Now this time let me start introducing the D in DWEL.
As hinted previously, big D stands for Duty –Dharma. Dharma is a very complex concept and not easily translated into one word. Although I have used the word Duty-yet that only describes it partially. The word has implications for every aspect of daily life. Our scriptures require us to uphold, preserve and protect Dharma. However, Dharma is not man made, and thus not to be taken lightly.
From my vantage point of a practicing Hindu, at the human level, we can identify three aspects of complex big D. One is straightforward ordained duty for a specific station in life. This for all practical purposes could be construed to mean normal duty as a human being at various stages of our life, and thus synonymous with the usual translation of the word Dharma. One may be a student, a householder, a father, a grand father, a teacher, or a lawyer, Dharma for each one would carry different meanings. Thus the Dharma of a student is to ensure acquisition of knowledge, learn to respect the teacher and parents. The second aspect describes the extent to which we are willing, able and motivated to fulfill the obligation of preserving the Dharma as a set of Natural laws. The third aspect includes the means, actions and routines we engage in while performing our duties in conformity to the obligation of preserving the Dharma. This last aspect comes close to describing what we mean by the word- Karma. While we have a Standard of Dharma to measure up to, yet when we engage in our daily routines of karma hopefully we are in conformity with that Ideal. A student acquires a store of Karma while in that phase of life. The overall value of that Karma will be determined not by mere attendance in a school but also by several value-added tangible and intangible parameters. Closer we get to the Ideal, closer we inch towards being the ideal human being, and worthy of the eventual reward of liberation and enlightenment.
At this point I should bring up an analogy to further explain the three aspects of Dharma. Dharma could be likened to a job description for an employee. Usually a job description prescribes certain duties, expectations and outcomes for a person hired in the position. The hired individual settles in and performs the job to the best of the person’s ability. The ‘best of the person’s ability would be paraphrased to mean knowledge that the employee brings in, prior experience, added in with a dash or two of motivation and ingenuity to fulfill the needed duties. Thus the actions by the person may come close to or fall short of the ideal set of duties prescribed. Thus a satisfactory completion of all the duties depends upon various strengths of individual employee. Such is the case with Karma we perform while engaging in worldly activities and trying to uphold and follow the norms set by Dharma as the ideal or Standard. For a Hindu, engaging in karma in conformity with the sanctity and idealism of Dharma would be akin to what some Christians call ‘walking with the Lord’. As Hindus we have to walk with the Dharma.
The actions or karma we perform are the basis of how the world runs for us. For us to perform any karma- we have to first desire to do something, or wish to obtain some kind of a reward. Thus no karma is possible without the concept of a reward. The actions needed to accomplish a goal include planning, procedures with bench marks and a time scale with a final outcome and possible fulfillment. However, the Bhagavat Gita tells us the highest and purest kind of karma is that which is done without any thought of a reward or attachment. Seems impossible! Not really. It is only when we have an appropriate understanding of the principle of Karma then we know what it means to engage without attachment.
Karma, as explained above, follows a desire, motivation to get a reward, necessary planning and preparation, finally action and the result. During the planning and preparation phase we ponder over a plan, and strategize how best to reach our target, or get the reward. The plan would be geared to maximize the invested return and achieve the goal. Then of course we set the plan into action. Here I point out the fact that during the implementation phase we are very much involved with execution of plan, and that one has practically no time to think about the actual reward; in fact that can be rather distracting., One should ideally only be thinking of how best to execute the plan. This in fact is Karma performed without any attachment to the reward. A better planning and preparation makes the execution possible without thinking about the reward. What the Gita and other scriptures require of us is to plan better, and for better execution not to fog our minds with any other thoughts but the plan. Now, in an ideal world that is Karma without an attachment.
We do not live in an ideal world. And as individuals with various and different capabilities do not always think clearly, plan and execute our plans successfully. We can not but think of the reward all the time and do not completely focus on the appropriate planning and implementation. Some of us do not get beyond the first stage of desiring, others plan poorly, and yet others botch the steps while executing the action. Hence, the more accomplished one becomes in planning and preparation better is the outcome. Success of any action, therefore, depends on planning and then its execution. Thus the take home message from the Hindu scriptures is plan, plan, and plan more before embarking on any action. And in execution, be vigilant and focused to take success home.
However, more often than not, our karma falls short because of various reasons. That then leaves gaps in the fulfillment of our Duty-Dharma. It is only a few of us who are able to get close to the ideal of Dharma in all the three aspects of it.
Thus far I have danced around the question of what Dharma is. I have yet to describe the author (s) of Dharma. I hope to elucidate upon these in my next session.