Hindu Dharma - Introduction

Hindu Dharma – Part-1

Hindu Dharma:

When India was straining at the leash during the unique "Weaponless War" conceived, planned and led by Mahatma Gandhi to win freedom, some of the finest flowers of Indian manhood and womanhood were forced to languish in prison for long years. During his ninth incarceration, this time in the Ahmednagar Fort Prison (August 9, 1942 to July 15, 1945), Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, one of the best among them, embarked upon a voyage of "Discovery of India". He "discovered" for himself and for us, the common people, an India that is "a myth and an idea, a dream and a vision and yet very real and pervasive."
Nehru, with the poetic touch so characteristic of him, looked upon India as "a lady with a glorious past, whose deep eyes had seen so much of life's passion and joy and folly and looked deep down into wisdom's well". It is this "wisdom 's well" that is represented by our Vedic heritage, the "living words", as Gurudeva Rabindranath Tagore put it, "that have issued from the Illuminated Consciousness of our great ones."
This offering of Hindu Dharma: The Universal Way of Life deals with another kind of discovery of India, a discovery in the spiritual realm, made by Jagadguru Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swamigal, the 68th Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Pitha. The Sage of Kanchi was spiritually supreme, intellectually pre-eminent. He was verily an akshayapatra - inexhaustible reservoir - of the spiritual wisdom of India dating back to the beginning of Time, and of Vedic Dharma. So was he with regard to modern knowledge, current affairs and contemporary men and matters.
In a special easy in the Bhavan's journal this true sanatani hailed Gandhiji, a staunch Hindu and a secularist nonpareil, as one of the "greatest redeemers of Hinduism". Hailing Gandhiji's services to Hinduism, he said: "From the time Gandhiji came into the arena, he augmented his political movements by his spiritual researches and devotion. Almost all the features of Hinduism that were discarded as weeds by the previous reform movements were clearly explained by Gandhiji as being of indispensable utility. His views on Ramanama, the Ramayana, Varna dharma, Aharaniyama and his definition of God are such that the most faithful Hindu cannot but profit spiritually by digesting them."
During one of the satsangas, some members of the Bhavan' s family were privileged to have with him, this remarkable advaitin said that Jawharlal Nehru was "an advaitin at heart."
The Mahaswami will shine forever as one of the greatest exemplars of sanatana dharma, the Universal Way of Life. This sanatani extraordinary personified in himself all that is best and noblest in Hinduism. He always stressed that Hinduism is the latter-day name given to mankind's earliest religion -- sanatana dharma. It is beginning less (anadi), endless (ananta) and hence eternal (sanatana), because it is in consonance with Nature's Laws.
To drive home the eternal or the sanatana aspect of our religion, the Mahaswami used to narrate a telling episode : "There was a palm-tree around which a creeper entwined itself. The creeper grew fast and within months it entwined the entire tree. 'This palm has not grown a bit all these months,' said the creeper laughing. The palm-tree retorted: 'I have seen tens of thousand creepers in my life. Each creeper before you said the same thing as you have now said. I do not know what to say to you'. Our religion is like this tree in relation to other faiths."
We were fortunate to have lived in the times, and to have had frequent darshans, of one with such "illuminated Consciousness", whose nearly 100-year- long Pilgrimage on Earth ended on January 8, 1994. He was a realized soul, and whenever he spoke, he spoke in the accents of the Vedic seers precise, profound and authentic words that found a permanent lodgment in the hearts of his listeners.
The Mahaswami's words of distilled wisdom, as compiled by his ardent devotee Sri Ra. Ganapati run into six volumes covering more than 6,500 pages. Sri Ra. Ganapati and Sri A. Tirunavukkarasu of Vanadi Padippakam, the publisher, deserve our eternal gratitude for their invaluable efforts to preserve for posterity the Sage of Kanchi's words of wisdom.
Being in Tamil, these volumes, with their precious content, remain a closed book to tens of thousands of devotees in India and abroad who do not know that language but are athirst and ever-yearning for the Mahaswami's spiritual ambrosia.
The English versions of selected discourses, which have so far appeared in book-form, touch but a fringe of what the Mahaswami has said about sanatana dharma. The Bhavan, too, has had the privilege of contributing its humble mite in this direction --- we have published Aspects of Our Religion, The Vedas, Adi Sankara : His Life and Times, The Guru Tradition and Kanchi Mahaswami on Poets and Poetry.
This volume of nearly 800 pages has been rendered into English from the Tamil by R.G.K. It is a monumental effort reflecting enormous, dedicated and unremitting labour over a long period of time. In translation, the transformation is normally from gold to lead but R.G.K. has ensured that the sheen of the original is retained. He has also spared no pains to explain obscure points of legend, puranic allusions and scriptural references covering both Sruti and Smrti.
We are thankful to Justice Sri P.S. Mishra , at present Chief justice of Andhra Pradesh, for his illuminating Foreword and Sri A. Kuppuswami for his learned Introduction.
The Bhavan has been the blessed recipient of the Mahaswami's grace right from its inception in 1938. He has been one of the Bhavan's greatest guides and philosophers. He very closely watched with a benign concern that landmark projects of the Bhavan like the monumental 11-volume History and Culture of the Indian People covering nearly 5,000 years from the Vedic Age to the Modern Age. This is the only comprehensive history of India written by Indians --- a team of 100 eminent scholars, each a specialist in his chosen field. They laboured on it for 32 years under the inspiration and guidance of Kulapati Munshi, with the doyen of Indian historians Dr.Romesh Chandra Majumdar as General Editor. The Jagadguru then observed: "Distinguished historians like K.M. Munshi are engaged in writing afresh our history without any bias".
Commending Kulapati Munshi's ceaseless efforts through the Bhavan for the revival of Sanskrit, of India's ages-old traditions and the resuscitation of ethical and spiritual values embedded in sanatana dharma, the Mahaswami remarked: "Munshi is not an old fashioned sanatanist like me. He is a reformist and a friend and follower of Gandhiji. And he was a member of the Nehru Cabinet. So he cannot be included among the 'reactionaries'!........."
During the Bhavan's Silver Jubilee in 1962, the Mahaswami sent the following benediction:
The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan has made the people of Bharata Varsa in general and the intellectuals in particular evince interest in the various aspects of our culture and progress.
"May we pray: Give fresh vigor to the Bhavan, a unique institution, in directing its attention more and more, with greater and greater fulfillment, to the dissemination of moral principles and devotion."
He also sent along with it a cash "donation" of Rs1,000. Kulapti Munshi shed copious tears of joy and exclaimed in ecstasy: "This is the holiest of holy prasads. This is invaluable, inestimable and much more than several thousand crores of rupees. Nothing, nothing, can surpass divine grace."
The Mahaswami brings out the essentials of sanatana dharma in a language that is at once simple and clear. Commendable indeed is the cogency of the narrative. We are left in no doubt about any aspect of out eternal Dharma.
As will be seen in this volume, the Mahaswami's approach is catholic. He avers: "The goal of all religions is to lead people to the Paramatman according to the different attitudes of the devotees concerned. Our forefathers were well aware that all religions are different paths to realize the one and only Paramatman."
More than a century ago, in 1893, did not Swami Vivekananda thunder at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago that "Mankind ought to be taught that religions are but the varied expressions of THE RELIGION, which is Oneness, so that each may choose the path that suits him best"?
The Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru, the Political Monarch of Modern India and Free India's first Prime Minister (1947-1964), inspired the people of India, particularly its youth, to regain our political freedom. This was true also of the people, particularly the young, of many nations of South-East Asia and Africa then under foreign domination.
The eminent historian, parliamentarian and author of several scholarly volumes such as the Bhavan's publications: The Fundamental Unity of India (first published in London in 1914 with a Foreword by the Rt Hon'ble J. Ramsay MacDonald, first Labour Prime Minister of Britain, 1929 (he was also P.M. during 1929-35) and Hindu Civilization, Dr Radha Kumud Mookerji, has pointed out the uniqueness of the Vedas, especially the Rgveda, thus:
"The Vedas, and especially the primordial work known as the Rgveda, represent not merely the dawn of culture, but also its zenith. Indian thought is seen at its highest in the Rigveda... On the one hand it is the first book of India and also of mankind. At the same time, it shows the highest point of human wisdom. We see in it the whole process of evolution, from its beginning to its completion."
Ekam sad vipra bahudha vadanti (The truth is One, the wise speak of it in different ways).
This volume Hindu Dharma : The Universal Way of Life is in the nature of a discovery of Vedic India, Immortal India, by Pujyasri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati, the Moral Monarch of this century. Sooner than later, this is bound to immensely inspire not only the people and youth of India but also the people and youth of the world over to restore and retain values, purity and sanity in personal and public life. This is our hope and prayer, nay conviction.
Vedo khilo dharmaulam; Dharmo rakshati rakshitah ---the Vedas are the root of all Dharma; Dharma protected, protects.
(Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan )

