Spiritual Blossoms
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Dear Reader,

We now come to what may be called the CORE of spiritual lessons. This section is a bit long, but if you take the trouble to study it carefully, digest the content and learn to apply it in daily life, then you have got it made! We not only urge you to study this material carefully, but also suggest you reflect on it in relation to what Bhagavan Baba says in His innumerable Discourses. If you do, you will find this is the essence of what may be called Practical Spirituality.

Good luck and happy reading. Jai Sai Ram.


MAMA Dharma OR Atma Dharma

In the last unit that we offered, we ended with the theme of Mama Dharma. Presently we expand on it.

Let us start with the term Dharma. We all have heard it any number of times. But do we know the real meaning of the word Dharma? Scholars would say that this term is too rich in meaning to be given a simple translation. Indeed, this is true. In fact, the word is used in different contexts with special meaning. An example. In India, the term Dharma is sometimes used to describe charity. Swami has drawn attention to this on many occasions. We do not use the term here in such a narrow or limited sense. For us now, Dharma stands for DUTY. This of course raises another question: “What precisely is meant by duty?” Indeed, that is what we shall be zeroing in on presently.

Before going further, let it be mentioned that Swami also reminds us that there is another term for Mama Dharma; that term is Atma Dharma. This is a very important and crucial point, and we have to go into it in some detail. Our starting point is hymn [sloka] (2,31) of the Bhagavad Gita, wherein Krishna introduces the term Swadharma. Swadharma = Swa + Dharma. Swa is invariably interpreted as the self. Hence, the word Swadharma is interpreted as “the Dharma of the self”. This is OK, except for one very important point. The word Swa refers not to the lower self [as most scholars assert] but to the HIGHER SELF or the Atma, as Baba has pointed out. Thus, Swadharma really means Atma Dharma or, duty performed in consonance with the nature of the Atma. This interpretation of Bhagavan Baba is both unique as well as profound. Swadharma DOES NOT mean Dharma of the individual self, as scholars normally imply. It means Mama Dharmwa, and it also means Atma Dharma. There also exists what may be called the Dharma of the individual self; it is called Para Dharma [to which a reference has already been made].

Seekers are likely to be dazed and confused. They may say: “What is this? First we are told that there are many meanings for the word Dharma. Restricting to duty, we are now informed that there is Atma Dharma on the one hand and Para Dharma on the other. Which of these are we supposed to follow?” This is a legitimate worry. However, most mercifully, Baba has clarified everything in extra-ordinary detail and clarity. So, there is nothing to worry about really. We just have to carefully follow what He says about the matter.

First, Atma Dharma is supreme while Para Dharma is subsidiary; that establishes the hierarchy. Next, in 90% of the cases, we can just routinely follow Para Dharma; no problem. This is because, in all simple situations, Para Dharma is in fact consistent with Atma Dharma. Therefore, in all such cases, following Para Dharma is the same as following Atma Dharma.

A person may now raise a doubt like this: “Listen! I don’t know a thing about either of these two Dharmas you are talking about. How then am I supposed to follow these?” No problem; Swami has explained everything! Let us start with Para Dharma. It means the duty of the individual self; it means the things an individual is supposed to do; it also implies what the individual shall not do. There is nothing complicated about this. All societies and religions have laid down norms. For example, we have the famous Ten Commandments of Moses. Now Para Dharma does not merely represent a set of general instructions like, “Love thy neighbour.” It implies specific rules that apply to one’s position in life. For example, the Para Dharma of a teacher is not quite the same as that of a doctor. This is not as confusing as it might seem A teacher is supposed to teach and doctor is supposed to heal. Likewise, a king must behave like a king and not like a vagabond.

