What is dharma? And how can it be different for different people?

Photograph by Arti Agarwal
Photograph by Arti Agarwal

I encounter this question often. “What is dharma?”

The immediately next question people ask, is, “How can dharma change from one person to another? And from one situation to another?”

Dharma is taking a decision or an action, in alignment with the laws  of the cosmos. In simple words, dharma is taking any action or decision from a space of completion & with an intention of enriching someone.

When we say “Brahmanyam Bahuputratam”, we mean, “I am the favourite inheritor of the cosmos”. It means, “I am the source of everything.” This applies to each and every human being, whether they have realized it yet or not.

Hence, to simplify it even further, the dharma of every human being is to take responsibility for any and every situation that is bothering them or that needs reform. Any decision that comes from that sense of responsibility will be in alignment with dharma.

Why is dharma different for different people?

In the same situation, the dharma in spirit will be the same for each person – to take responsibility for the situation. But, the methods chosen to shoulder that responsibility can be different according to each person. Different people may be using different methods to achieve the same thing.

For example, the dharma of a kshatriya (warrior) and a brahmana (sage) is the same. To take responsibility for the humanity. But their methods will be different. That is called svadharma. A kshtriya will carry out his svadharma by protecting the land and its people. A brahmana will carry out his svadharma by studying scriptures, giving the right counsel to the rulers, teaching young minds, performing rites and rituals for the betterment of the land & its people. The actions and methods of both are different, the spirit is the same.


Don’t Give a Greencard to your Problems


When people feel tired, bored, fed up, it is not because of the work or the people. It is because of the activity in their own minds.

There is big chasm between what they show to people outside and how they feel inside. That is the reason why everyone looks “great” on the outside, but everyone has “problems”:

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players.”

Players, because we are always playing a part, showing something outside, not addressing our own thoughts and feelings inside.

Any vacation to escape from this may feel good for a few days, but it is not a solution. The solution is to look in. Escaping from a problem is like giving the problem a license to live inside you permanently. It is like a Greencard for your problems 

When we address the unresolved conflicts, thoughts, disturbance inside by completion, everyday becomes a giant vacation

Why do we need a Guru?


“Why do we need a Guru?” 

That is almost the same as asking “Why do we need teachers/education?” Because no one has ever paid attention to teaching us about life and our own mind, we need a Guru. Just like we need someone to teach us History, Geography, Science, Maths etc, we need someone to teach us about LIFE – emotions, reactions, anger, jealousy, ego, dissatisfaction, mind, conflicts and how to deal with all these.

Yes, it is true, that we have all the answers within our own selves. I have no doubts about it. But, it is like having a bank account or Debit card, whose password/PIN you don’t know! What will you do with such a bank account? It may be having diamonds, but you don’t know how to access it! The Guru is the key, the password, the PIN to all the answers locked inside you.

That is why you need a Guru. He shows you the best of you, and makes you live it.

Satori at Pashupatinath

Image (c) Arti Agarwal
Image (c) Arti Agarwal

“So what’s the story behind the temple ?”, I ask my friend, munching a typical Nepali breakfast of poori, jalebi and tarkari outside the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu. My friend is a Nepali who left his country in the year 1999 before the political drama had begun to unfold in Nepal. Twelve years later, his spiritual wanderings see him outside this temple today eating breakfast with a fellow spiritual seeker like me. All around shopkeepers and vendors try to sell me rudrakshaskum kumdiyas, flowers, beads, incense, idols, pooja fans and an assortment of pretty items which I admire and politely decline to buy – just yet.

“Many stories are afloat”, he answers, sipping his tea. “One of the more popular ones is that the Pandavas after the battle of Mahabharata wanted to redeem themselves of their sin of killing their kith and kin and prayed to Lord Shiva to forgive them. Lord Shiva assumed a bull form to elude them. After a lot of tapas and search, the Pandavas saw the bull and immediately knew that this is Lord Shiva. On seeing them, Lord Shiva, in the bull form, started to dig into the ground to avoid them. The Pandavas run after him and could only catch his head as the rest of his body was already under the ground. Seeing their earnestness, Lord Shiva forgave them. Since then, He is worshipped as the Lord of Animals or Pashupatinath in this temple”.

“Interesting”. True ? Who knows ? Considering the number of times the face of the world has been swept by the forces of nature – and man – in the last twenty centuries and more, can there even be any tangible proof of any tale dating that far back ? For that matter, is there any proof of anything worth knowing in life ? Maybe our biggest achievements of today will be met with a similar scrutiny and skepticism by whatever exists in the world twenty more centuries from now, one never knows.

“Do you want a pooja basket ?”, asks my friend bringing me back from my train of thoughts as I look around the place wondering how, when and by who – or who all – this temple was put in its present form. I ponder over the fact that this temple is the biggest place of worship of Lord Shiva in Nepal, and has been under the direct patronage of the kings of Nepal since time immemorial, getting contributions from many rulers to expand the temple complex. My sense of time and place gets momentarily boggled and my sense of history feels flustered.

I realize my friend is looking at me and smiling and waiting for an answer. “Yes ofcourse, we’ll take a pooja basket. And a rudraksha mala, a big one, to go with the rest”, for I was already wearing two. A mala is another term for a string of beads worn around the neck. Rudrakshas are beads that hold the cosmic energy in them – which means, the more you meditate and the deeper your connection with your inner self, the more energy therudrakshas will hold and the darker their color will be.

