Duty and detachment in Indian philosophy

There Arjuna saw, standing their ground, fathers, grandfathers, teachers, maternal uncles, brothers, sons, grandsons, friends, Fathers-in-law, and companions in both armies. And looking at all these kinsmen so arrayed, Arjuna, the son of Kunti, overcome by deep compassion; and in despair he said: “Krishna, when I see these my own people eager to fight, on the brink. My limbs grow heavy, and my mouth is parched, my body trembles and my hair bristles. My bow, Gandiva, falls from my hand, my skin’s on fire, I can no longer stand – my mind is reeling. I see evil omens, Krishna: nothing good can come from slaughtering one’s own family in battle – I foresee it!
I have no desire for victory, Krishna, or kingship, or pleasures. What should we do with kingship, Govinda? What are pleasures to us? What is life?”
(…) The Lord [Krishna] said: “Arjuna, where do you get this weakness from at a moment of crisis? A noble should not experience this. It does not lead to heaven, it leads to disgrace. There never was a time when I was not, or you, or these rulers of men. Nor will there ever be a time when we shall cease to be, all of us hereafter. Just as within this body the embodied self passes through childhood, youth and old age, so it passes to another body. The wise man is not bewildered by this. But contacts with matter, Son of Kunti, give rise to cold and heat, pleasure and pain. They come and go, Bharata; they are impermanent and you should endure them. For these things, Bull among men, do not perturb that wise man for whom pleasure and pain are the same; he is ready for immortality. For the non-existent there is no coming into existence, for the existent there is no lapsing into non-existence; the division between them is observed by those who see the underlying nature of things. But know that that on which all this is stretched is indestructible. No one can destroy this imperishable one. It is just these bodies of the indestructible, immeasurable, and eternal embodied self that are characterized as coming to an end – therefore fight, Bharata! Anyone who believes this a killer, and anyone who thinks this killed, they do not understand: it does not kill, it is not killed.
(…) Therefore you must not grieve for any beings at all. Recognizing your inherent duty, you must not shrink from it. For there is nothing better for a warrior than a duty-bound war. (…) You are qualified simply with regard to action, never with regard to its results. You must be neither motivated by the results of action nor attached to inaction. Grounded in yogic discipline, and having abandoned attachment, undertake actions, Dhananjaya, evenly disposed as to their success or failure. Yoga is defined as evenness of mind. For action in itself is inferior by far to the discipline of intelligence, Dhananjaya. You must seek refuge in intelligence. Those motivated by results are wretched. The man disciplined in intelligence renounces in this world the results of both good and evil actions. Therefore commit yourself to yogic discipline; yogic discipline is skill in actions. For, having abandoned the result produced from action, those who understand, who are disciplined in intelligence, are freed from the bondage of rebirth and achieve a state without disease.”
Bhagavad Gita, excerpts from books II and III.

This entry was posted in Bibliotheque philosophique, The basis of morality. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s