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                               MAN’S DUTY



The souls that are in the world are called “living beings”.  Living beings are those that are endowed with life (prana).  “Prana” is life.  Therefore, all beings endowed with life are called “living beings”.  All living beings are always engaged in doing something or other.  Every living being is ever seen to be busy doing some act or other.  The ant is always on the move.  The snail does something or other.  The bird remains flying or eating something.  Man goes to office and does his work.  Or, he ploughs and rears crops.  He is seen engaged in similar other works.  Not even one person remains without doing some work or other.  The Lord says this in the Gita:


“No one at any time remains without doing some work or other even for a moment.”


Thus, we observe in the world man is always doing something or other.  For a man who lives in a small village, there are only a few things to do.  For one who resides in a big town, there are innumerable things to do.  Why should all be doing something or other thus?


It is only when we are doing something that we are without misery.  In order to be without misery, many things have to be done.  In order to gain happiness also, many things have to be done.  Nothing is so difficult as remaining quiet without doing anything.  In order that we may thus do things, there is something within prompting us.  That “hunger” prompts man saying, “Do this”, “Do that”.  If we remain doing no action, the stomach pinches.  One has to procure the medicine for removing the disease called “hunger”.  There is great difference here from the diseases which, after having been cured, come after many days.  For this disease, the medicine should be administered at each part of the day.  In order to procure this medicine, everyone has to work.  If the tiger kills the antelope or the cow, it is for curing this disease.  It is for the same purpose that man acts many roles and tries to be clever.  If he is hungry, he procures rice, cooks and eats it.  For procuring rice, he works.  If the body is to be preserved, one has to work.  It is not possible to remain without work even for a moment.


If one remains without any work, one’s body would become useless.  If one is a wealthy person, it does not mean that he should sit idle without work.  It is such a person that has many things to do.  Anxiety haunts him always that the loans that he has given should be safe.  In order to ensure this he has to attend to several things.  More than a Brahman who lives by gathering rice grains by alms everyday, a wealthy man who has property worth ten lakhs is active.  There is no end to work he does.


Thus, there are many kinds of work that a man does.  The things that he does for the sake of his own body constitute one kind.  Another kind consists of things that he does for the sake of those who belong to him.  Children, wife, father, mother and other persons have been entrusted to his care.  There are things which he has to do for them.  Over and above these, it may be that he owns a cow and a dog.  If these attachments increase, there may be a cat.  And, there are things to be done for the sake of the farmer who looks after his land, his servants and others.  After these, there are items of business connected with the village community.  Just as keeping the house neat and tidy is the responsibility of the family which lives in it, managing the affairs of the village is the responsibility of its inhabitants.  A family may consist of ten members.  In a village there may be a thousand persons.  Just as a man should attend to matters connected with his family, he should also attend to the affairs of his village.  And then, there are many things, which have to be done for the welfare of the community. 


Thus, there are several categories of action.  Of these, cleaning the teeth, washing the clothes, bathing, eating, etc., are for the sake of one’s body.  Building a house, cleaning it, acquiring the accessories for running it, etc., are for the sake of the household, i.e., they are for the sake of those who belong to one’s self.  Digging a canal, repairing a tank, building a hospital, making adequate arrangements for the treatment of patients, etc., are for the sake of the village community.  All know the things that are to be done for the country’s welfare, these days.


Among the things that we do, there are, besides those that are for feeding ourselves, the duties towards others.  Those who have the ability should protect the weak and the disabled.  This is the way of the world.  The weak and the disabled are entrusted to the care of those who have the ability to protect them.  A man who has the ability brings up his child.  When he becomes old and decrepit, he is taken care of by his son.  Thus, the process of change is natural to the world.  This is characteristic not only of humans but also of birds and other living beings.  Birds and animals look after their young ones.  This characteristic is seen among small creatures also, such as insects, cats and monkeys. 


Things go on happening in the entire world.  Man does many things.  He gets involved in each of them.  He earns money.  He seeks co-operation.  He digs canals.  He builds hospitals.  He attends to the affairs of government.  He devises ways and means for removing the sufferings of people.  Sacrificing some of his own interests, he works for the common-weal and also attends to his own affairs.  He goes to his fields.  He works in his office.  Thus, he does many things for earning a living.


The things that are necessary for men are of three categories.  For satisfying hunger there is required food; then, for protecting one’s self from the sun’s heat, cold weather, etc. and for covering one’s body, there are required clothes; and, for shelter and rest, there is required a house.  These are of greater necessity than other things.  Besides these whatever a man acquires is for the sake of maintaining his children, arranging for their marriage etc.


Apart from what a man has to do for acquiring the three essential things, he has to be active in regard to other things also.  He has to procure his daily food, repair his house when it gets damaged, and stitch his clothes when they get torn.  But he also secures the essential things required for the others entrusted to his care.  He procures food for the appeasement of the daily disease, hunger, eats and makes others eat.  There is a particular aptness in describing hunger as disease and food as medicine.   


