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
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.
= 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
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
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,
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.
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
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.
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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!
ADDITIONAL NOTES RELATING TO THE ABOVE
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.
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
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
= 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
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
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
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
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
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!
IMPLIES SOME SELFISHNESS.
Atma Dharma IMPLIES ZERO
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
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
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
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].
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
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
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.
MAN + SELFISHNESS = DEMON
MAN – SELFISHNESS = GOD
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!
JAI SAI RAM