Trividhan – The Three Fundamental Laws – The First Law refers to oneness
of the cosmos. The Second Law can be summed up as – What you sow is what
you reap. The Third Law is the Law of Divine Paradox.
Trivarg – The Trivarg (Dharm, Arth, Kaam) are the three acceptable reasons
for any action of an individual. An individual is supposed to accord top priority
to Dharm, second priority to Arth and the lowest priority to Kaam. While one is
advised to accord different priorities, one must not ignore either of the three.
While keeping one’s focus on Trivarg or the three acceptable reasons or
inspirations for human actions, one must always take care of avoiding the
negative list - Lobh (Greed), Krodh (Anger), Ahamkar, Maan, Abhimaan (Ego,
Status, Conceit), Moh (Delusion), Pratishodh (Revenge), Eirshya (Jealousy),
Bhay (Fear), Ghrina (Hatred)
Let us understand each foundation block in some detail. We could begin at any point
in the circular diagram shown above and proceed in any direction. Let us begin with
F. Trisutr – Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram – Truth,
Goodness and Beauty
SATYAM – The first fundamental condition for Hindu Dharm is Satyam or truth. The
cosmos or the world is experienced by us through our senses and we make an
image of the world or parts of it on our mind. If the image corresponds to the world
as it exists, the image is truth or else it is not truth. Our capacities and abilities to
see, observe, experience and understand are limited. Hence, our ability to create
mental images of the world is limited. Just as four blind men described an elephant
in four different ways, we make different images of the world. For example, a
biologist and a poet look at a flower in different ways. Hindu accepts this difference
in perspective and the ensuing difference in opinions, while at the same time giving
utmost importance to Satyam or truth. If any idea or thought is against truth, a Hindu
can never accept it.
The evaluation of the correspondence between the image and the world is by means
of evidence or proof. There can be an epistemological debate about the suitability of
different types of possible evidence and proof. It is likely that some types of evidence
are accepted by one while the same types of evidence are rejected by others. Such
a difference of opinion is well-accepted.
It is important to compare the commitment of a Hindu towards truth with that of the
followers of other religions. For a Christian, every word in Bible is the ultimate truth.
During the reign of the Church, any attempt to even collect evidence that might
contradict something written in the Bible was considered blasphemy and was
punishable by death. Apparently, some holy book says that a man has more teeth
and ribs than a woman has. During the medieval period, it was blasphemy and
criminal offence to try to gather evidence against the sacred book by counting the
teeth or ribs of men and women. For hundreds of years no one in Europe could
hence count teeth or ribs. In any single-book-based religion such problems are likely
to occur at some time or the other. Both Christianity and Islam have at some points
in their history opposed science since it clashed with the truth as provided in their
Hinduism has never been and can never be opposed to science due to the
fundamental belief in truth. It was this belief in truth that led to the development and
growth of science and knowledge in ancient India. The glow of science and
knowledge made the Hindu full of light and the region that was illuminated by this
shower of light was called Bharatvarsh.
SHIVAM - After accepting Truth, it is necessary to go a step further and look at the
welfare of the world. Every act, belief and thought of a human being must be
evaluated on the basis of the criterion of welfare of the world. An act or belief or
thought is not proper or acceptable if it does not promote the welfare of the world
even though it may be based on Truth. For example, a person’s strong desire may
be a reality or a truth but if the satisfaction of the desire does not lead to universal
welfare, it is not proper to permit the person to satisfy his desire. Just as there can
be differences of opinion and perception in matters related to truth, there may be
differences of opinion regarding the concept of universal welfare, which may change
from time to time and from region to region and also based on the nature and
aptitude of various individuals. Such differences of opinion are well accepted and
though there may be debate or discussion to resolve the differences, there is no
attempt to iron out all differences and arrive at a uniform standard code. The
acceptance of differences based on the needs of place-time and individuals has led
to Hindu Dharm becoming different for each person, for every region and from time
to time. However, if anyone ignores the argument of welfare and advances
quotations from any book as an argument, he is not a Hindu.
