Sunday Satsang

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Is there a difference between duty and responsibility?

There is definitely a clear distinction between duty and responsibility.

Duty is towards one’s work, profession, specific area, or department. Responsibility is what you believe in. If you believe that you are a sannyasin, then is that a duty or a responsibility to live like one? You decide. If you believe that you are a grihastha, are you living your duty or are you living your responsibility?

Responsibility is always related to lifestyle and duty is always connected to profession. If you say, ‘I have done my duty,’ it means you have done your professional duty, but it does not mean that you finish your responsibility along with your duty. Responsibility continues twenty-four hours, 365. Duty happens during office hours, five days a week, six days a week, depending on your professional situation.

Here is an example: mouna. Many times you say, “It is not my duty to tell others to keep mouna.” Maybe it is not your duty, yet it becomes your responsibility, for you are a sannyasi and you are part of a vision and a mission. Therefore, it may not be your duty, but definitely it becomes your responsibility.

How should one understand the meaning of power and why is it so easily misused, misinterpreted and expressed in an incorrect manner?

Power is always an expression of ego. Without ego you cannot express, use or show your power.

I remember one sentence by Paramahamsaji, when he said that powerful people should never use their power. Powerful people should always be the most humble in every situation. That was his teaching to me.

When I was the president and I used to take some rash decisions, he would say, “No, don’t use your power. If you have power, never use it.” Many times I thought, ‘Why is he telling me this? I am the president. I need to take certain steps.’ Today, I realize the value of what he told me. The moment you identify with power, you are identifying with your arrogance and ego, and you move away from your sense of responsibility, clarity and duty.

Power is only sought by those who seek to have the social recognition that ‘I am all powerful.’ Otherwise, quietly also one can do everything without expressing one’s authority, right and power. If somebody is given a duty, they feel that ‘Now I can do it. Now I have been given the authority. Now I have the right and the power.’ ‘This is actually an expression of ego. The same help can be provided without power in a simple, innocent and humble manner.

With power comes rigidity. When in power, you take wrong decisions for you do not want the other person to bypass you. Somebody is suggesting something and you feel that you should be the one to make the suggestion, and you say the same thing. Trying to be one up, is projection of ego and power. Ordering people around is an expression of ego. It is not power, it is an expression of ego.

Power feeds the ego and the ego then uses the power to assert itself. There are times when certain instructions are given. The person asks, “Who gave that instruction?” Suddenly the person becomes the focus and not the idea. There is a clash of identity, position, post and power. Who says when and how is totally irrelevant. You have been given an instruction, so do it.

This resistance to a simple instruction, principle or system of discipline happens when there is identification with ego. Power is the most misused and misunderstood word in human life.

Not a curse

It is said that due to a curse Hanuman forgot what he could do. Yet, was that really a curse or was it an understanding? It was an understanding, that ‘Ok, don’t use too much of your power, and only when needed.’ It was an understanding that had to be given to Hanuman. If it had been written in the story that Hanuman was told not to use the power, people would question ‘Why?’ Therefore, it is written that Hanuman was cursed and forgot his power, and beyond this nobody can ask any question.

Don’t use your power. Just be humble, do your duty, live a life being simple, innocent, hard working. Eat well, sleep well, be happy, enjoy and live.

That was the instruction given to Hanuman and from that time he stopped using his powers. He was told, “If you use your powers you will attract demons who will try to counteract your power with their negative power. Do you want to do that? Do you want a clash of powers?” Hanuman answered, “No. I want to live for my Rama.” Therefore, if you want to live for your Rama, don’t use your power. Just be humble. Forget that you ever had any power, and when time comes, you use it.

This is not a mythological story, it is a story of one’s own life for those who have wisdom to understand, for those who have ears to hear, and for those who have eyes to see. Those who don’t have any of three things, they are caught in the whirlpool of power which sucks them down; and eventually they will destroy themselves.

When I am reading or chanting a text, hundreds of thoughts come into the mind, yet I go on reading. So who is the one who is reading?

The mind functions in a multi-dimensional way. Even now there are thousands of sensory inputs, information, impulses coming into your mind. Everything is being filtered. Out of the billion impulses that your brain receives of sensory inputs, there are only a few that are relevant to you at present. The other billion must be stored somewhere. The information must be going somewhere, that impression is being imprinted somewhere.

The mind is actually a multi-faceted, multi-leveled body of experience. While reading, the mind is somewhere else yet still you continue reading. The mind is somewhere, but you are reading the book, you are turning the pages, and maybe ten pages later you ask yourself, “What did I read?” Then you go back.

The question is, ‘How come these ten pages were read and I don’t know what the content is?’ At that moment the awareness, the focus of awareness has diverted from the reading to some other thought at an unconscious level. At the conscious level your effort in turning the pages continues. Your eyes are still scanning the lines but there is no connection between the eyes and the intellect. The intellect is focusing on something else.

This is known as attention span. For everything there is a perfect attention span. If anything is less than that span, if anything is more, it is difficult to imbibe and absorb.

When you are training dogs, you cannot train them for one hour or two hours, by pulling and pushing the leash. Five minutes, ten minutes, as long as their attention span is there. Once the attention span goes away, it is better to play with them and not teach them anything. If they don’t have the attention and you continue with your training, they are not going to listen to you. Therefore, you play with them, you break the training, and when you see that they are again becoming responsive to you, you go back to giving instructions.

With the outside we do that, but inside we don’t do that. Inside we force ourselves, we force the dog of our mind, “Sit, sit, sit.” After five minutes, the dog says, “Okay, now I want to move.” Again you say, “Sit, meditate.” During the whole of your meditation, you are fighting with your mental dog, “Sit, sit, sit.”

—19 June 2016, Ganga Darshan, Munger