Common Dharmas

Sri Chandramoulisvaraya Namah:
Publication No. 11 Friday, 1st Aippasi, Sarvajit year (17.10.1947)

Manu’s Dharma Sastra defines dharmas common to all as under:
“Ahimsa satyam-astheyam soucham indriyanigraha:” (Manusmriti)
Non-violence, truth, non-stealing, purity, control of sense-organs- these five are very important. In Veda, devotion to mother, father, guru and God etc. have also been cited as common dharmas.

Let us consider the five dharmas.

  1. Ahimsa: Non-violence is everyone’s requirement. We should not kill even an ant. We should not cause any trouble to the body of anyone. That is Ahimsa. This Ahimsa has been cited as an instrument of yoga.

What is Yoga? Yoga is stopping the mind.
“Yogas-chittavritti-nirodhah” (Yogasutra of Patanjali).
Desire sprouts in mind. Mind thinks of many things. Many difficulties arise from that.
“Mana eva manushyanam karanam bandha-mokshayo:” (Upanishad)
The meaning is that mind alone is the cause of bondage and freedom. Mind does not stay the way we want. If we tell the mind to think of a particular object, it goes off somewhere else. If we want mind not to think of anything at all, it is just not possible. If we tell mouth not to speak, it will not speak. If we tell eyes not to see, they will not see. But if we tell mind not to think of anything, it does not do so. Mind is not under our control. If we tell mind not to think, it should not think. But mind thinks of something opposed to what we want it to think. A mad fellow does not remain quiet. He will keep mumbling something. We are unable to shut his mouth. In the same way we are unable to control our mind. We are mentally mad. If we have our mind under control, it should act as we instruct. If we say ‘think’, it should think; if we say ‘halt’, it should halt. Then only it can be said to listen to us. If we have pain somewhere in the body, the mind comes to know of it. If we then tell mind not to think it pains, it should listen. That is keeping mind under our control. We may think that if intellect is under our control, there will be no difficulty. If a tiger threatens us and if we tell the mind to be as if the tiger has not threatened, the mind will obey. If we tell the mind to weep, it will weep; if we tell it not to weep, it will not. Now our mind weeps even when there is no reason to weep. When the mind is under our control, if we tell it not to weep even in the presence of a reason to weep, it will not weep. That state is called ‘Nirodha’ (control). Then if we tell the mind not to get angry, it will not.

Now even our mouth is not entirely under our control. We talk something wrongly and then we feel sorry. There is little difference between us and a mad man. Even a mad man sometimes talks coherently. We are suddenly overcome by fear or anger. To get rid of these, we have to control the mind.

When the mind is under control in this manner, it is called ‘Tailadhara’ (continuous flow of oil). We have to look at mind as continuous attention. If mind has come under our control, it is better than even seeing Iswara. Joy erupts if we see Iswara. If we tell mind to remain in that joy, it stays. If we tell mind to remain as Iswara, it will remain so. Whatever we may instruct, it will listen. That alone is Yoga.

Now our mind thinks of objects other than that, the thought of which will give us comfort. What will bring this mind under control? If we tell it to get a little angry, it should do so; if we tell it not to, it should not. We have to seek a way for this. That too must be sought before death.
Veda says ‘Tamevam vidvan amruta iha bhavati’ (Purushasuktham).
‘One who knows Him thus becomes liberated even here (in this birth itself).
“Saknoteehaiva ya:sodhum prak-sarira-vimokshanat|
Kama-krodh-odbhavam vegam sa yukta: sa sukhi nara: ||” (Gita 5:23)
When there are sources of desire and anger, one should make efforts to control their passion in this birth. One who does so is alone ‘yukta’. ‘Yukta’ means one who is in yoga. Yogas are not for Rishis alone. Who requires medicine? Is it not the sick person? We suffer from the disease of the mind. Hence we need yoga. What is the method to control the mind? There are two ways. They are outer and inner methods. We have to ask persons who know about this; persons who have controlled their minds. Bhagavan Sri Krishna is ever in control of mind. Our Acharya is also in control of mind.

