Samanya Dharma (सामान्यधर्मः)
Samanya Dharma (Samskrit: सामान्यधर्मः) refers to the tenets that are uniformly applicable to everyone in a society. They are universal principles prescribed to be practised by all.
परिचयः ॥ Introduction
The Sanskrit term 'Dharma' is of wide import. All the rules of righteous conduct of human beings in every sphere of human activity evolved from times immemorial in the civilization of Bharata, fall within the meaning of the word 'Dharma'. It is not religion, as misunderstood by many. For, religion refers to a mode of worship of the divine by the believers; it is personal and left to the choice of individuals. Whereas, Dharma is a code of conduct for all human beings for all time to come. It is universal and applies to all, whether they belong to any religion or not.
This Dharma has two forms - a Samanya rupa (Generic form) and a Vishesha rupa (Specific form).
The generic form eternally remains the same. It is not affected by changes in time, place, surroundings and individual differences. It is never changed by any circumstance whatsoever. And is thus, Sanatana or eternal. That which changes according to the change of time, place and surrounding circumstances is the external aspect or ritual, of Dharma.
धर्मभेदः ॥ Classification of Dharma
Bharatiya Parampara enunciates that Dharma or righteous duties have two aspects.
- सामान्यधर्मः (Samanya Dharma) : This deals with the ethical principles like truth, non-injury, non-stealing, etc., which are common duties of all beings. They are universal principles applicable to all irrespective of their class, gender or nationality. For eg. Goodness is not a property of any one class, creed, sect or community. It is a virtue every human being should possess. Thus, Samanya Dharma is the general law for all human beings.
- विशेषधर्मः (Vishesha Dharma) : These are special duties, which are unique to every individual depending on the kala (time), desha (place), varna and ashrama. For eg. The Varnashrama Dharmas are special Dharmas to be practised by particular groups of people and by people in particular stages of life. However, Samanya Dharmas must be practised by all, irrespective of distinctions of Varna and Ashrama, creed or colour.
वैदिकवाङ्मयेषु सामान्यधर्मः ॥ Samanya Dharma in Vaidika Vangmaya
Dharmas common to all referred to as Samanya Dharmas, numbering between 5-30, are mentioned across the Vaidika Vangmaya texts such as the Smrtis, Itihasa and Puranas. These tenets applicable to everyone, as they occur in various texts, are enumerated below.
|5 tenets||6 tenets||9 tenets|
|अहिंसा सत्यं अस्तेयं शौचं इन्द्रियनिग्रहः ।
एतं सामासिकं धर्मं चातुर्वर्ण्येऽब्रवीन्मनुः ॥ १०.६३ ॥
|सर्वेषां अहिंसा सत्यं शौचं अनसूय आनृशंस्यं क्षमा च ॥ ०१.३.१३ ॥||अहिंसा सत्यं अस्तेयं शौचं इन्द्रियनिग्रहः ।
दानं दमो दया क्षान्तिः सर्वेषां धर्मसाधनम् ॥ १.१२२ ॥
|ahiṁsā satyaṁ asteyaṁ śaucaṁ indriyanigrahaḥ ।
etaṁ sāmāsikaṁ dharmaṁ cāturvarṇye'bravīnmanuḥ ॥ 10.63 ॥