Swami puts it very neatly: “Para Dharma simply means the Dharma of the body. It means being natural corresponding to the state you are in. It automatically varies from person to person, and in fact, even for the same person it varies from time to time and depends on the place!” He explains this as follows. Let us take a baby boy. When the baby is less than three years old, it is quite natural for the baby to play all the time, and even run around without dress occasionally. Nobody thinks that there is anything wrong about this. The baby does what is natural to that particular state. One may say that the baby is intuitively following its Para Dharma. A few years pass and the boy is now grown up. He is studying in High School. He can no longer run around as he did when he was a baby. His Para Dharma is now that appropriate to a schoolboy. He must dress like a student, study well, observe discipline, obey his parents, etc. This is what is now natural to the schoolboy. After completing education, the boy, now a young man, takes up a job; his Para Dharma changes again. After this, he gets married; more fine print into Para Dharma! Still later, he becomes a grandfather; Para Dharma now acquires a different character, since the grandfather has to play the role of an elderly patriarch. Another example, almost trivial. There is a man who is a Judge by profession. In Court, he has to wear special robes to maintain dignity. That is what Para Dharma dictates; that is being natural in Court. At home, he discards the robe and changes into casual dress; once again, he is being natural, and therefore conforming to Para Dharma.

OK, we understand all this. Where does Atma Dharma come into the picture? In fact, why is there a need for such a thing as Atma Dharma? As was mentioned earlier, Para Dharma can easily guide one most of the time about what is the right thing to do. But there are situations, where one gets lost; there are dilemmas, moral dilemmas, and one does not quite know what to do. This precisely is where Atma Dharma enters the picture and becomes crucially important.

The fundamental difference between Para Dharma and Atma Dharma is that whereas the former is the Dharma of the body, the latter is the Dharma of the Atma; whereas the former is the Dharma of the lower self, the latter is the Dharma of the True Self. In Para Dharma there could be a tinge of selfishness; in Atma Dharma, on the other hand, there is not even a trace of selfishness; the actions are totally selfless and rooted in Pure Love. The bottom line is: “In the ultimate analysis, it is Atma Dharma that must be followed, particularly so, when there is an apparent conflict between Para Dharma and Atma Dharma.” This in fact is the most crucial point relating to practical spirituality, and needs careful study.

A small example. There is a young man whose mother is critically ill. The doctor prescribes a powerful drug. Unfortunately, it is in short supply in the market and is available only at black market prices. The man does not know what to do. He is dead against black marketing. He does not wish to encourage it in any form and under any circumstance. But his mother’s life is in danger, and the wonder drug that could save her is available only in the black market. What is he to do? Adhere to his basic principles or compromise on them just once, in order to save the life of his dear mother? This is a moral dilemma. When it is a clear choice between right and wrong, it is not difficult to decide. But when there is a conflict between one type of duty and another, there is a problem. The young man is facing just this kind of a situation; he has a duty to his Conscience and he also has a duty to his mother. What should he do? His Para Dharma says, “Do your duty by your mother. Mother is God!” But his Conscience says, “NO!” What the Conscience proclaims is Atma Dharma - painful choice, but there it is!

This is a typical example of a moral dilemma, a tug-of-war between two conflicting duties. This precisely is where Atma Dharma comes into the picture. Remember, if Para Dharma says one thing and Atma Dharma says another, always vote for AD! Atma Dharma says, “Don’t give a bribe!” So, that’s what one is supposed to do.

“Look, that’s not fair! The boy’s mother is in danger!”
“Yes, that is true, but the mother is related only by the body. Before he was born, where was the mother and where was the son?”
“This is a crazy argument!”

The basic point is that when one follows AD, one acts beyond all bodily and worldly relationships. One may not like to hear the verdict of AD, but whatever it says is the ultimate.

Atma is God, and when it is a choice between something and God, then it HAS to be God.”
“It is not the Atma which is telling anything but the Conscience!”
“And what do you think the Conscience is? It is nothing but the voice of God!”

In spite of all this, many would not be convinced, and so at this stage, two points must be injected. First is the following. Suppose the young man does obey his Conscience and refuses to buy the medicine in the black market. Why should one automatically assume that all is lost? He who has protected Dharma would himself be protected by that very same Dharma – have we not heard Swami say this any number of times? It is quite possible that when he returns empty handed, the doctor says, “You are lucky, I found that I still had some of this medicine left over from my last patient,” or something like that. Indeed, many devotees [not necessarily those who avoided the black market], have been able to get rare drugs after losing all hopes of buying them, just in time – there was a ‘miracle’, and they got the drug from somewhere or the other. People describe such events as a great coincidence. But, as Baba puts it, “Coincidence is a miracle where I hide Myself!” The point simply is that by following the Atma Dharma, the young man does not simply shut out all options. He could also pray intensely to God, and there is absolutely no doubt that God would come to his rescue in some manner or the other; this has happened innumerable number of times; when all is lost, there is still Prayer available. And God’s only weakness is Prayer!

