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On Dharma - discourse-reviews

nabadip - Sat, 30 Apr 2005 18:54:06 +0530
Values of human life

CHENNAI, MARCH 22 . The name "Bharata" for the landmass south of the Himalayas to Rameswaram connotes its spiritual sanctity. The Bhagavad Gita figuratively interprets Bharata as the land hallowed by Self-realised souls. When Uddhava asked Krishna before He departed from the Earth what he should do for the good of the world, the Lord told him that man's greatest duty was to impart spiritual knowledge to others. The Ramayana also highlights the spiritual merit of the rivers, mountains and holy abodes of this land and notes that this is "Karmabhumi" because the Lord Himself (Rama) performed the daily obligatory duties as prescribed in the Vedas.

In his lecture, Sri N.Veezhinathan said Dharma (righteousness) was the foundation of life and rulers in the past mentioned in the epics and the Puranas upheld Dharma at all costs. The Mahabharata highlights the truth that those who adhere to Dharma will eventually succeed. In the Ramayana, Mandodari while lamenting over her husband Ravana's death pointed out that Rama who crossed the ocean to Lanka with the army of monkeys was no ordinary human being and so Ravana did not stand a chance. Besides it was Sita's tears, which were the real cause as She was the very personification of chastity and thus Ravana brought about his end by abducting Her.

Likewise, the anguish of another virtuous woman caused the destruction of the Kauravas. When Krishna's mission to avert a fratricidal war between the cousins failed it was Draupadi who reminded Him about avenging her humiliation in the assembly of elders shedding copious tears. It was then that the Lord promised her that He would not rest till those who perpetrated the heinous wrong were punished. The other virtues that are intrinsic to a life dedicated to Dharma are loyalty, simplicity, detachment and contentment.

There is a maxim, which says that there is antidote for even the worst sins that man can commit but not for unfaithfulness. Simple life is necessary for the pursuit of higher values of life. If a person is given to furthering his material comforts there will be no end to it and he will stray from the spiritual path. So detachment towards sensory attractions is imperative for achieving liberation from rebirths. Nachiketa who refused to be allured by all the riches of the Earth and the heaven offered by Yama and persisted in learning the truth, which is eternal, is the ideal every human being should aspire for.
nabadip - Sat, 30 Apr 2005 19:18:51 +0530
Gayathri mantra, the essence of Vedas

CHENNAI, MARCH 16. Our hoary tradition springs from the Vedas, mankind's most precious gift. The wherewithal for moral and spiritual code is to be found within these revelations. They are enduring commands for mankind, to shape and mould one's spiritual and moral character. Handed down in the traditional scholar teacher-disciple format to successive generations over millennia, they delineate a way of life best suited for man's uplift and true solace. As such they need to be preserved.

The watering down of time-honed rituals or absolute spurning of the same are subjects of deep debate among spiritualists. Citing the fluidity of Hinduism, which lends itself to change some may feel that skipping the mandatory daily rituals need not cause concern. A few others, unaware of the enshrined spiritual truths may want tangible proof of the benefits accruing from embracing such practices.

In his discourse, Sri K. Narasimhan said tradition needed to be preserved and any changes wrought should fall within the purview of the Vedic recommendations. For instance, saint Madhwacharya pioneered a sattvic tradition when he displaced the tamasic tradition of animal sacrifice by substituting the livestock traditionally used in yagnas with an `animal' made from flour.

Likewise, only three-year-old rice grains were used in the homa, going by the recommendation that old grains when sown will not sprout.

Can something similar be done with regard to daily rituals such as sandhyavandana? Men of wisdom point out that the recitation of the `Gayathri mantra' is the minimum self-exertion required of an aspirant and should never be forsaken by one for any reason whatsoever. It is the essence of the Vedas, encapsulating as it does the primordial `aum'. From a practical view point, the chant lends itself to daily practice, since it takes no more than eight minutes to chant a of these.

Ironically, while not questioning how they indulge their time in vacuous pursuits, some people demand to be shown proof of the merits of undertaking a disciplined approach in their daily lives, which requires minimal effort.

