This article was first published on Social Potpourri
A new post in the series Satyam Shivam Sundaram
A series featuring inspiring words from various sources, words that speak of timeless truths, words that remind me of the deeper and hidden truth behind surface events and phenomena, words that shine light when all seems dark, words that are just what I need – for this moment and for all times to come.
“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 think about it deeply for a minute. Is it that simple to access that inner voice? That voice of the real you which will inspire you 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 visionaries/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.
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 time – 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 point is that 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 lead to 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 a concept difficult to describe, much less comprehend. Given below is a clear and powerful description given by Nolini Kanta Gupta:
To read more, click here.
And after you have read the amazingly helpful description given by Nolini-da and contemplated a bit on the truth that Dharma has to be first and foremost lived, as per our level of consciousness and its ascending journey….
….next time you hear the clichéd advice – listen to that inner voice – remember that it takes a whole lot of silencing of other voices of Right, Duty, Law, Religion, Rule, Standard etc. before the voice of the inmost consciousness can even have a chance to be heard.
But then the question arises – what to do till we are able to hear that voice?
Maybe we will take it up in a follow-up article on Social Potpourri. Stay tuned.