Dharma provides people a basis for evolving their particular value system. On the solid foundation of dharma, peoples? culture, i.e. sanskriti is established. I said that dharma is a principle of universal harmony. At the very first step, there must be harmony between individuals and the society. This can happen only if individuals regard themselves as part and parcel, really as constituents, of society. Some thinkers say that there is a contract between the individual and society. Now contract comes into being only among aliens, or unconnected existences that come together for each other'smaterial benefit. This contract theory is not acceptable to us. We are for an ingredient theory, for an integrationist theory. It is true that individuals constitute the society, but it must not be forgotten that the individual is a part, while the society is a whole. And a whole is not just the addition of the individuals, it is something more than that. This thought is beautifully contained in a famous hymn of Shankara. In his famous ?kV~inhLrks= he says, ?Oh Lord, though because of realisation of oneness with You, I am of You but not You of me. A wave is of the ocean and not a ocean of the wave.? On the firm foundation of the integrationist or holistic view, there can the immutable harmony between individual and human society.
Relation with nature
But the human society does not exhaust the whole universe. There are birds and animals, trees and flowers, mountains and rivers, stars and planets. Our dharma teaches to connect us to all these existences. And how to connect ourselves with these so-called inanimate things? Dharma lays down that it is possible through a sentiment of reverence. As said earlier, the highest and the noblest symbol of reverence is our mother. Regard the whole creation (srishti) as your mother. l`f?Vekrk- With this sentiment the earth becomes Hkwekrk, a cow becomes xksekrk, a river becomes yksdekrk. Ganga is not a mere collection of oxides of hydrogen-H20s, it is xaxkkekrk. Our dharma has conferred sanctity on trees, flowers and animals, by associating them, with this or that form of the godhood. The tree Bilva with Lord Shankara, Tulsi with Vishnu, Oudumber with Dattatraya, Vata (banyan) with Savitri. Animals too are associated. Cow with Lord Krishna, the bull with Shankara, even a snake with Shankara, eagle with Vishnu, the lion with goddess Durga, even a little mouse with Ganesh. Every hilltop is made sacred by instituting a temple on it. The Himalaya is Devatatma (nsorkRek). And this association can come only through a spirit of reverence as ordained by dharma.
And lastly dharma connects the whole creation with the Supreme Spirit: call it by whatever name you like or worship it in whatever form you wish. This is the domain of religions. The ultimate aim is to achieve unison with Him. There can be a number of paths to reach the unison. And all paths can be valid. Just as water fallen from the skies, ultimately reaches the ocean, so also obeisance to any symbol of God reaches the Supreme Spirit (ijekRek). Thus dharma vouches for the appreciation of plurality of faiths. It is inclusive. In this sense, Hinduism is a dharma, I can even say that it is the dharma. And this dharma has evolved our culture, i.e. our value-system. This value-system guarantees people to choose their way of worship and have their own rituals.
As a nation is conceived to be resting on the culture, dharma becomes imperative for the nation, because culture or laL?fr is based on the principles of dharma. The root meaning of laL?fr is to become good. To remain as it is, is ??fr. To fall below ??fr is fo?fr (perverseness). Man alone has the potential to become good. He alone can become perverse. Animals behave as per their ??fr. Therefore it is said that, hunger, sleep, fear and sex are common to both animals and human beings. Dharma is the special characteristic of man. Those that are devoid of dharma are no better than animals. Thus dharma makes us men of a broader perception, of noble mind, and wider attitude. If you build house for you, it is no dharma. If you build a house for other to live, then dharmashala comes up. Dharmashala is not a religious school. You may store any number of medicines for your health, it is no dharma. When you minister to the health-needs of others then that arrangement gets a name of dharmartha hospital. Dharmartha hospital does not treat any religion. Dharmakanta (/keZdkaVk) is a balance, it is so called, because it gives the true weight of a thing. Dharmakanta joins you with truth, Rajdharma means those duties of king or a Government that join him with the people i.e. iztk. And putradharma means those duties of a son that join him with his parents. Thus dharma joins the people to the good of other people.
On this foundation are based our icons and ideals. Rama, in order to obey the orders of his stepmother, preferred to accept the forest life to ascending the throne. He could have easily brushed away that wish of his father and the stepmother and become the King of Ayodhya. People of Ayodhya would have backed his coronation. Rama does not do that. Rama becomes our ideal. Bharat got the throne, after Rama'sabdication; but he refuses, goes to Rama, brings his sandals, carries them on his head and installs them on the throne. Bharat becomes our ideal. Prince Siddhartha is surrounded by all types of luxuries, almost enmeshed in them, but when he sees the sorrows and miseries of human life, he abandons the palace, to find out the ways to remove these miseries. Siddhartha becomes Bhagwan Buddha. A commander of a king, after defeating the enemy, brings the beautiful woman of the enemy to be presented to the king, in the hope that the king will be pleased by this novel present. But no, the king is displeased. He sends back, with honour, the lady to her in-laws. Chhatrapati Shivaji becomes our ideal king. Panna is just an ordinary maidservant who is entrusted to protect the prince. The murderer comes with a sword drawn in his hand and threateningly asks her, where the prince is. She indicates towards the bed of her own child and sees before her very eyes the murder of her son, but protects the price. Panna becomes our ideal of devotion to duty. Thus, these great men and women create a value-system for which they had paid the price of their selfish desires. Therefore, in order to make the nation consisting of men who are selfless, of unblemished character, you need the teaching and eventual practice of dharma. Thus dharma and the Nation are intimately related. Without dharma people who are strong are bound to become selfish, corrupt, cruel and intolerant; and those that are weak and meek, slavish and submissive, always trodden under the feet of the aggressors and the tormentors. Rampant corruption, inhuman cruelty and social disharmony that we see in the world in general and our country in particular is because we have ignored if not abandoned, the plans to inculcate the principles of dharma in our people. Mere economic prosperity cannot make people good. Man'sdesires are insatiable. Man is very possessive. Without dharma he will become a glutton in the matter of eating and a sensuous libertine in the matter of sex. In order that a nation does not fall a prey to the permissive instincts, and the human society does not stoop to the animal level, dharma is essential. Dharma ensures a moral, a restrained, a disciplined, a cooperative, a tolerant, in short a humane civil life. Such a life alone is a guarantee for world peace and world order. Unlike religion, dharma is both secular and spiritual. The combination and interdependence of these two aspects of human life, only, can ensure the dharma, i.e. sustenance and maintenance of the people. The Mahabharat defines dharma as follows:
(The writer is a senior journalist and former spokesperson of RSS.)