The second point relates to the examples of correct choice, cited by Bhagavan Baba Himself. Let us start with the celebrated case of Prahalada. The scriptures say, “Father is God.” Now what did Prahalda’s father Hiranyakashipu do? He told his son, “Listen, there is no God. I am the Supreme Being. Worship me and no other God.” Here, the father was coming between the son and God. In the normal circumstance, the son would have obeyed the father as the scriptures advise one to do. But nowhere do the scriptures say, “Do what your father says, even if it is wrong”. So, when the father comes between oneself and God and the choice is between father and God, it HAS to be God. This precisely is the choice that Prahalada made. In the same manner, Swami has given examples of ‘conflict of interest’ between mother and God, Guru and God, and husband and God. In every case, the person tested made the right choice, i.e., chose God. And in every case, the choice was correct because the person followed AD. AD means following God in the ultimate analysis, over all other considerations arising out of bodily relationships or mental associations.

For a moment, let us go back to the origin of the celebrated Bhagavad Gita. Arjuna is a warrior by birth. He has also been trained that way. There is to be a war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. This war did not happen overnight. In fact, everyone [from the side of the Pandavas] tried hard to prevent the war. Even Krishna tried. But it was all in vain. Finally, it was decided that it would all be settled on the battlefield. Arjuna was a party to this decision. He had sought the help of Krishna even when the latter refused to fight or lift arms. Arjuna said, “Lord, it is enough if You are by our side.” And now at the crucial moment, seconds before the gong is going to sound, he backtracks. His argument: “How can I kill my grandfather, cousins, nephews and relatives? A kingdom won by shedding the blood of one’s own kith and kin is simply not worth it. It is far better to beg than to fight this war,” etc.

On the face of it, all these arguments sound great and noble. After all, war DOES mean killing, and if Arjuna says “I will not kill,” it sure does sound like a noble sentiment. How can one take objection to Arjuna? Let us look at the substantive part of Lord Krishna’s reply. He says, “You seem to have got sudden enlightenment. You are wearing the dress of a soldier and instead of performing the duty of a soldier you have started talking like a sage! As a warrior, you have killed many times before. But now, you have begun to have feelings of pity. Where did this pity disappear earlier? You feel pity now because you are caught up in feelings of ‘mine’. According to the highest dicta of scriptures, duty must be on an absolute basis, above all considerations of mine and thine, beyond bodily relationship or mental attachments. Let us look at your present duty objectively. A war is about to be fought between the forces of Dharma and ADharma. You are with the army that will fight for Dharma. Can you chicken out? Your argument for not fighting is based on bodily relationships and mental attachments. You are not crying because people are going to die. People have died before and you never cried. You have yourself killed many people and you never cried then. You are crying now because the people who are going to die are yours. It is attachment that is making you say what you are saying. Can these personal considerations and body-consciousness be allowed to come in when you are defending Dharma? Is not Dharma God? If it is a question of priorities between God and relatives, what is it going to be? Is it not clear? My dear fellow, at the moment your judgement is clouded by attachment. That is why you have developed cold feet. So, let ME tell you what you ought to do. Get up and FIGHT. Do so with the feeling you are doing God’s work. That really is your duty at the moment. That’s Swadharma. That’s Atma Dharma!”

Krishna did not quite stop with giving an order. He backed it up with full reasoning [and that is why the Gita runs into 18 chapters; otherwise, it would have stopped at the point in chapter 2 where Krishna says, “Get up and fight!”]. What Krishna teaches is called Atma Vidya or the Knowledge of the Self. It is also called Brahma Vidya or Knowledge about God. Brahman [God] and Atma are not different. More about this in a later chapter.

The most important point about Krishna’s exhortation is that one cannot wage a war in the external world, unless one has conquered internal enemies, like lust, for example. Krishna also educates Arjuna on how to overcome these internal enemies, why this is important, how such internal purification would most surely lead towards God, how God would take care and, finally, what is the advantage of eternal merger with God.