The concept of SHIVAM as universal welfare based on the realities of time and place
is deeply embedded in the Hindu psyche. On various occasions this has been
demonstrated. For example India was one of the first few countries in the world to
accept abortion since the majority of the population (Hindus) appreciated the benefits
of legalized abortion without any religious restrictions. Even in matters like giving
electoral rights to women there has been no dispute since the issues are examined
on merits rather than on the basis of books written a few centuries ago. The
examples of accepting contradictory actions and beliefs based on different ground
realities are too numerous to cite. There are Hindus who are strictly vegetarians
while there are others who are permitted to eat meat. There are Hindus who fast on
some days during the year while on the same days there are Hindus who would eat
meat and offer meat to their family deities. The opposites are always justified by logic
of welfare or Shivam as might be existing at that time and place.
SUNDARAM – Along with Satyam and Shivam, the third fundamental foundation
stone of Trisutr is Sundaram. Anything that leads to nice (or “Su”) feelings in the
inner being of a person can be called as SUNDARAM or aesthetic. It is very difficult
to define the nice feelings in the inner being and each person may have his own
opinion in the matter. The purpose of all arts is to give pleasure by creating nice
aesthetic feelings. A Hindu accepts all arts and accepts each person’s version of
SUNDARAM. Hindu accepts freedom of the individual in this regard, subject, of
course, to Satyam and Shivam.
It may seem strange that something as obvious as aesthetics needs to be defined as
a key fundamental block of a belief system. Yet if we look at the treatment of the
subject by other religions, the distinction is too glaring. Islam treats all visual arts like
painting and sculpture as forbidden and even puts strictures on music. Christian
churches have also from time to time made attempts to prescribe what is right and
what is wrong in arts. In more than five thousand years of history of Hinduism there
have never been any attempts of similar nature.
The Trisutr expresses very well the essential nature of Hindu Dharm. In a way,
Trivarg is not different from Trisutr. We shall however skip such aspects of the
relationships between different foundation blocks of Hindu Dharm in this document.
G. Respecting the Learned
We could have used the word Brahmin instead of the Learned. Unfortunately, in the
past thousand years Brahmin has started denoting a caste instead of people who
devote their life to intellectual pursuits.
In the true sense and as prescribed in ancient Hindu texts, being a Brahmin is not
easy. There are strict conditions that a person is compulsorily required to follow to be
able to qualify as a Brahmin. For example, a Brahmin can not own land; a Brahmin
can only do any of the following six sets of activities – read, teach, conduct yagy
(also called yagn, by some), help conduct yagy, accept daan (alms) and give daan.
A person can not qualify to be a Brahmin if he has not acquired a certain level of
proficiency in some branch of knowledge. Above all, a person does not qualify to be
a Brahmin if he can not control his desires and if he does not live a duly disciplined
It must be mentioned that a person does not need to be a Brahmin’s son / daughter
to qualify as a Brahmin. All the greatest Hindu rishis (sages) were born to either
non-Brahmin parents or were of mixed parentage. Ved Vyas, Vishwamitra, Valmiki
are some names that come to mind immediately.
The texts also mention a clear hierarchy – rishi, muni and Brahmin. In ancient times,
rishis were the ones who wrote the books of knowledge. They were the ones who
lived in universities, imparted higher education and were involved in discovering and
developing knowledge. Rishis were like the scientists and professors of modern
world. Munis do not seem to have had such a direct role in knowledge discovery and
development. Munis were surely people who lived in or around the universities and
followed a life style which was no different from that of the rishis. Munis and rishis
were expected to live a life free of negativities.
Rishis and Munis are also referred to as Brahmins. However, generally speaking,
Brahmins represent a class that in ancient India had the duty of transmitting the
knowledge of the Rishis to the masses. Brahmins were the teachers, physicians,
law-givers and moral compass for the society. It may be said that knowledge flowed
from Rishis to Munis to Brahmins to common people.
Hindu Dharm rests on the role played by the Brahmins in the true sense of the word
and not in the sense of either priests or hereditary functionaries. Respect for the
Brahmin is an essential foundation block of Hindu Dharm.
