Coming back to five branches of irreligion I discussed two days ago – I want to distill their essence the same way I’ve tried to understand principles of Pañca Tattva. It’s not going to be easy and I don’t know myself if it’s possible at all but I think I should try anyway.
To recapitulate – Nārada Muni was instructing Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira in various aspects of varṇāśrama and then suddenly started speaking of irreligion. Sanskrit terms used in these couple of verses do not appear anywhere in the Bhāgavatam so they are all we have to go on, which is not much for such an important topic. Here are the verses themselves (SB 7.5.12-14):
There are five branches of irreligion, appropriately known as irreligion [vidharma], religious principles for which one is unfit [para-dharma], pretentious religion [ābhāsa], analogical religion [upadharma] and cheating religion [chala-dharma]. One who is aware of real religious life must abandon these five as irreligious.
Religious principles that obstruct one from following his own religion are called vidharma. Religious principles introduced by others are called para-dharma. A new type of religion created by one who is falsely proud and who opposes the principles of the Vedas is called upadharma. And interpretation by one’s jugglery of words is called chala-dharma.
A pretentious religious system manufactured by one who willfully neglects the prescribed duties of his order of life is called ābhāsa [a dim reflection or false similarity].
In the first verse the list is given, in the second there are definitions of four kinds of irreligious activities, and the last verse explains the meaning of the fifth.
In the purport Śrīla Prabhupāda doesn’t say much on the subject either, only gives a hint of what these irreligious activities might be in real life but then he uses examples that are not relevant to the current situation – the world has moved on, we don’t fight the same battles as Guḍīyā Maṭha fought a hundred years ago.
One might notice that these irreligious activities have prefixes added to the word dharma and so we can understand their meanings simply by figuring out the meanings of prefixes. Unfortunately, this won’t work, for a couple of reasons.
First reason is a principal one – we do not learn the meaning of Bhāgavatam by analyzing grammar. We do not take word meanings from mundane dictionaries, juggle them together (chala-dharma?), and discover spiritual truth.
Our method is descending – we learn the meaning of the book from our guru, then we apply the meaning of separate words to describe the world around us. This is how Sanskrit is supposed to be learned – it’s a language of God, every word, every syllable, every sound is full of spiritual potencies, it describes various phenomena of the spiritual world.
When the language is used down here it becomes contaminated and original, pure words get attached to mundane objects used for sense enjoyment. Then people who become proficient in subverting pure spiritual meanings for sense gratification start teaching others and produce dictionaries. There’s nothing we can learn from them, it’s no the way for us to go.
Another reason why formal knowledge of Sanskrit won’t help here is because prefixes used to form these words often have positive meanings, we don’t expect them to describe irreligious activities at all.
Just think of it, we have Para Brahman and Parāmātma – Supersoul and Supreme Brahman. Shouldn’t paradharma mean supreme religion? Apparently not.
Same goes for “vi” – we have viśuddha, purified goodness, and we have vijñana, purified knowledge or realization, yet vidharma doesn’t mean purified religion.
This means all I have to go on is definitions given by Nārada Muni and common sense.
The other day I was asked to clean the house and I didn’t have an excuse to wiggle out so I agreed and diligently went and dusted everything, swept and mopped the floors and so on. Was it an irreligious activity? Which one? Let’s see.
First of all, I think that these types of irreligion never exist in a pure form but always as a mix, same as three gunas. We can’t isolate any one of the modes of nature in this world, everything we observe here has traces of goodness, traces of passion, and traces of ignorance. Likewise, any irreligious activity might have traces of all five kinds of those, some more prominent than then others.
So, vidharma – activity that prevents one from executing his spiritual duties. I spent several hours cleaning the house, I could have spent this time reading books. Maybe not in real life, maybe I would have sat in front of the computer instead, but that would be just another kind of vidharma I resort to when I don’t want to serve the Lord.
Was it a paradharma? This is a puzzling one. In word for word translation Prabhupāda defines it as “imitating religious systems for which one is unfit” but in the full translation it becomes “Religious principles introduced by others”. I think it’s just a mix up here that BBT should look into.
If I take full translation meaning – I was told to clean the house by others and I was told that it was for the benefit of all the family. Perfect example of paradharma.
If I take the word for word translation then I could say that typically we should perform these kind of duties with the mind concentrated on Kṛṣṇa, as instructed in Bhagavad Gīta. We should perform them as a sacrifice to the Supreme. If we can do it we’d be acting in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Personally, I’m unfit for that, as per definition of paradharma. In this interpretation paradharma is not what I was told to do by the family but what I was told to do by Kṛṣṇa and Śrīla Prabhupāda.
One could object – “Wait a minute! How could instructions of our ācāryas become irreligious? It’s impossible by definition.” To this I might answer that Śrīla Prabhupāda arranged for us to serve in the temples and clean the temples. If we do that then maintaining our consciousness focused on Kṛṣṇa becomes easy.
When one develops a vision where everything he sees or does is perceived as connected to God he can go on and carry his service outside. I’m not that person yet. I’m only imitating, trying to be holier than I am.
I think we can actually combine both meanings and say that paradharma is a “religious” activity imposed on us by others and even if it works for them we might not be up to it ourselves yet. Basically, it’s imitating someone else’s progress.
There are still three types of false dharma to go but this post is getting long, I shall continue this tomorrow.