own vocation is the study of the Vedas and he must have no other source of income.

Viśvāmitra was the master of Dhanurveda (military science). When he performed sacrifices, the demons Subahu and Marica tried to play havoc with them. Though a great warrior himself, he did not try to drive away the demons himself. Instead, he brought Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa for the purpose. Viśvāmitra thereafter gave the instruction to the two in the use of astras and sastras.

If the Brahmin is asked, "Do you know to wield a knife? " he must be able to answer, "Yes, I know". If he is asked, "Do you know to draw and paint" again he must say, "Yes". But he cannot wield a knife or become an artist to earn his livelihood. All he can do is to learn these arts and teach others the same according to their caste. He is permitted to receive a dakṣiṇā to maintain himself and he must be contented with it however small the sum may be. The Brahmin's speciality, his true vocation, is Vedic learning.

[Hindu Dharma » Varna Dharma For Universal Well-Being » Brahmins are not a Privileged Caste]


Wasn't he breaking the rules of dharma when he actively participated in the Kurukṣetra war?

Yes and No.

  1. Yes. Broke the rules. Because, as explained above, he cannot use the Dhanur-veda he learned in a real battle. He is only allowed to teach those skills.

  2. No, didn't break any rules because he's obligated to fight for his hosts (Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Duryodhana, Bhīṣma etc.) for having given him a place to stay and lead a comfortable life. Even if it meant going against his sva-dharma to raise weapons against people.

However, if Droṇa made a case to Bhīṣma or Dhṛtarāṣṭra to relieve him from the war (Virāṭa or Kurukṣetra), my guess is they would be obliged to honor his request.

But with Droṇa not participating, I doubt if the Kurukṣetra war itself would have taken place!

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This question assumes that a person may never change his Varna. Drona may have felt that his Varna was that of a Kshatriya and thus opted for working as a weapons trainer. If he really refused to teach a Shudra student then he was simply wrong since he should have accepted the right of a Shudra student to change his Varna to that of a Kshatriya.

There are other examples (apart from Drona) of people changing their Varna.

Example of Change of Varna in Hindu scripture

Bhagavan Rishabha, realising that the region of his advent was a place dominated by Vedic rituals, adopted the life of a religious student under a teacher with gifts, came back home with his blessings. He adopted the householder’s station of life in order to teach the world about the duties of that order, observed all the ceremonials and duties laid down in the scriptures, married a girl named Jayanti given to him by Indra, and begot by her a hundred sons equal to himself in all respects. Of all these sons, Bharata was the eldest and noblest. This Ajanabha Varsha came to be known after him as Bharatavarsha. Next to him, the eldest nine other sons ….. were elder to the remaining ninety. Among these ninety, another nine … became great devotees and teachers of the Bhakti cult. ….. The remaining eighty one of the brothers, who were humble in nature, learned in the Vedas, adepts in sacrificial rites, and extremely pure through their observances, became Brahmanas according to their father’s instruction.

Srimad Bhagavata Purana, V.4.8-13

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