To put it all simply: From God we have come, and to Him we MUST return. If we are serious about the return trip, and do not want to be delayed, then we must make AD the basis of our lives. AD is not all that difficult as it might seem. If one loves God dearly [as all of us profess to!] then it should be quite easy to follow God’s command.

We now come to an important analogy that would clarify the relative roles of Atma Dharma and Para Dharma. Now, practically every democratic country has a written Constitution [Britain is a famous exception!]. There also exists in every country, a legislature that enacts laws, the power and the authority of the legislature being derived from the Constitution. Always, it is the Constitution that is primary; the legislature and laws enacted by it are secondary. Sometimes, enacted laws are challenged in the Court. The Court then examines whether the enacted law violates the Constitution or not in any way. If the law is in harmony with the Constitution, then it is declared to be valid and legal. If it violates the Constitution in any way, it is declared ultra vires and struck down. This has happened many times. Atma Dharma or the Dharma of the [Higher] Self is like the Constitution while Para Dharma or the Dharma of the lower self is like the law passed by the legislature. Para Dharma as one understands and interprets, had better be consistent with Atma Dharma; otherwise, it must be rejected.

An important example. There is a soldier; the Para Dharma of a soldier is to obey orders implicitly – that is why the poem says, “Theirs is not to reason why but to do or die!” Does the soldier, under the circumstances BLINDLY obey all orders, no matter what the circumstances are? No, certainly not, and World War II provides many an example. As is well known, Hitler ordered mass extermination of Jews [all civilians], and many Nazi soldiers were only too happy to implement the orders. And yet, when after the war ended they faced trial as war criminals, they all pleaded that they were merely ‘following orders’. It is the duty of a soldier to fight in war and not to participate in mass executions of civilians. Annihilation of the Jews had nothing to do with the war Germany was fighting but everything to do with the hatred one man had for the Jews. If Hitler ordered genocide, it was wrong and immoral and therefore the order did not merit compliance. If the punishment for disobedience was death, well, tough luck! But death it must be rather than complying with a grossly immoral order just for saving one’s own skin. All the trial courts rejected the defence plea and the culprits were sentenced in proportion to their crime. It is interesting that all these concepts that flow naturally from the teachings of Krishna and our beloved Swami, are intuitively in operation in society. This is no accident. After all, Atma Dharma applies to all, and the Atma is in all!

In a nutshell, there is a thing called a higher duty that must necessarily override lower duty under appropriate circumstances. All societies have implicitly recognised this. No society permits killing; yet in times of war, soldiers are asked to kill if necessary, in defence of their country. In fact, soldiers who exhibit bravery are even decorated. And no victorious country [at least in modern times], brings soldiers of the vanquished country to trial.

Many devotees feel that AD is nice to read about and talk about but not practical. This is not correct. It is true that one cannot overnight give up body consciousness, family attachments, etc. But the point is that one must at least make a beginning. One cannot and must not drag one’s feet giving alibis and excuses. That is not correct. One has to begin somewhere, sometime; sooner, the better!

It is important to appreciate that Atma Dharma is very much relevant in today’s society, especially when one is confronted by so many evil forces. Take corporate advertising, for example. TV channels depend on advertising. The advertisers look to the show ratings. To make the show ratings high, producers do not hesitate to inject a liberal dose of vulgarity and obscenity. Whether one likes it or not, whether one agrees or not, it is a fact that obscenity and vulgarity on TV do widespread damage to society’s ethical and moral structure. Under the circumstances, what should a major company that sponsors the show do? The standard attitude until recently was: “If the show is popular, it means that millions are seeing it. If our product is advertised on the show, then millions would become attracted to our product. So, let us go ahead and sponsor the show.” But now, a remarkable turnaround has started. Many of the huge corporations in America have started saying, “Enough is enough. No advertising money from us if the show is vulgar.” And money power is so strong, that overnight, the show producers have started bending backwards [at least in a few cases] to make the show more decent. This is a good example of the working of what may be called Corporate Conscience. Just imagine how things would be if this sort thing snowballs!

