It is popularly held that the goddess of dharma represented as a celestial cow stands on four feet in Krita Yuga, three in Treta Yuga, two in Dwapara Yuga and one in Kali Yuga.
This implies that there is a steady decline in moral values through the passage of time, and that in Kali Yuga the degradation is more marked, and that dharma is easily vulnerable to corrupt forces. Yet the assault on dharma has existed even in the earlier Yugas and is not exceptional to Kali Yuga alone, pointed out Sri B. Sundarkumar in a discourse.
The Puranas and the Itihasas contain stories of the lives of great kings, and of heroic and ideal men and women committed to dharma who have become victims of a vicious fate and the conspiracy of circumstances. But what triumphs is their nobility of character that lends them superhuman fortitude to challenge the force of adharma. Adharma takes root when beings succumb to their senses. Control of one’s senses is the key to disciplined life and fosters moral fortitude to a large extent.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna explains the crux of human failing and triumph as hinging on the way one responds to the indriyas, the senses. The senses are integral to living beings and their natural propensity is towards the sense objects of the world. When the mind begins to follow the roving senses, it deprives itself of the sense of discrimination even as a ship is tossed about in the ocean by strong winds. The wise and intelligent understand the consequences and wide repercussions of yielding to the senses indiscriminately.
But by keeping them under check, one could utilise their powers to turn one’s thoughts towards seeking salvation. Nobility of character stems from sense control as it is in this base that adharma also erupts. Ravana lost all his powers of penance and even pledged his basic noble nature as the king of Lanka when he became adamant in desiring Sita. Duryodhana became a slave of his greed and jealousy and did not realise how self-destructive it could be. Stitaprajna is one who has the senses under control and thereby has fortified himself against not merely sorrow but also the tendency to yield to adharma.