We are right in the middle of celebrating the Vasanta Navaratri. One of the two Navaratris, the other Navaratri culminating in Dusshera and this one in Rama Navami. Along with this, there are two other Navaratris that are celebrated but these are Gupta (hidden) Navaratri-s, celebrated by Sri Vidya Upasaka-s, Devi worshippers and not generally publicized. All these celebrations have the underlying theme of the victory of good over evil. It is actually about the establishment of Dharma, doing what it takes.
Dharma is generally translated as morality or a code of ethics. But Dharma is much more than that. Etymologically it means ‘dharayate iti dharma’ – that which upholds. That which upholds and sustains the creation are the universal principles and this is Dharma. Dharma will include the laws of physics, the laws of chemistry, biology etc. All the principles which are often mentioned as laws are within the ambit of Dharma. These sustain the creation, as we know it. Much of it is known. Much more is unknown, yet to be discovered.
Generally, Dharma is focused on universal ethics. Universal means that which can transcend a culture, a religion that is valid for human beings – the principles of love, compassion, justice. It is these principles that society tries to make into laws and regulations so that the common man can follow. But the understanding has to go beyond rules and regulations. That is why Dharma in India is always taught through stories of Gods and Goddesses, Heroes and Heroines.
Each story becomes a case study for us to understand the universe and how it is applied in a given situation. I am not speaking of situational ethics which is an entirely different subject. The universal has to be applied in a given situation. Sometimes we may find the letter and spirit of the law is followed and sometimes not, as rules cannot be taken too literally. Ramayana and Mahabharata help us to learn and appreciate dharma. In this appreciation and understanding of nuances, we are able to re-establish dharma in our lives.
(The writer is the founder of Aarsha Vidya Foundation. You can write to him @firstname.lastname@example.org)