Sankaracharya enjoins this in a Sloka.Thus:  “Take treatment for the disease called hunger”.  A man with disease would take only that amount of medicine that is necessary for the cure of the disease.  He would continue to take the medicine that is good to taste.  Besides, he would go in for the medicine that does not involve great cost.  Similarly, one should take only that quantity of food which is essential for the satisfaction of hunger.  And plain food should be enough.  This is the meaning expressed in the Sloka.


We have thus seen that man has to do several things both for his own sake and for the sake of others.  Besides these, he does also certain extraordinary things.  We shall see what some of these are.  One man sets up a cross and builds a church.  There nothing is seen which would appease his hunger.  Another person wears a garland of rudraksha beads and smears his body with the sacred ash.  With these, will he be rid of his hunger?  Or will these add anything to his dress? Yet another man puts on the mark of Vishnu.  These doings do not fall within the essential things of which we spoke.  These are not necessary for the satisfaction of hunger, or for one’s care.  These are things that are extra.  A man takes a panchapatra (small vessel of water) and uddharani (spoon), and makes some noise, and does something.  He performs what is known as Sraddha;  he invites Brahmins and feeds them.  By these acts will his hunger be satisfied?  Will the rains come to make his fields fertile?  Nothing of that sort will happen.  Bringing stone from hills, man builds temples.  The temples are not used for providing him with shelter.  The temples remain locked during the nights.  They are not even useful for seeking shelter against rain.  Of what use are they?


Some persons perform several deeds in the name of religion.  Some fight for the sake of religion;  even heads get broken.  Do not such actions appear as necessary over and above what are required for man?


Smearing one’s body with the sacred ash, wearing rudraksha beads, building temples, performing sraddha feeding the Brahmins—can we not say that all these are extra actions?  Of what use are such actions?  As if these are not enough, there are bhajan parties functioning in this city (Madras) since some years past.  What they do involve a great strain for the throat.  There is no relation whatsoever between their bhajans and their office work.  The act of bhajans goes on without being necessary.  Do not all these actions appear to be quite unnecessary?


But are these really unnecessary?  Why should they be performed?  What is their use?  We shall now ponder over these questions. 


Why does man earn money?  Will it not do if he gets his hunger satisfied everyday?  If he goes to some household and asks for food, he gets it.  He could eat also in charity homes.  No one thinks:  “There is food to be had;  why receive pay?”  If a choice were offered between one measure of cooked rice and ten rupees, a person would choose the latter.  Why? Is it not that he requires only food?  What for is money?  Cooked rice would be useful for one meal a day.  Uncooked rice could be kept for another meal.  But money could be used for fulfilling one’s needs ten times.  A man prefers that which could be used for several days.


To a boy who goes to school, his mother gives cooked food for his mid-day meal.  If we are travelling to a distant place, we take with us rice and other accessories.


In former times there were no railways.  There were no quick means of transport.  On account of these, our troubles only increase.  Train fare, hotel charges, bus fare, charges for coffee, etc. all these involve expenditure of money.  Besides these, if we go to a new place we spend money for buying new things.  All these expenses are incurred nowadays.  In former days when one travelled, there was no expense at home for food.  And, by walking, there was strength for the legs.


I remember. now, of one who lived long ago in this manner, spending very little.  There was one Krishna Iyer in a place called Chittur near Palghat.  He started a Bank.  Out of the income from the Bank, he founded and maintained a Vedic School wherein over seventy students studied.  In those days the students who completed their studies there used to come here and continue their studies in the Sanskrit College founded by V.Krishnaswamy Iyer.  Among those who thus started schools there was another by name Muthu Ganapathi.  He lived in Thiruvaiyaru.  He arranged for Vedic study for about a hundred or a hundred and twenty boys.  He also saw to their proper boarding, etc.  He used to levy a penalty on those who were working under him when they committed mistakes, fund the money thus collected and maintain the school out of the interests therefrom.  One day, an officer visited that school.  Seeing the boys, he said, “Oh, what a waste!  Why should these boys be rendered useless for life?  What is the use of impounding them like a herd of sheep for ten years?  No way is being shown to them to earn a living.  If they had been taught English, they would have benefited greatly.”  A person who was then by his side replied:  “By keeping these boys here without sending them to learn English, half the expenses are saved.  If they had been made to study English, money would have been spent on costly dress, hair-dressing, a bicycle, etc. All that money has now been saved.  Had they learnt English and begun to earn, half their salary would go to meet these unnecessary expenses.  Now, that has been avoided.  As for earning the other half of such salary amounts, we are showing them the way here.  Even if they fail to learn anything here, they will gain by not having turned their attention to English.”  These instances have been given in order to show that there were people in those days who lived great lives by spending economically.


We are at the foot of a mountain.  We have with us one thousand rupees.  And that too in cash consisting of paise-coins.  A number of thieves approach us with evil intentions.  A great turmoil is about to take place.  If we could cross the mountain and reach the other side, we would be safe.  In such a situation, a person comes and asks for exchange of cash for a thousand-rupee note.  What would we do then?  Immediately, we would give him the bag containing the cash and receive the note and crossing the mountain get to safety.  Only, that note should be such that it would be valid in the country beyond the mountain.  Our story is similar to this man’s.  If we make use of our present strength and resources and do things that would be useful later, we shall meet with no difficulties.