For the Reader's Attention
Sanskrit words are not italicized; but titles of Sanskrit works are, except those of well-known classics like the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Bhagavad Gita (or the Gita for short).

No uniform style is adopted in the use of Sanskrit words; they occur either in their stem form or in the nominative singular.

"Brahmin" is used instead of "Brahmana"; "Sankara" instead of "Samkara" or "Sankara", the last-mentioned being the correct form; and the anglicized "Sanskrit" instead of "Samskrtam".

The term "Self" in this translation denotes the "Atman" -- this is in keeping with the generally accepted usage. "Jivatman" is referred to as the "individual self".

"Devas" are referred to as "celestials" in order to distinguish them from gods like Siva, Rama, Krsna, Ganapati and so on.

What may be called "Hindi-ised'' Sanskrit words like "bhajan"and "pandit" are italicized.

"Atmic" and "sastric", though admittedly hybrid derivatives, are used as a matter of convenience. "Atmaic" (Atmanic?) and "sastraic" are perhaps less euphonic.

"Acarya" with a capital "A", unless otherwise indicated, means Adi Sankara or Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada.

"Matha" with a capital "M" refers to the Kanchi Matha.

"Paramaguru", meaning the "Supreme Guru", refers to Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swami.

Words put in square brackets and intended to explain a term or passage in the main text are added either by the compiler of the discourses or by the translator. But simple meanings of words in the main text are given in round brackets.

In "References", some notes appear with "Ra. Ga": it means these are by Sri Ra Ganapati, the compiler. The translator wishes to own responsibility for errors, if any, in the rest of the "References."

For the quotations from the Upanishads used in the main text or reproduced "References", the translator has relied mostly on Ekadasopanisadah printed at the Nirnayasagara Yantralaya and published by Ba. Ra.Ghanekar.

The Guru Tradition, referred to in "References", comprises discourses by the Paramaguru and is published by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan.

In the main text as well as in the notes there are references to places in Tamil Nadu. It must be noted that the names of the districts mentioned may not all of them be correct since they keep changing.

