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Humans, being inherently selfish, require motivation in order to work. For some, this motivation may stem from the desire for material things or collection of power. On occasions, people have problems committing to their work. These concepts have traveled through time for centuries, and in the range between 300 BCE and 300CE a concept of required commitment to one’s work was recorded in the Bhagavad Gita, or Song of the Blessed Lord, part of the Upanishadic texts. The Bhagavad Gita is highly connected to Brahminical Hinduism as it prescribes devotion to one’s caste-duty, also known as dharma, in order achieve detachment from the soul’s cycle of rebirth. (Andrea 71)
Within the Gita, a discussion between Lord Krishna, a physical manifestation of the Vedic and Hindu god Vishnu, and Arjuna, a warrior-hero is chronicled. Arjuna was born to a human mother and a god called Indra, who was a great warrior. Through a system of castes, people are required do the same jobs as their ancestors, causing conflict for Arjuna. Being a warrior, he is distraught over being forced to wage war against relatives. (Andrea 72) Lord Krishna explains that not only is it okay for Arjuna to fight against his relatives, but required. He explains that adherence to the concept of caste-duty is essential to being released from the cycle of rebirth and suffering in life, or moksha. War against family is justified to Arjuna with the profound statement, “There is no existence for that which is unreal; there is no non-existence for that which is real.” Lord Krishna describes that through killing in the war, nothing is truly being lost. The souls of those killed are infinite, without a beginning or end, and will simply either become one with Brahman or be reborn. Because his actions wouldn’t be able to kill something which has no end, Arjuna is strongly encouraged to perform his warrior duties as prescribed by his caste, lest he never be able to become one with Brahman himself.
Through the sentence, “Your business is action alone; not by any means with fruit. Let not the fruit of action be your motive to action,” Lord Krishna explains to Arjuna that he must not only comply with what is required of him by his warrior caste, but he must do so without the desire of any reward. In addition, Arjuna is told that “One’s duty, though defective, is better than another’s duty well performed,” indicating that he, because of his birth into a warrior caste, cannot change his responsibilities to fight. In fact, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that if he refuses to fight, he will have sinned by rejecting his caste-duty. Fighting in the war is Arjuna’s duty and responsibility, even if it involves evil. Evil is described by Krishna as part of life which is involved in all actions, “for all actions are enveloped by evil, as fire by smoke.”
Lord Krishna’s words to Arjuna revolve around a single common point, that he must do his job to the best of his abilities. While waging war has a component of evil and people are killed, the concept of dharma holds him harmless for his actions during war, as nothing is truly lost. While people are killed in war, their souls are unharmed, meaning that Arjuna is not destroying anything of value. His caste-duty is a requirement, not an option. If his duties are not performed with absolute devotion, he will have sinned and his soul will be ineligible to be freed from the cycle of rebirth. Only through unconditional completion of caste-duty does Arjuna has the potential to achieve perfection and become one with Brahman.
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