Decoding Adharma: Unrighteousness of mind


Nithin Sridhar

Gleanings from Hindu scriptures: Part 15

In the previous two installments, we dealt with how unrighteousness can be committed through the body and through speech. We also saw that Dharma by very definition is those actions that take one to overall wellbeing and happiness and Adharma is that which takes one to sorrow and pain.

But, actions are not limited to those committed physically or verbally. Hindu philosophy perceives even thoughts that flow in the mind as ‘actions’ or ‘Karma’. And these thoughts of the mind are the very source of all physical and verbal actions.

Thus, in order to truly prevent the body and the speech from committing various types of unrighteous actions, it is very necessary to restrain the mind by ripping out Adharmic thoughts at their very source.

In this installment, let us now see the various kinds of thoughts that have been considered as ‘Adharma’. Manu Smriti (12.5) says:

paradravyEShvabhidhyAnaM manasA anishtachintanaM |

vithaThAbhinivEshashcha trividhaM karma mAnasaM ||

Meaning: Desiring for the property and belongings of others; thinking in one’s heart of what is undesirable (i.e. thinking about committing unrighteous actions that may cause harm to oneself and others); and adherence to falsehoods and false doctrines, are the three kinds of (unrighteous) mental action.

Before taking up various Adharmas committed through the mind, it is important to understand how the mind works. As we noted earlier, mind is the root of all physical and mental actions. But, mind itself is in the grip of internal passions and tendencies that drive every mental thought.

These internal passions are often referred to as ‘Shad-ripus’ or six internal enemies, because they delude an individual and make him or her to commit Adharma. The six internal enemies, which makes one’s mind ‘impure’ are: kama (desire), krodha (anger), lobha (greed), moha (delusion), mada (pride), and matsarya (jealousy). Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita (16.21) declares that desire, anger, and greed are three gates to hell because these internal tendencies often give rise to selfish and Adharmic thoughts, which if acted upon will take a person towards his own destruction.

The Manu Smriti has broadly classified these Adharmic thoughts into three categories as seen above. The very first tenet of mental Adharma is thinking about coveting what belongs to others.

In our previous discussion regarding the Adharma through the body, we had discussed in depth about what non-coveting actually meant. To quote: 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.” Thus, stealing, cheating, dacoity, corruption, bribery, etc. are all included under bodily action of taking what does not rightfully belong to one.

If a person even ‘thinks’ about committing all those acts of Adharma, or if he hankers for possessing another person’s wealth, property, objects, or even another person’s spouse or children, then such a thought is considered as Adharma of mind. The gist of the tenet is that one should forever be vigilant about one’s own thoughts and should not entertain unrighteous thoughts even for a moment, because if such thoughts are entertained, they would become deeply rooted in the mind and finally they will impel the person to commit Adharmic actions.

The second tenet isthinking bad or undesirable with respect to others’. Here undesirable is a very generic term. Undesirable thoughts could be anything ranging from thoughts of physically harming someone to thoughts of ruining someone’s career. It may include mental conditions which are today categorized as misogyny, sadism, masochism, etc.

In many a sense, this single tenet defines the Adharma of thoughts. Any thoughts, which, when implemented, if it leads to undesirable unrighteous consequences to one’s own self or to some other person or being, or even nature in general, all such thoughts are Adharma.

The third tenet of mental Adharma is adhering to falsehood, propagating false doctrines, or simply being dishonest inspite of being aware of the fact that one is propagating falsehood is mental Adharma. In other words, speaking falsehood is verbal Adharma, but committing that act inspite of being aware that it is Adharma constitutes mental Adharma. While preaching false doctrines and fooling people with ulterior motives (example: evangelism through fraud) constitutes verbal and physical Adharma, mental adherence to these unrighteous actions for selfish reasons constitutes mental Adharma.

To illustrate with an example, consider two persons. One is involved in converting people by fraudulent means like speaking about fake miracles, staging fake miracles, etc. The other person, though he does neither indulges in nor speaks about conversion activities, he does support conversion activities including the use of fraud and falsehood as a principle. He considers use of the fraud and falsehood as legitimate. In this example, the latter commits only the Adharma of the mind, whereas the former commits all the three kinds of Adharma– of body, speech, and mind.

Thus, Hindu philosophy advises people to be very vigilant about their thought process and restrain the mind so that the mind can be purified and put to use in righteous (Dharmic) actions. The purification of mind, called as ‘Chitta-Shuddhi, plays a very central role in Hinduism for the same reason. Realizing this, people should make efforts to adhere to Dharma in mind, speech, and action, and should avoid catering to unrighteous and undesirable thoughts. (Photo:

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
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 14

Gleaning from Hindu Scriptures- Part 15