vedaḥ smṛtiḥ sadācāraḥ svasya ca priyamātmanaḥ |
etaccaturvidhaṃ prāhuḥ sākṣād dharmasya lakṣaṇam || Manu 2.12 ||
The Veda, the Smṛti, the Practice of cultured Men, and what is agreeable to oneself—these directly constitute the fourfold means of knowing Dharma.
So, but there are few more points to consider in understanding – what does it mean – priyamātmanaḥ – “what is agreeable to oneself”.
1. What is agreeable for oneself as a part of a process of realizing (to know means also to do) Dharma.
We must understand that like in mathematics – there are different levels which are achieved step by step – you cannot ask from schoolboy to follow and to know theory of strings, or algebraic homotology of Highschool. So – priyamātmanaḥ – what is in agreement with your current situation, what’s goes for you better.
There are ideals and there are way to ideals. It’s not, that if you do not follow whole dharma rules and regulations – it does not mean that you are condemned.
Bhagavad Gita 9.30 confirms it:
api cet su-durācāro
bhajate mām ananya-bhāk
sādhur eva sa mantavyaḥ
samyag vyavasito hi saḥ
Even if one commits abominable action, if he is engaged in devotional service he is to be considered devotee, because he is properly situated in his determination.
So – one should not be criticized for that he still has faults, if this person has already accepted path of devotional service (but at the same time, it does not mean that one can misuse path of devotional service, by establishing adharma – in a sense – “Prabhupada allowed”. No – he restricted, because you were such a rascal)
So – you accept dharma and ideals, but you take in consideration your position, status, possibilities – and you take what you can take from dharma (and do not manufacture by yourself) and you try to realize that in your life for 100% till you be able to take next step – but you do not reject all other dharma.
Many devotees reject varnasrama dharma just because we cannot implement it fully. And for this reason they do nothing, or continue to live like animals. Or in a worst case – they manufacture something else. No – step by step.
Like in my family – as a kid I was raised in divorced family, adultery, scandals, traumas… Okay – but I accepted vedas as authority – I have accepted No divorce. So – I try to realize this in my life. No illicit sex – no rambling around and looking for wives of others. This is also varnasrama – isn it? Some may say – no, samskaras! Samskaras? Too late for me – but my kids – they can go further – they can learn and implement samskaras in their lives, because they are free from problematic of unwanted population, which I am able to solve – and it takes lot of time. But my kids – they do not know what does it mean to eat meat, to take intoxications, to mix free, to not be faithful – so, they can go further.
But if we will not accept varnasrama as ideal now, in a sense of priyamātmanaḥ, in a sense of even some elements – and we will not change our social habits and western lifestyle – then our children will have no choice – they will have the same problems, the same pattern of inability, unwillingness and hell of relationships with all consequences – ladies will seek refugee in to the perfect men – gurus, boys will be unwilling to take responsibilities – better to be kirtaniya “brahmacari” with girlfriends than husband or father, better to become sannyasi with house in prestige place, money and young secretaries and servantess, than a grihastha with Shudra occupation and no “spiritual life”.
But that’s not Spiritual life. That is worse than ignorance. Thats “so-called Spiritual life” – that’s adharma. That’s not “to know dharma”.
andhaṁ tamaḥ praviśanti ye ‘vidyām upāsate
tato bhūya iva te tamo ya u vidyāyām ratāḥ
anyad evāhur vidyayā-nyad āhur avidyayā
iti śuśruma dhīrāṇāṁ ye nas tad vicacakṣire
Those who engage in the culture of nescient activities shall enter into the darkest region of ignorance. Worse still are those engaged in the culture of so-called knowledge.
The wise have explained that one result is derived from the culture of knowledge and that a different result is obtained from the culture of nescience.
2. What is agreeable for oneself in a sense of presence of supersoul.
In other words – to act according your heart, conscience. What is agreeable to Supersoul.
na te ’ravindākṣa padopasarpaṇaṁ
mṛṣā bhavet sarva-suhṛt-priyātmanaḥ
yathetareṣāṁ pṛthag-ātmanāṁ satām
adīdṛśo yad vapur adbhutaṁ hi naḥ
O my Lord, possessing eyes like the petals of a lotus, the worship of the demigods, who are in the bodily concept of life, is fruitless in all respects. But because You are the supreme friend and dearmost Supersoul of everyone, worship of Your lotus feet is never useless. You have therefore manifested Your form as a fish.
Words – sarva-suhṛt-priyātmanaḥ
sarva-suhṛt — the friend of everyone; priya — dear to everyone; ātmanaḥ — the Supersoul of everyone;
So – Supersoul, Conscience – resident in every heart.
It is said in SB that if you perform all your duties, but you harm Supersoul in hearts of others – then this is like pouring offering in to the ashes.
So – in performing our dharma, in realizing it – we must not become robots, inhumans.
Because priyamātmanaḥ definitely means NOT that “we can do as we like” at the expense of others, “walking on corpses”.