As Hinduism seeks to rise up as a global religion, it can do so only if a new class of
Brahmins is raised up to lead the world through the morass it has fallen into in the
last one or one and a half millennium. Simultaneously, a habit of respecting the
learned has to be inculcated in every one. The present generation across the world
has learnt to respect everything else – beauty, glamour, success, wealth, power etc.
The new class of Brahmins can not be effective unless the people learn to respect
knowledge and all those who discover it, preserve it and transmit it.
A few words of caution at this point are in order. While we seek to create and build a
new intellectual class, we must not insult or disgrace the learned ones of the
present-day – the professors, scientists, teachers, authors etc. The new Brahmins
can not emerge out of vacuum; they will have to emerge only from the learned ones
in the society today.
The important part to understand is that Brahmins will always debate and disagree
on different points – that is the way of development of knowledge. A belief system
that is based on satyam and shivam has to accept such debates and disagreements.
The final decision in matters, where hard facts can be obtained as proof, will be
based on evidence. However, in cases of moral dilemmas and key issues related to
life-direction, the role of Brahmins is limited to that of acting as a guide. The final
decision always rests with the individual who has to take his own decisions and also
face the consequences that arise as a result of his actions.
At this point, it is necessary to put forth the concept of the Muni that lives in each
individual’s inner being. The Muni appears when an individual removes from his
mind and heart all the negatives – Lobh (Greed), Krodh (Anger), Ahamkar, Maan,
Abhimaan (Ego, Status, Conceit), Moh (Delusion), Pratishodh (Revenge), Eirshya
(Jealousy), Bhay (Fear), Ghrina (Hatred). The Muni is the final arbiter of right and
So while a Hindu respects the Brahmin and seeks his guidance in all matters, the
decision making rests with him and him alone. He is advised to listen to all the
Brahmins and then submit the matter to the Muni who lives in his inner being. A
Hindu must follow what the Muni tells him.
In essence, a Hindu must respect the learned ones, but there is no compulsion to
blindly follow the advice given by the learned ones. Even a learned one may be
wrong, but the Muni who lives in the inner being is never wrong and one must always
H. Dev Life
The concepts of Dev and Danav are central to Hinduism. Synonyms for the two
words in Sanskrit are Sur and Asur; or Devta and Daity. The two words are wrongly
translated into English as Gods and Demons. Such translations distort not just the
meaning of the words but also the cultural context and philosophical paradigm in
which the words are used.
Dev or Devta is someone who gives without any direct expectations in return. A dev
becomes divine by his selflessness. Sun, moon, fire and water are devs. But the
phenomenon of being a dev is not restricted merely to these natural bodies or forces.
Every human being, as and when he or she, indulges in giving selflessly, acquires
the property of being a dev (or devi, for women).
In contrast to the daivik (derived from dev) relationship, a danav is self-centered and
tries to maximize what he can grab. A dev gives out of love, compassion and
because giving is a pleasure. A danav does not derive any pleasure from giving. For
him the pleasure is from acquiring or possessing. He gives only when he is forced to.
A mother is a devi because she gives love and care to her child. A wife may be a
devi for her husband and a husband may be a dev for his wife. On the other hand, it
is possible for a husband-wife relationship to be a danav-danavi relationship. In a
sexual relationship between a danav and danavi, both are working on their own
pleasure / value-maximization equation - each trying to give away as little as
possible, while simultaneously trying to grab as much as possible. In a society of
danavs, children are viewed as nuisance to be endured till they reach the legal age
For a dev, every person is an opportunity to give. Children, in particular, are so
lovable and caring for them (even after they attain majority) is pleasure that needs no
Every human being has the potential to be a dev as well as to be a danav. The fact
is that most of us become dev at some times and danav at other times. Conflict
between being dev or danav is a perpetual war that goes on in the mind and heart of
each one of us. To be a dev or to be a danav - that is a choice, which one faces at
every step of one's life.
To qualify as a Hindu, a person must try to be a dev in every aspect of his or her life.
A danav cannot be called a Hindu irrespective of his family, community, race,
country etc. Ravan was son of a rishi. He was born in the community of Brahmins.
