Sunday, February 1, 2015


One who follows Dharma will be sustained by Dharma
(Dharmo rakshati rakshitha)

(Compiled for a discourse by N.R.Srinivasan at Sri Ganesha Temple, Nashville, TN, USA)

My attention was drawn to a blog communication of Sumathi   Agambaranathan about “Jayalalita’s arrest titled “Dharmo rakshati rakshitah”--one who follows Dharma will be protected by Dharma. The successful Jaya-Lalita Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu suddenly became Jail-Lalita one fine morning and was behind the bars.ow could this happen?  If you still remember one of my famous quotes from Neetisastra Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitah (One who follows Dharma will be sustained by Dharma) you will not be surprised why this happened.  It is a     Logical conclusion. As a ruler she should have fulfilled her obligation to protect Dharma. She failed. Hence in spite of her late realization and running to Lord Ranganatha, reforming to be Dharmic, and her being born on Makha Nakshatra indicative of successful ruler she was  not saved from  perennial disgrace though the so called final judgment may not convict her and punish her.   The final judgment rests with the Lord and herown Karma. There are instances like where a dacoit and killer became the most celebrated sage, Valmiki. This is a timely warning to all   politicians in power today as the disease of greed and corruption is wide-spread in Indian politics. 

Dharma is the first of the four Purusharthas (the goals of man). It is followed by Artha, Kaama and Moksha. However, none of the other three are considered legitimate if one pursued them without reference to Dharma. Artha (prosperity/security) obtained without reference to dharma is considered a crime. Kaama (pleasure) if pursued without reference to dharma is considered debauchery. As for Moksha, one who does not follow Dharma (Adharmic person) could    go nowhere near it.

There is no proper equivalent word in English for the Sanskrit word Dharma. It is very difficult to define Dharma. Dharma is generally translated into English as ‘righteousness’ or ‘duty’. Of late this has been included as such in English dictionary defined as righteousness. Dharma is the principle of righteousness. It is the principle of holiness. It is also the principle of unity. Bheeshma says in his instructions to Yudhishthira that whatever creates conflict is Adharma, and whatever puts an end to conflict and brings about unity and harmony is Dharma. Anything that helps to unite all and develop pure divine love and universal oneness
(aatmavat sarvabhooteshu) is Dharma. Anything that creates discord, split and disharmony and foments hatred is Adharma.

You come across several references to Dharma in our scriptures:
Tadrisho ayam anuprashno yatra dharmaha sudurlabaha
Dushkamha pralisankhyatum tatkenatra vysvasyathi
Prabhavarthaya bhutanam dharmapravachanam kritam
Yasyat prabhavasamyuktaha sa dharma iti nischayaha.

 It is most difficult to define Dharma. Dharma has been explained to be that which helps to elevate living beings. Therefore, that which ensures the welfare of living beings is surely Dharma. The learned rishis have declared that which sustains is Dharma (Shanti Parva109-9-11).
Dharanat dharma mityahu dharmo dhaara-yate prajaah
Yat syaad dharanasamyuktam sa dharma iti nischayah .
Dharma sustains the society
Dharma maintains the social order
Dharma ensures well-being and progress of Humanity
Dharma is surely that which fulfils these objectives
Karna Parva—Ch. 69 verse 58
Jaimini, the author of the celebrated  Poorva Meemaamsa and  Uttara Meemaamsa, explains 'Dharma' thus:

Sa hi nisreyasena pumshamsamyunaktiti pra-tijaneemahe
tadabhidhiyate chodanalakshno ariho dharmah
Dharma is that which is indicated by the Vedas as conducive to the highest good.
Dharmo viswasya jagatah pratishthaa loke dharmishtham prajaa upasarpanti dharmena paapamapanudati dharme sarvam pratishthitam tasmaad dharmam paramam vadanti 

Dharma is the support of the entire Universe. All people approach a person devoted to Dharma. Through Dharma a person gets rid of his sins. Everything is established in Dharma. Therefore the pundits say Dharma is the Supreme means of attaining salvation. (Mahanarayana Upanishad) 
Dharmo eva hato hantee dharmo rakshati rakshitaah |
Tasmadhrmo na hantabhyo  maa no dharmo hatovadhit  || (Manudharma)
Those who attempt to destroy Dharma are destroyed by it. Dharma protects those who protect it. Always take the side of Dharma.
Parasya peedayaa labhdam dharmasya ullaghanena cha | 
aatmaavamaana-sampraaptam na dhanam tat sukhaaya vai ||
The wealth, which is earned by troubling others, by disobeying the “Dharma” or even by swallowing (self) insult; does not bring happiness.

