Continued from Previous Page
Dharma is Rtam, the meaning that is in Brahman. In speaking truly about the world, it is the dharma of speaking the truth. In being true to oneself, it is the dharma of acting according to one’s swadharma. Men and women follow dharma by being true to their swadharmas, to those actions that are contained in the meanings of the words ‘man’ and ‘woman’ as they exist in Brahman. These are the duties that govern the dharma of men and women in the field of His Leela. But men and women are not merely men and women, they are also many other things that men and women may be such as sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, kings and queens, priests, warriors, servants, maids, lords, ladies, physicians, nurses, drivers, prison-keepers, and many other things. They may be Hindus or Christians or Muslims or Buddhists or Zoroastrians or Pagans. It is not in the swadharma of a king to choose to be a thief or in the swadharma of a wife to choose to be a public woman. They would cease to be a king or wife in so far as they choose these occupations, and thus they would be violating their dharma. But if a king were to choose to slay the enemy in battle, he would be acting in accordance with his swadharma because it is in the nature of a king to slay his enemies in battle. He would not cease to be a king on account of slaying his enemies in battle. Likewise, if a wife were to choose to be a mother of her husband’s children, she would be acting in accordance with her swadharma because it in the nature of a wife to be a mother of her husband’s children. She would not cease to be a wife on account of being a mother of her husband’s children. Thus it is that the dharma of men and women is given by the swadharma of the bodies and stations that they possess. Now there are stations that are given to men and woman by birth, and there are stations that they come to occupy by the choices of their free will. But in using their free will, they would be following dharma only by choosing their occupations in accordance with the swadharma of the bodies and stations that they already possess by virtue of the Wheel of Dharma. Those who understand the natures of samanya and vishesha see that they would remain true to the sameness of the stations given to them by birth by choosing only those occupations and duties that are inherent in the swadharma of these stations. Their duty is to be true to the dharmic stations that the Dharma Chakra bestows them with in the taxonomy of the universe - for it is by performing the actions of the stations they naturally occupy that they would be true to what they are, and they would thereby be true to the Eternal Dharma. It does not therefore behove a man or woman to strive to be other than what his or her swadharma is because that would be a dereliction of his or her dharma. Lord Krishna sums up the gist of the Eternal Dharma in a single verse in the Gita:
Better one’s own duty, though devoid of merit, than the duty of another well discharged. Better is death in one’s own duty; the duty of another is productive of danger. (III.35)
This then is a brief overview of the basis of Hindu Dharma. Now, with this background, we shall attempt to provide a reply to the question: How is it that Hinduism sees the different moral codes of the different religions as being valid at the same time? I believe that the nature of Sanatana Dharma itself provides the answer to this question. Each religion is a vishesha religion (vishesha dharma) that is revealed by God to select peoples in this world in accordance with the swadharma of these people (the intrinsic natures of these specific people) and it is the dharma of each religion to follow its respective swadharma as revealed to it by God. The moral codes for different religions may be at variance with one another depending on the natures of the people to whom these religions have been revealed, but they are each the appropriate prescriptions of dharma for them considering their constitution. Just as it is the dharma of a king to slay his enemies whereas the dharma of a sannyasi does not permit him to kill even a worm, and both these are in accordance with dharma notwithstanding the contrary natures of their actions, similarly the moral codes (or governance of actions) of different religions may be different and even contrary to one another and yet they may all be in accordance with the One Eternal Dharma. This is the basis of the Hindu universal outlook regarding the validity of different moral codes that exist in different religions.
Return to Dharma-Kshetra
According to Dr. Morales, the primary cause of the acute problem that Hinduism faces today is Radical Universalism. He concludes his paper with the lure of beautiful words advising us to abandon the scourge of Radical Universalism:
If we want to ensure that our youth remain committed to Hinduism as a meaningful path, that our leaders teach Hinduism in a manner that represents the tradition authentically and with dignity, and that the greater Hindu community can feel that they have a religion that they can truly take pride in, then we must abandon Radical Universalism. If we want Hinduism to survive so that it may continue to bring hope, meaning and enlightenment to untold future generations, then the next time our son or daughter asks us what Hinduism is really all about, let us not slavishly repeat to them that "all religions are the same". Let us instead look them in their eyes, and teach them the uniquely precious, the beautifully endearing, and the philosophically profound truths of our tradition…truths that have been responsible for keeping Hinduism a vibrantly living religious force for over 5000 years. Let us teach them Sanatana Dharma, the eternal way of Truth.
