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Basic Founding Principles of Sanatana Dharma Laid Out in Bhagwat Geeta

What is the basic foundational principle of Sanatana Dharma laid out in Gita? Of course there will be many versions, but the one that I like the most is that there are two particular shlokas which I always recite to lay out the basic foundational principles and that agree actually basically with the Isha Vaasya.. the Ishopanishad, that first verse of Ishopanishad, it says that “Isha Vaasyam Idam Sarvam Yatkincha Jagatyaam Jagat”. So Krishna says, “Samo’ham Sarvabhuteshu.. Samo’ham Sarvabhuteshu Na Me Dveshyo’sti Na Priyah”. If you compare it with the Islamic principles, it is totally different. Because here what He is saying is that ‘I am equal in all beings.’ All beings, not just human beings. ‘I am equally present in all beings.’ Na Me Dveshyo’sti Na Priyah – ‘Neither I dislike anyone, nor do I love anyone.’

Similarly, there’s again another one in the similar way, that says, “Samam Sarveshu Bhuteshu Tishtthantam Parameshwaram”. That ‘Paramshwara resides equally in all beings.’ Again, all beings, not just human beings. ‘Paramshwara resides equally in all beings.’ “Samam Sarveshu Bhuteshu Tishtthantam Parameshwaram Vinashyat Su Avinashyantam Yah Pashyati Sa Pashyati” – ‘That who sees the indestructible in the destructible, He is the one who actually sees.’ These are the, according to me, the foundational ideology of Sanatana Dharma.

So, the ‘Ahimsa Paramo Dharma’, it occurs in Mahabharata, but where does it occur? Anyone? It occurs in Shanti Parva, after the war is over. After the war is over and everyone has gone to Bhishma to get the lessons from him. it is at that time that ‘Ahimsa Paramo Dharma’ occurs. And why ‘Ahimsa Paramo Dharma’ does not occur before the war is that Himsa and Ahimsa is, they are facets of your Manas and Chitta. Himsa and Ahimsa are not facets of your actions. So, if you are doing something to kill your enemy who has mounted an unjust war on you do it with the attitude “Sukh Dukhe Same Kritva Labhalabhau Jayajayau”, then that, you are not committing Himsa at the level of your Manas and Chitta. And that is the kind of Himsa, and Ahimsa, the differentiation that has been made throughout Mahabharata.

If you read my book, I have tried to make it simpler for people and I have said that Kriya and Karma – that your Kriya is not the same as your Karma. That your Kriya is your apparent action but your Karma is that mental state behind that action. And I always give this simple example, I say that you go to a temple, ki aaj mangalwar hai, aaj Hanumanji ke yahan jaana hai and you go there… Hanuman ji… and there you see somebody, you see your rival and then you go to Hanuman ji and you pray to Him. So apparently everybody is seeing ki bhai, bada bhakta aadmi hai, badhiya Hanuman ji ki pooja kar raha hai, Hanuman Chalisa padh raha hai, sab kuch kar raha hai. But you’re telling Hanuman ji, Hanumanji isko jo haina, iska ilaaj kar dena, mereko kuchch nahin chahiye, Aap to iska ilaaj kar dena. Now this is the difference between your Kriya and karma, your apparent Kriya is you’re doing a pooja, you’re doing a worship, everybody thinks this man is very very pious and bada Hanumanji ka bhakta hai, bahut badhiya kaam kar raha hai, but there is Himsa in your mind. That is your Karma. Ultimately, jo Karma phal milega aapko, the fruit of your Karma will be of your mental state, not of your apparent action. So that is where you have to distinguish between Himsa and Ahimsa.

The first instance of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ is in Mahopanishad And in Mahopanishad it occurs in a very very spiritual, temporal kind of a situation where you are expanding the highest consciousness into the highest realms of Cosmos, and it is in that context that that particular shloka occurs in Mahopanishad. “Ayam Nijah Paro Veti Gananaa Laghu Chetasaam” – the word is Chetasaam, Chetana, Chetana is Consciousness, Chetana is not your everyday routine. So “Gananaa Laghu Chetasaam Udaar Charitanaam Tu Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”. This comes from Mahopanishad.

Now what happened is, even in the older times people started quoting this to their rivals and kind of started disarming them. Ji look, this is the old saying from Mahopanishad, comes from an Upanishad, you must follow them. And once the opponent or the rival becomes disarmed, then they come with full force and conquer him. So, what happened was that in Hitopadesha, a commentary was written on this particular phenomenon. And that actually what this ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ should actually be read as. This is a story, I’ll just narrate this story briefly. It says that there was a jackal and there was deer. I forget the name, what was the… I think the jackal was Kshudrabuddhi and the deer was Chitrang or somewhere it is written as Chitrangada and there was a crow which was called Subuddi, these are the characters, they’re in that. So Subuddhi, Kshudrabuddhi and Chitrangada, these are the three main characters in that story.

