He word “Dharma” is commonly used in India and is also subject to a wrong connotation largely because of it being treated as a synonym of religion. Simply defined dharma means that “which is to be dhaaran kiyaa jaanaa or that can be adopted, accepted and followed. Jo dhaaran karne yogya ho vahi dharm hai. Dhaaran means wear as we wear clothes. Its meaning stretches to adoption and following. It is indicative of a certain bank of ideas and ideals a society had decided in the past to generally adopt and follow, as modern societies follow codes or constitutions. It is a gift of the human mind, which explored the meaning of existence in a world full of vividness and mystery. It is the human genius that it has continued the pursuit of the inquiry right up to this modern age! Sometimes the whole phenomenon seems to be as simple as the Creation of a power hidden from the human mind and at others it looks like a long process of simple Evolution. The long experience of the human race has been bequeathed to us by the thinkers and scholars unknown to us, but in the form of treatises “un-authored”. Who authored the Vedas? Who is the writer of the Bible? Who penned the Holy Quran? Nobody knows. There are no copyrights claims on these treatises or for royalties! Isn’t it a bit surprising? Names of authors missing, claims to copyright or royalty never made either in the past or the present and shall never be made in the future.
Why should books without authors known be accepted by all? How do these great books make their audiences revere them? What is so great about the contents of these books that had raised them to a category called “holy”? Unless a book contains answers to all questions that an inquisitive mind can seek, it will not succeed in attaining the status of a holy book. That exactly is what these books provide- answers to all kinds of questions about existence in this world. These answers set the code for voluntary personal and public conduct of the individual. Since the overwhelming majority of the people come to subscribe to the same view or dhaaranaa and follow it in letter and spirit in their daily life, it becomes their dharma. Such a view or opinion is a product of logical thinking and objective inferences, free from bias, uninfluenced by fears of hell or allurements of heaven or any other kind of physical, monetary or mental harm or charm.
Now we may consider the intervention of the non-authors in disseminating the knowledge contained in these books. It has already been stated that these great books have not been authored, copyrighted or remunerated; only the “interventionists” have created a very vast market for just “disseminating the knowledge” contained therein. In this unregulated market of knowledge dissemination, these market forces have created their own “copyrights” over the discourses which they have branded as “religion”. As market gurus tell us, selling products and services requires special skills and seductive rhetoric to charm and suck the buyer. As in sales campaigns, so in religious discourses, the beginning is for the good of the buyer but ultimately the seller alone walks to the bank smilingly. It becomes abundantly clear when one devotes some time to the study of these books. The knowledge one gathers is superb. Such experiences lead to happiness. Happiness is the aim in life, because it occupies a higher pedestal in life than pleasure. Happiness is forever, it is chidaanand, while pleasure is ephemeral. It is for free. No charges levied as in religious discourses, where money is charged even for entry or admission, followed by regular payments for life. Religion is one of the biggest businesses in the world, which is also tax free as payments are in cash and called “donation”!
As the society progressed, the strong entrepreneurs among the community of the disseminators crowned itself with the title of a “preacher”. Later it became priest, with several denominations. Since the business was good they became not only prosperous but powerful also. After all they came to rule the hearts of the people. A good speech is remembered for ever, for the power lies in the words. Competition among the preachers for attracting more and more followers, led to bureaucratization of the profession. Well defined hierarchies grew organically in due course. The power over the people and the money in their possession whetted the appetite of these entrepreneurs to capture temporal power also. Thus began the conflicts between the rulers and the priests. The rulers (kings etc) exercised temporal power by issuing dictates, orders, commandments, charters, laws or other forms of expression. Anybody coming in conflict with the order of the ruler became an offender, earned punishment for going against the prescriptions of the ruler or their wishes. The priests were quick to learn their lessons from the rulers and started issuing religious dictates. They turned religion prescriptive, authoritative and dogmatic. What atrocities have not been perpetrated in the name of religion by these entrepreneurs on innocent people, who were thirsty for knowledge and asked questions to learn more? While the middle ages have come to be known as the dark ages because of the misdeeds of these religious entrepreneurs, their wars against the innocent have not ceased even in this 21st Century. Terrorism is nothing more than the greed of these entrepreneurs to guard their businesses, to secure their vast empires and maintain their rule over the people. Religion will not suffer a bit if their establishments are closed by the governments globally.
Religion has become an instrument of oppression for long. As against religion, dharma is totally voluntary, liberal and open. The seeker is free to learn, analyze, accept or abandon the conclusions drawn and move to another platform. Priests or preachers are no wiser than the multitude of the wise in the human society in this century, because of universal education, freedom of thought & expression, liberal views comparable to the times when these books were originally compiled. That was even before any religion was born anywhere in the world. What the community of priests has done is that they have converted “dharma” in to “religion” for their personal aggrandizement. That calls for abolition of the religious bureaucracy forthwith and restoration of the dharma for our happiness.