The Secret of Dharma

Be the change you want to see.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. That is the principle that Gandhiji, and all the other great saints of the world, followed every minute of their lives. A woman once brought her young son to Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and told him that the boy always ate too many sweets. Sri Ramakrishna asked her to bring him back in a week. When the lady and son returned, Sri Ramakrishna advised the boy not to eat sweets. The lady was surprised and asked the saint why he did not give the same advice the previous week. Sri Ramakrishna said that he himself used to eat a lot of sweets so he could not advise the boy. But now, he had given up eating them and so was in a position to advise the boy.

We are told that in order for the world to be a better place, each one of us should adhere to dharma and lead a dharmic life. But what does dharma really mean? There are many explanations for what dharma is. But a very basic but beautiful explanation is given by the great sage Veda Vyasa, who compiled a majority of the shastras of Sanatana Dharma. He says dharma means that one should act as one would expect others to act towards oneself. In other words, we should treat others in the same way that we expect to be treated by them.

A man once came to HH Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji and said, “No one in my office is loving towards me.  Rather, everyone seems to hate me.”

Sri Swamiji smiled and said, “You start loving everybody. Then everybody will start loving you too.”

The man went back to work. After a month he came again to Sri Swamiji and said, “I did indeed use sweet sugar-coated words while talking to all my colleagues, but that simply had no effect in their attitude.”

Immediately Sri Swamiji replied, “I asked you to really love all your colleagues; to nurture true love in your heart for all of them. Not to feign love through sweet words while your heart burned with anger and negativity!”

The man now promised to try changing himself and left. After about a year, he could see his efforts bear fruit, thanks to the Grace of his Guru. He came back and said, “When I truly put to practice your simple advice, the miracle did happen! Everyone in my office is very amiable and loving towards me now.”

We don’t want others to be angry or irritable with us. On the contrary, we want them to be ever smiling and amiable while talking to us. Thus the simple fact is, if you are amiable and friendly to all, others will be the same towards you too.

So what is dharma? What WE should do is where dharma lies!

If you want others to love you, love others.

If you want others to help you always, you have to help others.

If you don’t want others to be jealous, you should not be jealous of others.

How simple it is!

Only when we understand this dharma sukshma (the subtle aspect of dharma) do we understand why we should be good, why we should not lie, why we should not appropriate others’ wealth, why we should not look at another man’s wife with lust, and so on. It is simply because we don’t want all of this to happen to us!

Once a sadhu came to a village. He preached tolerance and implored people to practice patience. A man in the crowd could not understand the sadhu’s lecture as his dialect was a little different from that of the villagers. He went up to the sadhu and asked, “Swami! What did you say?”

The sadhu replied “I asked everyone to be patient and not get angry.”

Immediately the man asked, “Sir, do you never get angry?”

The sadhu replied with a smile, “No, I never get angry.”

The sadhu continued his lecture while the villager sat drowned in his own thoughts. Noticing the lost look of villager, the sadhu asked him if he had any doubt.

The villager replied, “Yes, just one doubt. Don’t you ever really get angry?”

The sadhu said, “No”.

The villager was back his own world of thoughts. Finding the villager inattentive again, the sadhu asked, “Are you listening to my talk or not?”

The villager replied, “No sir. It’s mind boggling! Don’t you EVER really get angry?”

Now the sadhu’s face reddened and he shouted, “How many times did I tell you! Of course I don’t get angry. Why are you irritating me by asking the same thing again and again?”

It’s not enough to have dharma on our tongues, but it should be in practice too. When we are hungry how thankful we are to the one who provides food. So when we find someone hungry, we should feed them. A man who feeds the other indeed gives him life. Why should we do charity? When we are suffering, don’t we yearn for help? Thus we should understand the pain and wish to wipe other’s suffering and tears. When we are desperate to understand something, how we yearn that someone would explain it to us. Hence we should share our knowledge with others.

Dharma is simple if we remember the basic premise. If we remember the subtle aspect of dharma discussed here, each one of us can truly experience inner transformation and become a dharmatma.

Be the change you want to see.

From a lecture series by Sri M. K. Ramanujamji (inspired by the teachings of his Master—HH Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji)

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