One may ask:  “We should be happy here.  How is it certain that we shall exist later?  The answer to this question is “Suppose we exist, should we suffer?”


                              Nasti chen nasti no hanih

                                                 asti chen nastiko hatah

          In this verse, this is what is stated.  The astika says:  “We shall exist even after this life;  therefore, we should do good works now.”  The nastika asks:  “Where is the certainty that we shall exist?”  The reply is:  “If we do good works now, we shall gain if we exist afterward, and we shall not lose if we cease to exist.”  On either alternative, there is no misery for the astika.  If it is true that we shall exist, it is the nastika who will be in trouble.


Therefore, it is always good to do good works.  When we have to go on a journey to another place, we should keep ourselves in a happy mood.  If we do not do things that will make us happy after we have departed from this body, we shall have to suffer.  The things that we have to do in order to avert this suffering we can learn through discretion.  If there are no immediate results for the acts that we do at present, the results will come later.  What has stated has been explained a long time ago by our great men with reference to the soul.  That every action has a reaction is declared clearly in our Sastras.


It is, therefore, necessary that we should do some things that would be useful even after the present birth.  What I referred to earlier as extra things are those, which we do for the purpose of being happy always.  Acts such as wearing the sacred ash and rudraksha beads, and performing sraddha, are done for keeping ourselves happy always.  The more we do such things, the more they will do us good.


Besides the things that we do for the sake of our welfare in the present life, we should do those things also which will secure our welfare for crores and crores of years, in fact, forever.  The currency of our country will not be valid in Russia.  If for all countries there is a single king, there will be a single currency bearing his insignia which will be valid everywhere.  For all the fourteen worlds, there is a sovereign ruler.  He is God, His is currency, which is legal tender in all His dominions.  That currency will be valid everywhere and always.  What is that?  That, verily, is dharma.


Before leaving Ayodhya for the forest, Rama went to Kausalys to take leave of her.  Is it not the practice that a mother gives edibles to her son who is starting on a journey, so that he may eat them on the way?  What is to be given to a son who is to be away for fourteen years?  Kausalya did not know what to give.  After pondering deeply she said,


“O Raghava!  There is nothing that I could do to protect you.  There is only dharma. That dharma will protect you, which you have been preserving with courage, constancy and regularity.  That is the only blessing that I can give.”  If we preserve dharma, it preserves us in turn.  The dharma that protected Rama is the dharma, which is the Law in God’s universal empire.  Besides, what we do normally for the sake of children, parents, village, country etc. we should also do those things which would bring lasting happiness to the soul.   Let us see what those things are:


Whatever we do, we should do dedicating it to God.  God is the limit of all knowledge.  If we dedicate our deeds to Him, those deeds would give us lasting happiness.  If those deeds are not novel, but the ones, which our forebears had handed down from generation to generation, their performance, would be easy.  Even if we have to do something bad, if we do it, not for filling our stomach, but as something extra, dedicating it to God, that will become dharma.


Which dharma should we follow?  We are soaked in the dharma, which has been followed by our great men for generations, for a longtime.  As a matter of experience, we can say that they gained happiness.  It is enough if we follow that dharma.  If we cast about for something new, it will be a vain endeavour  and there will be the doubt whether that new thing is good or not.  Therefore, to follow the dharma which is meant for us and which our great men adopted as the rule for their lives is good.


It is thus clear that we should do something extra which is not for the sake of our stomach, or for our family, or for our village, or for our country.  That thing should be what has been handed down to us through generations.  We should do that, after dedicating it to God, and with courage and regularity.  That is dharma that will give us happiness forever.


Whatever we do with our mind, speech and body—the three instruments of action—all that should bear dharma.  We should acquire dharma, the spiritual currency, in exchange for all the money that we possess.  All the powers that we have must be expended in augmenting dharma.  The dharma that is thus acquired and augmented will be valid at all times and in all places.  What Kausalya described to Rama, as his talisman is that. Rama had to face formidable obstacles.  He overcame them through dharma. 


Man should always do things that will uplift him.  Among the animals, all except man are invertebrates.  They are referred to as trick animals.  It is man alone that grows vertically.  His form shows that he is superior to the other animals.  If he follows the way of dharma, even the animals would support him.  If he adopts the path of adharma, even his brothers would desert him.  This is illustrated in the story of Rama. 


Because Rama followed the way of virtue, even monkeys helped him.  Because Ravana adopted the ways of vice, even his younger brother broke away from him.  Although Ravana was in his own kingdom, surrounded by his armies, he could not be saved.  For a man of virtue, there is wellbeing everywhere.


Therefore, it is dharma that will protect one.  Apart from what we do for satisfying our desires, anger, etc. apart from what we do for earning a living, we should do extra deeds—those which were done by our forebears—with courage and regularity.  They will give us happiness.