Dharam & its first lessons

The meaning of the letter dharma means to adopt (dhaaran karna), to see it as our own. 

Like the foundation has adopted the building, on this foundation is standing the house. 

Like on the roots is standing the tree. The roots have adopted completely the trunk, the branches, the leafs and the fruits of the tree. In the same way dharma has adopted the whole of what exists in this universe and beyond. And in this sense the meaning of Dharam becomes the maryada (or rules regulating everything).

Everything happens according to a certain system. It is such a rule / discipline on which the whole universe is working. When we understand this that the whole universe is standing on this regulation; that is Dharmic. 

The Robes of being Dharmic

To ‘look’ Dharmic is only a decoration. Nothing else. To ‘be’ Dharmic requires deep saadhana (coming from practice).

It is a tappasya (discipline) and it is hard work to be Dharmic. To look Dharmic is just a decoration.  There are many visible signs for Dharamic - with these signs we can say that person is a fakir, is a saint, is detached etc . Dharmic clothing in this world are many. To look Dharmic because of your clothing/ outfit is one, and to be Dharmic because of your discipline or hard work towards it, is another.

It could be that somebody is Dharmic but does not have this clothing of Dharmic and it could be also that somebody has this outward look of Dharmic but inside is nothing or does not exist. If you have the clothing, the outward look, and no spirit of Dharam inside; then you are nothing but a decorated corpse. 

“Nam bina deta byohar 

Jyon mirtak mithya singaar” 

Example. if the person is dead and there is no soul inside the body but it looks alive . In the same way maybe there is no Dharam inside but for the outward decoration it may look Dharmic. 

By doing singaar (decoration) and looking Dharmic; is a very cheap and easy way but to be, after hard work and Tapassia is a very hard way. 

Characteristics of Dharmic

The nature of Dharam is blissfulness or Anand . Dharam is like nectar it is sarur (exhilaration) is a masti (complete joyfulness), is like a light. Dharam is collection of all the gunaas (qualities of the highest order). If you collect all the good aspects and put them together, that is the meaning behind of the word Dharam . Dharam encompasses compassion, love, equality, fearlessness, love and big-heartedness, openness. Such good aspects if they have to be expressed in one word they can be expressed in the word Dharam. 

If we have to say this person is Dharmic then this person will look at everybody equally, will be a ocean of love, without any prejudice, any fear. She/he will be in great nectar, will exhibit great light. When these aspects don`t exist, and only the clothing/libaas of dharam then it is like a decorated corpse, nothing more. 

FIVE categories: the first

The people with Dharmic foresight (drishitikon) have divided all of humanity through the prism into 5 parts. 

First category is the one who are born with this higher Spirit and Dharma. From birth they are Saintly, the worldly-wise.

Birth, as such, is considered the beginning of all sorrows. If there is birth there is death. There is no birth which does not turn into death. There is no life that does not turn into old age. The world is two-coloured (Do rangi). Day and night. Birth and death. Youth and Old-age. Laughters and cries. If somebody is rich, somebody else is poor. Powerful and weak. 

The world is two coloured. But this is a different thing that people only want one colour. Everyone loves birth, nobody wants death. That is why till the end of their life we celebrate our birthday. 

“Pahla maran kabul jivan ki chadd aas.” 

Birth is done, now accept death. We celebrate our birthdays to forget that we also have to die. 

In the end, the birth of Dharam or Dharmic way of life has come from the knowledge and acceptance of death and not of birth. 

The Four Great Signs, namely — an old man, a sick man, a corpse and a serene mendicant. These made the Prince to realize the unsatisfactoriness of life and urged him to ponder deeply about renunciation.  (Photo: www.saraniya.com)

The Four Great Signs, namely — an old man, a sick man, a corpse and a serene mendicant. These made the Prince to realize the unsatisfactoriness of life and urged him to ponder deeply about renunciation. (Photo: www.saraniya.com)


About 2500 years ago existed Mahatma Buddha, his name was Siddharta and he was a prince. In Hindi there is a word called ‘Samvedna’ and it means to feel, to empathise and this was very high in Buddha. He took everything very seriously. One day, as a Prince, Siddhartha met a sick person. He asked his charioteer why is he like this and the charioteer answered, “oh prince he is sick”. Then the prince asked: oh people also get sick and he answered, yes people get sick. The Prince was very hurt.

Once he saw old man walking with the help of a stick he again asked his chrioteer - Why is he walking with the help of this stick? Why is he bent like a bow? Prince, answered the charioteer, this person has become old. Oh people also get old, replied the Prince.

Once he saw a dead body, people carrying a corpse, a funeral. Four people carrying this corpse. He asked - oh who is this person this four people are carrying? The charioteer answered, this a person the others are carrying because he is dead. Oh people die also, asked the Prince? Yes, the ones who are born they die also, answered the charioteer.

