Relevance of Gandhi in Today’s World

AS

Dr. Anju Seth

Looking at the present state of affairs in India, the birthplace of Gandhi, one would probably surmise that Gandhism, whatever the term may mean, cannot have any relevance in this twenty-first century. Gandhi is rightly called the Father of the Nation because he single handedly stood up against the mighty British Empire, without any arms, and brought her independence. However, today, Gandhi is mostly forgotten and his relevance questioned even by his ardent devotees. Today Gandhi is remembered in India mostly on his birthday which is celebrated as a national holiday rather as a ritual.

Gandhiji Line Drawings (1)

(Source of Image : http://devang-home.blogspot.com/2011/08/sketches-of-mahatma-gandhi.html)

As a matter of fact, India is not following any of Gandhi’s teachings which are mostly confined to text books. In fact, since independence, the country has witnessed many violent communal riots in this multi communal country. Gandhi’s message of ‘swābalambī’, self-sufficiency with home spun ‘khādī’ cloth is not used now-a-days even as a social slogan. Statistics shows that the country is definitely not following ‘sarvodaya’, a broad Gandhian term meaning ‘universal upliftment’ or ‘progress of all’ reaching the masses. On the contrary, India today has the unique distinction of being the only country in the world which has the richest man in the world while at the same time more than 30 per cent of its population lives in dire poverty.

The above shows that today, Gandhism is a very confused ‘ism’ in India. Today many politicians in India use the term merely as a slogan and the common man make Gandhi almost out of reach of the younger groups by making Gandhi an unwilling ‘avatāra’. That may be one reason why the only photo we see of Gandhi in India is always that of an old man which brings the image of a very simple and pious man who was meek and mild like Jesus Christ. While Gandhi was not a simple man to say the least, the above does not gives the right image of Gandhi and does not bring any inspiration to the younger group, the group most relevant for Gandhi.

But Mahatma Gandhi, in this twentieth century, produced a very sophisticated approach because he implemented that very noble philosophy of ahimsā in modern politics, and he succeeded. That is a very great thing.”

And that is precisely the greatness of Gandhi and that is the message of Gandhi to the modern world. In the past century many places in the world have been drastically changed through the use of brute force, by the power of guns the Soviet Union, China, Tibet, Burma, many communist countries in Africa and South America. But eventually the power of guns will have to be changed by the will of the ordinary people. If we try to analyze the secrets of Gandhi’s success, we would probably find Faith and Action and Populism, the three most important aspects of his life. Gandhi’s extra ordinary communion with the masses of ordinary people was another of his secrets. In contrast to many of our present day leaders of this highly democratic world, Gandhi was a true leader and friend of the people. Disaku Ikeda, the Japanese Buddhist leader who takes great inspiration from Gandhi has this to say about him. “His activism is not mere action but contains many aspects of a spiritual practice that is inspired by the inner urging of the conscience”.

The phenomenal success Gandhi registered in far-away South Africa fighting for human rights and civil liberties has great significance when we find that later his teachings were adopted not only by Nelson Mandela, the South African freedom fighter, but it was also subsequently revealed that the former South African president De Klerk was greatly influenced by Gandhi’s principles. In fact, from Dalai Lama to Desmond Tutu and from Martin Luther King to Nelson Mandela, many world leaders were inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, all in their own different ways.

Gandhi left many valuable sayings for the modern man to fight for goodness in society in a non-violent way. “Good” Gandhi said “travels at a snails pace.” “Non-violence” Gandhi said “is a tree of slow growth. It grows imperceptibly but surely.” And then “Mere goodness is not of much use.” Gandhi stated. “Goodness must be joined with knowledge, courage and conviction. One must cultivate the fine discriminating quality which goes with spiritual courage and character.” The modern man can also take great wisdom from what Gandhi said the seven social sins: Politics without principles; Wealth without work; Commerce without morality; Education without character; Pleasure without conscience; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice.

It was the unique non-violent movement under his leadership that earned for India freedom from the colonial rule. In spearheading the campaign against the alien rule, Gandhiji adopted the innovative techniques of civil disobedience and social transformation, which had several exemplary features.

The Gandhian technique of mobilizing people has been successfully employed by many oppressed societies around the world under the leadership of people like Martin Luther King in the United States, Nelson Mandela in South Africa, and now Aung Saan Sun Kyi in Myanmar, which is an eloquent testimony to the continuing relevance of Mahatma Gandhi.

In India, economic development has been mostly confined to the urban conglomerates. In the process, the rural India that comprises 700 million people has been given short shrift. Gandhiji’s philosophy of inclusive growth is fundamental to the building of a resurgent rural India. He believed in “production by the masses” rather than in mass production, a distinctive feature of the industrial revolution. It is surprising, even paradoxical, that these days Gandhian philosophy should find increasing expression through the most modern technology! Now, it is possible to establish small-scale and medium-scale factories in smaller towns and remote corners of the country, thanks to the phenomenal innovations in communication and information technologies. New technologies have brought in widespread and low-cost electronic connectivity that enables instantaneous contact between industrial units and the sellers and consumers of their products. Location and logistics are no more a limitation or constraint for industrial development.

If we say that the twenty-first century is the century of the common man, then we see that Gandhism has even more relevance in this age, and Gandhi will inspire generations of individuals fighting for goodness of the society. If today we find that Gandhism is in severe test in countries like India, it is not because there is certain inherent weakness in Gandhism, but it is because we have not seen in India strong leaders with the required courage and conviction to fight the evils in society. We may borrow Gandhi’s own words on Ahimsā, and say that Gandhism is only for the courageous people.

-Dr. Anju Seth, Associate Professor, Department of Sanskrit, Satyawati College (Day), University of Delhi, Delhi, India

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स्वतंत्रता की भारतीय शैली

-प्रोफ़ेसर बलराम सिंह

Independence का वास्तविक अर्थ आत्मनिर्भरता है। In का अर्थ है inside अर्थात् आत्मा के स्तर तक पहुँचना और फिर उसी पर निर्भर होना अथवा dependent हो जाना। जब व्यक्ति आत्मश: कार्यरत होता है तो उसका आत्मबल सदैव पुष्टित होता रहता है। उसके लिए सारा जग आत्मीय बन जाता है। वह ‘अयम निज: परोवेति’ की गणना लघुचेतीय समझता है। उसके अंत:करण में चिरक़ालीन उदारता झकोरे लेने लगती है, तथा ‘वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम’ के सम्मत भाव जागृत हो जाते हैं। यहाँ तक कि उनके यहाँ ‘संताने तनय व तनया’ तक न सीमित रहकर आत्मज और आत्मजा के रूप उत्पन्न होने लगती हैं अर्थात् आत्मबीज ही अंकुरित, पल्लवित, पुष्पित. व फलित होता है। ‘अहम् ब्रह्म अस्मि’ की अनुभूति सार्थक हो जाती है। ये है independence की वास्तविक महिमा! ये एक दिन में सीमित नहीं हो सकता, ये तो कल्पों का माजरा है जनाब!!

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Independence का दूसरा अर्थ है है स्वाधीनता, अर्थात् अपने को पूरी तरह से पहचान कर उसके आधीन हो जाना अथवा उसी की सत्ता के आधीन कार्यरत हो जाना। अपने को पहचानने का अभिप्राय है अपने धर्म को पहचानना, और उसी आधार पर गुण और कर्म निर्धारित करना। स्वधर्म की पहचान का तात्पर्य है अपनी प्रकृति को गहराई से समझना, बूझना, और परखना। जब व्यक्ति इस स्तर पर पहुँच जाता है तब अपनी प्रकृति को ही आधार बनाकर उसी में श्रद्धा एवं भक्ति से संलग्न होकर कर्म करता है। उसके अतिरिक्त कुछ नहीं करता। श्रीकृष्ण ने भगवद्गीता में इसका उद्धरण इस प्रकार किया है- ‘स्वधर्मे निधनम श्रेय: परधर्मों भयावह’, अर्थात् अपने धर्म के अनुसार आचरण में सबकुछ मिट जाना भी श्रेयस्कर है। यही नहीं किसी अन्य के धर्म अर्थात् प्रकृति का आचरण भयावह होता है इसलिए स्वाधीनता अत्यंत आवश्यक मानवीय दशा है जो मानव ही नहीं बल्कि पूरी समष्टि के लिए कल्याणकारी है।

