"Dharmo rakshathi, rakshitah" translated "Dharma protects, protected" What does this mean? Dharma is a force which greatly protects us, but if it has to act as a protecting force, we have to first protect it ourselves. We must recognize the importance of the role which Dharma plays in our life, and then install it at all levels, in thinking, in talking, in doing every thing that we do, we must see that Dharma reigns supreme. If this is ensured, then Dharma will in turn sustain us like the loving Mother. redeeming us from the dangers and ills which would otherwise harass our lives frequently.
Reproduced from the Monthly Magazine Vicharasethu June 1968
Dharma is universal
Morality or Dharma consists of a number of virtues, rules of conduct and the like, which are meant to be adhered to by every man and woman, boy and girl, in their daily life. Chastity is an important virtue which comes within the range of Dharma and which is considered in Bharat as particularly sacred. Many people here as a rule also observe chastity scrupulously.
But these are days of civilization. Many of the old concepts, especially those relating to religion, are now being considered as outmoded and unscientific. This fate, has befallen the concept of chastity too. As a result, the traditional concern for chastity is getting lost, or has already lost. Our present generation is more inclined to, or shall I say is determined to, disregard the rules of chastity than try to adhere to them with faith and reverence. But this is not a good sign at all. Unless the modern youth of our country right away revolutionize - these are days when revolution is the talk everywhere - their thinking in the lines of their own lofty tradition and heritage, and pledge themselves to live as the true children of Dharma and Jnaana, the danger that awaits them is very grave indeed.
By saying this, I do not imply that chastity is not a virtue which countries other than Bharat need or can safely afford to disregard. My outlook is universal in all matters. It is so in respect of chastity as well. I am born and I live in Bharat, and as such it is natural for me to speak about Bharat and her people particularly. Chastity, or any other code of Dharma for that matter, is a universal virtue and it is applicable to all people. In fact, it is high time that the peoples of the entire world recognize the place and value of Dharma in human life, and make earnest efforts, both individually and collectively, to practice the codes of Dharma in their day-to-day life with faith, understanding and reverence.
There is a well-known precept which clearly describes the role of Dharma in human life. I wish all people to take it as a watchword in their lives. The precept is "Dharmo rakshathi, rakshitah" Its literal translation is "Dharma protects, protected." What does this mean? Dharma is a force which greatly protects us throughout our life. But if it has to act as a protecting force, we have to first protect it ourselves. That is to say, we must recognize the importance of the role which Dharma plays in our life, and then install it at all levels of our life. In thinking, in talking, in doing activities, in short in every thing that we do, we must see that Dharma reigns supreme. If this is ensured, then Dharma will in turn sustain us like the loving Mother. It will redeem us from the dangers and ills which would otherwise harass our lives frequently.
It is the lack of understanding about the meaning and value of Dharma that make people indifferent towards it. Once they understand that Dharmic codes have the sole aim of helping us live cautiously, courageously and successfully as ideal humans, I am sure everyone will become an ardent votary of Dharma.
Coming to the question of chastity, it is an important Dharmic virtue. Rather it is the basis or foundation of Dharma. What is true of Dharma is also, therefore, true of chastity. This would mean, if chastity has to bestow its rare benefits upon us, we must first of all enable it to do so by giving it its due place in our life and movements. Only if we allow it to govern our life throughout, it will in turn make its contribution for strengthening and ornamenting our life.
Dharma and the walking stick
Any code of Dharma or virtue is like the walking stick we employ for walking. The walking stick does not evidently serve any purpose of its own. Its function is fully to help us. Left to itself, the stick cannot even stand erect. But when once we use it, holding it in position; it can help us immensely. We can walk fast with confidence.
This is exactly the case with chastity and the other codes of Dharma. The codes and virtues of Dharma are by themselves inert, useless. They are not intended to serve themselves. Their role is to help those who need their help and who hold fast to them. As such, it is our duty to understand the true import of Dharma, and then resolve to adhere to it at all times, so that it may help and protect us at every step.
As beings we are in many respects akin to the animals and birds. But we are also different from them in the sense that we have the power to culture knowledge. Also we can steer all our actions in the light of the knowledge we have gained each time. This difference makes us superior, not inferior, to the animals. It is for us to justify this superiority by rightly exercising our higher faculties and evolving suitable ideal standards for all our actions. In fact, it is the ideal standards, which our forefathers evolved after considering the various aspects of life, that go by the name of Dharma. To adhere to Dharma at all levels of our life is, therefore, obviously to our own advantage. Above all, it is to live in conformity with the superior status which we have over the animals.
Celibacy, a natural rule
Chastity is a well-known code of Dharma, which, unlike the many other codes, a large number of people do adhere to in their day-to-day movements. But celibacy is not so. Celibacy is a superior virtue. It is the elder of chastity. Correspondingly, its scope and contents are also superior to those of chastity.
