Rta, rna, and dharma
True value realization naturally makes us closer to ऋत (rta), the Vedic Sanskrit word which hardly has any perfect equivalent in other languages. However, for our practical purposes, it can be termed as the cosmic order. The word ‘rta’ is derived from the root ‘ऋ,’ which means dynamism, vibrancy, seasoning, and a sense of belonging. In the Vedas, rta is often held supreme. The Vedic deity Varuna identified with the ocean and waters is frequently referred to as the protector of rta. The symbolism of water and the ocean in connection with rta is profoundly meaningful. The Rigveda and Atharva Veda declare that the law behind existence is rta and to tamper with it is deadly. The whole of creation is called ‘sat’ and it has an inbuilt cosmic law, rta. Referring back to our earlier discussion on facts and values, if ‘sat’ or existence of this world is the fact, the value that we realize out of it is ‘rta.’
Once we realize rta, the cosmic order, the value of the whole creation, become naturally humbled and concerned. For our sustenance, the whole universe is supporting; for our existence the whole creation is toiling. Is this awareness not sufficient to infuse immense indebtedness in our hearts? Such a positive guilt of indebtedness in our sensitive minds is called as ऋण (rna) in the Vedic language. Any human being by birth itself will carry this baggage of rna. His or her basic duty is to clear off these debts without which he or she cannot become meaningful.
Those who care the least for warding off these debts only breathe and never live. The way of clearing off these debts given by the Vedas is धर्म (dharma). Thus, the awareness of rta leads to the realization of rna, which in turn motivates a person to pursue dharma, the global ethic or the righteous way of life.
Translated from Kannada by K. B. S. Ramachandra