Just Do Your Duty

There was once a horrible drought. For year after year not a drop of rain fell on the arid ground. Crops died, and – as the land became parched – farmers gave up even planting their seeds.  As the time of planting and tilling the ground came for the fourth rainless year in a row, the farmers of the region had given up hope and they sat listless, passing their time with playing cards and other distractions.

However, one lone farmer continued patiently to plant his seeds and sow and till his land. The other farmers poked fun at him and derided him as he daily continued to take care of his fruitless, barren land.

When they asked him the reason behind his senseless tenacity, he said, “I am a farmer and it is my dharma to plant and till my land. My dharma does not change simply due to whether the clouds rain or not. My dharma is my dharma and I must follow it regardless of how fruitful or fruitless it appears to be.” The other farmers laughed at his wasteful effort, and went back to their homes to continue bemoaning the rainless sky and their fruitless land.

However, a passing rain cloud happened to be overhead when the faithful farmer was giving his answer to the others. The cloud heard the farmer’s beautiful words and realized, “He’s right. It is his dharma to plant the seeds and to till the land, and it is my dharma to release this water which I am holding in my cloud onto the ground.” At that moment, inspired by the farmer’s message, the cloud released all the water it was holding onto the farmer’s land.  This rain cloud then, continued to spread the message of upholding one’s dharma to the other rain clouds, and they too – upon realizing it was their dharma to rain – began to let go of the moisture in their midst. Soon, rain was pouring down upon the land, and the farmer’s harvest was bountiful.

In life, we tend to expect results from our actions. If we do something well, we want to be rewarded. If we work, we want to be paid (whether financially or in some other way). We want to work only so long as the work reaps rewards. If the fruits cease to come, so we decide the work is not “meant to be,” and we abandon it.

However, that is not the message of which Lord Krishna gives to Arjuna in the Gita. The message is that we must do our duty regardless of the fruits. We must live according to our dharma regardless of whether it is”successful.” We must perform our duties for the simple fact that they are our duties.

Lord Krishna tells Arjuna to stand up and fight, and says that – even if he dies in the battle – he must still do his dharma. The Lord tells Arjuna that it is divine to die on the battlefield of life (meaning engaged in performing your duty). He explains that either way, Arjuna will “win.” If the Pandavas win the battle, then they will obliterate the evil influence of the Kauravas and inherit the kingdom. If, on the other hand, the Kauravas win the battle and the Pandavas are killed, then they will go straight to the Lord’s eternal abode, for they died in the service of Dharma.

Usually in life, we know what our duties are. We know our responsibilities. We can see the “right” thing to do. This is especially true if we take quiet time to meditate, reflect and contemplate. Yet, too frequently we walk away from doing the “right” thing or from performing our duty due to the uncertainty of the result. We don’t want to “waste our time” or “look like a fool.” We neglect our responsibilities by saying, “It doesn’t matter any way.” We shun our duties with words like, “Well  no one else is doing it, so why should I?”

This is not the way to live. We must realize that there is an enormous, infinite cosmic plan at work and we must all perform our allotted tasks to the best of our ability. Whether we actually succeed or fail in the venture should not be the biggest concern. True success comes not in a financial “win”, but rather in the humble, tenacious, dedicated performance of our tasks.

Interestingly enough, when we act with righteousness and integrity, we find that others will follow. It is not that we are taken advantage of, as we frequently fear. Rather, if we set the divine example, others will follow suit. Just as the rain cloud followed the example of the tenacious farmer, so will those in our lives follow our own examples. If we act with honesty, we receive honesty. If we act with dedication and love, so we will receive dedication and love. If we fulfill our dharma, so will those around us learn to do the same.

Yet, even if we are the only ones acting piously, acting honestly, acting with devotion, it should not matter. Our lives, our happiness and our karma are individual entities. They are not dependent upon the response from others.

Therefore, we must all learn to stand up, have courage and keep performing our duties, regardless of whether it looks like success or failure will result. Through the fulfillment of our dharma we will achieve the greatest success in life – bliss, peace and enlightenment.

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