Independence का तीसरा अर्थ है स्वतंत्रता अर्थात् अपना ही तंत्र होना चाहिए चाहे वो पारिवारिक हो, सामाजिक हो, आर्थिक हो, शैक्षिक हो, अथवा राजनीतिक हो। दूसरों की व्यवस्था यद्यपि उनके लिए कितनी भी उच्च एवं सराहनीय क्यों न हो किसी और के लिए तनावपूर्ण, बलाघाती, भयंकर कलह का कारण बन सकती है। अतः किसी भी देश को एक ऐसी व्यवस्था का सृजन करना चाहिए जिसके अंतर्गत हर एक व्यक्ति को सम्पूर्ण मुक्ति रहे कि वह व्यक्तिगत, पारिवारिक, तथा सामाजिक स्तरों पर अपने ही तंत्र के अनुकूल जीवन यापन कर सके। यह व्यवस्था बाह्य रूप से प्रारम्भ में अनेकता के सिद्धांत पर ही आधारित हो सकती है, अर्थात् कोई uniform civil code नहीं, कोई संविधान नहीं, कोई अधिवक्ता या न्यूनतवक़्ता नहीं, कोई AC में विराजित न्यायाधीश नहीं। मात्र धरातलीय प्रबुद्धजनो की आवश्यकता होती है जिनमे आचार विचार से आत्मबोध झलकता हो। वही सर्वभूतानाम की स्वतंत्रता सुनियोजित व  सुनिश्चित कर सकते है इसीलिए भारत ऋषियों का देश रहा है, स्वतंत्रता के लिए। आधुनिक स्वतंत्रता दिवस  को प्रेरणा का आधार मानकर स्वतंत्रता को शाश्वत बनाने के लिए संकल्पित हों, और इसी का पर्व मनायें आज and forever!! शुभम्

– Prof. Bal Ram Singh, School of Indic Studies, Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, MA, USA

योग का तत्कालीन क्रियात्मक बोध

– प्रोफ़ेसर बलराम सिंह

योग: सत्तस्य पर्याय: तस्य सार्थकेव मानव जीवनस्य लक्ष्य:।

योग सत्य का पर्याय है, उसी को सार्थक बनाना जीवन का उद्देश्य है।

वैसे तो सत्य एक सरल सी धारणा है पर अधिकतर व्यक्तियों को इसका बोध नहीं हो पाता है। इसका मुख्य कारण है कि व्यक्ति कुछ विशेष वस्तुओं, स्थानों, लोगों, अथवा बातों से ही जुड़ता है और उसी को मानक बनाकर अपना दृष्टिकोण निर्धारित कर लेता है।

जैसे कि वस्तुतः व्यक्ति परिवार से या माँ से जुड़ता है और उसे प्रेम करता है। यदि उस माँ के प्रेम को सीमित न करके उसे प्रेम के अभ्यास की प्रक्रिया मान ले तो उसी प्रेम भाव को औरों के साथ जोड़ सकता है। तभी माँ के प्रेम की सार्थकता हो सकती है ठीक उसी तरह जैसे कि स्कूल में गणित सीख कर हम उसका जीवन के अन्य पहलुओं में उपयोग करते हैं।

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इस अवधारणा को प्रथम स्तर पर हम योग अभ्यास से समझ सकते हैं। स्थूल रूप से आसन एवं मुद्राएँ हमारे मन को शरीर के उन भागों पर केंद्रित करते हैं जहाँ आसन के कारण ज़ोर पड़ता है। इसका अभ्यास करते-करते हम अपने मन को इस तरह अपने वश में कर पाने में ऐसे सफल हो जाते हैं कि आसन के बिना भी अँगो और प्रत्यंगो पर ध्यान दे लेते हैं। यही प्रक्रिया हमें जुड़ने की वास्तविक विद्या प्रदान करती है। इस विद्या को ही सूक्ष्म रूप में प्राणायाम के द्वारा शरीर के उन कोशिकाओं और अणुओं परमाणुओं तक जोड़ा जा सकता है जो की हमारी ज्ञानेंद्रियों से परे होते हैं। यही शारीरिक आसन और प्राणायाम के अभ्यास हमें हर किसी से जुड़ने की योग विधि बताते हैं।

उपर्युक्त अभ्यास से जो ज्ञान प्राप्त होता है उसके उपयोग से जब हम संसार में बिना किसी भेद भाव (प्रत्याहार अभ्यास के अंतर्गत) समस्त प्राणियों से जुड़ते हैं तभी उनके जीवन सत्यार्थ से परिचित हो पाते हैं।

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(Source of Image : Prof. Singh with his younger daughter)

अथ योग: सत्यार्थ परिचायक:। ॐ!!