Yet, due to his danav lifestyle and attitude, he was considered fit to be killed.
If one tries to be a dev in all the relationships, one is truly a Hindu. In contrast, a
person who is born of Hindu parents; goes to temple every day and remembers a
thousand verses in Sanskrit; but is trying to grab more and more of money,
pleasures, material beings etc. by hook or crook from everyone without giving away
anything cannot be called a Hindu.
I. Trividhan – The Three Fundamental Laws
Laws in science are distillation of the results of repeated observation. A law is
assumed to be true by inductive logic. For example, one has only seen black crows
so one derives a law that all crows are black. Philosophers of science often
differentiate between universalizations that are non-laws and the ones that can take
the status of laws. Without getting involved in the controversy of laws and non-laws,
let us note that all scientific laws are supposed to be true by virtue of the fact that
contradictory instances are either not known at all or are not known in the limited
situations to which the law is generally applied.
It may be pointed out that scientific laws do not need to be reasonable or sensible or
rational (whatever those terms mean). Some scientific laws can appear to be truly
ridiculous. One is not permitted to ask how the phenomenon that the law describes
takes place. The two questions that are clearly forbidden when one handles scientific
laws are – How and Why.
Let us look at an example. Newton's law of universal gravitation states that every
point mass in the universe attracts every other point mass with a force that is directly
proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square
of the distance between them. In common man’s language the law states that the
spoon on my dining table knows all the objects that are in your house irrespective of
which part of the globe you live in. The spoon knows the distance to your kitchen and
also knows whether you have kept the bottle of ketchup on the kitchen shelf or on
the dining table. The spoon also knows whether the ketchup bottle is full or empty.
And after all this great knowledge about every reader’s house, it performs the
complex math of calculating the force by which to pull every single object in the
universe. Wow! Surely the spoon on my dining table is more intelligent than me and
is also probably more intelligent than all super-computers put together. How does the
spoon do all this? Why does the spoon do this? No, despite all the advances in
sub-atomic physics, one is not allowed to ask such questions. Is the law of gravity
ridiculous? Probably, it is. Is it irrational? Depends on how you define rational and
irrational. As mentioned earlier, rationality and ridiculousness are no considerations
when studying laws. Let us keep this in mind when we study the Three Fundamental
It may be mentioned here that The Three Fundamental Laws are universal. They do
not apply to Hindus alone. They relate to natural phenomenon. Laws of physics
relate to only inanimate objects while Trividhan relate to the totality of cosmos along
with human beings. Just as the law of gravity applies whether one believes in it or
not, the Trividhan applies even if one does not believe in it.
Hindus believe in the Three Fundamental Laws even though it may not be stated by
them in such explicit terms. Faith in Trividhan can be said to be an essential
condition for being a Hindu.
Having stated the background on which Trividhan rests, let us look at the three
First law – Universe is ONE and Man is part of the ONE.
The first law is the basis for a holistic thought process. The cosmos or the universe,
which has no boundaries either in space or time, (called Brahm) is one whole being.
The quality of oneness of the cosmos is a result of linkages between various parts of
the whole being. The linkages or relationships between various parts may or may not
be seen or understood by human beings. Inability of human beings to perceive or
understand can not be a reason for denial of the relationship. For example, just
because we cannot understand how light travels from sun to earth, we cannot deny
that light travels from sun to earth.
Talking of relationships between various parts of the cosmos, we must understand
that each part of the cosmos has a role in the schema of the universe. Role of any
part is only with reference to the whole. No part has any importance or relevance
independent of the overall schema of the whole. For example, every part of a tree
has a certain assigned function. The moment a branch ceases to do the function that
a branch is supposed to carry out, the tree sheds away the branch as dead wood.
Shedding away of dead wood is a natural phenomenon in every part of the cosmos –
whether it be plant kingdom or human society.