The world is full of undesirable actions, wherever one turns. If only the concerned people are not guided by selfish considerations but by Atma Dharma instead, the world would rapidly become a much better place to live in. Take for example the print media. It has created the myth that it is accountable only to itself. Of course, it has cleverly conned people into believing that they are the ultimate arbiter but that is not true. Claiming that it can do effective self-policing, it has managed to get court sanction to do more or less what it wants, all in the name of Freedom of the Press. Over a period of time, this license had been increasingly misused, and obscenity and vulgarity now have a free run. The Press argues that people should have the freedom of choice. Is this correct? The attitude of the Press is driven by crass selfishness. It is more vocal about its rights than its responsibility. Swami repeatedly says that man has no rights but only responsibility. The only right he enjoys is the right to responsibility!

Atma Dharma is all about selfless actions, discharged in the most responsible manner. Today, there is a tremendous need for it in all sectors of society and in all walks of life – gun control, consumerism, and what have you. As Swami says, Atma Dharma should be the essence of one’s life.

Atma Dharma is what one must really follow in life. Most people would say, Yes. Yes, that’s what one must do,” but when it comes to practice, they would chicken out giving one excuse or the other. Why? Because of attachment! “But can one really be rid of attachment? There is the family, one’s parents, business, and so many things like that. One cannot just walkout on them, can one?” A valid question.

Seekers must realise that no one is asking that Rome be built in just one day. But the desire to build Rome must be there and a few steps also taken, even if they be small ones. That is what is important. If the ball is got rolling, then little by little, one can get where one has to.

One doubt that many have is: “Listen, this is a very competitive, dog-eat-dog world. One has to cut corners; otherwise, no go.” Now this is where the game really begins. One must assert with confidence, “No, I will not cut corners, come what may. Perhaps I would suffer a set back. But I am sure the setback would be a temporary one. In as much I am standing up for Dharma, I expect that very same Dharma to protect me in the long run.” Many would not accept this line of reasoning, arguing that Dharma is but a concept. No, Dharma is NOT a concept; it is Truth in action. Since Truth is God, Dharma also is God. Thus, when one says Dharma will protect, one really means that God would protect.

It is quite likely that in actual practice, the protection that one visualises does not materialise. This should not cause diffidence and disbelief in Dharma. This is just God’s way of testing our faith. Faith is VERY important to a seeker. Obstacles must be viewed as God’s tests, and an indication that God is in fact close by and in close touch. Those who face life in that manner would find that difficulties one day fade away like the mist before the morning Sun. As Swami says, a man lacking in faith in God is a [spiritual] corpse, though he might appear to be very active in a worldly sense.

People may still not be convinced. They may say, “If I do not do such and such a thing, my life would be in danger, my prestige would be affected,” etc. Yes, there can be danger but only to the body and the mind. This precisely is where one must show guts and say, “I don’t care about these dangers if it means I have to compromise my Conscience.” Conscience is the prompter from inside. That must be kept happy and satisfied. Standing by one’s Conscience is one’s real duty. [Remember what Shakespeare says: “Above all, to thine own Self be True!”]

Swami often talks about Self-confidence. People invariably misunderstand what Swami is implying. Self-confidence is misinterpreted as the feeling, “I can do it”. No it does not mean that. Swami actually uses the word Atma Viswasam. It is this word that is translated as Self-confidence. Atma Viswasam really means faith in the Atma, faith in the In-Dweller, faith in the God within. Thus Self-confidence is that which promotes the feeling: “God will make this happen, using this being as His instrument”, and not the feeling, “I can do it!”

Getting back to the efficacy of action in accordance with Dharma, the main stumbling block people have is mental. They think that Dharmic action can lead to problems, whereas short-circuits can save trouble. Yes short-circuit may appear to yield results in the short term, but one day or the other, the price HAS to be paid – there is no such thing as a free lunch; there never was and there never will be.

Others may say: “Look, there are any number of examples of very good and noble souls who were very Dharmic but suffered all the time. Whatever happened to your Dharma? Why did it not protect these unfortunate people? Why did it go into hiding instead?” This is a very common objection raised by people who are desperate to seek the path of convenience rather than of righteousness. Yes, it is true that many noble souls have had to wait for long before their destiny changed for the better. However, the change when it came, it was PERMANENT! This fact is invariably overlooked by those wanting to raise objections. It is quite likely that in the case of these people, the waiting was long because a lot of past Karma had to be cancelled.