माता की अवधारणा

मदर्स डे पर विशेषविमर्श

-डॉ. शशि तिवारी

 

यह संसार भगवान् की अद्भुत रचना है। भगवान् के इस सृजन का हम सब प्राणी उपभोग करते हैं। रचयिता होने से ही ईश्वर को ‘माता’ कहते हैं – त्वमेव माता च पिता त्वमेव । माना गया है कि हम सब ईश्वर के अंश हैं। तो जो गुण ईश्वर में हैं वे प्राणियों में भी हो सकते हैं या कि प्राकृतिक रूप से होने चाहिए। मातृत्व एक ऐसा ही गुण है। केवल मनुष्य ही नहीं पशु-पक्षी भी किसी न किसी प्रकार के सर्जन और निर्मिति की कला में निपुण देखे जाते हैं। हर किसी में रचनाधर्मिता होती है- कभी कम कभी अधिक। तभी देवी की स्तुति में कहा गया है –

            “या देवी सर्वभूतेषु मातॄरूपेण संस्थिता। 

            नम: तस्यै नम: तस्यै नम: तस्यै नमो नम:॥”

वेद में माता-पिता के युग्म को ‘मातरा’ या ‘मातरौ’ कहते हैं यानी माता और पिता दोनों माता ही हैं। इसी तरह द्यावापृथ्वी का नाम ‘मातरा’ है; पृथ्वी हमारी माता है और आकाश पिता। सांसारिक माता और पिता के जोडे के लिए ‘पितरौ’ या ‘पितरा’ शब्द भी प्रयोग में आए हैं; यानी दोनों ही पिता हैं। यह ठीक वैसे ही है जैसे पति-पत्नी के युग्म को ‘दम्पती’ कहते हैं। भारतीय मनीषा ने शब्दों में ही जीवन-मूल्यों को सूत्र में मणियों कि भांति पिरोया हुआ है। तात्पर्य है कि महत्व की दृष्टि से माता और पिता लगभग समान ही हैं। इसीलिए कहते हैं – ‘मातृ देवो भव, पितृ देवो भव’। परंतु जब बात जनन की होती है तो जनि, जनी, जनयित्री आदि नामों से मां को जाना जाता है क्योंकि वह उत्पन्न करने वाली है। केवल उत्पन्न ही नहीं उसके बाद जो लालन-पालन की आवश्यकता है वह भी वही करती है। एतदर्थ उसमें स्नेह और ममता की आवश्यकता है और इसके वाचक अंबा, अम्बि, अम्बी आदि शब्द मां के लिए वेद में प्राप्त होते हैं। इन सब नामों से माता जननी, स्नेहमयी, पूजनी्य़ा, आत्मीया बतायी गयी है। उत्पन्न करने वाली का साक्षात् स्वरूप ‘माता’ पद में दिखाई दे्ता है, इसलिए उसे इस सम्मान से विभूषित किया गया है कि वह जननी है और ईश्वर के समकक्ष है।

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(Source of image : https://www.pinterest.com/pin/31806741093104880/)

सतत् स्मरणीय है कि साक्षात् माताएं हमारी सम्माननीय हैं; क्योंकि ‘मातृत्व’ मानवीय गुणों में सर्वोपरि है। रचना करना तथा पालन करना – प्रत्येक मनुष्य का धर्म कर्म होना चाहिए, तभी सामजिक संतुलन बना रह सकता है। जब हम मातृ-दिवस मनाये तो ये याद रखें कि यह अपने दायित्वों को वहन करने की शिक्षा देने वाला दिन है। यह रचनाधर्मिता का दिन है या फिर रचनाधर्मिता के अभिनंदन का दिन!

