The notion of dharma-karma as propounded in the Gita fascinates me. My understanding is that even the atman that has realized pure consciousness essentially needs to engage in action for the larger good of humanity. This action or ‘karma’ need to be performed with no attachment to its fruits (results), totally surrendering the agency of ‘doership’ to the ‘supreme being’ or Brahman. This attitude of ‘nishkamakarma’ would be possible when our actions are aligned to dharma.
Raised in a traditional (but not orthodox) Hindu family, daily pujas, reciting mantras and stotras, fasting on auspicious days and stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata were common phenomenon for me. As a child two stories stood out to me and later raised deep questions in me as well. The first one was of Shravana in the Ramayana and the other was that of Ekalavya from the Mahabharata. The former lost his life while pursuing his dharma as a son while the latter lost his right thumb (the life of an archer) in delivering his dharma as a shishya. The question that arose in me was ‘why would people suffer when they stand steadfast in their dharma?’ It was not an easy question to answer then. This project* is an attempt to get to grips at this paradox.
Personally it has been a constant struggle for me to reconcile the difference between what is expected of me and what I wanted. First half of my current life was spent on being ‘good’ by submitting my needs to the wishes of others, namely family and friends. However, when I took up training in transactional analysis in 1994 I found my own inner voice and started experiencing the joy of wanting something of my own and acting based on these inner needs and drives of my own rather than adapting to that of my surrounding. It was indeed a long journey and the deep psychological understanding I derived from that process helped me grow in leaps and bounds towards ‘autonomy’.
Experiencing autonomy (capacity to be aware, spontaneous and intimate, as defined by Eric Berne) was a major milestone for me. When I was fully pursuing the goal of autonomy the world faced the worst economic crisis of over a century. When the world markets collapsed and the whole global economy were in a mess, it raised questions in me about personal autonomy as a life goal. Somehow deep down I realized blind and narrow pursuit of autonomy without any concern for the others seem to have been at the bottom of this collapse. That is when my interest in looking at the Gita grew and it threw open a whole new paradigm for me to look at myself and the world. I realized how decline of global dharma has led to the mega fiasco at an unprecedented scale. (Elaborated in my attached paper titled ‘Time for a New Avatar? Revitalising the Debate on Ethics for a New Global Vision’ Full Paper_Suriyaprakash C_ICON SMS Varanasi Feb 2012_Revitalising Organizational and Professional Ethics for Global Vision) I found myself too powerless to reverse this trend but it stirred in me the thought “how am I contributing to this and what do I need to change within me so that I could create a small ripple around me towards a macro transformation?” That is when I came across the notion of ‘svadharma’.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna advices Arjuna to abide by his ‘svadharma’ whenever there is a conflict between svadharma and paradharma. This raised several questions in me:
- How to identify what one’s dharma is? What factors constitute one’s dharma?
- How do I differentiate my needs, wishes and desires from my dharma?
- Is dharma static and deterministic? or is it dynamic and changing?
- How do I identify the conflict between svadharma and paradharma?
- What is MY svadharma? What role does it play in my realization of the pure consciousness?
This project* is an attempt to find answers to these questions so that my actions will be guided by my personal dharma. As I dwell on these questions it becomes more and more clear to me that there are no simple answers to these and that this pursuit is for life!
* I attended a Summer School on Indian Psychology in Pondicherry in 2012. As a participant I had to take up a personal project on a topic of my choice. I chose Dharma and after four weeks of study and introspection submitted a report. In this page I share some parts of that report, as a series. This page will also reflect my new and ongoing learning about dharma.
to be continued….