The subject of today’s discourse is, “Where There Is Dharma There Is Iśt́a, and Where There Is Iśt́a There Is Victory.” The mutual relationship between dharma and Iśt́a is inseparable; they co-exist side by side. Dharma without iśt́a is unthinkable, and vice versa – iśt́a without dharma is equally unimaginable. And when the relation between these two is inseparable, then dharma and iśt́a without victory is also unthinkable.
Now let us see what is dharma. Dhriyate dharma ityáhu sa eva Paramaḿ Brahma – that which sustains a living being is its dharma. The word “dharma” is derived from dhr+man suffix. What sustains a living being? Each and every object or being, irrespective of whether it is animate or inanimate, movable or immovable, has a particular characteristic, which is it special identifying mark. On the basis of this unique characteristic one can distinguish between gold and silver, between copper and iron. When this unique characteristic is absent, we can say categorically that “this is not gold, this is not silver.” Therefore, dharma is the fundamental determinate of one’s entitative existence.
In the physical world or in the world of senses, it is possible to bring about a certain degree of progress of an entity when it is identified with its inherent characteristic. For instance, cows have a particular characteristic, whereas buffaloes have a different characteristic. Similarly, there is a marked difference between the characteristics of plants and of animals; and in the plant world also there are different species of plants with different inherent characteristics. Although various plants have certain unique characteristics, they all have certain common characteristics as well; for instance, all plants are static, not dynamic. Likewise, although all animals have their differences, they too have certain common characteristics – for instance, they are all dynamic. The fundamental difference between the plant and animal worlds is this: that the former are static and the latter are dynamic. (However, plants differ from inanimate objects, although they are static like inanimate objects).
Likewise, there are various gaseous factors which have certain common characteristics, which enable us to categorize them as gases. There are certain distinctions among them as well. For instance, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen – all belong to the gaseous factor, but because of their fundamental characteristics, they differ from one another.
Thus we find that there are different stages in the evolution of creation; first inanimate matter evolved, then plants, then living creatures, and finally human beings. It may be said that since humans are living beings, why should they not be placed on a par with other creatures! It is because they are endowed with certain characteristics which are lacking in other creatures. Just as the basic difference between plants and other animate entities is that plants are static and other living beings are dynamic, similarly the fundamental difference between human beings and other living beings is that humans can follow Bhágavata Dharma while other beings cannot. Humans are aware that they have to do something extraordinary in their lives, but this awareness is lacking in other creatures.
The aspects of Bhágavata Dharma that make human beings unique are four in number: 1) Vistára or expansion, 2) rasa or flow, 3) sevá or service, 4) tadstithi or ensconcement in the Supreme. Vistára is movement along the path of expansion. Rasa means flow. Microcosms are goaded into action by a particular flow. This is why I once said that human existence is an ideological flow. If any entity’s existence goes against its ideological flow, it harms itself. Under those circumstances, people would rather commit suicide than sacrifice their ideology. You might read in history that in the case of ideological conflicts, millions of people left their countries and migrated to other lands. Millions of people leave their countries even today and, if the occasion arises, will do so in future, unless we build and ideal human society.
What is Sevá or service? Such work should be performed that will please Parama Puruśa. You know that service and commercial transactions are not one and the same. A commercial transaction is mutual: the guiding principle is to give something in exchange for something else. But service is unilateral; you are not accepting or demanding anything in exchange for your service. Human beings possess this spirit of service: it is part of their Bhágavata Dharma. They want to serve Parama Puruśa and they do not get the chance directly. So they serve the other children of the Lord, and thereby they please Him. This is the true service to Parama Puruśa.
Tadsthiti: Human beings have the tendency to merge in Parama Puruśa, for He is the only Supreme desideratum of all unit beings. Thus we find that the essential characteristics of Bhágavata Dharma are expansion, flow and service and the final goal is ensconcement in Parama Puruśa.
Everything has a limit, but human longing and thirst are unlimited. With limited objects, unlimited hunger cannot be satisfied. Through intense research and continuous culture, human beings have advanced a great deal. They have discovered through their newly-acquired knowledge, attained by research, that they need the help of an entity which itself is infinite, because their hunger is unlimited. In the entire universe, there is only one infinite Entity, and that is Parama Puruśa is called dharma. The observance of dharma is a must for all – whether one is educated or uneducated, white or black, tall or short. Those who do not follow the path of dharma, are truly foolish – they are the unlucky ones.
