यद्यदाचरति श्रेष्ठस्तत्तदेवेतरो जन: |
स यत्प्रमाणं कुरुते लोकस्तदनुवर्तते || 21||
yad yad ācharati śhreṣhṭhas tat tad evetaro janaḥ
sa yat pramāṇaṁ kurute lokas tad anuvartate
yat yat—whatever; ācharati—does; śhreṣhṭhaḥ—the best; tat tat—that (alone); eva—certainly; itaraḥ—common; janaḥ—people; saḥ—they; yat—whichever; pramāṇam—standard; kurute—perform; lokaḥ—world; tat—that; anuvartate—pursues
What-so-ever a great man does, that other men do; whatever he sets up as the standard, that the world follows.
The Lord argues the issue from a practical point of view. The actions of great men occupying a spectacular position in the world are observed by the common people. Naturally, they act in the same way. What the elders do, children imitate. We see this daily very often that to justify one’s actions, one refers to the example of great men. So, as a man acquires leadership, comes to occupy a prominent position, he should be extremely careful about what de does. It is the social responsibility of that man to live up to a high standard of moral and spiritual conduct.
Individually a man may be a Jnani. He may not be bound by any kind of action. But so long as he is in an embodied state, his outer life should be perfectly befitting the injunctions of the Sastras. Generally, when one comes across a realised saint, he regards him as the standard of excellence, as an example and demonstration of Sastric law in actual life. Thus he has a social responsibility to show the right way to the masses by following the Sastras.
What the great people and leaders do, is copied by the common man. Yatha raja tatha praja. That is the popular saying of the elders. Arjuna was a prominent figure at that time. People looked up to him with admiration. So the Lord instructs him to act, to carry out the injunctions of the Sastras, to perform the duty prescribed by the standard in life, to fight the battle as a Kshatriya ought to do, and thus set an example of Nishkama Karma. If he fails to stand up to the law, he would confuse and corrupt the minds of the people and they would lose both the material and spiritual realms. They would become inactive, lazy and by self-delusion, they may become hypocrites pretending to have Jnana which they do not really possess.
The principles, doctrines, and laws which the elders accept and follow form the code of conduct for the masses. So the elders of the community should make it a rule to follow the truth, to follow the sastras, to live nobly, to shed the light of the spirit all around, to be the beacons and guide-posts for all people in their journey through life. The Lord exhorts Arjuna to set a great example of righteous action for the people.
The Lord insists on practice and not mere talk. Anyone can talk high philosophy, but very few people are able to mould their life according to the truths of spirituality. The master should live the life according to Atma Dharma, and show the world how such life should be lived. It is only then that the people could cultivate faith in God and the laws of the Sastras.
Swami Vivekananda Says —
“Even if you have known the secret that you have no duty, that you are free, still you have to work for the good of others. Because whatever a great man does, ordinary people will do also.”[Source]