Not that the idea of duty is not there at all: the idea of duty is present. But the centre of the whole argument of the Bhagavad Gita is not “Duty for duty’s sake”. If you analyse the argument of Arjuna, when he says, “I will not fight”, do you find that in that argument he was not aware of his duty? You can say that he forgot his duty only if in his argument, there is no mention of his duty, but that is not so. He knows very well. He clearly states that, “for the sake of my duty, I should really fight and kill these people.” But he says, “I will not do it.” It is not as if he has forgotten it. Why? Because he finds that, “If I kill, there will be a great Adharma, I think it’s my Dharma, but performing my Dharma, another big Adharma will be produced.” Why? Because large number of people will be massacred, will be slaughtered, will be killed. Therefore, there will be dharmakṣaya, kuladharmakṣaya, the women will give up their Dharma, and ultimately varṇasaṁkaraḥ jāyate, (I, 41): the whole clan will be scattered, and there will be so much of mixture of blood, and the whole idea of Dharma will be destroyed. He said, “Dharma produces Adharma. If duty produces Adharma, is duty to be performed?” That is his question.
And Sri Krishna answers is, “Not merely this that ‘Look, your duty is to fight therefore, you fight’, no.” He says, there is a difference between that which is an action as a ‘duty’ and an action that proceed from ‘your Swabhava’. Your duty may be according to anything that is given in our society; it may not be according to your Swabhava. So, Sri Krishna’s answer is that, “Because of your Swabhava, seeing your Swadharma you should fight.” He does not say, “Seeing your duty you must fight.” That is one answer.
Even that, Arjuna does not accept. Arjuna’s argument is that when Dharma, even Swadharma is going to produce this Adharma, the whole kuladharma will be destroyed. Therefore, he says that renunciation is better. Therefore he brings another idea: that when dharma and Adharma are in the question, then you should renounce all the action, neither do this nor do that, you just renounce.
Therefore, the whole Bhagavad Gita arises out of this: is renunciation the right thing to do? And Sri Krishna’s answer ultimately is, “Neither that you should do renunciation, nor should you do your duty, but you should do “divyam karma”, you should do the divine’s work.” The answer of Sri Krishna is that, there is something else: “If you do the Divine’s work, according to the whole Karma yoga, in which you transcend the idea of duty, you transcend even the idea of Swadharma”. The whole consideration is: what is the Divine’s will? If the Divine Himself through you is shooting arrows, then that is the right thing to do. You do not consider whether it is right or wrong, you transcend that whole idea of right-wrong, good-bad. You see the Supreme, what the Supreme is doing in you. You are only a flute. Let the flute player play the flute that you are.
Sri Krishna says: “I will show you what the Supreme is doing.” And therefore in the 11th chapter, Sri Krishna shows the whole viśvarūpadarśana, and says: “There, you see what the Supreme is doing”, and Arjuna cries out and says: “I am seeing all the Kauravas being killed.” The Supreme Himself was killing. Arjuna’s ideas, and Arjuna’s fears, and his ideas of confusions of Dharma-Adharma, everything was blocking the way of the Divine’s action. So His answer is, “You see what is Divine’s will and you become His instrument.” That is the answer of Sri Krishna.
But in the process, there is a place for duty, there is a place for Swadharma, there is a gradation even of Swadharma, there is a place for the movement of Prakriti, there is a place for intermingling, rising from one Guna to the other, all this is the process to be done rightly.
But ultimately, all that has to be transcended so that there remains only one thing: the Divine’s will, your purity of instrumentality, complete surrender to that will of the Divine, and allowing that will to pass through you without obstruction. “This” is the answer of Sri Krishna, and that is why this teaching is not an ethics. In an ethical book you have to follow your duties, and if you forget duties, you are reminded, “Here is your duty!” Such is not the answer of Sri Krishna. He gives a completely different dimension that, ─“If you really want to know what you have to do, don’t consider Adharma-Dharma. I take you to another perception altogether: there is something like action which proceeds from the Divine. Therefore: go back to the origin, and Karma yoga consists in knowing the origin of things, and offering yourself to that origin, and receive what ever comes from there.”
These are the three steps of Karmayoga and these are the complexities of the Karmayoga.