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Decoding Adharma: Unrighteous deeds committed through body

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Gleanings from Hindu scriptures: Part 14

Karma, or actions, are central to human life. There does not pass a moment when people are not involved in one or the other action. Karma does not merely refer to bodily movements, but also to our speech and thoughts. After all, even speech and thoughts involve movements and vibrations with respect to sound and mind.

Thus, Karma sustains life. But, not all actions enrich life. Some lead to upliftment and happiness while others lead to pain and sorrow. Hindu scriptures call these uplifting actions asDharma because they uphold life, impart happiness, and establish harmony. The depreciating actions that lead to pain, suffering, and disharmony are termed as ‘Adharma’, or that which is opposite of Dharma.

The performance of Dharmic actions helps a person fulfill his/her desires without causing disharmony or suffering to others, and thus, leads to spiritual elevation. On the other hand, the fulfillment of one’s desires through Adharmic actions without a care for the society, will result in the society’s harm, and will cause sorrow to the performer. Thus, the scriptures say, Dharma must always be practiced and Adharma avoided.

Hindu scriptures have enunciated at various places which actions are to be performed and which to be avoided. It must be kept in mind that actions refer to not just bodily actions, but also to those performed through speech and thoughts. Manu Smriti, for instance, classified ten actions under Adharma: 3 bodily actions, 3 mental actions, and 4 actions committed by speech.

In this installment, let us look into three kinds of bodily actions that are considered as ‘Adharma’ and hence should be avoided. Manu Smriti (12. 7) says:

adattAnAmupAdAnam hiMsA chaiva vidhAnataH |

paraDharOpasEvA cha shArIram trividham smritam ||

Meaning: Taking what has not been given, injuring (others) without the sanction of the scriptures, and holding intercourse with another man’s wife, are declared to be the three kinds of (adharmic) bodily action.

Each of these terms covers a huge variety of actions. For example, the term ‘adattanaamupaadaanam not only refers to act of stealing but also to all forms of corruption and unethical wealth accumulation.

Cheating people by fooling them, extorting people using force, stealing, dacoity, corruption, and bribery, every action that results in unethical accumulation of wealth are all considered as Adharmic actions.

The gist of the tenet is that a person must earn his wealth and luxuries through virtuous Dharmic means by hard work and honesty. All other means of gaining wealth have been considered as Adharma.

The second tenet calls ‘Himsa’, or injury which is not sanctioned in the scriptures, as Adharma. It is interesting to note that the Smriti is not asking for adherence to absolute non-violence or pacifism, but only rejects those acts of violence which are not according to the scriptures.

So, what does “according to scriptures” mean? Hindu scriptures permit injury in certain situations like the performance of Yajna, during cooking, in self-defense, during wars, etc.

In these circumstances, an injury is inevitable. Yajnas are performed for the material and spiritual welfare of the Universe, wars are fought to protect one’s nation and citizens, while cooking is necessary to sustain life. Ahimsa, as an absolute tenet is only applicable to Sannyasins (renunciates) who have renounced the Universe. For all others, Himsa (or injury) is permitted only in a few unavoidable circumstances. Apart from that, any violence committed is considered as Adharma.

Thus, killing or hurting people or animals for any reason other than self-defense or during the war is Adharma. Kidnapping, blackmailing, human trafficking, animal trafficking, forcing women into prostitution, and all related crimes are Adharma. Human and animal rights are all addressed by this tenet.

The third tenet of Adharma is having a physical relationship with another person’s spouse, and thus addresses adultery. The reason adultery has been considered as Adharma is that it involves cheating. Just as one must not steal another person’s wealth, one must also not violate another person’s wife. Marriage is a deep conjugal bond and this bond is violated when there is adultery.

Further, the tenet not only refers to the issues of willful adultery but also to cases wherein women are harassed or raped even after the perpetrator knows that she is not interested in him or that she is already married. The tenet reminds men to keep their actions in restraint so that women can live their life independently, without fear of harassment.

Hence, the Manu Smriti calls stealing, violence, and violating others’ wives as three of the heinous Adharmic actions that should be avoided. Other actions can also be Adharmic, but the verse highlights three important aspects of human actions where they err the most.

