Vedantic Wednesday: Is Dharma a choice?

What is ‘dharma’? The word today has become synonymous with being ‘good’ or ‘truthful’ or ‘straight-forward’! Hope you agree. But the very essence of ‘dharma’ is ‘a law that governs conduct’

In the broadest sense this refers to a law governing the way of life that we should be leading. It includes practice of fairness, unselfishness, honesty, prudence, sharing amongst others. But it also refers to doing what one is supposed to do. In a way it also means ‘righteousness’.

Like the good have a ‘dharma’, the so-called bad also have their ‘dharma’.

Here are some thoughts that came to my mind based on my sojourn with Vedanta texts

When we exploit our resources, Mother Nature is giving us indication (through tsunamis, earthquakes, etc) that we are not living by the ‘dharma’ of the world. When we conflict with the universal truth, we always feel we have beaten the system – but what is not understood is that it is only for a short-term.

Our dharma as individuals is pre-decided based on the roles that we adopt. However the actions that we take (the karma) decides whether we are abiding by it or not. So the cause and effect (karma and karma-palan) needs to be studied not in isolation but in relation with what is the underlying dharma governing the individual.

A father who has taken a bribe blames God for having given him a sick child and for the pain of seeing this every day. But what he doesn’t realize is that universe is balancing the earlier act. It is settling accounts in the longer term.

As in the end (which is actually at various points in time) accounts need to be settled and balanced. That is the eternal ‘dharma’ of the world. You, me or no other human will be able to defy and beat it – smartness does not work here!
Look at it from your own profession.

Don’t you know what is right or wrong in terms of practice? Don’t you know if you are cheating someone? Don’t you know if the system being followed is right or wrong? Are all our actions not born out of conscious choices that we make as businessmen or professionals?

Why is it that even after knowing all this, many of us do the non-dharmic act? Why is it that we allow selfishness at various levels (self, family, institution, profession, country etc) come in the way of giving in to the even greater good?

While we cannot choose our dharma – our karma’s (actions) are our choice. This is the freedom that has been given to us. The powerful tool called ‘intellect’ enables us to see the difference and make our choice. But then most of us seem to be bent on wasting time to outsmart the rules.

We are busy trading short-term benefits for the longer term fall-out. We ensconce ourselves so often in the ‘just this one time’ or ‘I will take care of this later’ syndrome – forgetting that the law of dharma immediately indulges in the balancing act. No future act of ‘goodness’ can correct your current ‘misdeeds’.

If hundreds of small businesses decide to ensure ‘dharma’ is upheld in the way they go about building, sustaining and growing their business – can we see the silver lining for a more calmer, peaceful and happy world?

Should this not be the responsibility of entrepreneurs / businessmen, even higher than that of making profits?

After all we have chosen the path of ‘capitalism’ through the use of the powerful instrument called ‘intellect’! And we should not forget that ‘capitalism’ also has its own ‘dharma’.

Make your choice!


3 thoughts on “Vedantic Wednesday: Is Dharma a choice?

  1. It was just a lovely read. Firstly, I was in sync with your philosophical connotation. Be it karma, dharma or the freedom and the choices that we have. That made me appreciate me whatever you had written.

    A normal man, devoid of any knowledge of Vedic Philosophy, would not see anything beyond Business ethics. But, what you had given a hint of is ‘Santana-dharma’, the eternal and the universal religion.

    I’m glad there are people who discuss such topics in the 21st century. Please do take time out of your busy schedule and make readers like us feel good and inspire us to read and discuss more on what Indians are rich at – Vedic philosophy.

  2. “Like the good have a ‘dharma’, the so-called bad also have their ‘dharma’”: Raj, Are you referring the bad acts carried on by the bad people is in accordance with the ‘dharma’ of bad? If so, why is that sticking to their ‘dharma’ will bring ill effects on to them later ( I am referring to the corrupt father and children facing the consequences ).

    1. Thanks Ravi for your interesting question! In fact this was a thought when i was reading and contemplating about ‘Dharma’.

      Question: Can sticking to your ‘dharma’ result in bad consequences?

      Background information: The key point to understand before we answer this question is that the law of karma is the eternal and highest law. Every cause will have a result and the result will be the reason for a cause.

      Response: ‘Dharma’ as has been elucidated above refers to ‘a law for conduct’. But at every level there is a ‘dharma’ and of course it rolls up to the higher level. But the effect of the ‘action’ be it good or bad has to be faced. Even the so called celestial beings cannot escape the ‘law of karma’. Hence for our understanding, following the ‘dharma’ of your profession is important – but may be even more important is to understand if the choice is right. Are we choosing the right path? Is the path aligned to the higher level paths? Will the law defined for my profession in line with the universal truth? Will i be doing wrong by conducting myself by the defined dharma? These are questions that need to be answered. It all boils down to “choice” and this is the singular ability of our intellect. If we do not use it wisely, then we will have to face the consequences.

      NOTE: While your question has led me to think further on this topic, i would like to point out that the example referred by you may not be in line with the question raised. While a thief is governed by his dharma to steal, corruption in any profession can never be a accepted dharma. Hope it clarifies. Thanks anyways for your question!

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