Why follow Dharma? – Srimad Bhagavatam Clarifies
Based on Sri Ramanujamji’s talks
Srimad Bhagavatam is an incredible book of life. It gives us so much insight into how we need to live. Srimad Bhagavatam is a potential agent for inner revolution. Reading it with interest, studying it with reverence, and relishing its nuances joyfully through the commentaries and expositions of Mahatmas can indeed make it a life-changing experience.
In the first half of canto 1, chapter 2, sloka 9, Srimad Bhagavatam gives great insight into the purpose of dharma. It says:
dharmasya hyApavargyasya na arthah arthAya upakalpate
Dharma means standing for some universal values. By values, we don’t just mean our personal beliefs of right and wrong, because we have our biases and blind spots. Universal values are the collective wisdom of our rishis or sages, who are incredible thinkers with incredible experience and are enhanced, advanced beings of the past and present. They have given a code of ethics or a set of universal values that is spoken of in our religion’s texts, including Srimad Bhagavatam. They are values like truth, love, compassion, control over the senses, purity in body, thoughts, and actions, and more, that are applicable to all of humanity and which no one can deny.
Many people are conditioned to think along the lines of ‘Do good so you can get good’, ‘Hold on to values so that you can get prosperity and financial security (artha)’, ‘Do good to accumulate punya (merit) which is an investment for a better future.’ What goes around comes around is a true principle, but it is like a kindergarten lesson to infuse a sense of ethics and values. It is indeed childish for adults or youth who have spiritual aspirations to think of dharma as merely a means for artha. The ‘Do good to get good’ postulate is true, but it becomes immaterial to us as we progress in the spiritual path.
Srimad Bhagavatam shows the real purpose of Dharma. It says unequivocally that dharma is there for nothing less than the grandest purpose of life, which is Liberation or Moksha.
Moksha or Liberation is – attaining absolute freedom from all the baggage we have collected from past lives, are continuing to collect in this life, and from those we will collect in future lives. This is Moksha. It is to be totally free from inner conflicts, likes and dislikes. It is to live choicelessly, spontaneously, and joyfully with absolutely no bondage. Isn’t it exciting to even just imagine being in such a free state?!
Artha is prosperity or financial security. This is not to do with external wealth. But about how secure I feel in my heart; how contented I am in my mind. Without a sense of security, we cannot stand for values. If we have to unconditionally stand for some values, we need to have social security, financial security, emotional security. So Srimad Bhagavatam shows us that the purpose of artha is dharma. Not the other way around.
And similarly continuing the reversal of the order, Bhagavatam also shows that, in the four-fold purposes of ‘kama-artha-dharma-moksha’, the purpose of kama, which is nothing but our needs and wants, is to obtain that security (artha) that we desire. The purpose of artha is so that we can stand by dharma. And the purpose of dharma is the highest ideal of moksha!
Thus Srimad Bhagavatam gives us this grand lesson that we need to embrace universal values so that we progress in our spiritual path. Embrace dharma because it is a grand way to live. That is how spiritual beings live – “I love dharma, so I lead a life of dharma. I don’t need any other reason to follow dharma.” Such a life of dharma becomes a springboard for us to soar higher and higher in the spiritual skies of complete freedom from baggage and bondage.
Based on Sri Ramanujamji’s talk on Sanatana Dharma’s four-fold purposes in life and explanation of this sloka (SB 1:2:9) in his Yuva Bhagavatam series.
Watch the video of this uplifting explanation here: https://youtu.be/PQFPKSpqf4Q