Often, we come across life instances that are so shocking like terrorists blowing up themselves to kill many innocents around the world. If one can get past the stun, it is very easy to grasp that the value systems operating in the victim and terrorist are poles apart. Most of us are used to the political, religious or socio-economic spin, the response we are fed. Is it just that some person wants to propagate his crime, so he is ready to blow up the other? The other side also seems to be wallowing in their own mistakes. This framework will not help us get to the bottom of the truth.
It is obvious that we all seem to be having some value system guiding us. It also appears that many people we interact are very similar to us and then these shock and awe events introduce us to a world apart. So what separates them? It appears there is an invisible boundary of values. As our gaze is limited mostly to our known circle, the gradations are gradual. Once we shift it to the outliers, the fissure seems to be gaping.
On the other hand, we know great dharmic characters like Yudhishtra, Harishchandra who seem to be centered on dharma. Were they the outliers or the real role models? Today’s hinduphobic society teaches us to label all these wonderful examples as myths. It also tries to level the playing field by calling terrorists as misguided youths. This is hypocrisy to the hilt. To understand the actions of humans with a baseline of dharma, let us introduce a scale.
Introducing a dharmic scale
This scale is ONLY for understanding the concept and it has serious limitations outside. Let us argue DHARMA as the center. It is also characterized as the highest aspiration, purushartha, in Sanatana Dharma. Dharma is the foundation on which anyone in the society can aspire for Moksha. Dharma rakshana is explained as one of the key purposes of every avatar. As one radiates away from this dharmic center, the dharma perception grows weaker. This will be akin to the temperature at the core of the sun when compared to a hundred miles away from the sun’s surface. This exponential drop is a factor we must keep in mind. The next point we can imagine is the surface of mercury to that of the sun. Sun’s impact is very huge but one can see the gradation.
The following picture illustrates the concept in a nutshell.
|Dharma Guna Karma interaction|
To this dharmic center, our good karma (actions) is the definite means. Bad karma exerts a centrifugal force and takes us spiraling away from this dharmic core. The world perception happens in the mind. As both these entities are made of the same three gunas, it makes it logical and easier to perceive. Krishna in Bhagavad Gita has given wonderful examples to explain how to Gunas constitute the all that exists in the world. As we are part and parcel of the world, it is obvious to understand that we are nothing but a product of Gunas.
We will look in detail into Gunas as a later time. The three Gunas are Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Sattva represents Purity, Intelligence, Light, and Knowledge. Rajas is characterized by action. Tamas is typified by Darkness, Indolence, and Inaction. The ratio of these three Gunas keeps changing with time. We can all testify that there are times in the day when we have relatively more energy, even as we feel extreme clarity at another time whilst lethargy or sleep defines our other moments. The greater the Sattva the greater is the perception of Dharma and the easier it becomes to implement it in our actions.
This dynamic kaleidoscope of Gunas keeps altering our perception. We do share the same dharmic sky, but our horizons are all different. Let us recall Gulliver’s Travels where he meets a giant and a Lilliput race. To the former, an average human would have looked like an ant, while the tables are turned in case of the latter. Wherever one is on this spectrum one has only two paths, if we were to mimic Kathopanishad – a centripetal path of good karma that leads us closer to dharma and a centrifugal spiral of bad karma that makes even dharma perception a greater impossibility at every step.
The scale of Dharma
As noted, the puranas and itihasas of Bharata have captured the exemplars of dharma in Yudhishtra, Harishchandra. We also venerate some like Rama as avatars. Mareecha, the one who has tasted defeat at the hands of a teenage Rama, advised Ravana to get on to the right path, declares Rama as Vigrahavan dharma.
रामो विग्रहवान् धर्मः साधुः सत्य पराक्रमः |
राजा सर्वस्य लोकस्य देवानाम् इव वासवः || ३-३७-१३
राजा सर्वस्य लोकस्य देवानाम् इव वासवः || ३-३७-१३
raamo vigrahavaan dharmaH saadhuH satya paraakramaH |
raajaa sarvasya lokasya devaanaam iva vaasavaH || 3-37-13
raajaa sarvasya lokasya devaanaam iva vaasavaH || 3-37-13
Rama is the embodiment of Dharma. This is the place where we need to operate from. So unless we raise our standards to where Rama lived as an example, this will be very difficult to perceive.
We have the next category in Yudhishtra and Harishchandra who strive extremely hard to live and breathe in Dharma at every step of their lives. We have innumerable examples in Sibi Chakravarty offering his own flesh to save the life of a pigeon and Raghu Rakshasa Samvada (Raghu is the ancestor of Rama, who was caught in dharma sankata to protect a brahmana running away from a rakshasa and the rakshasa who threatened to give his life as his food was taken away). To our eyes there might be no perceptible difference between Paramatma and their standards, but it was a huge gap that was discernible to them and the other great mahatmas. This is evident to us by Yudhishtra’s response to the Yaksha in Yaksha Prashna incident of the Mahabharata. The Yaksha asks a series of questions to Yudhishtra to gauge his dharmic understanding. One such question is “What is shame?” and Yudhishtra responds correctly by saying “Withdrawing from all actions that are not compliant with dharma”.
This invisible boundary is popularly called the Conscience. When one trespasses it for the first few times, there is a sense of guilt and a strong moral desire to confine oneself back to the boundaries of what is correct. But once bad karmas accumulate or by bad association, this rapidly disappears. Today’s media connected world, which keeps constantly bombarding us with sensational junk information desensitizes this conscience and numbs it. Today’s shock and awe events do not generate the same ripple that humans perceived few decades ago.
