How can one understand dharma and adharma? Sastras teach the principles of ethics and morality that should govern human life. But there always exists a gap between theoretical aspects and practical application. The Self in each being is the essence of sat-chit-ananda; but when caught in some form in prakriti, it forgets its essential nature. Owing to various influences, human beings act in ways that are not aligned to dharma.

Adi Sankara draws a dramatic word picture in Soundarya Lahari where the divine mother is shown to teach the subtle aspects of day-to-day (samanya) dharma by setting an example, pointed out Sri B. Sundarkumar is a lecture. The image is of the divine mother on her throne with the celestial beings Brahma, Vishnu, and Indra paying obeisance. At that time Siva enters and she hurriedly gets up to greet him. As she is about to stride across the bejewelled crowns of the celestial beings that are placed near her feet, the attending maids caution her not to trip against them and hurt herself.

In the hierarchy of the system of the universe, each one has a certain set of duties. The sun, moon, planets, the elements, etc, follow their paths. The celestial beings and humans too have their commitments. In this context, the supremacy of the divine mother does not interfere with her role as the consort of Siva. There is spontaneous respect, love and regard for Siva. She inspires us to be considerate to people around us and cultivate common etiquette to make life meaningful to all of us.

It must be remembered that the divine mother is not subject to the consequences of karma as we all are. Lord Krishna too refers to himself as one who works tirelessly to sustain the universe, though He is not bound by any karma. Bhagavad Gita clearly lays emphasis on good conduct. The Lord quotes the example of people in high status like Janaka who continue to live in this world leading upright lives, though they have renounced attachment to worldly objects. Krishna advises Arjuna to follow his ordained duty (swadharma) at all costs as this will set an example to humanity.

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