Life and Death: Do Good Naturally, Not Out of Duty
By Swami Chinmayanada
As a teenager I always carried some cotton, antiseptic and a bandage in my pocket. After all, someone could get hurt. One day, I was in a bus. A fellow passenger got hurt. Here was my chance to become a hero, I thought excitedly. Out came my kit. I applied some antiseptic on her bruise and bandaged it.
Another passenger looked at me and said: "Do you know, you have caused this bruise - indirectly." I was taken aback. He continued: "You waited for someone to fall and get hurt so that you could use your medical kit." My take on nishkaama karma, selfless action, had failed.
Krishna says that the path of selfless service can lead you to the ultimate Truth. But even the slightest motive spoils the selfless act. Ma Sarada, the Holy Mother, was a personification of nishkaama karma. Her spiritualism was in her motherliness. She was constantly engaged in motives-free service. And we all have this Universal Mother hidden within.
Take parenting. Today, it's a duty. Parents earn money; they buy gifts and other things for children. But that's not what parenting is all about. Remember, a child can live without materialistic things but not without love.
When love is absent in a parent-child relationship, children tend to become aggressive. They demand things; they want their desires to be fulfilled. A parent who fulfils all the desires of his child is called a good parent, one who is dutiful. No one is giving love, no one is getting love. It is a loveless state.
Indian philosophers have said a lot about duty. Many of them were not fathers or mothers in the biological sense but they had inner compassion, which got reflected in their behaviour. All who came in contact with them could feel their tenderness, their love and compassion.
This is why Ma Sarada, Ramakrishna's spouse, was mother to thousands without being a biological mother. The motherliness is there in all of us. It gets manifested when you begin loving people as your very own. Love God, love the God in all, and love your children and other near ones as if they were images of God. As a karmayogi, you will not expect anything in return - you will find that you are enveloped by love and this will enable you to do your duty well.
However, Swami Vivekananda said that those who want to be karmayogis must get rid of the idea of "duty". Whatever you have to give to the world, give by all means, but not as a duty. Duty becomes compulsion. Everything that you do under compulsion goes to build up attachment. The only true duty is to be unattached and to work as free beings, to give up all work unto God. All our duties are His.
Bring up a child not out of a sense of duty, for doing so would amount to compulsion. Do so out of pure, unselfish love. Parents are out the whole day, working for their livelihood - all for the sake of the family, because it is their duty to do so. But where does one draw the line between need and greed?
During my visits to several homes, I have seen parents and children together, exchanging hardly a word. At the most they say: "Pass the plate, pass the vegetable, yes, okay, bye..."
With this kind of indifference and self-absorption, how can parents and children love and respect one another? That's why it is important to bring up the compassion latent in our hearts - not just for family, but for all. Let love blossom.