Five bago, a group of American Indians and myself were talking about India, the political situation, corruption, population explosion etc. Out of the blue one of them suprised us with this ? What has made the Indian civilization survive thousands of years unlike the Greek or Roman ones that have become museum pieces today ? Silence !
I quenched my thirst for knowledge by reading a book “ Foundations of Indian Culture” by K.M. Munshi. He was an eminent lawyer, founder of the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, one of the framers of the Constitution, a foremost writer of modern Gujarati literature.
First published in 1962 this essay is based on his book. Where ever appropriate I have chipped in with my own analysis.
SIGNIFICANCE OF CULTURE
The last fifteen years or so have thrown up many questions. Where do Indians come from ? Why is family such an important part of our social structure ? Why are we a non-violent country ? and so on. Unless we have roots in the soil, knowledge about Indian culture, we will not be able to understand what our people are, why they behave in a certain way, what they want. Instead of letting them blossom we will try and impose our ideas on them. Today few of us have an insight into our culture and history. Ironically, foreigners find our culture fascinating often asking us questions forcing us to think.
What is Culture ? It is the sum total value of values expressed through art, religion, literature, social institutions and behavior, the overt acts of individuals and mass action inspired by collective urges. Its first characteristic is Continuity.
A distinctive culture comes into existence when people develop a continuos way of life. This is expressed in many ways like common traditions and norms of conduct, common institutions ( marriage, family ) common memory of triumphs achieved ( Bharata war fought at Kurushetra between the Pandavas and Kauravas ). Example where ever we go in India there are certain accepted norms of conduct.
The most important characteristic of a vital culture is a common outlook among the people, who when faced with adversity, difficulty can generate a collective will to action. However, when the collective will to resist adverse circumstances is weak the culture starts decaying ( do you think it is happening today, since a common will to tackle the country’s problems seems to be lacking ).
You might realize that that this is what is lacking in India today. We have the Hindus who look up to say Rana Pratap or Guru Gobind Singh for inspiration while Muslims look up to Akbar and Aurangzeb. How then can there can be a collective will to face the problems that India is facing today unless a common thread of culture binds us together. Nations are formed through amalgamation of identities and not by harping upon differences continuously.
With the passage of time the environment changes, society-culture come under pressure to respond. When this happens it is up to the best among the dominant minority to adjust their outlook, institutions but under inspiration of its Central Idea. When this does not happen the culture dies and with it the people.
Take the case of a modern Greek or Roman. Both these cultures have been overwhelmed by the West and are now where near the culture of their ancient civilizations.
The vitality of a culture cannot be passed down from father to son through a Will. Its values have to be recaptured afresh by every generation and would be subject to constant reinterpretation. If a culture is living the young would be impacted by it.
GATHERING OF ELEMENTS – THE VEDIC ARYANS.
What is important in the study of culture is the way it is approached.
A humble way would be to ask, how did it come into existence ? What was the central idea behind it ? Another way would be to look at the conditions of the time in which it is studied. What changes are to be made in the old forms to adjust with modern times. Another approach is that of the Modern. If I had been Vyas of 3,000 years ago with the outlook of today, how would I have shaped this culture ?
To get a true feel of Indian culture we need to understand the conditions under which it evolved, understand how it came into existence, the forces that led to its growth etc.
How did Indian culture come to be founded ?
Millions of years ago, the land north of the Aravillis was under sea named the Sea of Tethys. Gradually, the Himalayas arose out of the sea. As time passed a huge land mass arose with rivers flowing out of the mountains bringing silt along with them. Thus was created modern North India. Its immense fertility attracted people from distant lands. The prosperity of N India is linked to the Himalayas. Today, forest fires coupled with deforestation have lead to lower rainfall, warmer climate, lesser snow formation. Unless this trend is reversed, we have a problem on hand. In these days of low intensity conflict we must not underestimate the capacity of our enemies to engineer disasters.
