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Following is an account of my conversation with a head-priest of one mother-goddess temple in rural and central India. The name of the priest was Shri Mohan Dev.
In the course of conversation, I asked him, what exactly is Dharma? The response he gave was simple yet succinct.
He said," It is nature of universe and everything in this universe to upgrade and evolve and strive for excellence. To facilitate this upward movement, everything arrives at a mutually acceptable set of rules. In different space, times and contexts, the rules and their interpretation changes. However, what remains constant is the drive to evolve and excel. This intrinsic drive to evolve and excel is called Dharma."
"The set of rules are Baahya-dharma (extrinsic Dharma), which although is important, but is not absolute."
I asked," how does one define Unnati (excellence, drive to move higher)? Because it is relative, different people and societies have different notions of progress in different times. If you say this is the only constant, how do you reconcile with differential interpretations of progress?"
He answered," Progress OR Unnati is defined as "Tamaso ma Jyotirgamaya" (lets move from darkness towards enlightenment). In any time, place and context, Tamaso ma Jyotirgamaya holds true. This is the real Dharma. This includes material, spiritual, political, social, sexual, self-upliftment in every aspect of life.
"The quest to achieve completeness (Poornatva)-complete peace, complete understanding, complete bliss is in fact the most fundamental phenomenon in all humans and other living beings. Even non-living inanimate objects tend to achieve a stable low-energy state."
"As long as the external rules are supporting this movement (towards completeness), they are kept. once they start hindering that movement, those rules are changed."
"The most important thing about Dharma is that in Sanskrit, Dharma is synonymous to Yama, Kaala and Nyaya (Rules, Time and Justice). The rules are devised OR arrived upon by mutual consensus for cordial movement of everybody towards higher level of consciousness. Wherever one is, he strives to move up, even one step higher is in accordance with the basic dharma. Hence Dharma is Just. Dharma is time."
I bowed and left.
One of the hallmarks of my recent India-trip, this 5 minute conversation was. In my previous article, where I discussed the righteousness aspect and duty aspect of dharma, seem to me now like the the outer covering of onion.
Being true and just with self's and surrounding's quest to uplift itself every moment of our life, is in fact following "Dharma".