Let there be no neglect of Truth. Let there be no neglect of dharma. Let there be no neglect of welfare. Let there be no neglect of prosperity. Let there be no neglect of study and teaching. Let there be no neglect of the duties to the Gods and the ancestors.
Krishna Yajur Veda, Taittiriya Upanishad, 1.11.1. BO UPR, P. 537
What Is Dharma?
One of the great joys of Hinduism is dharma. What is dharma? Dharma is to the individual what its normal development is to a seed — the orderly fulfillment of an inherent nature and destiny. Dharma means merit, morality, good conduct, religious duty and the way of life of the wise person. When people fulfill their dharma, they fulfill the very purpose of their life; and when they act against their dharma, they create new karmas. Just as we are born in a physical body with a certain outward appearance, our dharma is a certain accumulated pattern. We are expected to live through this dharma during a lifetime, understanding that all persons can be in their rightful place, doing their rightful dharma at the right time. The Hindu has this understanding. It’s inbred. It offers a certain contentment in knowing that there is a rightful place for each soul in this vast universe.
Dharma is determined by the accumulated patterns of karma, the samskaric reactions to the experiences of karma throughout all the past lives, the sum of impressions that make up the seeds yet to be sprouted, which must be worked out through prayer, meditation, sadhana or tapas if they are not beneficial, but allowed to sprout if they are beneficial. These seeds, all collected together, make up the dharma of each individual. There are some who do not yet have a precise dharma. They have not collected up into themselves enough merit or demerit. Their options are great. They are still making — through their actions — impressions within their own minds in order to gather them together, to firm up their own mind to form a dharma, to fall into a certain kind of pattern.
Dharma is the heritage of all Hindus. It is working for the divine beings in the Second World and the Gods within the Third World. Hindu Dharma is working for the Gods, as opposed to working and living for our own personal wants and needs. Performing one’s dharma properly is working in harmony with the divine plan of the universe, as laid out by the Gods.Working for the Gods, being their employee, their servant or their slave, and not working for one’s personal self, must be the prime occupation in life, whether the Hindu is a farmer, merchant, soldier or a king, a peasant, a sadhu or a rishi. All work done in the right consciousness, performing the right dharma, is in service of the Gods and is work of the Gods by the servants of the Gods. Working for one’s religion, for the Deities and the devas, should be our occupation twenty-four hours a day, every day, during our waking hours on the physical plane and on the inner astral plane and higher mental planes at night. We should continue this work with an unbroken continuity.
To better understand the vast concept of dharma, look upon it as the natural process by which the inherent perfection of the soul is unfolded and realized. An acorn’s natural pattern is to grow into a mighty oak, but the pattern for a rose is different. An acorn will never try to become a rose bush. Our good friend, Sita Ram Goel, once said, “Now I was made to see dharma as a multidimensional movement of man’s inner law of being, his psychic evolution, his spiritual growth and his spontaneous building of an outer life for himself and the community in which he lives.” In contrast, by performing an incorrect or adharmic pattern in life, the soul reaps more karma and is retarded for perhaps an entire lifetime. We call it righteousness and goodness and virtue when the dharma of a particular lifetime is performed correctly.
Unfolding a Clear Pattern
The dharma of a person’s life is set prior to birth according to the accumulated impressions of all previous lives. It is set as the most perfect path toward spiritual perfection in this life. A life spent in creating a new karma through not fulfilling the ordained pattern of dharma temporarily retards the soul’s evolution. This retardation may not appear until future births, seemingly bypassed but not actually bypassed.
To avoid the potential catastrophes of karma, each Hindu must perform his dharma, live according to the natural Godward path. By following this important pattern of spiritual unfoldment, the devotee benefits and, in turn, benefits all others and, most importantly, serves the Gods and earns good merit, earns their grace and then deserves their boons. When spiritually awakened, the Hindu offers his every thought, word and deed in a consciousness of the Divine. All work is done for that high purpose.
To know one’s dharma is a clear path. To be uncertain is a path of confusion. There is one God who knows the patterns of all humankind, whose superconscious mind is so intricate, encompassing and spanning the yugas of time, that each path for each individual is known, memorized and recorded indelibly in the inner ether of the akashic matter of His mind. Through the worship of this God, Lord Ganesha, the venerable pope of the Hindu religion, the individual’s dharmic pattern in this life is unfolded from within. It becomes clear. It becomes known. It is difficult for the modern, twenty-first-century Hindu to consciously know the correct dharma, but this can be made known to him through the worship of Lord Ganesha.