We do not disagree with Dr. Morales that Hindus must go back to the profound truths of their own religion. As we had said at the beginning of this paper, we appreciate the efforts taken by Dr. Morales to combat the apathy of modern Hindus. But the solution to the problem is certainly not the abandonment of Universalism. When we consider the equivocation that Dr. Morales brings to the term Radical Universalism, abandoning it would amount to abandoning the heart of Hinduism as well as abandoning the faith we repose in great saints such as Sri Ramakrishna. The end result of such abandonment would be the rise of a new breed of Hindu youth marked with a Judeo-Christian attitude towards other religions. These neo-Hindus would look at other religions as so many different, and spurious, mountains, and this may in time cause some well-intentioned Hindu youth to set out on a mission to convert the members of other religions to the one true faith! Universalism is the gift of our dharma; let us not abandon it on such specious grounds.
What then is the problem with Hinduism today? What is it that ails the Hindu? Why has the Hindu now become a caricature of his old self? Why does the Hindu today take the lesser truths of the sciences to justify the higher truths of his religion? Why does the modern Hindu mask the great revelations of his religion under silly and infantile clichés? Why has the Hindu become a shadow of those foreigners without whose support he cannot even pronounce the truths of his own religion? And above all, why has the Hindu lost the vitality and the supreme courage with which he once laughed at the chimera of the world and even faced death as a mere bubble in the sea of life? Is this the Hindu that is descended from the race of Harishchandra and Yajnavalkya?
The answer to all these questions is rooted in one simple fact – the fact that we Hindus have forsaken our dharma. We are caught today in the gale of a storm and it tosses us about in all directions. The whirl of the storm is not outside us; it is within us, created by the vacuum that we have ourselves allowed to birth within our souls. The malady that plagues Hinduism today is not due to the conquering Moghuls that came down from the North-West, nor is it due to the colonial British that came sailing across the seas, nor is it due to the glitter and kaleidoscope of the modern West; it is due to our own debilitating weakness and inadequacy. This weakness has created such an intense vacuum within us that it pulls in all manner of alien things into our souls. We do not go out to ape the West or to fall prey to consumerism; it comes pouring into the vacuum within us because we have stripped ourselves of our wholeness and now the emptiness in us lets in whatever lies in the vicinity, be they gems or be they garbage.
One of the common remedies prescribed by Hindu intellectuals for the problem of Hindu apathy is to take the message of Vedanta to all and everyone. But they ignore the fact that Vedanta is not for everyone. And moreover everyone does not want Vedanta. Among the four human pursuits – kama, artha, dharma and moksha – the pursuit of moksha is only for a select few, for those whose hearts have been stirred by the Call of the Divine. For others, it is quite natural to follow the call of kama, artha and dharma. There is nothing wrong with the pursuit of pleasure; there is nothing wrong with the pursuit of wealth and fame. But there is something wrong with the pursuit of pleasure and wealth and fame when they are immoderate and not in accordance with the dictates of dharma. There has been in the recent past a markedly skewed propagation of the message of Hinduism which places an overriding emphasis on Vedanta to the near exclusion of the Dharma Kshetra within which Vedanta appears as its supreme revelation. We need to bring about a correction in perspective today so that all and sundry do not neglect what they believe to be mere superstitions in favor of the highest goal that they are unable to pursue and often fool themselves into believing they are pursuing. Who amongst us has that kind of vairagya that is necessary to follow the path of Vedanta? The overarching umbrella of Hinduism is Hindu Dharma and not Vedanta. Vedanta is for a select few, but Hindu Dharma is for all Hindus. Dharma is applicable even to the aspirant of moksha because dharma governs every single thing in this world without exception. It governs even the mukta; the mukta remains free because he is one with his swadharma which is to be forever free. What is required today is to return to the Dharma Kshetra – to the values and way of living that is the necessary pre-requisite for the welfare of each and everyone that is born a Hindu. The Law of Dharma is Eternity moving in Time. He who follows the path of dharma lives harmoniously in the flowing Song of Time. He is stilled in Time, as it were, and out of the stillness of Eternity his vitality and courage will once more blossom forth to give Hinduism the vigor that it is now missing.