Ye pashyanti jaganti jantavah sádhujiivitáh
Ye punarneha jáyante sheśáh jat́haragardhaváh.
A life devoid of the pursuit of dharma is not life for a living being. Those who, even after attaining a human body, do not perform their duties like humans, or do not follow spiritual practices, are said by the scriptures to be humans by birth only – in reality they are like asses born from human mothers.
It has been rightly said, “Where there is dharma fulfilment there is iśt́a.” The word iśt́a has a number of interpretations. First, iśt́a means that which, once it is attained, brings the fulfilment of one’s long-cherished desires. Secondly, iśt́a means the dearest or most favourite object or entity. For instance, a person may have an attachment for mangoes, or blackberries, or sugar cane or money. But that which is the most favourite of all these is considered as one’s iśt́a. It may happen that a person has amassed vast riches but has no relations to feed – then he or she will not be happy.
Then what is the most favourite object? Human beings are followers of Bhágavata Dharma: this is their unique characteristic that distinguishes them from other living beings. Those who have attained human structures but are not following Bhágavata Dharma – expansion, flow, service, and salvation – should not be called human beings – it would be a travesty of the truth to call them thus. If they are mobile, there is hardly any difference between these humans and other living beings; but if they are immobile then they will be considered to belong to the category of plants. By no means do they deserve to be called humans, because the greatest characteristic of humans is their Bhágavata Dharma. If the colour of gold is black, then it is no longer gold, because it has lost the characteristic of gold. Likewise, if human beings do not follow their dharma, then they hardly deserve to be called humans. Dhriyate dharma ityáhuh.
The word “dharma” has another interpretation which is complementary to the previous one:
Sukhaḿ váiṋchati sarvo hi tasmáddharma samudbhútam
Tasmáddharma sadákárya sarvarńaeh prayatnatah.
[Everyone desires happiness: that is the innate characteristic of all living beings. Such a quality should always be cultivated carefully by each and every living entity.]
There is a basic difference between eśańá [longing] and icchá [desire]. Icchá means “desire” or “intention”, whereas eśańá or “longing” presupposes an active endeavour to fulfil that desire. In each and every living being there is the innate desire for happiness, and there is an active effort to fulfil that desire as well. In their search for happiness, human beings discovered that the entire property of this universe will never be able to satisfy their psychic hunger. With unsatiated hearts they kept on repeating, “My hunger is not yet satisfied, my thirst is yet unquenched.”
Thus in the process of this constant search for happiness, one finally attains that Entity who is the most beloved of all and that entity is one’s iśt́a. With the acquisition of money, people still feel that they have nothing; in spite of possessing a huge amount of money they often beat their chests in despair. So it is not money they seek – what they truly desire is peace, not happiness. But it is only rarely that people attain peace in life.
Iśt́a means Parama Puruśa but why is He called Iśt́a? The answer is that by attaining Parama Puruśa one no longer has any unsatiated hunger or unquenched thirst. He is so vast that the human mind can never fully grasp Him. And if there is no emptiness in the mind, how can anyone feel hunger or thirst?
So there are two meaning for the word iśt́a: first, the one whose realization fills the mind, thus removing all psychic dissatisfactions; and secondly, the most beloved of all entities. When the mind attains its most coveted object, it becomes filled; and thus in the last analysis both the above-mentioned meanings are virtually one and the same. I once told you that if Parama Puruśa ever comes to you and asks you, “What do you want? I will give you whatever you want” – you should answer, “Oh Lord, you can befool others, but not me. Besides You, whatever there is in this universe is all finite and limited. These entities will never be able to till or satisfy my mind, so what shall I do with them? Thus I do not ask anything of You except You Yourself.”