Translator's Note

More than 20 years ago, I said in an article in The Illustrated Weekly of India that "Hindus know less about their religion than Christians and Muslims know about theirs". Wanting to verify the statement, my editor Sardar Khushwant Singh asked my colleagues (most of them were Hindus), in schoolmasterly fashion, to name any four Upanishads. For moments there was silence and it was a Muslim lady member of the staff who eventually responded to the editor's question by "reeling off" the names of six or seven Upanishads.

Why are "educated" Hindus ignorant about their religion? Is it their education itself that has alienated them from their religious and cultural moorings? If so it must be one of the tragic ironies of the Indian condition. The
Paramaguru himself speaks of our ignorance of the basic texts of our religion (Chapter 1, Part Five): "We must be proud of the fact that our country has produced more men who have found inner bliss than all other countries put together. It is a matter of shame that we are ignorant of the sastras that they have bequeathed to us, the sastras that taught them how to scale the heights of bliss. Many are ignorant about the scripture that is the very source of our religion -- they do not know even its name... Our education follows the Western pattern. We want to speak like the white man, dress like him and ape him in the matter of manners and customs..."

The fact is that during the past two or three centuries Hindus have gone through a process of de-Hinduization which in some respects is tantamount to de Indianization. Various other reasons are given as to why Hindus do not have a clear idea of their religion. One is that it is not a religion in the sense the term is usually understood. Another is that it is not easily reduced to a catechism. A third reason is that, unlike other faiths, it encompasses all life and activity, individual, social and national, and all spheres of knowledge. Hindu Dharma is an organic part of the Hindu. It imposes on him a discipline that is inward as well as outward and it is a process of refinement and inner growth. Above all it is a quest, the quest for knowing oneself, for being oneself.

Hindu Dharma, it must be remembered, is but a convenient term for what should ideally be known as Veda Dharma or Sanatana Dharma, the immemorial religion. Indeed, it might be claimed with truth, that this Dharma is more than a religion, that it is an entire civilization, the story of man from the very beginnings of time to find an answer to the problems of life, the story of that greatest of all adventures, that of the human spirit trying to discover its true identity. "From our total reactions to Nature," says J.W.N. Sullivan, "Science selects a small part only as being relevant to its purpose..." Everything is relevant to Hinduism because its "purposes" is to know the Truth in its entirety, not fractions of truth that may have their own purposes but not the Great Purpose of knitting together everything to arrive at the ultimate knowledge. It needs a master to speak about such a religion. We must consider ourselves blessed that we had such a master living in our own time, I mean the Sage of Kanchi, Pujyasri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swami, to teach us our Dharma. He was no ordinary master, but a Master of Masters.

This Great Master's discourses on Hindu Dharma, included in Volumes I and II of Deivattin Kural, are divided into 22 parts (there are two appendices in addition) in this book. There is, however, 'nothing rigid about this arrangement and we have here a single great stream that takes us through the variegated landscape that has come to be called Hinduism. To vary the imagery, it is a vast canvas on which the Paramaguru portrays the Hindu religion and it is a luminous canvas and there is nothing garish about the colors he dabs on it.

The Great Acharya does not lecture from a high pedestal. Out of his compassion for us he speaks the language that everybody understands. (We must here acknowledge our profound indebtedness to Sri Ra. Ganapati, the compiler of Deivattin Kural, and Sri A. Tirunavukkarasu, the publisher, for having preserved the Sage of Kanchi's light of knowledge and wisdom for posterity.)

Throughout these discourses we recognize the Great Swami's synaptic vision. He sees connections where others see only differences. Is this not the special quality of a seer, the special quality of a mystic, who refuses to see things in compartments? Indeed, during the long decades during which Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swami was the Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Pitha he was a great unifying force, a great civilizing influence. The manner in which he braids together the karmakanda and jnanakanda of the Vedas is indeed masterly. So too the way he presents the message of the Vedas or the essence of the Upanishads. Here we have something like the architectonics of great music or of a great monument like the Kailsanatha temple of Ellora or the Brhadisvara temple of Tanjavur. The Paramaguru takes all branches of knowledge in his stride, linguistics, astronomy, history, physics. He combines ancient wisdom with modern concepts like those of time and space -- he is aware, though, that some of these concepts are not new to our own scientific tradition. All the same, it must be noted that he does not speak what is convenient for today but what is true for all time.

It is difficult to summarise the ideas of our religion or to present the teachings of our Master in a few words. But it is necessary to underline certain points. For instance, the message of the Vedas on which Hindu Dharma is founded. "The Vedas hold out," declares the Paramaguru, the ideal of liberation here itself. That is their glory. Other religions hold before people the ideal of salvation after a man's departure for another world." To repeat, the ultimate teaching of the Vedic religion is liberation here and now. After all, what is the purpose of any religion? Our Acharya answers the question: "If an individual owing allegiance to a religion does not become a jnanin with inward experience of the truth of the Supreme Being, what does it matter whether that religion does exist or does not?"

"That thou art," is the great truth proclaimed by the Vedas. But how are you to realize the truth of "That"? Our Master's answer is: "Now itself when we are deeply involved in worldly affairs." In fact he tells us the practical means of becoming a jivanmukta, or how to be liberated in this life itself. After all, he was a jivanmukta himself and he speaks of truths not from a vacuum but from actual experience. That reminds one of the special feature of Hindu Dharma which is that it contains the practical steps to liberation; in other words Hinduism leads one to the Light in gradual stages. Critics call this Dharma ritual-ridden without realizing that the rituals have a higher purpose, that of disciplining you, cleansing your consciousness, and preparing you for the inward journey. In a word, chitta - suddhi is the means to a higher end. From work we must go to worklessness. The Paramaguru's genius for synthesizing ideas is demonstrated in the way he weaves together karma, bhakti, yoga and jnana.

