Our lives are defined by multiple duties, responsibilities and roles to play. Faced with that pressure, we may naturally feel it more logical and practical to settle worldly demands first, free up some headspace, and then look to focus on spiritual development. A busy person may well conclude: “Let me earn a little more money for security, let my kids grow up and settle down, let me tie up my business deals and secure a succession plan, let me pay off the remainder of my mortgage – after doing all this I’ll surely dedicate myself to spiritual development.”
In Chapter Three, Krishna offers a more pragmatic solution by encouraging us to live a life of integration. He explains that material and spiritual duties are not sequential, such that when one set is complete we tackle the next. Rather, He explains that such duties should be synergised side-by-side. Krishna suggests that Arjuna fight as a warrior, and simultaneously cultivate his spiritual connection. Both must be balanced and appropriately factored into an integrated life. We're all playing multiple roles - as parents, children, workers, bosses, friends and leaders. People expect different things from us, and sometimes it feels as though the roles we play are conflicting. One demand seems to oppose another, time is limited, and if you make one person happy you seem to let someone else down. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t!
Arjuna faced the same predicament. He had a kula-dharma, a duty to his family. He also had a ksatriya-dharma, a duty as a kingly warrior. Arjuna had a pati-dharma, a duty as a husband. Most importantly, Krishna reminded him about his sanatana-dharma, the eternal duty. When we invest time in building the foundation of sanatana-dharma in our life, it empowers us to fulfil everything else upon that steady platform. This brings all-round success. Krishna is not saying don't be a good husband, but rather become the best husband by being a spiritual husband. Krishna pushes Arjuna to fulfil his royal obligations by becoming a spiritual king. Krishna knows Arjuna’s affection for the next generation and thus urges him to become a spiritual father.
Once, the saintly Narada Muni, famed for his spiritual acumen, encountered Vishnu. Ever-seeking improvement, he asked the Lord to identify the greatest devotee, to which Vishnu pointed out an unassuming farmer engaged in his daily work. Narada was shocked! Leaving aside the illustrious sages who had forsaken everything, here was a simple farmer being glorified as the greatest devotee! Vishnu promised to explain, but first gave Narada a bowl filled to the brim with oil, and told him to carry it around the universe and back… without spilling a drop! Narada set off, giving full attention to the task, and successfully returned without any spillages. When he triumphantly reported back the Lord asked him – “While you were walking did you remember Me?” Narada humbly admitted that the complex task of balancing the pot monopolised all his attention. The Lord pointed to the simple farmer – “See how many things he is balancing – a job, a family and a host of other responsibilities, but in the midst of it constantly chants My names.” A humbling lesson. Integrated householders attract Krishna’s attention by balancing many responsibilities and remaining ever alert to their spiritual duty.
“As the ignorant perform their duties with attachment to results, the learned may similarly act, but without attachment, for the sake of leading people on the right path.” (Bhagavad-Gita 3.25)
3.4 – Prematurely giving up the world won’t be beneficial in spiritual development.
3.8 – The discharge of essential duties facilitate physical maintenance and spiritual elevation.