Indians are a combination of various tribes. Negritos came from Africa, Proto-Australoids from Early Mediterranean, Mongolians, the Later Mediterraneans identified with Dravidians, the Alpines considered pre-Vedic and Vedic Aryans. U.P. and Bihar were occupied by a race called CopperHeads. It is believed that the Nagas, Asuras belonged to this stock.
The languages are Kol limited to hill tribes, Sino-Tibetan limited to East India and the Aryan, Dravidian languages.
Before 2000 B.C. the Aryans entered history and spread over Asia and Europe. Indo-Iranians entered India through Afghanisthan. Zend Avesta, the sacred book of the Parsis contains several verses that are found in the Rig Veda. The Vedic Yama is the Zend of Avesta and so on. According to Bhagwan Dass Gidwani, author of the book “Return of the Aryans,” Aryans were originally from India and migrated to various parts of the world. Swami Vivekananda too said that Aryans were from India.
A section of the media and some noted historians ( according to some the British started it ) repeatedly harp on Aryan Dravidian conflict and use it as a tool to divide North and South Indians into two camps. Even if one were to agree that the Aryans were not more from India, what these learned men tend to forget that the Hinduism of today is a product of Aryan Dravidian cultures. At best they belonged to different tribes. But now, is that not the case in most parts of the world ? That cannot be said of the invaders after the tenth century ad who, to this day, have a culture that is distinctly different from the Aryan Dravidian one.
Aryans are believed to have re - entered India around 1500 b.c. For about the next five centuries they waged war within themselves and with Dasas, Asuras etc. During this period there was a intermingling of customs, beliefs and a new harmony evolved.
The Aryans brought with them cultural vitality and influence. Their culture flourished in the Vedic Ashrams that were situated on the banks of river Saraswati and in the heart of Sapta Sindhu, the land of seven rivers.
KULA AND YAJNA, RITA AND TAPAS AS THE CENTRAL IDEA.
The Aryans who founded Indian culture had certain basic social institutions like Kula ( family), the Jana ( tribe).The Aryans brought certain important elements with them namely the Horse ( an imp instrument of warfare ), powerful social institutions and a collective will to action.
Among the imp social institutions was the Patriarchate. The father was the head of the family, its members and properties. The departed ancestors were bound in intimate relation with the family. Grand-fathers, sons and so on were one in spirit, traditions and property.
The family or Kula led to the concept of Gotra or a group of families from common descent. A federation of gotras made the Jana or tribe. Therefore the father provided the bonding to the family passing down traditions from one generation to another. The family thus became central to every person’s existence. It trained members from infancy, inspired by love, sacrifice, pride of parental action.
Unlike in the West, where family does not function as a support mechanism, here it is a very important part of our culture. The above also explains why the father is the head of the an Indian family. Another important characteristic of Vedic culture was lifelong unity of husband and wife. This explains why divorce rate amongst Indian couples is low as compared to the West. In fact, a recent survey carried on in England confirms that divorce rate amongst Indians is the lowest in that country.
Another socio-religious institution was Yagna, the ritual of sacrifice that brought men, their ancestors and gods into intimate relationship. Behind the yagna was the spirit of sacrifice. Every human is to offer his precious possessions ( greed, fear, anger, hatred, ego) to the Cosmic Law releasing creative energy that can be used for productive purposes. If performed in true spirit it was a means of bringing about the unity of gods and men to secure desired ends, but was a means to secure lasting creation.
This could be one of the reasons why we Indians have this spirit of sacrifice, desire to give. Over the years, this has begun to be perceived as a sign of weakness. In international diplomacy, giving away something without getting anything in return is bad strategy. Chacha Nehru led the way in his dealings with Pakistan and China and subsequent leaders including Shri Vajpayee are unable to break away with his legacy.
The ordinances according to the yagna were prescribed by Rita, the Eternal Law, which upheld the Cosmic Order. Rita was all pervading, omnipresent from whom creation sprang and by which life was regulated. Everyone, Gods included had to conform to its ordinances. It was independent of gods and men. The gods were its guardians, they were mighty because of it. Rita was not merely the source of strength but also of beauty. Ushas the goddess of dawn was beautiful because she was true to Rita. One could taste immortality only on the lofty heights of Rita.