In our Vedic religion, individual salvation is not --- as is often alleged --- pursued to the neglect of collective well-being. "The principle on which the Vedic religion is founded," observes the Sage of Kanchi "is that a man must not live for himself alone but serve all mankind." Well, varna dharma in its true form is a system according to which the collective welfare of society is ensured. As expounded by the Paramaguru, we see it to be radically different from what we are taught about it in school. Critics call caste a hierarchic and exploitative arrangement. But actually, the system is one in which the duties of each jati are interlinked with those of others. In this way society is knit together, leaving no room in it for jealousies and rivalries to arise. One point must be specially noted: the Great Acharya lays stress again and again on the fact that no jati is inferior to another jati or superior to it.

In the varna dharma, as explained by our Master, the Brahmin does not lord it over other communities. Why do we need Brahmins at all? To preserve the Vedic dharma, to keep alive the sound of the Vedas which is important for the well-being not only of all Hindus but of all mankind. This duty can be performed only on a hereditary basis by one class of people. The Great Acharya goes to the extent of saying that we do not need a class of people called Brahmins if they do not serve other communities, indeed mankind itself, by truly practicing the ancient Vedic dharma. To paraphrase, if a separate class called Brahmins must exist and it must exist is not for the sake of this class itself but for the ultimate good of mankind. The Paramaguru, makes an impassioned plea to Brahmins to return to their dharma. He also points out that in varna dharma, in its ideal form, there are no differences among the jatis economically speaking -- all of them live a simple life, performing their duties and being devoted to the Lord.

It is varna dharma that has sustained Hindus or Indian civilization for all these millennia, observes the Paramaguru. And all our immense achievements in metaphysics and philosophy, in literature, in music, in the arts and sciences must be attributed to it. Above all, it is varna dharma that has made it possible for this land to produce so many great men and women, so many saintly men, who have been the source of inspiration for people all these centuries. Now this system has all but broken up and with it we see the decay of the nation.

There are so many other matters on which the Sage of Kanchi speaks -- for example, conducting an upanayana or a marriage meaningfully. He speaks with eloquence about our ideals of marriage and condemns dowry, describing it as an evil that undermines our society. There are, then, moving discourses on philanthropy, love and so on in which we see the Great Master as one who is concerned about the happiness of all, as one whose heart goes out to the poor and the suffering. His short discourses like "Outward Karma - Inward Meditation" or "Karma --the Starting Point of Yoga" encapsulate his philosophy with power and beauty. And the message of Advaita runs like a golden thread all through the book.

Altogether in these discourses we come face to face with a Great Being who is beyond time and space and we experience the "oceanic feeling", a term (originally French) coined by Romain Rolland and made familiar by Sigmund Freud. To us the Sage of Kanchi means an ocean of wisdom and an ocean of compassion. To think of him is to sanctify ourselves however unregenerate we may be. I must now, in all humility, pay obeisance to Pujyasri Jayendra Saraswati Swami and Pujyasri Sankara Vijayendra Saraswati Swami and seek their blessings Sri Mettur Swamigal, gentle, devout and learned, has been a source of inspiration to me in my work.

I am thankful to Sri P.S. Mishra, Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh, for his learned Foreword.

The venerable Sri A. Kuppuswami, who is a spry 84 and who served his Master, the Sage of Kanchi with devotion for almost a lifetime, read the typescript of this book running into more than 1,000 pages and made valuable suggestions. I have always relied on him for advice and I am grateful to him for his Introduction, although I feel I don't deserve a bit the appreciative references he has made to me.

I am indebted to Sri V. Sivaramakrishnan, Associate Editor of Bhavan's journal, for reading the proofs. With his practised eye he detected a number of errors - he also suggested a number of improvements. I must add that Sri Sivaramkrishnan has himself written a book based on the Sage of Kanchi's discourses on Sanskrit and Tamil poets and their works.