– डॉ. शशि तिवारी,अध्यक्ष, वेव्सभारत 

Bases of Dharma in the Gita

– Dr. Shakuntala

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(Source of Image: http://zeenews.india.com/entertainment/and-more/what-bhagavad-gita-teaches-us-top-10-lessons-we-must-remember_1849199.html)

The Gita, through Krishna declares a two-fold bases of dharmaSamkhya or reason and yoga or discipline – “In this world a two-fold basis (of dharma) has been declared by Me of old, blameless one: By the discipline of knowledge of the followers of reason-method and by the discipline of action of the followers of discipline method” (III.3). But before we try to understand reason with discipline of knowledge or jñana-yoga and discipline with discipline of action or karmayoga, we need to appreciate the fact that the term ‘discipline’ is used in two senses in the Gita. One of course is the basis of dharma. The other is defined by the Gita through Krishna as indifference: “discipline is defined as indifference” (II.48). We can take it that it is discipline in the latter sense, that is, in the senses of indifference that is used when the Gita is talking about discipline of knowledge and discipline of action. In other words, it appears that whether we are followers of reason or followers of discipline, discipline in the sense of indifference is a necessary feature of it.

In the Gita, Discipline (basis of religion) appears to be, on one hand, renunciation and, on the other hand, non-attachment: “For when not to objects of sense nor to actions he is attached, renouncing all purpose, then he is said to have mounted to discipline” (VI.4). That is, if we want to understand discipline, then we need to understand what renunciation and non-attachment mean in the Gita. Renunciation in the Gita comes forth as renunciation of actions of desire (XVIII.2). Further, in the Gita, he is recognized as renouncing action who does not ‘loathe or crave’ which is also termed as being free from pairs of opposite (V.3). But if this is renunciation, it appears that it is non-different from what the Gita calls as discipline of mind or buddhi-yoga. In its discussion on discipline of mind, the Gita says about longing and loathing that “one must not come under control of those two, for they are his two enemies” (III.34). But this is how renunciation is understood in the Gita. Again, it says that “Whom all desires enter in that same way he attains peace; not the man who lusts after desires” (II.70). This can be understood as meaning that who is nor driven to act by desire goes to peace. And this is the way renunciation has been defined – giving up acts of desire. Further, this renunciation is also discipline in the sense of indifference: “Content with getting what comes by chance, passed beyond the pairs (of opposites), free from jealousy, indifferent to success and failure, even acting he is not bound” (IV.22).

Discipline, however, in the Gita also means non-attachment. The actions that the Gita has asked one to perform without attachment to fruits are actions of worship, gift, austerity (XVIII.5) as well as natural born action of the individual (XVIII.48). Worship is another kind of action the Gita says one should perform (IV.23). The Gita suggests that if one performs actions without attachment to the fruit of action, one does not get bound (III.7). In fact Krishna tells of himself that he is not bound even though he keeps performing actions because he is not interested in fruits of actions: “Actions do not stain Me, (because) I have no yearning for the fruits of actions. Who comprehends Me thus is not bound by actions” (IV.14). Such actions do not bind because in truth they do not bear fruits, though performed they are barren (IV.20). In other words, it appears that according to the Gita, it is the mental attitude that binds and not mere action.

Of the two elements of discipline, if they can be termed as such, renunciation and non-attachment to fruits of action, the Gita shows its certain inclination towards the latter (V.2). The reason for this can be explained in the following way: renunciation is more an attitude than performance of action. Giving up certain action by itself cannot be called action – at least in the sense of performance. Renunciation is giving up acts of desire. But non-attachment involves performing of certain kinds of actions without attachment to fruits of action. In other words, in the latter case one gives up certain action but goes on performing the required kinds of actions. That is, non-attachment involves both giving up action as well as performance of certain sort of actions while renunciation does not imply performance of action.

