It’s not only the materialists who concern themselves with upholding justice, even Kṛṣṇa descends from time to time to uphold dharma and punish miscreants (BG 4.8). Adharma is also quite a popular word in our books so the fight is legit, right? Not so fast, I think.
There’s fundamental difference between Kṛṣṇa’s concern for dharma and atheistic quest for justice. It’s more or less the same as with sex – when connected with Kṛṣṇa it’s the highest form of devotion, when disconnected from Him it becomes a soul degrading lust. If we take this analogy further – we must free ourselves from desire for justice just as we must free ourselves from lust to make any advancement in spiritual progress.
There are religious systems of justice, most notably Islamic sharia law, but they are all ultimately atheistic because none of their practitioners have actual realization of God and so they are forced to interpret even God given laws according to their “God does not exist” perception of reality. They, and most of us, for that matter, do not see God and so can’t escape acting as if He doesn’t exist. We are all in illusion and all illusion is atheistic.
Besides, sharia law is not the most popular system of justice in the modern world to say the least. The fact of the matter is that all modern societies are forced to submit themselves to international norms of behavior which, despite their name, are set by western secularists in an explicit attempt to create power structures completely free from any notion of God.
It might not have started that way and it took secularism a few centuries to assert itself but it’s finally there, overriding any God given laws it wants even in outwardly religious countries like the US. Same sex marriage is one obvious example. They wants it, they gets it, Bible is not an obstacle.
Obviously, we should not have a horse in this race, it’s all adharma – all their laws, all their legislature, all their courts, all their judges, all their “public opinions”. They all serve the Devil, so to speak, there are no sides in their battles we could unreservedly take. Not Republicans, not Democrats, not liberals, not conservatives, not Christian Democrats, not Labour, not nationalists, not Greens, nobody.
The problem for us is how to manage our innate atheistic desire to control the world and express opinions on how it should be run. Our first outlet is to apply laws we learn from our books. “According to Vedic culture”, we say, or “according to laws of Manu”, or even “according to Bhāgavatam and Bhagavad Gītā”. The attempt is noble, the execution, however, is far from perfect.
The ability to quote does not make us śāstra-cakṣu, no more than parrots can claim to understand humans. Śāstra, especially the kind we profess to speak for, is beyond perception of our senses. It’s not just words on paper that we can translate with dictionaries – Śrīmad Bhāgavatam is non-different from Kṛṣṇa Himself and so is Gītā. We cannot honestly claim to speak through the eyes of śāstra unless we see Kṛṣṇa Himself appearing on its pages.
Still under the spell of the illusion we are doing what the rest of the world is doing, too – express our own desire for power and control, we just enlist Kṛṣṇa related books as our help while they enlist their logic and rationality. The goal is still the same, though our means should gradually purify and liberate us from this illusion. Until that happens – it’s all adharma. I would say that very few of our interactions on this subject are done with the unalloyed desire to please guru and Kṛṣṇa, we always want to see ourselves being right first.
Now, the argument can be turned around and the opposite conclusion drawn out – that everything is dharma and adharma does not exist.
The key lies in certain assumptions about our definitions. The Bhāgavatam is a commentary on Vedānta sutras which start with athāto brahma jijñāsā, that the meaning of our lives is to understand God. That’s our starting point and we judge everything according to this principle – does it improve our understanding of Brahman? If not then its adharma, very simple.
Otherwise, dharma is not just law but it’s the very nature of everything and no one can go against nature, therefore adharma is impossible. When we act against prescriptions of the śāstra we simply give in to our lower nature, take shelter in the material energy, and forgo our athāto brahma jijñāsa commitment.
It is natural for a young woman or a man to feel attracted to each other. Their bodies naturally produce necessary hormones and naturally develop sexual organs specifically designed to interact with their counterparts. We cannot say that it’s unnatural and therefore adharmic for them to engage in sex.
What we do say at the very beginning is that we are not our bodies but spirit souls and for spirit souls materially expressed sex IS unnatural and, therefore, is adharma.
Likewise, it’s natural for us to want food or oxygen, it’s our dharma to walk on two legs and not swing from trees. Even if we do desire to live like monkeys this desire does not come from anywhere else but our nature, it’s just that it’s somewhat different from other people around us.
Dharma, therefore, is an expression of karma and it is equally unavoidable. And if we remember that the entire material world and every little movement of karma is meant for our gradual self-realization then there cannot be adharma here by definition. That’s how the world is seen by paramahaṁsas – for them everybody is already a perfect servant of Kṛṣṇa, it’s just that their relationships can see some improvements, but all in good time when both parties are ready.
The argument can be turned once again, however. The above picture is somewhat impersonal because it does not take into account living entities own desires and their own commitments. We want to understand Brahman, for example. We might not understand what it is and how to acquire that knowledge but the desire is still there or we wouldn’t be in this movement. This desire might be innate, because jīvera ‘svarūpa’ haya — kṛṣṇera ‘nitya-dāsa’, but it is planted into our hearts by guru and vaiṣṇavas and we are not free to pursue it on our own, we must always confer with others in the spirit of dāsadāsānudāsa and so they MUST correct our behavior when necessary – therefore some of what we do must be adharma.
After all, we want to develop Kṛṣṇa consciousness, not our consciousness. What is dharma for us might not be dharma for Kṛṣṇa and this is especially true in the conditioned state.
Still, what is adharma for us might not necessarily be adharma for others, we don’t know what commitments they have made and we are not their accepted authorities to pass judgments. We can take notes for ourselves but we should be very careful with disturbing others. Rules of saṅkīrtana must apply – voluntarily, congregational glorification of God.