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Respected Guruji , Sat-Sat Pranam and  Namaskar

 

We feel glad ,proud and previliged to have blessing on us and to have a place in your feet .

With Warm regards

Sukhvir Sangwan and Rakesh Kumar from India


By Dr.Satish Prakash


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Aryasamajtoday is under the spiritual leadership of Satish Prakash, PhD., Vyakaranacharya. He is the Founder and Executive Director of Maharishi Dayananda Gurukula, NA, Inc. He can be reached at satishprakash@yahoo.com
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Sanatana Dharma is more misunderstood than otherwise. It means an eternal system which owed its durability to its rationalism and not, as is often supposed, to any divine origin. It defined four major goals of life to be accomplished by means of eight secondary observances. The major objectives are evolutionary ethics, creativity and harmony with instincts and finally liberation from the human constraints. In Samskrit these were called Dharma, Artha, Kaama and Moksha.

Ethics is the most fundamental part of Sanatana Dharma and is given the place of pride in all its schemes. It is discussed in detail in the Mahabharata. The Gita discusses it in a diffused manner. It looks on ethics as a divine manifestation and describes it as the basis of a creative society. In essence Dharma is to be looked upon as the basis of interpersonal relationship in the social context. When such relations get degraded social disintegration starts.

Dharma was broadly interpreted as the underlying ethics for a stable social order. It could be derived using four sources as authority. First is the authority of the Vedas. The Arya Samaj followed this source and had given primacy to the Vedas. The second authority was a Smriti like Manu Smriti that provided detailed instructions to govern life.  The third source is the authority of individual teachers. The Gita accepts this authority saying: “Whatever a great man does others follow him. The example set by his conduct is acceptable to the world at large.”(III, 21) It is this provision that gave Hinduism its catholicity and enabled it to accommodate and absorb the teachings of a variety of individuals ranging from Buddha, Ramanuja, Gnaneshwar, Basaveshwara, Guru Nanak, and in our century, Narayan guru and Gandhiji. The last source of authority for ethics is one’s own self. One’s own concepts of good and bad, right and wrong could be followed. Of course one has to be a highly balanced or evolved personality to follow this choice.

It is clearly not right to identify Sanatana Dharma with Manu Smriti alone. What follows is a rationalist’s look at Sanatana Dharma. The secondary practices are the rules of the Varnashrama: The word varna, often translated as color and identified with caste, is to be derived from the Samskrit root Vr, meaning “to choose”. In this context it refers to the chosen profession with no hint of inheritance. Ashrama refers to the different evolutionary stages in life starting with the studies (Brahmacharya) and going through family management (Grhasta), retirement from worldly responsibilities (Vanaprasta) and finally transcending the limitations of human existence (Samnyasa).

The detailed codification is not as important as the broad framework. The codes are essentially in the context of the social norms prevalent at different periods. They may be irrelevant in other contexts and even dangerous. They could be changed or dropped as the social context demands. In earlier periods the rituals prescribed in the Vedas were found impractical and abandoned. Such changes do not detract from the validity of the essential postulate of Sanatana Dharma that an evolving society should be able to regenerate itself without disruption. Thus Dharma has to be looked upon as EVOLUTIONARY ETHICS.
Creative materialism is described as artha (or wealth in a limited sense) in Samskrit, and is the mechanism for social evolution. Materialism is different from hedonism. The former relates to generation of wealth. The latter the means of squandering it over trifles without discipline. Hedonism is mindless pursuit of pleasure.

Social regeneration requires development of new techniques and ideas that are collectively covered by artha.  The Gita defines knowledge as the purest of human endeavors: “There is nothing purer than knowledge in this world” (IV,38). Describing his manifestations, Krishna proffers the best in every species as the blessed ones and as a divine manifestation. Thus among Adityas he is Vishnu and amongst the celestial objects he is Ravi or the Sun. In the feline species he is the lord of the jungle, the Lion. In the human context God is Rama, the best among the warriors and Dhananjaya or Arjuna of the Pandavas. The best everywhere is divine is the final assertion of Krishna  (Chapter X). It becomes incumbent on societies to strive for the best. Individual excellence is the prescribed social goal, called artha in Samskrit. It is in fact glorified. EXCELLENCE IS DIVINE, the Gita says (Chapter X).

