The goal of dharma is universal welfare. The great
men who produced the works on Dharmasastra didn't have a trace of
self-interest in them and had nothing but the thought of the
happiness of all creatures. These treatises are the authority on
which dharma is founded. You find the form of things, the image,
with your eyes; you perceive sound with your ears; you know
dharma with the help of Dharmasastra.
Vedas (Sruti) are the root of all dharma. After Sruti comes
Smrti. The latter consists of the "notes" based on
Smrti. It is the same as Dharmasastra. Another guide for the
dharma is the example of great men. The Puranas provide an answer
to how great men conducted themselves. Then there is sistacara to
guide us, the life of virtuous people of noble character. Not
everybody's conduct can be a guide to us. The individual whose
life is an example for the practice of dharma must have faith in
the sastras and must live in accordance with their ordinances.
Besides, he must be free from desire and anger. The conduct of
such men is sistacara. Another authority or guide is what we know
through our conscience in a state of transparency.
matters of the Self, of dharma and religion, the Vedas are in the
forefront as our guide. Next come the dharmasastras. Third is the
conduct of the great sages of the past. Fourth is the example of
the virtuous people of our own times. Conscience comes last in
everything has become topsy-turvy. People give importance first
to their conscience and last to the Vedas. We must consult our
conscience only as a last resort when we have no other means of
knowing what is dharma with reference to our actions. Why is
conscience called one's "manahsaksi"? Conscience is fit
to be only a witness(saksi), not to be a judge. A witness often
gives false evidence. The mind, however, doesn't tell an untruth
- indeed it knows the truth of all things. " There is no
deceit that is hidden from the heart(mind), " says Auvvai.
Conscience may be regarded as a witness. But nowadays it is
brought in as a judge also in dharmic matters. As a witness it
will give us a true report of what it sees or has seen. But on
the basis of it we cannot give on what is just with any degree of
finality. "What I think is right, " everybody would try
to satisfy himself thus about his actions if he were to be guided
only by his conscience. How can this be justified as the verdict
often hear people say, "I will act according to what my
conscience tells me. " This is not a right attitude. All at
once your conscience cannot be given the place of a judge. It is
only when there is no other way open to you that you may tell
your mind: "You have seen everything as a witness. Now tell
me your opinion. " The mind belongs to each one of us as
individuals. So it cannot be detached from our selfish interests.
The place it has in one's personal affairs cannot be given to it
in matters of religion. On questions of dharma the opinion of
sages alone is valid, sages who were concerned with universal
welfare and who transcended the state of the individual concerned
with his own mind [or with himself].
"Hindu Dharma" is a book
which contains English translation of certain invaluable and
engrossing speeches of Sri Sri Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi MahaSwamiji (at
various times during the years 1907 to 1994).
For a general background, please see here