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Dharma is Changeless but its Practice Changes in each Age
Sometimes it has been said that righteousness has declined and that the dharma has diminished. But that is not correct. Dharma is based on truth. Truth is absolute; it can never undergo change or be diminished. However, in any particular age, the practice of dharma may undergo change. God incarnated as Krishna, not to re-establish dharma, but to re establish the practice of dharma. Dharma never left, nor did it ever change; but it was out of use.
The seven facets of dharma have been present in all the past ages;. However, each age has had practices most appropriate to that age. For instance, in ancient times when spiritual awareness was very high, the appropriate spiritual practice was meditation. In the age in which Rama incarnated, the most appropriate practice was penance and sacrifice. In the Krishna era, the practice was ritual and ceremonial worship. And in the past five thousand years of this present materialistic age, in which spiritual consciousness is at a low ebb around the world, the chanting of the holy name is the most appropriate practice. But, just as in the earlier ages there were also many believers who practiced the repetition of mantra, evoking the name of God, so also, in this age there are people who take to meditation, there are people who take to doing penance and there are people who take to ritual worship. But the principal practices depend upon the general character and mood of the times.
Different practices give different forms, so to speak, to dharma. But the inner flow of dharma is always the same. Truth will never change. Truth is always one, never two. In all the three times, past, present and future, in all the three worlds, earth, heaven and the nether world, in all the three states, waking, dream and deep sleep, and in all the three worldly qualities, passivity, activity and equilibrium, truth is always one. Since truth is one and the very basis of dharma, dharma cannot change. It never wavers or undergoes any modifications. But duty and practice will undergo intermittent change.
For example, take a person who is doing a job. How long will this job be his duty? Until he retires from that particular job. Until then, he goes to the office every day. Once he retires, his duty changes. After retirement, he might get involved in doing business. Then he says that pursuing his business is his duty. In doing business, he may be tempted to gain some extra profit by taking to under-handed methods; he may try to earn money through lying and cheating. Even though he may have now taken to lying and cheating in order to earn money, he will still consider the work he is doing as his occupation and his duty. When so many changes can come about in duty, how can it be described as dharma ? These changing activities that occupy your time in the interest of providing for your living needs, cannot automatically be described as dharma. Duty becomes dharma when it shines with the virtues that make up the facets of dharma.