Practical Vedanta

Anand V. Hudli anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon May 17 16:17:27 CDT 1999

As Shankara states in the VivekachUDAmaNi, human life is
 hard to attain. And after attaining human life, if one does not
 make use of it to ultimately attain Self-realization, it is
 like committing suicide. So Self-realization must be the primary
 goal of every human life. In order that this goal may be achieved
 in a practical and feasible manner, it is recommended for most of
 us that we follow the path of karmayoga, adhering to our own
 dharma to determine what kinds of action we may perform and what
 we may not perform. Certainly, as part of following our dharma, we
 need to help others according to our capacity. But serving others or
 social service cannot become the only duty for us if our position
 in life and society requires us to be perform other duties as well.
 For example, a householder can serve and help others, but not at
 the cost of neglecting his duties to his own family. This is not
 what is taught in the GItA. ShrIrAma Himself went to the forest
 just to prevent His father's promise from being broken. In those
 circumstances, He could have stayed on in Ayodhya after seeing so
 many citizens of Ayodhya weeping and begging Him not to leave. He
 could have easily justified staying in Ayodhya by saying that He
 did not want to cause immense and pain and sorrow to all the people
 of Ayodhya and above all to His own brother Bharata.

 If Krishna had wanted Arjuna to do only social service, why
 would He have insisted on Arjuna's fighting the war? So performance
 of our duty, viz. our dharma, is of foremost importance. As part of this
 duty, we must certainly help others and society in general, but not at
 the cost of dharma. If Arjuna had fled the battlefield based on erroneous
 notions of ahiMsA, social service, religious reform, etc., however lofty
 those ideals may be, he would have failed to do his duty as a Kshhatriya.
 He would have failed to follow his dharma. So one of the central
 messages of the GItA is to follow one's dharma, not to avoid one's duties
 and responsibilities based on some fixation.

 And indirectly, we will be helping others by following our own
 dharma. By setting a good example for others and by striving to become
 role models for others, especially children, we will be helping them


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