December , 2019
Bhagavad Gita on Duty
15:18 pm

Dr A Sreekumar Menon

Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, a classical Hindu text of yore, is a practical guide to everyday life. It is a treasure house of eternal human values. It is the counsel of Lord Krishna to Arjuna given as dialogue, when Arjuna overtaken by blind love towards his kith and kin, became despondent and refused to fight with the Kouravas. Arjuna, a master in archery, had momentarily become confused and raised doubts regarding the need of the war.

Arjuna, in that neurotic state, represents all of us. Often, when there are conflicting motives in our minds, we may face dilemmas. We may not know what is right and what is wrong and become low spirited. It was in a similar state that Lord Krishna spoke to Arjuna to make him regain his original spirit and to be conscious of his duty.

Among the values talked about by Lord Krishna, the concept of duty or Karma yoga is one.  In our daily life, we engage ourselves in many activities. Even when we sit quiet, thoughts rush through our minds. Some of our activities are called duties. The duty of the student is to be studious. The duty of the house holder is to make earnings fairly and take care of family members.

Gita discusses duties in terms of the Varnashrama dharma based on the caste system, trigunas (Satwa, Rajo and Thamas) and stages of life (Brahmacharya, Garhasthya, Vanaprasta and Sanyasa). Gita qualifies duties as those with desire for the fruit of action and those without the desire for the fruit of action. The second one is termed as Nishkama Karma.

The gains one expects from one’s work are mostly personal. The actions one performs for personal gains should not be at the cost of others or should not cause harm to others. The results in the form of personal gains normally expected out of work are monetary gains or accumulation of wealth, enjoyment of worldly comforts, name, fame, position, influence, success or failure, victory or defeat, loss or gain, praise or criticism and others. Our preoccupation with all these affects our efficiency. 

Working for the self keeps us in bondage. In other words, we remain preoccupied with material gains and we experience anxiety, apprehension and other mental disturbances which tend to be road blocks to our true happiness. It is the work in the form of service we do for others that opens the door to happiness, helps us to crush our ego and helps us find real joy. Gita says that selfish work leads to sins. Gita advocates qualities such as working with the motive of altruism which involves being fair-minded, being helpful, practicing goodness in all our actions, doing our best, never being revengeful, forgiving other’s wrong doings, keeping anger under control, never speaking harsh words, seeing every creations as creations of God, fighting against injustice done not only to ourselves but to others and so on. When we follow these principles, the work we do becomes a divine act. It keeps our mind pure and empowered and it becomes the perennial spring of peace and happiness. Thus, we find that the Bhagavad Gita has made the meaning of duty clear. Nobility in motive in all our actions is advocated. It is made crystal clear that human birth is not an accident and that we are not expected to lead a life of mere animal existence but the life of man or even man-God, to realise the divinity present within us. Gita warns against inertia and encourages man to realise the potentials in us and utilise it for personal and common good.

In ancient days, people derived joy and self-fulfillment from the work they did. We have heard the oft-quoted phrase ‘love of labour’. The primary motive was carrying out a work putting one’s best efforts rather than material gains from the work. Today, it does not appear to be so because of two factors, namely supremacy of technology and acceptance of values of industrial economy rather than spiritual economy. Mechanisation and computerisation have alienated man from work, particularly at the lower levels. Major preoccupation of workers seems to be with personal gains from the work they do. There is a tendency to shirk responsibilities. The motive is how to secure maximum financial benefits from minimum efforts. In the present day scenario, the above teachings of Bhagavad Gita are relevant to make people aware of their duties and their potentialities.


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