Since my childhood my connection with deities and temples had been nothing greater than my connection with road signs, which is to say, not at all. They were something people used to follow and take seriously but I never understood why, because they never lead me to anywhere. I had questions in my mind which I wanted answers to, but a temple did not seem like a place where I would find answers on existence.

Today I was in one of the holiest temples of Lord Shiva, the God of enlightenment.  As I enter the temple compound I am instantly taken in by the grand pagoda structure, the crowds, the incense, the loud Nepali music, the camphor, the electrifying energy in the atmosphere and the monkeys hopping from one place to the other like its their playground. Here, I, with my malas, do not stand out at all. Here, I fit in comfortably. There is an erstwhile unseen energy in the air which begins to penetrate my very being, raising me beyond the physical, immersing me into the present, the immediate, the inner world in sync with the outer world. I see people and their faces, their expressions. My friend tells me I should stand in the queue for the pooja and darshan. He is talking to the priest trying to find the best way to get the darshan. He has been here several times, but he is trying to ensure I don’t miss anything important. I tell him to relax. Some people hustle and bustle in the queue, like they always do. I can see them struggling to get near God. They dont want to miss God. But how can you ever miss God?

It’s my turn. I step forward and give the pooja basket to the bhatt who takes it, without pausing his mantra chanting. My eyes are now arrested on the golden eyes standing out from the stark black shiva linga which are staring right at me. In that moment, I am transfixed on the eyes – they seem to be talking to me, without saying anything. The bhatt brings back therudrakshas and the sandalwood paste and I walk out, blissful. My friend and I walk around the temple having darshan of the remaining deities and soaking in the temple vibes. I am very aware … in my mind, there are no thoughts, only the present moment and its experience. While in the queue, the question had occurred to me, why am I here? And the answer came, this time. I am here, not because I want to be here, but because Pashupatinath wants me here.  Because the cosmos wants me here. I did not fret aboutdarshan or pooja, I knew I was here not because I wanted something but because the cosmos wanted to give me something, all I had to do was receive. And I did. I let myself be a path for His energy to flow through me. And I could feel it now, vibrating in my being like the membrane of a drum. I know now, that some answers come, but not in words – but as an experience.


This post is for all the followers and believers of Swami Paramahamsa Nithyananda. @Literates – Non believers need not comment, they will be deleted. Illiterates need not read the article.

I have been having weird dreams all night…and I think I am pretty disturbed too now…
But I was thinking abt everything…and the thing is, I love Swamiji so much not because of him as a person, but because of his teachings and everything he says. Because everything he says I agree with and believe in and it helps me.
What has saved me till now is those beliefs. Yes, those beliefs have made me very fond of Swamiji also, no doubt, but that is how it started. After all, he was just another human being to me the first time I met him. And that remains unchanged. Everything he has ever said to me till now has worked for me.
And that won’t change. It never will.
And Swamiji never tells us to do one thing or another. He just tells us to experience causeless love.
Maybe what I am saying might sound weird, but first of all I don’t and won’t believe in all this “scandal” thing.

Secondly, why does sex automatically have to translate to scandal ? If he forced the woman to have sex, yes it would be a scandal. If he has been abusing women and not been behaving decently with them, yes it is a scandal. If he had misbehaved with any of the woman who come to seek guidance from him, yes it would be a scandal. If he had been traffiking women, yes it would be a scandal.
But since when did sex become a scandal in itself ?
But why is being with a woman and sleeping with a woman automatically a scandal ?
Don’t pujaris and other gurus in all our temples have wives ? Why is it okey for them to have wives ?
Dint Jesus have a wife ? Magdalene. Why is it suddenly wrong for a man, who is enlightened, to be with a woman ? Don’t we all want that some day ? And if we say we don’t, aren’t we being nothing but just big fat hypocrites ?
Where did the concept of marriage and union come from ? Dint it originate in the idea of multiplying our happiness ? And I am extremely sorry to say this, but isn’t sex one of the ways to reach a meditative state too ? What made our mahrajas sculpt stories on it in the Khajuraho Temples ? Why the hell is sex suddenly unholy ? Why is it okey to sell Kamasutra in every other book store in India perfectly alright, but to talk of sex not alright ?

Its just that the media with their brainless ideas or utter lack of ideas portray everything in such a bad light that it rocks our worlds. Because that is what they want. To rock our worlds.

I hope this will help you too.
No one asked us to assume that Swamiji is not human and that he cannot do things we humans do. It is our fault if we assume that. He is a human sent in this mortal world to live with mortals. And we should not judge him for his mortal deeds since he doesn’t judge us for ours. That’s just how I see it.

May God bless Swamiji and help him. And may God bless all of us who are feeling like they have just gone through an earthquake and need to find our grounds.

After all, I don’t know how much time it will take to sort out this incredible mess, but I know, that the one thing that still saves me is everything that I have learnt from Swamiji. And I will still be thankful to him for that for the rest of my life. And for my blissful existence. May you all be happy and are able to find your happiness every day.

Nithyanandam !