Tag Archives: dharma

Why Do Good People Suffer?

Often people ask this questionwhy do good people suffer and bad people enjoy? This seems to be an age-old question. Such a doubt arose even in the mind of Draupadī. When King Yudhiṣṭhira lost his kingdom in a gambling match, he along with his brothers and queen Draupadī had to go into exile for twelve years. Certainly, it was not a pleasant life to live in the forest, especially after enjoying all of the comforts of palace life. Just one day before the gambling match, the Pāṇḍava brothers and Queen Draupadī had lived in an opulent palace with all amenities and comforts. And now suddenly, they had to renounce their royal dress and royal life and wander in the forest without any arrangement for even basic amenities such as food and a place to sleep. It must have been quite shocking, especially for Draupadī. At least the Pāṇḍava brothers were used to going to the forest for hunting. But Draupadī was a delicate queen and had no experience of living in the forest. Moreover, before coming to the forest, she was terribly insulted by Duryodhana and his brother, Duḥśāsana. Duḥśāsana dragged her by the hair into the assembly of kings and princes and tried to strip her naked in front of the assembled royalties. It must have been even more humiliating for her that her five heroic husbands, including Bhīma and Arjuna, were silent witnesses to the entire episode. Remembering all of this, Draupadī was very furious but helpless. She could not believe that this was happening. She was no ordinary woman but was known as ayonijā, or “not born from the womb.”

Yet, there she was, sitting on the earth without even a piece of cloth spread underneath. She expressed her anger, distress, and frustration to King Yudhiṣṭhira: “I have heard that dharma protects those who follow dharma. I know that you are a very dharmic person. You may abandon me, along with your brothers, but you will never give up dharma. I have never seen you engage in any adharmic act. You are humble, simple, compassionate, and charitable. Yet, now I see that dharma has not protected you. Seeing you like this, sitting under a tree, I feel bewildered. Where is dharma? And where is Īśvara? It is said that everyone is under the control of Īśvara, just like a bull is controlled by a rope passed through his nostrils. It is only Īśvara who arranges for one to go to heaven or hell. All happiness and distress are commissioned by Īśvara. He plays with everyone, just as a child plays with toys. O King, I understand that Īśvara is the caretaker of everyone and is very merciful. But now I see that He is not behaving graciously toward us. We, who adhere to dharma, are suffering, while Duryodhana, who is a cheater, is enjoying royal life. I do not appreciate the unjust behavior of Īśvara. What is the benefit of Īśvara giving wealth to Duryodhana, who is cruel, greedy, haughty, and adharmic? If everyone has to face his own karma, then certainly Īśvara will also be implicated in this sinful act. But if you say that Īśvara is all-powerful, and that no sin can touch Him, then I feel very distressed.” After speaking like this, Draupadi began crying.

Hearing these distressing words of Draupadī, King Yudhiṣṭhira, who was very calm and peaceful, spoke the following sagacious words: “O, my dear Queen, what you have said appears to be very appealing and logical. But it is steeped in ignorance, and is the opinion of atheistic people. I do not follow dharma with the intention to obtain some fruit, but I follow it as my duty. I do not give charity or perform yajña, thinking that this will uplift me to heaven. Regardless of good or bad outcomes, I perform my duty. I am not greedy for the results of dharmic acts; it is my very nature to follow dharma. Those who perform dharma with an intention to get some benefit are not truly dharmic. For them, dharma is a business. Just as a businessman sells or buys products to gain some profit, such people perform dharmic acts with the same intention. Sinful people, being influenced by atheistic ideas, engage in dharma and yet have doubts about it.

