“Because of this [see previous verses], the family women are defiled. When the family women are defiled, caste becomes intermixed.
“The family women are defiled”
The word for ‘woman‘ here is stri, which means, ‘bearer of children’. There are other words for women, but women are mentioned specifically in this verse as the bearers of children. There is concern regarding the progeny of the male leaders of society who would lose control over the continuation of their line (‘family law’) if they were to lose control of the women. A woman knows who her children are, but a man can only know this if he controls the woman. This takes us back to the previous installment and the mention of “the destruction of family” causing the “family laws to be lost”. What would be lost is a clear male family line.
(Ladies: For an interesting interpretation of this, read this Translation and the Purport. Scroll down to page 83, and fasten your seat belts.)
“This intermixture is hell for the destroyers of the family and for the family as well, and indeed, the ancestors also fall, deprived of offerings of rice and water.
“By these wrongs of the family-destroyers, producing mixed caste, caste dharma disappears along with family dharma.
Dharma – laws, customs, traditions.
The word for caste means ‘race, species, kind, sort, character, nature, property, or quality’ and can be applied to people or things. Here it is referring to social classes into which the characteristics and abilities of people can be generally categorized, and which eventually became fixed and determined by birth, as was the case in the time of the Mahabharata war. The four castes are, Brahmin (God-people), Kshatriya (warriors and leaders), Vaishya (farmers, merchants, businessmen), and Shudra (servers).
In this verse, Arjuna is saying that the loss of family dharma (‘family laws’) would cause confusion about an individual’s caste. Because the caste system has become fixed and is determined by birth, this system would no longer be reliable with the destruction of controlled family lines based on male lineage.
“Men whose family laws have been obliterated, O Agitator of Men [Krishna], dwell indefinitely in hell, thus we have heard repeatedly.
We are to understand that this situation would be an unending hell for a man whose male family line has been destroyed. Another translation of this verse is, “Thus men whose family lines have been destroyed always live in hell, subordinate to women (literally, ‘one who waits on a child’, mothers).”
Maintaing ‘family laws’ has been a means of keeping society righteous, prosperous, and spiritually and morally virtuous. However, it is assumed that this can only happen in a patriarchy, but, much to Arjuna’s distress, here we have Krishna urging a war that will end all this.
Once again, unaware of the significant departure from the norm that this war represents for him, Arjuna resorts to what he has been taught. What he has been taught was valid and adequate when he learned it in the past, but he doesn’t realize that it is not sufficient for what he is up against now. What he sees as he looks upon the two opposing forces, is the destruction of those he holds dear, and the destruction of the proper order of things, a destruction that he believes will bring only suffering.
To understand these verses as they pertain to surrender yoga sadhana, we must begin to think beyond the concepts of ‘family’, hereditary ‘caste’, and ‘ancestors’ in the usual way. Considering the similarity of these, this statement from the previous installment reminds us of their place in understanding yoga: “…at another level ‘family’ (including caste and ancestors) brings to mind a genetic pool. DNA is one way of looking at the evolutionary force (kundalini) in its physical form, so we might assume that this ‘war’ will affect some transformative change (‘destruction’) within ‘the family law of the human body’ (DNA).”
We are being told that once the evolutionary force that Arjuna is about to deal with gets its way, things are going to change. As a result of this, there will be a new order, and the body is going to go through some interesting changes to get there.