Saturday, February 4, 2017

Harmony of All Religions chapter1 what is dharma by Santsevi ji Maharaj

Today’s scientific world is known for its swift material knowledge and progress. But with the same swiftness the great majority of people are moving away from non-material spiritual knowledge. Spiritual knowledge should not be confused with specific creeds and sects: we see all around us that the social fabric is being ripped apart by religious fundamentalism, religious intolerance, and narrow-mindedness. The acts of violence we see inspired by religious fanaticism could not have been committed by minds inspired with genuine spiritual knowledge. Those who cultivate the fire of hatred and prejudice in their hearts are imprisoned in the narrow cells of their religions, or what they have interpreted their religions to be. They look upon the followers of other religions with distrust and even malice. Such spite cannot be what the founders of the various great religions had intended as their gift to humanity: this hate and exclusivity is harmful not only to those they come into contact with, but it also—and to a greater degree—spoils their own spiritual state. Religion (dharma), which was given to humanity to provide a civilized path for the reformation of character in order that its adherents might reach the ultimate goal (God), has today seemingly lost track of its purpose. It is essential, in this environment of religious crisis, to underscore the similar—in the end, identical—underlying concepts of the various religions. By this means it is possible to bridge the ever-enlarging gulf between these different religious traditions and between their followers. This “gulf” is an imaginary difference: it is the result of sometimes superficial (exoteric) interpretations of a given religion which begin to dissolve when one investigates the tradition at a deeper (esoteric) level. When the various traditions begin to be seen as different statements or paths to the same goal, the image of religion as a provider of peace and everlasting freedom can be re-established. This book is a small effort in this direction.
What is dharma?
What is religion (dharmai)? In its broadest aspect, dharma means performing one’s sacred duty and following the traditional ethical codes of the community in which one lives.
Far from being unnatural or contrived, dharma is a natural quality or trait of an individual, an inseparable part of the psyche. That deed or duty the result of which is described as the attainment of heaven is dharma. Noble deeds, good behavior, benevolent actions are all dharmic in nature. Dharma is nature, an inherent good tendency, and a daily prescribed moral and social duty.
Dharma as Virtue
The Laws of Manu,ii has described the eightfold attributes of dharma: patience, forgiveness, self-control, non-stealing, purity, control of the senses, wisdom, knowledge, truth, and tranquility. In the course of time Jainiii dharma delineates this list of characteristics as follows: right forgiveness, right restraint, right purity, right truth, right self-control, right mortification, right renunciation, right humility, and right celibacy.
For the purpose of making dharma accessible to all people, Sage Manu has simplified and condensed the ten attributes of dharma into five ethical laws: non-violence, truth, non-stealing, purity of body and mind and control of the senses.iv These moral laws are found in all the major religions, East and West. Let us first consider the ethical laws of non-violence and truth.
Complexity of Dharma Ethics
The Mahabharata (ch.11/13) says:
Non-violence is the greatest of all laws (dharmas).
This principle of non-violence is not only essential dharma for religions based on the Vedas, but is also considered of prime importance in other religions. Buddhism (Dhammapada, 17:3) and Christianity (Bible, Exodus 20:13; Matthew 5:5, 5:7; 5:21; 5:38-39) also require their adherents to practice non-violence just as Sage Manu did. Taking life, however, is not the only kind of violence. Also, included within this principle of non-violence is the importance of not hurting some one’s mind or body. This means not doing harm to any living being. All people, in this world, agree that non violence is the greatest dharma principle to be followed.
But now imagine that someone is trying to take our life or rape our wife or daughter or start a fire in our house or steal our money. If we are unprotected and some evil person has a weapon, what should we do? Should we simply ignore that evil person, or just tell him that non-violence is the most important dharma? And if he does not listen to us, or pay no heed to our plea, should we try to control him with whatever power we have?
Manu says:
One should not hesitate to dispatch that evil person and we should not care if he is a guru, an old person, a child, scholar or brahmin.v
Under such circumstances, if you kill someone, you are not considered guilty of the sin of killing, because in fact the evil person was killed by his own lawlessness. The killing of a fetus is considered a most heinous act. But if a child becomes dangerously breached in the womb and the mother’s life is in danger, it is a moral imperative to sacrifice the child for the sake of the mother’s life.
Non-violence, forgiveness, compassion and placidity (śanti) are described and prescribed as virtues in the shastras and sacred texts. However, it is not advised to remain resigned all the time. For instance, one must protect children from evil.
