Swadharma: its Position and Direction – Part 2
Contd. From Part 1 of this chapter
The ‘Swadharma’ or ‘Kartavya dharma’ of Shrimad Bhagawad Geeta is based on the three terms outlined in it. These are:
- The ‘Atma’ is immortal and whole,
- Body is mortal and subordinate.
- One’s own ‘duty’ is indispensable and most important.
Of these three principles, the first two are to be learnt and to be known. The third is to be sincerely executed.
Every human being has the obligation to fulfill the first two, which are naturally with him from the birth. He does not have to search for it. The reason is that no one just drops from the sky! All of us are born in a human group or society which is already existing before. Our father and mother were there. The neighbors were there. In such a neighborhood we are born.
It is therefore incumbent upon us to serve the people in the society around us. This is our ‘Swadharma’. To elaborate it means, I should serve my parents, members of my family and people of my village or town, and finally the whole humanity and the environment. This is my ‘swadharma’. This is my sacred duty. This ‘swadharma’ outlined in the Geeta, is born with us. Or better still, it is there even before our birth. To fulfill this obligation we have taken birth. The reason why Human birth is considered the best must be this only.
Acharya Vinobaji says, ‘I consider this swadharma, our duty, described by the Geeta truly as my mother.’ It is not for me to select my mother in this birth. She is there already. The same is the case with ‘swadharma’. To neglect our swadharma is to turn our back on it, try to overlook our swadharma, which is deplorable. It is no less than suicide! On the other hand we enhance, enrich our life, and move forward by fulfilling our dharma. We can develop ourselves spiritually. On the contrary to neglect our swadharma is to abandon our own home! This is entirely unnatural.
In fact we should extend the field of our swadharma to the whole society and the whole mankind. Such an attitude of renunciation is the very best and appropriate in every way. In the Bharatiya tradition, action on such a basis is termed as ‘Yagna’, which means ‘Tyaagabuddhi’, the attitude of giving without expectation, and is traditionally saluted. Yagna means giving up. Thus Geeta’s teaching is pure Yagna attitude. Truly the human life itself is a Yagna. Chhandogya Upanishad says, “Human life is itself a Yagna.” (Chhandogya Up. 30). This means that the highest ideal of my life should be, this cultured ideal attitude, which Shri Krishna calls swadharma in the Bhagawad Geeta. Really we need not make this comparative, judgment of greater of lower. Such distinction arises from ‘Ahankara’ an attitude of worthless pride which is clearly and thoroughly disapproved by the Geeta.
Thus the ‘Swadharma’ prescribed by the Bhagawad Geeta, is very wide and encompassing. It is generous. Compared to it, the Family Dharma, Social Dharma, Yugadharma, of a particular era, are all limited. Swadharma of the Geeta is in reality, Manav dharma, Human Dharma. It is the sacred duty of each and every human being. To observe it fully in our life we have to have strong commitment to it in our mind and heart. We have to be ready to make great sacrifice, if and when required. Another special aspect is that the true dharma is opposed only to adharma and none else. Further the Geeta says that swadharma contributes to our development. What does this self-development mean? If you adhere, strictly observe your swadharma, and then you can make progress in your own spiritual development. You can develop your satvaguna – the highest of the three guna, and check the lower Raja and Tama gunas. When all this takes place a human being can achieve his highest potential!
The gist of all this discussion is that our swadharma accompanies us right at our birth itself. It should be possible to put it into practice as easily as our breathing process! Yet, it does not so happen.
But why it is so? The fact is that in a human life there are many ‘Mohas’ – temptations. That is why this happens. On our path of practicing our Dharma, these six enemies (Kama, Krodha, Lobh, Moha, Mada and Matsarya) continuously spread thorns in our path; these spread poison in our plates. Even so, let us see why this happens. The basic reason is our ‘Deha-buddhi’, i.e. we consider ourselves as ‘bodies’ only. It puts walls of separation, in place of unity and integrity. By stressing selfishness it wreaks havoc! It clouds our ‘Atma-buddhi’.
If we wish to put an end to it, we have to replace ‘Dehabuddhi’ with ‘Atmabuddhi’ – soul-consciousness. We have to correctly understand that our soul is eternal and whole, without any fractions. When we do realize this clearly, then our minds will have a wider vision. Acharya Vinoba Bhave in his ‘Valor Pravachane’, explains: the word ‘Atma’ comes from the root ‘At’ meaning ‘eternal’. Words ‘Atmabuddhi’, Atmagnayan’, ‘Atmachintan’, these deeper aspects, tell us incessantly, that the soul is eternal, impartial and changeless. On the other hand, body is perishable; it is only a cover.
The original source of the feeling of permanence within us, is ‘Atma’ – the soul. ‘Indriyas’, the senses are agents of action; within these senses resides the Atma. Bodies come and go, but Atma, the soul is eternal. The concept of ‘Rebirth’ in Indian tradition, follows from this eternal nature of Atma. This Principle of Rebirth is a science, philosophy in itself, a natural corollary of the eternal nature of ‘Atma’. If we increase our Atmabuddhi and reduce Deha-buddhi, then it will not be difficult for us to implement our swadharma, our Kartavya, duty. To achieve this we have to learn to reduce the importance of our bodies and give higher importance to the eternal ‘Atma’.
As it is, our human bodies are subject to change from moment to moment. We have to take note of this important fact. We are familiar with the change from childhood to youth and from youth to old age. Similarly the Atma, the soul, changes his bodies as its clothes. We should accept this as a fact of nature. Then we shall have the patience to put our swadharma into action! It is a fact that bodies come and go, but soul is never destroyed. The river is an example. The water goes on changing but the river remains unchanged. Similarly body keeps changing but the Atma is eternal. Hence we should not be attached to our body, which can be an instrument for discharging our Swadharma. We can, with our bodies, serve the human beings and the society and God, ‘Parameshwara’. This is the position and action of Swadharma.