QA127 QUESTION: In the present teaching of the Hindus, the word dharma is used and is given great significance. For a long time it’s been translated as “duty,” and I was not happy with that translation. Recently I found a translation that substituted the word “truth.” It seems to me that duty is something that is rather imposed and compulsive. Could you give us a definition?
ANSWER: It is the limitation of the human language that makes the explanation of the great truth of Creation often such a difficult thing. You see, the way the word duty may perhaps come about is that truth – now let me see that I choose a word that is least likely to be misunderstood – has certain consequences not to be interpreted as a duty, a must, an unpleasant obligation.
Perhaps you can best visualize it as a pleasant consequence, a pleasant duty, a duty that creates joy. Every real aspect of Creation is not a thing in itself. It is connected with a great unity. It is an aspect of a great unity. It cannot ever be an isolated speck.
If anything that is true would be an isolated speck, it would be a very dismal Creation. But Creation is the most glorious experience, the most blissful reality. Therefore, every smallest particle of truth is a part of another truth and leads still to another until it all becomes one.
Do you remember very recently I said, “If man understands one truth, he has all truth?” This is a connecting link. The same law governing the cell applies to the universe – the microcosm and the macrocosm.
The consequence, the meaning, that evolves out of understanding that this one truth may be used in the sense of duty – but duty has the connotation that you must do something – it is, of course, an absolute mistranslation.
QUESTION: It just comes to my mind that joyfully done duty is service. Perhaps they meant that.
ANSWER: Yes, but it even means something more than that, because there are realizations of truth that do not even require service – they just require a further understanding. It opens a further vista, which is a privilege.
I often said to you, again and again in all these years, the basic misconception brings this split about of two apparent opposites. For man, such an opposite may be duty and privilege. But they are really one in truth. A duty has the connotation of an unpleasant obligation, a chore that must be fulfilled.
A privilege is a freedom that he has a right to, but in truth of the spirit, they are one and the same thing. Only there’s nothing unpleasant about the duty. The duty, the chore, is the privilege and the freedom and the pleasure. That is perhaps the best way I can explain it.
…All right, my dearest friends, may you all derive some further benefit from the words I had the privilege of giving you tonight. What a beautiful duty!