Some people are fair-complexioned right at birth. Some others go abroad and wear special dresses and show that they are fair-complexioned. Some creatures fly right at birth. Some others fly later. A fish swims right at birth. We swim after some time. Iswara is ever in control of mind from birth. He remains always. We have to put in efforts to make the mind steady. Vidyaranya, Sadasiva Brahmendra et al are of this category. These two persons have told us the ways to control the mind. Out of the two methods mentioned earlier, the outer method is one. This means helping from outside- Danam (ceremonial gift), dharma, Sandhya, Oupasanam, yagna, study of Vedas, helping others etc. If we do these sincerely, the mind will be controlled.

Inner method is helping from near. If we consider Pujas in temple, help is required from the porter, one who helps in lighting the lamp for waving before God, one who brings food being offered to God et al. Inner methods are close at hand like these persons. There are many inner methods. Ahimsa is one of them. There is nothing not achievable by mind. As it is not controlled, it is powerless. If elephant is not controlled, it is of no use to us; there will only be trouble. If it is controlled, many are the things we can achieve through it. This mind has the strength of many elephants. Visvamitra, Hanuman et al conquered their minds. That is why they had so much power. We have the same mind. If we can make our mind listen to us, we can also do anything. Vedanta says that the entire universe was created by one mind. This universe is not adequate even for the mind of an ant.

Mind is like a goblin. It is like the vetala in the story of Vikramaditya. Mind will do all the things which the vetala did when it was brought under control. Yoga is bringing that mind under our control. Ahimsa is part of that yoga. People have said that they adopted Ahimsa and the mind came under control.

Hence this Ahimsa is included in common dharmas in Manu dharmasastra. In Yoga sastra, it is mentioned as a part of yoga. In order to make the greatness of Ahimsa clear, it was expounded in such detail.

If we do something for a main purpose, there will be some additional benefits. They are called ‘Avaantara prayojanam’. We go to the Matham to have darshan of Puja. In addition, we are able to listen to the discourses of many Sastris. These happen on their own. Our primary aim is not those discourses. We see many people. We see many scholars and devotees. All this is unintended benefit. Darshan of Puja is the primary benefit; the rest are secondary benefits.

Ahimsa also has some secondary benefits. The primary aim of Ahimsa is control of mind. That is the prime benefit.
“Ahimsa-pratishthayam tat-sannidhou vaira-tyaga:” (Patanja Yogasutram 2:35).
If we have achieved Ahimsa with all three instrumentalities (thought, word and deed), all will attain peace in our presence.

One should not think of troubling another. He should not speak words that would hurt another. With body also, one should not cause any trouble to anyone. By nature none will feel like troubling another. But if another person commits an offence, it occurs to one to indulge in violence out of anger. If our child sets fire to the roof, will we get angry with the child? We will put off the fire immediately. We will see that this does not recur again. We should behave in the same manner with the person who troubles us. We should treat him like a child. That is Ahimsa. With that Ahimsa, mind comes under control; this is the primary benefit. In addition, even those who come with murderous anger will become peaceful in his presence. Even cruel persons will get peace of mind in his presence. That is the secondary benefit of Ahimsa; it happens automatically.

In Varnasrama dharmas, those who are born as brahmanas and have become sanyasis must practise Ahimsa in toto. While taking sanyasa, they promise that:
“Ahimsan sarvabhutan-yanyatra tirthebhya:” (Chandogya Upanishad VIII 15:1).
This means: ‘There is no fear for all creatures from me.’

Grihastha must practise Ahimsa in matters other than svadharma. There may be violence in actions stipulated in Veda. He should practise Ahimsa in actions other than those. Matters regarding Ahimsa have been mentioned in Gautama Dharmasutra and Chandogya Upanishad. Grihastha must practise Ahimsa in actions other than those stipulated in Veda. Sanyasi’s duty is to practise it fully. He should not cook; not pluck leaf; not do similar actions.

