adhikara (Sanskrit: ) literally means "authority and ownership." — being spiritually competent for spiritual study; the ability or authorization to do; rule; jurisdiction; privilege, ownership; property.

A person in an advanced chemistry class, for example, has taken previous chemistry courses and so has the adhikara to be in the advanced class. He is qualified to be in the advanced class. Someone who has not taken chemistry has no adhikara to be in a graduate class. We could translate adhikara as "qualification," which is implied, but more than qualification, the term suggests ownership. This means, in the case of chemistry, that the person at the advanced level has the right to interpret, apply and teach chemistry. He is an "owner" of that body of knowledge and consequently has a right to that knowledge. A person in an elementary class of chemistry has no adhikara for the body of advanced chemical knowledge. Such a person has no right to teach and apply the knowledge of chemistry. The kinds of information and experiments a beginner will receive will be different from the activities of the advanced graduate. Their adhikaras are different and therefore their activities and rights are different. This is what is meant by the word adhikara.

Life is a great evolution taking place over many lifetimes, even through many species of life! We can say the world is a school and each lifetime is a classroom. Some of us are in elementary grades, others are in middle grades, and some are in advanced grades. And just like students of chemistry, every person has a particular adhikara over a certain level of spiritual development. Students in elementary grades see the world in a certain way and must be taught in a certain way. Students at an advanced level similarly need to be approached in an appropriate way. The different adhikaras have different perceptions and spiritual rights. The idea of adhikara and spiritual evolution spanning many lifetimes is a distinct feature of Hinduism and becomes a powerful tool in understanding spirituality and how to apply our accumulated religious traditions.



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