Kaama, is often narrowly interpreted as the sex instinct. As a goal of life, it is to be looked upon as conformity to the instincts and acceptance of their place as integral to life. The Gita sanctifies instincts when Krishna says “In living Beings I am Kama that is not in conflict with Dharma” (VII,11). There is nothing despicable about instinctive impulses as long as they are in conformity with Dharma and are not socially disruptive. The instincts are conceded to be pervasive and forceful elements in one’s mental make up. “The turbulence of the senses could forcefully lead astray even a wise man striving for perfection.” (II, 60). To achieve a creative life one has to wean oneself from the ubiquitous and overwhelming influence of the instincts. One prescription is to accept them gracefully as part of life’s package and to transcend them in a slow evolutionary process.

Moksha or liberation should be considered as the final freedom from the constraints of human limitations. It is an evolutionary state where one transcends the various constraints arising from instincts and experiences, summed up in psychology as ‘complexes’, such as ‘inferiority complex’. Moksha is the final result of understanding the motivating forces in life and transcending their destructive or disruptive potential. It is a slow process that derives benefit from experiences in real life. In a sense Mahabharata sums up the entire process of life and its variety. Moksha is reached when one has gone through one’s own Mahabharata type of experiences, internalized and understood them. It is irrelevant whether Moksha has other worldly connotations or not. I prefer to treat it as concurrent with life.

If creativity is the aim, specialization is the method, which is what varna stands for. The basis is the assumption that we all have some natural endowments, each individually distinct. Exploiting these to the advantage of the society is the aim of the Varna prescription. Gita calls the natural gift as swadharma or one’s innate potential and prescribes conformity to it. “Preferable is one’s own swadharma, deficient though it may be, to a dharma alien to one’s nature. One incurs no sin by conforming to one’s swadharma.”(XVIII, 47).

The ashramas are the evolutionary stages of life. From infancy one passes to the study of the 3 R’s and to the acquisition and mastery of the accumulated knowledge of the ages. In this stage, the Brahmacharya, obedience is required as a primary quality. The process of learning is like the feeding of a baby. In both cases a certain degree of unquestioning swallowing what is given is basic. In this stage as a student, the young preteen lives with the teacher, accepting the teacher as a surrogate parent.

It is in the next stage of life, Grhasta, as a householder, that the student applies the acquired wisdom. He faces the responsibilities of life and develops a wholesome outlook related to realities as compared with book learning. As his understanding develops a life of semi-detachment becomes the next goal culminating in an outlook beyond immediate needs.

 In the third stage, known as Vaanaprasta, he is in the family or the world and yet half way out of it. He has transferred the day to day responsibilities to the children so that they could live their own lives without interference. He is part of the family to impart the essence of his experiences to the next generation.  In the earlier active stage the immediate problems keep him busy and engaged. Freed from immediate pressures one could develop a dispassionate approach and impart the wisdom of such experience to succeeding generations. The later generations could derive benefit from the experiences of the earlier one avoiding the mistakes and constructively building on the foundations of such experiences. Continuity is the essence of the prescription.

The last evolutionary stage is Samnyasa. This is not a stage of becoming but one of Being wherein the world ceases to have the relevance it had in the earlier stages of life. The essence of Being is that it is not a decision or a matter of will. A Samnayasi is beyond the restraints of life. A verse in Shri Rudram prayer was often quoted by the late Shankaracharya of Kanchi to illustrate Samnyasa “We offer worship to the three eyed God who is pleasantly scented and is ever supportive. May we be released from the worldly bondage like the fruit of a cucumber plant.” The specialty of the cucumber fruit is that it lies on the ground and gets detached from the creeper on its own after reaching maturity. In contrast a mango fruit comes down under the influence of gravity. In a similar manner there should be no push or pull into Samnyasa. This in short is essence of Being or Samnyasa.

Dr. S.K. Balasubramanian completed his Ph.D. from IIS Bangalore. He went to business in Pune manufacturing fine chemicals. You can contact him at smanian@sancharnet.in.


 
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