Episode # 182 – Our “External” & “Internal” Dharma – Why are both important?

Little Krishna

In the previous episode, we had witnessed the culmination of the Prahlaada-Charitra, which consisted of the hallmark incarnation of Bhagawan Narasimha, to save little Prahlaada by destroying Hiranya-Kashibu. With this, Bhagawan ensured that His ardent devotee was protected, “Adharma” was destroyed and eventually, “Dharma” was restored in this world. With this, we had come to the end of the seventh “Skandha” and also the third day syllabus of discussion. We already know by now that this text is spread across for a seven-day discussion (Saptaaham) and we’ve witnessed the significance of this earlier. Moving into the eighth “Skandha” thus, Sage Shukaachaarya is going to give a detailed narration about various aspects of “Dharma” for various categories of people. He’s going narrate the list of “Dharma” for “Brahmachaaris”, for the “Gruhastas”, men and women. We shall commence this discussion in today’s episode.

“Bhagawan shrotum icchaami nrnaam dharmam sanaathanam!

Varnaashrama aacharayutam yath pummaan vindate param!!

Na tvaa bhagawate ajaaya lokaanaam dharmahetave!

Vakshe sanaathanam dharmamnaaraayanam upaachyutham!!”

Here, Sage Sukhaachaarya gives an elaborate “30-point checklist” of various aspects of “Dharma” that all of us need to follow. But before we go into that, we need to understand what exactly this term “Dharma” is for all of us. Many of us might think that “Dharma” is all about donating things to poor people, giving food to the needy, digging lakes and ponds that would supply water to many people or building temples and other places of worship. Of course, all of these activities constitute the larger framework of “Dharma”, but this is not the end of all. More than all what we’ve witnessed above, “Dharma” also consists of certain important characteristics that all of us must exhibit and follow in our daily lives. In other words, “Dharma” contains some rules and regulations, do’s and don’ts for leading a peaceful life. These principles also constitute an important framework for “Dharma”. In fact, our Sanaathana Dharma scriptures classify “Dharma” into two categories – External Dharma and Internal Dharma. Now what is this classification indicate? When we talk about the “External Dharma”, all of us apply the Vibhuti (Burnt scared ash), “Thiruman” (Naamam of Bhagawan Vishnu), etc. on our forehead, many of us wear the dhoti (in case of men) and saree (in case of women), etc. All of these contribute to the “External Dharma”, which is nothing but certain characteristics or symbols that we employ, so as to indicate to the world that we’re following the principles of “Dharma”.

At the same time, there is this second category called “Internal Dharma”, wherein we have some internal characteristics which we’ve to look into. For instance, controlling our anger, exhibiting patience and perseverance in whatever tasks we do, avoiding usage of harmful and abusive words, talking the truth always, etc. Without all these characteristics, what is the use of having just the “External Dharma”? Thus, the significance of “Internal Dharma” is highlighted here. However, at the same time, can we say that only the “Internal Dharma” is sufficient and “External Dharma” is not required? Some people come up with the narrative that if we’re a noble person by character and by heart, external appearances really do not matter. This is not really true. I shall substantiate this point with an important narrative here – If we get our “External Dharma” in place, this itself would serve as a “demotivator” for us from going into unwanted activities that would hamper my “Internal Dharma”. For instance, imagine for a moment that I’m wearing a nice dhoti, Vibhuti, etc. and I’m looking for getting some coins and change for a hundred rupees – I’m looking around myself to check from where I can get this change. At that point, I find a restaurant that cooks non-vegetarian food. Assume that this is the only place that is available. Will I feel comfortable to enter inside that place to obtain my change? If onlookers get to see me in this attire, coming from a restaurant that sells non-vegetarian food, even though I might not have consumed anything there, what would they comment? They might say thus, “Oh! Look at this! Brahmins have also started consuming non-vegetarian food nowadays and this person is setting a bad example for the whole community!” So, what is happening here? Our attire, which is according to our “External Dharma” is serving as a deterrent for us to do something that might be wrong as per the principles of our “Internal Dharma” that we need to follow. Thus, we can see here that if we can get our “External Dharma” right, we would more or less fall in line with our “Internal Dharma” as well.

Given all of these, we cannot say that just because we have either of the “External Dharma” or “Internal Dharma” in place, we’re “Dharmic” in nature! It should thus be a combination of both “External” and “Internal” Dharma and only then we would be able to call ourselves as “Dhaarmikaas”. So for today, let understand the significance of both the “External” and “Internal” Dharma and let us try and address ourselves accordingly. We shall wait for the next episode to continue this discussion further. Stay tuned! 😊





Published by Dr. Jeayaram

Holds a PhD in Management Psychology from Universite Paris Saclay, Paris, France. Also an Asst. Professor of Human Resources management at Bharatidhasan Institute of Management (BIM) Trichy, India A professional South Indian classical musician (singer) performing concerts. Through this blog, I'm trying to bring out the richness of Indian culture & values and I request your support and feedbacks in making this humble effort a success!!

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