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Duties of Man

by Swami Sivananda

Man has certain important duties and responsibilities in life. He has to evolve morally and spiritually by performing these duties in the right manner. He has to act and live according to the law of God. He has to find out the rules of conduct and the measure of his responsibilities. He must have a thorough knowledge of the moral code of Manu or Yajnavalkya and must act according to the rules laid down therein. Then only can he be rightly called a man.

Man has duties towards parents, children and other family members. He has duties towards society and the country. He has duties of the Varnashrama. He has duties to his own self, and, last but not the least, he has important duties towards God. He must fulfil all these duties of his life. Then only he can find progress in his life. Then only will he enjoy real peace of mind.

He must serve his parents who have given him this physical body with great Shraddha and Bhava. In the Taittiriya Upanishad you will find: Matrudevo bhava, pitrudevo bhava. The parents should be worshipped as visible representatives of God on earth. Sri Ashutosh Mukerji of Calcutta, late Vice-Chancellor of the Calcutta University used to worship his mother and drink her Charanamrita daily before going to his office. Modern educated people do not pay any proper regard to their parents. If the father is uneducated and if the son is an England-trained man, he will say that his father is a servant of the house when anybody puts the question: "Who is this old man?"

He must train his children in the proper manner. He must give them good education in Sanskrit, English and in technical subjects. He must train them in the path of spirituality from the very childhood. He must be devoted to his wife who is his partner in life, and who occupies the left half of his body (Ardhangini). No religious rite is valid without her presence. He must regard her as a real helper in the path of spirituality. As soon as a son is born she becomes his mother. The Srutis declare: 'Atma vai jaayate putrah-the soul is born as a son.' He must give up all ideas of relationship as wife as soon as a son is born. He must give up sexual intercourse. Both should lead a spiritual life. The husband should not regard his wife as a machine for procreation only. There is some higher spiritual purpose. She has to help the husband in his spiritual evolution. She has to attend to his wants. She has to serve him nicely in all possible ways.

Man must serve society according to his temperament, taste and capacity. This will help in the purification of his mind. He must serve with Nishkamya Bhava as an honorary member. He should not get any remuneration. He must develop the spirit of patriotism. He must serve the country. Service of the country is service of Mother Kali. It is pure Mother-worship.

He must perform the duties of his Varnashrama. A Brahmin should observe serenity, self-restraint, austerity, purity, forgiveness, uprightness, wisdom, knowledge and belief in God. A Kshatriya should manifest prowess, splendour, firmness, dexterity, bravery, generosity, and the nature of a ruler. The Vaishya should engage in agriculture, trade and protection of cattle. Sudras should serve the other three castes.

A Brahmachari should study religious books till he reaches the age of twenty-five. If he has taken the vow of lifelong celibacy, if he wants to become a Naishthika Brahmachari, he need not enter the stage of a householder. He should have real lasting dispassion and discrimination. Then only will he be really benefited. He can devote his whole life to spiritual pursuits.

If a Brahmachari does not want to take up the course of lifelong celibacy, he can become a householder. He can marry after finishing his education. He can visit his wife occasionally for bringing progeny to keep up the line and not for sensual gratification. He will be styled as a Brahmachari, if he strictly adheres to the above rule. After he has finished the stage of a householder and after fixing up his son in a proper position, he can become a Vanaprastha either alone or with his wife. He should not remain in the house till the end of life. He will be having various anxieties and Moha for children if he remains in the house. If he finds it difficult to leave he can remain in a cottage outside the house. If he finds this also difficult, he can remain upstairs or in a solitary room and can have interview with the visitors and members of the house in the evening between 4 and 5. If a Vanaprastha wants to take Sannyasa, he can do so. Vanaprastha is only a preparatory step to Sannyasa. The glory and freedom of a Sannyasin can hardly be described. A Sannyasin only can cut off all sorts of attachments. Otherwise some sort of subtle connection will always remain. When once one takes Sannyasa, he becomes a dead man to the family members. Otherwise they always think of getting something from him. The subtle attachment in the mind still remains in both parties. This is quite sufficient to bring one back to the wheel of birth and death. The very colour of the orange robe gives strength and purity. I do not believe those people who say: 'We have given colouring to our hearts.' This is timidity and hypocrisy. There are still Moha, Raga and Vasanas lurking in them. If there is internal change, the external change is bound to come. I do admit that eradication of egoism, Sankalpas and Ashrama-Bheda is absolutely necessary. Why then did Sri Sankara and Sri Ramakrishna take Sannyasa? What is the necessity for this order at all? Sannyasa has got its own advantages.

Lord Krishna says in the Gita: 'The four castes were emanated by Me, by the different distribution of qualities and actions; know Me to be the author of them, though the actionless and inexhaustible.' Ch. IV-13. Throughout the world this classification of caste exists. The catholic priests and the reverend clergymen represent the Brahmins. They do meditation and preaching. The soldiers of the West are the Kshatriyas of Rajputana. The business people in the West are the Vaishyas. Those who do menial service are the Sudras. This classification is based according to the quality of man. Those who are Sattvic are Brahmins: those who are Rajasic are Kshatriyas; those who are Tamasic are the Sudras. This classification is according to Gunas and Karma.

I shall speak a word on conscience. Some people say: 'We can find out good and evil, right and wrong, by consulting our conscience only'. No individual will be able to do this by consulting his conscience only. It may give some clue and help. Conscience is not an infallible guide. The conscience of a man changes according to his experiences and education. Conscience is one's own intellectual conviction. The conscience of the individual speaks in accordance with his tendencies, habits, passions, inclinations, capacity and education. The conscience of a savage speaks a language entirely different from that of a civilised European. The conscience of an African speaks a language entirely different from that of an ethically developed Yogi of India. Ask a clerk in the Collectorate: 'What are your duties?' He will say: 'I must earn money to support my family and parents. I must not injure others. I must read Ramayana.' He has no idea of the laws of Nature. He will submit himself blindly to the laws whatever they may be. If you ask him: 'What are your duties to the country and humanity? What is right and wrong? What is good and evil?' he will simply blink. Ask any car-driver: 'What is your duty?' He will say: 'Anyhow I must earn Rs. 20 daily. I have to purchase ten gallons of petrol, tires, tubes and crude oil. The tires are very costly. I have six daughters and five sons. I must protect them.' If you ask him anything about God, virtues, Moksha, bondage and freedom, right and wrong, he will be bewildered. Why is there so much divergence between the promptings of conscience of two persons of the same caste, religion or creed? Why do we find ten different convictions among ten persons of the same district and same community? The voice of conscience alone is not sufficient to guide man in understanding of the laws of God, right and wrong, good and evil and other duties of life. The Sastras and realised persons (Apta-vakyam) only can truly guide a man in the discharge of his duties in an efficient manner. That is the reason why Lord Krishna emphatically declares: 'He who, having cast aside the ordinances of the scriptures followeth the promptings of desire, attaineth not to perfection, nor happiness, nor the highest goal. Therefore let the scriptures be thy authority in determining what ought to be done, or what ought not to be done. Knowing what hast been declared by the ordinances of the scriptures, thou oughtest to work in this world.' Ch. XVI-23, 24.

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