The Kamashi Seva Samithi lost one of its stalwarts in the death of its Secretary, Sri V. Krishnamurthi. For most of us the Samithi meant Sri Krishnamurthi and Sri Krishnamurthi meant the Samithi. Members of the Samithi and devotees of the Sage of Kanchi were distraught by his passing but they find consolation in the thought that he must be still be serving the lotus feet of his Master.
Sri P.N. Krihnaswami, Chairman of the Samithi, brought me cheer whenever I felt depressed about the progress of the book. I look upon him as a model of devotion to the Lord and service to fellow-men. So many others belonging to the Samithi have helped me in my work like Sri R.S. Mani, Sri V. Narayanaswami, Captain N. Swaminathan, Sri B. Ramani, and Sri A.G. Ramarathnam.
Dr W.R. Antarkar, a distinguised Sanskrit scholar, has laid me under a deep debt of gratitude by giving the once-over to the Sanskrit part of the main text. But he is not to be held responsible for mistakes, if any, that still remain uncorrected. I must also thank Sri L.N. Subramanya Ghanapathi, Dr R. Krishanmurthi Sastrigal , Sri S. Lakshminarayana, Srimati (Dr) Visalakshi Sivaramkrishnan and Sri V. Ramanathan for their assistance.
Thanks are particularly due to Siromani R. Natrajan, of Manjari fame, for his help in preparing the Tamil Glossary. He checked the notes I had made and added copious notes of his own. Owing to pressure on space all the material povided by him could not be incorporated. I also owe a debt of gratitude to Srimathi Bhavani Vanchinthan, a gifted Tamil teacher, for "double-checking" the glossary and to Srimati Saroja Krishnan for her help.
Mrs. Margaret Da'Costa converted my typescript into computer format in record time. I am thankful to her as well as to Kumari Sandhya Ganapahty: this dedicated young lady worked day and night for nearly three months to carry out my corrections. Sri R. Ganapathy gave his daughter a helping hand. There were also inputs by Sri R.S. Mani and Sri N. Ramamoorthy.
I must thank Sri S. Ramakrishan, Executive Secretary of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, for the readiness which he agreed to publish HIndu Dharma and for his unfailing courtesy, encouragement and coooperation. I must acknowledge the help received from other officials of the organisation like Sri A.P. Vasudevan, Sri C.K. Venkataraman and Sri P.V. Sankarankutty.
I am grateful to Sri Atul Goradia of Siddhi Printers for the fine job of work he has done in printing this book. He is remainded unfazed by all the problems encountered in the course of the production of this work.
In all humuility I place Hindu Dharma as an offering at the sacred lotus feet of Pujyasri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati Swami. As one who has miles to go to become jnanin, I can look upon Mahaguru only in the form I knew him before he attained videhamukti. The dvita-bhava, it is said, is the appropriate attitude in which one expresses one's devotion to one's guru. Our Great Master is the Infinite dissolved in the Infinite. But do we not separate the Infinite from the Infinite to meditate on it and to worship It as the Saguna Brahman? It is thus that I adore the lotus feet of the Mahaguru. As the Upanishads proclaim, "Purnasya purnamadaya purnmevavsisyate."


"Man is no different from animals," says Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada in his Sutrabhasya. "Pasvadibhiscavisesat".

Texts tell us: "Human beings and animals have the same urges. They eat and sleep and copulate and besides, the feelings of fear are common to both. What, then, is the difference between the two? It is adherence to Dharma that distinguishes human beings from animals. Without Dharma to guide him man would be no better than an animal."

"Aharanidrabhayamaithunam ca samanyametat pasubhirnaranam

Dharmo hi tesamadhiko visesah dharmena hina pasubhissamanah"

The Lord says in Bhagavad Gita: "When a man thinks of the objects of sense, attachment to them is born; from attachment arises desire; and from desire arises anger. Anger causes delusion and from delusion springs loss of memory; loss of memory leads to the destruction of the sense of discrimination; and because of the destruction of his sense of discrimination man perishes."

Dhyayato visayan pumsah sangastesu pajayate

Sangat samjayate kamah kamat krodho bhijayate
Krodhad bhavati sammohah sammohat smrtivibhramah
Smrtibhramsad buddhinaso buddhinasat pranasyati

Commenting on these two slokas of the Gita, Swami Chinmayananda says that evil develops from our wrong thinking or false imagination like a tree developing from the seed. Thought has the power to create as well as to destroy. Rightly harnessed, it can be used for constructive purposes; if misused it will be the cause of our utter destruction. When our mind constantly dwells on a "sense-object" an attachment is created for that object. When we keep thinking of this object with increasing intensity, our attachment to it becomes crystallized as burning desire for the same. But as obstacles arise to the fulfilment of this desire, the force that at first caused the desire now turns into anger.

Swami Chinmayananda further observes that anyone whose intellect is in the grip of anger becomes deluded and loses his sense of discrimination since he is also deprived of his memory. A man who is the victim of anger is capable of doing anything, forgetful of himself and his relationship with other people. Sri Sankaracharaya observes in this connection that a deluded fool will fight even with revered persons like his own parents and preceptors, forgetting his indebtedness to them.

Says Socrates: "The noblest of all investigations... is what man should be and what he should pursue". And Samuel Taylor Coleridge observes: "If man is not rising upward to be an angel, he is sinking downward to be a devil. He cannot stop at the beast."

It is perhaps because of his understanding of the instincts of man and the need for human actions to be inspired by dharma that the famous poet Nilakantha Diksita said: "If, even after being born a man, one does not have any sense of discrimination, it would be better for such a one to be born an animal since animals are not subject to the law that controls the senses."

Our rishis knew that "all except God will perish". Man with his capacity for discrimination must be able to grasp the truth that the Atman is not different from the Bhraman. The Atman has neither a beginning nor an end. Every individual goes through a succession of births and, determined by his karma, either sinks further and further down or rises further and further up. But in life after life the Atman remains untainted.

There is a difference of opinion even among the learned as to the meaning of the word "dharma". The word is derived from "dhr" to uphold, sustain or nourish. The seers often use it in close association with "rta" and "satya". Sri Vidyaranya defines rta as the mental perception and realization of God. The Taithriya Upanishad also uses it with "satya" and "dharma". It exhorts students to speak the truth and practise dharma ("Satya vada"; "Dharmam chara"). According to Sankara Bhagavatpada, satya means speaking the truth and dharma means translating it (Satya) into action.

"Satyamiti yathasastrarthata sa eva anusthiyamanah dharmanama bhavati."