In India celibacy is viewed as an indispensable factor for attaining success in spiritual life. Without the wing of celibacy no one can fly to the lofty heights of spirituality. This is the widely accepted view of the Bharatiyas.
But what is celibacy in truth? Can it be successfully practiced? These questions are often asked by many persons but the answers which they get, I think, are not for the most part true or encouraging. Many take it for granted that celibacy is a very hard virtue, which cannot be practiced by the common man and woman in their day-to-day life and movements. This is a very sweeping conclusion, and we cannot take it as either logical or factual. Celibacy is not so hard a virtue as people imagine it to be. It is not also difficult to practice it, provided you understand what it is in truth and then try to cultivate it step by step.
Celibacy, I think, is the natural rule for all created beings, the humans and the non-humans alike. But only in the non-humans we find it to be the rule. The humans have developed their own perverted notion about celibacy. Due to this perverted notion, they find themselves unable to live as celibates. It is no doubt true that there is some difficulty for the humans in observing celibacy as a rule, as do the animals. But there is no meaning in interpreting this difficulty as an open sanction, for neglecting the virtue altogether.
The case with non-humans
In the world there are various kinds of beings other than we, the humans. In fact, the non-human beings far out-number the humans. Look at all those beings, and see how the sex instincts work in them. The cows, dogs, cats, birds and the like are beings very familiar to us. They all have their own mating seasons or periods. They seek the company of the opposite sex only during these seasons or periods. During other times, they move with the opposite sex, but in all innocence and composure, undaunted by any mating or sex instincts. Their sex indulgence is restricted to once or so in a year.
For the most of part of their lives, therefore, do not they live as celibates? They break their celibacy only for the specific purpose of mating, and the mating invariably results in reproduction. Nobody can deny these facts. The behaviour of the animals, or the sub-human beings as a whole, would therefore, drive us to some basic conclusions.
The first of them is that mating is only an occasional need not a regular or constant one. Secondly, it is primarily intended to bring about reproduction, which is an indispensable factor for the continuance of race. As such, the natural rule in the matter is to resort to it only if and when reproduction is needed. The very fact that animals and birds, in whom the higher faculties of knowledge and creativeness are not at work, observe this rule is sufficient enough to deem it as natural.
But in the humans we find the position quite different. They are conceiving the act of mating in a manner too different from that of the animals. The reason for it is the presence in them of the higher faculties, the mind and intellect. These faculties, are creative in nature, and they can view things in any manner they like and herein lies the danger too. Our creative faculties can work creatively and uncreatively alike. They can be constructive as well as destructive. The example of our inventing the fission and, fusion bombs, which have an enormous power of destruction clearly proves this truth. The way in which our mind and intellect view mating or sex-indulgence is rather destructive. It is not fitting in with our human nature and the superior status, we have over the other beings.
Our superiority over the animals demands, no doubt, that we must act in all matters in a manner different from that of the animals. But this difference should not be such as will disprove our superiority, or lower us to the animal or still lower levels. But is this case in respect of our sex habits?
Instead of resorting to sex indulgence rarely and only for the specific object of begetting progeny, most of the people consider mating as a delightful exercise, and go on indulging in it freely, keeping to no rule or seasons. The golden rule with many is "as long as they have the capacity and inclination for it". Those who are determined to stick to this rule will not be generally prepared to heed any analysis or advice in the matter. Those others, who honour morality and ethics, cannot escape the feeling that they should conform to the "human standards" in their sex-dealings. And in that case, these pages will be useful to them.
View celibacy properly
I think the main reason for mankind not attempting at the practice of celibacy is their ignorance or wrong notions about it. As long as they think that celibacy need not be practiced, nor that it is impossible to practice it, how can they ever feel an urge for gaining the virtue? So it is the mental opposition or the intellectual misapprehension that they have to get removed at first before proceeding to attain celibacy.
Our life and movements are rooted or based on two levels. The mind and intellect together make one, and the body and senses together the other. Every act that we do must be in consonance with both these levels, if it has to be pleasant and successful. Suppose we do something which fulfils the needs of the senses, but fails to satisfy the inclinations of the mind and intellect, it will not be wrong and will not fetch the desired results. Again, if the mind and intellect start evolving ideals or standards for actions, which are impracticable for the body and the senses to implement, there is the same difficulty. Therefore, our aim always, in all matters, must be to work in harmony with both the internal and external levels, the inner and the outer sides, the psychic and the physical sides, of our personality. That is to say, if you can in all matters act in a manner which falls in line with the findings of the mind and intellect, and which also satisfies the needs of the senses and the body, then it will be safe, easy and successful.
In the matter of mating too, it is such a harmonious approach that we need to make. At present the position is that none pays heed to the mind or buddhi with regard to the act of sex indulgence. People simply act prompted by the urges of the senses alone. That is why they do not feel like restricting the indulgence to any seasons or periods. Stop this habit and listen to what your mind and intellect have to say in the matter. Then celibacy will become an easy and soothing practice.