Therefore, on the authority of śāstra, I advise you not to doubt dharma. A person who doubts dharma, or the authority of śāstra, will be born in a subhuman species. Such a person is the lowest of human beings. Such a person thinks that dharmic people are foolish, and gives importance to his own intelligence and logic. Such a person will never achieve anything auspicious. We should never doubt dharma, which has been established by Īśvara and is followed by great sages, who have a deeper vision of life. If following dharma brings suffering, then the great sages like Vyāsa, Vaśiṣṭha, Maitreya, Nārada, Śukadeva, etc, would not follow dharma. Dharma is never fruitless and neither is adharma. Both give their respective results. Just remember your own birth, which was the outcome of a dharmic act. The results of karma are not easy to understand. Only the great sages and devas can understand how and when karma gives its result. Just because you do not see the result of dharma immediately, you should not doubt dharma, the devas, śāstra or Iśvara. The result of dharma will come in the due course of time. In the same way, those who are engaged in adharmic activity will get the result sooner or later. Those who cheat others may seem to enjoy and prosper, but their adharmic act will drag them down to hell. It is just a matter of time. Knowing this, you should not feel distressed and have faith in dharma and Iśvara.”

This beautiful dialogue can be found in the Vana-parva, chapter 30 and 31 of Mahābhārata. We should never doubt śāstra just because we are facing some difficulty in our lives. Dharma and adharma both give their results. Our difficulties may be an outcome of past karma. They can also be seen as the grace of Kṛṣṇa to make us more fixed in bhakti. Even great devotees like the Pāṇdavas faced immense difficulties but did not deter from the path of dharma. Bhakti is called param dharma. So even more so, there should be no thought of deviating from the supreme path of bhakti.

Satyanarayana Dasa

Different Kinds of Bhakti and Karma

Question: Could you specify the difference between āropa-siddhā-bhakti and karma-miśrā-bhakti as defined by Srīla Jīva Gosvami in Bhakti Sandarbha?

Answer: Āropa-siddhā-bhakti consists of activities that are not devotional in themselves but become part of devotion because of their contact with bhakti. Primarily it includes offering your actions to Kṛṣṇa, karmārpaṇam. These actions themselves are not devotional but by offering them to Kṛṣṇa, they become part of bhakti.  

Karma-miśra-bhakti is when you perform bhakti activities along with karma, or prescribed duties, while desiring the result of the karma. In other words, you mix the two. You perform agnihotra because you are a dvija, and you also engage in bhakti. In āropa-siddhā there is no bhakti activity except the offering of results.

Question: Also what is the difference between dharma, vaidika-karma and laukika-karma?

Answer: Dharma is one’s prescribed duties, e.g., the dharma of a student is to study and serve the guru. Vaidika-karma are of three types: nitya-karma such as agnihotra, kāmya-karma—done for a specific desire such as putreṣti yajña to get a son, and naimittika-karma, those done on special occasions such as birth of a child or death of a relative. Vaidika karmas are dharma. Thers is no difference between them.

Laukika-karma comprises of secular activities like taking bath etc.  

Question: Thank you for your answer Babaji, but could you clarify the following: In karma-miśra-bhakti, the word karma indicates dharma (i.e. āśrama dharma and varṇa dharma) but Srīla Jīva Gosvami also defines karma in the same section as “devatoddeśena dravya tyāgaḥ” (which seems to be dravya-yajña, a nitya-karma). So how to reconcile these two definitions of karma?

Answer: This is no contradiction. Karma also means dharma, and dharma according to Mīmāṁsā means doing yajña, which is “devatoddeśena dravya tyāgaḥ.

Question: And does it also mean that gṛhasthas always have to engage in karma-miśra-bhakti? 

Answer: No.

Question: Because they have to perform varṇa-dharma to maintain their families and as devotees they would like to offer those activities to the Lord?

Answer: If they take shelter of Kṛṣṇa, then their performance of varṇāśrama duties are done only out of social convention and not to get some gain. So they are not mixing karma with bhakti. They do not perform varṇāśrama duties out of obligation to dharma.

Question: In Sārārtha Darśinī, Śrīla Viśvanātha Chakravartī talks about vaidika, laukika and daihika karma. Could you define them by giving pramānas?

Answer: Vaidika means action injuncted by the Vedas, such as ahar ahar sandhyam upāsīta—one should do sandhyā-vandanam every day.

Laukika means activities such as farming or cow protection by a vaiśya, or giving protection to people by a kṣatriya. Manu-smṛti describes such duties.

