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91. Righteousness and the day-to-day affairs:
The influence of the three qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas
in our day-to-day dealings has been described in the Seventeenth Chapter of the
Gita. There is a difference in our behaviour depending upon the inherent quality
of our soul.
sÅvanuépa svRSy ïÏa -vit -art,
sattv˜nurup˜ sarvasya þraddh˜ bhavati bh˜rata -- XVII-3
(Each one's faith depends on his intrinsic substance.)
The individuality of the soul is the source of our external attitudes, behaviour and beliefs. All our dealings are vitiated by our rajas and tamas impulses. The three qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas can impinge on both our spiritual and temporal activities. Worldly affairs permeated by spirituality become righteous acts. Even righteous acts, if polluted by rajas and tamas impulses, become unrighteous.
The dealings of Tuladhara and Dharmavyadha are holy whereas even
the austerities of Ravana and Jarasandha are unrighteous acts.
xmaeR-vTy xmaeR=ip k«tae -KtE StvaCyut,
pap< -vit xmaeR=ipyaen-KtE k«taehre>,
dharmobhavatya dharmo'pi k®to bhaktai stav˜cyuta
p˜paÕ bhavati dharmo'piyonabhaktai k®tohare× -- Sadacharasmriti
(Even the unrighteous acts performed by your devotees become righteous acts, Oh Achyuta. The righteous acts performed by those who are not Hari's devotees become sinful.)
If the sort of business done by persons like Tuladhara is dharma on the one hand, the greedy trading of today's merchants is adharma on the other. The food that we eat and acts we do like almsgiving, penance and sacrifice vary according to the three forces of sattva, rajas and tamas. Man shares the instincts of hunger, sleep and lust with the beast. He cannot give them up also. To be good and honest there is no need to abandon them. The beasts are not bound by any moral restrictions in the matter of their food and sleep. When the affairs are combined with discipline and restraint, we start living religiously. Dharma does not imply abandoning the daily affairs. We grow human when we bring spirituality and ethics to them. Scientists like Darwin hold the view that the animals evolve into human beings; but today, we see the reverse process of man descending to the level and playing monkey-tricks all around us in the world.
We should not drink liquor and eat meat. We should restrict our diet to a few items which are tasty, whole some and nutritious both to the body and mind. We should have the food at certain regulated hours. Food should first be offered to God and when we eat it after God's prasad, it becomes a sattvik meal. Even our sleep and our carnal activities become pure if practised in moderation and in self-discipline.
The food that we take is turned into our heart and intellect:
AÚmizt< Çexa -vit,
annamaþitaÕ tredh˜ bhavati
The food that we eat is divided into three categories of substances. It is stated in the Chandogya Upanishad that a subtle portion of our food gets transformed into our mind. The mind's cultivation or perversion depends upon the kind of food we take. Some ask why we should not eat non-vegetarian food which is quite nutritious. Such food may, of course, puff up the body, but the soul and the heart shrink up completely. As the body grows under such food, cruelty, wantonness and licentiousness develop equally rapidly in our mind. Pure food makes for a pure mind. Earning livelihood in a righteous way and eating pure and wholesome food after offering it to God is the mode of the sattvik eating. By this the mind and the body get purified.
The effect of food upon our body is beautifully illustrated in a nice story from Mahabharata. After the Bharata war, Bhishma lay on his bed of arrows and preached long sermons on righteousness to Dharmaraja for consoling him. Hearing this Draupadi asks Bhishma a question: "You give such long sermons on righteousness now. Why did you sit quiet when Duryodhana and Dushyasana attempted an outrage on my modesty? Why didn't you oppose them then? Where was your conscience then?" To this Bhishma replies: "0 Draupadi, then I was eating the food given by Duryodhana. The sinful food fattened the body and gave no room for a sense of righteousness. The voice of conscience was completely drowned by vanity and inertia arising out of eating impure food. But in the war due to the piercing arrows of Arjuna, all my blood has flown out. The blood my body produced out of Duryodhana's food has drained out and I just have my skeleton which is pure. The body thus does not have any of the perversions worked by bad food. Since my native sense of righteousness has awakened now, I have been able to give such an extensive message."
Hence, in our Hindu culture, great importance is given to the type of food to be eaten. Foreigners are surprised at seeing us Indians sticking to vegetarian food for generations together. Our centuries old food habits have become a part of our culture. This is indeed a miracle.
