Shastra Dharma (was Re: Bumper stickers)

Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian rbalasub at ECN.PURDUE.EDU
Tue Jul 15 22:17:06 CDT 1997

Jonathan Bricklin wrote:

>I would like to give your question a public response.  But to preclude as
>much misynderstanding as I can, can you please elaborate what you feel are
>the essential tenents of shastra dharma?

Certainly. I'll also clarify my statements. Here are a few (page 42, The
Jagatguru replies):

D: What is sAmAnya dharma?

HH: Manu himself has clarified this by saying:

ahi.nsA satyamasteyaM shauchamindriyanigrahaH |
etaM sAmAsikaM dharma chAturvarNye.abravInmanuH ||

(The dharmas common to all, as declared by Manu, are abstinence from
injury, truthfulness, non-stealth, purity and restraint of senses)

Apart from this of course, indulging in intoxicating material like wine,
drugs etc must be singled out. Drinking wine is mentioned as one of the
mahA pApa-s (great sins) in the mahAnArAyaNa upanishhad.h.

Why is following dharma particularly important for one who claims that
everything is by "fate" and does not happen by his "free-will"? The
answer is quite simple. Take the case of alcohol. While alcohol has the
same intoxicating effect (presumably) whether one believes in free-will
or not, the problem is the following. To see the true nature of the
self-as-it-is, the attachment of the mind to the sensual pleasures must
be weakened. This is done _only_ by abstaining from the sensual
pleasures. Let's see what Sri Ramana Maharshhi has to say in this

The visitor said: "One must satiate with the fulfilment of desires
before they are renounced.". Sri Bhagavan smiled and cut in: "Fire might
as well be put out by pouring spirit over the flames. (All laugh). The
more the desires are fulfilled, the deeper grows the samskara. They must
become weaker before they cease to assert themselves. That weakness is
brought about by restraining oneself and not by losing oneself in


M: Every time you attempt satisfaction of a desire the knowledge comes
that it is better to desist. Repeated reminders of this kind will in due
course weaken the desires.

Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi (page 476)

Brahman is doubtless beyond dharma and adharma. But note that mere
intellectual understanding of this and the fact that the veda-s say that
GYAni-s may behave in atypical ways (jAbAla upanishhad) does not grant
one the license to do whatever one pleases.

Thus, the prescribed way by advaitic teachers is the following. Desist
from doing things prohibited in the shastra-s and do the prescribed
actions. This will make the mind pure, which is essential for attaining
naishhkarmya siddhi. However, do not be attached to the good actions.
This leads to bondage also. Offer the results of your actions to
nArAyaNa. At the end of the sandhyAvandana prayers we have:

karomi yadyat.h sakalamparasmai shrImannArAyaNAyeti samarpayAmi:
[whatever I do I offer to the great Lord Narayana.]

The desire to attain moxa itself is a desire. However it is a good
vAsana and does not stand in the way of realization and is got rid of at
the onset of realization. Calling the desire to attain moxa itself a
desire and doing whatever one pleases will only land one squarely in

Anyway, this is the way to get beyond both dharma and adharma according
to my understanding of advaita. However, what do we have in some cases?
Mere lip service is paid to advaita and then we have people going about
doing whatever they please and justifying it by some high sounding
(mostly nonsensical) phrases.

So even if one does not follow sAmAnya dharma, but accepts that he has
free-will, then there is scope for him to realize his mistakes and
change. However, if such a person convinces himself that every thing
happens automatically, then there is _no_ scope for him to change. Such
a person typically states things like "everything is ephemeral, happens
spontaneously, etc, etc" and is firmly convinced that whatever he does
is completely correct.


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