Of the ‘two-fold basis’ of the world, the Gita declares reason as one of them. Reason in the Gita comes forth as understanding of the nature of the soul. When Arjuna asks Krishna regarding a way for right conduct, Krishna answer tells of the right way as suggested by reason. The way, as we find it, involves a description of soul’s nature: “He is not born, nor does he ever die; nor, having come to be, will he ever more come not to be. Unborn, eternal, everlasting, this ancient one is not slain when the body is slain” (II.20). Further, it is said that the soul in reality does not feel pleasure and pain. Whatever feeling of pleasure and pain the embodied being feels is due to its contact with matter (II.14). Thus on one hand, the Gita tells that the soul actually does not feel pleasure and pain and on the other hand, that they belong to matter. Reason, according to Gita, thus lies in understanding that pain, pleasure etc are not felt by soul but belong to matter. Likewise, the Gita also tells that according to reason, action does not belong to the soul, but to matter. Having said this, the Gita says that the one who understands reality in true nature – that the immortal does not in actuality feel or perform – in reality he does not perform action. That is, though actions take place, even after one realizes that himself is not the doer, such actions no more bear fruits, that is, they more bind (XVIII.17).

Knowledge is the means for the followers of reason. This knowledge comes forth in the Gita as knowledge that reality is one which can be understood under its ‘lower’ and ‘higher’ nature. The first, the ‘lower nature’ constitutes the universe (VII.4), while the second, the ‘higher nature’ is the soul, the support of living being (VII.5). And then there is the Lord in whom “this (universe) is strung, like heaps of pearl on a string” (VII.7). These two natures of the ultimate reality again have been explained in Gita under different headings – the Field and the Field-knower. And this knowledge of the Field and Field-knower is considered as true knowledge in the Gita (XIII. 2). In another place of the Gita we come across knowledge as knowledge of the Lord and Brahman as well as that of the Strands as the binding factor. The man of knowledge thus knows that the actual agent is matter. As such he can be assumed to be acting with the knowledge that it is not he who is acting. This is also the way how disciplined man is defined: ‘I am in effect doing nothing at all?’ – so the disciplined man should think, knowing the truth, when he sees, hears, touches, smells, eats, walks, sleeps, breathes, talks, evacuates, grasps, opens and shuts his eyes; ‘The senses (only) on the objects of sense are operating’ – holding fast to this thought (V.8-9).  Thus it can be said that the man who performs with knowledge is practising discipline of knowledge.

A study of the bases of dharma reveals the importance of mental attitude in performance of dharma in the Gita. That the Gita has attached indifference to both the ways of reason and discipline is indicative of this very feature. In fact that this is so is clear from the very beginning of Krishna-Arjuna conversation. Arjuna asks Krishna what is dharma: “My being very afflicted with the taint of weak compassion, I ask Thee, my mind bewildered as to the dharma” (II.7). But Krishna does not answer by telling what dharma is. Rather what Krishna says reveals the importance of mental attitude: “Abiding in discipline perform actions” (II.48). And this indifference is certainly of mental nature. However, though the importance lies in the mental attitude, the Gita cannot be taken as advocating mental attitude alone. What it advocates is performance of action with certain mental attitude and not mere mental attitude. And that is why the advice to Arjuna is not just to carry the attitude but to fight with the right mental attitude: “Holding pleasure and pain alike, gain and loss, victory and defeat, then gird thyself for battle” (II.38).

Dr. Shakuntala, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy,  University of Gauhati, Guwahati, Assam

 

Ram’s Dharma: Leadership Secrets of the Ultimate Warrior~Sage~Prince

michael sternfeld head shot

-Michael Sternfeld

[Excerpted from the audio-bookRam’s Dharma: Leadership Secrets of the Ultimate Warrior~Sage~Prince— published by Vedic Audio Knowledge (VAK). VAK created by  author, an independent scholar has made a tradition of preserving the essential oral tradition of the Vedic literature with dramatic productions in English. ]

Introduction

Now begins the inquiry into Dharma.  This one line, expressive of much of the potency within all Vedic knowledge, is an apt beginning in our exploration of the epic Ramayana.  The Ramayana can be seen as one grand heroic quest into all the power and subtlety of Dharma.  Dharma means more than just duty, as it is often understood in the West.  At its most comprehensive level, Dharma is the inexorable movement of evolution in the universe. All activity in the universe is orderly because of that inexorable flow of Dharma.

Alignment of Our Dharma With the Big Picture

To the degree that we align our own nature with this grand vision of Dharma, the more we align ourselves with the natural flow of all that was meant to be.  This seems to be the true quest—to move our own consciousness, our own deepening awareness–to become more and more in-tune with Dharma at every step of our evolution.  There is not one “be-all, end-all” state that captures this, because Dharma, as structured in consciousness, is a sequential process of unfolding deeper and deeper levels of order or Dharma in the fabric of our own awareness.