It is time for us to stand up and speak. There is no need to be apologetic about our religion. The land of Aryavarta has been sacked by Hindus and non-Hindus alike and together we have foisted upon it a constitution that abrogates the ancient Dharma of the land. On this land of Bharata has been imposed the false ideals of equality and democracy, and the surrogate shrine of secularism. We have left the dharma revealed to us by Lord Krishna to bow our heads before the rabble and the imposter. We have sold ourselves like harlots to every master that has come to us in the guise of a reformist. We have had too many cowards and apologists amongst us. It is time to be Warriors of the Spirit. The Varnashrama of Sanatana Dharma is not something to be ashamed of. It is the Eternal Truth of Nature, the axle on which the Wheel of Dharma revolves. We are heirs to the greatest Truth on earth and to the greatest Way given to humankind. This Gift comes with a responsibility that we Hindus cannot simply shrug ourselves of.
Glorify eternal truth, but the proof of it is to
Put your creed into your deeds
And practice truth in your action.
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- The nyaya insight that all rules of logic are inherently united with the objects to which they apply is well brought out by Sri Badrinath Shukla, a philosopher who had studied Nyaya in the traditional style, in the book ‘Samvada – A Dialogue between Two Philosophical Traditions’. All Indian philosophies consider the word to be pointing directly to the object without mediation. According to Patanjali and Bhartrhari, the word is united with the object before it becomes illuminated to the witness in gross speech. In the philosophy of the Grammarians, the illumination takes place through the explosion of the sphota.
- The staging of Vak also appears in the philosophy of non-dual Kashmir Shaivism, especially in the path of Sambhavopaya. While the articulation of Advaita Vedanta remains largely intellectual, Kashmir Shaivism evocates the experiential flowering of Advaita in much greater detail than in Advaita Vedanta. However, I believe that the Dakshinamurthy Stotra of Shankara alongwith the Manasollasa of Suresvara bridges the two Advaita traditions beautifully.
- Apart from the Puranas, the darshanas of Nyaya and Vedanta are also part of the Upangas. The upangas come under the category of Smriti.
- The Tirthas are infused with God’s Shakti due to His association with these places. The Shakti of Godhead also resides in the idols of Gods that are consecrated by proper mantras. All this is the subject-matter of the Tantras.
- In seeking to drive home the point that opposing moral codes cannot be valid at the same time, Dr. Morales gives us an example of a religious bigot that is ready to kill a person of another faith even as that person is kneeling down for prayer. I believe that this example has been conveniently chosen without questioning whether there is any religion that truly subscribes to such actions. I would believe that such actions result from the misunderstandings of the subtler nuances of their own scriptural utterances, particularly as regards what is meant by the term ‘infidel’ and the circumstances under which the actions are allowed. Dr. Morales would need to consider that Islam, which is commonly held to prescribe such actions towards infidels, has given rise to Sufism that actually embraces their brothers from other religions as believers of the same God.
- It is misleading to apply terms such as ‘panentheism’ to Hinduism. I believe that this proclivity towards excessive labelling is the result of too much academic analysis and too little experiential understanding.
- In reconstructing the sequence of events in Keshab’s life, especially with regard to the genesis of the New Dispensation, I have followed the dates recorded by his disciple Mazoomdar rather than those given by Romain Rolland, as the sources of the latter are unknown.
- These words of Swami Vivekananda are not to be construed as his rejection of the varna system; it is merely his characteristic style of delivering a message forcefully and with feeling. Elsewhere, Vivekananda has spoken about the efficacy of the varnashrama system.
- The source of the Tantras is not other than the Vedas. They were however revealed in their special forms to humankind by Shiva and Devi.
- In the Vedic structure, kama shastra, alongwith music, drama, etc., comes under the category of gandharva shastra. This classification may be found in the book ‘The Vedas’ by Sri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati. In the Dhvanyaloka Locaca, Abhinavagupta speaks about aesthetic absorption as in essence the same as spiritual ‘pleasure’.
- After Shankara defeated the famed Mimamsa philosopher, Mandana Misra, in debate, Ubbaya Bharati, the wife of Mandana, challenged Shankara to a debate on kama shastra. Being a sannyasi and wholly unfamiliar with that art, Shankara begs for one month’s time to come back for the debate. He then leaves his body and enters the body of King Amaruka who had just then passed away. Inhabiting the body of the king, he sports with the queens of Amaruka and learns the science of erotics. He is even said to have written a book on the subject called Amarushataka. When he returns after a month, Ubbaya Bharati concedes victory without a debate. Much later, when Shankara is about to ascend the Sarvajna Pitha at Kashmir, a voice from the heavens challenges his claim to the throne on the ground that he had violated the dharma of a sannyasi by having carnal relationships with women. Shankara then replies that dharma had not been violated by the actions performed in the body of Amaruka because what is done in one body does not attach itself to another body. The way is then made clear for him to ascend the throne of Supreme Knowledge.
