Practice of austerity

The term Dharma implies a range of meaning and cannot be indicated in a suitable synonym. Broadly speaking, it means righteousness or right living. In this sense it is related to the behaviour of individuals — thought, word and deed inclusive — and encompasses one's duty, also known as Karma. Lord Krishna makes it clear to Arjuna that it is important for him to follow his Kshatriya Dharma and fight against the injustice meted out to the Pandavas, pointed out Sri B. Sundarkumar in a lecture. Just as hunger or thirst is personal and cannot be outsourced, so is the pursuit of one's duty (Swadharma) — devolved by virtue of birth, circumstances, gunas, etc. The advice is to adhere to one's Dharma, though we may not be able to do it perfectly, and not to take upon the duties of another, though we may be able to accomplish it well. The latter choice of adopting another's duty is likely to jeopardise one's spiritual progress.

During their period of exile in the forest, the Pandavas had occasion to meet many sages with whom they discussed and exchanged views on life here and hereafter. The complexities of life, the joy and sorrow of the people, the conflict of evil and good — were subjects that emerged during these discussions.

Life in the forest did not pose any fear or danger to the Pandavas. Truth and honesty were sacred watchwords to them and to abide by virtue at all costs was their motto. The most appealing and beneficial aspect of scriptural texts is in the practical worth they reflect. The values of life are not principles expressed in theoretical terms; they are exemplified in the people whose lives are described. For instance, truthfulness is a value to be realised in one's way of life — the way one thinks, speaks and acts. God is the Absolute Truth and when we live truthfully we abide by His tenets.

It is shown that practice of austerity is a way of life or practice that purifies our inner life — that is it is able to awaken the divine streak in us and lift us from worldly leanings, at least for brief interludes. When such an involvement with such practices becomes automatic then one's inner life strives towards realising the Eternal Truth.

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 5:33:51 AM |

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