Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Response to Bound By Duty

In response to a previous blog entry Boundy By Duty, I received an enlightening response from a dear old friend. As the blog comment space would not allow his musings, I post his entire response as a blog here. Hope you enjoy.

Hats off, for the well-thought out, well-'reasoned' and, of course, well-articulated writing. But as I find in it, there is a keen sense of compunction in the writer's inner psyche for our so called 'duties' and the motives (or the so called 'desires') behind, covert or overt, good or evil, selfish or generous, whatsoever, which in his opinion, are the driving forces behind our actions. Because apparently the motives seem to be distracting us from the Divine philosophy of Karma Yoga. True, in the real world, there can be ironically no action without a motive behind, explicit or implicit. Just like we go to the market to buy food to satisfy hunger; we work to get money to make a living, etc. This continuous vicious trap of cause-and-effect relationship in real life pains the logical mind which wants to adhere to the divine Karmic principles. But in reality we always try to apply our own scientific logic to reconcile divinity (or spiritual truths) with this apparent reality (around us and in our life) which cannot give an answer to this imbroglio. We fail time and again, get frustrated and try to make our own reality-based assumptions about everything and call it our own truths and life experiences. Well, experiences do vary, perceptions may vary as well, but the spiritual TRUTHS as enshrined in the Bhagwad Gita are constant over time though their interpretations do unfortunately vary. Our problems and all confusions, as I feel, stem from the fact that despite our spiritual quests and religious compliances (e.g. visiting temples, offering pujas, chants & shlokas, etc), some hidden corners of our brain fail to accept the very presence of GOD (forget HIS omnipresence and omnipotence) and is lost in the mechanical “world of circuits and state machines”. People like us may never accept this truth openly. Just be honest and question your mind, “do I accept GOD exists?”, if so, “do I accept Him as my master and the master of all, including our reality?”. Actually disbeliefs crop up in the mind at the subconscious level (we may deny this consciously lest it invites divine wrath) when we are “engulfed” in our own reality and find no help or answer from Him. Our own logic then drives us to believe that it is you yourself, and not God, can help you at the moment. We fail to realise God and His divine presence inside us by our digital or “machine” logic and consequently depart from Him, though not necessarily from his Infinite Grace. My own logic in this case is: Accept GOD as the constant and supreme Truth (“dhruvajyoti”) and make this an unquestionable AXIOM in your life, just like the Geometrical axioms (of Euclid) you learnt in school (which need no proof). At the same time just accept the spiritual truths as the Infallible Decree of the Lord. See life will be much simpler thereafter.

Now getting back to the two basic questions raised by the writer:

First, what is duty? To this I would say, every person on earth has broadly two purposes of living: living for the self (i.e. for self-sustenance), and living for the others. It is the second one that is called duty in the truest sense. On the contrary, it is the first one that is apparently associated with selfishness, hence personal desires, motives, etc. If you say, “when I feel hungry I desire food”, and likewise, “for my own and my family’s better living, better health and education, I desire to excel in my life”, then there is no harm, no conflict with spiritual principles in spite of the desires. There is no harm in higher ambitions and goals in life. Because, if one is really capable of reaching the heights, he ought to be there, even though his efforts may be driven by his personal ambitions. One who is really worthy of being a King should be the King. This is exemplified in the Mahabharat and Sree MadBhagvat by Bhagwan Himself when He offered kingship to the good, capable rajas after killing the irreligious and the selfish tyrants. Even the Constitution of India makes it a fundamental Duty (Art.51A) of every citizen to try to excel in life. But the caveat is that in the process see that you don’t become a “Selfish Giant”. In other words, let your greed not become your master taking control of your conscience and intellect. Inside each one of us there are deities and demons. The demons are the negative self (greed, selfishness, cruelties, etc) (The ‘self’ is defined in Roger’s ‘Self theory of Personality’. Interested readers may look up in the Internet/books), while the deities constitute the positive self (intellect, conscience, empathy, love, justice etc). Our religion is our teacher. It teaches us how to control (Note: a saadhu only after long penance and saadhna can eliminate) our negative self and nurture our positive self. Religion teaches us to do our duties (that is living for the others) while at the same time sustaining our own selves and reinforcing our inner strengths (e.g. courage, honesty, virtuosity, fighting spirit, etc.). One who doesn’t have a religion is like an orphan having no way to educate and illuminate the inner positive self.

I disagree with the writer’s assumption that duty and desire go hand in hand. It is only a myopic view of the distance. As we all know, there are two ways of looking at things: The bottle is half-empty and simultaneously half-full. Both aspects are equally correct. Going by his example, if I want to start teaching, I should never be cowed by any negative possibilities of desire of appearing magnanimous. Because, after all, if I succeed, then I would be really giving back something to the society at large, even if I was originally driven by desires of fame. If desire means sin, then it is for me to suffer but let the fruits of my action (i.e. my teaching) be there for the society at large. If I shun away from action being scared at the thought of fame, then there would be no action at all. Then there would have been no Kurukshetra war at all. Sometimes you may have to earn some sin (??) for the greater interest of others. If that sin is a boon to many, then God will turn that sin into His Holy blessing. On the other hand, if I am afraid of desire of fame polluting my mind and shirk my duty, then again it is nothing but blatant selfishness, because I am caring for my own interest and neglecting my responsibilities.