If someone is not fortunate enough to have been born into a family that perpetuates the Sanatana Dharma, then he must perform sadhana and offer repeated prayers to this first God, Lord Ganesha, whom all Hindus invoke before the other Gods and before any task is undertaken, this God whose knowledge remains supreme, penetrating most deeply through every avenue of the devotee’s mind. Once the dharma is clear, is known, it must be faithfully performed throughout the life most willingly, thus destroying the seeds of karma through living out the pattern without creating a new karma, through performing good service, accruing good merit in fulfillment of the totalities of all of our multiple life patterns. This then makes the next life and the one after that joyous, brings good births well earned and well lived, through the graces of Maha Ganapati, Lord Ganesha, who sits upon the four-petaled lotus muladhara chakra within the spine of every person.
As the divine being rises within and consciousness expands, a kundalini coil is released and a certain power awakens from deep within. At the same time, conscience awakens, and the mind emerges into the muladhara chakra, there to meet Maha Ganapati, Lord Ganesha, through whose eyes and mind the devotee enters into the joys and happinesses within the Hindu religion, the birthright of all humans. This is how the Sanatana Dharma perpetuates itself and progresses from generation to generation, from age to age. Of course, once well settled into dharma, through Lord Ganesha, we will meet the other Gods. They will help maintain and fulfill our life in all avenues of culture and appreciation of that culture. It is only when each individual finds his own particular pattern in life, and clings to this pattern, that good future births are assured.
Help From The Gods
What is a bad birth, one might wonder. It is being born into an area of the mind below the muladhara chakra where the instinctive nature reigns supreme, where the intellectual nature runs amuck by pursuing dead-end sequences of thought and desire. This is considered a bad birth. It is where no consciousness of God or of the Gods exists, where there is no known pattern for life, no dharma, and where little or no knowledge of the laws of karma and reincarnation survive. This is a bad birth when within the chakras of our being, the centers of nerve force, thought and emotion, values of external existence remain supreme, and the many, many pitfalls of suffering, anguish, confusion, tears and sorrow all exist. These areas of consciousness in the lower chakras below the muladhara can reap birth after birth and are considered by the Hindu as births to be avoided. They are avoided through finding and then following unrelentingly one’s dharma life after life.
The Hindu dharma is the clear pattern within the mind, earning the right to see the cumulative patterns of the karmas and the impressions of all past existences molded into a one pattern to be lived out in this life to the benefit of all patterns. Such a life is the fulfillment of all previous efforts and thus erases the uncomplimentary deeds and adds beneficial ones, so a next birth can be most rewardingly great and useful to the whole of mankind. This is the evolution of the soul, and the duty of the great God Ganesha and of the Mahadevas who protect the soul, of the devas who guard and guide the soul and of the rishis and seers, saints and satgurus who are the guardians of mankind in this First World existence.
They assure that, little by little, this pattern unfolds through the performance of good dharma, through earning good karma. It does not take a deep understanding or a tremendous intellect to find one’s perfect pattern among the many patterns of life. For Hindu souls, it does require being born into or gaining formal entrance into the Hindu religion, being properly introduced to the Gods and bearing the name of one of the Gods as one’s own legal name. Then authority is given to make clear the pattern for this life, to receive the blessings and the protection of the benevolent God Ganesha, protector of human evolution. This is one of the most basic benefits for all Hindus, for then we can serve the Gods well and work through our karma toward a greater dharma through working for the Gods.
We have one duty to perform, which is to pass our religion on to the next generation, the next and the next. And how do we do this? How is this done? It is done by causing the children to memorize the precepts of our scriptures. Our Saivite scriptures are the heritage of the children. They own those scriptures. It is our duty to give them the scriptures. Among others, we now have the Tirukural in the English language, entitled Weaver’s Wisdom. It must be memorized by them, by each and every one of them, along with the hundreds of Vedic verses in Hinduism’s Contemporary Catechism, Dancing with Siva. The teachings of our other scriptures should be familiar as well. That establishes them in their dharma. The sooner we get our scriptures into the minds of the children, the better we build the children into fine citizens. Crime is very expensive for any nation. Crime is very expensive for any family, for they suffer and the individual suffers. Nothing is gained by crime. Good citizenship comes from a good religious education. A good religious education starts with memory, and it is fulfilled in the realms of reason when the child is older and able to discuss his religion with his elders. We must educate the youth. We must educate them well in the Saivite Hindu religion. Start with the Tirukural. Lord Murugan will help you. God Ganesha will open doors and give you wisdom of how to proceed. Lord Murugan will give you the willpower — He is the God of Will — to perform this one supreme duty, and duty is also dharma, to pass our Saivite religion on to the next generation, the next and the next.