Satya was that aspect of Rita that gave conduct the power to yield desired results. It produced results only when complete accord between thought, word and deed of an individual. When men prayed to God, their blessings had to be satya ie true to expectations.
Tapas. Yagna could be fruitful only if it is performed with the spirit of sacrifice or Tapas. This meant offering of life through prayer to the gods in order to conform to Rita. Tapas is self- discipline for attaining purity of mind and body. Scorning human comforts, it gives self control to man. It transforms weaknesses into strength and inspiration. Sublimation of the ego releases energy which can be used positively.
Therefore, the central idea underlying Indian culture is Rita, the cosmic order that is one and indivisible, operating in spiritual and moral fields. It governs and regulates life and its evolution. It is Divinity represented by a God. The manifestations of Rita have many aspects, its fundamental values being Satya, Yajna, Tapas.
It is a tribute to the Rishis of four thousand years ago who saw this Central Idea in all its universality and through it sought to coordinate all values in life and shaped, vitalized institutions, norms to fulfill it.
THE VEDIC RISHI AND HIS ASHRAM
Rita was translated into life through social institutions, norms of conduct and discipline which lifted the daily conduct into an act of Yajna. The ashram was the key institution where the Vedas were learned and practiced. The Rishi lived with his pupils. He taught them the message of the gods through mantras, how to worship them through sacrifice and inspire men to follow the ordinances of Rita. Each ashram was a closely knit family and not like the modern, impersonal schools of today. It rested on the collective support of the community who looked up to it as a source of inspiration for life well lived.
In Vedic India, the Rishi was a not a priest . He was a teacher whose life was dedicated to the Gods and Rita. The first step in translating Rita in life was through a training in self-disciplined behavior under an Acharya ( a rishi of repute ). He was a spiritual guide to the student. At an early stage of consecration ( diksha ) a young person had to learn how to conform to the Rita through vratas or pledges of disciplined behavior. Diksha stood for a life of discipline dedicated to prayers, to learning and teaching. When a Arya was consecrated he became a Brahmachari.
In succeeding ages our culture maintained its vitality because it depended on this class of dedicated, self-disciplined students for its creative vigor. A culture flourishes only when its educational system imparts a sense of mission to the youth and trains them to lead a disciplined life. If the new generation grows up in self-indulgence, then the system fails to capture the values of the culture. Consequently, decay follows bringing with it social, moral, cultural disintegration.
The above para explains two things. Why has the Indian civilization survived inspite of many foreign invasions that attempted to destroy the Indian way of life. The rishis and students passed on the knowledge of Rita from generation to generation. Since they were spread through out the country, even if an invader destroyed 25 ashrams there were thousand others that survived.
Secondly, what is the reason for the current decay in our society. It is to do with the failure of the current educational system. I am not authority on education but do feel the mass based education of today has failed to deliver. It is bookish, impersonal, continuously harps on acquisition of material objects, does not teach us how to handle life and ignores personality development. Instead of reading about Indian books, we study European literature in Shakespeare and Macbeth. This has made a substantial part of the urban population ignorant about Indian culture. As a recent issue of The Outlook has pointed out, a number of urban Indians between 20-30 years are using religion / spirituality as a tool to cope with Stress.
Today, some of us turn spiritual after we cross fifty. Are we getting the maximum benefit out of doing so ? The answer is No. After having lived most of our lives in ignorance and suffered thereafter, we turn spiritual. Having realized the benefits of spirituality, some of us might be tempted to ask ourselves, Had I done this thirty years ago would I have lived life differently ?
Brahmacharya was during the period of training only. Marriage, children was part of the tradition. The student of a Rishi, dedicated to Rita was looked up to as a leader and was to play the role of a dominant minority in society providing insight, judgment to translate values into life. It is my belief that over time, these students came to be known as Brahmans. This might be one of the reasons why Brahmans, a minority came to wield power as they did and do so today.
