Daily Readings from the Works of Swami Venkatesananda


From Insights and Inspirations (Venkatesa Daily Readings Vol 2) - Duty

February 11, 2019

Duty

     The teachings of the great ones seem invariably related to the personality of the teacher, and when transmitted to a disciple, they are modified by the capacity of the student to absorb and assimilate them. The teaching also has to be adapted to the context in which it is given. When Krishna taught Arjuna The Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna was a warrior faced with the battle of life and death on the battlefield. In the Bhagavatam, Uddhava, Krishna's other disciple, had no such predicament. He had reached the end of his tether and was ready to leave the world. The teaching in that aspect was slightly modified there was greater emphasis on renunciation. It is not that the teaching given to Arjuna was worldly and that given to Uddhava was other-worldly. Only the emphasis was different, the quality is more or less the same - one has to do one's duty.

    The concept of duty as taught by Krishna is not something which can be intellectualized. It is not a formula that can be applied to one's life. What is duty? As long as there is life, it is the inviolable duty of the heart to pump blood and the lungs to breathe. Once you recognize that, what you call duty, nature, dharma, God's Will, God's Grace - all become synonyms. Duty is not something which can be imposed upon us, nor is it something we can learn from someone else. It can only be discovered, each one for himself, by observing one's own nature. The spontaneous expression of that nature is one's duty.

     Once I turn my attention within, I see that I am greedy, proud, easily annoyed, angry. Can I take that to be my nature? What is natural will invariably be constant. Yet, I have seen that in my relationships with others, even though similar situations may arise, I do not behave in the same way. By directly looking into this, I observe the perversity, and see that I am not living a natural life, and therefore I am not doing my duty.

     In this way, as life becomes more and more natural, there is both duty and great beauty in it. It is then that one goes on to the next inevitable step. If this is natural to me, what is 'me' in my nature? That leads to Self-realization. Therefore Krishna told Uddhava; "If you learn to do your duty in this way, your heart becomes pure, and in a pure heart there is Self-realization." This is Karma Yoga in essence. Karma Yoga is not merely doing one's duty as dictated by others, nor doing something thinking it is unselfish. Karma Yoga is to go right into one's own inner nature, to find what that Self is.

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