It is indeed true that if one undergoes suffering, it is because of the effects of one’s bad karma done in previous births or in the distant past.
But a fact of Karma is that if God’s grace is there, the suffering due to Karma gets reduced.
If someone is doing a good karma, he is going to reap good fruits for it at some time in future.
So, if you are helping someone who is suffering,
You may perhaps be the channel through which God’s grace is acting on the person to reduce his suffering.
By helping the person genuinely, you are acquiring good karma for you.
My Guru Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma) says that if somebody is suffering is because of their bad karma, extending help can be your dharma! A person fallen into a pit shouts for help. If a passerby thinks ‘Why should I help? After all, he is suffering his karma’, it is not a right mindset. Instead, he should think, ‘It is my dharma to extend my helping hand to pull the person out of the pit’. That is the right attitude, says Amma.
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The purpose of a religion is basically to pave a way for leading a meaningful, smooth and joyous life without sacrificing mental peace and without too much pain and suffering.
Hinduism which is sanatana dharma — the way of righteous living contains more than enough guidelines for the above purpose.
Hindhu dharma outlines four Purusharthas — meaningful pursuits for life: Dharma, Artha, Kama & Moksha.
Righteousness and duties in life. Hinduism places highest importance to following righteousness in life. Whatever be your activity in life, if it confirms to right dharma, it brings in peace and harmony in life. The Hindu dharma does not permit an unbridled life of carefree enjoyment; everything has its preset boundaries. ‘Eat, drink and be merry’ is never considered the goal of life. Every individual is bound by his duties and responsibilities towards his family, to the society, to the nation and to the entire nature and universe even encompassing the departed souls of forefathers and devatas (demigods controlling the nature) in the upper worlds. In ancient Hindu civilization, Manu Smriti was the scripture elaborating the dharmas to be followed in life by different classes of people.
Going in pursuit of money, wealth, comforts and possessions is indeed considered as an essential aspect of human life. But it shall not be the only goal of life and whatever one does to acquire Artha should be bound by dharma. Else, one is sure to end up in a chaotic life of suffering.
Seeking pleasure through the 5 senses including sexual pleasure is the very nature of all creatures. Again Hinduism permits enjoyment within boundaries. Any hunt for joy ignoring dharma is highly discouraged because such a pursuit may bring short term joy but end up in pain in the long run.
Of all the acceptable pursuits of life, seeking Moksha (liberation from the Samsara — from the cycle of births and deaths) is considered the highest goal of life. Man, after pursuing a life of seeking artha (wealth) and kama (pleasures) and even leading a life of strict dharma (righteousness) is bound to feel a shallowness in life at some point of time or other. Even within one’s life time, the process of ending up in old age deprives one from enjoying artha and kama to any level of reasonable satisfaction and a sense of dejection of not having enjoyed enough lingers in the mind even at the death bed.
This causes subsequent births and the cycle keeps on continuing, because the the fundamental nature of wealth or sensual enjoyments is such that practically no one ever gets a feeling “enough is enough”. This aspect of creation is known as maya. Maya always deludes people to indulge in more and more enjoyment leading only to more and more suffering or dissatisfaction.
At some point of other in life, at some birth or other, man starts wondering whether his hunt for wealth and enjoyment is fundamentally flawed somewhere. He starts seeking more clear answers for the true meaning of birth. It is at this point, a man grows from the clutches of religious faith to spirituality. From the Karma Kanda in Vedas (that gave all the procedures for seeking worldly enjoyments) a seeker elevates himself to Jnana Kanda — Vedanta /Upanishads and he gets the right answers and clarifications now.
He gets mentally prepared to leave behind Artha and Kama and goes behind Moksha as the only meaningful pursuit in life.
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Yudhishtra was a human being. He was bound by the laws of Dharma. Since he was the son of Dharma devatha, his sense of understanding of, faith in, commitment to and practice of dharma were of the highest order, when compared to contemporary kshatriayas. He was head and shoulders above any of the kings of his period in the matters of dharma. Since he was a human being, he too faltered; got confused; yielded to temptations here and there. And he suffered for it.
On the the other hand, Krishna was a divine incarnation. Unlike Rama of Treta Yuga, who opted to consider him more as a human being —’Rama, the the son of Dasaratha’, Krishna of the Dwapara yuga had no qualms in accepting and demonstrating his Godliness at every opportune time.