And this Chitrangada is living happily in a forest and it’s got Subuddhi for company and this Kshudrabuddhi, he saunters over to his lace and looks at this deer and he starts craving for his meat. He says okay, this deer is very healthy, and I must somehow get to bury my teeth into his flesh. How to do it, because if I try, he will run away, he’s very fast. How to do it? So, he goes to the deer and tells him, look friend I’ve come from outside and I need a place to stay, why don’t you give me shelter? Now the deer of course is the animal of the forest, he does know his way about and he does know a few things about jackals, so he tells him, look I know your kind and I’m not going to get into this trap, you just get lost from here.

This fellow, he says, ye to mushkil ho gayi, ab kya kiya jaaye? So, he recites this shloka to the deer – “Ayam Nijah Paro Veti Gananaa Laghu Chetasaam Udaar Charitanaam Tu Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”. Now this poor deer, ki shloka bol raha hai ye to, ye siyar shloka bol raha hai, ye to bada vidvaan hai. Aise vidvaan ko to sharan deni hi chahiye. Ye bhi likha hua hai Shastron mein ki vidvaan ko sharan do. He just you know, puts a few caveats, I hope you will not do mischief. No No, aap dekh rahe ho, main to Sanskrit ka gyaata hoon, sab jaanta hoon, Shastra-wastra. No chance. Err.. he says ki okay, I’m very impressed. Waise aapko bata doon ki aaj bhi koi shloka padhta hai na to hum log bade impress ho jaate hain. Itna impress hone ki zaroorat nahin hai, uske peechhe jaaiye.

So, he takes him to his place where he lives, he lives in a little cave and there is a tree there where Subuddhi, that crow, he lives. Subuddhi sees this fellow coming with Kshudrabuddhi, the jackal, and he tells him what the hell are you doing? Pagal ho gaya hai kya? Ye kya kar raha hai? He says, no no, you don’t know, this jackal is not an ordinary one. He recites shlokas, he knows Shastras. Ki are bewakoof, Sharta-wastra kuchch nahin hai, tere ko bewakoof banana ke chakkar… Ki no, no way, I think you are wrong. And you don’t understand because you don’t understand shlokas and I understand the Shastras. So I know that this fellow what he is saying is absolutely true, is Shastra sammat… that is the word used… Shastra sammat baat kar raha hai ye.

So, what can the crow do, this fellow is bent on committing suicide. And he even narrates his story to him. Within this story there’s another story, I’ll leave that. That story is regarding an eagle who’s become old and a cat comes and deceives him… something to that effect. But this guy is adamant, ki no, ye to shloka padhta hai, Shastra jaanta hai, main to isko rakhoonga hi rakhoonga. Theek hai phir, kya karein, but be on your guard, I am also watching, all that. Ultimately, as you would expect, the jackal what he does is that he lures him into a trap and when he gets trapped at a farmer’s field, and he sits there, salivating that this guy is now going to starve out and die and then I will have my feast. This deer finds him sitting nearby and he tells him ki are, good yaar, you’ve come, now you use your sharp teeth and you please cut out this leather net and free me, I’m very happy that you are here. Wo kehta hai bhai aisa hai ki aaj to mera fast hai, aaj ravivar hai, aaj mera fast hai, I cannot touch this leather, so you please wait until tomorrow, then I will cut this net and free you. Of course, that crow did not find the deer coming back at his routine time, so he went around, and he found this guy trapped. And then they worked out some kind of a scheme by which the crow was able to free the deer and the jackal got killed. This is how, Hitopadesha explains ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’. So, whenever somebody throws ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumabakam’ at you, please feel empowered and use this Hitopadesha story.

There is a very very nice what is called Upakhyaan a story in Mahabharata. It is mentioned by my good friend Sandeep Balakrishna in his book, ’70 Years of Secularism.’ And that is called the Kanika Upakhyaan. Before the Lakshagriha incident, I think most people here sitting here would know the Lakshagriha incident, before the Lakshagriha incident, a guy called Kanika is brought by Shakuni to Duryodhana. And this Kanika teaches Duryodhana and Shakuni that, ‘look Dharma-Adharma is not important, what is important is the expansion of your empire and territory’. Now that’s not very different from the idea of the old, classical Pakistan. And all kind of deceit and treachery is allowed.

So Duryodhana and Shakuni, they have always been finding Dhritarashtra to be a bit reluctant. So, they take this Kanika guy to Dhritarashtra, and then Kanika very beautifully explains the nuances of empire building and why it is important and why it is proper Kshatriya Dharma to expand your empire without any regard for such tender considerations like Dharma and all. And Dhritarashtra acquiesces, he agrees.

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