by Swami Krishnananda
The great issues of life, whether personal or social, hinge upon the concept of dutywhat one ought to do in life. We know very well that the whole enterprise of mankind is a struggle of duty towards a particular end, and it makes no difference what position a person occupies in life insofar as the broad question of duty is concerned. The division of duty may vary from person to person, or from condition to condition; but that there is a duty of some sort cannot be denied, because duty is another name for the function that one is expected to perform in a given location of ones life.
But what one ought to do cannot be decided easily unless another question is answered: what is it that one is aiming at? Our aim will decide to a large extent the nature of our expectations, whether in our individual capacity or in our capacity as units in human society. What is it that we seek, finally? If this is clear to the mind, evidently what one ought to do, also, would be clear. But, neither of these questions is easy to answer. And without properly conceiving the background of our efforts in life, we seem to be going headlong every day, right from morning till evening, taking for granted that everything is clear to our minds.
In fact, if there has been a proper clarity of thought in respect of ones duty and the aim of ones life, there would be no such thing as conflict in life. Conflict or disharmony arises in mankind due to the fact of missing the very purpose of life and, consequently, missing the knowledge of the functions that one is supposed to perform in life. Often we hear people saying: This is my duty; this not my duty. But, on what grounds does one make this statement? How do we know that this is our duty, or this is not our duty? Is it because we have been born in a particular family, our father has been performing this function, and, therefore, it is ours, or it is not ours? Or is there any other logical foundation for this concept of ones having this to do, or not to do?
We, generally, do not go deep into these matters. Mankind, unfortunately, is averse to go into the depths of any question. We like to float on the surface in every kind of activity of ours. Whatever be our walk of life, we seem to be content merely by glossing over things without going into the profundity of the issues on hand. But no problem is merely a surface issue; every problem is as wide as life itself. We can imagine how vast and how immense in magnitude human life is, and our concept of duty cannot be smaller than that. There is something in us which is vitally connected with everyone else. But for this fact, there would not be an endeavour to talk in terms of mankind or humanity.
It is very strange that we speak of mankind, as if there is some sort of relationship between oneself and another in the group that we call humanity. The desire to form organisations, institutions, bodies, etc., whether in the small unit of a family or larger units like the nation or an international organisationwhatever be the concept of the body that we formthe hidden desire seems to be to form a harmonious whole out of the little ingredients we call human individuals. This desire is enough to indicate that there is some purpose we are aiming at in life.
An organisation is a general term and it can apply to any kind of people coming together. If two people join and harmoniously work, it is an organisation. If it is more than twoit can be a thousandit is still an organisation; and if the whole of humanity is taken as a single body, that too is an organisation. Whatever it is, the point is that we seem to be discontented by any form of isolated life that we may be compelled to live. An individual is not always happy by being absolutely cut off from human society. There is an instinct inborn in our nature to come together with other people; we call it a social instinct without understanding what it actually means.
An instinct is an intelligent seeking on our part for the purpose of the achievement of a goal. An instinct is not a blind and chaotic urge that arises in ourselves; it is a rational, purposive movement which is unintelligibly conducting itself towards a particular aim, and when we cannot understand the rational background of the instinct, we call it irrational. But if we can understand the purposive movement of the instinct, it becomes logical, and there would be then no distinction between these two. And why is it that we have an instinct for social life? Why do we wish to come together and form bodies, whether it is a religious body, or a social body, or a political body, whatever be that body?
We have some un-understandable and inscrutable feeling within us from a part of ourselves which speaks in its own language. There are depths in our personality which are deeper than our conscious level, as we all know very well. This instinct for social collaboration does not necessarily arise from a conscious deliberative thinking of the human individual. It is automatic. We feel. Many people say: I feel. But this feeling arises not from the conscious level. It is not a logically deduced conclusion arrived at by induction or deduction. It is a feeling which has a reason of its own which transcends ordinary organisational thinking in logical terms.
We have an aim behind our coming together. This necessity to come together, to work together, implies that we seek a common purpose; otherwise, there would be no point in such a longing. If each individual flies at a tangent and there is absolutely no connection between the aim of myself and yourself, there would be absolutely no meaning in our joining together, coming together, meeting together or performing a work through a body or an organisation. It is taken for granted that every organisation of human society, of whatever nature, has an implication behind itthat there is a common purpose behind human individuals. Otherwise, people would not sit together or speak together in the same language.
