Love, not duty

By Rashida Jiwani

September 2014

A few years ago, I was attending a satsang in the Yoga Institute, in Santa Cruz. A young woman asked, “My children want to go down to play in the garden with me in the evening. My mother-in-law wants me to go to the temple with her at the same time. I don’t know what I should do.” The dean asked her, “What do you love to do?” The woman said, “I love to accompany my children to the garden. I go with my mother-in-law only out of a sense of duty.” The dean said, “Then go with your children.”

Performing any action only out of a sense of duty makes it boring, burdensome and uninspiring. We initiate some nice habits in children when they are young like praying, helping the poor and the needy, and taking care of the environment.  But these acts,  if done mechanically, do not benefit our mind or spirit.

Actions like feeding the animals, birds, or the poor, taking care of  the old, or fighting for the country are wonderful. But are they done out of a sense of duty, or do we experience any emotion of love or compassion? If I feed other humans with the feeling that I have enough, and so let me share it with others, then I get the benefit of compassion.

If I take care of my parents or in-laws as a matter of duty, it becomes a dull and drab activity. Instead, if I were to think, “My parents have done so much for me, raising me from childhood, educating me, now it is my turn to give them back with love,” then whatever I do will be charged with the emotion of love, and my parents will experience it powerfully.

Prayer also becomes a mechanical act. If the prayer is nothing more than the act of blurting out some Sanskrit or Arabic words, without understanding the meaning, it does not nourish us. If we pray in order to boast to people, “I pray five times a day, or I do puja for two hours in the morning,” there is no benefit.

But if I tell myself, “I want to talk to my Divine Father or Mother because they have given me so many things, and I need to show my gratitude”, then it fills my heart with  gratitude. If everything we do comes out of love rather than just duty or habit, then its effect on the world is positive, and it nourishes us from within.

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Comments [ 1 ]


While i understand the spirit in which these sentiments are expressed in the article, it still leaves something to be desired on the part of one who is turning 'duty' into 'love' by saying "...BECAUSE they have given me so many things, I NEED to show my gratitude". This sounds more like a transaction. The next step is unconditional love, without any sense of expectation or obligation from either party.

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