Eternal Law


brahman - Vedic Universe
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Night of brahmA
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shrI mahAlakshmI
(mahAlakshmI - font of well-being and prosperity)

yA devI sarva sarvabhUteSu tuSTirUpeNa saMsthitA
namastassai namastassai namastassai namo namaH

Again and again, I bow to the devi who resides in all beings as contentment.

Eternal Law is first and foremost a statement of faith as are all axioms. Even after asserting existence of something called Eternal Law, it is not really easy to say what it is. It is a law that creates and upholds the universe we live in - universe that I modeled here as a coin. And a peculiar coin it is. Unlike ordinary coins, we can rarely see it fully. Most of us live and die on one face of the coin (the physical plane) without even becoming aware that there is more to this coin. A few who begin to look beneath the surface usually don't dig in far enough and thus still see only a bit more than the "surface only" dwellers of the universe. The differences in our ability to dig in to different depths beneath the surface are what is recognized as adhikArabheda by the teachers of vedAnta. As the universe is hard to see in its entirety, so is the Eternal Law hard to fathom in its entirety. Much like the universe it upholds, this law also has three facets. It manifests in three different forms. Indeed this three-fold manifestation of the Eternal Law is what gives rise to three views of the world we saw earlier.

When the Eternal Law manifests itself in its primal, essential form, it finds expression as
sat-chit-Ananda or as being, consciousness and joy. This is the essential plane of the universe, the source of space and time.

When Eternal Law manifests as natural laws of the physical universe it gives rise to the
material plane or the physical world we live in. These are the laws which scientists like to study. Examples of this manifestation are the laws of gravity, laws of motion, laws of thermodynamics and so on. These laws maintain order in the material plane. These laws correlate events occurring in the material plane. They tell us how causes produce effects and how actions lead to consequences. The most fundamental laws of the physical universe are all axioms - axioms which are necessarily contained in the grandest axiom of all - the Eternal Law.

The above two manifestations of the Eternal Law are linked by the way Eternal Law manifests between the essential and material planes described above. This link is the law of karma. It operates in the field that spans the two planes. This is dharma kshetra, the field of dharma, field governed by dharma or Law. It consists of the (world of) hiraNyagarbha, or the subtle body of the universe, and AkAsha or the causal body of the universe. This law maintains order in the world of hiraNygarbha and AkAsha. It correlates all that happens in the world of hiraNyagarbha and AkAsha. Since most of our total personality resides in the world of hiraNyagarbha and AkAsha, the law of karma applies to all that pertains to our subtle and causal bodies. Indirectly, it influences all that happens in the material plane also as we will see in saMsAra.

In "Three Views of the World" I said, "In the long run, when the whole story is written, the consequences of our actions are ours to bear and ours alone to bear." This follows directly form the law of karma. Law of karma is thus an ultimate statement of personal responsibility.

dharma kSetre kuru kSetre samavetA yuyutsavaH

Bhagavad Gita sets the stage with these words. Troops have assembled for a battle, it tells us. They have assembled on two fields. One field is located in the physical plane or the Kuru-Kshetra, the field in which we perform actions. In the MahAbhArata, it is the field located near modern New Delhi where the great battle was fought. But each soldier is also going to wage his battle on another field - the field of Law or dharma kSetra. We all are constantly engaged in the enterprise of life in the same two fields, the field of action or the physical plane and the dharma kSetra, which is what makes the message of Gita pertinent to all of us all the time. It is unfortunate, that most who are engaged in wars today are unaware that, unbeknownst to them, they are also fighting their battles in dharma kSetra, where their performance really counts and will decide their future.

Note: For those who are used to see life in terms of commandments received from divine sources, karma may seem too vague a notion to be useful. The most fundamental statement one can make about karma is simply this - (all) actions have consequences - a statement that does not inform us what actions lead us to heaven what lead us to hell. But then, karma has nothing to say about heaven and hell at all. It is important to understand that fundamentally, karma is a descriptive law; it is not a prescriptive law. Onus is on each of us to pay attention to our inner voice and live life intelligently rather than just obediently.


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