A corollary of the first law is that a whole is more important than its part. The focus is
therefore on preventing damage to the whole even at the cost of damage to any
particular part. For example, if one’s leg gets injured and starts putrefying, the doctor
will advise amputation of the leg. Even though it is not a happy development, one
agrees to lose the leg to save the whole body. Similarly, if the need arises one
should sacrifice an individual to save a family; should sacrifice a family to save a
village; should sacrifice a village to save a state; and one should sacrifice a state to
save a nation. This is a principle on which strong societies and communities are
In modern times, there has been a strong emphasis on individual’s rights,
aspirations, dreams, desires and wishes. The way western society’s mainstream
thought has been shaped, the purpose of society appears to be to cater to every
whim and fancy of each individual irrespective of whether the whim or fancy will aid
the social fabric or damage the society. This is exactly opposite of the message of
the First Law of Trividhan.
The First Law of Trividhan has an implicit message to each individual to see one’s
own self as a part of the various wholes to which one belongs. Each individual is a
part of a family, a village (or town), a state, a country and the global community.
One’s focus should not be oneself but the wholes to which one belongs. One should
see one’s life as a part of a long unending journey where this life is just one small
segment. The body that one is blessed with will be replaced with some other after
some time. So, shedding away this body for the benefit of any of the wholes to which
one belongs is a sacrifice that one should be willing to make happily.
An individual’s primary link with the cosmic whole is through the Muni that lives in
each individual’s inner being. We discussed about this Muni earlier. In the process of
being willing to sacrifice one’s body, wealth and physical possessions for the greater
whole to which one belongs, one must give the ultimate respect to the Muni. One
must obey the Muni even if one has to make sacrifices to do so.
Second Law – Law of Karm - What you sow is what you reap.
The Second Law is an offshoot of the First Law. Every action of an individual
produces some effects (or triggers a chain of events) in the cosmic being. In the
infinite space-time reality of cosmos the chain of events that an individual’s action
triggers is too complex to be mapped.
The first underlying principle of Second Law is that no action is free of effects. Every
human action is a seed that brings fruits some time in future. It may not be possible
to predict the quantum of fruit that a seed will yield. It is also not possible to predict
the time at which the fruit will appear. Nevertheless, no one can deny the principle
that if one sows oranges one can only reap oranges.
This principle when extended to human actions means that an individual who cheats
will be paid back by the cosmos in the same coin, while one who acts out of love and
kindness will receive love and kindness. It sounds very simple. But in real life there
are various occasions when people tend to forget it.
Let us say that a man goes to buy vegetables from a vendor. The vegetables that he
has bought are worth Rs. 35. He gives a Rs. 50 note to the vendor. There were
many buyers on the shop. While catering to other customers, the vendor forgets that
the man had given him a Rs. 50 note and starts thinking that the note was of
Rs. 500. So, the vendor returns to the man Rs. 465 instead of Rs. 15. The man is
happy with the extra cash that he has got. He knows that the vendor has made a
mistake but decides to keep silent. He thinks that no one has seen him and therefore
he can “act smart”.
The man forgets that he is a part of the cosmos (First Law) and that his action of
keeping silent and pocketing the extra cash has triggered a chain of events in the
cosmos. The chain of events and the resulting process will at some future time
produce effects for him which will be of the same nature that his act was (Second
Law). In other words, his act of cheating has been noted in the cosmic reality and he
will receive the results of this act at some time. No one can predict what the effects
will be for the man and when the effects will appear. But the fact that his action will
bear fruits, and that too bitter fruits, cannot be denied.
This brings us to an important concept – DHRUTI. Dhruti can be understood as
“carry-over”. It is like the balance in an account that one carries forward. One is born
with an opening balance which also determines the parents to whom one is born. As
one moves through life, one’s actions keep adding or subtracting to the dhruti.
Someone with a strong dhruti will be able to achieve much more with the same
efforts compared to someone with a weak dhruti. It is like when I go to bank and try
to cash my cheque for Rs. One million the bank manager throws me out; but when
another person does the same act the bank manager is too glad to oblige. The same
effort (of signing and presenting a cheque) produces insult and injury for me while it
produces cash for someone else. More or less, the same holds true in life too.