Sage Prahlad told this to his grandson, Bali:
It is not always good to forgive; neither is it good always to be angry. Even so the scholars spoke about exceptions in
Having addressed non-violence we should now consider the virtue of truthfulness (satya). In various parts of the Mahabharata truth is said to be “the highest of all moral acts.”vii
The Mahabharata says:
If we compare the power of truth with a thousand grand sacrifices, truth will be greater.
In the Tatittariya Upanishad (1/11/1) truth is given the superior place and the other sacred duties (dharma) are described as secondary:
Speak Truth. Follow your moral duty.
In the Mahabharata there is a story where the Grandsire Bhisma was lying on a bed of arrows before his death. He taught the essence and importance of truth, and advised Yudhishthira, the oldest son of Pandu to act only in accordance with truth. Truth indeed is the essence of dharma. Similarly, a great emphasis is also placed on truth in other religions such as Buddhism and Christianity. The literal and essential meaning of truth is ‘that which always is, is permanent, is eternal, and which never lacks.’
In the Bhagavad- Gita Lord Krishna tells Arjuna (2:16):
The unreal [that which does not exist] never is. The Real [that which truly exists] never ceases to be. The conclusion concerning these two is truly perceived by the seers of Truth.
Truth is always triumphant; non-truth is conquered.viii The shastras constantly and rightly praise truth. We should nevertheless carefully see whether there are any exceptions to speaking the truth. Let us consider the situation where a murderer with a weapon is chasing an innocent person with the intent of killing him. If the fleeing person hides near us, should we tell the truth if the villain asks us the whereabouts of the fleeing person? Should we speak truth and contribute to that innocent person being killed, or should we speak a lie and protect the life of that man? In such an instance, speaking truth incurs the sin of violence, and telling a lie incurs the good results associated with non-violence. So we see that there are exceptions—which are only apparent exceptions—to telling the truth. Again, let us consider that a certain child is sick and the doctor has advised that child to stay away from certain foods. The child, of course, does not understand and desires to continue eating the same foods. By eating the same foods, the child’s sickness will increase. The mother tells the child the particular food is not in the house, and that she will give it to him when she goes to the market. In this case, the mother’s false speech protects the life of the child. Here again we have a paradoxical example: a non-truth fulfills the law of non-violence (ahimsa, literally, non-harming).
Compare this to the following reference from the Bible:
The letter [of the law or dharma] brings death; but the spirit [of dharma] gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:6).
One must be careful not to commit a crime simply to obey an outward rule.
Non-Static Laws of Dharma
What is one’s dharma in reality? The laws of dharma are not static. They depend on the circumstances, culture, the time period and the upbringing of the person. In other words, culture specific values are involved. In the actual, experience of life, there are many occasions when untruth instead of truth is the appropriate behavior or dharma. It happens sometimes that violence instead of nonviolence will protect a life, and this will then be the appropriate behavior (dharma). In the Mahabharata it is said that to protect a family, an individual family member may be sacrificed; to protect a village a family may be sacrificed; and to protect a country, an entire village may be sacrificed. But to protect one’s own soul (atman), the whole world should be sacrificed (forsaken). [The same principle is stated in Christian scriptures. The Bible: Mark 8:36-37].
The Bhagavad-Gita underscores the need for doing one’s own duty:
Better is one’s own duty (dharma) performed imperfectly than the duty (dharma) of another performed perfectly. It is better to die performing one’s own duty (dharma), for it is dangerous to follow the duty (dharma) of another (3:35)
Paradoxically, in the Gita it is also said:
Abandon all dharmas; come to Me alone for refuge. Do not grieve, for I will release you from all evils. (18:66).
When compared, these two quotes from Krishna seem contradictory in nature to most people. They are forced to think: “Is it good to sacrifice our own self for our dharma or should we abandon our dharma and take refuge only in God?” In such a difficult situation, man becomes frozen into inaction. [We have seen an example of this in the story at the beginning of the Gita where Arjuna becomes immobilized by his dilemma.]
When confronted with these seeming contradictions, we begin to experience ourselves, that the path of “dharma is subtle,”ix and that “it is unfathomable and too difficultx for us to comprehend. Therefore, to understand the subtle secrets of dharma, we need a Sat Guru (genuine, true, and authentic spiritual teacher) to guide us in the difficult moments [as Lord Krishna guided Arjuna in the time of his dilemma.].
Lord Krishna guides Arjuna in the Bhagavad-Gita:
Learn that by humble reverence, by inquiry and by service, the wise who have seen the truth will instruct you in knowledge ( 4: 34).
