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Duties of human beings

By - Aug 5, 2009 - Category Lectures - Print Print - Version française


Rights and Duties: here are two concepts that seem to be excluded from our every day modern lives, at least the latter. With respect to rights, we instantly think of human rights. On duties there isn’t much said, almost nothing, the concept repels due to it’s constraining aspects, upsetting our sense of freedom; we would rather bring it up indirectly through notions such as deontology, civil duties, eco-responsibility or judicial responsibility.

The lecture on the duties of human beings deals with the notion of rights and duties through an existential perspective, as a return to the source of the rights itself. By creation, each human being or other, acquires the right to return to its origin, to the divine source, according to a path that Ostad Elahi calls path of perfection. However to obtain this right, human beings must accomplish a certain number of duties.

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  1. Pseudo Oct 20, 2009 5:13 am 1

    Great lecture, concise but thorough and informative.

  2. ramin Nov 10, 2009 7:40 pm 2

    Let’s not forget that when we talk about our duties we should talk about the imperishable side (soul), that its rights must be observed with a great deal of respect.

  3. Noel Nov 11, 2009 12:38 pm 3

    Excellent! The discussion of how the performance of duties towards the Creator, the body and others is in actuality the performance of duties towards my soul prompted me to reevaluate how I prioritize my duties throughout the day.

  4. Zulu Nov 14, 2009 9:32 am 4

    It is stated in the lecture that “When I do someone a service, first and foremost, it benefits my soul since my action will help me overcome my selfishness.” I get how “helping others” can be considered as a duty towards my soul.

    But here is my question: Is “helping others”, or any benevolent act, also considered to be a “duty towards others”; such as friends, co-workers, neighbors, community and society? Or is it solely a positive volunteering moral act, that when performed is appreciated and when not, one is not accountable for? Where do we draw the line between accountability and benevolence?

  5. Blake Nov 16, 2009 4:11 am 5

    My understanding is that at the forefront of “duty towards others” is respecting the rights of others, which bears the greatest accountability. Infringing on these rights include backstabbing, disturbing the peace, breaking promises, mistreating animals and many more…

    I can safely say that if and when “helping others” violates “respecting the rights of others” (whether another person or society) then the net effect will be damaging to our soul and we will be accountable for them. There are other restrictions too, such as whether the person receiving the help deserves it. If we set the lower limiting factors for “helping others” with these constraints, then going above these, I can’t really see an upper limit. I think the field would be wide open for practice. It would be interesting to know if indeed there are criteria that define the upper limits.

  6. Farah Nov 16, 2009 11:15 am 6

    Zulu: I would say “helping others” is not a “duty towards others” but in a way you could say it is a “duty towards your soul”. Because any selfless benevolent act strengthens the soul and our duty on earth is just to do that: strengthening our soul.

  7. Zulu Nov 17, 2009 10:12 am 7

    Blake and Farah, thanks a lot for your comments.

    I guess we all agree that “helping others” is a “duty towards our soul.” But I can’t easily check it off as a “duty towards others.” Rights and duties are complicated concepts and are not easily identified. It requires lots of education to identify them. But there is one simple rule that is helpful in identifying our duties and that is the golden rule: “In every situation, put yourself in the place of others.” Some of the duties such as observing the tranquility of neighbors and such are very primary and basic duties which we all can relate to. These primary duties are generally observed in our society, and as a result are mutually accepted as our duties towards each other. However, I believe we usually consider our more complex duties toward others as doing a favor for someone and call it “helping others.” But if we follow the golden rule we will realize that many things we consider as favors are indeed our duties. It is as if we psychologically feel better when we call it “helping others,” because we feel we are collecting an extra point! What do you think?

  8. MH Nov 18, 2009 2:15 pm 8

    Such a ideal project to become ‘a true human being’!!! That sounds so… wonderful!

  9. Mat Nov 19, 2009 9:49 pm 9

    @ Zulu
    I was following the comments on this lecture, the issue that has been raised up as “is helping others our duty as a second nature or a favor?” is very interesting. I felt highly impressed that you believe “helping others” is indeed among our duties, but I think the sense of feeling this as a responsibility belongs to spiritually advanced minds; others might just be thriving to build it within themselves.