Law of Karm is often used by some to argue for a fatalistic view of life which says
that whatever has to happen will happen and there is very little that a person can do.
Nothing could be farther from truth. Success in any endeavor in life depends on five
factors which can be summed up as follows:
Dhruti – discussed above
Dakshta – (Resources, Expertise and skills) One cannot do a job till one has the
resources, knowledge, skills and expertise to carry out the job.
Desh – (Place) One cannot grow coconuts on North Pole. A tropical climate is
more appropriate for growing coconuts. Similarly, one has to be near a water
body if one wants to do fishing.
Kaal – (Time) There is a time to sow and there is a time to reap – every farmer
knows it. The same holds true in life.
Parakram – (Efforts) Even though all the above factors are right one cannot
achieve success unless one makes the efforts for it.
On one hand, Law of Karm is not fatalistic. On the other, the Law negates the Free
Will Theory which states that a person is free to do everything that one wishes and
only efforts can achieve success. Law of Karm takes a complex holistic view of
human efforts and results. It is neither simplistic (like fatalism) nor extremist (like free
It may be added here that the Law of Karm applies not just to individuals but also to
families, communities, societies and countries. Unfortunately, most present-day
history text books take a myopic view of history missing out on the patterns of
actions and effects that span a much larger time frame.
Third Law – The Divine Paradox - In a war between Dev and Danav,
though apparently Dev might appear to be weaker, the ultimate victory
will always be of Dev only.
The oneness of the universe discussed in First Law truly manifests itself in the
operation of the Third Law. This is when a person can feel the cosmos acting with a
will and a purpose.
Both sacred texts of Hinduism – Ramayan and Mahabharat – seek to bring forth the
concept of The Divine Paradox.
To understand the Divine Paradox, one has to go back to the concepts of Dev and
Danav. A dev keeps giving while a danav keeps gathering. So, common sense tells
us that in a fight between the dev and the danav, the victory will go to the danav.
Third Law tells us that the opposite will happen.
In Ramayan, Ram was moving around in forests with his brother and wife when his
wife was abducted by Ravan. Ram had no army, no money and no kingdom. In
contrast, Ravan was an imperial power drawing on resources from a very large land
mass. Ravan had the world’s largest army. No one could have predicted that Ravan
would lose to the man who had practically no resources to fight a war. This paradox
is the essence of Ramayan.
Similarly in Mahabharat, Pandavs had lost their kingdom, had been through twelve
years of forest life and had just spent a year incognito doing menial jobs. On the
other hand were the Kauravs, who had the world’s largest army at command. The
fight between Pandavs and Kauravs seemed to be heavily tilted in favor of the
Kauravs even halfway through the war. Events turned against the Kauravs after the
nine days of war and in the next nine days Kauravs lost everything. The victory of the
Pandavs illustrates the Third Law.
Faith in the Third Law does not have to stem only from Ramayan and Mahabharat.
The Law is always true. There are times in one’s life when one sees the dev side
losing but one has to keep watching and in due course the dev wins. Surely, it is a bit
unnerving when a dev (Ram or Yudhishitr) is seen to be suffering and the bad ones
are enjoying a life of luxury. It is critical at such times to not lose faith in Trividhan
and rest assured that the ultimate victory will belong to the dev alone.
It will not be inappropriate to say that the Third Law is an offshoot of the Second
Law. While discussing the Second Law, we discussed about Dhruti and the five
factors of success. The focus of a danav is to collect resources and skills (dakshta)
by hook and crook without bothering about the negative dhruti acquired during the
process. The dev carries with him a strong positive dhruti which ensures the cosmos
adding its force and strength to the dev’s efforts. The hidden power of the positive
dhruti ensures dev’s victory which appears almost paradoxical to one who sees only
the external visible factors.
J. Trivarg – Dharm, Arth and Kaam
Of the five foundation blocks of Hindu thought, the one that touches human life most
directly is Trivarg which deals with the motivation or reason of any action carried out
by any individual. Hindu thought system does not prescribe do’s and don’ts in
detailed specific terms. Decision about doing or not doing any specific act is left to
the wisdom of the individual concerned. The individual is only guided about what
should be his / her reasons for doing or not doing any specific act.