By virtue of being God, he had transcended dharma and adharma. It is all his divine play and being divine, it is He who sets the rules or break the rules.
Hence comparisons have no meaning.
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It really appears that God has created men with some undue advantages and privileges over women. Perhaps on account of this advantageous position, the basic mental and physical tendency of a man is polygamous; on the other hand, due to the physical and mental nature of women, they tend to be more monogamous. Thus there lies a natural phenomenon that leads one to subscribe that monogamy in a woman is her “nature” and in a man it develops by “nurturing”.
Motherhood and monogamy in woman
God seems to have created every woman with the intention of making her life wholesome essentially through her motherhood. This mother instinct is deeply etched in every female species, including the animal kingdom. Amidst human beings, even the life of a nymphomaniac undergoes a metamorphosis, both physiologically and emotionally, once she gives birth to a baby. The inexplicable bond of love a woman develops with her baby and the desire to protect and nurture the child calls for an emotional attachment towards the man who was the cause of the arrival of the child.
It is true that in the present day scheme of things where marital discords and divorces have become too common, a woman may bear the children of more than one father one marriage after another (what is now called serial monogamy) , but definitely the society would not easily accept a woman having more than one sexual partner simultaneously.
There is nothing like natural fatherly instinct!
Thus along with motherhood, God appears to have given a woman a far deeper sense of responsibility towards her children and the need to ensure their respectability in the society; that respectability can be ensured by her only by declaring boldly, without any sense of guilt, who their singular father is.
A woman’s psyche, by nature, is haunted by a high degree of guilt and consequent emotional turmoil, if she were to become polygamous by her adventurism, omissions or commissions.
A man can sow seeds everywhere
Contrary to all the above, think of a man’s physical and emotional constitution. Man’s life is NOT built physically and mentally around fatherhood. When a woman produces just one egg in her womb per month that has the potential to become a child, a man produces billions and billions of sperms at every ejaculation which he is capable of releasing every day. A man, like a tree or a plant produces far in excess of seeds than that can create a new life. Why is it so? It leads us to believe that it is purely God’s scheme of things that it be so.
This excess and natural production of seeds tempt a man to sow them at wider and and newer fields and he is not haunted by any emotional sense of guilt as strongly as women are. That’s why there is lot of scope to conclude that God has not created men to be monogamous strictly; He has given him the freedom to play as he likes and face the physical and emotional consequences of practicing such an unbridled freedom (Eg. AIDS) , or to restrain himself by accepting moral and spiritual responsibility towards a single woman.
Enforcing monogamy through womanly love and care
God has also given, in a very poetic way, some strong capabilities to woman to keep her man bonded and hooked to her without going astray. Yes. It is the power of woman’s overpowering love, possessiveness and the physical bondage she weaves around a man. It is this beautiful characteristic of woman that attracts and binds a man to one woman. A woman’s way of showing love to her man, the way she goes about satisfying his needs and nurturing him, the way she displays extraordinary motherly characteristics to their children and the extent of sacrifice a women does to do her divinely role of playing the unselfish motherhood — all these create an awe in a man on his wife.
Loving, nurturing, caring, accepting man’s dominance, accepting a man’s many idiosyncrasies and still tolerating and supporting him — all these things are done by women just as a barter deal to ensure men of predominantly polygamous tendencies to remain monogamous. Thus a woman plays her role naturally to nurture monogamous tendencies in a man.
An essentially polygamous man can be tamed and turned monogamous only through the unique strengths, well founded on femininity, as endowed to a woman by God. When women forget to grasp this simple fact, they end up fighting for equality and entangle themselves into more and more emotional turmoil.
If a man, despite his natural and inborn tendency, opts to live monogamous, he is definitely elevating himself spiritually. By nurturing this quality, he may lose some thrills and fun in life, but he gains love, physical well being, mental peace and tranquility in the bargain. On the contrary, if a woman tends to become polygamous, she is going against her basic monogamous nature and thus tend to acquire lowly animal qualities. As women are more of emotional creatures than men, a fallen woman suffers a lot more emotionally than a fallen man.
