It is a short post for this week but upholding dharma is something that our country (and its good citizen) have been lacking in some areas and should be revisited. It is also something that I have been pondering on a personal basis. Image source: Photo by Emily KenCairn of Apiary Studio on Unsplash
Let me start with a simple case study:-
There is a junction near the housing area where a quiet number of the residents would take to make a u-turn to go to the housing area. Well, that fine as it is quite convenient for the residents. The only problem is there is a clear sign that says no u-turn is allowed. Despite this signboard and sometimes the inconvenient (and danger) posed to other road users, the residents continue to make u-turns instead of driving a bit more further and make a u-turn. It may sound trivial but perhaps the residents may not be aware, they are breaking traffic law on a daily basis.
The notion of dharma comes to my mind. The concept of dharma may mean many things to different people and religion. It may even have a different name in a different part of the world and culture. In Hinduism, dharma signifies behaviours that are considered to be in accord with rta, the order that makes life and universe possible, and includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and ‘‘right way of living’’ (Wikipedia)
Before anyone accuses me of being holier than holy (haha), let me assure you that it has nothing to do with religion but rather a way of life, doing the right things (as opposed to doing the things right) and ensuring that we do not hurt others out of greed, anger and of course, stupidity. You can find a variant of this in every modern society, culture and religion. Morality is one aspect of it but then the question may arise – what is right for me may not be right for you. I agree with you. But there simpler acid test for this – be guided by the existing laws and social norms.
It can simple as following the traffic rules – don’t make illegal u-turns is one example, not driving on the wrong side of the road, put on the indicators when changing lane, wear a helmet when riding a motorbike and so on. And to something more complex like managing the country in the best interest of its citizen. There is no law written down to managing the country in the best interest of the citizen, of course.
This is where social norms come in place. No society wants to be governed by greedy, dumb, wasteful, dictator alike government – unless we are in failing states like Zimbabwe or North Korea (but not Iran as the US wants us to believe). But we are not, we are far from countries like that. We will come across many instances of doing the right things in a day if you keep an eye and ears on it.
Asking people to do the right thing is nothing new concept. It is an age-old concept.
I first came across the word “dharma” when I went to India for the first time and bought the Mahabharata from a local book store there. It was on sale (most things were) and the language used in the book was not so complicated to follow (I had to do something to kill time when the ladies were out for their shopping).
The dharma is mentioned a few times in Mahabharata which itself been called the story of dharma:-
Mahabharata is one of the oldest epics of our country, nay the world. It shows how dharma and karma govern our lives. Dharma is what is the right thing to do at a given time or situation. Dharma is based on wisdom, insight and human values. Dharma has many meanings and many dimensions as well – duty, truth, non-violence (ahimsa paramo dharma) and others. It is well said that “dharmo rakshita rakshata” – dharma protects he who follows dharma. However, if you do not follow dharma, you have to reap the consequences. That is karma – you reap what you sow, sooner or later.
Failure to uphold the dharma will eventually attract bad karma. That’s universal – if you don’t do the right things, the consequences will not be good as well. If you don’t follow the traffic rules, you may get into an accident (or cause others to get into an accident).
The same with running this country. If you don’t govern the country well, it will not prosper and developed. And so. You may have heard variations of it – Murphy’s law, Newton’s 3rd law of motion, blah, blah
Knowing what is the right to do is one thing, doing it without fail is another:-
Doing right always is a very difficult task. Many a times we do not know what is dharma, what is not. Even though we know, unless it is a very usual habit of following it, at times of great stress it is impossible to follow the path of Dharma.
In order to do the thing on a constant basis, it takes high discipline and of course practice but more importantly, there must be an acceptance that doing the right things should precede doing things right. It has to be habitual as well.