Hindu thought condemns some motivations while advising individuals to do actions
based on Trivarg. There is a Negative List of reasons for human actions, while the
positive list consists of only three categories called Trivarg. The Negative List
typically represents a danav way of life. In any society where the danav way of life is
glamorized, the Negative List ceases to have any negative connotations.
Let us look at the Negative List before we understand Trivarg.
Lobh (Greed) – Greed is defined as desiring more of something that one
already has. One does not have a house and desires to have a house – this is
not greed. But a person already has one and he desires two more – this is
greed and is not justified.
Krodh (Anger) – One is never supposed to act out of anger, though anger can
be used to help one gain some extra push when one is engaged in a war or
war-like situation. All through the war in Lanka, Ram often gets angry. The
anger is justified in this case since anger is not the primary purpose of the
action of war.
Ahankar – The word that comes close to it in English is ego. Ahankar means
the feeling of I being important. Ahankar is when a part starts feeling that it is
not a part of the whole subject to the rules of the whole. It is when one sees
oneself as the doer instead of seeing oneself as a tool or medium through
whom the cosmos is acting.
Maan (Status) – The respect that others give to one is Maan. Surely, when one
does good deeds one gets respect. The problem arises when one starts doing
deeds with the purpose of getting respect. For example, it is not unusual to
meet rich persons who are doing social service not for the purpose of helping
some needy person but for getting good coverage in local newspapers. The
motivation of such persons is only Maan or status. This obviously deserves all
Abhimaan (Conceit) – Often one starts thinking of oneself as superior to
everyone else around. This feeling of superiority manifests itself in many ways.
In business organizations, there are managers who think that everyone else is
incompetent. There are political leaders who think that no other leader (or
human being) measures up to them. This conceit can be a strong motivator, but
is an avoidable one.
Moh – There is no equivalent word in English. Moh is a type of delusion,
whether temporary or permanent. It arises from attachment, from possession
and it seeks to possess. It is often confused with love. In this context it may be
worthwhile to quote from another article by the author – “Love is giving while
moh is holding and being held. Love gives and lets go, while moh gives with
one hand and tries to tie up with the other. Love liberates while moh enslaves.
Love has no expectations while moh is full of expectations. Love does not
possess, moh is based on a sense of possession”.
Pratishodh (Revenge) – In Mahabharat, Draupadi, who had faced the insult of
being stripped in public, wanted her five husbands to fight a war as an act of
revenge. Krishn did not want a war based on revenge. He made sure that the
war was for other reasons. In present day Western literature, it is not
uncommon to hear that revenge is sweet. Novels and films describe in great
detail the revenge that some man or woman took. It appears as if acting
revengeful is the morally correct path for any man of honor. This is in sharp
contrast to the theories of jurisprudence that are well accepted in western
world. A wrong doer must be punished – there can be no doubt about that.
However, the duty to punish rests with the state and not with the individual who
has been wronged. Even in case when the state does not act for whatever
reasons, in any civilized society, an individual is not supposed to avenge the
Eirshya (Jealousy) – Neighbor’s house is larger than mine – this is not a
justified cause for any action. This is a negative emotion that must be
suppressed. Sadly, in the present world commercial interests often stroke this
emotion to sell more goods and services.
Bhay (Fear) – Fear makes one run away and also makes one do various acts.
However, one should act without fear. Does that mean that if one faces a lion in
a jungle one should not try to climb the nearest tree? Surely not! It is one’s
dharm to protect one’s body from harm. Acting for dharm is always
recommended. However, the disapproval of fear comes when one has to do a
dharm and one fails to do it due to fear. For example, a soldier who hides in the
trenches and refuses to look out for fear of being seen by the enemy is not
acting as per his dharm due to fear. Going back to the earlier example of facing
a lion – it is good to climb a tree to save one’s life but it is horrible if one gets so
crippled by the fear of lion that one is unable to climb up a tree.
Ghrina (Hatred) – Hating people for whatever reason cannot be an acceptable
ground for any action.
