Talks on the Gita -Vinoba 10

Chapter 2
6.Performance Of Swadharma Through The Body

4. Three cardinal principles have been enunciated in the Second Chapter—

  1. The atman (the Self) is deathless and indivisible.
  2. The body is insignificant and transient.
  3. Swadharma must be followed.

Out of these, Swadharma is in the nature of duty to be performed while the other two principles are those that need to be understood. I have already said something about swadharma. For each of us, swadharma is ‘given.’ It comes to us naturally; we do not have to go out looking for it. We did not drop from the sky but were born into a stream of existence. Society, parents, neighbours, all existed before we were born. To serve the parents who gave me life, to serve the society that succored me is my natural dharma. Our swadharma thus takes birth along with us; it can even be said that it is already there for us before our birth. In fact, fulfillment of swadharma is the very purpose behind our birth. Some people say that swadharma is like one’s wife and say that the bond of swadharma is as inviolable and indissoluble as the bond of marriage.[1] But I do not think that this simile is quite apposite. I would rather say that swadharma, like one’s mother, is not chosen but predetermined. No matter what sort of person she is, there is no denying her motherhood. This is precisely the case with swadharma. In this world we have nothing else to rely on. To disown one’s swadharma is to disown oneself, to commit suicide. Only in harmony with it can we move forward. That is why we should never lose sight of it.

5. Swadharma should, in fact, come easily and naturally. But because of several temptations and delusions this does not happen or becomes extremely difficult. Even if it is practised, the practice gets vitiated. The temptations and delusions which strew with thorns the path of swadharma have various forms. However, on analysis, we find only one thing at the bottom of it all: a restricted and shallow identification of oneself with one’s body. I, and those related to me through the body, set the limits of my expansion. Those outside the circle are strangers or enemies. Besides, the attachment is restricted to only the physical bodies of the ‘I and mine’. Caught in this double trap, we start putting up all sorts of little walls. Almost everyone does this. One man’s enclosure may be larger than another’s but all surround themselves with a wall. It is no thicker than their skin. One man’s enclosure is the family, another’s the nation. One wall divides the so-called upper and lower castes, another divides the people on the basis of religions. Wherever you turn you see nothing but walls. Even in this jail, we differentiate between ordinary convicts and political prisoners. It is as if we cannot live without such walls. But what does this result into? This has only one result—multiplication of the germs of mean and vicious thoughts and destruction of the healthy state of swadharma.


References and Context

  1. In the Hindu tradition, marriage is not considered a mere civil contract that could be annulled at will. It is rather a sacred obligation.