Dharmena heenaha pashubbhih samaanaha
 One who is devoid of Dharma is an animal.

Ahimsaa paramo dharmaha
Nonviolence is the supreme Dharma.

Yattho dhrmasthattho jayaha
Where there is Dharma, there is victory.
And the most celebrated lamentation of Vyasa at the very end of the epic Mahabharata:
Oorddhva baahurviromyesha na kashchit shrinothi me
Dharmaat artthascha kaamascha kim na sevyati?
I throw up my hands and shout: From Dharma results wealth and love; why doesn't anybody listen?
 Therefore, Dharma embraces every type of righteous conduct covering every aspect of life essential for the sustenance and welfare of the individual and society and includes those rules which guide and enable those who believe in God and heaven to attain moksha (eternal bliss).

In mundane life there are different types of Dharma, such as Vyakti-dharma or dharma of an individual, Paarivaarika-dharma or family Dharma, Saamaajika-dharma or society dharma, Rashtra-dharma or National dharma and Maanava-dharma or the dharma of mankind. Everything springs from Vyakti-dharma. If Vyakti-dharma fails all Maanva-dharma, dharma of whole mankind fails. It is like the famous poem “all for the want of a horseshoe-nail”.

Mahabharata War is a Puraana written about war between Dharma and Adharma. If you analyze the various situations rationally in Mahabharata war there are many intriguing issues which makes one difficult to understand the Law of Operation Dharma. Fortunately this was a war directly supervised by none other than the Lord Himself and therefore its conclusion cannot but be  acts of Dhrama unlike what is happening today in religions defining  dharma to their convenience drawing reference to man-made scriptures about which we will talk later. They seem to miss the divine guidance here like what happened in Mahabharata War.

Hindu great epics, Puraanas and a host of religious texts in Sanskrit as well as vernacular languages deal at length of instances in which the world fell into danger because of serious encroachment upon Dharma.  We learn from our scriptures the key-note of a   healthy well-being of society is not the supremacy of Dharma but   the balance between Dharma and its opposite known as Adharma. Adharma is bound to be there and cannot be wiped out completely in human society resulting from acts done intentionally or unintentionally. To err is human they say. That means the question is not of Dharma being violated but to the extent to which it may be. To safeguard this balance and ensure a tip in favor of Dharma requires constant care and a certain level of vigilance. In Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna says:

Yada yada hi dharmasya glanirbhavati Bhaarata |
Abhyuttaanam-adharmasya tadaatmaanam srijamyaham ||
Paritraanaaya sadhoonaam vinaasaaya cha dushkritam |
Dharmasamsthaapanaarthaaya smabhavami yuge yuge ||

Sri Krishna announces in these verses that whenever there is undue disturbance in Dharma balance and the content of Adharma rises, he will manifest Himself in order to re-establish the values of righteousness and to protect the virtuous people. He further assures that He will manifest Himself as God-Incarnate in order to uphold righteousness and restore orderliness on earth. Here the option is not given to humans to act as the champions of Dharma. Unfortunately in religious scriptures of various other religions the dos and don’ts are given in scriptures and some take law into their own hands and act wrongfully and willfully as champions of their religion.