|sarveṣāṁ ahiṁsā satyaṁ śaucaṁ anasūya ānr̥śaṁsyaṁ kṣamā ca ॥ 01.3.13 ॥||ahiṁsā satyaṁ asteyaṁ śaucaṁ indriyanigrahaḥ ।
dānaṁ damo dayā kṣāntiḥ sarveṣāṁ dharmasādhanam ॥ 1.122 ॥
|Mahabharata||Vamana Purana||Agni Purana||Bhagavata Purana|
|9 tenets||14 tenets||16 tenets||30 tenets|
|अक्रोधः सत्यवचनं संविभागः क्षमा तथा ।
प्रजनः स्वेषु दारेषु शौचमद्रोह एव च ॥ १२.५९.९ ॥
आर्जवं भृत्यभरणं नवैते सार्ववर्णिकाः ।
|स्वाध्यायं ब्रह्मचर्यं च दानं यजनमेव च ।
अकार्पण्यमनायासं दयाऽहिंसा क्षमा दमः ॥ ११.२३ ॥
जितेन्द्रियत्वं शौचं च माङ्गल्यं भक्तिरच्युते ।
शंकरे भास्करे देव्यां धर्मोऽयं मानवः स्मृतः ॥ ११.२४ ॥
|अहिंसा सत्यवचनन्दया भूतेष्वनुग्रहः ।
तीर्थानुसरणं दानं ब्रह्मचर्यममत्सरः ॥१५१.३
देवद्विजातिशुश्रूषा गुरूणाञ्च भृगूत्तम ।
श्रवणं सर्वधर्माणां पितॄणां पूजनं तथा ॥१५१.४
भक्तिश्च नृपतौ नित्यं तथा सच्छास्त्रनेत्रता ।
आनृशंष्यन्तितिक्षा च तथा चास्तिक्यमेव च ॥१५१.५
वर्णाश्रमाणां सामान्यं धर्माधर्मं समीरितं ।१५१.६
|सत्यं दया तपः शौचं तितिक्षेक्षा शमो दमः । अहिंसा ब्रह्मचर्यं च त्यागः स्वाध्याय आर्जवम् ॥ ८ ॥
सन्तोषः समदृक् सेवा ग्राम्येहोपरमः शनैः । नृणां विपर्ययेहेक्षा मौनं आत्मविमर्शनम् ॥ ९ ॥
अन्नाद्यादेः संविभागो भूतेभ्यश्च यथार्हतः । तेष्वात्मदेवताबुद्धिः सुतरां नृषु पाण्डव ॥ १० ॥
श्रवणं कीर्तनं चास्य स्मरणं महतां गतेः । सेवेज्यावनतिर्दास्यं सख्यमात्म समर्पणम् ॥ ११ ॥
नृणामयं परो धर्मः सर्वेषां समुदाहृतः । त्रिंशत् लक्षणवान् राजन् सर्वात्मा येन तुष्यति ॥ १२ ॥
|akrodhaḥ satyavacanaṁ saṁvibhāgaḥ kṣamā tathā ।
prajanaḥ sveṣu dāreṣu śaucamadroha eva ca ॥ 12.59.9 ॥
ārjavaṁ bhr̥tyabharaṇaṁ navaite sārvavarṇikāḥ ।
|svādhyāyaṁ brahmacaryaṁ ca dānaṁ yajanameva ca ।
akārpaṇyamanāyāsaṁ dayā'hiṁsā kṣamā damaḥ ॥ 11.23 ॥
jitendriyatvaṁ śaucaṁ ca māṅgalyaṁ bhaktiracyute ।
śaṁkare bhāskare devyāṁ dharmo'yaṁ mānavaḥ smr̥taḥ ॥ 11.24 ॥
|ahiṁsā satyavacanandayā bhūteṣvanugrahaḥ ।
tīrthānusaraṇaṁ dānaṁ brahmacaryamamatsaraḥ ॥151.3
devadvijātiśuśrūṣā gurūṇāñca bhr̥gūttama ।
śravaṇaṁ sarvadharmāṇāṁ pitr̥̄ṇāṁ pūjanaṁ tathā ॥151.4
bhaktiśca nr̥patau nityaṁ tathā sacchāstranetratā ।
ānr̥śaṁṣyantitikṣā ca tathā cāstikyameva ca ॥151.5
varṇāśramāṇāṁ sāmānyaṁ dharmādharmaṁ samīritaṁ ।151.6
|satyaṁ dayā tapaḥ śaucaṁ titikṣekṣā śamo damaḥ । ahiṁsā brahmacaryaṁ ca tyāgaḥ svādhyāya ārjavam ॥ 8 ॥
santoṣaḥ samadr̥k sevā grāmyehoparamaḥ śanaiḥ । nr̥ṇāṁ viparyayehekṣā maunaṁ ātmavimarśanam ॥ 9 ॥
annādyādeḥ saṁvibhāgo bhūtebhyaśca yathārhataḥ । teṣvātmadevatābuddhiḥ sutarāṁ nr̥ṣu pāṇḍava ॥ 10 ॥
śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ cāsya smaraṇaṁ mahatāṁ gateḥ । sevejyāvanatirdāsyaṁ sakhyamātma samarpaṇam ॥ 11 ॥
nr̥ṇāmayaṁ paro dharmaḥ sarveṣāṁ samudāhr̥taḥ । triṁśat lakṣaṇavān rājan sarvātmā yena tuṣyati ॥ 12 ॥
प्रचुरोक्ताः सामान्यधर्माः ॥ Persistent tenets
It is seen that Samanya Dharma or principles applicable to all are enlisted in various texts. Manusmrti gives a list of 5 tenets; Arthashastra mentions 6 tenets; Yajnavalkya Smrti mentions 9 tenets; Mahabharata also mentions 9 tenets; Vamana Purana mentions 14 tenets; while the Bhagavata Purana mentions 30 tenets as Samanya Dharma.