Forces of Adharma
We all have our dharma to perform, each and every one of us. The child has his dharma to perform as a child. Unless the child has early training in his religious life, his religious patterns are not set firmly. It has to be taught to respect the dharmic mother and father as the first gurus. Parents teach mainly by example, and sadly some only teach what not to do rather than being religious models for their young. They don’t understand that example is the most powerful and lasting lesson a parent can give to a child. Later the schoolteacher is the guru, and still later the satguru is the guru in the strict sense. The satguru more than often has to undo the erroneous, often angry and violent, examples given by parents and schoolteachers to the young ones, who thus learn of hurtfulness and anti-religiousness and immoral practices. It is up to the satguru to help heal the minds of the young of the fear and suppressed anger they naturally hold against parents who have inflicted emotional and bodily injury on them until they were physically big enough to resist.
There are a lot of influences in the world which deny dharma, which deny the Gods and which ignore the temples. You must never allow these worldly forces to affect you or your family, now or in the future. Don’t let anyone take your religion away from you. We have to keep developing religion in our mind. We have to keep learning the language of our soul, which is one definition of religion. When religion leaves our mind, something comes in to replace it. What comes into our mind to replace the vacuum when religion goes? Greed, jealousy, hatred, anger, past regrets, despair, self-condemnation. We cease to feel good about ourselves. We are always discontented and restless, and we are always unhappy, jealous, angry and fretful. These are some of the lower emotions that replace religion when we allow religion to leave our mind.
There are many people in the world today intent on taking your religion away from you. Saivites have the greatest and philosophically most comprehensive and deeply experiential religion in the world. Saivites have moved their religion forward for five to ten thousand years. At no time in history has the Saivite religion not been on this planet. The Tamil people especially have moved the Saivite religion forward, year after year after year, through bhakti. And it is your religion. It is in your DNA, and no one can take that religion away from you. But you must steel your mind, make your mind strong through knowledge, through religious education.
Charting A Course
When we set our dharma through the personal course of selecting a profession, we have to be very sure what we want to do through life; and it has to be in accordance with either stri dharma or purusha dharma to the best of our knowledge, and all of our family and relatives have to agree. For when we follow dharma, we are content; everyone in the community is happy.
Now, in this technological era, we have many choices of dharma. What would be some of them? To become a doctor would be a dharma, which is helping people, healing people mentally, emotionally and physically. To perform the dharma of a doctor, not just eight hours a day, but twenty-four hours a day, we have to be healing. Then the great healing forces from the great Gods of our religion come pouring through us, whether we are a medical doctor, an ayurveda healer, a nutritionist, a surgeon, a psychiatrist, a neurologist, or whatever we choose in that field as our dharma. This becomes our total pattern to be lived out in this birth.
What upsets dharma and makes karma? When we make karma, we either make negative burdens for ourselves, or we make helpful and useful karmas that bring us merit. For a youth to choose to be a doctor and then, in the middle of his career, decide he doesn’t want to do that anymore, and make another choice in the middle of his life that he is going to now be a businessman and run a drugstore because it is more profitable to go into business — that would be abandoning dharma and making karma, karma which would have to be lived through, perhaps in another life. When that doctor made his decision to become a storekeeper, he started a new dharma, or a new karma, for which he was not trained from youth. He is, therefore, vulnerable to making many mistakes, because he has wandered off the pathway of dharma.
Why is the world in such a mess? Because people are not following dharma. They are adharmic. They are not following the path of dharma. They are following the path of karma, both bad karma and good karma. So, in our religion, the Saivite Hindu religion, we are bound to follow the path of dharma the best that we can understand it. We know it is unwise to do otherwise. And who teaches the wisdom of following the path of dharma? The grandfather, the grandmother, the father, the great uncle, the elders of the community, the family guru, the temple priest — they know how the dharma should be followed for a healthy, thriving society. When we make our choices in life, those choices should have the support of the family and the community. Then we are in the path of proper dharma, and it is easier for us to become successful in it since everyone is behind it. It is a difficult world in which we live, but we can go through it without being harmed by it by following the path of svadharma, the perfect personal pattern of an individual’s life.
