The Vedantic Meaning of Dharma, Sangha and Avatar

Sri Aurobindo reminds us that the Gita follows the basic framework of the Vedanta, and thus, all concepts, including those of dharma, sangha and avatar need to be seen in that light. The foundations of Vedanta are the two statements “One without a second” and “All this is the Brahman.” When these statements are applied to the mission of the Avatar to advance the development of the Dharma, we may see the wide reach of the Gita’s teaching. The Dharma widens to become the entire evolutionary development of consciousnessness and oneness of all beings; the sangha is seen as all of humanity, and the Avatar is no longer restricted to one specific manifestation, but the entire line of Avatar’s, regardless of specific religious tradition, that advance this movement.

Sri Aurobindo clarifies this further: “The Dharma is therefore the taking up of all human relations into a higher divine meaning; starting from the established ethical, social and religious rule which binds together the whole community in which the God-seeker lives, it lifts it up by informing it with the Brahmic consciousness; the law it gives is the law of oneness, of equality, of liberated, desireless, God-governed action, of God-knowledge and self-knowledge enlightening and drawing to itself all the nature and all the action, drawing it towards divine being and divine consciousness, and of God-love as the supreme power and crown of the knowledge and the action.

Regarding the sangha: “…but the real sangha of this teaching is all humanity. The whole world is moving towards this Dharma, each man according to his capacity,–‘it is My path that men follow in every way,’–and the God-seeker, making himself one with all, making their joy and sorrow and all their life his own, the liberated made already one self with all beings, lives in the life of humanity, lives for the one Self in humanity, for God in all beings,….for the maintaining of all in their dharma and the Dharma, for the maintenance of their growth in all its stages and in all its paths towards the Divine.”

And the Avatar: “For the Avatar here, though he is manifest in the name and form of Krishna, lays no exclusive stress on this one form of his human birth, but on that which it represents, the Divine, the Purushottama, of whom all Avatars are the human births, of whom all forms and names of the Godhead worshipped by men are the figures….For the Divine takes up into his universality all Avatars and all teachings and all dharmas.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 17, The Divine Birth and Divine Works, pp. 164-165