The next fault line easily cognizable to us is Being Good. We have dealt at length “Why being good is not good enough”. The ever shifting human boundaries of morality cause this issue. Human laws are always subject to change, even if it is pedaled like God’s law. This is evident in the case of Sharia which is nothing but medieval tribal rules, but sanctified and labeled given by a Godman. The New Age idea which is same old wine of Hamurabhi code (An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth) rebranded and inverted as Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The dark side of this biblical flavor is evident in the Bible belt of USA where there are the maximum death sentences given in the nation. It is also the practice to conduct the executions in the presence of the relatives of the victim, so that they feel the justice dished out. If one chooses only the good side of the adage, it is still a better starting point in the journey to dharma.
The next level of weaker dharma perception happens when we operate intensely under selfish desires. This includes the majority of the masses. We tend to justify our actions to our circumstances. But if someone else does the same, they are deemed as wrong. Worse still, we justify their actions to give us enough latitude for our inability to follow the higher road.
Extreme examples of such selfish action guided people were termed as Asuras. Though we have taken to a Christian mythology based depiction to call and visualize them as demons, it will be a very wrong translation. This is as wrong as calling the Devas as angels. Asuric beings have a poor perception of dharma. In fact many times when one reads the words of Kamsa, Mareecha, Kumbhakarna, one wonders how much dharmic wisdom they seem to have. But the real gap is translating the bookish perception of dharma into actions or more aptly inactions. To these people dharma is like blinding light. Just like Sun shining straight on to our eyes make us blinded by light, dharma perceived by such people also is useless due to the force of their bad karma. By Divine Grace or by good association or by continued exertion on the righteous path, this downward death spiral can be broken. This is the path of Materialism.
The next lower level is that of a rakshasa. These people constantly endeavor to violate dharma and cause harm to the masses. In most cases, this is a fallen state of a former elevated being.
Then we have a category which should be called demons. These are vile exemplified. These evil beings, called terrorists (not just the ones labeled by certain governments), especially the ones who are cultured by a deluded religious background will form the other extreme end. Religion like Islam (often pedaled as Religion of Peace, yet filled with so many hadiths to justify killing the non followers) which is given a strong framework and justification for carrying out inhuman acts. The worser part is the deafening silence from its majority of followers in taking on such creatures of adharma. This tacit acceptance provides the future people bank to recruit for such heinous acts. This is the path of the deluded evils.
More explanation about the dharmic scale
- We already have seen an analogy of temperature of the sun falling with the distance. To drive home the point, let us understand the boundaries between the different categories like an exponential jump between each other. To make this easier to grasp, let us take a person taking an occasional pain reliver with the one who is addicted to opioids, though both initially take it to alleviate their pain.
- Another aspect to bear in our mind is the Guna and Vritti interaction. The longer and deeper one lives in Rajas and Tamas, the greater we lose the ability to revert back to dharma. This perhaps explains the constant message of Sanatana Dharma to focus on increasing Sattva.
- The Abrahamic ideas are centered in having a great afterlife and guarantees that merely accepting the idea without a question is an assurance of this everlasting great wondrous afterlife. Such delusion and rabid doctrines push one deeper in malevolence and iniquity. Two variants of these doctrines are rampant all over – materialism with all its flashiness and attraction which hides its hollowness by a skin of hype and radical extremist ideas which promote mindless killing of innocents (even if they are of similar ideology, just to dominate other ideas). This lack of humanism and total lack of dharma perception aggrandized by a delusionary afterlife is a perfect antithesis of Sanatana Dharma. Can we call them Vigrahavan Adharmah?
- The truths perceived within each level will not be perceptible at the others. To handle these extreme characters one cannot be relying on Sama Dana and Bheda. Danda is the only language understood by the vile. Dharma perception is totally absent and almost impossibility for such creatures. They operate at a level way below animals. If a nuclear battle is to ensue, will we be bringing sticks and clubs to the battlefront?
- The dharmic scale is modeled more on the Richter scale used for depicting earthquake intensity. Every step increase or decrease represents an exponential jump in the intensity.
How can I map myself to this scale?
We are neither in the league of Rama, Yudhishtra on one end or the evil terrorists on the other. On a practical front, how can I use this dharmic scale to progress along the road to dharma? This valid question must have arisen in the minds of the reader. Let me repackage the wisdom from the rishis and provide a step ladder.
We, humans, do an action or even inaction only chasing the fruits it offers. The perception is definitely colored by our gunas. Yet the orientation of our activities are the fruits. This is very easily perceptible when we see Yudhishtra is inspired to lead a dharmic life, while the wicked Islamic terrorist blowing up himself as a human bomb to kill innocents is aspiring an imagined afterlife. So it is obvious that we must be easily fitting in this scale. This is the first step where we are intensely bound to the fruits we desire to produce – Karmaphala Badha (Bound to the fruits of Karma)
The next rung is typified by the ones who are duty conscious. Many of our good actions fall in this category like taking good care of children or parents in their old age. The dominant driving factor is good karma that is based on dharma – Karma Badha (Bound to good karma). Though superior to the former, it still is governed by the laws of Karma. Samsaric distractions can quickly push us to the first category.
The highest rung in this dharmic ladder is to live a life of dharma. To follow the highest dharma perceptible and as elucidated by the lives of great mahatmas. We are increasingly Sattvic and dharmic in our outlook – Dharma Badha (Bound by Dharma). This step leads us quickly to Moksha. This step also leads to immense prosperity of the society. Artha and Kama come effortlessly to the ones who are steadfast in Dharma.
May we all aspire to increase our Sattva and be Dharma Badha.
Om Tat Sat