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Social Duty, Obligatory Duty and Family Duty

In your daily life in the family, there are three types of duties which may be considered to be three aspects of dharma. There is social duty, there is obligatory duty, and there is family duty. These duties express themselves in different ways. First consider an example of social duty. Assume that tomorrow is Sunday, which is a holiday for you. You may want to invite some people to come to your house for tea. Suddenly in the night, you develop a fever. While you are sick, you realize that if you were to invite your friends to visit the next day, you would not be able to receive them properly, and so, it would not make you or them happy. Therefore, in consideration of your obligations to your friends, which you would not be able to perform while sick, you decide to postpone the tea party. On the basis of the change in circumstances and your consideration for your friends, you change the tea party to the following Sunday. You are free to make the arrangements that fulfill both your wishes and your social obligations.

Next, consider an example of obligatory duty. Let us say you are a lecturer in the university. In connection with the upcoming examinations, the department head has directed that the whole teaching staff of the department assemble for a meeting. As this is an important department meeting, you will have to attend. Even if you are suffering from fever, you take some aspirin pills and go to the meeting. This is an obligatory duty and you have no right to cancel this. The scheduling of this meeting was not in your hands, and once it has been called, you are expected to attend.

Now, consider an example of family duty. You are in your own house. There is a small family quarrel between husband and wife. Inside the room, the husband and wife are having a tiff. She is very angry. Suddenly, the door bell rings and he goes out to answer it. He finds that a co-worker had dropped by for a casual visit. As soon as the husband sees the visitor, he greets him with a smile and a fond hello. He asks the visitor to be seated. With the visitor he is quite cordial. When he enters the bedroom and tells his wife of the visitor and finds that she is still very angry with him, he may resume his stern tone. But as soon as he goes into the other room to meet the colleague who has come by, he carries on with his friendly conversation. It is his duty to protect the good name of his family by conducting himself in such a way that an outsider would not know that he had quarreled with his wife.

If a person who is angry with his wife inside the bedroom comes out into the living room and irritatedly asks the visitor to leave the house, then the guest will be appalled. It is important to see to it that the secrets and confidences of the family are not thrown out into the street. This is an important duty of a family man. He must be ever vigilant to protect the honor of his family. If by his indiscretion the family honor is destroyed, then there will be no happiness for him or his family throughout their lives.