Dharma: Commentary on Frank Leavitt's Commentary on Raghwesh Ranjan (EJAIB 11 (2001), 160-1).

- Bhakta Jan Mares
NE-BBT, Czech
E-mail: Jan.Mares@bbt.se
Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 12 (2002), 228-9.


The word "religion" comes from Latin re-legare, to re-connect. Individual living being (jiva, atma) needs to be reconnected with the Supreme Being (Paramatma as well as host of other names and titles). Sanskrit word for this is "yoga" (English "yoke").

Another important term is dharma. To understand it please read the article "Dharma-karma-samsara" at <www.veda. harekrsna.cz> so I don't have to repeat what is already available. What most people nowadays mean by "religion" is more or less dharma - the rules how to live in this world in harmony with God's will. Some of them who are more advanced try to find a spiritual path to God and this corresponds to yoga. No true religion promotes hatred and immorality but the religious wars are not man made. There are religious (or rather dharmic) wars allowed in the scriptures - to protect the dharma. For the Jews the basis of dharma is the 10 commandments God gave to Moses. Other rules are expanding on them. Vedic scriptures provide very elaborate expositions on dharma. You may have heard of Manu-smriti (Manu-samhita, Manu's Law). It is the most known dharma-sastra, scripture dealing with dharma.

The violence that Leavitt mentions in the Hebrew Bible has a very clear purpose - to stop spreading adharma - and therefore it is dharmic. There is a saying, "Hate the sin, not the sinner." Sin is simply what breaks dharma. We may still love the sinner and try to help him to stop sinning. For this we have e.g. jails. If he is not corrigible it may be better to put him to death so he doesn't have to suffer the horrible karma for his misdeeds and the society remains protected.

Franki said "Anti-Semitism is a euphemistic way of referring to the hatred of Jews. Nazi Germany is often blamed for this phenomenon, but it really has its roots in the Christian Bible, the New Testament: especially in the Gospel according to John. I shall give one example. John says that when the Jews criticized Jesus, Jesus replied: "If God were your Father, you would love me.You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. And because I tell you the truth, you believe me not. He that is of God hears God's words; you therefore hear them not, because you are not of God." (John VIII, 42-47)". Here Jesus doesn't mean Jews in general but the Pharisees (John 8.13) who trying to protect their monopoly of power gave in to adharma - they wanted to kill Jesus (John 8.37, 59). In India there is a group of so-called smartas (smarta brahmanas) who similarly stick overly to the rules and miss the essence. So this passage has nothing to do with antisemitism.

In response to Frank's comments on the punishment of sinners at the end of time. One thing we need to accept is that God has right to define dharma. He is the Boss after all. We may like it or not but we'll reap the consequences. For those who cannot hear the preaching of love there is preaching of punishment. Sorcery and idolatry are not exactly spiritual but material practices.

"Religious principles" = dharma (dharmyad dhi yuddhac chreyo 'nyat). Ksatriya must protect it. Arjuna's kinsmen gave in to adharma and the religious war was only the last solution. If you read Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's purports you'll understand. You may also read Mahabharata which gives proper context to the Bhagavad-gita.

There are two words used in Sanskrit in the Bhagavad-Gita, devas and asuras. Asuras. Now the definition of these devas and asuras are like this: visnu-bhaktah smrto daiva asuras tad-viparyayah. Asuras tad-viparyayah. Visnu-bhakta. Those who are devotees of the Lord, they are devas. This is the difference between devas. Devas, devas and asuras does not mean that asura has got a very ugly face. No. Even a very beautiful man, he can be asura. He can be a... And even a very ugly man, he can be deva." (Swami Prabhupada, lecture on Bhagavad-gita 2.12 - New York, March 9, 1966). They are not demons (asuras) with horns but followers of adharma and enemies of dharma and God.

As far as I know the word "jihad" in the original sense means internal struggle on the spiritual path. Only later it became used for external fighting with "unbelievers" (often those whose belief is simply manifested in a different way). It is a common phenomenon that when one fails to solve one's spiritual and other problems internally (which is difficult) one tries to find causes and victims outside which is much easier. This is one of the aspects of fanaticism.

God is aware of our incapacities. Still, when the transmission of knowledge and dharma is needed He makes sure that the least possible interference is involved. The Vedic system for this transmission has three parts who serve as mutual checks: sastra (scripture), guru (teacher) and sadhu (practitioner in the past, or tradition). The lineage of such gurus is called guru-parampara and it is good to preserve the message over very long time. Despite this human nature will gradually distort and dissolve the revelation and thus God must reveal it repeatedly. See Bhagavad-gita 4.7.

Frank said "Even if I decide to try to bypass established religion and seek spiritual enlightenment on my own, and even if I manage to succeed in having a genuine spiritual experience (and am not just deceiving myself), I have no hope of getting a pure experience, unmixed with my own thoughts and feelings and prejudices and education. There is no escaping it. We can never get "religion" pure, because we are always limited by our human imperfections and the darkness of the world in which we live." There is a way out. The Vedic process of knowledge rests in internal cultivation, or purification, from material flaws and misconceptions. One learns not to believe one's senses, mind and intelligence too much because they are faulty. The real spiritual experience, however, is beyond the senses, mind, intelligence and even the so-called false ego (ahankara) which defines our false identity in this material world. The best way to pierce these material layers is by spiritual sound, mantra. There are various mantras for various purposes but Vedic scriptures say that in this age the most powerful of them are holy names of the Lord in the form of Hare Krishna mahamantra.

Although Frank said that "So I see no solution other than to study religious texts, all of them, critically, trying to sort out the spiritual insights from the exhortations to hatred and violence, while always ready to admit we might", for this is needed a lot of knowledge which we must first get by submissive learning from more advanced followers/devotees who are part of the guru-parampara.

Humility is the basic quality we should acquire. We should admit our knowledge is limited and surrender to the authority of guru-parampara and the Lord. (www.veda.harekrsna.cz Bhakti-yoga Vedic Encyclopedia Vedic Library)


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