- It is interesting to see that the same two-fold dharma, Pravritti Dharma and Nirvitti Dharma, appears in China as the Tao of Confucius and the Tao of LaoTze.
1. The Upanishads, Translated by Swami Nikhilananda, Harper Torchbooks
2. Eight Upanishads with the commentary of Sankaracarya Vol I & II, Translated by Swami Gambhirananda, Advaita Ashrama
3. Brahadaranyaka Upanishad with the commentary of Sankaracarya, Translated by Swami Madhavananda, Advaita Ashrama
4. Chandogya Upanishad with the commentary of Sankaracarya, Translated by Swami Gambhirananda
5. The Mandukya Upanishad with Gaudapada’s Karika and Sankara’s commentary, Translated by Swami Nikhilananda, Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Mysore
6. Brahma Sutra Bhashya of Sri Shankaracharya, Translated by Swami Gambhirananda, Advaita Ashrama
7. Sri Sankaracarya’s Dakshinamurthy Stotra with the Varttika Manasallosa of Sureshvaracarya
Translated by Swami Harshananda, Ramakrishna Math, Bangalore
8. The Bhagavad Gita with the commentary of Sankaracharya, Translated by Alladi Mahadeva Sastry
9. Bhagavad Gita with the annotation Gudartha Dipika of Madhusudana Saraswati, Translated by Swami Gambhirananda
10. Gitartha Samgraha, Abhinavagupta’s commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, Translated by Boris Marjanovic, Indica Publishers
11. Vedartha Sangraha of Sri Ramanujacarya, Translated by S.S.Raghavachar, Advaita Ashrama
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14. Yoga Aphorisms (from Raja Yoga), by Swami Vivekananda, Advaita Ashrama
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16. Isvara Pratyabhijna Karika of Utpaladeva, Translated by B.N.Pandit, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers
17. Excerpts from the book ‘Shiva’ by Sri Ralph Nataraj, Posted in Yahoo group Advaita Tantra
18. Kashmir Shaivism – The Secret Supreme, by Swami Lakshman Jee, Sri Satguru Publications
19. Excerpts from Abhinavagupta’s Dhvanyaloka Locana, From various sources on the Internet
20. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna by M, Translated by Swami Nikhilananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Madras
21. Sri Ramakrishna – A Prophet for the New Age by Richard Schiffman, The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture
22. The Life of Ramakrishna by Romain Rolland, published by Advaita Ashrama
23. Life of Sri Ramakrishna by monks of the Ramakrishna Order, Advaita Ashrama
24. The Life of Vivekananda by Romain Rolland, Advaita Ashrama
25. Swami Vivekananda – A Historical Review by R.C.Majumdar, Advaita Ashrama
26. Hindu Dharma – The Universal Way of Life by Pujyasri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati Swami Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
27. The Vedas, by Sri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
28. The Holy Vedas – A Golden Treasury By Pandit Satyakam Vidyalankar, Clarion Books
29. Greek Philosophy – Thales to Aristotle Edited by Reginald E Allen, The Free Press
30. Plato – The Last Days of Socrates Translated by Hugh Tredennick, Penguin Books
31. Plato - Complete Works Edited by John.M.Cooper, Hackett Publishing Company
32. Tractatus Logico Philosophicus of Wittgenstein Translated by D.F.Pears and B.F.McGuinness
33. On Sinn and Bedeutung from The Frege Reader Edited by Michael Beaney, Blackwell Publishers
34. A Short History of Chinese Philosophy Fung Yu-Lan, Edited by Derk Bodde, The Free Press
35. The Fontana Post-Modern Reader Edited by Walter Truett Anderson, Fontana Press
36. Reference is also made to the writings of Sri Ranjeet Shankar, Sri Ken Knight, Sri Jayakrishna Nelamangala, Sri V.Sadagopan and Prof. V. Krishnamurthy.
I would like to thank Sri Sudhir Raikar for carefully reading the article and giving me his valuable comments and frank opinion, and to Sri Govindrajan for his patient hearing during the time I was writing the article. I am deeply grateful to Sri Sri Ralph Nataraj, the Mahayogi in the lineage of Tryambaka, who is a shining example of the Light leading through all paths.