How has the concept of work change as Hinduism evolved?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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As with any particular discussion about any religion and the role of the human being, I think that you might find some level of divergence in discussion.  I would begin by suggesting that I am not sure that Hinduism has "evolved."  To do so reflects the idea that modern interpretation of the religion has moved away from its cosmological beginning.  I am not sure this is the case.  Conversely, I would suggest that the concept of work has actually remained viewed in the same light then as it has today.  If one were to examine the idea of "work" from the point of view of what the religion says about the individual's role, I think that much of it is linked to the tenets of Dharma and Artha.  In terms of dharmic understanding, work is linked to one's duty, one's sense of responsibility to the larger social order.  I think that Hindu scriptures stress the idea that one's work is a reflection of one's dharma, their role in the cosmic social order that has been ordained outside of one's own being.  Artha becomes the physical manifestation of one's dharma, or work- based sense of duty.  There is a compensatory element that Hindu scriptures speak to in terms of work and how it links to one's dharma.  Artha, or material prosperity, is to be understood as taking place still within that social order already established by the divine.  Vedic morality indicates that one must walk a fine balanced between the Artha of one's work and not become subsumed by it.  For this reason, one can still see so much in way of donation to temples, stressing that wealth be given back to a larger entity.  In  the second stage of life, when one's Artha has become the manifestation of one's fundamental Dharma, one must work in order to substantiate the family and community, what Lord Krishna would indicate as "taking action by keeping an eye to the maintenance of the social order."  It is here where I think that the idea of work has remained constant from the origins of the religion to the modern setting.  In this, I am not sure that Hinduism has evolved, but rather sought to be applied to a modern context, indicating its transcendence.

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