In short, faith, tremendous faith is called for. One holds on to the path of Righteousness because that is the ONLY path. Other paths may seem rosy to start with but eventually lead to hell. The path of Righteousness, on the other hand, may appear thorny and rough in the beginning but eventually turns out to be super smooth.

To sum it all, Atma Dharma may seem impossibly difficult to start with, that is to say, for ordinary mortals, total selflessness may be out of the question. Agreed, but that does not give the license to be utterly selfish. A certain amount of self-interest may be unavoidable but the magnitude must be kept to the barest minimum. Further, the magnitude must be progressively and systematically reduced to almost zero – that is the real signature of spiritual progress. And one fine day, God would be so pleased with the progress that He would say, “My dear, you are now ready to merge with Me”, and draw the devotee into Himself!


  • Dharma means Righteousness. Therefore, following Dharma implies adhering to Righteousness under all circumstances.

  • Adhering to Righteousness also implies harmony of thought, word, and deed, what Swami calls Trikaranasuddhi [literally meaning the purity of the three organs].

  • Words and action/deed belong to the realm of the body. Thought belongs to the realm of the Mind. Both these must be linked to the Heart, the seat of good feelings.

  • Most ordinary mortals follow Dharma in an instinctive manner; their observance is almost robotic, one might say. Due to training and advice earlier received, they more or less do automatically what their Conscience would approve of..This is what Para Dharma boils down to in practice. It is OK, 95 % of the times.

  • The careful Joe applies his Mind and then acts. This is Para Dharma of a higher grade, one might say.

  • Para Dharma does not hang in the air all by itself. It has a basis, a very sound basis. But before that point is considered, there is something else that must be noted.

  • As explained earlier, Para Dharma varies from person to person according to the person’s situation in life. Indeed, even for a given person, the Para Dharma depends on the situation and the time. In mathematical language, one would say that the Para Dharma of a person is a function of space and time, and describe this situation by writing,

    Para Dharma = f(space, time).

  • Turning next to the variations in Para Dharma and the basis, all this can be understood with the help of an analogy. Consider a plot of land with many different kinds of trees.

  • Though the trees are of different kinds, they all are anchored via roots to the same land. The Para Dharma of different persons is like the set of different trees. Thus, all Para Dharmas are based on what has been referred to as Atma Dharma. The land on which the trees are growing is like Atma Dharma.

  • Further, a given tree is not static. It is growing all the time. In the same way, the Para Dharma of a person keeps changing with time because the situations and the circumstances change with time. This is what is captured by the symbolic equation written earlier.

  • It was said earlier that Para Dharma serves very well in about 95 % of the situations. What about the balance? Well, they could be sticky. In what sense? In the sense that these situations might pose moral dilemmas.

  • A moral dilemma is a situation in which one is confronted with two conflicting calls of duty. Both appear right in their own ways. Under the circumstances, what is one to do?

  • The greatness of the Bhagavad Gita is that it gives precisely the formula that one must apply in such circumstances. And the beauty is that when that formula is applied, there is only one clear option – there is no more any dilemma.

  • How does one discover that option? Swami has the answer. He says, that one must apply Atma Dharma.

  • How exactly does one do that? By using one’s Buddhi or intellect.

  • And how does the Buddhi help? It helps in discriminating between the two competing choices. Buddhi will examine and finally give its judgement. It would identify the correct option, and point out the flaw in the rejected option.

  • And how is Buddhi able to do that? Buddhi is able to do that because it has a hot line to the Heart or the Atma – that is why!

  • How come when Atma Dharma is appealed to, only the correct choice emerges and the other competing choice fades away? That is simple. Competing choices arise when one is immersed in the world of duality and becomes subject to selfishness. When one rises to the level of the Atma, there is no duality and there is no selfishness. As a result, there is only one choice, and that is always the correct choice.

  • OK, so what must one do to go beyond the routine Para Dharma analysis to get an idea of what Atma Dharma has to say? Well, one must totally give up selfishness, that is all! Not easy? May be, but one must try!