Remember, not doing duty is a sin.

Duty is never hand in gloves with attachment. It is our illusion. If we are successfully doing our duties, we become attached to it only because of our expectation of reaping rich dividends from that. We forget Him and come under the illusion that it is me, by my own potential, who is successfully carrying out the task. It’s a fallacy. Because I would ask the logical mind, “who gave me the potential to work”?? I could have been born to a beggar, grown up illiterate, malnourished. Then do I really have right to claim pat for my success. It is me then who is assigning attachment to the duties. My duty (wherever I am, whether in my office or at home or in the society at large) certainly requires my sincerity and honest devotion but never asks me to fall in attachment for it. Think about the soldiers fighting to protect us, the citizens, in the most dangerous terrains (like the Siachen Glacier). They are doing their duty. After the month they also get salary like you. But would you call it a duty for the desire of salary? They can quit their job and make a comfortable living with a small shop at their home town. So in my view, duty is one thing that God has given to you, while attachment is one thing that you only are inviting and giving to yourself by your own fallacious thinking and then your guilt-ridden heart is crying to justify it!!! Yes duty certainly often goes beyond morals. This has been illustrated in our spiritual texts. As I said, a man lives for himself as well as for others. For ourselves, we have duties. For others also. Our lifetime is actually a drama where we have to play many roles simultaneously. God has given to each one of us these roles to play during our lifetime. Role as a son/daughter, as a student, as a father/mother/brother/sister, as a professional to our employer, and most importantly as an important part of our society at large. Each role is associated with some duties/responsibilities. But certain duties we take seriously, while others are ignored. Again this selection is subconsciously done by our mind guided by our selfish interest. And in the way we almost inevitably become entrapped in attachment. This is our fault, not the fault of the Gita. My son/daughter, my house/car, my beloved wife, my “code”, my career – all of them make us bound by the insurmountable world of maya. My view is that we should see this maya also as God given (its the Maa Mahamaya ‘Maa Kaali vikraalini’ in action) but shall make every attempts not to get too much absorbed and entrapped in it. To do that we may think this way: My son, my wife, my career/job, etc all my’s are not actually mine, they actually belong to God, so I would do as best as I can, the rest shall be taken care of by Him only.

Now about the other question: How can I excel without keeping any desire thereof? That is how to get result without desire?? I agree with the blog author’s view that without desire there would have only discoveries and no inventions, only the wheel and no cart till date. Right. But this is misinterpretation of the Karmic philosophy. The purport of the Gita is: Let there be devotion and dedication of everything to Him only and if there is any attachment, let that be for Him and Him only. My simplistic view is that if I sincerely and honestly dedicate and devote my
work, my energy and my capabilities to Him and Him only and take not an iota of credit for my success inside my heart sincerely praising and praying to Him only, then there is no harm in thinking to excel further. That way I can serve Him better, whether I am writing some machine code or serving in the Army or working as a priest. My everything is His, nothing is mine. I and He are spiritually and emotionally inseparable. If I feel the desire to complete a Doctorate, or honing some skills for some work, then I am doing justice to the potential that God has endowed upon me. As for an example, if somebody feels he will not go to school and learn education because so many of us humans are not privileged enough to go to school, if somebody feels so many people die in hunger around the world so he shall stop eating, then think what would happen to the world.

What would happen to the potential that God has so kindly bestowed on you? Keeping a desire is not always a sin my friend. There is a subtle distinction between results and goal. Keeping a goal is an ideal thing to do in life so long as that goal is not targeted against somebody. Bhagwan Sree Krishna had a goal: to root out ‘adharma’ and establish a social order of ‘dharma’. If somebody says I want to serve God, then this is also a desire (though the noblest desire). So desire to excel to achieve a result is good, but to be sucked in the thought of the result is evil. If somebody is lost in the hypothetical world of the result then his dedication to action will suffer and he will be lost in what is called as the delusion of grandeur. I hope I have amply explained my personal views and thoughts on the subject, on what duty is and how it can exist without attachment making it its easy prey.

Gita Sloka 18.48

Commentary By Ramanuja : The conclusion Lord Krishna gives for this subject is that actions that are initiated naturally and easily executed and are beset with no difficulties should be done even if there may be some fault or defect. The inner purport is that even those situated in jnana yoga or facilitating communion with the Supreme absolute by knowledge, they too should adopt the path of karma yoga or facilitating communion with the Supreme absolute by actions. All endeavours in the material world are accompanied by some sort of fault or defect and all living beings must perform actions to exist but the following of one's own natural path is not in the least difficult or beset with unpredictable dangers. Whereas the standard of jnana yoga being higher the possibility of mistake and the chance of defect is greater as well as the demerit incurred. So karma yoga is encouraged.

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