Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Dharma – A Limiting Principle

“An attitude to life which seeks fulfilment in the single minded pursuit of wealth – in short materialism – does not fit into this world, because it contains within itself no limiting principle, while the environment in which it is placed is strictly limited” ………… E.F. Schumacher (1911- 1977)

What an appropriate observation from the noted Economist and Author of “Small is Beautiful”.

Man goes about the business of living in constant fulfilment of his needs. In the hierarchy of needs, as defined by Abraham Maslow, the base four levels are highly open ended. It is only through voluntary exercise and self regulation can one decide to advance to the next level. At an individual level sky is the limit for what one needs at the base four levels. When one is driven from a purely selfish motive, with no thought on the consequences of one’s action on the environment and society, it is similar to the bull in the China shop. You are so highly focused on what you want to get that you never give any thought to what happens around you.
This is the reason in ‘Sanatana Dharma’ man was always considered as an integral part of the whole. In Vedic tatpurusha (human purpose) Maslow model can be mapped to a broader correspondence as Kama, Artha, Dharma and Moksha.

Swami Dayanand Saraswati explains the concept as follows:

“Dharma occupies the first place in the four categories of human goals, because the pursuit of security, artha, and pleasures, Kama, need to be governed by ethical standards. Artha, striving for security, comes second, because it is the foremost desire of everyone. Everyone is obedient under the doctor's scalpel precisely because everyone wants to live. Granted life, one then wants to be happy, to pursue pleasures, Kama. I want to live and live happily; and both pursuits, the struggle for security and the search for pleasure, must be governed by ethics. The last category is the goal of liberation, Moksa, ranked last because it becomes a direct pursuit only when one has realized the limitations inherent in the first three pursuits.”

In any open ended process system, control tends to become unstable. All chemical processes, without closed loop control, tend to become, what engineers and scientists term as, ‘runaway reactions’. A typical example is the nuclear reaction. If the control rods are not in place in the reactor or if they go into melt down due to high temperature because of improper cooling, then we have a reactor meltdown due to runaway nuclear reaction like what happened in Chernobyl.

Man’s material and physiological needs require control rods with proper cooling and proper limit definition. Control rods can be equated to proper knowledge of our actions and their consequences. An integrated and ethical approach to material acquisition is of paramount importance. Dharma is the control rod settings in the volatile process of human life. The reactor cooling is the temperance exercised through a controlled mind honed through meditation and prayer. These two, Holistic knowledge and meditation form the tools of Dharma or the limiting principles in our life.

Love to you all

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