  10. Key Nov 20, 2009 8:32 am 10

    Regarding the psychological comfort, if we think that we’re collecting extra points, it does make us feel better instead of realizing how many times we’ve missed the opportunity to fulfill our duty (negative points?). Sometimes working towards extra credit is more motivating than doing the required basics. We want to skip steps but still make it in the end. Is that just how we work? How do we really ingrain the golden rule into our behavior when we’re so selfish, lazy, and distracted?

    Viewing the golden rule as our “duty” and not just as “being nice when I feel like it,” could really change the way we behave. For some reason, the golden rule seems to be optional, even though it shouldn’t be. The idea is great and everyone agrees with it, but when an opportunity presents itself, however, where we could put it into practice, the golden rule is nowhere in sight or mind. We’ll be nice and help someone out if we feel like it (this usually means we see other benefits at stake), but if we’re not in the mood to help someone, then we won’t. Thinking about the golden rule at that exact moment when we have the chance to help someone when we don’t want to could change our behavior. We’d fulfill our duty towards our soul while applying the golden rule.

  11. Noel Nov 21, 2009 1:31 am 11

    This article and the comments really opened up my perspective on this complex subject After reviewing my week, I realized how many rights I trample without being conscious of it. What I think of as helping others, may in reality just be observing the rights of others and performing my duties. However I frame it in my mind, respecting the rights of others and helping others definitely leads to an internal struggle with my imperious self and that struggle helps me in my transformational process. Definitely a win-win situation!

  12. Tiara Dec 02, 2009 12:11 pm 12

    The Golden Rule concept is very interesting. I used to always say well would you like it if some one did this to you. But it is really more complex than it seems at first glance. A friend once described their struggles trying to implement it in their daily life and I thought to myself what is the big deal just put yourself in the other person’s place and see if you would like it done to you.

    But I recently saw a show on TV that helped me understand what it meant to put oneself in the other person’s place.
    A young successful man was rushing home because it was his wedding the next day. Some random person jumps in the road and he runs him over. He is very scared and decides to leave the accident scene but calls from a pay phone and reports it to the police. He gets home and falls sleep. The next day he wakes up on a hospital bed unable to move anything but his head. His mother and fiance are standing next to his bed crying. They tell him he has been in a hit and run accident and has been in a coma for three months. The doctor tells him he was left in the accident scene for two hours and by the time they got him to the hospital it was very late, nothing could be done and he would probably have to live like that for the rest of his life.
    It all sounds very unreal to our guy. He tries to make people understand this is all just a dream but no body pays attention and he is trapped in the situation.
    To cut a long story short, he goes home on a wheelchair with his old mother. He slips into severe depression. Loses his job. His fiance leaves him and marries someone else. They amputate his leg because his blood circulation is very weak. His friends stop visiting. Of course he can’t move anymore so he is totally dependent on the mother for everything. His mother runs out of money and becomes very tired and sick and doesn’t have the energy to deal with his tantrums.
    He loses everything of value to him: his job, fiance, friends, body, youth, and finally mother.
    As time drags on and on his physical and mental condition deteriorate even more. At the lowest point when he is thinking of suicide, he comes to himself and finds himself in his car at the scene of the accident. Jumps out and gets help for the injured pedestrian who will eventually completely recover.

    After watching the show, I realized to implement The Golden Rule, it is not just enough to determine whether I would like this done to me or not done to me:
    I must visualize the CONSEQUENCES.
    I say visualize because it is important to actually feel the effects of a particular action or inaction on our life and try to go through the emotions just like our hero in the show. Really feel the happiness, frustration, pain, elation, encouragement, disappointment or any other sentiments associated with our choice. It might just be theory to us, however; it is definitely real to someone else.
    Can we bear it if the same thing happened to us? Can we tolerate noise when we have a throbbing headache even if it is not so late for our neighbor to listen to music? Can we accept humiliation and disrespect when our son/daughter doesn’t call often? Are we able to forgive and forget when a friend talks behind our back and hurts our feelings to the point we can’t get it out of our mind for more than a week and feel betrayed every time we remember it?

