BANGALORE: Dharma is the foundation of the Vedas, which can be seen from the fact that the Vedic tradition is known as ‘Sanatana Dharma’, meaning it is eternal.
Lay people generally consider any good act as Dharma. For example, charity is considered as Dharma, but according to the Vedas, charity is only a drop in the ocean of Dharma. Any act is considered Dharma only if it is done without expectation of reward or merit.
Dharma means that which links man with God. The Indian name for religion is Dharma. It is that which upholds the creation together, which sustains all the creation and which helps to keep the harmony in creation. It lays the codes of discipline, temporal as well as spiritual for man to conduct himself during his life’s journey so as to live in tune with and blend himself into the divine harmony of the Cosmos.
There is no word in English or any other language that may be equivalent to or in near term carry the same meaning as Dharma in Sanskrit or in other Indian languages. Vedic Dharma is much more than just a system of faith and worship. It is a philosophy of ‘Live and Let Live’. It encourages the freedom of thinking resulting into different interpretations of the same principle.
It is because of great preceptors that Vedic Dharma continues to prevail in the lives of people and thereby they are able to tread the arduous path to salvation through enlightenment. The way of life prescribed by the Vedas had gradually lost its charm and hold on the people. Under the influence of other faiths championed the non-Vedic path, people were persuaded to believe that the Vedic tenets were wrong teachings and had to be abandoned.
Adi Shankara is believed to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva whom the celestials approached with a fervent plea to save Vedic Dharma from sinking into oblivion and restore its rightful place in the lives of people. All incarnations of the Supreme Being have been for the purpose of establishing ‘Dharma’ and vanquishing ‘Adharma’. His role was to fight the subtle evil of Adharma that held sway in the mental outlook of the people.
Vedic Dharma is the basis of the whole universe. As the Vedas are revelatory and eternal, they are the ultimate scriptural authority. The Vedas state that Dharma is eternal and therefore existed before creation, and all the insentient and the sentient beings owe their existence to Dharma. There is an oft-quoted dictum which declares that Dharma is the root of the Vedas.
Just as a tree must have strong roots if it has to withstand a cyclone, so also must Dharma be upheld for the harmonious functioning of the entire universe. The analogy of the tree can be extended further. If Dharma is the tap root, the Vedas are the trunk of the tree, and the Puranas and the Epics are the branches. Unless the root is healthy and strong the tree cannot survive and hence it is only by protecting Dharma that the entire universe can be sustained.
The science of Dharma and knowledge comes from God. And that God resides in our very own heart. We may not listen to God within because our desires may be too strong, but God does catch up with us as there is no escape. For instance, if we are diabetic and our desire for sweets causes us to overeat, we compromise our health. Since we know that the body must adhere to the laws of nature it becomes Adharma for us to overlook such guidelines.
Dharma is a vast topic but at the same time, it is simple. It becomes complicated only when we compromise because of our desires. We need to rise above our personal considerations and learn to look at life in totality. A wise, balanced person naturally and spontaneously does what is right in any situation. He acts without regard for personal likes and dislikes, gain or loss.
Thus, it is said that Vyasa, who codified the Vedas, composed the Mahabharata with the intention of expounding the teachings of the Vedas and hence this Epic is hailed as the fifth Veda. It can be stated with certainty that the Mahabharata does not digress from enunciating Dharma at any place. Every episode and character teaches some facet of Dharma.
The Epic is not meant for narration to dramatise the story. The storyline is the thread which connects the delineation of Dharma and vests it with a mythological feel so that the young will be attracted to the innumerable tales while the mature reader should look for the nuances of Dharma that permeate the stories.