Faith in Dharma

Faith in Dharma
(This series unravels the dharmic dialogue between Narada Muni and Raja Yudhishthira in the Sabha Parva of Mahabharata. Part X dealt with following the righteous path as shown by our predecessors; Part XI follows.)

Sage Narada has been succinctly guiding Yudhishthira by asking him questions if he has faith in dharma, if he’s following the way shown by his ancestors, if he’s following the instructions of the scriptures and so on. It is no easy task either because to follow dharma, one needs courage, conviction and wisdom. Once we have these qualities, we will live a noble life. In the previous question, Narada again reiterated the importance of following the right means. Having faith in dharma means that we protect dharma, believing that dharma protects us. Unfortunately, many do not have this faith.

When we do not have faith in dharma, we begin to compromise. Why? It is not convenient to follow something, so we choose what is easier. Morning to night, in every activity, we compromise. A compromising life does not add dignity to life. It is demeaning for human beings. Having faith in dharma, hold on to dharma, and believe that you will get your rewards. If not now, later; but surely, dharma will deliver. If we have this faith, we will not compromise. We will not give up what is higher for something lower. Following this path, as envisaged by our ancestors and masters in itself is rishi yagna and pitr yagna.

Whatever knowledge or traditions we benefit from now is because of the collective endeavours of our teachers and ancestors. Even simple things, like how we celebrate festivals, is because our teachers and ancestors have shown us how to do it. The practice of carrying on such traditions to the next generation is us repaying the debt to our teachers (rishi rna) and to our ancestors (pitr rna). That which has reached us, should not end with us. The cultural and spiritual heritage has journeyed on for thousands of years before reaching us. It should not end with us.

Then Narada goes on to ask, ‘O sinless one, do you cause grief or anger in anyone?’ It is a deep question. First, we have to protect ourselves from others hurting us. There could be difficulties and hurt at the physical level but our mind has to be strong enough to not be affected by them. We have a right to guard ourselves. If someone hurts us, allow them to transform. If they still don’t transform, then dharmic action has to be taken. This action has to come from a point of clarity in one’s duties, not with the motive of causing grief or sorrow to the other.

Sri Rama was a shining example in this regard. He first sent Hanuman ji as an emissary to Ravana. Even Vibheeshana pleaded for Ravana to transform. When that didn’t happen, they had to resort to battle. Even on the penultimate day of the war, Sri Rama sends back an unarmed Ravana to consider his actions, and seek forgiveness. Ravana still does not relent, it is only then Sri Rama kills him in war. This opportunity to transform must be granted to even those who hurt us. And if aggression is required, it should come from a place of dharma, not from spite or ego.

If this were not the case, Sri Krishna would not have advised Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita that some of the desired qualities in a devotee is the devotee’s ability to be friendly, compassionate and non-hateful. The irony is not lost that it comes on a battlefield before one of the bloodiest wars is waged. The clarity in the instruction and action can justify why Sri Krishna advised this to Arjuna, despite asking him to go fight his own cousins and teacher.

Sri Krishna’s instructions to Arjuna to shoot Duryodhana and not escape the battlefield, was for Arjuna to do his duty. Enough opportunities were given to the Kauravas to reform, but they did not. So Arjuna is advised to fight his cousins from a place of dharma, not for vengeance, not from hatred, not with the motive of causing grief. Sri Krishna delivers a similar message to Draupadi too, when he tells her that this war is beyond the brothers’ seeking vengeance for the Kauravas insulting her. There were many actions that came together, and now the war was about adharma and dharma. Arjuna was reminded again that it is not about personal glory, personal hatred or personal vengeance.

(To be continued)

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Chinmaya Udghosh