For most walking our path, the motivating factor behind their acceptance of Sanatana Dharma is their innate desire or motivation to know and live truth.
As a result, it is crucially important for the Dharmi to live as ethical a life as possible. For the follower of Dharma, the Good, the True, the Real, the Beautiful, the Eternal, and the Absolute, in the highest metaphysical sense, are all one and the same. Thus, one cannot know the Absolute unless one also knows the Good. And one cannot know the Good unless one also is good.
Every religious or philosophical system in the world holds some position in the realm of ethical thought. Life and the consideration of ethics are inseparable. The realm of ethics, stated very simply, centers upon the question of what constitutes good versus bad behavior on the part of human beings. Symptomatic of the fallen age we reside in, many of the so called ethical conclusions that a man comes to are anything but. Nonetheless, however, objective morality and ethical principles do exist.
It is the goal of the Dharmi to strive to embody that which is right and good. To take the most ethical action possible in any given situation. The nature of goodness itself is seen as being ultimately rooted in, and as being a reflection of, the Divine. Thus, good in this world, both in the form of Goodness itself as a metaphysical reality and in the form of good actions, has its origins in Transcendent reality…in the very essential nature of the Divine.
How though, in the tradition of Sanatana Dharma, is this expressed?
In the teachings of Sanatana Dharma, that which is good is separated into two different categories: a) good as a virtue, and b) good in action.
Goodness as an inherent virtue of the living being has its origin in the very soul (atman) of each living being. The goal of the spiritual seeker is to make the inherent goodness of our internal soul manifest in the external world for all to see and benefit from. To perfectly manifest our own soul’s inherent goodness is synonymous with being an enlightened, liberated being, and reflecting that inner state outward for the world to benefit.
Goodness in action, on the other hand, consists of the day-to-day, free-will decisions that we need to make in always seeking the higher path in how we treat others. These good behaviors in action are the ethical and moral principles that we must each follow as we are on the road to full self-realization and God-consciousness.
The forms in which Goodness is expressed, both through thought and action, is best found in the Yamas and Niyamas, as explained below. The following commentary was given by Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya in his book “Sanatana Dharma- The Eternal Natural Way”.
Five Yamas – Proscriptions
Ahimsa (Non-Violence) –
Ahimsa is one of the most important of the ethical proscriptions. Contrary to the false notion that Vedic spirituality believes is passivism, the principle of ahimsa does not support passivism or a lack of will to defend oneself. On the contrary, we are called upon to be strong and courageous warriors for our people, our nation, and for Dharma. However, the principle of ahimsa does insist that we are to be as maximally non-violent in our minds and in our hearts as is possible, even as we defend Truth, and especially in how we treat our fellow Dharmis and all innocent living beings around us.
Satya (Truthfulness) –
For followers of Dharma, Truth is much more than merely the opposite of a lie. Rather, Truth is seen as being one of the infinite, positive attributes of the Divine. Truthfulness is followed both in our attempt to always tell the truth, but more, also in that we are meant to manifest Truth (God) in our everyday lives in all of our thoughts, words and actions. In practicing the telling of truth verbal, we are manifesting the highest Truth spiritually.
Asteya (Non-Stealing) –
All property, up to and including the very Earth herself, ultimately belongs to the Supreme. To not steal means both to not take from others, as well as to acknowledge who is the ultimate owner of all things. Theft is the direct result of suffering from the illusion that we are in lack. For those who are devoted to God, we know that the soul can never lack,
and that the very source and owner of all reality is none other than our very best friend.
Brahmacharya (Sexual Continence) –
Sexuality is one of the most powerful natural forces found in living beings. We must have fidelity to the Good in how we relate to others sexually; never exploiting others for selfish pleasure, but always reflecting the pure and healthy love that is God’s gift to us. What this means in concrete terms is that sexuality only finds its ultimate fulfillment within the context of a loving marriage between a man and a woman.
Apirigraha (Non-Covetousness) –
It is in transcending the ugly impulse of greed that we overcome the illusion of the egoic self. To be non-covetous is to realize that wealth, material goods and property alone are not sufficient to give us the lasting fulfillment and happiness that we seek. Rather, it is in living within our means, pursuing a life of simple living and high thinking, that we find both material fulfillment and spiritual enlightenment.
Five Niyamas – Prescriptions
Purity consists of both scrupulous external hygiene, and internal cleanliness of mind. The former is achieved by bathing, brushing one’s teeth, etc., every day without fail. The latter is accomplished by allowing only good, pure, positive and spiritual thoughts to flourish in our minds, and by conversely not allowing the opposite – evil, impure, negative and materialistic thoughts – to dominate our minds.
Discontent is the root of all immoral and unethical actions. It is because we are discontent that we feel the false necessity to exploit and harm others. When we are content, we approach the world as God’s kingdom, rather than a mere playground for our own selfish exploitation. As is true of all the Yamas and Niyamas, contentment is a quality that can be cultivated by daily spiritual practice.
Tapas is choosing to challenge ourselves each day to take the path that will make ourselves stronger, rather than weaker. It means taking the stairs up to our apartment rather than the elevator whenever we can. It means walking the four blocks to the store rather than driving. It means pushing ourselves toward excellence, increased strength and health, and personal growth whenever we see the opportunity to do so arise in our day to day lives. It means always choosing that path that will further elevate us in our personal life.
Svadhyaya (Self-Education) –
Svadhyaya includes both the daily self-analysis that is such a crucial exercise in our spiritual journey, as well as daily study of the wisdom of the Dharmic scriptures, such as the Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Sutras, Narada Bhakti Sutras, Srimad Bhagavatam, and the Upanishads. In addition, self-education occurs when we study the teachings and writings of our own guru (spiritual teacher).
Ishvara-Pranidhana (Devotion to the Divine) –
The daily cultivation of devotional consciousness (bhakti) is the ultimate path to knowing the Divine, because devotion is the very opposite of selfishness. In selfishness, we merely try to take from the world around us. In devotion, we give of ourselves, and in love, back to our Source, which is God, and to all other living beings. Devotion to the Divine can be practiced by meditation upon such Holy Name mantras as “Aum Namo Narayanaya”, by conducting simple but meaningful puja ceremonies in one’s own home, or by serving God directly by supporting those authentic gurus who teach the world the path of liberation by supporting such gurus either with one’s volunteer service (seva) or charitable donations.
In addition to the Yamas and Niyamas, there are twelve primary qualities that every Dharmi should strive to cultivate in themselves. These include:
After all, there is no spiritual progress without the prerequisite practice of conscious and concerted ethical development. To be a Dharmi means, by definition, to be a wholly virtuous person. By sincerely and strictly following the Yamas and Niyamas, as well as cultivating the above twelve indispensable virtues in your life, you will begin the process of manifesting the innate virtue necessary to fully open yourself to God’s presence and grace, and realizing the ultimate reality of your true spiritual self.
You can purchase Sanatana Dharma – The Eternal Natural Way at Dharmacentral.com