Often scriptures stress on Dharma but do not define often what that Dharma is or explain how that act is dharma or shown as dharma as argument to explain the situation. Based on many quotes above and Puranic projections Dharma and the vast scope of it can be summarized somewhat as follows:   Dharma may be defined as the eternal law governing, upholding, and supporting the creation and the world order. It is the eternal relationship between the creator and the created. It also means   way of life, duty, righteousness, ideal conduct, virtue, nature, quality moral principles, religion, and spiritual truth. Adharma is antonym to Dharma. Dhaarayati dharma iti aahu”—whatever sustains or supports is Dharma. Atharvaveda says prithveem dharmanaa dhritam”—the world is sustained by Dharma. Dharma is the means to ultimate good or liberation. Dharma therefore means social harmony and happiness. Adharma implies social discord and misery.

The popular Hindu dictum Dharmo rakshati rakshitaha (Dharma protects those who protect it) has two implications in its statement. The first one is easier to understand: Dharmo rakshati, meaning that Dharma offers protection. If we choose to live a life guided by the principles of Dharma, then we are assured of that protection. This understanding is ingrained in our thinking from childhood as one grows up in India. The other part of the phrase is: rakshitaah --This part brings us into the action. Why was this coined? That we human beings need protection is understandable. But rakshitaah implies that Dharma concept itself needs protection too. This is interesting as it conveys the need to protect the very concept whose protection we are seeking. Dharma will protect you if you protect it. Now it is an equation. Thus long ago it appears there was this recognition that we cannot simply take it for granted that Dharma will rein supreme always and that there is no danger to it. Therefore a duty is imposed on those who seek such protection from Dharma, and that duty is to take care that this wonderful governing concept of life is not in any jeopardy.

Ravana Rajya was not based on Dharma concept and so there was no need to protect Dharma or dharma to protect Ravana’s retinue. As a ruler Jayalalita was the custodian of Dharma. Jayalalita completely ignored the second part and ran for the first part alone running to Lord Ranganatha hoping He will redeem her.  But she had to undergo suffering and mental torture in spite of her dharmic leniency in helping the poor and down trodden for she did not protect Dharma at some point attracted by greed to amass wealth by adharmic acts which is still haunting her.

Let us go a little bit deep into the above sloka   “Dharma eva hato hanti/ Dharmo rakshati rakshitah”  (One who destroys Dharma is destroyed by Dharma/ One who protects Dharma is protected by Dharma).

If we try to translate “Dharma protects those who protect Dharma” in Sanskrit then it will be more like “Rakshitam Dharma Rakshati“. Let us break down each word and find out the meaning;  the full sloka reads as follows--

Dharma~Eva Hato Hanti, Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitah!
Tasma~Dharmo Na Hantvyo, Maa No Dharmo Hato~Vadhit!!

Dharma=Dharma; eva=used to emphasize (dharmeva=dharma alone or dharma indeed); hato=being killed or destroyed; hanti=kills or destroys; daharmo=from dharma; rakshati=to protect; rakshitaah=the protected one; tasmai=hence or therefore; dharmo=from dharma; na=not; hantyo=to kill or destroy; maa=do not; no=nor; dharmo=from dharma; hato=being  killed or destroyed; Vadhit=killed

If you combine all these   full    meaning of the Sloka will be: Dharma eva hato hanti/ Dharmo rakshati rakshitah--Dharma destroyed, destroys; Dharma protects, the protected.
Dharma does not destroy, nor dharma can be destroyed. Here Manu is trying to state a fact one   experiences rather than giving a moral advice. Let us compare this with the natural Law of Gravitational force.  If Gravitational Force is destroyed, everything on earth will fall apart; Gravitational Force keeps everything protected on earth. Neither Gravitational Force can be destroyed, nor does Gravitational Force destroyManu is just stating the fact that Dharma is an essence of everything. It is neither a philosophy, nor moral obligation, or religious doctrine, or some kind of commandments, or any faith or belief.