As long as one refrains from selfish needs, the daily rituals are a protective armour against sins.
nabadip - Sat, 30 Apr 2005 22:30:43 +0530
Timeless tenets (on good governance)

CHENNAI: Exploitation in any form is abhorrent, a maxim that holds good in the context of governance. In an ideal state, the ruler does not exploit the ruled but forges a relationship that is founded on mutual trust and benefit. The attributes of an ideal ruler are alluded to in the volley of questions that Rama shoots at Bharata when the latter meets him at Chitrakoota.

Are all the needs of the people adequately budgeted for? Is the traditional Dharma of the Ikshvaku clan being upheld? Has care been taken to ensure that wealth is not acquired at the cost of Dharma? Is wealth distributed in a fair manner to all? Are the poor and needy, children and women, taken care of? Is care taken to uphold equity and justice, and that no man is falsely convicted? Are the secular and religious pursuits well balanced?

Inherent in these questions are tips for good governance, said Sri Krishnamurthy Sastrigal in his lecture. The rules of governance are timeless, and apply beyond rulers even in the Thretha Yuga, to all those who govern nations at any time and to rulers of all ages.

The conversation between the brothers failed to persuade Rama to return from exile. He points out that their father's word has to be kept, and implicitly obeyed by both of them. Even as Rama has to follow the exile order, Bharata has to accept the kingdom. He then pacifies Bharata and others with practical advice and words of wisdom.

It is important that life is lived well and for the sake of others. A life lived selfishly is worthless. Any high status acquired at the expense of the well being of one's kith and kin cannot make one happy. Freedom of action does not belong to the embodied soul, since this soul is powerless. What a human being can achieve is limited. All elevations end in degradation. All unions end in separation. All life ends in death. Just as a ripe fruit has no option but to fall, so too death awaits every one born into this world. All relationships are as temporary as the momentary meeting of the logs drifting in the ocean. No living being in this world can escape its destiny in the shape of life and death. Hence a wise person will not grieve for anything, and will view joy and sorrow with the same detachment.
nabadip - Tue, 03 May 2005 18:53:25 +0530
Eternal relevance

CHENNAI: : It is imperative for one privileged to be born as a human being to lead a fruitful life in the world. Scriptures indicate that liberation from transmigration is the aim of human birth and all other living beings cannot pursue this objective. If an individual does not realise the significance of his birth then he is bound to lose sight of this goal and remain engrossed in his day-to-day problems, which neither enhances the quality of his worldly life nor his spiritual evolution. That man is blessed is evident from his birth.

In his discourse, Sri Vidya Sagar said the Ramayana showed how man should live in the world through the character of Rama. He showed by example how it is possible to lead a righteous and an all-inclusive harmonious life. He befriended the aboriginal people during His sojourn in the forest and the animals, and thus underscored that the welfare of all was the crux of a life wedded to Dharma. Kamban underscores this in his Ramayanam on the lines of Valmiki. It is insightful that even Vali could question Rama on subtle points of Dharma.

The epic continues to be relevant today because of the potency of the name Rama, which is eternal. This name, among the divine names, is glorified as the Taraka Nama capable of liberating man from bondage. That the name Rama signifies the Supreme Being is due to the fact that the two syllables "Ra" and "Ma" comprising it are the important syllables in the Mantras on Narayana (Ashtakshara) and Siva (Panchakshara).

Kamban while describing how Ahalya was brought back to life underscores both the sanctity of the dust from the feet of the Lord and also the power of the divine name. When she was cursed to become a stone, Ahalya's husband, Sage Gautama, assured her that she would regain her human form when the dust from the divine feet of Rama fell on her. And, from that moment the name Rama became embedded in her consciousness. Another context where Kamban highlights the glory of Rama Nama is when His arrow felled the great warrior Ravana. He says that the divine dart ate away Ravana's lifespan of three crore days, his outstanding penance, the boons of invincibility received by him from Lord Brahma and the extraordinary might of his shoulders which had won the entire world for him in earlier wars.

nabadip - Fri, 03 Jun 2005 20:21:28 +0530
The reading of scriptures leads to virtuous life

a person who studies the epic slowly starts emulating the qualities of Rama and adheres to righteousness in his life. This is the intention of the sage because all human beings will not have a natural inclination to uphold Dharma. By reading the epic a person will develop devotion and spontaneously start leading a virtuous life. There is hope even for one who is unable after perusing the Ramayana to tread the path shown by the Lord if he is moved to tears by reading about the sorrows that the Divine couple faced in the world.