Protecting and Protected by Dharma

Protecting and Protected by Dharma
(This series unravels the dharmic dialogue between Narada Muni and Raja Yudhishthira in the Sabha Parva of Mahabharata. Part IX dealt with the admiration of the wise; Part X follows.)

Sage Narada succinctly tells Raja Yudhishthira that he always has to keep the counsel of wise person. Further, he nudges him to recognise and adore the wise according to their merits. We need to reflect up on the lives of great people and live up to the standards set by them. Yudhishthira is already someone we all look up to, and here, Narada Muni was advising him to look up to an ideal person. This is where we get a glimpse of Yudhishthira’s steadfast devotion towards Sri Krishna, and because of this, he never once wavered from the path of dharma. Though Sri Krishna was younger than Yudhishthira, the latter admired the former for his values.

Next, Narada Muni goes on to ask the king, ‘Do you have faith in dharma, based on the scriptures and on the path shown to you by your ancestors? Do you carefully follow the practices that were followed by them?’ Do we have belief in dharma? Faith in dharma? That if I follow this dharma, I will have this benefit. At the easiest and least temptation, we can get diverted from the path of dharma.

If we reflect closely, one of the lines given by Swami Chinmayananda in the Chinmaya Mission pledge is, ‘We seek the Lord’s grace to keep us on the path of virtue, courage and wisdom’. This path is dharma. Not moving away from virtue is dharma.

We need to introspect deeply on whether we are following the way shown to us by our ancestors. If we take books like Bhagavad Gita, written in 7000 BCE, comprising 700 verses, we get a glimpse of the people who lived in such times. We still do not have a book to equal the Gita. Is there someone who can write 24,000 verses glorifying Sri Rama, like how Valmiki did? It transformed him from a dacoit to a saint. Sant Tulsidas gave us the Ramcharitramanas four hundred years ago and Kamban gave us the Ramayan in Tamil thousand years ago. They all followed the footsteps of Valmiki Rishi. Valmiki lived at least four thousand years prior to Kamban. The latter acknowledged that. Kamban writes, ‘What Valmiki has given us is an ocean, what I am attempting is a drop in the ocean’. Look at these books, treasure troves of wisdom, that have outlived millennia. Yet, they are relevant today.

Not just spiritual knowledge, but also lessons in science and management and arts, which were practiced then and still have a place in our society today. All of that is a reflection of the people who preceded us. We have a glimpse into their ways of living, which we have to follow closely even today.

In Sanatana Dharma, and in all religions that are off-shoots of Sanatana Dharma, such as Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism, there is great emphasis on the means just as much as the ends itself. The means are more important than the end. Dharma is the means. Suppose only the end is important, not the means, imagine the state of the society? With the promise of place in heaven or the threat of hell, several atrocities are carried out in the world even today. Forced conversions, and consequent violence have become rampant, because of the focus on the “destination”. Sanatana Dharma reiterates time and again that the means are important.

To live such a life, as envisaged by our predecessors, we need courage. The means can never be adharmic and the goal dharmic. There is no place for hypocrisy in this culture. The twin-fold question posed to Yudhishthira is whether he has faith in this path and if he is following it well.

Let us also introspect, if we have faith in dharma. Do we think that if I follow dharma, I will benefit? Dharma will bless me. The path may be a little hard, but my dharma will definitely bless me. Isn’t this also the promise of Hinduism? ‘Dharmo rakshati rakshitaha’, if I protect dharma, dharma will protect me. Once I abide in dharma, the results I beget will also be dharmic.

We need to have such unwavering faith in dharma. And if we have such faith, we need to cultivate it more sincerely and dedicatedly.

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Chinmaya Udghosh