In this connection, the explanation given by Sri.K.Balasubramania Aiyar is relevant:: "An analysis of the significance of these three words (rta, satya and dharma) brings out clearly to us the fundamental basis of dharma as the ideal for an individual. While rta denotes the mental perception and realization of truth and satya denotes the exact true expression in words of the truth as perceived by the mind, dharma is the observance, in the conduct of life, of truth. In fact, dharma is the way of life which translates into action the truth perceived by the man of insight as expressed by him truly. In short, rta is truth in thought, satya is truth in words and dhrama is truth in deed."

To right-thinking people "dharma" and "satya" are interchangeable words and their goal is --- as it has always been --- to rise higher so as to realize Him who alone is the Truth. For them there is no pursuit higher than that of practising truth in thought, word and deed.

"Bhutahitam" is Sri Sankarcharya's answer to the question ( that he himself raise), "Kim Satyam ?" It means that truth (or truthfulness) is what is spoken for the well-being of all living beings. To the question,"Ko dharmah?", his answer is "Abhimato yah sistanam nija kulinam". It means that dharma is that which is determined by the elders and by learned people.

Of the four purusharthas or aims of life, dharma is always mentioned first, artha second, karma third and moksha last. The four stanzas of the Mahabharata that together go by the name of "Bharata-Savitri" contain these profound truths: Dharma is eternal but neither happiness nor sorrow is eternal; the Atman is everlasting but not that which embodies it; and from dharma arise artha and kama. They also contain Vedavyasa's lamentation: "With uplifted arms I cry but no one listens to me, 'From dharma spring artha and kama. Why is dharma then not practised?' "

Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada observes that even the wise and the learned, even men who have a vision of the exceeding subtle Atman, are overpowered by tamas and do not understand it even though clearly explained in various texts.

The Reality is perceived by one who has sraddha or faith which, according to the saints, is acceptance of the truth as proclaimed by the scriptures and as taught by the guru. By following the reasoning of the sastras and the path shown by the guru the bonds of avidya are broken and one becomes aware of the Atman. One's own experience obtained through one-pointed meditation of the Truth is another means to achieve the same goal. These moments are indeed blessed, the moments during which the Truth dawns on us as we receive instruction from our guru and as we gain wisdom that is supported by the authority of the scriptures. Yes, these indeed are moments of bliss when the senses are quietened and the mind is firmly fixed on the Atman. Thus dharma, to be precise Veda Dharma, has been and is essential for man to become a real man.

According to Sri Chandarsekharendra Saraswati, the Mahaswami, dharma is our only protection. In this book, the Great Acharya recounts all that we need to know about dharma and presents in an integrated form the various systems of thought that have flourished in this country. "The Vedas", Sri Mahaswami affirms, "represent the lofty principle that it is the one Truth that is envisaged as all that we perceive."

The discourses that make up this book are remarkable for their simple and enchanting style. The most complex of ideas are explained with such lucidity as to make them comprehensible to the ordinary reader. Sri Mahaswami deals not only with the wisdom of the Samhita part of Vedas and with other scriptural matters, he takes in his stride even modern scientific concepts like those of time and space. It is all at once so wide-ranging and so profound that we bow our heads in reverence to the Great Master of our time, the Sage of Kamakoti Pitha. His approach shows that he has no doubts in his mind, no hesitation in affirming the truths in the Vedas and sastras.

The point to be noted is that if you believe in the sastras, you must believe in them fully. If you are an atheist, you could of course reject all the sastras. But to make a show of being very clever and twist the sastras as you like, accepting some parts and rejecting and changing some others, is an offence more grave than that of being an atheist. To think that Mother Veda should dance to your tune is also a great offence. Learning the Vedas with such an attitude is tantamount to ridiculing them.

"I am not angry with the reformists, nor do I suspect their intentions. They go wrong because of their ignorance and thoughtlessness. If they wish to pull down the fence so as to go to the other side, they must think of the possibility of the few still remaining there crossing over to this side."

The Great Acharya has commanded us to protect the old dharmic traditions and keep them alive:

"All old dharmic traditions must be protected and kept alive. Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada has commanded us to do so. I bear his name; so it is my duty to remind you of his command. Whether or not you will heed his command, I should like to impress upon you that the sastric customs have the purpose of ensuring the good of all mankind."

I am aware of the alarm sounded by Vedavyasa, but I still sincerely believe that the words of the Great Master of our time shall rekindle the lamp of wisdom and lead us from darkness unto light. It is my great privilege to write the Foreword to this book. The translator has done a service to people like us who believe in the saha-chintan and the words of the Yajurveda:

"Vayam rastre jagryama purohitah".

Let us be awake and alert to the noble cause of the nation, to the India of the Rigveda our svadesa from the Himavan to the ocean. There is need for a fresh commitment on the part of its people to the ideal expressed by the time-honoured saying, "Janani janmabhumisca svargaadapi gariyasi."

Honourable Judge


The word "Introduction", used with reference to a publication, signifies "the preliminary matter" prefixed to it. Does the present work, comprising as it does the discourses on Hindu Dharma, or more properly Veda Dharma, delivered by the greatest spiritual luminary of the century (that is the Sage of Kanchi) and translated into English by a seasoned writer, need an Introduction? For days this was the question that revolved in my mind following the request made by Sri R.G.K., that I should write an Introduction to this translation. (Sri R.G.K , a good friend of mine, was formerly Assistant Editor of The Illustrated Weekly of India.)

I felt that I was not qualified for the job of writing the Introduction. I was reminded of the short Introduction I had written to the Guru Tradition which also incorporates the discourses of the Sage of Kanchi and which is also translated by Sri R.G.K. --- this book was published in 1991. I should like to quote a sentence from it: "It is only the devotion to the sacred feet of the Great Guru of Kanchi, implanted in my heart in my boyhood days and nurtured during the past six decades and more, combined with the persistent desire of the translator (an esteemed friend), that has embolded me to pen this short piece which is but an apology for an Introduction."