If sacrifice, giving of alms and austerity are performed out of bad intentions, desire for reward, showiness, contemptible egoism, there is sure likelihood of harm to the world. The religious works motivated by rajas and tamas are reckoned unrighteous only. We see increasingly such ugly distortion of righteousness in our modern society.
93. Alms giving:
Alms giving is the greatest gift given by God to mankind. There is a story in the Upanishad: Gods, demons and men were given the lesson of 'da'. While the gods, stricken with haughtiness got the lesson of mada (md) or self-control from this, the violent demons hardened with cruelty took the lesson of day˜ (dya) or compassion; men, smitten with greed took the lesson of d˜na (dan) or alms giving from the advice. We should learn the habit of sacrificing whatever we have for the uplift of our society as a service to God and try to become ideal men. In the sphere of alms giving also there could be the influence of the three qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas. Alms given with a hope of return or with a small mind lose their sanctity; when we give under pressure with much difficulty also, the giving is debased. The vicious aid given by the advanced countries to establish their power and obligation to the developing countries is quite notorious now. One also very well knows the method of extracting money from rich people by the use of position and power. Thus do we see the travesty of charity all around us these days. We see everywhere the unholy spectacle of such charity. Aid given out of pure human compassion, selflessness and without any hope of return or reward is the highest one; it has been a rare commodity these days.
There is a story in the Mahabharata regarding the Emperor Shibi. Once, the sage Narada was discussing a philosophic question with kings like Shibi, Vasumanta, Pratardana and Ashtaka and the problem arose as to who out of the five would be forced to return to the earth half way in their journey to heaven. Narada said that Ashtaka would return first. "Ashtaka has no doubt acquired a lot of merit and fame by alms giving. Once on a walk I saw hundreds of cows grazing and I asked him to whom all those belonged. He replied proudly that those were cows given away by him to the Brahmins. Since his alms giving is tainted with vanity and pride, he would be the first to come down." The next to descend according to Narada was Pratardana. "Once Pratardana was riding on his chariot and a Brahmin begged for alms. The king said that he would give later but the Brahmin insisted on immediate fulfilment. The king gave him one of the horses of the chariot. Thus, part by part, he stripped his chariot and gave away to Brahmins and sadhus so much so that there was nothing left of the chariot. He then said tauntingly of the sadhus that there was nothing left with him for the sadhus to ask. Even if the king gave away everything generously, since he uttered these mocking words regarding the sadhus, he would return to earth." Narada further remarked that the next person to return was Vasumanta: "Once the king got made a beautiful chariot and during its inauguration a Brahmin praised it and the king gave it to him generously. Then he got another chariot made and a Brahmin praised it and the king gave it away to him. This repeated itself the third time also, and the king spoke tauntingly of the Brahmin and because of this he would return." Of the remaining two, Narada said that he himself would return first and Emperor Shibi would not: "Before the pure-hearted giving of Shibi, everyone else is small-minded. The Emperor Shibi gave protection to the dove that sought his refuge and he surrendered his life itself for saving the bird. Before such a king who was utterly free from selfishness and attachment and was the very embodiment of humility and sacrifice, I accept my defeat. It is impossible to detect any spots in his absolute purity." Thus Narada fullthroatedly praised the true spirit of renunciation of King Shibi. There may be many who give alms and aid in this world. But it is very difficult to find a generosity which is not tainted with vanity, mockery, or even deceit and is full of humility and holiness.
Aspirants attach great importance to austerity also. We cannot
reach our highest bliss by mere worship of the body. If we worship the sugarcane
we do not get its juice. Only when we crash it and squeeze it do we get the
juice. Similarly we do not get the nectar of life by an elaborate worship of the
body. Only when we practise austerity both in body and mind can we see knowledge
and happiness sweetly flowing through our lives. We must purify our thought,
word and deed with the practice of austerity. Our words must always be sweet,
gentle and truthful and not causing annoyance to anybody.
iSmt pUvaRi- -a;Ic,
smita p¨rv˜bhi bh˜ÿŸca
Thus are the traits of Sri Ramachandra described in the Ramayana. Sri Rama always used to capture the hearts of his people by his smiles and soft-spoken words. The words must be filled with beauty and courtesy. Harsh and cruel words must not be used. This is the austerity of speech. Study and discussion of scriptures are also described likewise. While good conduct, control of the senses, non-violence, the service of elders are described as the austerities of the body, self-control and purity of heart and mind are austerities of the mind. Even here, if these are tainted in the least by vanity and pride, they lose their purity and sanctity.