When I was growing up there were words we weren’t really allowed to say. In some cases we were strongly discouraged, in other cases veritably forbidden. You weren’t supposed to say fart; you’re supposed to say “toot.” Freak /freakin’ is about as close to “fuck” as you can get (This was literally said to me once). And you never tell someone to shut up; you instead say, “be quiet please.” Many things instilled into me by my parents stick with me to this day. When I notice them in my behavior I smile and I’m proud of who my parents are. As an adult, though, I recognize that there are often times when it’s necessary to toss those rules right out the window.
One’s journey as a Hindu should be guided by his swadharma – however that might be defined. That alone can be tricky because most people spend their entire lifespan thinking they’re doing exactly what they should be doing, only to jump from one thing to the next to the thing after that – never quite realizing what their life was meant to be about. By far, most of the human population guesses at what their swadharma is, and most of the time they guess poorly. Especially when faced with situations they’re unsure about or uncomfortable with or can’t see through clearly, people seem prone to making interesting choices that later seem to add to their inner conflict. The trick here is that very few people are in any position to tell someone else what their swadharma is. After all, if we hardly know our own truest path in life, and even repeatedly confuse ourselves, who are we to advise others?
One thing I feel sure of, however, is that you can’t know unless you do – something. Krishna counseled Arjuna samely in the Gita – you must do! It really doesn’t matter if one is a priest, or a warrior, or a merchant, or someone like myself who works in a call center. You will be faced with life and your life will require you to act, whether you like it or not. The way you act will certainly be tailored according to your swadharma, be sure of it but here’s the clencher: You aren’t allowed to not act. Look back to Arjuna’s example, it’s clear enough.
I can tell you, there are times when you should say, “shut up” and there are times when only, “be quiet, please” is needed. The principle at work is the same, though.
Aum Mahaganeshaya Namaha