One may desire momentary pleasure, or wealth by committing acts of Adharma. However, the pleasure will not last long. Ultimately, one will invariably end up in pain and sorrow that is proportional to the magnitude of the Adharma committed, and the magnitude of suffering caused to others. Thus, the scriptures repeatedly advise people to practice the path of Dharma and shun Adharma.

(Photo: ministry127.com)

More in this segment:
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 1
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 2
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 3
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 4
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 5
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 6
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 7
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 8
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures – Part 9
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures – Part 10
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures – Part 11
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures – Part 12

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 13

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Right of Nature: Are Rivers Living Beings?

Should rivers be considered Living Entities?

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Right of Nature
Many cultures across the globe believe that rivers are living beings or Gods/Goddesses and they just take the form of water bodies.

By Dr. Bharti Raizada, Chicago

Science says that water bodies are not living entities, as water does not need food, does not grow, and reproduce. Water is required for life, but in itself it is nonliving.

However, many cultures across the globe believe that rivers are living beings or Gods/Goddesses and they just take the form of water bodies.

The Maori tribe in New Zealand considers the Whanganui River as their ancestor and the Maori people fought to get it a legal status as a living being. In 2017, a court in New Zealand gave this river the status of living being and same rights as humans, to protect it from pollution. Thus, now if someone pollutes in it then it is considered equivalent to harming a human.

ALSO READ: Worshiping mother nature part of our tradition: Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Right of Nature
Rivers are sacred in many religions, including Hinduism. Image courtesy: Dr. Bharti Raizada

Rivers are sacred in Hinduism also. Hindus believe that the Ganga descended from heaven and call her Ganga Maa. A few days after New Zealand’s court decision, Uttarakhand high court in India gave the Ganga and Yamuna rivers and their tributaries the status of living human entities. The Court-appointed three officials as legal custodians. However, the court did not clarify many aspects related to this decision.

After this verdict some of the questions, which naturally came to mind, were:

Can Hindus still do rituals of flowing ashes, leaves, flowers, diyas in river or no? Can a dam be built on the river after this judgment? If some damage, to a person, animal, plants, or property, occurs because of river e.g. overflow, hurricanes, flooding etc., how the river will pay the liabilities? What if all rivers, oceans, ponds etc. are given the status of living beings? Will drinking water from river become a crime? What about taking water and using it for routine needs,  agriculture or building structures? Will it be illegal? If a child throws a stone in water, will it be a criminal act? Will fishing be considered stealing? What about boating? If someone is using heat near water and water evaporates, is it equal to taking the body part of a human being? What about taking a bath in the river?

Right of Nature
If the river gets a living status, as human, then we cannot use it for anything without its permission, so everyone has to stop touching the water. Image courtesy: Dr. Bharti Raizada

ALSO READ: Decoding supernatural: What is the nature of entities and gods who influence human behavior

Other queries, which arise, are:

Will animals and plants get the same status? What if you kill an ant or a chicken etc. or cut a tree? Will all animals and plants get a legal custodian?

Where is all the waste supposed to go? It has to go somewhere back in nature, right?

Uttrakhand state government challenged the judgement in Supreme Court and the latter reversed the judgment.

Right of Nature
So where do we stand? In my opinion, granting living status to nature is a different thing than giving protected status or preserving nature. Image by Dr. Bharti Raizada

ALSO READ: How nature destroys the negative tendencies in a positive manner

Ecuador’s constitution recognized the Right of Nature to exist, specifically Vilcabamba river, in 2008.

Then Bolivia passed the law of the right of mother earth and granted Nature equal rights as humans.

Many communities in the U.S.A. passed the Right of Nature law.

These laws are creating a dilemma or quandary also, as people need to use these resources. We cannot live without using natural resources. However, there is a difference between using natural resources and afflicting or destroying these. So, please use natural resources very diligently. Try not to vitiate nature.

On World Water Day (March 22), please start taking care of rivers, so that there is no need for future celebrations. It should not be a one-day celebration anyway, we should scrupulously look out for nature all the time.

Dr. Raizada is a practicing anesthesiologist.