Such of those women who want equality with men in all respects — women who want to shun their traditional role and monogamous nature and compete with men in all spheres including the domain of loosened moralities, are woefully ignorant of this elementary fact, and the price they pay for it in their physical and mental plane is really too stiff.
The suffering of a family or a society is much more when a woman goes astray, than when a man goes astray. This is not an area where woman should try for equality with men. If they do, not only do they bring themselves to ruin, but also cause a severe damage to the balance of the society at large.
Monogamy & Polygamy – Potent Lessons from Indian Mythology
Lord Rama, the most adored male Monogamist
In the grand Hindu Epic Ramayana, the King Rama practiced monogamy as a matter of great virtue, despite the fact that it was quite a common norm those days that Kings had multiple wives. Rama’s father Dasaratha had three queens and other 60 concubines in his palace and Lord Rama never took it as an example to follow for his personal life. With such a great virtue, Rama is being adored as the ideal husband, despite the fact that he got himself separated from his dear wife Sita and sent her to forest in order to uphold his adherence to dharma as a ruler.
Draupati, the much condemned woman polygamist
On the contrary, in the other grand Hindu epic Mahabharata, the 5 pandavas, who were considered sticklers to dharma, got infatuated by the overpowering beauty of Draupati; they opted to marry her as a common wife of all the five, despite the fact that it was only Arjuna who won her by his archery skills at the swayamvara of Draupati. There are explanations and justifications given in this mythology for this deviant act, but the fact remains that Draupati accepted this proposition without protest; it was quite a blasphemous act, even considering the fact that the morality of the ruling class was at its lowest ebb during Mahabharata period.
A scene from Mahabharata – Draupati being disrobed by Duschatana in front of her 5 husbands. Only Lord Krishna could come to the rescue of polygamist Draupati.
This act against the social norm practiced by Draupati and Pandavas can be taken as one of the covert causes of the many hardships faced by the Pandavas in their lives. The total lack of empathy towards their cause by the Kauravas and the utter disrespect meted out to them by kauravas becomes very obvious when Pandavas lost everything to Kauravas while playing the dice game. Draupati was singled out and utterly humiliated by Karna as he was openly laughing at Draupati, calling her a whore that married 5 men and she could very well come and sit on his lap too.
It should be noted that though Pandavas won the war, none of their their children given birth by Draupati was alive to rule the kingdom later.
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Ramayana is just not a mythological story—it is one of the two most widely read “Itihas,” and revered by Hindus everywhere. Itihas means “thus happened.” As per Hindu belief, Ramayana is the true story of Rama—the king of Ayodhya who is considered to be the very incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Great sage poet Valmiki, who wrote the magnum opus “Ramayana,” was a caretaker for Sita, Rama’s wife during the turbulent, tail end period of her life.
The historic period (or Yuga) that Rama lived in was known as Treta Yuga. This was during a timewhen people’s righteousness (dharma) and moral standards were of a high order. In subsequent yugas (namely Dwapar Yuga, when the story of Mahabharata took place; and the present day Kali yuga that we live in), dharma and morality seem to be steadily declining. Thus, the story of “Ramayana,” whenever read, tends to give us great insight to the very high moral and ethical standards of yore. During times of mental turmoil, we can often find enlightenment from reading “Ramayana.”
Rama, an Avatar of Vishnu, the Hero of the epic story Ramayana.
Here are some of the lessons one can learn from reading Ramayana:
The relationship between Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha.
Human life is often lost while chasing materialism—known as Artha, and sensory pleasures—known as Kama. The story of “Ramayana” makes it clear that these two pursuits should never be sought at the cost of righteousness—Dharma. The ultimate goal of life is liberation—or Moksha, and this can be attained only by relinquishing Artha and Kama and by strictly following a life of Dharma.
The importance of one man being wedded to only one wife
During the Ramayana period, practice of polygamy (by men) was quite prevalent and it was quite an acceptable social norm for kings to marry many women. Rama’s own father, Dasaratha, was wedded to three wives, and he also had innumerable concubines at his palace. In a stark contrast to his father, Rama remained wedded and staunchly loyal to his only wife, Sita. From this practice, he held his head high as the greatest king ever to rule in Bharat, India. He set a good example for future generations of men as to what was considered the gold standard for a respectable man in society.
