Dharma and other principles of life

Why doesn’t philosophy take into account non-western theories of justice?

There are two notions that are intimately involved and interconnected on this topic (justice) as seen from the Eastern perspective: 1) Dharma (Law), and 2) Ishvara or the creating and controlling aspect of God or the absolute reality. I will not cover here Confucianism or the far East – only India.

The notion of DHARMA is paramount in the Eastern philosophical-religious traditions alluded to above and is used in many combinations of words. The main meaning is ‘law’ or ‘order’ as it exists in the universe. Rather than man-made, it is a divine ordinance or, alternately, a cosmological law that maintains all things in equilibrium; as such, it cannot be far distant from the Western idea of justice (‘law and order’ and all its derivations and conditionings). It is a universal law from which nothing can deviate (literally, ‘what holds together’), whether it is in the social, the individual, or the moral realms. 

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Overview of Western Philosophy – Part 10

(Read Part 9 of the series.)

Rousseau and Kant

The reaction to the perceived unreasonableness of the empirical method was most apparent in the philosophy of Rousseau in France, which eventually contributed to the Romantic Movement, with its disdain for reason and advocacy of giving free rein to feelings and instinct. It was also taken up by those who instigated the French Revolution. Rousseau believed that man is inherently good but that the rise of civilisation, begun through the inequalities created in claiming ‘private property’ had corrupted us. Voltaire, on reading of his ideas, sarcastically commented that he was too old to start walking on all fours or searching out the savages in Canada. They also quarrelled over an earthquake in Lisbon. Voltaire saw in it a justification for questioning the beneficence of a God that would allow such a thing. Rousseau thought it served them right for living in seven-story houses rather than out in the countryside where they ought to have been. In any case, he did not think that we could use reason when talking about God; our attitude should be one of awe and reverence.

More dangerously, Rousseau was advocating democracy in his writings and questioning the divine right of kings. He believed that there should be discussion and agreement amongst the people to determine what he called the ‘general will’. This would then be formed into legislation which, once accepted by everyone, would be forcibly imposed. His best known work, ‘Social Contract’, opens with the challenging statement: “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. One man thinks himself the master of others, but remains more of a slave than they are.Continue reading

Tattvabodha – Part 5

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPart 5 of the commentary by Dr. VIshnu Bapat on Shankara’s Tattvabodha.This is a key work which introduces all of the key concepts of Advaita in a systematic manner.

The commentary is based upon those by several other authors, together with the audio lectures of Swami Paramarthananda. It includes word-by-word breakdown of the Sanskrit shloka-s so should be of interest to everyone, from complete beginners to advanced students.

Part 5 continues to look at the six sAdhanA-s (shamAdhi shakti sampatti), and in this part addresses uparama (observance of duty), titikshA (forbearance) and shraddhA (faith). There is also a hyperlinked Contents List, which will be updated as each new part is published.

Astavakra – dharma

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAkartavya-taiva saMsAra na tAM pashyanti sUrayaH |
shUnyA-kArA nirA-kArA nir-vikArA nirA-mayAH || .. XVIII.57 ..

The sense of duty, indeed is the mundane world. This is not acknowledged by the Wise-one, who has realized himself as the All-pervading formless, Immutable, Untainted Self.

Of course I have a sacred duty to look after, protect, serve and help my wife and children, and also my community, that I see around me in my dream!

The dream-I while dreaming believes that the dream-world is real. In this, sense-of-Reality, are born all my duties and responsibilities. When I have awakened to the waker-I, what duties are there towards my dream-family and dream-community? The Wise-one, Liberated-in-life, is the Awakened-one. He has ‘awakened’ to the Infinite Consciousness. He cannot be touched by the laws of duties and responsibilities projected and maintained by the mind-in-disturbance. No sense-of-duty can arise without attachments; attachments cannot be unless we permit a sense-of-reality to the world-of-plurality. To the awakened, the illusory world of objects and beings are no more and therefore, he, living as the ‘All-pervading’, Formless, Immutable and untainted’ Self, has no more any sense-of-duty towards anyone.

Astavakra GitaSwami Chinmayananda, Central Chinmaya Mission Trust
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Action – to-be-done

One cannot, but act. After all, isn’t that regarded as living?

I act, I get into trouble. Verdicts are passed about my actions, that it is right and wrong, whether I ask for it or not. Based on my actions, judgments are made and sentences pronounced that I am a selfish person, etc. That hurts me and makes me feel guilty. Makes me unhappy.

Therefore, can I be without acting? No. Even to maintain the body, one has to act.

Then how to ensure that I always act the rightful way? Bhagavad-gītā, 3.08, Kṛṣṇa says “niyatam kuru karma tvam, karmajyāyo hi akarmaṇah. – do what is to-be-done, for action is better than inaction”.

How do I know what is to-be-done? Śāstra – scriptures are the source – but then reading / understanding / arriving at its purport seems to be a life time endeavor. Can you please give me a simpler thumb rule?

Ok – here you go. I shall give you two.

1  1. Don’t do unto others, what you don’t want done to you, and viceversa.

2. 2.  All actions are related to the role. Always remember that you are playing the role. What is to-be-done will always be evident if you remember you are playing the role. What is to-be-done becomes blurred when we confuse the role with the actor, and the actor’s likes and dislikes start influencing what’s to-be-done by the role that he plays.

Am I different from the role? Well, yes, but that’s another topic. 🙂

Advaita for Mothers (Q. 323)

We are honored to have input from Swamini Atmaprakashananda, a direct disciple of Pujya Swami Dayananda  for this week’s question!

Q: My question is, as a mother is it ever possible to not be very attached to my child, and be a mother only by Dharma and karma, and ease from the clutches of Moha for my child. How do I do that? I would greatly appreciate if anything here can help me because I truly am looking for it, and struggling with the issue for a long time.

A (Sitara): Advaita does not really make a distinction between different kinds of attachment. While it is true that the bond between a mother and her child is especially strong, it still needs to be dealt with like all other kinds of attachment.

 So how to deal with it?

 First of all: Trying to overcome attachment by dealing with it directly will only work to a limited degree. So I recommend to deal with it both ways, as described below. Continue reading