Dharma means different things to different people. For some, it symbolizes Sanatana Dharma, a spiritual tradition going back thousands of years. For others, it means duty, a sense of right and wrong. For yet others it is the essential nature of any being. For example, it is the dharma of a tiger to hunt for its prey; the dharma of a cow is to eat grass and give milk.
With the greatest respect, I would like to give my own very simple definition of dharma:
Don’t HARM Anyone.
Take the first letter of Don’t, the word Dharm and add the first letter of Anyone and we get Dharma. It is not just a play on words; it also carries deep spiritual meaning. It is the essence of the best in all religions. It is the basis for Gandhi ji’s doctrine of non-violence. The Ten Commandments are nothing but an extension of this basic principle: don’t harm anyone.
Om Swami ji often talks about having core values in life and following them, at all times. He talks about choosing only those actions that resonate with our core values. This way, the core values become the guiding principles of our lives.
If I had to choose one core value for myself, it would be:
Don’t HARM Anyone.
I have tried to follow this principle for much of my life, with varying degrees of success. Being human, I don’t always live up to this ideal. Sometimes, I get frustrated and say things that I shouldn’t really say. However, this phase passes quickly, and overall, I have no intention to harm anyone. Sometimes, I may discuss my opinions with too much passion, but again, the intent is never to hurt anyone. Sometimes, my jokes misfire and offend some people. Again, the intention is never to harm anyone. Sometimes, people hurt me, and I want to retaliate in kind, but I do try to suppress this urge as much as I can. I have not yet reached the stage of not thinking any harmful thoughts but hopefully, I will get there at some point of time.
It is not always easy to do good deeds in life. Opportunities for doing good are often limited and it is a fact of life that we have to look out for number one. We have to make a living first, and sometimes, we don’t have time to help others. Even if we try to help people, it doesn’t always work; sometimes it just increases dependency. If we give to charitable causes, we are not always sure where the money goes or, if our little contribution makes any difference. Doing good deeds is not always easy.
However, there is one thing we can all do: avoid harming others. If we do just this in our lives, we have made the world around us a better, happier place. We can harm people in so many ways- by our words, actions and just by our thoughts. We have millions of thoughts in our head; we can help the world a great deal by not translating all these thoughts into words and actions.
We do hurt a lot of people in our close relationships. When we are together 24/7 with people, its very easy to say things that hurt. Certain relationships are tricky, by their very nature: mother-in-law, daughter-in-law, husband-wife, even employer-employee. All of these relationships are much easier to manage if we follow one basic principle:
Don’t HARM Anyone.
We can even extend this concept a little further:
Don’t HARM Anything.
Don’t harm anything, including the environment. Don’t take more from mother nature than you need, and waste as little as possible. Buy only the clothes that you need; each piece of clothing consumes energy in its production and distribution. Eat only what you need, don’t waste food. Buy the car or two-wheeler that you need, not the one that you want to show off to your friends. Use your smart phone a little longer, instead of dumping it for the latest and greatest new device, for no good reason. Right size your home, based on your needs, not on what you want. If we make it a point to not harm anything, we will have done more to prevent global warming and ocean level rise than all the environmentalists who talk about renewable energy, net-zero buildings, the green economy, or use other buzz words.
Large corporations talk a lot about greening their operations, about reducing their carbon footprint. However, their intention, always, is to get you to buy more of their product to increase their profits. Don’t get taken in by this; buy only what you need and consume only what you mus ; if everyone does this, we might save the planet from an early demise.
If we stop harming others in thought, word and deed, a strange alchemy will happen. We might actually start liking each other and learn to live with each other in peace.