    In other words try to empathize.
    Wikipedia describes it as the capability to share another being’s emotions and feelings.”

    The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines empathy as “the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it.”
    I really like the word “infused”. To infuse myself with the other person’s feelings before making a decision. To infuse myself with hurt, anger, shame, happiness or joy before impulsively take a step that is not reversible.

  13. Farz Dec 23, 2009 3:49 pm 13

    We have studied topics, such as rights enjoyed by citizens in a democracy, the right to pursue his own affairs as he prefers; the right to express his views, etc. By all means citizens are considered so important that his rights are protected by the law of the state, and whenever they are infringed, he can secure redress. In response, we have our duties to our society. But this topic goes beyond a “citizen’s” responsibilities – It’s a “humanitarian” view, a view that is beyond citizenship and opens the concept of true “self”. Enjoyed it thoroughly.

  14. nell Jan 02, 2010 3:32 am 14

    Tiara wow! I never thought about the golden rule so deeply. The problem is I always think about the golden rule after the act. If I say something hurtful, I think about it after the deed is done. If you really think so deeply about the golden rule before you say or do anything towards others you will be more careful. Thanks, Tiara.

  15. Fari Jan 11, 2010 6:36 am 15

    @ Zulu
    Thank you for your meticulous point in your comment about duties. I was following the discussion on your comment. I think we should respect people’s rights through our thoughts, words and actions. Therefore it would be our duty toward others to think positively, speak well and help them.
    On the other hand, serving people is also a duty we have toward ourselves, because it helps us receive the light and energy to grow our celestial reason.

  16. Ali Tinat(Zoghi). Feb 15, 2010 9:26 pm 16

    I fully agree with Tiara’s notion of “visualization” when it comes to the application of the golden rule of the proverbial: “putting oneself in another person’s shoes.” The sample Tiara offered here as an example is also highly effective due to its visual nature. It is of no wonder that in Lewis Carrol’s “Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland,” we find Alice saying:
    “What is the use of a book without pictures?!” In other words, without anything to focus on visually!

    Another point I like to add here is that visualization also helps to actually highlight consciousness itself for it acts as an instant zapper, zapping us out of our self indulgent slumber of—I, the ego, the universe—or what other self reference we may choose to gratify our own self with, to: me plus others, for a change! Perhaps a conscious leap would be a better way of describing this due to the fact that it somehow takes such an effort in order to suspend our bargaining nature of doing this particular act for getting that—points for one—to just doing it because it is our spiritual duty.

  17. Mel Mar 16, 2010 5:56 pm 17

    @Tiara’s and Ali

    You both really helped me to understand the notion of ‘visualization’.
    Now my question is how can I start, how can I fit visualization in my daily practical work!

  18. Minoo Jun 08, 2011 6:38 am 18

    I hope I can learn these rules by heart.

  19. wire May 15, 2012 1:46 am 19

    Watching this lecture in the context of the correct Divine Ethical Principles alluded to by Dr Elahi in his lecture on “Sound Reason”, helps me think that applying at least a few of these rules on a daily basis will hopefully help me to develop my sound reason.

  20. Hadi Jul 07, 2012 10:45 pm 20

    I found the whole concept quite stupid. I’m sorry but it doesn’t make any sense to me

  21. AA Mar 13, 2014 9:27 pm 21

    @Tiara – thank you for your fantastic comment. what you mentioned with regards to the Golden Rule, visualizing, going through the emotions, empathizing, and infusing – i had never, ever, looked at it through this lense. I feel like i just awoke from a lifelong amnesia with regards to the topic of respecting the rights of others and our duty toward others. thank you

  22. ln. May 17, 2018 9:32 pm 22

    About our duties as a human being, I’ve found this interview of Pr. Elahi on altruism. Some of the questions are: how do we engage in altruism? what are the conditions of its practice?
    I thought the examples given were very helpful.


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