What is duty?
What is dharma?
What is righteousness?
What is unrighteousness?
And who is to decide?

Volumes have been written
Ethics and Morality
The topic of so many treatises
Throughout the ages
Plato and Aristotle’s virtue
The Areté of these ancient philosophers
And the happiness (eudaimonia)
That it was supposedly to lead to

But all the major religions
Have their moral certitudes
Under the threat of punishment mostly
The burning in the depths of Hell

Banishment to the world of Hades
The underworld over the river Styx

After the the scale of the soul
Was measured by the great god Anubis
And justice was represented
By the feather of Ma’at at the time of death

That was the gift for the transgressors
That was laid out from the dawn of time
Justice and Truth
Were always with us since the beginning

But duty and dharma
These are different things from the East
The same in the sense they provide
The social order that supports
For the proper functioning of society

The proper distinction
Between those that rule
And those that serve

And yet we do all have our place do we not?
As much as we would like to believe
In the mobile middle class
We all have our individual situations
Our individual jobs and responsibilities

Not only to those who compensate us for our work
But to those who have brought us into the world
Who have cared for us since we were young
Who have given us a chance at success
And through their efforts
And no doubt through efforts of our own
Found ourselves in our current predicaments
With our blessings and curses
That push us forward
And weigh us down

So dharma no doubt
Our duty and what is right
Starts with ensuring that we respect
Those that provided for us
To not be a burden in any way
And if anything to make them proud
To call us their own

And then to those that we have brought into this world
Either by plan or by chance
These are our responsibility as well

To not only provide for them
But to show them by example
What it means to live in these world
And what decency is
And the importance of integrity
And Honesty and Truth

The importance of hard work
In the right spirit
And the meaning of duty and dharma
And why these things are important

For if they learn them not from us
Lost they will most certainly be

But to whom else then?
Do we owe our allegiance?
To our country?
To our schools where we were educated
To the world?
To the poor and needy?

Where does our dharma extend?
Where does righteousness end
And unrighteousness begin?

These lines seem so clear at times
But yet if one takes the time to ponder
One might find in the true essence of this question
On the difference between
Righteousness and unrighteousness
Dharma and dharma
Lay the question of morality itself
And what the meaning of virtue (arete) truly is
And how we might provide
A system of ethics that works in modern times

These are age old questions no doubt
But the essence of it
The truth of it is
That we are not alone
That We owe our existence
To those who came before us
To all our ancestors no doubt

And then we also
Owe our allegiance and responsibility
To those who come after us
To whose lives we are responsible
To whom we may have an influence
To whom we can touch
And inspire perhaps
In our better moments

And we owe a debt to our society and nation as well
For providing us with the infrastructure and means
By which to live well and thrive
If in fact we are fortunate enough to do so
And if we have risen above
Poverty and hunger
Pain and despair

But practically speaking then
To what do we owe the beggar on the street
The homeless man who lies out in the cold
Who by circumstance or by fortune
Or some bitter combination of both
Has found himself (herself) cast out

With no support system to speak of
With their hands held out
Looking for some means of support
To carry on in a world that seems
So dark and lonely
That we can only hope to fathom the depths of

These are our people too
The people from the other nations across the globe
The ones with different world views
Believers in Yahweh and Allah
Christ and Confucius
Shiva and Vishnu
Buddha and Krishna
And the countless other godheads and mysteries
Who represent that which is changeless and eternal
To which we all in the end owe our existence

We are all brothers and sisters you see
It all just depends
Upon how you want to see the family
And who the parents are
In your picture of the world

And the size of your own heart
And how much love it can carry
To support the weight of all those who are in need
And to all those who are less fortunate than us

And to whose hearts and minds
We have touched over the years
And whose paths have crossed ours
And have taught us lessons along the way

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