Daihika means action to take care of one’s body, such as bathing, eating and sleeping.

Religion and Politics Should not be Mixed

By Satyanarayana Dasa

Many times I read that religion and politics should be kept separate. They should not be mixed. Here in India it is a common feeling of the educated gentry. Usually such people are afraid that if politicians subscribe to a particular religion, they will oppress followers of other religions. There have been examples of such oppression and atrocities in the past where a ruling party crushed or ostracized members of a religion not followed by them. There are also some states that are religious and do not favor citizens practicing other religions. This is understood to be the chief cause of fear in the minds of people who support keeping religion and politics separate.

Is it an absolute principle? I think not so. The purpose of politics is to do welfare to people. Every politician who contests elections promises to do welfare, whatever it may be. It is on the basis of such a promise that politicians are elected. The purpose of religion, called dharma (ethics, morality, religious duty), is not different from that of politics. Politics is called rajaniti, the code of conduct followed by a ruler or ruling class. Rajaniti is always a part of dharma-shastra such as Manu-smriti or Yajnavalkya-smriti. Dharma-shastra are the books written by sages of India which delineate the duties of citizens according to various classes (varnas), such as educators, rulers, etc.  No description of dharma-shastra is complete without laying down the principles for the rulers. Dharma is meant to give ultimate welfare to society and politics is but a part of it. Therefore, traditionally in India, dharma was never separated from politics. The rulers of India, the kings, were followers of dharma. In their student life they were trained in dharma. We do not find descriptions of atheistic kings in the history of India before it became a republic state.

Avataras came as politicians

A rare exception is King Vena, but he was rejected by the people. His story is described in the Bhagavata Purana. Vena proclaimed himself to be God and prohibited worship of any other god or the performance of yajna (sacrifice) to propitiate any other deity. He was advised by the sages to revoke this law, and when he refused to accept their advice, the sages chanted mantras that killed him. This shows that an atheistic king or a king who hindered the religious life of people was not acceptable. Apart from that, Vena was not such a bad king. There were no thieves or robbers in his kingdom.

We also read that the two main avataras, Lord Rama and Lord Krishna, who appeared as human beings, belonged to the ruling class and were therefore politicians, although the main purpose of their descent on earth was to establish dharma. In fact, Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita that He comes to establish dharma in every yuga. And establishing dharma is not possible without taking charge of the kingdom, which means being involved in politics. The whole battle of Mahabharata was fought to establish Yudhisthira, who was known as Dharma-raja (the king of dharma), as the emperor of India.

Politicians are not trained in dharma

Thus dharma and politics go hand-in-hand. One of the major reasons that there is so much corruption in politics at present is that politicians are not trained in dharma, especially in rajaniti, or the duties of a politician. Politics without dharma is bound to breed corruption sooner or later because of human afflictions like selfishness, greed and other impurities. In India some politicians have contested elections from prison, and there are many who have criminal cases against them. To avoid adharma in politics, there must be some basic requirement of character for a leader of society.

Similarly, without politics it is almost impossible for people to be dharmic. The role of religion is to make one righteous and loving, and politics means caring for people and their welfare. When religion and politics don’t coexist, politicians are corrupt and religious leaders struggle to teach dharma to society.

Need of the time

A religious person who is righteous and loving will definitely care for the welfare of the whole population and hence become a true politician. True politicians can only be righteous and loving. They cannot be anything but religious.

The problem arises when religious leaders restrict the freedom of people to follow their dharma. If such religious leaders gain political power, they ostracize members of other religions. This should not happen. When leaders allow religion to become all encompassing with full freedom to pray and worship in any manner as long as it does not interfere with others, it will bring righteousness and peace to people and will be suitable for any society. Then there will be no cause to fear such leaders. Indeed, such leaders are the need of the time.

Today both religion and politics need a change. Religionists should be tolerant to allow freedom to everyone to follow the religion of their choice. And politicians should be trained in the basic principles of dharma. If leaders are righteous and spiritual, the whole society can flourish and be uplifted.