Being DHARMIC in today's world

  • By Dr. Subhasis Chattopadhyay
  • June 12, 2023
  • How do you know you are chosen to serve Dharma? How does one deal with practical confusions that may arise? Why is it important for different monastic orders to stay connected?

Vocations are not professions. A vocation to Sanatana Dharma is a personal call from saguna Brahman or, the Supreme Godhead to follow more fully the path of Dharma without caring for this passing world. Professions have retirement ages and are based on work-life balance determined by annual pay-packets. Vocations on the other hand have no retirement ages, they are permanent, and it is to live out our Dharma 24*7.


Further, a vocation is a strictly religious way of living and is not just another way of life. So, a person with a vocation might be a great painter but she paints with the consciousness that it is done for God and will come to use in her mission to spread Sanatana Dharma. Contrary to this, a great painter without a vocation to religious life might be painting the whole day only for personal name and fame.


Those who have vocations are under obedience to their Gurus and do everything keeping in mind how our Dharma can be taken to those who are against our religion. It is to be kept in mind that Sanatana Dharma is a religion and not simply a way of life.


This essay is for those who are called by the Supreme Godhead since they are chosen.


How do you know you are the chosen one?

a. Talking shop and gossips bore you.

b. You do not want to be part of the rat race anymore.

c. You want to serve our Dharma 24*7 being governed by the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, the Brahmasutras, our Tantras and Agamas.


You may be married or may seek to be a monk. Now having realised you are chosen, there arises a problem. Three examples will show how you might become confused and lose your vocation and at the end, become depressed:


1. Say you are a follower of the Swaminarayan Order, and you find the strictness of the Order not to your temperament. Instead of blaming the Order, you should say, try out your life at ISKON. If you are not comfortable with forms of Vaishnavism, you should try out life within Shaivism. This is the power and range of our Dharma. If Kriya Yoga is not for you, do not give up. May be Advaita Vedanta and their centres may be where you should attach yourself. We realise that one shirt does not fit all.


The need of the hour is that all monasteries and monks and Gurus of our Dharma should have respectful connections with their peers in other traditions. It is then possible to end vocation losses.


May be, you have taken in someone who does not fit into your community life as a novice (Brahmacharin) or as a non-monastic devotee. Instead of asking either to leave your chosen marga, you put them in touch with other monastic or non-monastic organisations which might be suitable for them. It is Brahman who has called these people in the first place. Therefore, no human being has the right to dismiss them.

We need to have systems in place where those who are chosen receive de-addiction treatments if necessary; are regularly screened for mental ill-health and hand-held during illnesses. Within the monastic system, there should be multiple exit points before sannyasa. If a person leaves, that person should either go to another ashrama, or if the person wants to return to the world; the monastics with whom she stayed should arrange for a job for that person because this person actually has a vocation as a lay devotee to that particular monastic tradition.


So, if someone leaves a Vaishnava monastery, the monks should ensure that this same person should have access to their monasteries and have a job there. This is necessary since the monastery is at fault too by making a wrong discernment in allowing a person with no monastic vocation to join in the first place.


Thus, it is the responsibility of all who call themselves followers of our Dharma to ensure that not a single person who is especially chosen is lost.


2. Unless one realises that our Dharma is the most liberal religion ever, one cannot nurture vocations. We have nothing to do with food taboos. Often those who eat meat in our religion are assaulted and insulted by those who are vegetarians.


One has to understand that food-choices; gender-orientations and dress codes are not the primary focus of our Dharma.


If vegetarianism does not suit you then there are religious paths in our Dharma and even monastic ways of life in our Dharma which allow eating meat. So vegetarian monastery heads should be in touch with non-vegetarian monastery heads so that a novice is able to move from one system to another. All barriers against women are systemic wrongs. It does not matter which woman is dressed in what way; our Dharma is one of equality. Someone who is bothered about dress-codes of others does not have a vocation. They are just moral policing.


Nirguna Brahman or our mystics across margas are not affected by how women dress or their bodily functions. We need to throw out the inessentials. Unfortunately, we are bothered about the wrong things when our Dharma today is facing mass scale extinction. This author’s English speaking deeply religious daughter was offended along with her father, when bare-bodied men in a temple forced her to wear a veshthi while entering the temple. Just to cover her ankles. The girl who is fiercely Dharmic burst out in anger. When this author reported this incident to monks of three different Orders within our Dharma, all of them agreed that this is a regressive thing to do. 