- अहिंसा || Ahimsa
- सत्यम् || Satya
- अस्तेयम् || Asteya
- शौचम् || Shaucha
- इन्द्रियनिग्रहः || Indriya Nigraha
These five tenets are herewith discussed in brief.
अहिंसा || Ahimsa
Ahimsa refers to Non-injury or Non-violence. It prohibits people from indulging in violence against other living beings. However, the violence or injury referred to here doesn't apply only to physical injuries. It is said that ahimsa should be practised not just in action but in speech and thought as well. The Kurma Purana says,
कर्मणा मनसा वाचा सर्वभूतेषु सर्वदा । अक्लेशजननं प्रोक्ता त्वहिंसा परमर्षिभिः ।। ११.१४ karmaṇā manasā vācā sarvabhūteṣu sarvadā । akleśajananaṁ proktā tvahiṁsā paramarṣibhiḥ ।। 11.14
Because, any physical action that causes harm or imposes pain on any living being be it a human, animal, insect, plant or any other living organism, is considered himsa or violence in action (karma). Similarly, words that cause mental agony to others or words that are intended to act as curses that create imbalance in the surroundings refer to violence in speech. And any thought about harming others either physically or mentally is considered violence in thought. Therefore, the practice of ahimsa includes non-injury to other living beings through action, speech as well as thought.
सत्यम् || Satya
Satya refers to truthfulness. And the practice of Satya as a Dharma entails practice of truthfulness in thoughts, speech and actions in day to day life by every one. Manusmrti explains that Satya or truth is to align thought, speech and action with reality and speak that reality for the welfare of living beings.
सत्यं नाम मनोवाक्कायकर्मभिर्भूतहितयथार्थाभिभाषणम् । satyaṁ nāma manovākkāyakarmabhirbhūtahitayathārthābhibhāṣaṇam ।
At the same time, it also emphasizes that truth must be spoken in a pleasant manner which is another very important aspect in the practice of Satya. The Manusmrti says,
सत्यं ब्रूयात्प्रियं ब्रूयान्न ब्रूयात्सत्यं अप्रियम् । प्रियं च नानृतं ब्रूयादेष धर्मः सनातनः । । ४.१३८ । । satyaṁ brūyātpriyaṁ brūyānna brūyātsatyaṁ apriyam । priyaṁ ca nānr̥taṁ brūyādeṣa dharmaḥ sanātanaḥ । । 4.138 । ।
Meaning: Let one say what is true, let one say what is pleasing, let one not utter disagreeable truth and let one utter no agreeable falsehood; that is the eternal law’.
Thus, if some unpleasant news must be conveyed to someone, it should be done at an appropriate time and in a subtle way so as to minimise the pain to the listener. Such an austere practice of truth in every word uttered, in every action performed and in every thought that crosses the mind constitutes Satya Dharma.
अस्तेयम् || Asteya
Any thought, speech or action that amounts to stealing or misappropriation by force or fraud is Steya. And Asteya is the opposite of that. Hence, the Shandilya Upanishad explains Asteya as,
अस्तेयं नाम मनोवाक्कायकर्मभिः परद्रव्येषु निःस्पृहा । asteyaṁ nāma manovākkāyakarmabhiḥ paradravyeṣu niḥspr̥hā ।
It refers to non-stealing, not coveting the property of others and not acquiring illegitimate wealth. Infact, the practice of Asteya prohibits even the desire to secure wealth by illegitimate methods that makes even people in noble professions exploit the miseries of others to make more and more money in utter disregard to professional ethics.
