DHARMA AND VIRTUOUS LIFE



Is there one thing you can say that is most important about spiritual life?

Achieve eternal peace.



What does it mean to live a virtuous life? It seems there are so many different religions today.

Do you know what a non-virtuous life is? Non-virtuous actions are known easily because their affect appears fast. Truthfulness, non-violence, non-jealousy, and non-anger: all those things are in a virtuous life. All religions preach about universal virtuous actions.



In performing actions, sometimes our not so good qualities come out. Is it beneficial to sometimes take a break from action to reflect on oneself or do we transform ourselves only through performing action?

In worldly life and spiritual life, the quality of action is not the same. In worldly life we have to work with some self-interest. So to achieve our self-interest, anger, fear and all kinds of emotions arise. But if we have chosen to live a spiritual life, then in every moment of our life we have to watch our ego.



Self-interest and expectation for result always creeps in when trying to run a business and make it succeed. How can I reduce self-interest in my life?

It's difficult for everyone as long as the spirit of selfless service is not understood. You buy a car. You take care of the car. You own the car; it is all right. But when there is a feeling inside you about the possession of the car, then it becomes the cause of pain. When we talk about selfless service, we think we don't have to think that there is success or failure. We don't have to plan. We don't have to think of what to do. We do everything which needs to be done but that possessive feeling that creates pain, we don't let it develop.



When the feeling of possession is seen, what is the next step to do?

Feeling of possessiveness is experienced as soon as we achieve something thinking, “I own it.” It's weakened by developing non-attachment. How to develop non-attachment? By living a virtuous life.



What if one is not aware of the meaning of offering or prayer, but goes about fulfilling their duty of working and caring for a family?

If a person is living a virtuous life, then automatically all actions are offered to God. Four aims of human life, dharma, artha, kama, moksha. Dharma means virtuous life. Artha means to achieve wealth. Kama is fulfilling of desires. Moksha is achieving liberation. Dharma is listed first so dharma is in artha and kama. The result of it is liberation.



So an animal only has dharma, can only act out of its own nature?

Dharma term has several meanings. Duty, religion, virtuous life, nature born quality. Animals are born to fulfill their duty (dharma) to exist in the world. Their existence is part of nature.



Artha could also be translated as meaning or purpose?

Artha also means purposefulness.



How would satisfying desire fit in with leading a virtuous life?

Desires (kama) which are based on dharma (virtues) will support our spiritual life in the world. It is not the desire to reinforce worldliness in the mind, like desire to gamble.



So that means satisfying basic needs?

Kama based on dharma is not lustful desire. It's the desire to sustain life, to sustain the family, and to sustain the society.



Is it saying that we have to do our duty according to our place in life and we have to do selfless service?

Yes. A child, a grown-up, the old person can't have the same duty. But according to their own stage of life, they can do selfless service.



What is the duty of a child?

Duty of a child is to learn and to use what is learned for the good of society.



It seems that all human beings have their own dharma and everyone should chip in to the society to keep it going. If one person doesn't chip in, does that make it necessary for others to make up for that person?

Every living being has a dharma. Human beings have individual dharma as well as universal dharma. All human beings share universal dharma. Some people are anti-dharma. Because of their anti-dharma nature, they can create problems for others. But their opposition doesn't live for long.



Those who are advanced in understanding, such as the great leaders of mankind, they seem to be doing the work that others neglected.

There are always reformists to remove old corrupt practices in a culture. Also there is opposition to the reform which gives rise to violence.



Is dharma something we pursue or do we just let come into our life?

The term dharma has several meanings. It means religion, duty, or a nature born quality without which a thing can't exist. If we see it in a broader sense, dharma means duty. The duty of a human being is to experience the world and get liberation. In the Gita that duty is explained as “service to others,” Karma Yoga. It develops by itself when our egocentric desires are reduced.



When adharma is sharply on the increase, God sends an enlightened one to guide humans. When things aren't quite that bad, it's said many sattvic people are incarnated to help out. Is that a valid way of understanding?

Yes, a reformist with divine qualities appears to reestablish dharma again. There is an opposite to that also. When Prahlada, the demon king, got absorbed in samadhi, there was no one to rule over the demons and they stopped their demonic actions. Thus the devas got lazy because there was no one to torture them so the lord went to Prahlada and pulled him back to work. If there would be no pain and miseries in life, then no one would try to attain peace. So those people with demonic nature are also important to strengthen dharma in the world.



Could the destruction of all living beings be looked upon as meaning the destruction of ignorance, or the destruction of darkness, and thus the enlightenment of all beings?

When the action is stopped, enlightenment is not possible. Enlightenment is achieved by living a virtuous life. Virtuous life is learned by following dharma. Ignorance is the cause of adharma. Wisdom removes ignorance.



It says Krishna has attained liberation and has no obligations toward the world. Then it says that if he doesn't do anything, then he is responsible for the destruction of all beings.

Who is Krishna? Krishna in the Gita represents the conscious principle. If we take Krishna as an historical figure who was completely enlightened and nonattached, still he had the duty to maintain the world order. So he presented his life as a model of virtuous life for people to follow. If a person has no discipline in life and no one to follow as a spiritual model, that person will start doing things that affect the society negatively. What Krishna is saying is that people should lead a dharmic life.



At what point do we stop sheltering people from their ignorance? It says the wise people teach by example. When does a person begin teaching in words?

The Gita is not rejecting intellectual teachings. It's saying that personally performing action is a better teaching than saying.



So teaching by explaining is acceptable if someone asks?

A man had a son. He was addicted to sweets. He took his son to a sadhu for telling the son to stop eating sweets. The sadhu said, “come after a month and then I will tell your son.” The sadhu himself was addicted to sweets so he stopped eating sweets. So after a month when the man returned with his son, the sadhu told him why he didn't tell him to stop eating sweets the first time. So words alone do not work if there is no truthful energy behind it. You can explain great philosophies but if you don't follow the philosophy, then it will remain just words.



Do “the wise teach by example” because ultimate reality is something that can't be explained?

Yes. You cannot explain the sweetness of an apple. You can say it's like sugar but different. The person will know the taste of an apple only by eating. By being with saints and wise people, a person learns by watching them.



© 1999 Sri Rama Publishing           
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