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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Dharma and Creation

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

There has been much confusion between the concept of Dharma and that ofReligion. But it is important to note that Dharma does not belong to anyReligion, just as God does not belong to any Religion. The word Religion isused to indicate the message and method suggested by several great messengersthat was further carried on by his/her followers, the same way that God is the_expression for the higher power behind creation. I am appealing that insteadof using the term Religion, let us call the messages and methods of the greatmasters as Dharma. Instead of limiting the scope of the path as the ‘only’path, let us understand the message of the great masters as one of the severalpaths given by several saints, masters, and prophets. This concept of Dharma will make the world richer; instead of one saint, we can have several saints;instead of one text, we can have several texts. The message can come not onlyfrom past saints, but also from present saints and even those who may come inthe future. With the introduction of the concept of Dharma the spiritual fervorof the human being can be like a flowing river with fresh waters at any pointof time at any place.Let us remove the misconception that Dharma belongs to the Hindu religion. Inthe same way that language does not belong to any one religion, Dharma does notbelong to any one religion. It happens to belong to a language called Sanskrit,but it is a universal term. If there is any equivalent, identical, and allencompassing word like Dharma in any other language then we can just as easilyadapt that word.Now that we understand the broad concept of Dharma and its distinction from anyone religion, it is imperative that it is defined. Dharma has beencomprehensively used for any activity which helps man on an upward journey, asthat is its very definition.

This leads us to two inherent questions:
1. Why does mankind need an activity that helps him/her on an upward journey?
2. What is the meaning of an upward journey and, conversely, a downward journey?

