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Dutiful Life
by J. Ajithkumar Bookmark and Share
Life can be lived in many ways and there are no fool proof templates for its success equally applicable for all. Each of us will have to develop our own policies and seek out methods to implement them as we go along. It is in this context that the concept of Dharma can help us a lot. Though prescribed for a much wider context, we can always innovate to suit our specific requirements. In Bhagvad Gita, Lord Krishna says about doing one's own duties without bothering about the results or rewards. The same principle can be applied in formulating our actions and reactions with all kinds of people around us. We can build on this concept to arrive at a method of leading a just life with high degree of fulfillment.

Ends justifying means was a policy that had wide acceptance until people like Mahatma Gandhi stepped in to remind us that means should be as noble as the ends. But we still resort to it to achieve many noble ends for which equally noble means are not available or possible. The time tested management policy of MBO (Management By Objectives) is a good example of this. If the intentions are clear and ends are known to be noble, there is little scope for any objection to the methods we adopt to achieve them. MBO remains a highly efficient method of managing business even after the advent of so many newer techniques and ideas. If the objectives in a business situation are replaced by duties in our own lives, Living By Duties (LBD) can be an equally effective method of managing our own lives. Let us have a look at how this is possible.

Our day to day lives are nothing but a series of activities meant for one's own self and/or others. And no activities take place without a reason. So by defining or specifying the reasons we can always control our activities and life. According to me, the best criterion for specifying reason for an activity is by looking at the relationship with the beneficiary of our action. As son, daughter, father, mother, brother, sister etc., we are duty bound to carry out certain functions which is part of our Dharma or duties. Doing anything and everything based on the duties can often be the best policy in any given situation.

As Son / Daughter

As a son or daughter it is our solemn duty to look after our parents especially at their old age. This may not be so much of a big deal in western culture, wherein most of the countries are already welfare states. But in our own country it is still a necessity for many and crystal clear even in our scriptures. The Sanskrit word for 'son' is putra. Pu is the name of a particular hell and tra means 'to deliver'. Thus the word putra means 'a person who delivers one from the hell named 'Pu'. Similar is the case with a daughter ' putri. There are people who would argue that they need to look after the parents only if these parents had taken care of them. More often it is only a 'convenient' ploy to generate self-serving arguments to justify their neglect of parents. The simple fact that we owe our very existence to the two individuals is reason enough to look after them. Irrespective of what they have done, do now or do in future, an attitude based on our duty as a son/daughter would be the best policy. It will be a satisfying and fulfilling experience for both the parties. More and more of Indian parents are planning for their final days in old age homes is a sad development.

As Husband / Wife

Duties and obligations involved in a conjugal relationship are much more complex than congenital ones. Unlike blood relations, we enter into conjugal relationships much later in life based on desires and likes culminating in solemn oaths of mutual trust. Religions give much importance to these relationships because they are solely dependent on the emotional bondage and form the basis of every family & society. Relationship between parents forms the role model for children and its cascading impact on the society is much more than any other relationships. Honesty, loyalty and sincerity are the corner stones of any married relationship. It is almost impossible to be happy and content if either party violates these basic parameters. More often it pays to be cent percent transparent in all transactions with our spouses than resorting to manipulations to get things done. Full adherence to one's duty as a husband or wife and continuing to do it irrespective of the response from the spouse forms the Dharma in this relationship.

As Father / Mother

As a parent our duties and obligations are well known. In the present world it is no more enough to provide only food, shelter and clothing for your children. Giving them proper education and equipping them in all respects to lead a decent life is the minimum expected of parents. All our actions towards them and in matters concerning them must be with these basic facts in mind. The values and character we inculcate in them will ultimately decide how they will treat us in our old age. But irrespective of what is in store for us, I feel each parent is duty bound to give the best to each of the children. Most of the criminals are children born to irresponsible parents. A father or mother not doing his duty is ultimately responsible for bringing up an unwanted member of the society.

As Brother / Sister

Children born to same parents share a lot of genetic features in common. And as children they imbibe many common qualities from the same environment they share. Yet it is not always necessary to have the same value system and strength of character among brothers and sisters. Duties and obligations of a brother or sister towards his own brother or sister is something highly subjective. It is a simple fact that no brother or sister will be fully happy if he/she comes to know of the difficulties of his/her brother or sister. Reaching out to him or her, in whatever way one can, is the best option in such circumstances. Offering guidance and cautioning, even if not asked for, is definitely the duty of an elder one. Whatever be the response, it is definitely one's duty to offer advice in this kind of relationship. The great Indian festival of Rakshabandan symbolizes the duties of a brother towards a sister in no uncertain terms.

As Human / Citizen

As human being and citizen of a country, our duties and obligations are more often not emphasized. In liberal democracies like India, it is left to the individual to do (or not to do) his part in nation building. But again, only those who can hold the nation above religion, caste and family can possibly do anything great for the country. But as a human being we can definitely help those who ask for it and whom we are convinced of deserving our help. Compassion and consideration for others is the least expected of us as a human being and citizen of a nation with an ancient civilization.

The clear advantage in responding to situations strictly according to one's duties and obligations is the peace of mind it will provide. In perspective we can feel satisfied that we have done our part and whatever has happened is because of or in spite of it. There are several individuals who spent the evenings of their lives repenting about wrong deeds in the past. If only they had followed this principle, it would have been a different life. A dutiful life will most often lead to a beautiful one.   
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