These things hurt him and impacted him deeply. He never listened to any sermon, he did not do any kirtan or went to a satsang (community). He was living a life of luxury and comforts in this time. Then the Prince said to himself, “I will look for that life that has no sickness, no old age and no death”. The charioteer  answered him -”no sickness, no old age, no death is only possible if there is no birth”.

Then Buddha said sure then I will look for a life in where there is no birth, as all the reasons for sorrow are birth. 

The Second lesson of Dharam

It is surprising to know that people walk the path of the higher spiritual living not from the knowledge of god, godliness or energy or spirit but from the knowledge of sorrows. The second lesson of dharam is sorrows/dukh. Every birth turns to death. We celebrate all our life our birthdays to forget that death is near. And if we are completely lost in this one can be everything, but can not be Dharmic. 

Changing a country, changing a city will not end your dukh/sorrows. Birth is a dukh but everybody is looking towards birth as joy. 

Bhagat Kabir in a Satsang (Photo: www.lauhpurush.com)

Bhagat Kabir in a Satsang (Photo: www.lauhpurush.com)

“Janani jaanat hai sut vadha hot hai

Itnak na jaane woh  din din aur ghatat hai”

- Bhagat Kabir, Social reformer (1440-1518)

Kabir is saying the child doesn’t grow but rather is shrinking. The measures of the Bhagats are another. The child has to live 80 years and today`s day has passed by . Is the child growing shrinking. The family is getting big or the wealth is getting big or the house but you are shrinking. That day a person starts to walk on the path of dharam the day they realise they are shrinking and one day I will completely be finished. 

In nature there are these 3 going on. Growing big, growing small and dissolving or dying. What is growing, is shrinking, what is shrinking, is dying. 

“Ghatant deepang, ghatant roopang .. ghatant ravsas nikhatr gaganang”

- Guru Arjan Dev ji, The fifth master of the Sikhs (1563 - 1606)

The sun which is burning now is shrinking day by day and it will die one day. Like this human population on this earth, there are as many stars in the sky and like some population, some adults, some old and so are these stars. Science has said it already; that the the sun under which we all live, has already passed its youth and is old. It is losing hundreds of thousand tons of weight every second. And all this light it is giving now, one day it will die. It is not only us that die it is also the stars and the moon. 

This is the rule of the nature - being born, shrinking and dying. 

The body too grows up to a limit it and then one day it will die. The world is two coloured. There is youth, old age, laughter, crying… There is no honour, where there is no dishonour, there is no power, where there is no weakness, no happiness where behind there exists no sorrow. 

The TWO kinds of devotees

There have been two kinds of devotees.

The first accepts all and say: I accept birth and I accept death. It is the way it is. Happiness and sadness both are accepted. In this category comes Bhagat Nam Dev: 

“Je raaj de taan kavan wadaai

Je bheek mangai te kya  ghat jai”

If we become the king of the kings, what will grow? And if we suffer as a beggar what will shrink? We accept both. It is acceptable to be the king and it is also acceptable to be a beggar.

This however, is not so easy to digest as easily it is said. 

The second category of Bhagats rejects all and say, both Sukh and Dukh (happiness and sorrows) are not acceptable - both not wanted. (see our earlier post about Sukh-Dukh here)

In this category comes Bhagat Kabir: 

“Sukh maangat dukh aagal aave

So sukh hame naa mangaya bhaave”

Kabir says I don’t want to have Sukh (comforts that make us happy), I don`t pray for Sukh. 

Everybody loves sukh and prays for sukh normally and most of the relationships are one of Comfort/Sukh. Everything else is just a show. 

When there is complete darkness, even our own shadow leaves us. All relationships are based on Sukh. 

The importance of Dukh (difficulties & sorrows) explained

In the dharbar / court of Akbar from one of his 9 jewels was a person called Janaab Kavi Rahim, who was also the Minister of Home Affairs. He says:

“Rehman vipda hon bhali jo Thodey din hoye

Is anhit sab jagat main jaan parat sab koye ”

He says that difficulties are good, they should come for some days. 

In sorrows and in dukh you come to know who is close to you and who is far from you. That is why it is good to have difficulties. They help you assess things. Dukh is like a test. 

Kabir says I have understood. At least I don’t ask for sukh because there is no sukh which will not one day come to dukh. No birth which will not turn to death etc. 

The world is two coloured. On the other hand the higher spiritual being parmatma is one-coloured. The humans always aspire for such sukh which will not turn to dukh and such is possible only through higher spiritual living. Deep down in our Prana (life-force) is the desire for this oneness but you cannot fulfil this in a worldly way. 

