matriwords

Research, Essays, Commentaries – Inspired by the Social-Cultural-Political Thought of Sri Aurobindo (PLUS a bit of photography too!)

What’s the Right Thing to Do: A Meditation on Dharma, Reason and Offering – Part 1

Essay published in Collaboration: Journal of the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Vol. 40 (2), pp. 29-33.

In the presence of great music we have no alternative but to live nobly

PART 1

“Do what feels right to you, to the real you inside.”

“Listen to your inner voice, and act accordingly.”

“Don’t give in to the societal pressure, hear the voice of your soul.”

We hear such advice so often these days. From practically anybody and everybody!

But let us think about it deeply for a minute. Is it that simple to access that inner voice? That voice of the real ‘me’ which will inspire me to do the ‘right’ thing?

How many individuals are actually able to organize their lives according to the law of their truer/inner self? Only the rarest among rare are actually able to live in their true self that is beyond their emotional and mental selves and their demands. Rest of us, the vast majority are driven by impulses, preferences, biases, prejudices, instincts and perhaps a bit of rationality too in our saner moments.

The ancient Indian Rishis knew very well about this problem of human nature. So they came up with the ideal of Dharma, which covered basically all natures, all aspects of life, all situations and stages of life, and even allowed for maximum freedom, continuity and greatest possibility of contextualization, adaptation and adjustment. Sri Aurobindo in his Essays on the Gita[1] defined dharma as follows:

Dharma in the Indian conception is not merely the good, the right, morality and justice, ethics; it is the whole government of all the relations of man with other beings, with Nature, with God, considered from the point of view of a divine principle working itself out in forms and laws of action, forms of the inner and the outer life, orderings of relations of every kind in the world. Dharma is both that which we hold to and that which holds together our inner and outer activities. In its primary sense it means a fundamental law of our nature which secretly conditions all our activities, and in this sense each being, type, species, individual, group has its own dharma. Secondly, there is the divine nature which has to develop and manifest in us, and in this sense dharma is the law of the inner workings by which that grows in our being. Thirdly, there is the law by which we govern our outgoing thought and action and our relations with each other so as to help best both our own growth and that of the human race towards the divine ideal.

We find that there is an individual dharma (different for different roles, functions, and stages of life), group-dharma (dharma of an organization like a guild of craftsmen or a regiment of soldiers or a gurukulam/educational institution) kula-dharma (dharma of an extended family lineage), jati-dharma (dharma of a collective of lineages), yuga dharma (dharma appropriate for a yuga or epoch – implying that dharma changes with time, what is appropriate today may not be relevant tomorrow). Dharma also varies by the varna (varna does not mean caste), and by the stage of one’s life (dharma of a householder is different from dharma of a social recluse/ascetic or from dharma of a student).

The society was meant to be organized around this ideal truth of dharma and the idea was that if people truly acted and lived according to the truth of their dharma they would be able to live harmoniously with others and eventually work towards their own self-fulfillment gradually coming closer and closer to discovering their swabhava, true nature and swadharma, the deeper purpose of their life. This gradual progress in one’s life and living by the dharma appropriate to age, station and place in life and society, helped one grow inwardly and spiritually.

Thus dharma ensures stability and continuity of the society. But in the imperfect human hands/minds, it can also result in society’s stagnation by restricting individual freedom and free expression and by pushing people back in their fixed ‘place’ if they tried to transcend their so-called dharma. Dharma is often confused with the English word ‘Duty’ which automatically brings in the opposition to the other idea of ‘Right’.

[1] Essays on the Gita, CWSA, Volume 19, pp. 171-173
TO BE CONTINUED….
Advertisements

About Beloo Mehra

Beloo is the author of two books, one on Indian Education, titled "ABC’s of Indian National Education" and an ebook featuring a selection of her essays, titled "The Thinking Indian." She holds several degrees in Education and Economics, has extensive teaching experience at school and university level in India and the US, and has a keen interest in the educational, social and cultural thought of Sri Aurobindo. She currently lives in Pondicherry, spends her time doing some reading, some writing, some teaching, some gardening and a whole lot of reflecting on life, living, society, politics, religion, art, literature, India, the World, and everything else under the Sun and the Moon.

9 comments on “What’s the Right Thing to Do: A Meditation on Dharma, Reason and Offering – Part 1

  1. Vidya Sury
    November 9, 2015

    Even if we receive those three bits of advice from everyone we know, one has to admit it is excellent. Except, easier said than done. I think for many of us it is the ultimate Holy Grail, to aspire to fearlessly listen to our inner voice and act accordingly. Listening to that voice isnt always a problem, it is the action part that comes up short, because we care about what others might think – what if they judge us? 🙂 Luckily, this state subtly changes as we grow and we become a little stronger over time. Beautiful post, Beloo! Thank you. I found it very soothing to read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beloo Mehra
      November 10, 2015

      Glad you enjoyed the post, Vidya. I agree so many times we choose not to do the right thing because of fear or ridicule, or because we want to be socially accepted or popular or other such reasons. But to me that is going against the dharma. I hope you will come back for next parts of this series 🙂 Wishing you and your family a very happy and joyous Diwali.

      Like

  2. Pingback: Study camp on Yoga as Practical Psychology | Savitri Era Integral Religion

  3. Pingback: What’s the Right Thing to Do: A Meditation on Dharma, Reason and Offering – Part 2 | matriwords

  4. Pingback: What’s the Right Thing to Do: A Meditation on Dharma, Reason and Offering – Part 3 | matriwords

  5. Pingback: What’s the Right Thing to Do: A Meditation on Dharma, Reason and Offering – Part 4 | matriwords

  6. Pingback: What’s the Right Thing to Do: A Meditation on Dharma, Reason and Offering (Concluded) | matriwords

  7. Pingback: Needed: Spiritual Practicality | Beauty Interprets, Expresses, Manifests the Eternal

  8. Pingback: Behind the Blog News – Beauty Interprets, Expresses, Manifests the Eternal

If what you just read inspired some thoughts, please do share. Please note that the blog-owners and writers view matriwords as a sacred space, a feeling shared by many of our regular readers. So any abuse or profanity in any comment will not be tolerated, and such comments will be summarily deleted. Thanks for your co-operation.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Information

This entry was posted on November 8, 2015 by in India, Spirituality and tagged , , .

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Follow matriwords on WordPress.com

Archives

Categories

%d bloggers like this: