As Manu says in Manusmriti
परित्यजेदर्थकामौ यौ स्यातां धर्मवर्जितौ। धर्मं चाप्यसुखोदर्कं लोकनिकृष्टमेव च।।
The desire, wealth and the heartfelt wish which is adverse to Dharma should be rejected, if it’s not enough reject that Dharma which is adverse and which will pull you in great difficulty or the Dharma which will be unfavorable of the whole society and its beings.
It’s very interesting to know that Manu himself guides on the principles given by him and guides thru his Smiriti (scripture) to reject the principles & values which are not in line with Dharma or even reject that Dharma which is not for benefits of larger meaning of society, structure or your own true purpose.
As per Mahabharata,
गुरोरप्यवलिप्तस्य कार्याकार्यमजानत: | उत्पथं प्रातिपन्नस्य न्याय्यं भवति शासनम् ||
One who is elderly and holds power or authority, if puffed up with pride, and is unable to discriminate between the proper (Dharma) and improper (Adharma) thing to be done, has taken a wrong path, punishment to such a person is Justice.
An old story from Ramayana gets reminded whenever the topic of Dharma and Nyaya or Justice gets open. In this story a person who was rejected and treated like stray dog explains the way of justice to Shri Ramachandra.
This is a time when Shri Ram was ruling the mighty Kingdome of Ayodhya. He and his obedient brother Laxman followed a ritual before taking their dinner. Laxman would reach out to the door of palace and see if anyone is hungry and has not eaten that night, once he confirms that there is no one who is hungry at the door of palace, Shri Ram and Laxman would eat their supper.
One day Shri Ram requests Laxman to see at the door of the palace, if anyone is hungry. As per the rule Laxmana shouted at the door step “Is anyone hungry tonight?” He followed that there is a man who was treated by society like a stray dog is crying at the door step of palace. Sri Ram and Laxmana called the man and asked for the reason of his pain and cry.
The man replied “I have been beaten by a Brahmin (knowledgeable clan of the society). Shri Ram ordered the Brahmin man to be present in the court room, and asked “is this man telling the truth? Have you have beaten him?”
Brahmin said “Yes I did. He was sleeping on the road with his dirty cloths, smelling like dog and he was blocking my way, hence I have beaten him with a rod. These dogs like people should be treated like this.”
Shri Ram understood that this was a crime done by Brahmin, he turned to the man who was beaten and asked him “What do you wish me to do with this Brahmin who has beaten you with a rod?
The man replied “Make him the head of department of ethics in the university”.
Ram smiled and asked the man “This Brahmin who has beaten you with rod and you wish him to the head of ethics at university? Once he becomes head of department he will have many students and followers, how will that be a justice for you?”
The man replied “I was also head of ethics department once upon a time, and I just preached and did not follow what should have been followed. The power, fame and wealth of that post made me go against the principles of that post and I made many mistakes, and by means of the law of karma now I am suffering like a stray dog. Let this Brahmine also be on that post and understand how unethical he is behaving and if he doesn’t behave as per the principles of the post he holds, he will also be like me one day- a stray dog”
Nature of the person and the requirement of job being done, many a times they are opposite to each other, in this tussle questioning and deciding what is right and what is wrong is the essence of dharma and the outcome or decision is Nyaya for self and others.
Let’s take example of one more story; this story is from Buddhist literature.
Once, Buddha and his disciples visited the Capitol City- Shravasti. Some of his disciples went out to collect alms in the city, while returning back, clouds gathered in the sky and it started raining. To take a shelter from the rain, these disciples went to a nearby place, which happened to be the court of judgment. And they saw that the judge is corrupt and he was accepting bribe from the people. And it was not only one of the judges following this corrupt path but most of them were following same path. They ignored the arguments of both the sides and the decisions were given in favor of people who were paying them bribe. All the disciples were upset to see this kind of scene.
When they returned to Buddha they narrated this incidence to Buddha and said “these judges were corrupt, they were Adharmi (not following dharma), till date we were thinking that the one who sits on the seat of judge provides justice, it is the path going against truthfulness, they are providing judgment which is against the Dharma, their behavior is against the Dharma”
Buddha explained them “Oh Bhiukkus (disciples), the judge who follows his own directionless path, doesn’t abide to the basic values of the post they are holding, not doing their duties as per the principles of the job they are doing are not following the path of Dharma”
He further explained “Judge who gets into the depth of the case. Weighs the right and wrong of the case and his judgmental options then further he decides the appropriate judgment is the one who follows Dharma”
He gave two gatha (principles) at that time
न तने होति धम्मट्ठो येनत्थं सहसा नये। यो च अत्थं अनत्थज्च उभो निच्छेय्य पंडितो ।।
असाहसेन धम्मेन समेन नयती परे। ध्म्मस्स गुत्तो मेधावी धम्मट्ठोति पवुच्चति ।।
One who takes a decision or provides judgment without thinking is not the person follows the path of Dharma
And the person who thinks, questions and ponders on what is right and wrong, what is just and unjust, follows the path of thinking, questioning, decides with the mind of equality and with the neutral mind is the greatest, knowledgeable and just person following the path of Dharma
During the period of vanavaas or exile the eldest among the Pandavas, Yudhisthir in search of shelter entered inside a Place of a Rishi (Monk). The place is called aashram, where the knowledge is imparted by Rishi (monk) to the disciples. Following is the conversation amoung Rishi and Yudhisthir.
Rishi asked “Who are you?”
Yudhisthir replied “As of now a person from forest, a sufferer of Adharma and injustice. We are in search of Dharma and justice (Nyaya)”
Rishi replied “Are you in search of Dharma or Nyaya?”
Yudhisthir said “Is there any difference between them? I believe they are same or inseparable”
Rishi smiled and said “Yes indeed they are inseparable, however I can teach you Dharma and I can’t grant you justice. A university or knowledge centre can teach you what is Dharma as well as you can read and learn Nyaya, but the justice has to be done by self or by authority. Nyaya is attached to punishment or reward. For Nyaya you have to have tussle with your thoughts. And for Nyaya you have to defeat your enemy, however for Dharma you have to defeat your on deflecting thoughts. Justice can be asked while Dharma has to be practiced. Nyaya has authority however Dharma has responsibility. Dharma comes from knowledge and Nyaya comes from principles, belief system. One can grant justice but one cant grant the Dharma it has to be followed”
Yudhistir replied “Indeed Nyaya and Dharma are partners but they have separate existence”.
As one of the Subhashita says,
शस्यानि स्वयमत्ति चेद्वसुमती माता सुतं हन्ति चेत्, वेलाम्बुनिधि र्विलङ्घयति चेत् भूमिं दहेत् पावकः । आकाशं जनमस्तके पतति चेदन्नं विषं चेद्भवेत्, अन्यायं कुरुते यदि क्षितिपतिः कस्तं निरोद्धुं क्षमः ॥
If the earth who produces grain eats all of it, mother who is the reason of giving birth kills an innocent child, sea crosses the limits, and if fire burns the earth, if sky falls, food becomes poison and the person who is suppose to follow duty goes against it, who is powerful to stop them?
And the key for following dharma is justice.
As we have seen that 10 characteristics of Dharma, which are also the basis of Justice or Nyaya
धृतिः क्षमा शमोऽस्तेयं शौचमिन्द्रियनिग्रहः। धीर्विद्या सत्यमक्रोधो दशकं धर्मलक्षणम् ॥
धृतिः Dhruti- Determination, क्षमा Kshama- Forgiveness, शमः Shama- Control of mind, अस्तेयं Asteyam- Non- Stealing, शौचं Shaucham- Purity of Physical Body, Mind and Soul, इन्द्रियनिग्रहः Indriya Nigraha- Usage of senses , धीः Dhi- The ability to question , विद्या Vidhya – Knowledge , सत्यं Satyam- Truthfulness , अक्रोधः Akrodha- Anger less
Base of both Dharma and Nyaya is questioning and then reaching to the truthful action.
One of the important aspect of Nyaya and Dharma is Mercy or Compassion, following is a scripture guides us what can be the base of Dharma.
त्यजेत् धर्मं दयाहीनं विद्याहीनं गुरुं त्यजेत् । त्यजेत् क्रोधमुखीं भार्यां निःस्नेहान् बान्धवांस्त्यजेत् ॥
One should reject Dharma which is intolerant and dis-compassionate or merciless. Reject the teacher who is without knowledge; Give away angry spouse and leave the friendship or relationship where there is no warmth.
I will continue this blog series on Dharma with more stories and more compilation from ancient scriptures. Keep reading and keep sending your suggestions.