Never miss a story

Get subscribed to our newsletter


×

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


Popular

wikimedia commons

Yakshi statue by Kanayi Kunjiraman at Malampuzha garden, Kerala

Kerala is a land of many good things. It has an abundance of nature, culture, art, and food. It is also a place of legend and myth, and is known for its popular folklore, the legend of Yakshi. This is not a popular tale outside the state, but it is common knowledge for travellers, especially those who fare through forests at night.

The legend of the yakshi is believed to be India's equivalent of the Romanian Dracula, except of course, the Yakshi is a female. Many Malayalis believe that the Yakshi wears a white saree and had long hair. She has a particular fragrance, which is believed to be the fragrance of the Indian devil-tree flowers. She seduces travellers with her beauty, and kills them brutally.

Keep Reading Show less
Pinterest

Ancient India not only made mentions of homosexuality but accepted it as well.


The LGBTQ+ acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and others. In India LGBTQ+ community also include a specific social group, part religious cult, and part caste: the Hijras. They are culturally defined either as "neither men nor women" or as men who become women by adopting women's dress and behavior. Section 377 of the India Penal code that criminalized all sexual acts "against the order of nature" i.e. engaging in oral sex or anal sex along with other homosexual activities were against the law, ripping homosexual people off of their basic human rights. Thus, the Indian Supreme Court ruled a portion of Section 377 unconstitutional on 6th September 2018.

Keep Reading Show less
wikimedia commons

A stamp depicting the Mysore peta

The Mysore kingdom became a popular tourist destination after India became an independent country. The Wodeyar dynasty who succeeded Tipu Sultan are still royalty, but they do not rule the state. Their heritage and culture have become what Karnataka is famous for.

Among the many things that Mysore offers to the state of Karnataka, the Mysore Peta is one. In north India, various cultures have their own headgears. They wear their traditional outfits on the days of festivities and ceremonies. Likewise, in the south, especially in Karnataka, the Mysore Peta is worn.

Keep reading... Show less