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I'm watching lectures of prof. Jay L. Garfield named "Meaning of Life: Perspectives from the World’s Great Intellectual Traditions". The first three lectures are discussing Bhagavad Gita.

Two ideas (among others) I've learnt from those lectures are:

  1. Each life is significant ("each life has its place")
  2. Everyone has their duty (svadharma)

It remains unclear to me how they treat people who do not act according to their svadharma.

Does Bhagavad Gita teach us to assume that everyone else respects their duty and acts properly?

Without that assumption there seems to be a contradiction, because someone can act against the cosmic order and still be a part of that order.

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    I studied with Jay (long ago), and he's a brilliant scholar. I'm not aware of these videos, but I'm going to have to check them out. – Michael Dorfman Dec 4 '11 at 13:04
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No.It doesn't teach us to assume that everyone else respects their duty and acts properly.

It does not assume that everyone does his duty. It says everyone should do their duty.

Now, if someone does not do his duty then punishing him is someone else's duty and so on.

(source Shiva Triology by Amish)

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It remains unclear to me how they treat people who do not act according to their svadharma.

Who do you mean by "they"? The characters in the Bhagavad Gītā? The authors of the Bhagavad Gītā? Followers of the philosophy of the Bhagavad Gītā?

Does Bhagavad Gita teach us to assume that everyone else respects their duty and acts properly?

No. There are (many) people who fail to act properly.

Without that assumption there seems to be a contradiction, because someone can act against the cosmic order and still be a part of that order.

No contradiction, any more than the presence of criminals somehow contradicts the existence of the criminal justice system. The cosmic order will take care of things in due time.

The Bhagavad Gītā is a very short and relatively accessible work, available in a number of translations; I'd recommend reading it.

  • Re your "criminals" analogy: the difference is that we know that criminals are bad. The society usually treats them differently than other people (e.g. puts in jail). In contrast, here we are told that each life is equally significant. Shouldn't lives of people who act properly be more significant? – user1177 Dec 4 '11 at 22:37
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    @RomanCheplyaka: Treating people differently (according to their actions) does not mean that each life is not equally significant. In fact, most criminal justice systems are predicated on the notion that all people are equal under the law. – Michael Dorfman Dec 5 '11 at 7:33

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