Dharma = Value system of the Maya-space
I was visiting India recently and I met a scholar friend Bharat Bhushan Pandey in Ara (my hometown). He mentioned to me that in Purva Mimansha there is this mention of “Athato Dharma jigyasa (Now the desire to know Dharma).” Much, much later came the sutra of Vadnarayna which says, “Athato Brahma Jigyasa (Now the desire to know Brahmma).”
Before we get further in Gita, we need to develop some understanding about the concept of Dharma. Dharma is a word with multiple meanings and it depends upon which context it is used in. However, we will explore here what Dharma means in most contexts.
In the last column we explored the concept of Maya and how it really is a network of ego systems. For further understanding we will examine three words, cyberspace, mayaspace and brahmaspace. Cyberspace actually belongs to the mayaspace but I am bringing it here to develop the understanding of the other spaces. Cyberspace is a new happening to our society. Suddenly everyone is on the Internet using email for communication and e-commerce for trading. With all this activity there comes the problems, the problems of viruses, the problems of cyber pornography and the problems of security. A value system of what is right and wrong and how to deal with it has to be developed.
Similarly, there are the problems of mayaspace. It is not only the network of ego system of one individual human being; it is a network of ego system of multiple beings, societies, nations and the whole lot. This mayaspace does not only deal with what we see, but also what we do not see. It includes the journey from life to life. Anything that has an element of I-ness is included. This mayaspace includes the physical beings and also expands to the incorporeal beings, be it gods, or be it pretas. A value system for sustenance of this mayaspace has to be developed, was developed and is called Dharma. This has to be deeply understood. When the Vedas talk about how to develop together as given below, they are still talking about the mayaspace.
Common be our prayer, common be our purpose, and common be our desires. We offer each other our gifts. Common be our intentions, common be our wishes, and common be our thoughts. May there be unity among us. Come let us grow together.”
Rig Veda, 10.12.40
This word maya (which is translated in English as illusion) has created a lot of problems in understanding of the whole eastern concepts. Many people use this word to create some sort of indifference in their life. If the whole world is illusion then why bother living life fully. This world is not real. The real is atma and so let us talk about atma and Parmatma and forget about our unreal life. This gives the notion that Indian thinking is negative. This of course is far from truth. Let us explore it a little further. You are walking in a desert. The temperature is 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Life is tough. You are sweating, have limited supply of water and you have miles to go. Tired and exhausted you see a tree. You run there with whatever limited energy you have and lie down under the shadow of the tree. The shadow is cool, there is this mild lovely breeze and you fall asleep. You then get up refreshed and are ready to proceed further. The shadow of the tree is not real. The tree is real but the shadow is not. If there is no tree there is no shadow. In the views of mayaspace even the tree is not real. But, one thing is sure and that is you got relief in the shadow. We can also see it slightly differently and that is shadow is real and the tree is more real than the shadow. The shadow has a value and so does Maya.
Yes mayaspace is a valuable space. No one will ever know the existence of the Brahmaspace unless he or she has been through the mayaspace. This is crucial to understand for everyone who trivializes the mayaspace. The physical body is necessary to grow to the Brahma-space. The journey cannot be accomplished with the incorporeal being, even the devas have to take the form of a physical body to accomplish their journey to the Brahma-space. The means of the mayaspace are Dharma (the value system), artha (economic system) kama (the desire system) and moksha (growth system). The dynamic part underlying all this four means is the Karma yoga. We will explore all these as we progress further in Gita.
Bhagavadgita starts with these words:
The place where the Dharma yudha (the war with the value system) is going to take place in the area where Dharma is to be upheld and it will be achieved by Karma in an area where the soldiers have to do what they know best, fight. Yudhisthir is known as Dharmaraj, he knew all the details of the value system of those times and hence he was termed Dharmaraj; he not only knew the details but also followed it to the fullest. Sometimes, value systems (dharma here) can become bondage as well. Yudhisthir had such a trouble when he had to announce to Dronacharya that an Elephant named Aswathama (also name of Guru Drona’s son) has been killed. Krishna did not have so much trouble here because he saw further than what Yudhisthir could see. He saw the need of Dronacharya being out of the way which is going to help re-establish the Dharma. Krishna in Gita later on says himself:
Yada yada hi dharmasya glanirbhavati bharata………….
I will come back whenever there is the downfall of dharma for the sake of re-establishing the Dharma…………….
It is important for us to understand this Mayaspace and its value system Dharma before we go further. Krishna is going to talk from different levels. One moment he talks about the Brahmaspace and the next moment he comes back to the mayaspace. When he says that no weapon can penetrate the atma he is talking from outside of the mayaspace, but when he says to Arjuna to arise and fight like a Kshatriya (soldier), he is talking about the mayspace. Krishna is going to shuttle back and forth from one space to the other. He has no choice. He knows both sides and he is going to talk about what he knows. We are so lucky that we heave this Gita with us. Let us use it as a bridge to understand the two important spaces. Mayaspace is important; it is the only means to get to the Brahmaspace. Whether you talk about vishad yoga, gyan yoga or karma yoga, you are still in the mayaspace. Any language belongs to the maya loka; silence is the language of the Brama loka; Aum is the soundless sound that pervades the Brahma loka.