If Parama Puruśa wants to give you something you should say, “Oh Lord, many thanks, but I want nothing from you. If you really want to give me something, give Yourself to me. I do not want to fill my mind with mundane objects.” Thus Parama Puruśa alone is the iśt́a; and where there is dharma there is iśt́a and where there is iśt́a there is dharma. So dharma and iśt́a can never remain separate. Water and fish cannot exist separately; if fish are forcibly separated from water they will die. Likewise, Iśt́a also cannot be separated from dharma; and thus no one can proclaim that such-and-such dharma is atheistic because it does not accept the existence of the Supreme Entity. If one accepts dharma it means that one has accepted Iśt́a, and if one accepts Iśt́a it means that one has accepted dharma. Some people hypocritically assert that Mr. So-and-so does not believe in dharma. This is only an external show; internally he accepts dharma and thus he accepts Iśt́a also. It is sheer duplicity to speak thus, which is unbecoming and degrading for human beings.
Falsehood is the noumenal cause of all phenomenal crimes. Those who lie are hypocrites and cheats. All crimes and sins are embedded in falsehood. If a thief stops telling lies, then will any theft be possible? No, certainly not. According to the wise people, a thief must be free from two defects – but I want to add one more: 1) a thief should not stay awake during the day – a thief should sleep during the day and stay awake at night. 2) A thief must not speak the truth. Suppose the thief is caught red-handed and the police ask, “Have you committed this theft?” If he is truthful he will straightaway admit his crime. So you see, to speak the truth is a grave defect in a thief. And the third defect is that a thief is that a thief should never cough, because if he does the inmates of the house from which he is stealing will wake up and he will be caught.
Where there is dharma there is Iśt́a; the two are inseparably connected, and thus those who follow dharma are sure to follow Iśt́a also. Dharma cannot exist where there is no love for God. There are some people who say, “We do practice yoga but we are atheists.” This is impossible. Those who speak thus are not true yogis. Where there is dharma there is bound to be Iśt́a, and Iśt́a means Parama Puruśa. He is the soul of all souls, the greater “I” of all microcosms. In each and every human being, two “I’s” are hidden – the smaller “I” and the greater “I”. The small “I” is the various microcosms such as Ram, Shyam, Tom, Dick, Harry, etc.; but for all the greater “I” is one – Parama Puruśa. All the conflicts and struggles among the microcosms are all centered around their small “I’s”.
“Where there is Iśt́a there is victory.” Human beings are very frail and weak: they gather their vital energy from food, drink and air, and with that vital energy they keep on working in the external world. Their little brains which they have received due to the grace of Parama Puruśa are the physical base of the human intellect and power of contemplation, and with these they perform all their activities. But the power of their tiny brains is extremely limited, and their capacity of contemplation is also limited. The two functions of the mind, thinking and memory, are also very limited, because they depend on these limited human brains.
Now if these weak human beings can establish a relationship with Parama Puruśa – saḿyogo yoga ityuktah jiivátma paramátmanah – then they remain no longer weak. Take the case of a lake. If it is connected with an ocean then it is no longer a lake: it becomes part of the ocean, and all the qualities of the ocean also accrue to it. Its water will become as salty as sea water, and even the surging waves of the ocean will also crash on its shores. Then can we still call it a mere lake? Certainly not. In the same way, human beings are no doubt very ordinary and weak creatures, but if they connect themselves with Parama Puruśa then they no longer remain helpless, they become one with Him. If they constantly ideate on Him, if they always sing His glories and become engrossed in His ideation then they no longer remain ordinary mortals. Then they will achieve success in whatever task they undertake. But that success, that victory does not belong to them – it belongs to dharma, to Iśt́a. If the most powerful emperor of this sea-girt earth dares to fight against dharma, even a handful of gold in his hands will turn to a handful of dust, and he will meet with miserable defeat. This is the inexorable law of dharma. Thus I have said, “Where there is dharma there is Iśt́a, and where there is Iśt́a there is victory” You should always bear in mind that victory does not mean the victory of weak human beings – it means the victory of dharma, the victory of Iśt́a. Intelligent people who move firmly along the path of dharma and sit on the lap of Iśt́a are destined to be victorious. In this case also victory does not belong to such people – victory belongs to Iśt́a.
You are all intelligent boys and girls – you should fully understand this truth, and remember that whatever the scriptures you might have read, the most important thing is sharańágati, taking shelter in the Lord. Just as the little child seeks safe shelter on the mother’s lap, similarly each and every microcosm, each and every devotee finds a safe haven on the lap of Parama Puruśa, and thus they are crowned with victory. This is the supreme truth. May you all be blessed.
4 July 1979 DMC, Purnea
Subháśita Saḿgraha Part 12