tvāṁ vīkṣya kāle ’bhayam āśu tan-madam
hitvārya-mārgaṁ prabhajanty apasmayā
īhā khalānām api te ’nuśāsanam
ye — those who; mat-vidha — like me; ajñāḥ — foolish persons; jagat-īśa — as lords of the universe; māninaḥ — falsely identifying themselves; tvām — You; vīkṣya — seeing; kāle — at time (of fear); abhayam — fearless; āśu — quickly; tat — their; madam — false pride; hitvā — abandoning; ārya — of devotees progressing in spiritual life; mārgam — the path; prabhajanti — they take to fully; apa-smayāḥ — free of pride; īhā — the activity; khalānām — of the wicked; api — indeed; te — by You; anuśāsanam — the instruction.
Even fools like me, who proudly think themselves universal lords, quickly give up their conceit and directly take to the path of the spiritually progressive when they see You are fearless even in the face of time. Thus You punish the mischievous only to instruct them.
History is filled with examples of the supreme authority breaking the conceit of foolish men. Modern world leaders proudly fight one another, placing the common people in unprecedented jeopardy. Similarly Indra, proud of his apparently illustrious position, dared to threaten the lives of the innocent residents of Vṛndāvana with terrible weapons, until his arrogance was curbed by the dynamic response of the Supreme Lord.
Nowadays, governments in the Western countries tend to be elected democratically, and thus the mass of people become identified with the destiny of their leaders. When the proud leaders engage in violence, the people who elected them bear the brunt of such belligerent decisions. Thus the people in the democratic nations of the world should elect Kṛṣṇa conscious leaders, who will establish an administration consonant with the laws of God. If they fail to do so, their materialistic leaders, oblivious of the will of the Supreme Lord, will undoubtedly be chastised by cataclysmic events, and the people who elected such leaders, being responsible for their leaders’ acts, will share in the suffering.
It is ironic that in modern democracies not only do the leaders consider themselves universal controllers, but the mass of people, considering the leaders merely their representatives rather than the representatives of God, also consider themselves, as a people, to be the controllers of their nation. Thus the chastisement mentioned in this verse has become unprecedentedly applicable to people in general in the modern world.
Modern man should not simply make himself a lesson of nature by falling down from his proud position; rather he should submissively execute the will of the all-attractive Personality of Godhead, the Absolute Truth, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and usher in a new era of sanity, tranquillity and widespread enlightenment.