Ethical hierarchies answer all ethical dilemmas. They are the basis of deriving right duties. This is the first of the five factors, described in Shloke 18.13-14.
‘Adhisthanam’ is the seat of action or responsible position. Some interpreters say it means body-in-action, but then who is the ‘Karta’, the second factor. It also does not relate to other concepts and principles in Sanatan dharma. Therefore, ‘Adhisthanam’ actually indicates the seat of responsibilities and accountability one holds due to a position. This also finds sync with the concept of four Asramas, and the four personalities (which is misinterpreted as caste). Duties are thus directed by this seat of responsibilities, doer holds. Seats of responsibilities are the ethical hierarchies, based on the extent of people or segment one addresses. One may be dedicated to self, family, organization, country, environment, forests, animals or humanity at large. For example, a chief minister is responsible for the welfare of its state and people; while a prime Minister is responsible to the entire Nation. A Local Police officer is responsible for his area, and a local laundry guy is responsible to few people in the society. Thus, they service a set of people. With ascending ethical hierarchies, responsibilities rise. Ethical hierarchies help determine the precedence order when there is dilemma or to balance out the actions. For example, everyone works for their family but at times family’s interest has to be sacrificed for the country, the greater good. When an army-men fights at the border, he is ready to sacrifice his life and leave family behind, for the nation. Not many people would do it. Bhamashah donated all his wealth to Maharana Pratap to save the nation, which would have made his sons and daughter rich, instead. In the battle of Haldi Ghati, Jhala Sardar Maan Singh, donned the helmet of Maharana Pratap to mislead the enemy, and sacrificing his life. His families’ interests did not come his way in protecting the nation. They are Kshatriya. Brahmans who dedicate their life studying and researching, solving people’s problem for the sake of humanity service across border. Their contribution is not confined to the boundaries of the nation. Today this role is played by the Scientists. Of course, time has changed, now Scientists are well paid, but then, in ancient times, Brahmins were not supposed to own anything, and dedicated all their life and riches for the humanity, including future generations. Thus, they deserved the highest respect., even higher than the Kshatriya, who sacrificed life, yet enjoyed state’s riches and luxuries as well. How much we give rather than take is important. Indeed, personality classes of Brahman, Kshatriya Vaishya and Shudra are also divided based on the extent of people they serve.
Indian rishis prescribed four phases of life, Brahmacharyasram, the student phase was dedicated to self, when essential learnings and skill development was the main objective so that children grow with capabilities to serve the society and humanity at large. Next were the Grihasthasram, dedicated to family, Vaanprasthasram dedicated to society and mentoring Youngsters, and the last was Sanyasasram, when they detached themselves from the family completely and became fully dedicated to humanity. Thus, they successively worked at increasing ethical hierarchies, demonstrating a milieu of shudra , Vaishya, Kshatriya and Brahmin qualities in each successive stage. These are the ethical hierarchies and ‘Adhisthanam’, the role of people in each stage and in each capacity is changing. Application extends to today’s social strata from a local service provider to the President of the nation, as their accountability changes.
Ethical dilemmas can be resolved by balancing out the outcomes and effects of two options, rising hierarchies fixes the choice. Thus, ethical duties change contextually as one learns about wider and unexplorable dimensions of life.
For a determined one, he is always single-minded to his works O son of Kurus; many branches (of thoughts) would lead to infinite conclusions and that belongs to unprofesionals. (Rationalist take logically balanced single decision and they are not indeterminate).
One must stick to a decision till the task is accomplished and should not stumble or weaken. However, this does not imply sticking to unscrupulous whims even when realized the futility of it. A thoughtful analysis of the multiple options and a structured decision-making is professionalism. The Shloke acknowledges that multiple streams of thoughts may lead to confusion and emphasizes on mehtodical fixing a decision then stick to it. Once ethical hierarchies are understood, all dilemmas are resolved. Here too, seeing Arjun puzzled, Bhagwan Kritsna provides his thoughtful opinion and advises him to stick to it single-mindedly, which is good for the humankind.
(One) Should know his duties and doables, must also know the special actions or alternative actions and also the inactions. Law of Karma is deeply reflective.
“Doable’ here means worth doing or what should be done as objective duties. Non-doable (not worth doing) is opposite. Note that 'Vi' is a Sanskrit Dhatu used for non-conforming trends, such as ‘alternative (Vikalp), special (Vigyan, Vishesh, Vidhata) and opposite (Vipareet, Vilom). Most translators say Vikarma here is forbidden actions. But by the theory of actions almost every action is contextually justifiable or unjustifiable. This is why it is said that ethics has no absolute reference. What looks forbidden at first may be special action in certain circumstances. The Shloke says:
‘Karmano’: Actions duty bound. Once a person realizes his seat of responsibility or ethical hierarchy, duties derived from it are easy to understand and perform.