In order to fully understand the answers to these questions, we must understandthat all creation has consciousness as the basis. Consciousness itself is thefreedom aspect of creation. Based on the consciousness principle, we can dividecreation into three different categories.In the first category, consciousness has become mere existence in matter whichis referred to as ‘jada vastu.’ Matter has only existence. This matter followscertain properties or qualities, which is called the Dharma of that material.The Dharma of water is to wet, the Dharma of fire is to burn. It has no freedomof choice. The fire cannot determine that it will not burn the finger of thechild who put her hand in it. Water at a certain temperature becomes ice and atanother temperature becomes steam. These are the qualities which cannot bechanged. This is the first category of substance which just exists.In the second category, substances are conscious not merely to be in existence,but strives to stay in existence. This second category consists of plants andanimals. They do exist like matter but their strive to exist exhibits a smalldegree of freedom. The moment the seed is placed in suitable soil, the journeycalled life starts for the plant. The plant sends its roots into the soil andsends the stem bearing leaves and foliage into the sky in search of sunlight.The plant has no confusion. That intelligence or consciousness is clearlyavailable. Similarly when the stem of a plant comes out, it is in search ofsunlight. Animals also show similar freedom or intelligence within them. I waswatching the Animal Channel on television one day. The program was showinghundreds of baby turtles hatching from their eggs on an early morning justbefore sunrise. As soon as they come out, they run towards the ocean. I was wondering who taught them to go towards the ocean and where it is? They have absolutely no confusion at all. The researcher who was there lifted one of thebaby turtles and reversed its direction, but the baby turned around and headedstraight for the ocean! They not only have existence inherently, but they areconscious of their existence. From small insects to large hippos, animals andplants try to find food and strive to exist.The third category is the human being. S/he not only has existence, strives tocontinue existing, but can also exercise choice for his/her existence. Forexample, hunger is the way a human knows that s/he has to look for food. But,s/he has the choice to either eat or not eat. S/he has the choice as to what toeat and how to eat it. S/he has all of these multiple choices. This is oneexample of how the aspect connected with survival is extended to the aspect ofchoice. S/he can similarly have choices about what to wear, possess, do forrecreation, etc.This freedom of humans is actually a double edged sword. Having this freedomalone is not sufficient; it has been properly and intelligently utilized. Wehave freedom, but we also have resources. We have the intelligence to pursuewhat we desire, but if we don’t have the wisdom or proper direction then we canput the desire, object, intelligence, and the freedom together and leadourselves into the wrong direction. However, when we lead ourselves in theright direction, we can create lasting happiness and peace for ourselves andothers. Otherwise, it can lead to violence, and ultimately self destruction.This may lead to another doubt. Why would anyone lead themselves in the wrongdirection? How can we imagine that one would lead themselves toself-destruction? This needs a very deep understanding. No one wants to destroyoneself. Inherently, we all want to give joy to ourselves and others. There isnothing wrong with this desire and to find ways to fulfill this desire. Somepeople feel that they are extraordinarily intelligent and are getting happinessquickly and efficiently with little or no effort, but this may just beshortsighted. To illustrate this point, let us look at an episode in the life of the saintpoet, Kalidasa. In this story there is a princess who has built arrogance fromhaving three riches: material wealth, intelligence, and beauty. She wasarrogant about her beauty, her position, and even more so about herintelligence. Thinking that she was smarter than the great scholars of hertime, she would insult them and their work. The scholars wanted to teach her alesson and went to find a good looking, but stupid young man for her to wed. Asthey went to search for this boy, they came across a young man who was sittingon a branch of a tree while cutting that same branch. There were other peoplewho were also cutting the branches of the tree but without sitting on thebranch they were cutting! The scholars found him to be interesting, so theyasked him, “Why are you not cutting the branches the same way the others are?”He replied, “The others are stupid. They don’t know how to be as quick as me.See, the way that I am cutting the branch takes less effort.” He appeared tohave valid reasoning since his weight allowed for the branch to bend and be cutmore efficiently. But the scholars looked at him and thought he was definitelythe stupidest person they have come across. The work will definitely be faster,the effort will be minimal, and it looks like a short cut. But, all these gainsare short-lived. That is the error therein. Man also often thinks of immediate advantages, namely of the nature that willprovide immediate results and results with less effort. He goes after objectsfor his gain but he does not realize that the benefit will be short lived. Infact, very often, in the long run, they are not only giving the requiredbenefit but they are causing so much damage to the system, that even to getback to the normal state, we need the substance. This is called an addiction.All addictions are nothing but where we have stared driving immediate,effortless, or minimal effort results that cause happiness which may often beof greater intensity but even this is short-lived and in the long run, theseaddictions enslave us and ruin us totally.Let us look into a different aspect of humans often following the wrong path. Achild learns by imitating. Children even learn to speak by imitating the lipmovements and sound of an adult. As we continue to grow, this nature ofimitation is inherent in us. Most of the people today are following othersinstead of thinking for themselves. Their only reference for doing anything isthat another person has done so.The majority of the population is merely imitators. They blindly follow what issupposed to be influential and impressive. If those who are influential arecorrupt, who are after short term gains and depend on the material world, thismass population will do the same. However, if the influential person followsthe path of right conduct and right character, the mass will emulate thoseideas and put them into practice. The most convincing example of this nature isthe advent of Buddha, who has influenced so many people to follow histeachings.For that reason, society will have, born into it, a person with uncommon wisdomand experience of something beyond and s/he is impressive and preaches inaccordance with social culture of the time. S/he can take with her/him a largemass population in the right direction not only during his/her existence buteven beyond death. These are the great saints and prophets who are alsooriginal thinkers and have a timeless vision and message for mankind. Theycreate such an impression that people follow their teachings and theirteachings become God’s message. The society which is slipping into short timebenefits and long term misery will be given a big shake up and will follow anew vibrant direction. It is necessary to have such great people with visiontime and again. Let us now put these ideas analyzed thus far together. Human beings have thefreedom to do anything they want, but this freedom is dangerous in itselfbecause it can give one the license to excess in one way or another; namelygood or bad. One is after happiness and this cannot be denied as it is his/hervery nature. One also has an inherent desire to find this happiness by whatevermeans available. The nature of human growth and development has essentiallybeen in the form of imitation of impressive people. If one follows short termgoals, s/he can injure themselves and it can bring about a demonic aspect ofthem to surface. Fortunately, society has several people of wisdom- call themsaints, prophets, or wise persons- who will give them direction for live insuch a way that the divinity present in them comes to manifest within andwithout. Thus, an individual is saved, and thereby, society will be saved, fromdegeneration. This concept does not have the boundaries of religion. This concept does notwork within the boundaries of one particular person. This cannot reach all ofmankind through only one book. I have not asked for belief in this because it is Hindu, or not Hindu. With mybelief in Dharma and Yoga, a few mistakenly identify me as a Hindu fanatic,regardless of the logic or rationale of the statement. But this concept isneither Hindu nor Christian nor Jewish nor Islamic. This concept is beyond allof those boundaries. This is what is called as Dharma and this is the one whichcan replace the narrow concept of religion to allow people to be spiritual.

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