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Musings on #39 of Desikan's RG

From: M K Sudarshan (sudarsan_at_batelco.com.bh)
Date: Sat Dec 28 1996 - 05:32:23 PST

srimathE lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNe namaha
sri vedanta desika guravE namaha

Dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s',

The analysis of a "hierarchy of "dharmA-s"" as attempted in my previous
posting will invariably lead to the question:

"If there is indeed a higher and lower order of "dharmA-s" doesn't it imply
that one should embrace the "higher-order" "dharmA-s" and abandon those of
the "lower order" ?".

Theoretically, YES, but in the ordinary course of our existence it is not
always possible to perform "visEsha-dharmA-s" to the exclusion of
"sva-dharmA" or "sAdhAraNa-dharma-s".

"sva-dharmA" is such an integral part of our being that it is virtually
impossible to avoid performing it. In the Bhagavath-Gita, Lord Krishna
specifically states that one should scrupulously obey the dictates of one's
"sva-dharmA".

As for "sAdhAraNa-dharma", also, it is not possible to "shake it off" since
it is the 'existential' fabric of which we are but an infinitesmal strand.
It regulates our day-to-day life. It verily paves the way for our spiritual
or moral progress and to abandon it will mean great and grievous peril.

As for "visEsha-dharmA", it is but given to a fortunate few to be able to
perform it. One needs to be an extraordinarily advanced spiritual 'sAdhakA'
to be able to exercise the degree of "individual moral choice" involved in
"visEsha-dharmA". It is not usually given to ordinary mortals like us to
venture to perform such a lofty "dharmA".

The next question that usually crops up in this discussion is : Are these
orders of "dharmA" mutually compatible or exclusive ?

The answer given by Mukkur Swami II is that there is no fundamental
antagonism between each of these "dharmA-s" but there might be situations in
life which might force one to exercise choice between two or more of them.
Such situations are usually called "dharma-sankatam".

The instruction given by our "AchAryA-s" is that in such 'dharma-sankatam' a
spiritual aspirant must first have the enlightenment and wisdom to
distinguish  "sAdhAraNa" from "visEsha" "dharma". Then he must proceed to
always embrace "the higher-order dharmA" in preference to the one in the
lower hierarchic plane. 

Unfortunately such wisdom can be neither earned nor learned; it can be only
"gifted" by the Lord Himself. Either you have it or don't have it.

However, a sharp and discrimiative perspective of "dharmA" can be gradually
and painfully cultivated by an ordinary aspirant over a period of time
thanks to the "pUrna-anUgraham" (blessings) of his "AchAryA" or "guru".

Mukkur Swamy II used to give a small example to elucidate all the above points :

We all know that dusk is the time that "sAstra" has ordained we perform the
rite of "sAyam-sandhyAvandanam". This is inflexible 'dharma' to be upheld
always.

Assume that one evening you have just got down on your haunches with
"theertham" and "chOmbhu" (ritual water and jug) to perform such
"sandhyAvandanam". Just then someone comes up and tells you that a great
procession of Lord Govindaraja is about to arrive at your doorstep. It is
all part of, say, a "brahmOtsavam" (festival) at the Govindaraja temple
around your street-corner.

Now, one could say that, at such moments, you will be in a moral quandary.
You would find yourself caught between two "dharmA-s" : one, which instructs
you to proceed with the "sandhyAvandanam" ritual since it is time for it ;
the other, asking you to go out onto the street and receive with full
honours the great procession of Lord Govindaraja. 

What should you do ?

Mukkur Swamy II says, in such situations, one should always seek to perform
the "visEsha-dharmA" and abandon or postpone the "sAdhAraNa-dharmA". In the
instant case, the first duty is to receive the Lord's procession at one's
door-steps. It is only after fulfilling that obligation first that one
should proceed to perform "sandhyAvandanam". Even if the time for that rite
has passed, one can perform the appropriate "prAyaschitta" (expiatory)
routines and complete the ritual later.

If one, in such a situation, does the exact reverse i.e., proceeds with
"sandhyAvandanam" and fails to receive the Lord's procession at the
door-steps, then what one has done is embrace "sAdhAraNa-dharma" and abandon
"visEsha- dharma".

That would be turning our "hierarchy of dharmA-s" completely topsy-turvy and
would indeed be grievous error.

Now, dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s", it is time to subject the 'Jatayu-episode' to
the test of the various concepts of "dharmA-s" we have described so far in
my last few postings.

We shall do so in my next posting.

srimathE srivan satagopa sri narayana yathindra mahadesikaya namaha

sudarshan