  1. Satyam: Satyam (truth) has a characteristic.

“Vang-manasayor-ikarupyam satyam”
Satyam is mind and speech acting in the same form. Bhagavan has given us speech to express that which is in the mind. If speech is used for telling lies, he will give us bull’s birth later. Just as there is exception in Ahimsa, there is exception in Satyam too. The exception in Ahimsa applies only to grihastha; that in Satyam applies to all.

Suppose one keeps narrating the mistakes of others in the village and keeps saying: ‘So-and-so is a knave; he did this etc.’ Even if whatever he says is true and represents unity of thought and speech, it does not qualify as Satyam. It has been said: ‘Satyam bhutahitam priyam’. That which is in the mind should come out in speech is its general characteristic. All our actions are meant to generate good. Satyam should also generate good. If good is generated, it is Satyam. If evil is generated, it is not Satyam. Satyam should result in welfare of all creatures. Desire or anger should not be the base of Satyam. One’s fault could be mentioned and criticised. Words intended to bring down his honour are not Satyam, though true. Through Satyam we should not cause hurt or trouble to the other. We should generate good for ourselves or some other creature, as the case may be. When we utter words of truth, they must be said in peace. To the listener those words must bring good. This is Satyam with word.

Satyam should be practised with mind also. We should not wish to tell untruth.

Untruth practised with body is actions like pretending to have taken bath when one has not bathed. Satyam should be practised with all three instrumentalities (thought, word and deed). For ‘chittavritti-nirodha’ (mind control) that is also a cause.

There is a secondary benefit for Satyam too. If we make a habit of speaking truth always, the mind will think of Satyam alone. Speech will always utter Satyam. Then whatever is said will come true. Everything will be as thought out in the mind. The way speech turns into truth is through Satyam. This power is the power of blessing and curse. If speakers of Satyam say ‘today is Purnima (full moon day)’, the Moon will come immediately. The power of blessing and curse will manifest.

We feel we have no liking for money. What is the sign of it? If we feel even in dream that money is not needed, the detachment can be trusted. In a dream if someone offers money and we ask him to bring it, it is wrong. Satyam should be steady even in dream. Then Satyam will become powerful; whatever we say will happen.
“Satya-pratishthayam kriya-phala-asrayatvam”.
But Satyam should not be practised with this secondary benefit in view.

Vairagyam (non-attachment) is another internal tool. It is said to be very strong. Its secondary benefit is the power of visibility of treasures. If someone says ‘I am non-attached; but I do not see any treasures’, the degree of his non-attachment becomes clear. If he expects to see treasure, he is not truly detached.

Similarly we should not practise Satyam for its secondary benefit.

  1. Astheyam: We should not have illicit desire. Astheyam means non-stealing. Another’s wealth should not be snatched through deceit or by force. Taking hold of another’s wealth through letter (false document) is the worst thing to do.


  1. Soucham: Bodily cleanliness will result in mental purity. Actions for bodily cleanliness have been mentioned in Dharma Sastras. For the past 40-50 years, bodily cleanliness is not practised in our country as laid down in Sastras. Sastras explain that body should be cleansed using specified cleaning agents at prescribed times; vessels should be cleaned in specified manner etc. Cleanliness is primarily required in all karmas. It should be maintained properly. Even if we have forgotten now, we should learn and practise it. If we do not do even this, how are we to control mind?

There is no use listening or reading in books about all this; it should be brought into action. If we are to remain in comfort, we should maintain purity. From children right upto old persons, everyone should have a separate water-pot. That pot alone should be used for cleansing activities. Pot for drinking water should also be maintained individually. One should not drink from another’s pot. The vessel should be cleaned with cleaning agent appropriate to the material of that vessel, e.g. silver, copper etc. Wherever we go for eating, we should carry our water-pot. We should not drink from another’s water-pot. This should be practised by all castes. Everyone should maintain cleanliness in doing acts as per his caste.

  1. Control of Sense-organs: We should not permit our sense-organs to go about uncontrolled. We should feed each sense-organ only to pre-determined limit. Actual experience should conform to that limit. If limit is exceeded, we should have the power to control the sense-organs.

The above mentioned five dharmas are primary for those who practise theism and Vedic religion. These are the chief common dharmas.


Translated by: P R Kannan, Navi Mumbai

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