Moreover, Steya does not refer only to the stealing of other’s property or kidnapping of other’s family members. One must never take away anything that belongs to another, including other’s ideas and discoveries. Speaking about something which is not one’s own understanding and claiming them as one’s own, etc. also amounts to Steya. Hence, the practice of Asteya involves a strict control of mind and senses such that one does not entertain any thoughts of stealing other’s ideas, property or family members; not even desire to possess them.
शौचम् || Shaucha
Shaucha refers to cleanliness or purity. It refers to both external cleanliness as well as internal purity. The external cleanliness constitutes cleanliness of the body through bathing and the like, cleanliness of various objects of use with water and other materials, and cleanliness of the surrounding environment including keeping the ground, water and air clean. While internal cleanliness refers to the purification of the mind by removing impurities like lust and anger.
Infact, the practice of Shaucha commands every individual to maintain purity of thought, word and deed which is known as Trikarana shuddhi (Kaya, Vacha, Manasa). Also, known as Antaranga Shuddhi (internal/mental purity) and Bahiranga Shuddhi (external purity or purity in action), it means absolute honesty that reflects through harmony in thought, word and deed of an individual. Simply put, one should not think something in the mind, speak something else and do entirely another thing.
इन्द्रियनिग्रहः || Indriya Nigraha
Indriya Nigraha refers Sense-restraint or control of senses. It is very important because, it is lack of control over the senses that results in individuals indulging in all types of illegal and immoral actions, being instigated by the one or more of the six inherent enemies (Arishadvargas), which lands the individual as well as others in misery and sorrow.
Infact, a person who is in the grip of the senses is ever running behind worldly pleasures and hence, will end up committing mistakes that result in sorrow. And it is well known that desire is never extinguished by the enjoyment of desired objects; it only grows stronger like a fire (fed) with clarified butter.
न जातु कामः कामानां उपभोगेन शाम्यति । हविषा कृष्णवर्त्मेव भूय एवाभिवर्धते । । २.९४ । । na jātu kāmaḥ kāmānāṁ upabhogena śāmyati । haviṣā kr̥ṣṇavartmeva bhūya evābhivardhate । । 2.94 । ।
Therefore, without controlling the mind and the senses, there is neither material happiness nor spiritual bliss. However, proper restraint cannot be achieved merely by suppression of desires. Restraint of the senses is possible only through constant awareness and vigilance. Hence, one should practise constant monitoring of one’s thoughts, speech, and actions. Every object towards which the mind or the senses get attracted must be observed and examined by the intellect. The intellect must question whether the object is useful, whether possessing it has any real benefit for oneself and the others, whether possession of such an object is according to dharma or not. It is only by the practice of constant awareness and restraint that a person will be able to attain complete indriyanigraha.
A few other important tenets of Samanya Dharma that are common to many texts are as follows:
दया ॥ Daya
The Shandilya Upanishad defines daya as ‘kindness to all creatures at all places’.
दया नाम सर्वभूतेषु सर्वत्रानुग्रहः । dayā nāma sarvabhūteṣu sarvatrānugrahaḥ ।
Hence, a person who has daya is always kind and compassionate towards all beings. Such a person will never do, utter or even think of anything that can harm, cause pain or hurt any being. For, the practice of Daya entails that thoughts, speech and actions be filled with kindness for everyone and be aimed at achieving the well-being of everyone.
दानम् ॥ Dana
The Shandilya Upanishad says that Dana means the giving away of ‘ethically earned money, grains and the like.’
दानं नाम न्यायार्जितस्य धनधान्यादिः श्रद्धयार्हितेभ्यः प्रदानम् । dānaṁ nāma nyāyārjitasya dhanadhānyādiḥ śraddhayārhitebhyaḥ pradānam ।
The Bhagavad Gita speaks of three kinds of Dana viz. Sattvika, Rajasika and Tamasika.