Various Definitions of Dharma: Dharma as Inherent Nature
Another meaning of dharma in addition to ‘virtue’ and ‘law’ is ‘quality,’ ‘inner essence,’ or ‘nature.’ We cannot separate the inherent quality from the possessor of that quality. If we were to we separate the quality from its possessor, the one who possessed it would no longer live. For example, the nature of fire is heat or burning and the nature of ice is cold. Each sense organ also possesses one particular quality. The nature of the eye is to help one see. The nature or quality of the ear is to help one hear. The quality of the skin is the sense of touch; the quality of the tongue is taste; and the quality of the nose is smell. Atman (the very nature of theinner self) also has its particular quality: spiritually ascending movement.
Dharma as Religion
Another translation of the Sanskrit word dharma is religion. In Arabic this is called majhab, and in English it is called religion; in Sanskrit it is called dharma. The English word “religion” is derived from the Latin language: the prefix re- means “back” or “again” and the root lig means “to bind.” Religion, binds us back to our source, to unite us with God and other human beings (Similarly, we find that the Sanskrit word yoga, meaning path or method of union, is related to the English word “yoke”). Santmat (the path and teachings as taught and practiced by saints) delineates the path of union of soul with the Divine. The teachings of the saints explain the re-uniting in the following ways:
Returning to the Source through Inner Journey is Our Dharma (Natural Tendency)
The individual soul has descended from the higher worlds [the Realm of the Divine] to this city of illusion, bodily existence. It has descended from the Soundless state to the essence of Sound, from that Sound to Light, and finally from the realm of Light to the realm of Darkness. The qualities (dharmas, natural tendencies) of the sense organs draw us downward and away from our true nature. The nature of the soul (atman) draws us upwards and inwards and establishes us in our own true nature.
To go back to our origins means returning: withdrawal from the sense organs in order to go upward (by withdrawing consciousness) from the darkness to the realms of light and sound, in other words, to go inward from the external sense organs to the depth of the inner self. (Both of these expressions are exact special metaphors that signify the same movement). The natural tendencies of the soul (atman) are to move from outward to inward. The current of consciousness which is dispersed in the nine gates of the body and the nine senses, must be collected at the tenth gate. The tenth gate is the gathering point of consciousness therein lies the path for our return. It is also known as the sixth charka, the third eye, bindu, the center located between the two eyebrows. This is the act by which we leave the gates of the sense organs and become established in the soul. We travel back from the Realm of Darkness to the Realm of Light, from the Light to the Divine Sound, and from the Realm of Sound to the Soundless state. This is called turning back to the Source.xi This is what dharma or religion really intends to teach us. This is the essence of dharma.
Many thousand years ago when Krishna was teaching Arjuna, there existed only the Vedic dharmaxii. Christianity, Islam, Jainism, Sikhism and the other religious paradigms did not yet exist in any culture. There was only one dharma (religion) for all. There was not a question of “my dharma” as opposed to “your dharma” [here the word dharma is used in the sense of religion]. Yet Krishna teaches to follow one’s “own dharma.” Here the word dharma does not imply the term religion, but rather, is referring to one’s own inherent tendencies, the inner nature. In reality, the dharma of our senses is not really our own dharma because following the cravings of the senses only satisfies the nature of the sensory organs. Our optimal dharma is to follow the dharma of the soul (atman) by turning inward and returning to the source. Krishna advises Arjuna to leave the sense- dharma and seek instead the dharma of atman, which truly concerns our spiritual progress. Thereby, one becomes established in one’s own nature.
The ideas concerning turning back to our own source are not the invention of the author of this book, but are to be found in the teachings of the saints and sages. Here are some quotes from the various saints and sages who refer to the idea of turning back:
Sant Kabir says:
By withdrawing (from the sense organs) and becoming absorbed in one’s own self the infinite light dawns and manifests…
Turn inward and move forward by gathering your dispersed mind…
When the water of a vessel (individual soul) merges back into the river (God) then we call this the state of supreme wisdom….
Guru Nanak Dev says:
[Beholding] the inverted lotus which is full of nectar [indicating the joyous experiences within], now my mind goes not elsewhere.
Sant Gulal Sahab says:
Go inward and see the light permeating within…
Sant Tulsi Sahab says:
Looking inward go inward and see the light permeating within…Lo- by closing the eyes, and behold the burst of light…. Saint Dadudyal Ji says:
O benevolent one! Enter in your inner self, and search. He [God] is very near to you. Abandon all your worldly desires and distractions. By inverting your immature consciousness current (which tends to get distracted by senses) get established, in the self [within]
Sant Paltu Sahib says:
There is an upside down well within and there one finds the burning flame of life……
Goswami Tulsi Das Ji says:
While the world thought that Valmikixiii was reciting the name of Lord Ram backwards, he became like Brahman. Understand the power of Name. The great poet Valmiki became purified even by reciting Ram’s name backward.


Author :  Santmat Society of North America 2006

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