The Ten Characteristics of Dharma
Shreyán svadharmo viguńah paradharmatsvásvanuśtitát
Svadharme nidhanaḿ shreyah paradharmo bhayávahah.
Human beings should die a glorious death, a death worthy of a human being. They should never give indulgence to the crude animal propensities. “Svadharme nidhanaḿ shreyah”. It is better to die a glorious death than to continue living a life of carnal pleasure. “Paradharmo bhayávahah.” It is dangerous to follow the characteristics which are only fit for non-humans. Here paradharma means that type of dharma which is unfit to be followed by human beings.
One of the meanings of the word “dhrti” is “patience”. In its larger connotation, it also means “dharma”. Dharma has ten characteristics.
Dhiirvidyásatyamakrodho dashakaḿ dharmalakśańam.
In this shloka the ten characteristics of dharma have been mentioned. The first one is dhrti or patience. Every human being should be patient. Suppose, immediately after planting some saplings and seeds, someone digs them up to find out if they have taken root or sprouted. That would not be considered wise. Similarly, in the spiritual sphere, if someone expects immediate results after starting the practice of Tantra, that would not be realistic. You should never do that.
Each action had an equal and opposite reaction provided the three relative factors of time, space and person remain unchanged. Whatever you do is an actional expression determined by your past actions. Your actions will certainly have reactions, but you may have to wait some time for their expression. Thus, dhrti is the first characteristic of dharma.
The second characteristic is kśama or forgiveness. I have already said that each and every action produces an equal and opposite reaction provided the three relative factors remain unchanged. But these three factors often change – change becomes a necessity. This change is a transformation from one state to another. Suppose someone has started doing some mischief by hitting you: this action will certainly have a reaction. In the third stage, this reaction will itself have an opposite reaction, and in the fourth stage, there will be yet another reaction against the previous action. Suppose Rama insults Shyama. Shyama’s son will insult Rama’s son, and Rama’s grandson will insult Shyama’s grandson. In this way, a vicious cycle of action and reaction is set in motion. But this seemingly endless cycle must come to a halt somewhere: an end point must be reached. When the time comes for you to take revenge, you should not express any reaction yourself. In this way you will break the continuity of the chain. This point at which the cycle of action and reaction stops, due to your initiative, is called forgiveness. This is the second characteristic of dharma.
The third characteristic is damah or control. There is a story that one day, while standing in a certain place, some beings saw something miraculous: a radiant entity. In that expression there was a great vibration that was glittering with tremendous brilliance. Those beings went near the effulgent entity and asked, “Who are you?” It gave no reply. “What’s your command?” they asked. That effulgent entity gave a monosyllabic command: “Da”. Some of those beings, those who were more evolved, interpreted that monosyllabic sound as “damanam kuru” – “regulate” or “control”. The second group consisting of the general mass, interpreted it as “dayám kuru” – “show mercy on others”. And the third group, the demons, interpreted it as “dánaḿ kuru” – “donate”. So in this shloka it is said, “damo’steyaḿ”. Here damah means “damanam” or “regulation” or “control”.
In every place one has both friends and foes. When one fights against external enemies and brings them under one’s control, it is called an act of “shamanam”. One who has the quality of shamanam is called “shánta”. Sham + anat́ = shamana. Sham + kta = shánta, which means “a person who has achieved control over the external world.” Similarly, dam + anat́ = damana. Damana is the state of achieving control over the internal enemies or the depraving or debasing propensities or activities. Dam + kta = dánta, which means “one who has control over the internal enemies.” According to Indian mythology, the duty of the God of Death or Yama (Pluto) is to keep the world’s population to a limited number. Thus, he is also called “Shamana”. “Namah Shiváya Shántáya”. One who establishes control over each and every entity is called “Shánta”. So the virtuous people, the spiritual aspirants, will have to attain control over their debasing propensities.
The fourth characteristic is asteya. I think you are all conversant with the meaning of the term. Asteya literally means not to steal anything physically or mentally.
The fifth characteristic is shaoca. As you know, shaoca is of two types: external cleanliness and internal cleanliness. External cleanliness means cleanliness of one’s body, clothes and surroundings. Internal cleanliness means cleanliness of mind.
The sixth characteristic is indriyanigraha. In Saḿskrta, indra means “controller”, “headman” or “patriarch”. The Persian word is “sardár”. Sar means “head” and dár means “owner”. So Sardar means a person who gets the work done while remaining at the helm of affairs. There are ten organs (indriyas): five sensory and five motor. As they exercise control over the physical activities, they are called “indra”, which literally means “dominating entity”. The subtler mind or atman is superior to these organs. You will have to keep the indriyas under control with your mental and spiritual power. This is why in dharmic life the control of the organs is an imperative necessity. In the spiritual sphere one will have to exercise control over the sensory and motor organs.
The seventh characteristic is dhii. Dhii means “benevolent intellect”. If human intellect is not channelized along the proper path it becomes destructive; it corrupts and exploits the society. It may even become a demoniacal force. Dhii means that intellect which can be utilized for the regeneration of society, which can benefit not only human beings but the entire world of living beings. This is dhii in the true sense of the term.
The eighth characteristic is vidyá. Vidyá is derived from the Vedic root-verb “vid”, which means “internal assimilation of external objectivities”. It is of two types: vidyá and avidyá. Avidyá is mainly concerned with external life whereas vidyá is concerned with internal life. According to Ananda Marga philosophy, we cannot afford to ignore the external world, and thus ours is a subjective approach through objective adjustment. You should also know what avidyá is. Here avidyá means “modern science”. You should not ignore modern science in your lives. Just as some people are trying to abolish the English language in India, one should never strive to abolish modern science.
Avidyayá mrtyuḿ tiirtvá vidyámrtamashnute.
You should know what avidyá is – what is its scope and content – and you should know what vidyá is, too. With the help of avidyá one may develop in the physical sphere, and with the help of vidyá, one may strive to attain liberation. Vidyá and avidyá will help human beings achieve success in the material and spiritual spheres.
The ninth characteristic is satyam or “truth”. You should know the inner import of the word, you should remember it, and you should observe this principle in your individual and collective lives.
The tenth and final characteristic is akrodha or non-anger, a very subtle propensity. You should not be misguided or swayed away or unduly influenced by krodha or anger. Anger means to remain under the influence of the nerve cells and fibres instead of under the influence of the subtler layers of mind. It is therefore very dangerous. You may show anger to stop the unholy activities of the sinful people in society. This is called “sentient anger”. But you should not allow the instinct of anger to take control of you. If this happens it is called “static anger”.
These are the ten characteristics of dharma: dhrti (patience), kśama (forgiveness), dhamah (self control), asteya (non stealing), shaoca (cleanliness), indriyanigraha (control of organs), dhii (benevolent intellect), vidyá (spiritual knowledge), satyaḿ (love of truth) and akrodha (non-anger).
When the word dhrti is used in the sense of dharma, it contains these ten characteristics.
–P.R. Sarkar (also known as Shrii Shrii Anandamurti)
18 February 1979, Bangalore
Ánanda Vacanámrtam Part 8