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Monday, June 10, 2013

Gist of Books I have read - Dharma 3

What  are the components of Dharma

A simple and practical summary of what dharma should mean to ordinary folks is given in Mahabaratha Shanti parva 261:9. Jajaali is one of many characters in the story of Mahabaratha and this is addressed to Jajali and states:
               Sarvesham yah suhrit nityam sarvesham cha hithey rathah
               Karmanaa manasaa vachaa sah dharmam veda jajaaley.
It says: “That man, who by his actions, words and mind is continuously engaged in the welfare of others and who is always a friend of others, has understood what dharma is”.

The essence of dharma common to all human beings is given by Bhishma in the Shantiparva 6,7,8 of Mahabharatha. It is as follows:
Akrodhah satyavachanam samvibhagah kshamaa thathaa
Prajanah sveyshu daareyshu showcham adrohah yeva cha
Aarjavam bhruthyabharanam navaaithi saarvavarnikaah
This lists the nine rules of dharma as consisting of absence of anger, truthfulness, sharing of wealth, forgiveness, children from wife only (why not husband only), purity, absence of enmity, straightforwardness, and caring for those who are dependent on us.

Manu smriti lists the following five rules of dharma applicable to everyone:
Ahmisa satyam astheyam showcham, indriyanigrahah
Yetham saamaasikam dharmam chaathurvarnye abraveenmanuh  Manu X – 63
These five are non-violence, truthfulness, not coveting other’s property (this includes material property and wives), purity, and control of senses. This set is also called saamanya dharma, since it is meant for all common folks and help control the mind.

Uddhava Gita (12:21) lists the following dharma for all classes and people: ahimsa,satyam, astaiyam, kāmakrodhalobhata, bhūtapriyaheta. These are non-injury, truthfulness, non-coveting others property, control of desires and anger and doing whatever is beneficial to all creatures, respectively.

 In the Bhagavatha purana,  there are several sections that  give details of dharma for all stages and all walks of life. There is also a section on adharma – the opposite of dharma.

These are similar to the teachings of Buddha who gave a set of simple rules of dharma for his followers in the general public. These are called Śīla (Sanskrit) which in English may stand for "virtue" or "good conduct”, "morality", or "precept”. It refers to overall (principles of) ethical behavior. There are several levels of sila, which correspond to "basic morality" (five precepts), "basic morality with asceticism" (eight precepts), "novice monkhood" (ten precepts) and "monkhood" (Vinaya or Patimokkha).

Laypeople generally follow the five precepts which are common to all Buddhist schools. The five precepts are: 1.To refrain from taking life; 2.To refrain from taking that which is not freely given (stealing); 3. To refrain from sexual misconduct (improper sexual behavior); 4.To refrain from lying and deceiving and 5. To refrain from intoxicants which lead to loss of mindfulness. The more elaborate set of rules including celibacy are meant for those who want to become monks.

Why do we need dharma?  Dharma is for acquiring wealth and happiness in this world using proper means and for acquiring proper karma for the next birth, say several sources. Sage Vyasa is quoted as saying: “Oordhvabahuh viromi yeshah na cha kashcha shrunowthi maam; dharmaath artthah cha kaamashcha sa dharmah kim na savyathey”. With raised hands, I am trying to reach all of you; but no one seems to listen. When both wealth and desires can be acquired through dharmic methods, why can’t you do so?  In other words, why use unethical means at all?

In his book on Gita Rahasya, Tilak says that Dharma indicates : “ the rules of morality which have been laid down by revered persons with reference to various matters for the maintenance of society”. (Gita rahasya Book 1 Page 94).  In other words, if everyone practices his or her appointed dharma there will be harmony and welfare for all. This is said to be the origin of the varna (the caste) system together with the varna dharma.