दातव्यमिति यद्दानं दीयतेऽनुपकारिणे । देशे काले च पात्रे च तद्दानं सात्त्विकं स्मृतम् ॥१७.२०॥
यत्तु प्रत्युपकारार्थं फलमुद्दिश्य वा पुनः । दीयते च परिक्लिष्टं तद्दानं राजसं स्मृतम् ॥१७.२१॥
अदेशकाले यद्दानमपात्रेभ्यश्च दीयते । असत्कृतमवज्ञातं तत्तामसमुदाहृतम् ॥१७.२२॥
dātavyamiti yaddānaṁ dīyate'nupakāriṇe । deśe kāle ca pātre ca taddānaṁ sāttvikaṁ smr̥tam ॥17.20॥
yattu pratyupakārārthaṁ phalamuddiśya vā punaḥ । dīyate ca parikliṣṭaṁ taddānaṁ rājasaṁ smr̥tam ॥17.21॥
adeśakāle yaddānamapātrebhyaśca dīyate । asatkr̥tamavajñātaṁ tattāmasamudāhr̥tam ॥17.22॥
Meaning: That gift is referred to as born of sattva which gift is given with the idea that it ought to be given, to one who will not serve in return, and at the (proper) place, (proper) time and to a (proper) person. But the gift which is given expecting reciprocation, or again, with a desire for its result, and which is given grudgingly, that is considered to be born of rajas. And that gift which is made at an improper place and time, and to undeserving persons, without proper treatment and with disdain, is declared to be born of tamas.
Thus, it is Sattvika Dana that is considered the best. While Tamasika Dana is to be avoided completely.
अनसूया ॥ Anasuya
Asuya means jealousy and an-asuya means the absence of jealousy. One must never be jealous of another’s knowledge, wealth or prosperity because jealousy leads to frustration and anger that in turn leads to various wrongdoings. A jealous person thinks of stealing other’s wealth or causing some harm to the other. Hence, jealousy results in mental confusion and social discord, ultimately leading to one's spiritual fall. Therefore, the tenet of Anasuya has been prescribed as one of the common tenets of dharma.
क्षमा ॥ Kshama
Kshama refers to ‘forgiveness’. The Shandilya Upanishad describes kshama as ‘forbearance of everything, the pleasant and the unpleasant, praise and insult’.
क्षमा नाम प्रियाप्रियेषु सर्वेषु ताडनपूजनेषु सहनम् । kṣamā nāma priyāpriyeṣu sarveṣu tāḍanapūjaneṣu sahanam ।
Because, a person whose mind is unsteady and is affected by praise or criticism, will bear grudge when not praised or when criticised. This holding of grudge gives rise to frustration and anger which in turn deludes the intellect that prevents the person from forgiving those who appear to cause real or imagined harm.
स्वाध्यायः ॥ Svadhyaya
Svadhyaya refers to the study of various scriptures and contemplating upon them. The Kurma Purana says,
वेदान्तशतरुद्रीयप्रणवादिजपं बुधाः । सत्त्वसिद्धिकरं पुंसां स्वाध्यायं परिचक्षते ।। ११.२२ vedāntaśatarudrīyapraṇavādijapaṁ budhāḥ । sattvasiddhikaraṁ puṁsāṁ svādhyāyaṁ paricakṣate ।। 11.22
ब्रह्मचर्यम् ॥ Brahmacharya
Brahmacharya refers to a practise of celibacy. The Shandilya Upanishad defines brahmacharya as ‘the renunciation of copulation at all times in thought, word and action’.
ब्रह्मचर्यं नाम सर्वावस्थासु मनोवाक्कायकर्मभिः सर्वत्र मैथुनत्यागः । brahmacaryaṁ nāma sarvāvasthāsu manovākkāyakarmabhiḥ sarvatra maithunatyāgaḥ ।
The practice of Brahmacharya leads to control of the mind and the senses, ultimately resulting in the cessation of desires.
सामान्यधर्मस्य महत्त्वम् ॥ Importance of Samanya Dharma
योगे ॥ In Yoga
Maharshi Patanjali has systematised the methods to remove various factors that distract the mind and has chalked out an eight-limbed process that slowly leads a person towards the ultimate state of Samadhi. These eight limbs are:
- Yama (external discipline)
- Niyama (internal discipline)
- Pranayama (breath control)
- Pratyahara (withdrawal of the sense organs)
- Dharana (steadfast concentration)
- Dhyana (meditative absorption)
Yama and Niyama are foundational without which the practice of Asana or Pranayama will never bear fruit. And the tenets of Yama and Niyama are the tenets of Samanya Dharma that are universal and apply to everyone. Yama includes non-violence, truth, non-stealing, brahmacharya and aparigraha (not holding more than what is necessary). While Niyama includes cleanliness, cheerfulness, austerity, svadhyaya and surrender to the Supreme Being. The practice of these tenets of Samanya Dharma will regulate one’s lifestyle, build character, remove mental distractions and purify the mind. And purification of mind leads to stillness of the mind. Hence, when a person established in Yama and Niyama practises Asana and Pranayama, he or she will be able to withdraw the senses and attain one-pointed concentration which will ultimately lead to Samadhi. Therefore, Samanya Dharma is an inseparable aspect of Yoga, without which any practice of Yoga would be fruitless.