Adherence to truth and the need to honor one’s word
When Rama was a young boy, the love and affection his father Dasarata had for him was immense. He would never want to get separated from his loving son. When Sage Viswamitra visited his palace and asked for help to ward off demons who were disturbing his spiritual practices at his forest hermitage, Dasarata promised to offer whatever help he could give. The Sage asked the king to send young Rama with him to fight the demons at the forest and naturally Dasarata was terribly shocked. Still, though, he agreed to part with Rama, to honor his promise to the Sage.
Later on, his third wife Kaikeyi wanted the throne of Ayodhya for her own son Bharata. She also wanted Rama to be exiled to the forest. This was nothing short of a deathly blow to Dasarata, but, still, he never used his authority as king to veto her request. This is because of the promise he had made long ago to Kaikeyi to grant her two boons whenever she chose to ask.
Respecting a father’s word of honor
On the night before Rama’s crowning ceremony, Kaikeyi made use of her boons not only to deny Rama his rightful ascend to the kingdom, but also to send him into exile in the forest. Rama, as a kshatriya (a person belonging to a ruler or warrior class), had every right to question such an injustice. He was also not duty bound to honor his father’s unjust promises, either. However, true to his greatness, Rama, with total mental equipoise and without even a trace of disappointment on his face, conceded to both the demands. For him, “pitru vakya paripalanam” (honoring his father’s words) was one of the highest dharmas.
The futility of listening to vicious counseling
Kaikeyi, who was an essentially good-natured woman, meekly allowed her very loyal maid servant Mandara to brainwash her into demanding these two atrocious boons from Dasarata. Though she was not enthusiastic in the beginning, she gradually allowed Mandara’s venomous words to poison her mind. Did she gain anything finally? No. In fact, she lost her beloved husband Dasarata who died very soon thereafter, on account of the shock and the pain of separation he experienced from having from his beloved son Rama being sent off. Bharata, Kaikeyi’s son, for whom she obtained the very kingdom, reprimanded her for her atrocious act. He never ever took charge of the kingdom as a King.
Now, notice this contrast: Upon hearing about these developments, Lakshmana, Rama’s brother, (who was very short-tempered), like a true Kshatriya, got angry. He could not tolerate the injustice doled out to Rama. He wanted Rama to fight for his rights, he also wanted to proceed and fight with his father and imprison Kaikeyi. However, Rama never heeded to his counsel. He pacified Lakshmana with calming words, pointing out the need for adhering to dharma. The effect of Rama’s counseling not only pacified Lakshmana, but this also gave him a steely resolution to relinquish his own comforts of the palace to accompany Rama to the forest, despite the latter’s objections to it.
Not accepting any booty that came in an unjust way
Bharata, Kaikeyi’s son, also could not tolerate the very idea of bequeathing the throne that rightfully belong to his elder brother Rama, which was wrongly acquired for his sake by his mother. He felt wrath towards his mother on this issue and took her to task for having asked for such a boon. So, he went to the forest in search of his brother and pled for his return to the country to rightfully rule it. Rama refused to concede, of course, so he took Rama’s shoes, carried it on his head, and placed them on Ayodhya’s throne. He took care of administration of the country as a representative of Rama till Rama returned from exile.
The futility of getting swayed by dubious attractions
Sita, who was in the forest, grew madly attracted to a beautiful golden deer. She wanted her husband Rama to catch the deer. She refused to listen to Lakshmana’s warning that such a deer was not natural, and that it could be a demon in disguise. Because of her incessant pestering to acquire the deer to be her playmate, Rama had to go behind it. Unfortunately, this led to her getting separated from him, and she then got forcibly abducted by Ravana, the demon.
The importance of being watchful about one’s utterances
Afterwards, Rama killed the demon. Then, Maricha, the demon who was disguised as the golden deer, called out “Ha Lakshmana! Ha Sita!” mimicking Rama’s voice, and died. Sita, upon hearing it, urged Lakshmana, who was standing guard next to her, to go and help Rama (who was actually not in any trouble). Lakshmana tried his best to counsel her, but he could not convince her that Rama was fine. In a fit of rage, Sita accused Lakshmana of wanting to have an illicit relationship with her in Rama’s absence. Lakshmana, who was then shell-shocked from hearing such an abominable accusation, left immediately, leaving her alone. Ravana then utilized this opportunity to abduct her.
