Sai Ram and greetings from Prashanti Nilayam.
Dinakaran is a Judge of the Madras High Court. A scholar well versed
in law, he recently wrote an article in a leading national daily
entitled, Law and Justice. The article was supposedly
secular but since it touched, unknowingly perhaps, a few basic aspects
of Swami’s teachings, we thought it might be useful to bring it to
Justice Dinakaran’s point is essentially the following. There is a
thing called Law, consisting of rules laid down by Society, by due
process of course, such as enactment by duly constituted legislative
bodies. People are expected to follow the Law and when there is a
breach, the Law is “administered” through the instrumentality of the
Court. However, the Law is not supposed to be applied mechanically,
but with human considerations, as Shakespeare points out powerfully in
In this context, Justice Dinakaran makes the following important
Most of the legal rights and wrongs are relative to time and place. “A
nuisance,” said Justice Sutherland, “may merely be a right thing in a
wrong place like a pig in the parlour instead of in the barnyard.”
Justice means nothing else than conformity of the law
of nature. Human law is subject to it, and if in any point it is
directly contrary to the Law of Nature, it would no longer be law but
a corruption of law.
The excellence of Justice consists precisely in the
fact that it is compounded of the truth, the good, and the beautiful.
Truth is the foundation of justice. Goodness is the end and beauty
constitutes its essential quality.
Human law is a rivulet that flows from natural law,
which, in turn flows from the Eternal Law.
Modern man has turned liberty into self-will and
licence, which he has tried to justify with his marvellous powers of
reasoning. In truth, the mind of modern man is severely blinded by the
cobwebs of false reasoning and trivialised knowledge.
Times change, customs alter. But the history of mankind
continues to testify to some constant and unchanging ideals, one of
which is the concept of justice predicated upon humanitarian
Well, that in brief is the essence of what Justice Dinakaran wrote.
What attracted our attention to his article were his references to 1)
Eternal law, 2) the origin of “human law” in Eternal Law, and 3)
Truth, Goodness and Beauty. All these have strong echoes in the
teachings of Swami, and that is what we would now like to discuss.
Swami says that the human being is an Embodiment of the Divine Atma
– in fact in earlier years He would always begin His Discourses with
the word Divyatmaswaroopalara, which means exactly that. If we
all are the Embodiments of the Atma, then it stands to reason
that the actions expected of us ought to be in conformity with the
nature of the Atma. Stated differently it means that our
actions must be Selfless, Truthful, Righteous, Helpful and
Compassionate, full of Love etc. We might loudly protest that all this
is fanciful and not possible in this day and age. That is a different
matter. The fact is that just as one expects a King or the Prime
Minister to behave responsibly and with dignity, and not as a joker,
serious pursuit of the Spiritual Path places on us the responsibility
of ensuring that our actions are as close to the nature of the Atma
Now one might ask: “That’s OK, but what has all that got to do with
Justice Dinakaran’s article?” We are coming to that, but first, we
would like to introduce two key words closely related to the concepts
discussed by Justice Dinakaran. They are: Atma Dharma and
Atma Dharma is the Primary Principle that must govern the
actions of one and all, from the King to the pauper, at all times, and
in all circumstances. Para Dharma, on the other hand, is a
derivative of Atma Dharma, and essentially spells out what
specifically must be done by whom and when. Thus, while the Primary
Principle that governs all actions applies to everyone without
exception, the Derivative Principle is not only
individual-specific but also time- and situation-specific. All this
may sound very mysterious and so let us recall some of the examples
Swami Himself has mentioned.
We will start with Atma Dharma, which is the Primary Principle.
This just says that every individual, without any exception,
must always act to be in harmony with the intrinsic nature of the
Atma. Thus, considerations based on selfishness, hatred, anger,
jealousy, etc. are summarily excluded – no justification available
whatsoever. We hope that is reasonably clear.
What about ParaDharma? It simply means Rules of Conduct that
are individual-specific; and these rules must not contradict the basic
principle or AtmaDharma. Let us illustrate by taking the case
of a Teacher. To begin with, the Teacher must start from the Primary
Principle and thus make sure that when he performs his duties as a
Teacher, his actions are not tainted by selfishness, greed, etc.
