Though a deep-seated sense of right and wrong inheres in the human consciousness, an individual’s nature is derived from his past karma and prompts the behaviour in his present life which in turn determines his future. This is seen as a cosmic law of dharma under which none can escape the consequences of one’s acts.
While there are general rules such as ‘Speak the truth,’ ‘Adhere to dharma’ and ‘Respect your mother, father, preceptor and guest,’ an individual’s upbringing and culture, and the context in which he is placed govern his decisions, said Swami Bodhananda in a discourse. Nevertheless, he is responsible for his decisions which may or may not be the ideal ones. What is applicable in one context may not be so in another. The story of the cap seller and the monkeys illustrates this truth. When the monkeys had taken away the caps, the cap seller was quick to notice that monkeys imitate human actions and worked out an effective strategy to retrieve the caps. But some years later, his son, who also sold caps, faced a similar situation. When he adopted the father’s solution, it was helpful in his case. In this complex world, comprising myriad beings confronting intricate problems, there can be no universal solution. Just as one shoe cannot fit all.
The Bhagavad Gita accepts that there are no ultimate universal solutions and all solutions have their own defects. When the Lord incarnates as Rama or Krishna to establish dharma, He subjects himself to the pressure and limits of its rule caused by the exigencies of the various contexts when its supremacy is challenged. Adharma is its opposing partner always threatening to supersede it. Krishna asks Dharmaputra to lie, and He motivates the Pandavas to fight against the Kauravas. This gives Gandhari the power to curse Him. “Your own people will fight against each other and kill themselves,” she says. The Yadava community is decimated. Krishna Himself is a victim to a hunter’s poisoned arrow that becomes a pretext for His departure from this world. It is held that the hunter in this case had been Vali who had fallen victim to Rama’s arrow in Treta Yuga. The cosmic law of justice prevails.