‘Vikarma’: Special actions, alternatives and opposite actions. Non-conformist approach, breaking off the tradition is Vikarma. This may be for the good or bad or creating alternative ways. For example, when Swami Dayananad tried to create social awareness against child marriage and caste system, then also some people called it vikarma as it was against traditions. People of Bali, in adverse situations where enemies would come and destroy temples and idols, devised a way to install idols when worshipping then removing them away, which in Indian context is forbidden. Their pious intentions cannot be denounced in such situation. Indians, in order to save Sanatan Dharma from destructive forces build temples into caves and high-rise mountains. Why they should do so, if it is difficult to reach for common men and women. This is because it helped fight adversities caused by foreign invasions. A benevolent person goes abroad and finds a widowed lady in trouble due to indecent neighborhood. He marries her to provide a social status, despite already being married. Some would say it is against Dharma, at least in present context, but his intention was to support a troubled life socially and economically. In a monogamist society, his actions are Vikarma (forbidden) as he is indulging in polygamy, while in a polygamist society his actions are Vikarma (especially commendable) as he is supporting two lives. Sanatan Dharma is not about the actions in its absolute forms, but the intentions and effects of actions. Fundamentally, benevolence in actions is more important, not the fixed morals. Lord Kritsna kills Demon Narakasur and frees 16100 women slaves, but given the norms then, they had difficulty in getting moral acceptance in society. Hence, lord Kritsna married them and declared them as his wives, to redeem them, not for promiscuous desires. The same action by Narakasur was the hell for the women as slaves, but the same action by lord Kritsna with intent of redeeming them was freedom to them, and respectful. .
‘Akarmana’: Inaction again has three meanings. 1. Actions not worth doing, 2. Inaction out of indolence and, 3. Inaction as action-in-inaction (see 4.18). Sleeping over matters due to indolence or deliberately has different connotations and motives. Silent approvals may sometime be necessary evil- that is action-in-inaction.
Thus, theory of actions is deep and not easy to understand as it intricately relates to contexts, situations, intentions and effects. Superficial approach to adjudicating actions in absolute form would be damaging and hence careful investigation required. Team work helps provide needed alignment to common objectives as two brains are better than the one. Yet again, too many cook spoil the broth, in absence of a leader. Think! which principles applies when. This is why shloke says ‘Gahana karmano gatih’ Theory of action is deep, and tricky.
He, who visualizes inaction in action and action in inaction, is wisest among the men and is perfect in understanding the holistic law of actions.
Often situations arise where inaction itself is action. For example, deliberating delaying an action, as inaction may be more benevolent decision. Similarly, sometimes it looks that actions have no effect. Then, actions amount to inactions. Wise holistically understand such differences. Example of ‘Action-in-Inaction’ can be referred to those opinion makers who stir minds and promulgate ideologies but for some reasons they themselves are unable to convert them into meaningful actions. Poets who revive the soul of society move the masses with such action-in-Inactions. Deliberate inaction by a police officer to protect a criminal friend could also be an example of Action-in-Inaction, but on a despicable note. If the same inaction is exercised by the Police in order to save an innocent, being victimized by rich and mighty, it would be on a commendable work. Even in research studies, many scientists brainstorm and contribute bit by bit for generations to reach the final development, but often the credit goes to the one who eventually integrates all equations to answer the puzzles and proposes the congregated idea successfully. For the early contributors’ action-in-inaction is obvious. Every human progress and success has such ‘lost-in-oblivion’ contributors and therefore Sanatan Dharma is not attributed to any one contributor, unlike other religions of the world.
When we forward misleading, and crafted WhatsApp messages, quiet casually for fun, we are responsible for deluding and spreading wrong message. This is action-in-inaction too.
Inaction-in-action refers to people who chase trifle material pleasure out of undue desires and wants and waste their time and energy. Billionaires die, leaving hundreds of the cars and properties behind, they have more lawyers around their bed, then families at the time of death. What worth is all that? They are never remembered for the riches they leave behind, instead, revered for the industries they setup that employs thousands of people, and feeds their families, even raise the economic status of the country. Actions driven by ego, pride or hypocrisy fall in Inaction-in-action category. Millions of dollars are splurged on birthday parties and marriages, while few researchers do not get grants to convert their knowledge into technologies, which would help the country and its people. What worth is such a wealth? Another example is related to children who spend a lot of time in their rooms, looking at open books, but their minds are elsewhere or are busy playing mobile games. Their parents think children are studying. In this inaction-in-action, children fool themselves and their parents.