The article, Sanatana Dharma, a Path to Perfection (CLN, Religion) stated that, in essence, dharma is ideal conduct and character. When man, as an “unqualified being,” follows dharma, he receives the twin benefit of living happily in his mundane life and achieving liberation when he is ready to relinquish his mundane life. Then, what stops a man from following dharma strictly?

Living as per dharma, however, is not easy. Man has chained himself with his ego and with his obsession overpower and possessions. How can he discard these shackles and start right away on an ideal path that demands that at all time he refrain from hatred, jealousy, revenge, and retribution and adhere to a life of truth, love, and compassion? How can he then survive in a world where material progress is an essential requirement and where such progress comes with occasional compromises on dharma? These are legitimate questions.

To most of us, achieving perfect conduct while living during a fast-paced and ruthless world can only be a dream. After all, the history of the world shows that only a handful of sages reached such perfection. If so, why seek a goal that is unattainable for most? Although we may not live the “ideal”; the life of a Sankara, Ramanuja, or a Ramana Maharishi, we can, at the least, take baby steps towards such a life. After all, we do not forego formal education because most of us do not win a Nobel Prize in our chosen fields. Therefore, even if we take a few baby steps to control the passions of our hearts and to moderate our thoughts, we would make progress. Each step we take towards ideal conduct leads to inner peace, happiness, and harmony in our personal lives.And, making progress towards ideal conduct, according to the sages, is more important than belief in god.

How can conduct supersede belief in god? Virtue (or vice), compassion (or callousness) or other positive and negative traits do not depend on one’s belief in a god. A believer could be as compassionate or as cruel as a non-believer. Hence, conduct is supreme. Hindu mythology also reinforces this view. In the Bhagavad Geetha, Krishna proclaims that whenever dharma is undermined, he will appear as an avatar and restore righteousness. Krishna did not declare that he will appear whenever belief in him declined.The mythological stories about the ten avatars (Dasavatara) also illustrate that, when conduct and character are undermined, god will appear in various forms to destroy evil and restore the good. Hinduism abounds with such stories.

Let us, therefore, take our baby steps towards ideal conduct.

Dr. Ram S. Sriram