Recently this author came across a report that someone demanded that 80 percent of a woman’s body should be covered in a particular temple. All these injunctions are non-Indic and puritanical and needs condemnation from within our Dharma. Our Dharma has no place for body-shaming or anything regressive. Vocations will be lost thus. We need both women and men who are established in our Dharma to occupy all positions of power within academia and in business to ensure the survival of our Dharma. 


Unless our administrators of temples and monasteries are educated in both our Dharma and in secular subjects and study diverse non-acceptable topics as different as Marxism and psychoanalysis and are schooled in Western literature; our Dharma is at the risk of alienating future generations and losing precious vocations.


Without nurturing and forming future leaders of our Dharma irrespective of caste, language, and food-preference; we are opening ourselves to extinction. Our leaders need to go beyond studying our Scriptures and philosophy. Study of Western literature must be  compulsory. If someone leaves our Dharma by reading on neo-Marxism  or contemporary English novels, then that person never had a vocation. It is better that one leaves our Dharma after reading Marx than to never read about structuralism and keep ranting against how women dress. These rants divert attention from the real issues which are derailing vocations. 


3. Vocations are lost due to lack of guidance or proper formation. Formation is a life-long process. It often happens that one cannot tell of the struggles of following one’s chosen path to one’s immediate companions. Thus, it is important to seek out women and men who are not connected to that marga directly and take their help in negotiating daily troubles. 


Everyone who has a vocation must receive spiritual direction not only from her Guru but also from holy people who are more often than not, married, and well-advanced in our Dharma. 


Otherwise talking within a select group of people may lead to cultic behaviour and the community can implode and many vocations might be lost. Vocations need to be nurtured through concrete acts of kindness and love. So, if a middle-aged monk feels he is not making any spiritual progress, he should have a support system where he can talk to a middle-aged married man to understand how the latter is struggling to make his family a tapovan without leaving the world. They are peers and not prudishly superior or inferior.


Our Dharma is predominantly non-monastic. Thus, hundreds of our Gurus are married women and men like they were during ancient Vedic times. Married men need other married men of their own age or older to help them progress in our Dharma. Not necessarily monks. Often monks cannot understand that bills need to be paid and insurance premiums given on time. Only other married Dharmic people understand these concrete issues.


If this support structure is not there, we will lose hundreds of learned people who are genuinely interested in furthering the cause of our Dharma.


Everyone is welcome to be part of our Dharma anywhere in the world if they are willing to accept the teachings of our sacred books. This is true catholicity.


Waking up early, waking up late, wearing different dresses or having differing food preferences and even occupations, do not determine the lives of those who have vocations within Sanatana Dharma. The only thing needed is a firm conviction that our religion is the right way to live. And it is not merely a way of life. One can be chosen at any age.


If we are to survive as a faith community, we need to support each other concretely.


Now the internet allows this global coming together of our sisters and brothers. Investment advice to medical help to career counselling can and should be provided by each member of our Faith community to everyone else within our Faith community. Sustaining vocations need money and ‘artha’ is a purushartha. Our business leaders should be encouraged to find their own vocations and in turn taught to support others in need. Only then can we continue for millennia to come.


It is not wrong to want to spread the Love of our Dharma; it is not wrong to study our Dharma, it is not wrong to want to build a Faith community where those with vocations are acknowledged as being chosen and it is utterly evil to condemn anyone who is doing anything to help our Dharma as a zealot. Sanatana Dharma is for everyone; even for those who shame and beat and imprison us for our Faith.


If they change, then as Ratnakar became Sage Valmiki; we too will revere those who once thought we are their enemies. We have no enemies since we do not hate anyone. Others may hate us, but we do not. It is not a crime to seek God as Shabari did. It is a crime to shame contemporary Shabaris.


Welcome friend to the most liberal, progressive religion which predates every religion in the world. In the Name of the Holy Mother, we welcome you.


Harih Om.


Author Subhasis Chattopadhyay   has a Ph.D. in Patristics and the Problem of Evil in American Horror Literature from the University of Calcutta. His reviews from 2010 to 2021 in PrabuddhaBharata have been showcased by Ivy League Presses. He has qualifications in Christian Theology and Hindu Studies and currently teaches English Literature in the PG and UG Department of a College affiliated to the University of Calcutta. He also has qualifications in Behavioural Sciences.


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