All acts should be done in accordance with Dharma (September 2022)
As soon as we receive a stimulus from our surroundings or memory, thoughts, inspirations and desires arise in our mind. When it happens, often we act after a very quick contemplation. That is, we decide to either fulfill the desire or move on. And this cycle continues throughout our waking hours. While it may not appear that critical, that momentary contemplation, which takes place between the birth of a desire and the decision to take action or no action, decides what we make of our life. The difference between a fruitful, worthy & fulfilling life and a failed, frustrated & remorseful life often lies in one’s ability to take the right decision as soon as an inspiration arises in our mind. In this month’s article, as we go over the fifth principle of Arya Samaj, we will focus on ways to improve our decision making faculty. We will cover a framework that helps us make right decisions consistently.
The fifth principle of the Arya Samaj:
सब काम धर्मानुसार, अर्थात् सत्य और असत्य को विचार करके करने चाहिएँ।
All acts should be done in accordance with Dharma, i.e. after deliberating upon what is truth and untruth.
This principle says that all acts should be performed in accordance with Dharma. What is Dharma? Here, Dharma does not mean religion or quality. Instead, here Dharma means righteous behavior. That is, a behavior that passes the deliberation of truth and untruth.
So, now the question may arise about how one should ponder over one’s behavior against the backdrop of truth and untruth and if there is an easy framework that one can follow. Let’s quickly revise what truth and untruth imply here. First, being truthful in this context does not mean being factual. While covering the third principle (https://hawan.net/?p=967), we went over the details of what truthfulness and falsehood mean. We also talked about being truthful means we are aligned in our thoughts, words, and actions; and when even one of them is not aligned with others, the action belongs to a false behavior. When there is an alignment among our three faculties, we behave in a manner that is nothing but moral, virtuous, and fair.
Despite the above knowledge, because of the lack of knowledge or convenience, we often consider ourselves to be moral and virtuous. First, we do not spend time to find if our thoughts are aligned with our words or our words are aligned with our actions. And, then, even when we are at fault, we quickly tell/convince ourselves that what we did was the most appropriate or righteous thing to do. Of course, later, when someone exposes us or someone does the same to us, we feel the pain. The falsehood leads to not only moral degradation but also suffering.
The only way to avoid such negative consequences is to adopt righteousness and leave false behavior. We can do so by establishing the righteousness of our behavior before engaging in any action. Here is a simple framework for it. Whenever we are about to perform an action, we should quickly go over the following three step formula…
- Is my action going to be beneficial to me – in the present and future state? That is, will my actions help me in the current situation? And will I not regret this action in future? If the answer is yes, proceed to the next point; otherwise, stop here because this action is not appropriate.
- Will I be ok (i.e., feel no embarrassment) if my parents, my family members, my friends and society come to know about my actions? If the answer is yes, proceed to the next point; otherwise, stop here because this action is not appropriate.
- Final step: Will I be fine if others behave in the same manner to me? In other words, will I be fine if others do the same to me that I am about to do to them? If the answer is yes, there is a high likelihood that your behavior is righteous. Otherwise, action is not appropriate.
Here is a hypothetical yet relatable scenario to illustrate the above framework: for the last one year, you have been preparing for a test. Only one student from each school can go to the next round. In your class, there is another student, with whom you have unspoken enmity. She is also preparing for the same test. While being smart and intelligent, she has never been fair to you. She takes every opportunity to show you down. On the day of the test, you notice that she accidently dropped her identity card on the bus. A number of thoughts start to appear in your mind: without that card, she will not be allowed to enter the exam hall; if that happens, you will have no problem in clearing the qualifying round; anyway, she always shows you down and it is the best way to take revenge. Now, you have only a few seconds to take action. Within a few seconds, the bus will be gone – along with her card.
So, what will you do in this predicament (tough situation)? While I hope none of our Hawan group kids will have any problem in picking the right action here, let’s take this situation through the three-step framework stated above. Please do this exercise on your own. I am sure you will be able to come out with the absolutely right action – and that too with complete conviction. What you decide will be the righteous behavior without any doubt.
Good, but isn’t it too involved? Just like learning any new skill, it may also seem difficult, at least initially; however, when you practice it repeatedly and consistently, it will become easy and natural. You remember how difficult it was to learn bicycle riding: you had to worry about pedals, handle, brakes, turns, road condition, traffic etc. But, once you practiced it, riding a bicycle became as natural as walking. Similarly, when you practice the above framework and take the majority of actions following this framework, you will start to take right actions without even conscious thinking about it. Then, the framework will have become an integral part of your personality and character. Your every thought will go through it. We hope and pray that you reach that stage soon.
As a part of this month’s assignment, you are expected to
- Read the fifth principle in Hindi and English.
- Explain the meaning of this principle in simple words while describing the meaning of Dharma
- Outline the benefits of acting and living per Dharma
- Describe the framework to act righteously (i.e., the three-step contemplation formula)
- Share at least one difficult situation (hopefully a real-life one) where using this framework will help you make the most appropriate and right decision.
As always I am looking forward to hearing insightful descriptions and interpretations by our kids, our future.