Some interpreters of Ramayana say that Sita was forced to prove her chastity by the test of fire by Rama (after she was freed from the clutches of Ravana) only because of her intemperate and terrible accusation against the saintly and devout Lakshmana.
The importance of fighting against atrocity done to woman
Jatayu, the old and once powerful bird, noticed Ravana abducting Sita forcefully and flying with her in his vehicle towards his country Lanka. Jatayu fought valiantly with Ravana in an effort to release Sita. Unfortunately, he could not succeed in this effort. The bird sacrificed its very own life on such a noble effort. Before taking his last breath, though, Jatayu managed to convey the news to Rama, who was moved to tears by the old bird’s gallantry. Rama performed its last rites and funeral, as though he was the bird’s son.
Divine love transcends all barriers of caste and creed
Lowly fisherman Guha was was full of devotion to Rama. He helped Rama, Lakshmana, and Sita cross the Ganges river in a boat. Impressed by his devotion and service, Rama accepted him as if his brother. Sabari, an old hunter woman of low caste, became a staunch devotee of Rama, just by hearing about Rama’s greatness.
When Rama was wandering the forests in search of Sita, he happened to visit Sabari’s hut. The old lady, overwhelmed with love for Rama, reportedly offered him fruits after nibbling each a bit to make sure that she did not offer sour fruits to her beloved Rama. Rama treated Sabari as though she was his own mother and showered his grace on her.
The importance of humility as a great virtue
Hanuman, estranged Vanar King Sugriva’s minister, was one of the greatest characters of Ramayana. Hanuman was physically very powerful, a great diplomat, very articulate, and very wise. Despite all his great traits, his humility was still unsurpassed. The moment he met Rama, he was bowled over by Rama’s divinity and charm and he committed himself to be Rama’s lifelong servant. The great feats he subsequently performed in serving Rama were unparalleled. The humility he displayed despite his greatness was unfathomable.
The greatness of true friendship
Rama befriended the estranged Vanar King Sugriva with a mutual promise of help. Sugriva’s brother Vali had forcefully taken Sugriva’s wife. Not only that, but he also denied him his share of the Vanar kingdom. Sugriva and Rama teamed up in an effort to eliminate the immensely powerful Vali. Sugriva, in turn, helped Rama in seeking and locating Sita. He also helped Rama to wage war against Ravana in order to retrieve Sita. Both did a commendable job in honoring their words.
Showing mercy, even to the enemy.
Ravana’s younger brother Vibhishan was an extremely righteous person. In fact, he was bold enough to warn and advise Ravana against abducting another person’s wife just to satisfy his own carnal desires. When the furious Ravana showed his brother to the door, Vibhishana went to Rama and surrendered to him. Despite reservations from Sugriva and others, Rama accepted Vibhishana into his fold.
During the first fiery combat between Rama and Ravana, Rama destroyed all of Ravana’s weapons and armor. So, Ravana stood on the war field unprotected. Rama, who could have easily killed Ravana at that moment, in one of the greatest acts of graciousness, then asked Ravana to retire for the day and return to the war field the next day, fully rearmed, as it was against dharma to kill an un-armed person.
The need for the highest standards in a King
After annihilating Ravana and freeing Sita from confinement, Rama performed one of the most controversial and oft-criticized demands in asking Sita to jump into the fire to prove her chastity. Sita did it, and she came out unscathed. Rama took her into his loving fold once again.
Later, when he became King of Ayodhya, he came to know that a washerman who spoke ill words about Rama for having accepted his wife Sita who had stayed in the confinement of his enemy for months. Rama, whose love for Sita was unfathomable, then made the most painful decision in relinquishing her—simply because he had to maintain a very high order of personal probity as the ruler of Ayodhya.
One can go on discussing many more lessons of morality and dharma that can be found from an in-depth reading of Ramayana. It is no wonder that Ramayana is a wonderful story for both children and elders alike. It’s both a wondrous piece of literature and a great source of guidance on righteous living that has stood up to the test of time. It continues to inspire millions of people, breaking through both religion and linguistic barriers across the world.
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