The Eternal Rules Of Dharma

Published: 17.08.2005
Updated: 02.07.2015

If this world were advaitic or monistic, there would be only one reality. But since it is not so, there is a need to discuss independence and dependence.

Change is intrinsic to reality; so every aspect of reality is changeable. Change occurs at every instant of time, which, in itself, is changeable. That which is bound by a certain cause and effect relationship, where change is inevitable, cannot be independent.

If we are bound by time, are we dependent or independent? There are no absolutes here - if man is dependent, it means he is independent, too.

Mahavira saw the world in terms of two perspectives or naya, the transcendental viewpoint or nischaya naya and the empirical viewpoint or vyavahara naya.

According to the first, every object is seen in its intrinsic form. There is no substratum or substance. No cause, no effect. No creator, no creation. Whatever is, is its intrinsic form.

The vyavahara naya deals with its elaboration. Within its ambit lie the relationships between the substratum and the substance, cause and effect, creator and the creation. It is here that a definition of dependent and independent can also be attempted.

Religious thinkers interpret independence as freedom from inner influences or passions which destroy the soul's attributes. Thinkers who have reflected upon the idea in terms of governance interpret it as freedom from external influences or imperfect organisational procedures.

Dharma is an exposition of the entire reality and its norms. So its purview is not limited to man alone; it includes the organisation of entire reality. Governance deals with organisational norms and so its bearing is on interpersonal relationships and the Constitution.

Indian philosophers have focused primarily on a dharmic interpretation of independence - they didn't mix rules of governance with the eternal rules of dharma. So they tried to promote independence in governance, but did not frame separate guidelines. The authors of smriti and purana texts have, however, given importance to intrinsic individual freedom.

Aristotle, Locke and Mill have established individual freedom as the base for independent governance. But Plato, Machiavelli, Hegel and Bach have stressed on independence in governance. The duty on an individual is decided by societal beliefs and the Constitution. This means that man is free to act any which way so long as he doesn't flout the norms of society and organisation.

To Mahavira, freedom is kashaya-mukti or freedom from anger, ego, disillusion and greed, for, free from passions, man can act independently. Any one who only reacts can never live a life of independence for reactions take place in the outer world.

Freedom is an internal quality. The one who is free from his inner passions looks for solutions within, lives a life of action and is independent. He is able to reply insults with silence, anger with love, arrogance with humility and faces assaults with calm. This action is born out of his own internal thoughts.

Spiritually, independence is action and dependence is reaction. Ahimsa is action, himsa is reaction. Mahavira identified non-violence as dharma and violence as adharma. So independence is dharma and dependence, adharma. In the inner world, man can be independent limitlessly but in the physical, action-oriented and social world, there are limits. That's why Mahavira believed that the world of beings survives on interdependence.

(Compiled by Lalit Garg)

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. 24. Tirthankara Mahavira
  2. Adharma
  3. Advaitic
  4. Ahimsa
  5. Anger
  6. Aristotle
  7. Dharma
  8. Greed
  9. Himsa
  10. Kashaya-mukti
  11. Lalit Garg
  12. Naya
  13. Nischaya Naya
  14. Non-violence
  15. Plato
  16. Smriti
  17. Speaking Tree
  18. Violence
  19. Vyavahara Naya
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