Manu puts it this way (Vol 5; Sloka 56):     “Na mamsa bhakshaney dhoshah, na madhye, na mithuney, prakrithi yesha bhuthaanaam” meaning that there is no inherent sin in eating meat, drinking liquor or having sexual union; these are the natural tendencies. However, we need dharma to place proper limits on an otherwise unrestrained human behavior resulting from passions and to assure general welfare. Without dharma, man becomes equal to animals. This is stated in Sanskrit as follows:
               Aahaara nidra bhayamaithunam cha
               Saamanyam yethath pashubih naraanaam
               Dharmo hi theyshaam adhiko visesho
               Dharmena heenah pashubhih samaanaah
The last sentence means “man is equal to animals without dharma”.  I find this the most  honest reason for the creation of the dharma concept.

Justice Jois  comes from a different angle. He says that “dharma” is immunization against the six inherent enemies in man which he calls the “antigens” of the mind. They are: kama (desire), krodha (anger), lobha (greed), moha (infatuation), mada (pride )and matsarya (jealousy). He quotes Manu (XII 3-7) who traces all wicked and evil actions of man to lack of control of the mind, speech and action.  How do we immunize against these “antigens” of sin? Based on this understanding of the causes of evil actions, Manu recommends the following immunizations: manodanda (control of the mind) , vakdanda(control of speech) and kaayadanda (control of actions).

What is the source of Dharma?  Manu (2:12) says that the fundamental sources of dharma are the Vedas, the Smritis, good behavior and the satisfaction of one’s own conscience as noted in the following sloka:
Vedah smritih sadhaachaarah svasya cha priyam aatmanah
Ethath chaturvidam praahuh saakshaath dharmasya lakshanam.
This shows that unlike the laws of the land, dharma is internally driven, an “internal policeman”.

In a passage from Vanaparvam in Mahabhaaratha, dharma is said to be born of the customs and rules of conduct laid down for the general welfare of the people by inspired elders with insight. In a discussion that follows, a genie (yaksha) tells Yudhisthtra that this statement of the source of dharma does not help in any actual situation. He says: “Logic is uncertain. The sacred texts give conflicting advice. The teachings of learned rishis differ. How do I know whose teaching is more true than that of others?”  Yudhistra replies: “mahaajano yena gatha sa pantthah” which means that the path of venerable wise men is dharma.

In another passage in the Anushaasana Parvam of Mahabharatha, morality is said to be born of customs (aacharaprabhavo dharmah). Obviously, this refers to the practice of the wise leaders of the society. This also suggests that the norms will change according to the society and the times.

What are the do’s and don’t’s?  This, as mentioned earlier, depends on the place, time and one’s situation. Therefore, it is variable. However, some general statements are possible. For example, in one passage, a bird is advising King Sibi as follows:  “That is dharma in which there is no contradiction; if there is contradiction, then come to a decision as to the relative merits of the action and the opposite action, and follow the path in which there is no opposition”.

Manu says: “Doing good to others is meritorious; doing harm to others is sinful. This is the substance of all 18 puranas”. In Sanskrit, this sloka states
                              Ashtaadashapuraanaanaam saaram saaram samudhrutham
                              Paropakaarah punyaya paapaaya parapeedanam 

In another statement, Manu says that one for whom other’s interest becomes the self-interest is the best of men. The actions of such a person will fall under the concept of Dharma.

Vidura nithi says: na thath parasya samdhadhyath prathikoolam yath aathmanah which means “do not unto others what is undesirable from one’s point of view”.

According to Manu, there are TEN actions that are prohibited as part of Dharma. Three are of the mind – coveting other’s property, thinking of undesirables and adherence to false doctrines. Four are of speech: abusive language, speaking untruth, detracting from the merits of others and idle talk. Three are of action: taking what is NOT given to you, injuring without sanction of the law and adultery ( Manu XII – 81 and XI: 3-9 and 11). In essence, these are controls of the mind, speech and action (thridhanda). (The three sticks carried by the sannyasis represent this point)

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