Today, our world is ravaged by an epidemic of diseases, toxins, and addictions. Even the frequency of earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes has increased all over the globe. Sage Caraka’s proclamations over nature and environment could well read the same as text from any modern media news story.
In his ultra ‘modern’ vision, ancient Vedik Sage Caraka discusses seasonal vagaries and untimely disruption of seasonal rhythms. He attributes both to the generally non-dharmik approach, including anti-environmental and anti-nature policies, adopted by shortsighted Governments, their imprudent heads, and injudicious administrators.
Dharma is reflected in how we treat ourselves. It demonstrates our sense of responsibility towards our own body, our practice of self-control of our own minds, how we choose ethics in all our social interactions, and how we display abiding respect towards the environment and all its creatures.
How Ayurveda Identifies Dharma In Daily Life
Āyurveda helps identify the day-to-day or vyāvahārika dharma related to our daily routine. When Āyurvedik dharma injunctions on right living, eating, thinking, sex, livelihood, exercise, sleep, and leisure are followed, for instance, one is living a dharmik lifestyle. This dharmik lifestyle, in turn, protects our life and enhances our physical, psychological, social, moral, and spiritual health. And this, in turn, translates into life-sustaining Oja, or the Āyurvedik immunity principle inside our body.
By this logic, a non-dharmik life ultimately destroys our own wealth and health and becomes our self-created monster that sooner or later demolishes us. We do not die; we kill ourselves in a slow, insidious manner through daily non-dharmik choices.
The dharma of Āyurveda teaches cultivating deference for the microcosm (body) and the macrocosm (universe), and about the interrelationship between the two. In the dharma of daily living, we learn about give and take, harmony and balance, self-abuse and self-care, and respect and disrespect.
The sages say: “Ācāra Prabhava Dharma,” meaning that dharma is born from self-discipline and good conduct. We have to become resolute, exercise willpower, and take purposeful action to activate our dharmik being, lacking which, are by default lazy, obsessive-compulsive, self-serving, and self-gratifying state of consciousness continues unabated.
Dharma In Individual Life
For individuals, dharmik principles include social and ethical principles, which play out through deliberate, conscious choices. As such, upholding dharma in these areas is critical. Lacking dharma, human beings would quickly self-destruct.
When dharma becomes the substratum of our personal lives, it informs our ethics, thoughts, speech, actions, etc. Our daily choices then become naturally aligned with our highest intention, namely of elevating our own consciousness, which is eternal in nature. Following dharma ensures that one’s consciousness is elevating itself with every choice that individual makes, and that the individual is not suffering by getting tangled up in the illusory possibilities, duality-ridden opposites, and general distress of this world.
Dharma enables every human being to lead a fruitful and positive life in peace and harmony. The sages clarify that following dharma is a matter of free will and not externally-imposed, punitive, social, moral, or religious conditioning, nor a belief system noted down in a rigid list of do’s and do not’s.
If dharma does not inform our physical, material, psychological, sexual, and spiritual desires, we suffer the consequences at every level: body, mind, and spirit. This is why Āyurvedik texts teach dharmik thoughts (sadvicara), conscious actions (satkarma), conscious dwelling (satvihāra), dharmik behavior (sadācāra), and dharmik living (sadvṛtta).
Āyurveda regards natural catastrophes as the loss of equilibrium of the universal counterparts of the bodily Doṣas – Vāta, Pitta, and Kapha, which are Vāyu (Air), Agni (Fire), and Soma (water), or to go still further, the three metaphysical vibrations: Rajas, Sattva, and Tamas. In the environment, be it natural, social, psychological, or spiritual, vibration begets vibration. Before we bothered to speak up, what was the message vibrating away in our quiet silence?
Our ‘inner’ violence, or non-dharmik thoughts and actions towards each other, towards other species, and our abusive dealings with nature are tantamount to the disturbance of ‘guṇas’ (vibrations in consciousness). This violence then affects our ‘outer’ world or our immediate environment. These same vibrations, especially when a whole body of humans collectively vibrate it, echo out in time to affect even outer space, disrupting the ‘dharma’ and flow of heavenly bodies, like planets, stars, meteors, etc.
Āyurveda clearly proclaims that,
“Likewise, unrighteousness is also the cause of the destruction of the community by weapons.” (Caraka Sāṃhita)
The Āyurvedik sages offered health to planet earth and then to the entire cosmos by suggesting measures that would guide human consciousness to walk only the path of dharma or righteousness.
“One should behave like kith and kin to all living beings”
Sage Caraka suggests that, to promote righteousness all around, one should work upon cultivating certain qualities: truthfulness, benevolence, compassion towards all, a spirit of generosity, calmness in all situations, self-control in sexuality, and protecting oneself, as self-love is the core of evolved consciousness. Additionally, to train the mind, Caraka suggests seeking the company of celibate sages, listening to their evolved discourses, and daily self-study of scriptures.
Caraka Sāṃhita, Vimānāsthānam, III, 20
Caraka Sāṃhita, Vimānāsthānam, III, 6.3
Caraka Sāṃhita, Vimānāsthānam, III, 21
Caraka Sāṃhita, Sūtrasthāna, VIII, 18
Caraka Sāṃhita, Vimānāsthānam, III, 12-18