Remember, no one is allowed to be selfish, greedy, etc., and that
includes the Teacher. For example, if the son of the Teacher is
studying in his class, he must not show that son of his any special
favour. Likewise, he must not make private deals with backward
students, offering them private tuition for fees, and so on.
Turning to the ParaDharma aspect or the Derivative Principle,
here the do’s and don’ts are specific to his role in Society as a
Teacher. Thus, he must be punctual, he must come fully prepared for
his class, he must be neatly dressed and set a good example of
behaviour to his students, he must go out of the way to help students
develop their character and so on. In short, he must feel all the time
that he is serving Society and through Society, he is serving God.
It all boils down to this: For all humans without exception, there is
oneUniversal Guiding Principle governing every action in all
situations and at all times; and that is what Swami refers to as
AtmaDharma. AtmaDharma is also what Krishna explained to
Arjuna in the BhagavadGita.
Para Dharma is the manual, which decodes this Universal Guiding
Principle and explains how individuals apply that to specific
situations. By way of highlighting how Para Dharma is very
practical and situation-specific, Swami says that a man who is the
Chief Justice must appear in the Court in formal Legal Robes but when
he is at home, he can wear casual clothes. Similarly, when a person is
say fifteen, his Para Dharma is that of a student. At thirty
when he is married and has a family, his ParaDharma is that of
a householder. At sixty, his ParaDharma is that of a
grandfather and so on. Same person, but with change of situation, the
rules of conduct change. Though the ParaDharma might change, at
all times and in all circumstances, the person must be truthful and
follow the righteous path – that is how the core principle always
In passing, it is interesting to note the following: In the Rama
Avatar, Swami demonstrated to the world through every one of His
actions, how ParaDharma must always be in sync with
AtmaDharma. Later, as Krishna , Swami explained to the world what
precisely is meant by AtmaDharma. Finally, in the current
Avatar as Sri Sathya Sai, Swami is not only giving us a continuous
demo of Para Dharma in action but also explaining to us on
every possible occasion, what Atma Dharma is all about.
Now how does all this connect up with Justice Dinakaran’s remarks? In
the following way: The learned scholar is of course concerned mostly
about Law and its administration through Courts, but when he says
man-made laws must be subservient to the Eternal Law, what he is
saying is that rules for Society must be in conformity with a basic
and fundamental as well as universal and Eternal Moral
Principle. Many of today’s problems arise because law makers have
distanced themselves from Morality. Thus, as a French savant once
wrote, what is forbidden by Morality is now permitted by Law. This is
reflected by the observation of many a Judge of the Indian Court that
though they know the defendant is guilty, the loopholes of the legal
system do not permit them to convict the person.
Gandhi declared most emphatically that there is a Moral Law
governing the Universe. Time there was when people intuitively
accepted this. Thus, thousands of years ago when Emperor Manu codified
for Indian Society the rules of conduct for people in various walks of
life, the so-called Manu Dharma, he was essentially giving
manuals of ParaDharma that were in full conformity with
AtmaDharma. Similarly, when Bhishma on his deathbed instructed
Yudhishtra on the rules of proper governance, he was merely laying out
the ParaDharma of a ruler, in accordance with the general
principles of AtmaDharma.
In summary, while Justice Dinakaran has called attention to the
fallacies of the modern legal system on account of their failure to
respect the Eternal Law, we go one step further to point out what
Swami tells us, namely that these days, most of the actions of humans
are flawed because they are not in tune with the basic inner nature of
a human being, that is the latent Divinity. As long as this true
nature is forgotten, everything that humans do, in all spheres of
activity, from governance to science, from business to arts, will be
driven by selfishness and hence likely to be dangerous to the
individual, to Society and indeed to planet earth. Thus it is that
Krishna told Arjuna to always align his actions to AtmaDharma;
Swami also gives us that very same advice.
AtmaDharma is not any hairy fairy concept; it is very practical
and very much needed in daily life. There is no need to discover it
the hard way when it has been explained to us so many times in such
pitiless detail. Do you agree? What do you think? Why don’t you write
and tell us?
Thank you, and we look forward to being with you again next Sunday.
Love and Regards,