Having looked at the bad reasons, it is time we look at the three categories of good
reasons, called Trivarg of Dharm, Arth and Kaam. The two rules with reference to
Trivarg can be summed up as follows:
Rule 1 – One must follow all three - Dharm, Arth and Kaam. Ignoring any of the
three leads to loss of the other two also, leading to all round destruction of the
Rule 2 – The order of priority must be Dharm (1st priority), Arth (2nd priority) and
Kaam (3rd priority).
With these rules in mind, let us try to understand the three elements of Trivarg –
Dharm, Arth and Kaam.
Dharm can be best understood as the obligation that falls upon one due to the
existence of a relationship. It is not proper to use the term “duty” for dharm since
duty connotes a burden, while dharm can often be a pleasure. For example, having
sexual intercourse with one’s wife is a dharm for a married man – this dharm is
surely a pleasure and will hardly fit into the narrow meaning of the word “duty”.
Dharm is what links one to everyone else and to the whole cosmos. Let us look at
some examples of dharm.
Body (Deh) – The first relationship that one has is to one’s own body. So, the
first dharm one must fulfill is body-dharm (called deh-dharm in Sanskrit).
Body-dharm includes food, water, sleep, sex etc.
Aptitude (Vritti) – One is born with some vritti (aptitude / vocation). This does not
mean that a person has necessarily the same vritti as one’s parents. A person
may have vritti of a scholar even though no one in the family has ever been a
scholar. There are obligations cast upon one by virtue of one’s vritti. A person
with the aptitude of a scholar must spend his life in learning and teaching. Such a
person with his sharp mind may take to stitching shoes but the activity will not
satisfy him and he will either be unhappy or quit the activity soon enough.
Son / Daughter – Every person is a son or a daughter. The obligations that one
has to fulfill to one’s parents are a dharm for each individual.
Husband / Wife – The relationship of marriage is a special one in Hindu context.
It is what makes two individuals one. The oneness casts obligations upon each of
the two. The husband’s dharm becomes wife’s obligation and vice versa.
Operating in the context of dev lifestyle, the dharm of the husband becomes more
important to the wife than her own dharm. So, for a wife deh-dharm of the
husband must take precedence over her own deh-dharm and vice versa. In
specific terms, it has been advised that a wife must not eat till she has given food
to her husband; and a husband must not eat till he has made sure that there is
food for his wife, children and all those who are dependent on him. It is
interesting to note that one great adharm (anti-dharm) that has been repeatedly
mentioned is a man not having sexual intercourse with his wife when she is going
through her fertile period and wishes to have intercourse.
Parent – Becoming a parent is surely one of the greatest pleasures in almost
every culture and community across the world. Hindu texts mention that the best
touch is touching one’s own son or daughter. Parenting is not a burden. It is a
pleasure to see children grow and be a part of their growth. As a parent, one has
obligations that are truly pleasurable for a person who has a dev mindset. These
obligations are a parent’s dharm.
The above list is only illustrative and not exhaustive. One’s relationships to siblings,
grandchildren, other family members, teachers, employer, colleagues, neighbors and
friends also cast obligations upon one. Each of these obligations created by virtue of
the relationship concerned is a dharm.
Often, there may be conflict between two dharms. For example, it is a person’s
dharm to take care of his body and one is required to sacrifice one’s life when the
situation so arises in a war field. Such dilemmas between two conflicting obligations
are challenges that every human being faces at various points of his life. Ram faced
such a dilemma when his beloved brother Lakshman had fallen in the war-field and
there seemed no hope of Lakshman’s revival. Ram even considered giving up his life
if Lakshman did not recover. Ram was in a state of doubt whether he had followed
the correct course in putting his brother at risk for the sake of his wife. This is a
classic case of conflict between dharm to one’s brother and to one’s wife.
Many of us face similar dilemmas in less dramatic situations. For example, the issue
of work-family balance can be seen as the issue of deciding between the dharm to
one’s family and to one’s employer.
Om Tat Sat
(My humble salutations to Sri Anil Chawla ji and hindu samskrit dot com for the collection)