- śreyaḥ prajā-pālanam eva rājño
- yat sāmparāye sukṛtāt ṣaṣṭham aṁśam
- hartānyathā hṛta-puṇyaḥ prajānām
- arakṣitā kara-hāro 'gham atti
śreyaḥ—auspicious; prajā-pālanam—ruling over the general mass of people; eva—certainly; rājñaḥ—for the king; yat—because; sāmparāye—in the next birth; su-kṛtāt—from the pious activities; ṣaṣṭham aṁśam—one-sixth part; hartā—collector; anyathā—otherwise; hṛta-puṇyaḥ—being bereft of the results of pious activities; prajānām—of the citizens; arakṣitā—one who does not protect; kara-hāraḥ—tax collector; agham—sin; atti—receives or suffers.
To give protection to the general mass of people who are citizens of the state is the prescribed occupational duty for a king. By acting in that way, the king in his next life shares one sixth of the result of the pious activities of the citizens. But a king or executive head of state who simply collects taxes from the citizens but does not give them proper protection as human beings has the results of his own pious activities taken away by the citizens, and in exchange for his not giving protection he becomes liable to punishment for the impious activities of his subjects.
The question may be raised here that if everyone engaged in spiritual activities to attain salvation and became indifferent to the activities of the material world, then how could things as they are go on? And if things are to go on as they ought to, how can a head of state be indifferent to such activities? In answer to this question, the word śreyaḥ, auspicious, is used here. The division of activities in society as arranged by the Supreme Personality of Godhead was not blindly or accidentally created, as foolish people say. The brāhmaṇa must do his duty properly, and the kṣatriya, the vaiśya and even the śūdra must do the same. And every one of them can achieve the highest perfection of life-liberation from this material bondage. This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā (BG 18.45). Sve sve karmaṇy abhirataḥ saṁsiddhiṁ labhate naraḥ: "By executing one's prescribed duties, one can attain the highest perfection."
Lord Viṣṇu advised Mahārāja Pṛthu that a king is not enjoined to give up his kingdom and the responsibility of protecting the prajās, or citizens, to instead go away to the Himalayas for liberation. He can attain liberation while executing his royal duties. The royal duty or the duty of the head of state is to see that the prajās, or the general mass of people, are doing their respective duties for spiritual salvation. A secular state does not necessitate a king or head of state who is indifferent to the activities of the prajās. In the modern state the government has many rules and regulations for conducting the duties of the prajās, but the government neglects to see that the citizens advance in spiritual knowledge. If the government is careless in this matter, the citizens will act whimsically, without any sense of God realization or spiritual life, and thus become entangled in sinful activities.
An executive head should not be callous to the welfare of the general mass of people while he simply goes on collecting taxes. The king's real duty is to see that the citizens gradually become fully Kṛṣṇa conscious. Kṛṣṇa conscious means completely free from all sinful activities. As soon as there is complete eradication of sinful activities in the state, then there will be no more war, pestilence, famine or natural disturbances. This was actually prevailing during the reign of Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira. If a king or head of the government is able to induce the citizens to become Kṛṣṇa conscious, then he is worthy to rule over the mass of people; otherwise, he has no right to levy taxes. If the king looks after the spiritual interests of the citizens, he can levy taxes without difficulties. In this way both the subjects and the king will be happy during this life, and in the next life the king will be able to share one sixth of the pious activities of the citizens. Otherwise, by levying taxes on the sinful citizens, he will have to share the reactions of their sinful activities.
This same principle can be applied to parents and spiritual masters as well. If parents simply give birth to children like cats and dogs but cannot save their children from imminent death, they become responsible for the activities of their animalistic children. Lately, such children are turning into hippies. Similarly, if a spiritual master cannot direct his disciples to become free of sinful activities, he becomes responsible for their sinful acts. These subtle laws of nature are unknown to the present leaders of society. Since the leaders of society have a poor fund of knowledge and the citizens in general are rogues and thieves, there cannot be an auspicious situation for human society. At the present moment the whole world is full of such an incompatible combination of state and citizens, and therefore there is constant tension, war and anxiety as an inevitable result of such social conditions.