Stretching this argument a little further, we are very fond of speaking in terms of mankind these dayshumanity. We would be happy if there were no wars, no battles, would be happy if there were no quarrels, and if there was a single government for the whole world. This is a great aspiration, no doubt; but how does this aspiration arise, unless the whole of mankind has a single purpose or aim before it? If every individual is differentiated from every other, there cannot be such an aspiration at all. That we seek such a possibility, whether it is immediately practicable or not, is itself an indication of what humanity is basically made of. It is substantially one. But for the fact of this substantial unity of the building blocks of mankind, there would be no such thing as talk of universal government, etc. Even this idea will not arise in ones mind. We know that the effect cannot contain what is not in the cause. The idea of universal government, or a single mankind, and human solidarity, etc., which arises as a kind of effect, a psychological product, from our minds has a cause behind it. If we are logical thinkers, we would naturally accept that there cannot be an effect without a cause. The very functioning of the human mind in terms of universal collaboration and achievement is an indication that it is based on some cause which is characterised by similar purposes.
So, our concept of duty in life is naturally dependent on the aim that we have before ourselves, and, as was explained, the final aim of mankind does not seem to be segregated internally, a fact that comes to high relief on account of our basic aspirations. We feel happy if we see our own brothers. There is a feeling between man and man. It is a common feeling, no doubt, arising on account of kinship of character, sympathy of feeling, and unity of purpose. If this had not been there, there would be no such thing psychologically as mankind or humanity.
If the aim seems to be an organisational unitya thing that automatically comes out as a consequence of our ways of thinkingour duties also cannot be of a dissimilar character. If there is a purposive collaboration of the aims of life among mankind tending towards an organic perfection in itself, there cannot be different sets of ideals or duties before mankind, because duties or functions are nothing but activities directed towards the achievement of the purpose of humanity. The duties are as much related one to the other as the segments of the different aspirations of individuals are in respect of the total purpose of mankind.
As there cannot be an effect without a cause, a cause is logically implied behind the manifestation of an effect. This effect that we are speaking of today seems to be so large that the cause should be at least as large as itself. We have a single humanitarian psychology before usmans mind working in its generality. It is not my mind or your mind that is working, but the mind of mankind as a whole aiming at human perfection, mankinds solidarity, and a peaceful existence. This is the way in which the total mind of mankind works, as an effect of a cause which is prior, naturally, to this effect of the total thinking of mankind.
We may have a doubt in our minds as to whether it is true that we all think alike. Surely, we are not always thinking alike. Each individual has a world under his own hat, as they say, but this is only an apparent diversity that we see. When we are brought deep into the levels of our basic aspirations and likes, we will realise that these differences vanish. Ill give you a concrete example. You are a patriot and lover of your nation, and there are millions of people inhabiting a nation, forming a nation, with each individual having his own or her own ideas, whims and fancies, ideals and ideologies. Suppose a war breaks out and the whole nation is threatened by a disastrous situation. One can imagine how all the individuals join together, gird up their loins, and aim at a single purpose. The isolated whims and fancies disappear at once.
This can be very easily proved by a little bit of deep thinking. When a common purpose is before us, the individual idiosyncrasies recede to the background. The individual whims come to the forefront only when the basic security is granted, not otherwise. If our life itself is going to be threatened, if the whole mankind is to be visited by a catastrophe, one can see how mankind joins together to avert this possibility. There would be no man-woman distinction, there would be no distinction of east, west, north, south, black, white, etc. People would, then, all stand up vigilant, wakeful to face this threat that is endangering mankind as a whole. This has been seen through the course of history, and we can see it at any time under similar conditions. We seem to be isolated only when the basic necessities are supplied to us, not otherwise. If the basic roots are shaken, then our different ideologies on the surface vanish altogether. All this is a little bit of thinking along logical lines for the purpose of coming to a conclusion as to the duties of mankind based on the aims or purposes of life.
Unless there is some kind of a connecting link lying at the background of human thought, the mind would not function in this manner. There cannot be any such thing as international thinking, unless there is a foundation for such a possibility. We know very well that diversities imply a kind of unity. Even two minds cannot communicate with each other unless there is a corresponding medium between the two minds. If one mind is absolutely cut off from another mind due to totally dissimilar characters, the one cannot communicate with the other. There would be no congress between one person and another person.
But we communicate our thoughts; we speak language which can be transmitted to another; we understand each other. The fact that we are able to know one another implies that we can psychologically come together. This, again, implies secondarily that this understanding or thinking or communication of thought between one and the other is an external indication of a basic unity between the two persons. There would be no such thing as the concept of two unless there is the concept of the one already behind them. One cannot imagine that there are two things unless one is able to synthesise these two things in ones consciousness. So, carrying this deduction to the larger dimension of humanity, or mankind as a whole, we seem to be floating on the ocean of a single Mindthe Mind of mankind, the total Mind of humanity, of which the individual minds are, as it were, drops. This Total Mind seems to be urging us forward for the realisation of a purpose.