  • In Atma Dharma, God is always priority number one. Examples that Baba often gives.

  • Scriptures say treat father as God. But Prahalada disobeyed his father. Was he not wrong? No, because he made God priority number one. God comes ABOVE even the physical father. Swami has similarly given examples of devotees who have apparently gone against the scriptures and chosen: God above mother, God above Guru, God above husband, and so on. Look them up. Also, identify examples cited by Baba where people have made the wrong choice!

  • Let us consider some examples of Atma Dharma in action. Actually, if we look at Baba’s actions, every single one of them is a perfect example! That is because, as Baba often says, there is not even an iota of selfishness in Him, from top to toe, never.

  • Let us now go back to the life of Rama [see the Message of the Lord, for a brief account of the life of Rama] for Atma Dharma in action. There are many examples, of which two are classic.

  • The first is when Rama is asked to go to the forest. Legally, he did not have to. But Rama did. Why? Because He was following Atma Dharma – actually, He was just setting an example for man about how to follow Atma Dharma. [More details in the Message of the Lord].

  • Again in the Ramayana., Ravana’s brother Vibhishana crosses over to Rama’s camp. Rama’s associates apprehend Vibhishana and want him to be done away with. They argue that Vibhishana would be a threat to Rama’s safety. Rama rejects that argument and says that even if Vibhishana meant to harm Him, He was obliged to protect Vibhishana because he had surrendered. [For details see Message of the Lord.]

  • As remarked elsewhere, Para Dharma as taught to us by our elders and as one normally follows is consistent with Atma Dharma. But sticky situations can arise. These situations appear sticky because the analysis is either consciously or unconsciously based on selfish considerations. Then Para Dharma becomes shaky and risky to follow.

  • A classic example. According to all accepted conventions, a soldier must follow orders. This is his Para Dharma. OK so far. In World War II, many German soldiers were ordered to participate in the extermination of the Jews. After the War when many of these people were tried for war crimes, they pleaded, “We were only following orders.” The Court rejected such pleas, rightly so.

  • The Court said, “The rules of War are stated in the Geneva Convention. Murdering Jews cannot be considered a part of war. It was a criminal act ordered by Hitler. You had no business to follow such immoral orders. You should have refused to obey, even at the risk of death.”

  • In our language, what the Court was saying was that the accused ought not to have blindly done something in the name of doing their duty. They should have checked with their Conscience. What they did was against Conscience. Therefore they were guilty.

  • This gives a convenient operational definition of Atma Dharma. It is Dharma that is in consonance with Conscience.

  • Many argue: “All this is fine to talk about, but will not work in practice, especially in this day and age. This is the age of acute competition. It is dog eat dog out there. Therefore, all is fair, as they say it is, in love and war”. THIS IS NOT TRUE and one should not fall for such false arguments. One’s Conscience represents Truth, and action that is against one’s Conscience cannot ever be right or truthful. One should simply not be bothered about whether Dharma will “work” or not. That is NOT of concern at all. One must simply follow Dharma come what may that is all.

  • Incidentally, the statement that Dharma will not “work” is based on worldly considerations. What does it mean when one says it will not work? The person is saying that following Dharma will not lead to a result that is advantageous to the individual concerned.

  • Take the case of giving a bribe to get something done, like getting a certain certificate, for example. People may say, “Listen, I desperately need this certificate. And unless I pay the bribe, I cannot get it; so, what am I to do? I have no choice!” That is the worldly way of looking at it, and from that point may seem quite reasonable. But a person wedded to Atma Dharma will say, “I don’t care about all that. My duty is to follow Dharma. My Conscience says that giving a bribe is wrong. So, I shall not give. It does not matter if I do not get that certificate. Heavens will not fall. The important thing is to please my Conscience.”

  • When does a person talk like this? When he has what Baba calls Atma Viswasam. The word Atma Viswasam literally means faith in the Atma. However, it is often translated as self-confidence, and this gives room for some confusion.

  • Swami often refers to Self-confidence, and He invariably means confidence in the Inner Self or God. In this interpretation, a person having Self-confidence does not boast, “I am great; I can do it”, etc., like boxers do, but instead says, “God is Great. I am confident He will do this, possibly using me as His instrument.” This is important. When the lower self is involved, it is the ego speaking. When the Higher Self is involved, the devotee invokes the power of the True Self or God.

