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Who is Swami Dharmananda?

Dharmananda is bliss through Dharma. So what is Dharma? Dharma is sometimes understood to be virtue or righteousness. It is especially associated with universal righteousness. We think of righteousness as being in the right way to have the right motives, feelings, thoughts, attitudes, aspirations, and actions. Righteousness, dharma, is to be the kind of person that results in living life as it should be lived. Universal righteousness from this standpoint would then be those principles, in their pure form, upon which the manifest creation is based, the foundation of the world.

Egoism arises through ignorance. The concern of the ego and of egoistic action is to substantiate itself, to try to give the illusion of substance to that which owes its existence to ignorance. Action arising from the ego then necessarily works against the universal principles and is dedicated to avoiding coming to an understanding of them. It usually identifies itself with the mind and gets caught up in the joy sorrow dichotomy.

Dharma, on the other hand, means to base one's life on the universal principles instead of on the phantom of the ego. To the degree one truly succeeds in transcending the ego and living instead in universal Dharma, to that degree one knows bliss without end. This is not a cramped joy that is only the other side of sorrow, but an experience of the universality of life itself, the heartbeat of the cosmos.

Swami means lord or owner, one who is lord or master of himself. It is a common title of respect for a spiritual personage. It has gained a traditional association with the monastic order of Adi Shankaracharya. Form-bound people like to restrict its use to one who has formally joined Shankara's monastic order.

Shankara was a very high saint who found Realization as a sannyasin, a renunciate. Seeing the masses drowning in delusion in married life he traveled all over India convincing the religious leaders of the superiority of the monasitc lifestyle. Perhaps by some divine dispensation he always succeeded and was able to organize a monastic order with ten branches all over India. This new view of the superiority of the monastic way of life is a departure from the traditional Vedic view. Since Vedic times nearly all the great rishis have been married.

To give one a special title of respect only if they join a certain monastic order is contrary to dharma. This is especially true considering that most Swamis of Shankara's order of Swamis are not masters of their selves. Perhaps most are not even dedicated primarily to that goal. The first principle of dharma is that the one universal life is equally present everywhere and in everyone. Swami also means the Self, or one with the Self. The Indian greeting, namaskara, the Self in me bows to the Self in you, could also be expressed as, the Swami in me bows to the Swami in you. To call one a swami is to give the greater respect to their higher Self. It is no different than the namaskara greeting.

Who then is Swami Dharmananda? Anyone who experiences bliss as a result of attunement to the universal order. Also when Rodney was ordained a minister of Center for Realization he took on the new title of Swami Dharmananda. He had received the name Dharmananda from within through meditation. He accepted the title Swami with it instead of Western terms like Reverend because he is a householder and seeks to reestablish a deeper more universal meaning to the word Swami. Monastics should not be singled out for greater reverence. According to the Vedic tradition the householder path is just as righteous and should be accorded equal or greater respect than the monastic lifestyle. The householder serves society and the universal order. The monastic renounces society and the universal order in order to serve his self, supposedly to attain liberation. But what is he seeking to liberate? The Self is already free. Is he seeking to liberate his individual soul, his jiva? To sacrifice society and the universal order for his own jiva is very selfish. Does he expect to expand his consciousness by being selfish? Further, by taking such drastic steps he is only affirming his own bondage. Such external renunciation has no meaning without internal renunciation. And if one has internal renunciation there is no need to renounce society or join a monastic order. Renouncing society promotes self-centeredness, not expansion of consciousness. Joining a monastic order inflates the ego. (Of course there are many who join a monastic order to serve the greater Self in all.)

The spiritual life is simple and unencumbered. Spirituality does not mean to renounce society. It means to serve it without expectation of getting anything in return. Spirituality does not mean to serve an organization, even if it is called a spiritual organization. Spirituality means to serve living beings. It is just as spiritual to serve a family member as it is to serve anyone else. It is not who you serve that makes it spiritual. It is why you serve. If you seek something for yourself in return it is not spiritual. It will not lead to peace of mind. If you are seeking fruits how can there be peace of mind. If there is no peace of mind how can you meditate?

The mind is restless because it is seeking something from the external world. But the external world can never give any of the bliss and fulfillment we ask of it. The reason for this is extremely simple: the external world does not exist. We are already full to overflowing with bliss and fulfillment. It is only the desire to get it from the external world that makes the mind restless. And it is only the restlessness of the mind that keeps us from experiencing the bliss and fulfillment we already overflow with.

So I have the name Swami Dharmananda. But it is really a funny joke to me because everyone is Swami Dharmananda. Everyone is an embodiment of the same Self that is ever Full. My four children are my gurus. They, together with my wife, embody all the spiritual qualities I need to develop. My life in my family has all the lessons I need to learn. I have no need to run away to some monastic organization to teach me humility. That is what children are for. Namaskar.

OM NAMA SIVAYA

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Last updated: 06-17-99 18:25 PDT