Dharma pictured in Mahabharata is ambiguous, uncertain and often disputed. For instance, Draupadi after the dice game, demands what right Yudhishtira had   to stake her in the game after he had staked and lost himself. It was so difficult a question that even Bheeshma, the recognized authority on Dharma, when pointedly challenged by Draupadi, confessed his inability to decide the issue. ”I am unable to answer your question because Dharma is subtle” he says (na dharmasaukshmyat subhage vivektum saknomi te prasnam imam yatthaavat). It was said that Dharma is subtle (sookshmam) because its essence is concealed in a dark cavity (dharmasya tattvam nihitath guhaayaam). On another occasion, Draupadi wonders why they have to suffer so, if they were the righteous ones. If everything happened by the will of god, why then do the virtuous suffer? She exclaims; it seems only the powerful escape harm, not the righteous. Yudhishthira tries to explain: "None should ever perform virtue with a desire to gain its fruits. Do not doubt virtue because you do not see its results. Without doubt, the fruits of virtue will be manifest in time, as will the fruits of sin. The fruits of true virtue are eternal and indestructible”. He is reflecting here only Bhagavad Gita  dictum “karmanyeva Adhikariste”=you are only expected to do your duty!

The message of the Mahabharata is the message of Truth and Righteousness.
The great epic produces a moral awakening in the readers and exhorts them to tread the path of Satya and Dharma. It urges them strongly to do good deeds, practise Dharma, cultivate dispassion by realising the illusory nature of this universe and its vain glories and sensual pleasures, and attain Eternal Bliss and Immortality. It induces people to do what Yudhishthira did and abandon what Duryodhana did. Stick to Dharma tenaciously. You will attain everlasting happiness and Moksha.   This is the final purport or the central teaching of the Mahabharata.  
 Mostly Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita elaborate on these positive steps and not on negative aspects as found in scriptures of other religions. Negative projections only are concentrated upon by some evil minded people who claim to follow the religion and also parade as champions of the cause without any positive contribution. This was in the past, continues to be today and will continue in the future also. When a large number of people in a society disturb the balance in Dharma, then the society as a whole is in danger resulting in major upheaval. This was   the state of affairs that led to the Mahabharata war and this the direction in which present world is marching.    

Aristotle said: “A good man is one who acts in accordance with the principles of virtue. It is likely that on occasions the laws of state may not be in accordance with the principles of virtue. In such situations, the good man will not act in accordance with them but a good citizen will have to act in accordance with them. In the best state, however, laws will be in accordance with the principles of virtue and so there would be no distinction between a good man and a good citizen."  So the onerous lies not only with the individual but also with the state and its   rulers. We need good   citizens who are good men too.
Here are few quotes from Qur’an:
1) Slay the unbelievers wherever you find them. Qur'an 2:19
2) Make war on the infidels living in your neighborhood. Qur'an 9:123

3) Any religion other than Islam is not acceptable. Qur'an 3:85

4) The Jews and Christians are perverts; fight them." Qur'an 9:30

5) Maim and crucify the infidels if they criticize Islam. Qur'an 5:33

6)   Infidels are unclean; do not let them into a mosque. Qur'an 9:28

7) Punish the unbelievers with garments of fire, hooked iron rods, boiling water; melt their skin and bellies. Qur'an 22:19

8) Do not hanker for peace with the infidels; behead them when you catch them. Qur'an 47:4

9) Unbelievers are stupid; urge the Muslims to fight them. Qur'an 8:65

10) Muslims must not take the infidels as friends. Qur'an 3:28

11) Terrorize and behead those who believe in scriptures other than the Qur'an. Qur'an 8:12

12) Muslims must muster all weapons to terrorize the infidels. Qur'an 8:60

13) Be terrified that Allah will replace you and put others in your place and inflict you with a painful doom. Qur'an 9:38 and 39 

Qur’an here leaves these actions of violence for preserving Dharma to the discretion of all humans not to a few chosen or Lord himself. Bhagavad Gita also promotes the concept Vinaasaaya cha dushkritam and Ramayana commends killing of Vali, pregnant Seeta being abandoned and later allowed jump into the fire but such critical issues based on violence are left to the discretion of Lord alone and not to humans who can’t judge the situation correctly in overall maintenance of balance of Dharma.

