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Competing Principles of Dharma


Question

 I read a lot about dharma in the Mahabharata and the different dharmas: family dharma, social dharma, etc. How can we know what to do when two worldly dharmas conflict, even though there is no conflict in our devotional life, but in other aspects of our life? How we decide what’s the right path?

Answer

H.D. Goswami Profile Picture

Worldly dharma — justice, virtue etc. — can be complex with competing principles of dharma. A good example is in the BhagavatamFirst Canto, when Draupadi wants to release Asvatthama and Bhima wants to kill him. Here we see that pure devotees have different views on worldly morality. Draupadi favors mercy; Bhima favors justice. There is always a tension between justice and mercy, and we simply have to pray to Krishna to guide us. Usually the best course, as taken by Krishna in the above incident, is the middle path: a balance between justice and mercy.