Leadership and Dharma - Part 7

Leadership and Dharma - Part 7

Amogha-drk Krishna dasa

Dear Devotees,

Please accept my humble pranams. All glories to Srila Prabhupada, all glories to Srila Gurudeva!

This is in continuation of the previous offering titled, “Leadership and Dharma”, wherein we discussed Vedic knowledge and dharma. In today’s offering, implications of not following dharma will be witnessed through the lense of Ramayana.

The word dharma has multifaceted usages, as seen in 1) the Four Vedas, 2) Itihasa-Puranas and 3) Dharmasastras.

In our previous introduction to dharma, we focused on 

1) the philosophy of how dharma upholds and nourishes God’s creation, both individually and cosmologically, and therefore oblations of sacrifice into the fire of dharma is man’s duty. These are teachings of the Four Vedas, such as the Rig and Atharva-veda.

2) The teachings of the Itihasa-Puranas (viz. the Fifth Veda, the historical records) focus on  practical stories on how to do things (i.e. dharma) according to personal duty (sva-dharma) and the will of the Lord (paro-dharma), and also examples of not following dharma (i.e. adharma) and the consequences thereof (i.e. karma).

3) The Dharmashastra’s main bulk of description is of duties for proper Vedic community (varnasrama-dharma), and laws for punishing adharmic actions.

While each of these groups encompasses each other's usages, as well as ultimately conveying the highest dharma (paro-dharma) as devotional service in surrender to the Lord, still the main focus differs. That's why the Itihasa-Puranas, headed by the Bhagavatam, Mahabharata and Ramayana, are hailed by sages of the Vedas such as Narada to be the chief, because they focus on the paro-dharma of self-surrender (sharanaagati).

The Ramayana employs a teacher’s tool in showing how not to do things, in the example of Ravana’s adharmic leadership. Externally speaking, Ravana was most successful:

He achieved the power of ‘Indratva’ (Indra’s position); protected by powerful kinsmen, he enjoyed heaven with wives in a golden city (Lanka); highly intelligent and practical in the arts of kingship and Vedic knowledge; he expertly performed Vedic rituals and austerities for ten-thousand years, attracting Brahma to boon him god-like influence. His only fault was his demoniac character; his envious mimicking of God as the enjoyer of the world, made him kidnap Sita, the wife of Lord Rama. It is to be noted that a well-educated fool is far worse than an uneducated fool. While the uneducated got limited intelligence for influencing others, the educated fool's intelligence may serve to misguide society at large. Take the example of Darwin, who influenced society at large to take to the ways of monkeys, by claiming monkeys as man’s progenitor through complex speculative theories. If Darwin had not been a mental speculator, but applied his intelligence in Krishna’s service, he would have been the best of scientists. 

Therefore we must learn to discriminate between personality and character; one may be an opulent personality, but if one’s character is envious, such opulences become like jewels on the hoods of a deadly cobra (maninaa bhushitah sarpah). Although looking good with jewels, the snake is a source of fear. Therefore, when Hanuman got the darshan of Ravana's splendour, sitting majestically with his mountainous body of twenty arms and ten faces on a jeweled throne, attired with luxurious apparels, jewels and garlands, attributed with all the features of a king like Indra, he exclaimed, "Alas! This king of demons possesses all wonderful symptoms of body, courage, strength, splendour and so on."

yadi adharmo na balavaan syaat ayam rakshaseshvarah
syaat ayam sura lokasya sashakrasya api raksitaa

"Perhaps if Ravana had not been a demon so strong in unrighteousness (adharma), he would have been a wonderful leader; a protector even of the celestials in heaven, including Indra!” (Ramayana, Sundara Kanda 49.17-18)

Krishna willing, we'll explore the dharmic leadership of Lord Rama in the subsequent offering.

Thank you very much,
Yours in service of Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudeva,

Amogha-drk Krishna dasa,