How to measure a person’s dukh is to look how sukh he / she is. 

How much you are respected you have equal amount of fear to be disrespected. 

How much power you have from inside you are also so much weak. Think about it. These stay together. There is no one colour in worldly matters. 

First steps one takes to a higher spiritual paths are from the knowledge of sadness/dukh. And the higher spiritual path comes after accepting that there is a two-coloured world. 

The MOGHUL Emperors’ contrasting take on life & desires

Last Moghul King of India, Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar on his Elephant to the left, and his sons to the right. (photo: Sir Thomas Metcalfe - now in Public Domain)

Last Moghul King of India, Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar on his Elephant to the left, and his sons to the right. (photo: Sir Thomas Metcalfe - now in Public Domain)

The first Moghul King of India was Babur and the last Mogul Emperor was Bhahadur Shah Zafar; from whom the English took the throne. 

“Nau roze-o-nau bahar-o-dilruba khush ast;

Babar ba-aish kosh, kay alam do-baara n-est”  

- Babur (1483 - 1530)

Babur says- There are so many colours, completely enjoy these, so many wonderful things to taste (ras). Why be sad or why to get sorrows?

The last Mogul emperor was a very wise man. He had many wise people in his court like urdu poet Mirza Ghalib, Ameer Minai, Ameer Khusarou. Bahadur Shah Zafar was a man of detached nature (fakir). 

Bhadur Shah Zafar writes,

“Lagta nahin hai dil mera, ujade ga yaar main

Kiski bani hai aalame na pai daar main

In hasraton se kehdo kahin aur jaa basen

Itni jagah kahaan hai dil-e daag daar main

Umre daran mang kar laaye thhey chaar din

Do Aarzoo main kat gayi Do intezar main ”

In this temporary world, who has found permanence? 

Hasraton = desires. 

He explains that all the desires of nobody have ever been fulfilled, not even of the spiritual guides and people. These spiritual guides wanted to make the earth like a beautiful bouquet of flowers. However, most of their time was spoiled tin clearing the thorns out of their way and put to the boulders of the road on one side.

It is not wrong to say that not even one spiritual guide completely succeeded. Bhahadur Shah is also saying the same, that nobody’s all desires are always fulfilled.

“The psychology of the desires ist that one is fulfilled they give birth to minimum 10 more. “

And if those 10 are fulfilled they give rise to 100 more. And if 100 desires are fulfilled, they give rise to 1000. That these 1000 desires are fulfilled, life is not so long. A person dies under the weight of all these desires. That is why Bahadur Shah Zafar is saying rightfully to tell these desires to go away.

In the last two lines he says : I got a very long life; equivalent to 4 days, of which two were spent in demanding and desiring and other two for waiting to have them fulfilled. 

Half of our lives are spent asking or desiring things. Needs may be fulfilled but all desires can never be fulfilled. 

Every house is burning: some little, some more…
A Sufi Saint- Baba Farid said that he was under this illusion that he is the sad one and all the sorrows surrounded him while the rest of the world looked such a happy place. He thought, “I am the one worried but others they look blissful”. Such was his impression.

He says only when he climbed higher and looked around he saw in every house there was Dukh (sorrows). If one does not see that there is Dukh in every place, you are not standing high enough and even perhaps you are standing in a hole. Every house is somehow burning , some with little fires, some with big fire, but every house is in the fire of dukh or sadness in some way.  If you cannot look like this your thinking capacity has not reached its highest. There may be different reasons for different sorrows, but they are everywhere. 

Rog and Sog

To walk the spiritual path comes from the knowledge of sorrows, of sadness. And these dukh takes two phases in the body and in the soul.  In the body when it comes it is called rog (disease) and when it comes in the soul, called sog (grief). 

Everybody is in rog. Perhaps it has not come to the limit that it pains, but everyone is affected. The medicine just kills the pain but not the source. The day one realises that the body is rog and soul is sog and recognises these sorrows, our meditation really comes to another level with this realisation.

Crying comes from the depths

The journey of dharam starts with the journey of dukh. The spiritual leaders say that crying comes from very much deep inside, while laughter is only from the surface. Happiness is more or less on the surface, the sorrows are much deeper. 

If one person is laughing and if one person in the group says stop laughing the person will stop laughing. It because laughter comes from the surface. However, if one person is crying and even 10 people tell the person don’t cry, the person will not stop immediately. It is because it is coming from great depths. This is not laughter that I can put the brakes immediately, that is crying.

The depth of sorrows are very deep. It is human nature not to say I accept both happiness and sorrow but it is in our nature to accept only one, the happiness.

*** END OF PART ONE ****


  1. Mural header: Prayer flags painting by Uma Krishnamoorthy

  2. Saint Maskeen

  3. Saraniya.com