Request for discussion on Common Dharma
Anand V. Hudli
anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Sun May 9 14:23:48 CDT 1999
As a topic related to the thread "Practical Vedanta", I urge
list members to discuss the status of sAmAnya-dharma or
sAdhAraNa-dharma today, with special reference to India.
Before even a discussion of the importance of vedAnta,
"practical" or not, is started, we must find out to what
extent sAmanya-dharma is being practised. It does not make
sense for one who is not even following sAmAnya-dharma to
undertake a study of vedAnta.
sAmAnya-dharma is the dharma which needs to be followed by
all human beings, regardless of their status in society.
The definition of sAmAnya-dharma occurs in many SmR^iti texts,
including the Manu-smR^iti. But I found the mitAxarA commentary of
VijnAneshvara on the YAjnavalkya smR^iti illuminating. So I will
use the definition of sAmAnya dharma found in this smR^iti and
the commentary thereon.
ahiMsA satyamasteyaM shauchamindriyanigrahaH |
dAnaM damo dayA kshhAntiH sarveshhAM dharmasAdhanam.h ||
These are the means to dharma for all persons, regardless of
whether they are brAhmaNas, kshhatriyas, vaishyas, shUdras,
chaNDAlas, etc. (mitAxarA- ityete sarveshhAM purushhANAM
brAhmaNAdyAchaNDAlAntaM dharmasAdhanam.h) :
1) ahiMsA - not causing pain to creatures. This includes not
causing pain to animals as well as humans. All killing of animals,
except in vedic sacrifices, causes only pain to animals. So the
pratice of consuming meat and other animal products that are
produced by causing pain to animals is against this principle of
2) satyam.h - the mitAxarA defines satyam.h as "aprANipIdAkaraM
yathArthavachanam.h", which means speaking truth that does not
cause pain to creatures (both humans and animals). To clarify
one must always speak the truth unless doing so would cause
only untold suffering to others.
3) asteyam.h - non-stealing. This is defined as "adattAnupAdAnam.h"
- not acquiring something that is not given/donated or earned.
This is a much broader definition than merely saying that one must
not steal anything. For example, if one finds some money in a
public place, it is against the principle of asteyam if one
pockets that money. That money was neither donated nor earned.
4) shaucham.h - this includes not just external cleanliness but
also internal or mental cleanliness. Living in dirty, shabby
conditions even when one can possibly live in clean conditions is
against this principle.
5) indriyanigrahaH - this is defined as "buddhikarmendriyANAM
niyatavishhayavR^ittitA", meaning "performing only restricted
or obligatory actions with the 10 sense organs (such as eyes,
tongue, hands, feet, organ of generation, etc.)"
6) dAnam - yathAshakti prANinAmannodakAdidAnenArtiparihAro dAnam.h
Donating(giving) food, water, etc, according to one's capacity,
to creatures (animals and humans) so that their suffering is
removed is "dAna".
7) damaH - antaHkaraNasaMyamo damaH. The restraint of the mind
8) dayA - ApannaraxaNaM dayA. Protecting one who is afflicted (by
misery) is dayA. Merely expressing sympathy in eloquent words
is not enough to be called dayA.
9) xAntiH - apakAre .api chittasyaAvikAraH - Not changing one's
mind even when faced with adversity is called xAnti or
I request list members to discuss how these nine principles of
sAmAnya-dharma are being practised and if they are not being
practised, the reasons for nonconformity and possible solutions
to remedy the situation.
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