  • Is it not risky to follow Atma Dharma? Would not one fail to achieve what one wants or has to? So it might seem in a worldly sense. But it has been said that he who stands by Dharma will be protected by that very same Dharma. Yet, people normally do not buy this line. However, Swami has told any number of stories concerning this to restore the faith of devotees in this matter.

  • Look up these stories. The point about them is the following: The Pandavas were frequently in difficulties; sometimes, the situation they had to face was quite nasty. But they did not give up their faith in Krishna. And Krishna did not fail them either. In the midst of all their suffering and misery, He came to their rescue and pulled them out of the jam.

  • The message is this. Krishna is God; He is also Dharma. One who claims to place TOTAL faith in God must also place total faith in Dharma and abide by it. When one makes the effort to do so, then God extricates that person out of the jam. There are any number of stories of Sai devotees being extricated in this manner from knotty situations, literally in the last minute, like Draupadhi was. These episodes go to prove that Dharma DOES work, provided on reposes full faith in it.

  • In the Gita, Krishna gives this solemn assurance [see, for example, hymn/sloka 9.22]. When one surrenders totally to God, He takes full care – He has given this promise [Gita 18. 65, 66].

  • To summarise:

    Adherence to Dharma is a must.

    One’s actions must be in accordance with the situation, the circumstances, and consistent with one’s position in life.

    While performing actions, selfish motives must be excluded to the extent possible.

    If they cannot be totally avoided, then they must at least be minimised. And as time passes, selfishness must be gradually eliminated.

    Above all, actions must proclaim strongly the harmony of thought, word and deed. Baba regards this as a very important requirement.

  • The Bottom Line is:

    One must follow one’s Conscience.

    If one is forced to be a bit selfish in one’s actions, then one must pray to God for forgiveness.

    One must progressively decrease the selfish content in one’s actions.

  • Different levels of selfishness – Swami’s example. There is an old man. He plants a mango tree in his garden. He knows that he will not live to eat the fruit of the tree. Yet he plants the tree. Therefore, his act is unselfish. However, it is only partially so. Why? Because he wants his grandchildren to eat the fruit. There is an element of attachment in his action. He wants only his family to benefit; that is why he plants the tree in his land. Next, there is a King who orders that trees be planted along the highways in his kingdom – in the olden days, many kings in India did this. The King’s act is totally unselfish. Why? The King planted trees so that they would provide shade to those who walked along the highways. When he travelled, the King never walked; he would be carried in a covered palanquin. Therefore, the King did not personally need the shade but the ordinary passer by did. Therefore, the King’s act was totally unselfish.

  • It may not be possible for ordinary mortals to be always unselfish, but one can try to minimise selfishness. That is all God expects. As time goes on and one evolves, one would automatically tend to become less and less selfish. The limit of course is Baba who is TOTALLY unselfish.

  • Useful guidelines:



  • Line up some examples of moral dilemmas that could be discussed in Study Circle sessions. Make sure that in these cases the choice is not between right and wrong, but two kinds of duties that appear to contradict. Make the examples as tough as possible! And also have the solutions based on Atma Dharma ready, so that when people have failed to resolve the problem, you can expose the solution and explain it convincingly.

  • Line up examples of stories that illustrate that though people might appear to be in trouble, unconditional faith in God rescues them. [Whenever people thank Baba for saving them, He always says, “I did not save you; your faith saved you!” This is a most important statement!!]

  • One important point to consider is how to slowly break in children to these concepts. Obviously, they cannot be told about this Dharma and that Dharma and all that. But they can be slowly trained and drilled in talking to their Conscience, to Swami. So, one could devise plays in which children talk to God all the time and end up doing the right things. It would be a good exercise to have a competition amongst members of the Study Circle to come up with scripts for such plays. The best script could then be perhaps promoted for a Bal Vikas drama!

  • Finally, remember that trying to practice Para Dharma without reference to Atma Dharma is like trying to pain in the air!



Volume - 2 Issue - 4 Radiosai Journal - PSN 2004