There is a law governing the behaviour of everything in this universe. All must submit to it for the world to function properly. Otherwise things will go awry and end up in chaos. It is the will of the Lord that all his creation, all his creatures, should live in happiness. That is why he has ordained a dharma, a law, for each one of them. It is compliance with this dharma that ensures all-round harmony. While Isvara protects his children from rain and sun, he also provides them, when needed, with the warmth of the gentle sun.
His love for his children is expressed in the schema ordered by him for the functioning of Nature and the law he has laid down for trees is a part of it. There is something that somehow turns people all over the world towards dharma. It is this something that inspires human beings everywhere to go beyond their material needs and do things that appear strange.
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How? One man reads the Bible, cross in hand; another smears ashes all over his body; and a third man wears the Vaisnava mark. From generation to generation mankind has been practicing such customs even without deriving any perceptible material benefit.
What is the reason for this? Man first earned the means for his daily upkeep. But he soon discovered that meeting the needs of the present would not be enough. So he tried to earn more and save for his needs also. The question, however, arose as to what precisely constituted his “future”. As he reflected on it, it became clear that his “future” on this earth would be endless, that he would not live a thousand years or ten thousand. So he concerned himself with earning enough to see him through his life and at the same time leaving enough for his children. You must look upon the world as belonging to the Lord, and it is your duty to so conduct yourself as to conform yourself to this belief. This constitutes the dharma of humanity. Acts dictated solely by selfish interests will push one into unrighteousness. A man must learn to be less and less selfish in his thoughts and actions; he must always remember the Lord and must ever be conscious that he is the master of all this world. ” This view is the basis on which all religions have evolved.
No religion teaches us to live according to our whims and fancies; no religion asks us to acquire wealth and property for our personal needs alone. If a man believes that he alone is important, that he is all, he will live only for himself. That is why all religions speak of an entity called God and teach man to efface his ego or I-feeling. “Child, ” they tell him” , “you are nothing before that Power, the author of this universe. It is he — that Power — who has endowed you with intelligence. Your intelligence, your intellect, must guide you on the path of dharma, righteousness.
For this purpose, you must look up to this Power for support. ” The great importance attached to bhakti or devotion in all religions is founded on this belief, the need for divine support for virtuous conduct. Ordinarily, it is not easy to develop faith in, or devotion to, God expressed in abstract terms. For the common people devotion must take the form of practical steps. That is how ritual originated. Sandhyavandana, the namaz and other forms of prayer are examples of such ritual. The religious teach people their duties, how they must conduct themselves to God in the very midst of their worldly life. Love everyone. ” “Live a life of sacrifice. ” “Serve mankind. ” Such are the teachings of the various religions. If a man lives according to these tenets, it is believed that his soul will reach God after it departs from his body. Those who subscribe to Advaita or non-dualism declare that the soul will become one with the Godhead. According to another system of belief, after reaching the Lord, the soul will serve him and ever remain happy as the recipient of his compassion. There is no need to quarrel over the nature of the final state. By following one path or another we attain the Lord. And that will be the end of all our sorrows, all our frustrations and all our failures in this world. There will now be nothing but bliss, full and everlasting. ” No more than this do we need to know for the present. If the Paramatman is to draw us unto himself we must, without fail, perform our duties to him as well as to the world. It is these duties that constitute what is called dharma. Again, it is dharma that serves us when we dwell in our body and when we cease to dwell in it. It serves us in life and afterlife.
When we are in this world we must do that which would take us to a desirable state after we depart from it. We take an insurance policy so that our relatives will be able to take care of themselves when we are gone. But is it not far more important to ensure that we will be happy in our after life? Dharma is after life insurance. But in this life too it is dharma that gives us peace and happiness. There need be no doubt or confusion about the dharma we ought to follow. We are all steeped in the dharma that our, great men have pursued from generation to generation.
They have inwardly realized eternal beatitude and we know for certain that they lived without any care, unlike people in our own generation who are always discontented and are embroiled in agitations and demonstrations of all kinds. All we need to do is to follow the dharma that they practiced. If we tried to create a new dharma for ourselves it might mean trouble and all the time we would be torn by doubts as to whether it would bring us good or whether it would give rise to evil. It is best for us to follow the dharma practiced by the great men of the past, the dharma of our forefathers.
Great indeed were the misfortunes suffered by Sri Rama during his exile in the forest. To a son going on a long journey the mother gives food to take with him. Kausalya does the same when her son Rama leaves for the forest, but she does so after much thought, for she wants the food to last during all the fourteen years of his exile. And what is that food? Kausalya gives Rama the eternal sustenance of dharma. Raghava, she says to him, “it is dharma alone that will protect you, and this dharma is what you yourself protect with courage and steadfastness. It is the escort of dharma that the mother provides her son sent out from his kingdom. Dharma — and dharma alone is our protecting shield. How did Ravana with his ten heads perish and how did Sri Ramachandra rise with his head held high as Vijayaraghava (the victorious Raghava)? It was all the doing of dharma. One’s religion is nothing but the dharma practiced by one’s forefathers. May all adhere to their dharma with unwavering faith and courage and be rewarded with everlasting bliss.