We have many duties to fulfill every day. In the morning, you may wake up as a mother, a father, a son, or a daughter. After breakfast and leaving the house, you may be a student, a teacher, a banker, or a doctor. After working hours, you become a friend to another over dinner or a co-worker. We take diverse roles and fulfill each one dutifully. With each role, we try to find as much pleasure as possible. It is possible to have pleasure taking on the role of a friend. That is because friends often meet to relax and have little expectations of each other except as companions of pleasures. It may not be so for our other roles. But what is the difference between duty and love?
What is it like to fulfill a duty?
A duty is a moral obligation or a responsibility one has in life towards others. As the word responsibility suggests, it can feel like a burden. Otherwise, responsibilities can feel mundane and meaningless. We may do it with some joy at the beginning – particularly for new parents. The joy remains, but it can also be mixed with disappointments and grief. This is the same for everyone, regardless of the roles we play. Even friends whom we enjoy spending time with, we may change our minds if we begin living with them. Life can seem joyful and yet a burden at times, especially when we feel we are only fulfilling a duty day after day. After all, it is not possible to find joyful love in things we do daily – or, is this true?
What is it like to do our duty with love?
What is love? The love I would like to share here is not exactly the love we have for another. When we do things for others because we love them, it can become a burden. Why is that so? It is because we begin to expect something from them. For example, if we speak gently and patiently to our child so s/he will do homework, and when they refuse, we lose our patience.
Otherwise, we may want to be filial to our parents out of our love for them. But they refuse to go along with our plans. Or else they may even sulk. Also, when you visit your parents or in-laws regularly you may grow impatient if these visits or gatherings drag beyond the two hours you are willing to give. So we do something for duty and also for those we love, but we suffer at the same time. These are examples of doing duties with and without love that come with joy, boredom as well as grief.
Is it possible to do our duties consistently with love?
Most people do not believe there is a way to consistently love doing our duties. Many people say highs and lows are a part of being human. I disagree with that. We humans have an intelligent mind that can see itself, which is what is called awareness. Unfortunately, this treasure (awareness) has been hidden under our accumulation of old trash (habitual thoughts) that block our view or reality.
When we become aware of our thoughts and stop believing in every thought that enters the mind, it makes it easier for love to arise. We become wise in letting go of thoughts that cause burdens, grief, and expectations. Instead, we can become recollected in love. Being recollected in love means we spend time in between conversations and routine work to think about the qualities of love.
What does love feel like? It feels light, joyful and brings a smile to our faces. It is very simple to do and far simpler than to be recollected (present) with our bodies usually taught in mindfulness classes. We can think of love when we are looking out into the fields, walking on the street, eating, and even when showering. When the emotion of love becomes the main habit of our minds, the other unhelpful habitual thoughts go out of the window. This is how we no longer need to differentiate between duty and love. Rather, all that we do becomes love.