“Look another man’s duty is perilous” (Miller, 46, V

to your own duty; do not tremble before it” (Miller, 34, V 31). In the ‘Bhagavad Gita’, dharma holds great
importance to creating harmony in the universe. Dharma signifies sacred duty which
is a specific obligation that should be conducted by everyone, to ensure a
virtuous and devout livelihood. The ‘Bhagavad
Gita’ explores the significance of duty and explains how to live an ethical
and renounced life. When duty is threatened to be undermined, to what extent
does it affect the balance in the universe? As dharma is essential to Hindu
values explored in the ‘Bhagavad Gita’,
not completing your duty will affect your own path, the caste system, cycles of
reincarnation, and the gods. Duty is significant to keeping the balance in the
universe as it fulfills the ritual to help create order and righteousness. By
undermining duty that should be performed, the universe’s balance and cycle is
disrupted to an extent which it affects individual and communal paths, and the core
beliefs of Hindu principles.

Refraining from
completing one’s own dharma will affect your own soul and individual path. The ‘Bhagavad Gita’ explores the importance
of completing one’s duty for one’s own sake. “Your own duty done imperfectly is
better than another man’s done well. It is better to die in one’s own duty;
another man’s duty is perilous” (Miller, 46, V 35), shows that self-discipline
and respect betters one’s self. As part of the Hindu religion, these
characteristics are essential to living a righteous life, supported by Krishna exclaiming
“So sever the ignorant doubt in your heart with the sword of self-knowledge,
Arjuna! Observe your discipline! Arise!” (Miller, 55, V 42). The power of
discipline is also essential to renunciation, which if not completed will
affect one’s path and duty. Krishna explains that to “be intent on action, not
on the fruits of action; avoid attraction to the fruits and attachment to
inaction” (Miller, 36, V 47), will help complete one’s sacred duty if all
personal and selfish interests are abandoned. When duty is threatened, it tends
to be due to a lack of renunciation of personal desires. There tends to be self-conflict
between doing the correct action and the pleasant action. Arjuna is struggling
with choosing to complete his duty or look after his family as “a place in hell
is reserved for men who undermine family duties” (Miller, 26, V 44). Although
Arjuna knows killing his family is not the pleasant action, he must perform his
duty simply because it’s the correct thing to do. Individual duty must be
carried out as propriety is essential to keeping the universe balanced.

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Individual duty
is specified within the caste system, which is affected by the threat to duty
as job fulfillments that are not carried out will prevent the universe’s
balance from effectively functioning. Dharma must occur, and duties that were
assigned must be performed to allow the social hierarchy to work as Krishna
“created mankind in four classes, different in their qualities and actions”
(Miller, 51, V 13). The ‘Bhagavad Gita’ supports
the caste system as completing duty is performing karma, which in turn produces
the next caste in one’s next life, hence why “knowing this, even ancient
seekers of freedom performed action – do as the seers did in ancient times”
(Miller, 51, V 15). The caste system is held in such high regard, therefore by
“honoring gods, priests, teachers, and wise men, being pure, honest, celibate
and nonviolent is called bodily penance” (Miller, 139, V 14). Sacred duty is
different for every individual, as it is based on the caste level you are
placed. For example, “Great Warrior, kill the enemy menacing you in the form of
desire!” (Miller, 47, V 43), shows that Arjuna’s caste is a fighter, therefore
his duty is to battle and kill. As your caste determines your duty, it must be accomplished
in that manner, otherwise the outcome could disrupt social rankings and order
in the universe. Social hierarchies are moral as the ‘Bhagavad Gita’ shows that all duties must be carried out,
including the lower, more suppressed ones, to create balance in life. “The actions
of priests, warriors, commoners, and servants are apportioned by qualities born
of their intrinsic being” (Miller, 149, V 41), therefore there is no active
discrimination in the caste system, plus ones who carry out oppressive duties
will be rewarded in their next lives. The only way to change your caste is to
be reincarnated into a new one, therefore completing a cycle of rebirth that
helps the universe to be balanced.

Undermining duty will
not only affect the balance in one’s current life, but also the process of release
from reincarnation. The aim of the life cycle is to achieve salvation and
freedom from rebirth. Reincarnation occurs as the soul cannot be harmed as
“weapons do not cut it, fire does not burn it, water does not wet it, wind does
not wither it” (Miller, 32, V 23). However, to allow the universe to function
effectively, duty must be completed to allow souls to break through
reincarnation, as “without faith in sacred duty … they return to the cycle of
death and rebirth” (Miller, 83, V 3). The goal of Hinduism in the ‘Bhagavad Gita’ is to let one’s soul be
free and transcendent. Krishna stresses the importance of completing duty, as it
enables souls’ to be liberated. Souls are released “when suffering does not
disturb his mind, when his craving for pleasures has vanished, when attraction,
fear and anger are gone, he is called a sage whose thought is sure” (Miller,
37, V 56). This idea of freedom from the cycle, creates a theory called Moksha.
To attain Moksha, you must complete your duty as “when you have long enjoyed
the world of heaven and your merit is exhausted, you enter the mortal
world; following the duties ordained in sacred lore, desiring desires, you
obtain what is transient” (Miller, 86, V 21). Krishna emphasizes that
“resorting to this knowledge, they follow the ways of sacred duty; in creation
they are not reborn, in dissolution they suffer no sorrow” (Miller, 121, V 2). Therefore,
if dharma is not fulfilled, souls will stay trapped which will disrupt the universal

The gods are also
affected by the threat to dharma, which prevents the universe from staying in
harmony. When sacred duty is undermined, Krishna’s appears to set them on the
correct path. Krishna, having the power of a god, will “protect men of virtue
and destroy men who do evil, to set the standard of sacred duty,” doing so by
“appearing in age after age” (Miller, 50, V 8). In the ‘Bhagavad Gita’, Krishna is the authoritative god that has the power
to help balance the universe. Krishna’s power is so strong that it becomes
another duty for people to obey him, as Krishna explains to “keep me in your
mind and devotion, sacrifice to me, bow to me, discipline yourself toward me,
and you will reach me” (Miller, 87, V 34). His power can be used, and universal
harmony can be reached if everyone “relinquishes all sacred duties to me,
make me your only refugee; do not grieve, for I shall free you from all evils”
(Miller, 152, V 66). Krishna is the ultimate deity, “the infinite spirit’s
foundation, immortal and immutable, the basis of eternal sacred duty and perfect
joy” (Miller, 125, V 27), and therefore duty must be done to allow the gods to
care for the people and universe.

Overall, duty is
significant to the way of life, as following the right path will reward one’s
self and the balance of things. The universe needs to stay harmonic, and this
is achieved through correct dharma. The ‘Bhagavad
Gita’ shows that everyone has a specific duty that should be fulfilled to
take one’s self on the correct path to righteousness and transcendence. By
completing individual dharma, it contributes to a wider communal dharma which
helps the universe to be balanced. The ‘Bhagavad Gita’ is important to our lives as it teaches us
the importance of our own duty. It helps us to understand that every action we
complete has a purpose and an outcome. It encourages us to try and live a life
without desire, greed and attachment, and rather look at each action we take as
an opportunity to help the greater good.


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