Duty, and its Relationship to Bhakti

Duty… A dictionary defines it as a “moral or legal obligation or requirement.” A thesaurus lists synonyms like, “Responsibility, obligation, commitment.”

Essentially, “duty” means to do what is required of you.

What’s required of you?

That depends on who you are. If you are a student it’s your duty to study. If you are a parent its your duty to care for your children. If you are a driver, its your responsibility to get to the destination safely. Etc. Etc.

The specifics of Duty are different for everyone, the essence is the same – to do what is required of you, rather than doing whatever you might feel like doing at the moment.

The result of duty is to reduce selfishness, which is the basis of kāma, which is the primary effect of avidyā. So, following one’s duty gives rise to vidya (knowledge). Thus by following duty selflessly one gradually becomes qualified to more fully utilize the tools and techniques of jñāna-yoga (the yoga of knowledge/consciousness) such as study of philosophy and meditation upon the root of consciousness. By such meditation and study, one’s knowledge transforms into realization, and one is very likely to develop a sense of emotional attachment to the root of consciousness, paramātmā. Thus from jñāna-yoga, one can ascend to bhakti-yoga.

So duty is an initial precursor to bhakti and therefore everyone in society should be very warmly encouraged to adhere to their various duties under all circumstances.

Those who are at the stages of jñāna and bhakti already act only on the selfless platform, so there is no separate need to specifically encourage them to ordinary duties. Such people are rare, but they tend to perform ordinary duties anyway, to set the proper example for the masses.

Duty is the essence of dharma, morality. It therefore generates all the essential moral qualities such as humility, tolerance, forgiveness, nonviolence, compassion, etc. Jñāna- and bhakti-yogas, being successors to the duty-yoga, karma-yoga, generate these essential moral qualities even more deeply.

Vraja Kishor das


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  1. I recently watched your videos on Bhagavad Gita chapter 2 where Krishna explains that oneself should disattach from the fruitive results of work and instead accept it as “duty”. It made me wonder how to apply such a point of view to my own life and this certainly shed a bit of light on my thoughts around this topic. Thank you.


    1. karma-yoga cures us of our karmic momentum to be busy and active. Then we are calm and can meditate in jñāna-yoga. That meditation reveals what we really are (consciousness) and our connection to the supreme consciousness – so it makes the consciousness very receptive to bhakti.

      Bhakti doesn’t stem from duty or meditation, but duty and meditation make the consciousness much more capable of receiving bhakti.

      Yes, one of the angas of bhakti sādhana is to connect our duties to bhakti.


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