As desired by the translator, I have gone through the entire typescript of Hindu Dharma and this gives me the courage to write a few lines by the way of a preliminary note.
The lectures delivered decades ago in Tamil by His Holiness the Sage of Kanchi on diverse aspects of our Dharma, on our ancient culture and our arts and on a variety of other subjects have been brought out in six volumes by Vanadi Padippakam, a well-known publishiing house of Madras. But until now adent followers of Hindu Dharma, who do not know Tamil, have not had access to these discourses given by the incomparable preceptor of our time, discourses that are as extensive and educative as they are enlightening and enchanting. Sri.R.G.K. deserves the thanks of people living outside Tamil Nadu, both in India and abroad, for throwing open to them the treasure-house of the upanyasas of the Great Acharya.
Translating any work from one language into another is an arduous task, especially if the work translated consists of the spoken word. I know for a fact that the translator of this book has toiled for months on end and tried his best to maintain fidelity to the original.
It is my earnest hope that middle-aged people and youngsters --- particularly teachers and students --- belonging to regions outside Tamil Nadu will get copies of Hindu Dharma and benefit by reading the same. I would like to make a humble request to the publishers to take such steps as would bring the book within easy reach of all especially teachers and students.
May the Divine World Mother and the Sage of Kanchi, who remains shining as the all-pervading "cit", grant long life and health to Sri R.G.K to enable him to bring out further English translations of the Great Acharya's discourses.
A great  Devotee

The pipal and the neem are the royal children of Mother Nature's kingdom of trees. As the new year approaches they shed their leaves, sprout tender green shoots again not long after. It is all the work of Mother Nature.
The custom of marrying the pipal to the neem and of installing the idols of Vinayaka and Nagaraja under them goes back to the dim past. After the winter months these trees will be bare and Vinayaka and Nagaraja will remain exposed to the sun. This is the time when we may sit under the open sky and bask in the sun because it is now neither too warm nor too cold. When it rains or when the sun beats down harshly on us, we need to shield ourselves with an umbrella. And when it is bitterly cold we cannot sit in the open and gaze at the sky. But now, when the leaves fall and the warmth of the sun is comforting (it is believed that with Sivarathri the cold season bids you goodbye with the chant, "siva, siva"), we may sit in the open, by day or at night, to gaze upon the sky. To proclaim the beneficial nature of this season as it were- when the pipal and the neem are shorn of their leaves- Mother Nature worships the gods under the trees (Vinayaka and Nagaraja) with the rays of the gentle sun.
Nagaraja may also be called Subrahmanya. Indeed to the Telugu-speaking people the name 'Subbarayudu" denotes both Subrahmanya and the snake. The Tamil-speaking people worship snakes on Sasti, a custom that has existed from time immemorial. Mother Nature's concern for Vighnesvara and Subrahmanya, the children of Parvati and Paramesvara, is but an expression of her love for all of us who too are but the offspring of the same primordial couple. There is fullness about this love. As I said just now, when it is neither too warm nor too cold, Vighnesvara and Nagaraja are exposed to the sun. But, as the sun gets warmer with the advance of spring, Mother Nature protects these deities from the heat. How? The trees now burgeon and form a green umbrella over Vinayaka and Nagaraja. The shedding of leaves, the burgeoning again, all this is a part of the natural process and according to the immutable law of the universe, which has been in force from the very beginning of time.
There is a law governing the behaviour of everything in this universe. All must submit to it for the world to function properly. Otherwise things will go awry and end up in chaos. It is the will of the Lord that all his creation, all his creatures, should live in happiness. That is why he has ordained a dharma, a law, for each one of them. It is compliance with this dharma that ensures all-round harmony. While Isvara protects his children from rain and sun, he also provides them, when needed, with the warmth of the gentle sun. His love for his children is expressed in the schema ordered by him for the functioning of Nature and the law he has laid down for trees is a part of it.
To be worthy of Isvara's love we must possess certain qualities, certain virtues. If there is a law that applies to trees, there must be one that applies to us also. We shall deserve the Lord's love and compassion only by living in accordance with this law and by working for the well-being of all mankind. What is called dharma is this law, the law governing the conduct of man. Isvara has endowed man with intelligence, but it is by using this very intelligence that human beings keep violating their dharma. If it is asked why they do so, all we can say in answer is that it is but the sport of the Lord. Man goes seeking this and that, believing that they will make him happy, and all the while he keeps violating his dharma. But he will discover sooner or later that it is dharma alone that gives him happiness in the end.
There is something that somehow turns people all over the world towards dharma. It is this something that inspires human beings everywhere to go beyond their material needs and do things that appear strange. How? One man reads the Bible, cross in hand; another smears ashes all over his body; and a third man wears the Vaisnava mark. From generation to generation mankind has been practicing such customs even without deriving any perceptible material benefit. What is the reason for this?
Man first earned the means for his daily upkeep. But he soon discovered that meeting the needs of the present would not be enough. So he tried to earn more and save for his needs also. The question, however, arose as to what precisely constituted his "future". As he reflected on it, it became clear that his "future" on this earth would be endless, that he would not live a thousand years or ten thousand. So he concerned himself with earning enough to see him through his life and at the same time leaving enough for his children.
What happened to a man after his death was the question that worried him next. The great men who emerged from time to time in various climes came to believe that the entity called man did not cease to exist even after his body perished. The truth dawned on them that the money and property acquired for the upkeep of a man's body served no purpose after his passing. As a next step they formed a view of what a human being must do in this life to ensure for himself a happy state in afterlife. Religious leaders in different countries taught different ways to achieve this. The cross, the namaz , the sacred ashes, the sacred earth came to be adopted in this manner by people belonging to different religious persuasions.
" You must look upon the world as belonging to the Lord, and it is your duty to so conduct yourself as to conform yourself to this belief. This constitutes the dharma of humanity. Acts dictated solely by selfish interests will push one into unrighteousness. A man must learn to be less and less selfish in his thoughts and actions; he must always remember the Lord and must ever be conscious that he is the master of all this world. " This view is the basis on which all religions have evolved.
No religion teaches us to live according to our whims and fancies; no religion asks us to acquire wealth and property for our personal needs alone. If a man believes that he alone is important, that he is all, he will live only for himself. That is why all religions speak of an entity called God and teach man to efface his ego or I-feeling. "Child, " they tell him" , "you are nothing before that Power, the author of this universe. It is he -- that Power -- who has endowed you with intelligence. Your intelligence, your intellect, must guide you on the path of dharma, righteousness. For this purpose, you must look up to this Power for support. " The great importance attached to bhakti or devotion in all religions is founded on this belief, the need for divine support for virtuous conduct.
Ordinarily, it is not easy to develop faith in, or devotion to, God expressed in abstract terms. For the common people devotion must take the form of practical steps. That is how ritual originated. Sandhyavandana, the namaz and other forms of prayer are examples of such ritual. The religious teach people their duties, how they must conduct themselves to God in the very midst of their worldly life.
"Love everyone. " "Live a life of sacrifice." "Serve mankind. " Such are the teachings of the various religions. If a man lives according to these tenets, it is believed that his soul will reach God after it departs from his body. Those who subscribe to Advaita or non-dualism declare that the soul will become one with the Godhead. According to another system of belief, after reaching the Lord, the soul will serve him and ever remain happy as the recipient of his compassion. There is no need to quarrel over the nature of the final state. "By following one path or another we attain the Lord. And that will be the end of all our sorrows, all our frustrations and all our failures in this world. There will now be nothing but bliss, full and everlasting. " No more than this do we need to know for the present.
If the Paramatman is to draw us unto himself we must, without fail, perform our duties to him as well as to the world. It is these duties that constitute what is called dharma. Again, it is dharma that serves us when we dwell in our body and when we cease to dwell in it. It serves us in life and afterlife. When we are in this world we must do that which would take us to a desirable state after we depart from it. We take an insurance policy so that our relatives will be able to take care of themselves when we are gone. But is it not far more important to ensure that we will be happy in our after life? Dharma is after life insurance. But in this life too it is dharma that gives us peace and happiness.

