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Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, The Triple Transformation - Track 706

Dharma as a method for Moksha

 There are other methods which are called the methods of dharma, where the emphasis falls upon the instrument of action. Here again you are not told as to how you have come into this trouble. You are told that if you want to come out of this trouble, then you take recourse to dharma. What is dharma? We are told that it is a very difficult subject but if you want to know in a minimum way, all is explained in the Veda. What is dharma, what is not dharma being a very difficult subject, the easiest answer is to open the Veda and whatever is prescribed there is dharma and you follow it and when you do it you will attain to liberation, moksha. This process is a very intricate process, a much longer process than the other processes which I have described so far. First it says that your mind should be so developed as to have the desire to avoid evil and to do good. This should be the least preparation. A human being should be so developed, his body, life and mind should be so developed that he arises at a point where he feels "I must avoid evil and I must do the good". Whatever thing may help you to arrive at this point is good for you, that is the first minimum condition. Training of the child right from childhood is good if you can succeed in doing so. Or else you reason with the child and tell him the consequences of doing good actions rather than evil actions. Or you may experience in your life sometimes after having done many evil actions that you really come into an abyss and then you realise, "My Lord, I will now never go into it, I will never do it again". Take for example what Othello did to Desdemona. Othello and Desdemona were deeply in love with each other and they married each other escaping from their own house and then somehow at a certain time Iago began to arouse jealousy in the mind of Othello saying that his wife is unfaithful to him. Othello would not believe it but ultimately he showed a handkerchief as a proof; the handkerchief given by Othello to Desdemona. He said that she gave it to somebody from where he obtained it. This proof was so clinching for Othello that he could not for a moment doubt it and he was filled with jealousy. He went straight home and asked for that handkerchief which she could not produce. When she began to give some kind of an answer about the presence of that handkerchief of which she was not aware because it was stolen by her maid servant for creating this kind of a trick, then his suspicion became so great that he became mad and in his rage he simply smothered and killed her. And after this, the maid servant came and told him the truth and in that situation he realised that he had done something really evil. This was a real realisation – and he felt that he should have never done it. For him at least, the only solution was to kill himself after that. But a person can reach a situation in which one finds really the experience of evil and feels that such a thing should never, never happen. The real nature of evil is that when it is realised you feel like blotting it out, that is the meaning of evil. Evil is a situation or an action or an instrument or a thing which seen in a particular light is felt to be so inconsistent with your highest. That which you would like to blot out, is evil. If from the beginning you were not trained in goodness perhaps in your experience you will reach the point where you will really ask yourself. "What is good? How can I avoid in my life in future so that I will not be trapped again in that situation where I will do evil and have these consequences?"  According to this teaching it is best that you are told what dharma is and then you follow very rigorously that dharma. You are told to read the Veda and to find out what dharma is from the Veda but Veda itself is so difficult. So it is said that the first dharma is to study Veda, because akhilo vedo dharmasya moolam, i.e. the entire Veda is the origin of the dharma. So study of the Veda is itself prescribed as dharma. But then when people have read the Veda, they have found so many interpretations of it that they get confused. In due course of time therefore in India we had a system of Smriti – Veda is called Shruti but then came a system of Smriti – and we are told that Veda being a very difficult thing, you just see what is written in the Smriti. Therefore, you have Manu Smriti, Narada Smriti, Mahayajnavalka Smriti and other Smritis in which dharma is given. But again if you read the Smriti today, you will find that there are so many things which are unacceptable, so it is said in India that Smritis have to be refreshed from age to age. Unfortunately today there is no new Smriti being written and that is one of the big difficulties. That is why, in India today, whenever anybody goes in search he gets perplexed because some people tell him that what is in the Veda is in the Ramayana. Some say that the Mahabharata tells you everything that is in the Veda and yet he does not get any satisfactory answers because Rama and Krishna themselves are quite different personalities. So who should be followed? Or he is told to read the Puranas because all the Puranas are expositions of the Vedas, or he is told to read the Smritis, but there are many Smritis and you do not know which Smriti to follow and then even the Smritis are out of date. Others advise him to follow the Bhagavad Gita, it being the smallest, text wise, but again the Bhagavad Gita is interpreted by so many different people that there is again a perplexity: whose Bhagavad Gita should be read? Whose teaching should be followed? Whose interpretation? That is another problem. So, for those who want to follow the path of dharma there is a tremendous difficulty today, and then added to the present anarchy we are told now that we have new values, a new dharma. Secularism, liberty, equality and fraternity are new dharmas of the present day and we are told to follow them and unless we have thought out quite vividly, deeply and subtly, we are all in a mess in fact, we do not know where to turn!

In any case the sum–total of the movement of dharma is only one thing: you clarify your nature by means of goodwill. Basically you might say the essence of all dharma is goodwill. Develop your goodwill to the utmost and anything that is opposed to goodwill is impurity, so clarify your impurities, throw them out. Your mind should be drenched as it were, in goodwill. When the question of acting out of goodwill is concerned there will be many, many difficulties. Some even prescribe that you should do works of charity. Among professions you are told that to be a doctor or to be a teacher and educate the children are called dharmic actions in the sense of goodwill. This does not satisfy the modern mind because it is more dynamic and more active. Why should a lawyer's work not be regarded as dharma? He is helping the society as much as anybody else. Why should a captain of industry not be regarded as a man who can do a lot of good to the whole society?  The questions of the modern mind are much more complex. But even there, the general answer that should be given is that if anyone of them is doing work with goodwill then it is a good instrument. According to this dharma, once you have reached that point where the mind is drenched with goodwill then comes the point of liberation, then you begin to perceive the Supreme good which is not here in this world. You begin to perceive the Supreme good and then you are enabled to come out of the clutches of all that is here and you are liberated from the world merely by a perception of the good. By developing goodwill to the highest point you are enabled to perceive the good, the Supreme good and when you perceive the Supreme good there is a kind of a liberation that will be felt which will make you come out of this mess in which you are and you will be liberated. This is the third method.