- adrohah sarva-bhuteshu karmana manasa gira
anugrahas cha danam cha satam dharmah sanatanah
Never displaying malice towards any living being through actions, thoughts or words, acts of kindness, and giving in charity; this is the Sanatana Dharma adhered to by righteous persons. (Mahabharata, 3.281.34)
In this short essay, I wish to continue my consideration of Savitri’s definition of Sanatana Dharma by discussing the second component of her threefold analysis. This is indicated by the first word of the second line of this verse, which is anugraha. This noun is derived from the verb anu-grah, which means to favour or to treat with kindness, and therefore anugraha means kindness, compassion or promoting the welfare of others.
How then does this feature of Sanatana Dharma apply to those who follow this path? First of all, we might say that anugraha could take the form of involvement in welfare activities on behalf of the poor and needy. In this country, there are food banks to supply such persons, and places where food is distributed to the homeless and those who have difficulty in feeding themselves. Those who give up their time and money to help with such activities are certainly pursuing the precepts of Sanatana Dharma. Furthermore, there are numerous charitable institutions that come to the fore in times of famine or disaster, and the follower of Sanatana Dharma will be one who endeavours to help with such activities in any way possible. In some parts of the world, many people are deprived of proper health care or educational facilities, and again there are numerous followers of Sanatana Dharma who act in such a way as to improve conditions by supporting medical charities or by becoming active in opening schools and other educational facilities. One may feel that such activities are worthy, but not particularly religious or spiritual. For the Mahabharata, however, and for the wise Savitri, such activities are the very essence of religious life and without them one’s own spiritual development will certainly be inhibited.
When Neem Karoli Baba was once asked, ‘How can I know God,’ he replied, ‘Serve people.’ Then he was asked, ‘How can I get enlightened,’ and he replied, ‘Feed people.’ The next question was, ‘How can I raise kundalini,’ and to this he replied, ‘Serve and feed people.’ Here this great teacher is showing how anugraha is in fact the very essence of the pursuit of enlightenment and spiritual growth.
We should not presume, however, that anugraha refers only to the support we give to social welfare and charitable activities. It also relates to the manner in which we conduct ourselves in our day to day lives. Every day we interact with other people and other living beings, and we may at times have a tendency to ignore those we dislike or even to show our irritation and disdain. The Sanatana Dharma, however, teaches that in every interaction we have we should try to show kindness and concern for the welfare of others. The present Pope recently mentioned these ‘small acts of kindness’, which we should undertake, whilst in the New Testament, Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan to illustrate the same point. We cannot presume therefore that Sanatana Dharma is confined to India and Indian values; as the name suggests, Sanatana Dharma is universal and is a part of the full expression of our humanity, both material and spiritual. The development of anugraha reveals that we are moving away from the mire of materialism into a higher domain, the domain of the spirit wherein we transcend this world. Without anugraha there can be no transcendence.