There need be no doubt or confusion about the dharma we ought to follow. We are all steeped in the dharma that our, great men have pursued from generation to generation. They have inwardly realized eternal beatitude and we know for certain that they lived without any care, unlike people in our own generation who are always discontented and are embroiled in agitations and demonstrations of all kinds. All we need to do is to follow the dharma that they practiced. If we tried to create a new dharma for ourselves it might mean trouble and all the time we would be torn by doubts as to whether it would bring us good or whether it would give rise to evil. It is best for us to follow the dharma practiced by the great men of the past, the dharma of our forefathers.

Man is subject to all kinds of hardships and misfortunes. To remind ourselves of this, we eat the bitter flowers of the neem on New Year's Day-that is on the very first day of the year we accept the bitterness of life. During the Pongal ceremony, which is celebrated almost towards the close of the year, we have sugarcane to chew. If we have only sweetness in the beginning we may have to experience bitterness towards the end. We must not have any aversion for the bitter but welcome it as the medicine administered by Mother Nature or by dharma. If we do so, in due course, we will learn to regard any experience, even if it were unpleasant, as a sweet one.
Great indeed were the misfortunes suffered by Sri Rama during his exile in the forest. To a son going on a long journey the mother gives food to take with him. Kausalya does the same when her son Rama leaves for the forest, but she does so after much thought, for she wants the food to last during all the fourteen years of his exile. And what is that food? Kausalya gives Rama the eternal sustenance of dharma. Raghava, she says to him, "it is dharma alone that will protect you, and this dharma is what you yourself protect with courage and steadfastness. " It is the escort of dharma that the mother provides her son sent out from his kingdom.
Yam palayasi dharmam tvam dhrithaya ca niyamena ca
Sa vai Raghava-sardula dharmastvamabhiraksatu
It was dharma that brought victory to Rama after all his struggle. If a man treads the path of dharma he will win universal respect. If he slips into adharma, unrighteousness, even his brother will turn a foe. The Ramayana illustrates this truth. Sri Rama was regarded with respect by the vanaras. What about Ravana? Even his brother Vibhisana forsakes him.
Dharma --- and dharma alone is our protecting shield. How did Ravana with his ten heads perish and how did Sri Ramachandra rise with his head held high as Vijayaraghava (the victorious Raghava)? It was all the doing of dharma.
One's religion is nothing but the dharma practiced by one's forefathers. May all adhere to their dharma with unwavering faith and courage and be rewarded with everlasting bliss.

Om Tat Sat


(My humble salutations to  the lotus feet of  Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi  Mahaswami ji and  my humble greatulness to   Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and great Devotees , Philosophic Scholars,      for the collection)


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