Dharma is something that only the Hindu religion, the Buddhist religion, the Jain religion, the Sikh religion and other Eastern religions know about. They know about the path of dharma. The other religions don’t know too much about that path. But we know about the path of dharma — our duty to be fulfilled in this life, for family, friends, relatives, deceased relatives, community, guru and temple. We have, each and every one of us, a duty to this temple we are sitting in this morning, to see that it is cared for, supported and kept clean. That is one of the duties of our dharma. We have a duty to the community. We have a duty to our mother, duty to our father, duty to our guru, a duty to the world also. And good, religious people make good citizens of the world.
We hear a lot about human rights these days. It was in Sri Lanka in 1949 that I encountered the Eastern vision of human rights, learned that duty is greater than privilege, service is superior to security. Hindu Dharma is religion, duty and justice woven together, I discovered. I sometimes explain it as a simple box of controls which holds the actions of this life and those that preceded it and their corresponding reactions. Just what is the Hindu view on human rights? It is the right of all humans to be free enough to experience their experiences and learn from their ability to overcome, without holding resentments or indulging in anger, giving out harsh words, their misdeeds, sins and other wrongdoings and reactions to their former actions. From a mystical point of view, what happens to us is important, but not as important as how we react and respond to things, good or otherwise, that happen to us. The human rights of Gandhi, Sri Aurobindo, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela were terribly abused, yet they were not destroyed. Let us work for the most humane of human rights, but also teach that their absence in life need not destroy us. Greatness is in accepting whatever comes with open arms. All this abuse — which does exist despite the wishes of so many that it did not — can be a blessing when embraced by a pure soul. And we each have within us the power to accept, a power no one can deprive us of under any conditions.
The Caste System
I am often asked about varna dharma — the social structure of four classes and hundreds of subgroups — commonly known as the caste system, established in India in ancient times. Is the caste system still valid today? Caste — or at least discrimination on the basis of caste — has been thrown out of the culture of India, but people still hang on to it as an ego structure. The high caste people love to hurt the low caste people, so to speak, by ignoring them, treating them roughly. That’s not the way it should be. In many areas of the world the caste system is distorted, and also very strong. If you find the high caste people in your society ignoring and not wanting to speak with and associate with the lower castes, those are nasty people, and those are people you should avoid. Spiritual people, even ordinary kindly people, would never think of behaving that way.
The original caste system was based on behavior, as it is now in countries where there is no overt caste system in effect. Those who beat their children, those who become angry and jealous, those who live in fear and those who feign humility are all of the lowest caste. Those who value memory and reason and use their willpower to benefit others — who control themselves and run an orderly home, support the temples and are respected by the lowest castes — are of the business caste. Those who protect the dharma and preserve the scriptures — who protect the temples and all the people, those who are respected by the other castes — are of the princely caste. Those who commune with the Gods and are priests in the temples — who are the disseminators of the highest knowledge and respected by all the other castes — are the priestly caste. These four groups make up a complete society anywhere in the world and at anytime in history.
The original caste system had these four divisions. The divisions were all based on the ability of the individual to manage his body, his mind and his emotions properly. If he stopped fulfilling the dharma of his caste, society would recognize that he had moved from one caste and was now in another. The original caste system was based on self-discipline through education and through personal sadhana. The original caste system was based on the unfoldment of the consciousness within each individual through the fourteen chakras.
People everywhere naturally divide themselves up into castes. We have the workers. You go to work, you work under somebody else — that happens all over the world — that’s the shudra caste. We have the merchants, who are self-motivated. That’s the vaishya caste. We have the politicians and the lawmakers and the law-enforcement people. That’s the kshatriya caste. And then you have the priests, the ministers, the missionaries. That’s the brahmin caste. Every society has these four castes working within it in one way or another. In today’s world, if one is not fulfilling the dharma of his born caste, then he changes castes. For instance, if a brahmin husband and wife are working eight to fifteen hours a day in a hospital under others, they are no longer of the brahmin caste, because they are not performing the duties of the dharma of that caste. They are workers, in the shudra caste.