भक्त्याम् ॥ In Bhakti
A person can attain true bhakti only when one is able to purify one’s heart by destroying the inner impurities like lust, anger and pride. And this destruction of inner impurities is brought about only by the practice of the tenets of Dharma. The Narada Bhakti Sutra says,
अहिंसासत्यशौचदयास्तिक्यादिचारित्र्याणि परिपालनीयानि ॥७८॥ ahiṁsāsatyaśaucadayāstikyādicāritryāṇi paripālanīyāni ॥78॥
Meaning: Non-violence, truthfulness, purity, compassion, piety and other essentials of good life, should be maintained.
Thus, even in bhakti, a constant practice of Samanya Dharma is inevitable.
ज्ञाने ॥ In Jnana
The end goal of all spiritual practices is attainment of moksha or freedom from the cycle of birth and death. That results from direct knowledge of the Atman, the innermost Self, expounded in the Upanishads or Vedanta. This direct knowledge of the reality of Atman liberates a person from the bondage of birth and death because bondage itself is rooted in ignorance about the true nature of Atman.
The Upanishads lay down the requisite qualifications for a person to become eligible to practise Vedanta. The Taittiriya Upanishad, through the instructions imparted by the preceptor to students after having taught the Vedas says,
सत्यं वद । धर्मं चर । स्वाध्यायान्मा प्रमदः । satyaṁ vada । dharmaṁ cara । svādhyāyānmā pramadaḥ ।
Meaning: Speak the truth. Practise righteousness. Make no mistake about self-study.
Adi Shankaracharya also, in his Vivekachudamani, enumerates the basic qualifications necessary to practise Vedanta called Sadhana Chatushtaya or the fourfold spiritual practice. It includes discernment, dispassion, control of the internal organs, control of the external sense organs, forbearance, withdrawal of the mind from external sense objects, faith in the guru and scriptures, one-pointed meditation on Brahman and an intense desire for moksha.
These are either the tenets of Samanya Dharma themselves or those that are attained through the practice of Samanya Dharma. Hence, the tenets of Samanya Dharma are very vital in the path of knowledge as well.
अध्यात्मे ॥ In Adhyatma
The importance of Samanya Dharma in spirituality irrespective of the chosen path is in that it leads to the purification of the mind. The mind is afflicted with various impurities that are generally classified into the six passions viz.
- Kama (lust)
- Krodha (anger)
- Moha (delusion)
- Lobha (greed)
- Mada (pride)
- Matsarya (jealousy)
These impurities lead a person to commit various mistakes which in turn tighten the karmic bondage. As long as a person is under the influence of these mental passions, she or he cannot make any spiritual progress. Hence, purification of the mind by the destruction of these internal enemies is the very first stage in spirituality. And this is possible only by a constant practice of the various tenets of Samanya Dharma.
That is why Manusmrti says,
तपो विद्या च विप्रस्य निःश्रेयसकरं परम् । तपसा किल्बिषं हन्ति विद्ययामृतं अश्नुते । । १२.१०४ । । tapo vidyā ca viprasya niḥśreyasakaraṁ param । tapasā kilbiṣaṁ hanti vidyayāmr̥taṁ aśnute । । 12.104 । ।
Meaning: Austerity and sacred learning are the best means by which a Brahmana secures supreme bliss; by austerities he destroys guilt, by sacred learning he obtains the cessation of (births and) deaths.
Thus, the role of Samanya Dharma in any spiritual path is foundational in nature. It is a basic discipline that imparts the required qualities to a spiritual aspirant that makes one fit to practise any spiritual discipline that leads to moksha.
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