Hierarchies of Dharma

Dharma is structured in layers, or in hierarchies, which reveal more and more comprehensive levels of intelligence in nature.  On one level, we could experience our personal career Dharma–expressive of the work we do to earn a living.  At a deeper level, we can own our soul level Dharma–expressive of our own fundamental nature and the development of higher states of consciousness.  On a more expanded level, there can be a Dharma of a country or civilization, which may express the unique design or “chosen-ness” for a group of people to serve and enrich the world in a particular way.  The Dharma of a star is to spread life-giving light into the world, while the Dharma of the universe may reach to the fields of unfathomable infinity.

Evolution of Dharma

Every level of life has a Dharma that is woven together with all the other streams to create a majestic tapestry reflecting the never-ending flow of life from lesser states to more and more fullness of life and evolution.  From this perspective, all of our growth can be seen as an opportunity to continually deepen our understanding of our own Dharma and how it fits into the larger Dharma of the world.  As we grow and evolve, we find that those values that seemed so significant when we were younger fall away and new doorways open to greater and greater levels of service, authenticity and an expanding sphere of influence to enrich the world.

Ram’s Dharma and the Ramayana

Now this is where the power of Ram and the Ramayana enter the picture.  Ram is an embodiment of the total potential of Dharma.  All different levels and streams of Dharma seem to converge into his comprehensive personality. This power is first expressed on the human level, the level of heroic action. Like all the great heroic figures that have preceded us, we gain so much from following in his epic footsteps.  Ram’s heroic quests become our own; and his journey—imbued with near-impossible challenges as well as great victories and blessed boons–become the cherished guideposts in the journey of our own lives.

But this outer value of Ram is only a projection and expression of the deeper, absolute level of life, from which the full potential of being fully-human emerges—a divine being in human form. Ram is an extraordinary personage in that he is both an ideal man and an avatar. Human and divine. The juxtaposition of these two values stretches our comprehension to span its gulf.

Rama

Why is Ram So Special?

In the pantheon of all great epic heroes, Ram seems to hold a special status. On a human level, his entire life and story are based upon explicitly discriminating and integrating finer and finer levels of Dharma.  Our behavior can be refined at each step of this journey by integrating these deeper values into our lives. But the deepest level of Dharma reveals Ram’s full potential as an embodiment of the Absolute level of life–Ram Brahm Paramarath Rupa.

The great modern-day Vedic sage Maharishi Mahesh Yogi explains this mahavakya by describing Ram as the embodiment of Brahman, the supreme Totality of life. This Totality is not just outside of us as some ruling power, but inside us as well. In this view, Ram represents the essential nature of ourselves and the whole creation, governing and sustaining it from the transcendental level.  Maharishi clarifies: “Ram is the embodiment of pure spirituality, of pure being–totality in its absolute unity. All activity in the universe is orderly because of that eternal law of life, the administration of Ram, which establishes and maintains harmony in all relationships; which harmonizes everything with every other thing in the universe.”

This quote underscores why experiencing the Ramayana yields such profound results. If Ram embodies all the diverse relationships in the universe, then the study of his story is essentially the study of our Self and our evolving relationship with creation—the full potential of Dharma. In this view, the impulses of the Ramayana are the structures of our own consciousness, our own Self, and challenge us to grow towards our own divine status as humans.

This vision may sound quite cosmic, but we must remember that this divine story unfolds on a completely human level, as Ram was born a mortal man–the son of the illustrious King Dasharata in Ayodhya.  The story begins as the wise sage Valmiki pondered the question he had often reflected upon: “Is there a perfect man among us?”.

We now begin our journey following the footsteps of Ram—along with Sita and all the characters of the Ramayana–on an epic quest to discover Ram’s Dharma on all its levels.  Our ultimate goal: to emerge with a profound ownership of that full potential of Dharma that animates the entire universe.

Audio Sample Link:  http://www.ramayanaudio.com/otherproducts.html#ramsd

Michael Sternfeld, MA, is an independent scholar and  a producer/director, USA