We can see around us the deterioration of the system which has been abused beyond the point of recognition. Members of the brahmin caste are now beating their children, abusing their wives. Members of the kshatriya caste disrespect the laws of the land. Members of the business caste are deceptive and dishonest. All are confused, living in anger and in jealousy. No wonder their families break apart and their businesses fail. In the eyes of the Gods, most of those who adhere to the caste system that exists today are low caste. This is because they live in lower consciousness. They look at the world through the windows of the chakras below the muladhara. These undeveloped humans are struggling through the lower chakras, trying to get out of the dark worlds of the mind. Let us not be deluded about what the sapta rishis had in mind when they casted humans according to the soul’s unfoldment in one or more of the fourteen chakras. We should totally ignore the Hindu caste system as lived in India today and, through example, show a better and more wholesome path for modern society.
What happens if we follow dharma? The Gods, like our Supreme God Siva, Lord Murugan, Lord Ganesha and all the great Gods, reward us by giving us a good birth in the next life. A good birth is to be born into a family that follows dharma, that is loving and secure. We are also rewarded by being able to stay in the blissful Devaloka for a long time between births. We remain in that heaven world, in our etheric body, to enjoy, learn and gain knowledge and gain advancement for our soul as we prepare for the next birth on Earth.
So, there are great rewards for following the path of dharma, and there is equally great suffering for us if we follow the adharmic path, the path of adharma which creates kukarma. When we abandon dharma, we open ourselves to confusion, to self-condemnation. We are open to low-minded feelings, to jealousies and antagonisms and uncontrollable emotions. Dharma helps us to control our emotions, and our mind also. Do you want to live in these lower emotions, out of insecurity, to arouse hatred, jealousy, greed and all the negative states of mind? Of course not. By following the ancient path of dharma, we avoid all this suffering and mental pain and bring ourselves into positive, creative and productive states of consciousness, bringing us ever closer and closer to the holy feet of God Siva.
We are in a technological age now. This technological age is fast moving. There are many temptations. There is television. There is the Internet, and soon things beyond Internet. There are things to see that children should not perhaps see at a young age. We must get hold of their minds early, at five years old, at six years old, at seven years old and cause them to memorize, even if they do not understand, the couplets of the Tirukural and the shlokas and Vedic verses of Dancing with Siva. Later on, they will be grateful to you as parents and as elders. Still later on, these children will bless you, and the blessings of the children will be very comforting in your old age.
We must teach our children that the soul is immortal, created by Lord Siva and destined to merge into Him in its absolute fulfillment. We must teach them about this world we live in and how to make their religion strong and vibrant in a technological age every day and tomorrow in their life. This is especially important for those Saivite families who live beyond the borders of India and Sri Lanka. Those of you assembled here this morning are heirs to a rich and stable religious culture. If you stay with your religion, the future of your children is less uncertain. They will go to universities in other parts of the world. They will be exposed to the influence of other religions. They must be so sure of their religion, so knowledgeable in its tenets, that they can explain it intelligently to anyone and allow them to accept or reject the tenets of the Saivite Hindu religion. Send them as missionaries out into the world, fully informed about Saivism, our great God Siva, Lord Murugan and Lord Ganesha, and you will be doing a great benefit for the entire world.
All Saivites throughout the world, the united Saivites of the world, are linked together in a bond of love — Sivasambandham. God Siva is immanent love and transcendent reality. Our religion tells us that the mature soul must lift up and take care of the young soul. Our religion tells us that we must go through the natural experiences of life and be responsible for our actions. Our religion tells us that there is no mortal sin, only experience. Our religion tells us that if we have bad experiences, they are the result of previous actions we have caused. Our religion tells us that if we cause an action toward another that hurts another, we can atone by doing penance and cure the agonizing mind. Our religion tells us that we come back into physical bodies again and again until we are the master of our mind, body and emotions and realize that we are a brilliant soul filled with light. Our religion tells us that because we love God Siva, we love one another, for God Siva loves all of us. Our religion tells us that God Siva is like a father and a mother, not a vengeful God, but a God of love who helps us. Always come closer to Him. Right now among the young Hindus in Malaysia, India and Sri Lanka there is a big spiritual revival of the great love of God Siva. They know that they need their religion to help them on through life.