Professor Amitai Etzioni, international Relations writes: Islam, like Christianity or Judaism, is neither a violent nor a peaceful religion, but contains texts that legitimate both! Muslims seeking to justify violence will cite the Quran's exhortation to "Slay the idolaters where-so-ever you find them," (9:5) and the Hadith, or saying of the Prophet, that "I have been commanded to fight against people so long as they do not declare that there is no god but Allah" (Muslim 1.9.30). Yet those rejecting violence will point to the lines "There is no compulsion in religion" (2:256) and "And do not take any human being's life -- that God willed to be sacred -- other than in [the pursuit of] justice" (17:33). Some lines preach tolerance, such as "If God had pleased He surely could have made you one people (professing one faith)," (5:48) and "O you unbelievers, I do not worship what you worship, nor do you worship who I worship... to you your way and to me mine," (109:1-6). When Muhammad exclaims, "Oh Lord, these are certainly a people who do not believe," Allah responds to him, "Turn away from them and say: 'Peace'" (43:88-89). Yet others are clearly intolerant: "Say unto those who disbelieve: Ye shall be overcome and gathered unto Hell, an evil resting-place." (3:12) and "O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for friends" (5:51) come to mind. This ambiguity is captured in the word "jihad," a term which literally means "struggle," but is interpreted by some as holy war, and others as a spiritual struggle towards self-improvement.

Other religious texts are just as open to interpretation. In the New Testament, Jesus calls on his followers to "turn the other cheek," (Matthew 5:38-39) yet returns as a wrathful conqueror to "strike down the nations" with a "sharp sword" (Revelation 19:15). In the Old Testament, God's people are ordered not to "let anything that breathes remain alive" in the towns of their enemies, but rather to "annihilate them" (Deuteronomy 20:16-18), while taking vengeance "an eye for an eye" (Exodus 21:24). Yet Jews may also invoke pacifistic passages, such as that under God's law "they shall beat their swords into plowshares [...] nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war" (Isaiah 2:4; c.f. Micah 4:3). In contrast Ten Commandments are mostly in line with dharmic balancing commandments and no violent means are suggested to achieve dharmic goals. Bhagavad Gita says  the world needs different religions, cults and deities to meet the vastly different needs of individuals, prescribes no rituals but brings forth that any such devotion is all directed to one and only Supreme Being which  Abrahamic Religions also believe in.

ISIS is a group of people who do not believe in the concept of Dharmo rakshatri rakshitah.  They are neither sustainable nor protected. Hinduism which follows this concept has not only   survived but flourished in spite of several attempts to destroy it for more than 7000 years while many religions and groups who did not believe in the same have vanished.

We must recognize that these major religions, lend themselves both to support violence and to curb it. Vedas contain wisdom thoughts that lend to uphold the laws of Dharma and leave the option of balancing it to the Lord to reincarnate and restore order whenever the balance is tilted. Unfortunately other major religions moved away from that original concept while bringing forth their prophet-made or apostles-made scriptures leaving the option to humans and wait for the Day of Judgment to decide as to go to hell or heaven. Hinduism says that everyone can be saved sooner or later following the path of Dhrama depending on their action of dealing with Dharma.

1.      Swami Bhaskarananda, Hinduism, Ramkrishna Mutt, Chennai, India.
2.      Jagadguru Chandrasekharanda Sarsvati, Dhrama, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, India.
3.      Srinivasan, N.R., What is Dharma? <>
4.       Ramananda Prasad, Bhagavad Gita, American Gita Society, California, USA.
5.      Harry Bhalla, The Bhagvad Gita (abbreviated), International Gita Society, CA, USA.
6.      Huff-post Religious postings from time to time.
7.      Various Internet sources and references within the text.

[This discourse material is a compilation from the reference above    as well as other sources for a prepared lecture for delivering at Vedanta Class of Sri Ganesha Temple which is gratefully acknowledged. I do not claim anything as original though I have included my explanations and comments elaborately suitably editing. Anybody is free to download partly or fully this discourse, modify and redistribute this as well as other  discourses from the blog Hindu Reflections <> for spreading the wisdom of Vedas and scriptures further.  These  lectures are  posted on the blog for the benefit of those who are not able to attend my lectures personally due to personal reasons or due to not living in Nashville or able to go through the various sources as I have done.]