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Musings on #39 of Desikan's RG

From: M K Sudarshan (
Date: Sat Dec 28 1996 - 01:19:11 PST

srimathE lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNe namaha
sri vedanta desika guravE namaha

Dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s',

Sri Mukkur Swami II usually begins discoursing on the subject of the
"Jatayu-episode" by pointing out that in this world there are 3 types of
"dharmA-s" :
                 a) "sva-dharmA" 
                 b) "sAdhAraNa-dharmA"
                 c) "vIsEsha-dharma"

Let me explain the technical jargon first in plain English for the benefit
of the lay amongst us.

a) "sva-dharmA" denotes all actions of "chEtanA-s"(sentient beings) and even
"achEtanA-s"(!!)(non-sentients) that are consistent with "a NATURAL ORDER OF
THINGS". For e.g. a snake bites, a cow gives milk, trees give shade etc.
Here the action springs from the very inherent "nature" or "character" of
the sentient or non-sentient being, its "actions" constituting, as it were,
its "dharmA" --- the holistic effect of a natural propensity to abide by an
internal and organic constitution.

b) "sAdhAraNa-dharmA" are actions which are in consonance with a "HIGH MORAL
ORDER OF THINGS". These actions cannot be said to be driven by "inherent
nature or character"; they are driven by the "moral ordinances" of religion,
ethical codes ("sAstra") or "sampradAyam" (tradition). Sentient beings abide
by such injunctions and uphold "dharmA". The simplest examples from human
life are the "dharmA-s" enjoined by Sri Vaishnava 'sampradAyam' to be upheld
by us viz. the "nitya", "naimIttika" and "kAmya" 'karmA-s'. There are
examples of 'dharmA'- ordinances even in the animal world, e.g. amongst
birds there is what is called a "pecking order"; a tiger, unlike the hyena,
never eats carrion but only the fresh flesh of prey hunted down by itself;
and amongst the "communities" of bats in great caves there are many "social
codes" that the nocturnal animals, anthropo-zoologists tell us, comply with
unfailingly.(I don't know how many of you have read a fantastic article on
this subject that appeared sometime ago in the "National Geographic" magazine.)

c) "visEsha-dharmA" are "holistic actions" inspired neither by "natural
order" nor by "high moral ordinance". These actions, instead, are inspired
by a "HIGH MORAL ORDER OF INDIVIDUAL CHOICE." These actions are a unique
category by themselves and are driven neither by "propensity" nor
"propriety". These actions are solely driven by a "supremely impersonal or
unselfish act of moral CHOICE."

Now dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s", please read the above analysis carefully and
you will notice that the 3 "dharmA-s" seem to fall into subtle "HIERARCHIC
planes". The order of hierarchy, if you look carefully, is determined by the
"DEGREE or ELEMENT of INDIVIDUAL choice", involved in each plane of "dharmA".

Let me explain further.

In the FIRST hierarchic order falls "sva-dharmA". In "actions" driven by
"sva-dharmA" there is very little of the element of "personal choice"
involved, isn't it ? The tree gives shade not out of any "personal choice";
the cow gives milk too not out of any "choice".   

In the SECOND order of hierarchy viz."sAdhAraNa-dharmA", actions are driven
by an element of "personal choice" much stronger than as it manifests in the
actions of the first hierarchic order. Here beings "choose" to abide by a
"high moral ordinance" and are not merely impelled to do so by "propensity".

In the THIRD and highest hierarchic order viz."visEsha-dharmA", actions are
driven by "pure and simple individual choice". Here the element of "choice"
is very, very strong and the influence of "sva-dharmA" (propensity) or
"sAdhAraNa-dharmA" (propriety) at this plane of "actions" is only mild, if
not wholly non-existent.

Armed as we are with the above concepts, we are now ready to proceed, dear
'bhAgavatOttamA-s', to examine in detail the "Jatayu" episode and also the
"actions" of Lord Rama and of the Great Bird in the light of the above
"hierarchic definition" of 3 "dharmA-s".

If we do so with genuine open understanding, without letting doctrinaire
considerations cloud us, then the gentle nuance of what we are talking about
will, I trust, become evident to us. If you have any questions or
clarifications to put to me, please reserve it until the end of my
presentation when I shall do my best to explain them to your satisfaction.

Now onto my next posting.

srimathE srivan satagopa sri narayana yathindra mahadesikaya namaha