The highest function which the rishi had to perform was to compose, preserve and transmit the sacred hyms. The divinity of the Vedas became one of the fundamental values of Vedic culture. In a sense it was a unifying factor and a source of perennial inspiration. Chanting of the Vedas was not the exclusive privilege of the Brahmans.
The rishis extended their sphere of influence through out India. In the process Aryan traditions mixed with Dravidian, tribal traditions to become a single culture. Aryan culture started moving South/Westwards. One of the rishis Agastya is credited with being the father of Tamil grammar and poetry ( so much for the Aryan-Dravidian divide ). The Namboodiri brahmans of Kerala claim descent from Parashurama.
There were a number of wars between the Aryans themselves and with the Dravidians like the Battle of Ten Kings. Such protracted wars appear to have ended the Vedic period.
The post Vedic period saw the river Saraswati dry up with the centre of Aryan power shifting to the banks of the Ganga. This period (ie around 1200 b.c. to 700 b.c.) saw the synthesis of Aryan, Dravidian cultures. Modern day Hinduism is a product of these two cultures. The fusion took place in North India.
The Aryans were virile and aggressive but their material culture was not advanced as the Dravidians. They readily adopted the good things. Marriages between aryans, dravidians, asuras and nagas were common. The rishis kept on spreading aryan values, culture, institutions, traditions amongst all developing in them a sense of unity, continuity and a collective action in social and cultural spheres.
Social groups who did not wholly conform to the aryan way of life were called the Shudras. The belief that Shudras were wedded to social inferiority is a myth. Untouchability as we know in recent ages was unknown during this period. The four caste was not a rigid hereditary institution as is today. Many of the Mahabharata heroes had mixed parentage. Krishna attributed caste to qualities and action of men and not by birth.
With the end of the Vedic age, the mantras were invested as divinity. Thus the Vedas became the source of inspiration and direction for future generations. The other institution that can be traced to Veda Vyas is the Tirth Cult, the magnetic force that attracts people from Kerala or Kashmir to have a dip in the holy Ganga. At the current level of deforestation and fires, there might not be a ganga left for our grandchildren. The concept of having a holy dip was a tradition that carried on from generation to generation and served as a great unifying factor amongst all Indians. To Vyasa we also owe the Mahabharata. There might not be a Indian child who has not heard of this epic. The T.V. serial only increased its popularity. A number of children who were born between 1988 and 1990 were named Karan. In a sense the serial reminded us of our glorious tradition, culture, became a unifying factor, a sense of triumph as Munshiji puts it.
The Bharata war happened around 1200 b.c. The battle of Kurushetra lasted for eighteen days. The epic has left two lasting memories on the Indian pshcye. Vyasa the learned seer, the savior of the Vedas and Krishna the warrior and statesmen. One taught Dharma and the other upheld it.
Now lets look at Aryan Dravidian syntheses. The dravidian society was patriarchal like the dravidian one. Polygamy was accepted as against monogamy favored by the Aryans.
Shiva the dravidian god was known to the Harappan culture, was first identified with Vedic Rudra. Vedic gods Indra, Varuna, Agni, Surya took a subordinate place. Ma, the mother goddess of the early Mediterranean people became the consort of Shiva assuming the name of Parvati in the process. On the other the vedic god Vishnu became popular and shared with Shiva the leadership of the Pantheon.
The vedic homa got replaced with dravidian puja, the offering of leaves, flowers to gods. Spirit of tolerance and non-violence were new values that evolved that as a result of the impact and the tapas ( explained above ). The post Vedic period gave a new shape to Rita, Satya, Yajna and Tapas.
First, the Cosmic Order, Rita, had a new form ie the Supreme- Ishawara or Brahman, pervading and moving all that and as Reality standing above all that is and that is not. In simple language it means, from believing that the cosmic order was the mother of all creation, we started believing that there was a Supreme ie God who was responsible for all that is and that is not.
Secondly, the cosmic order in one of its aspects is the Law of Evolution. By it the supreme self passes on from lower things to higher things till he reaches realization ie man’s attaining conscious oneness with it. In human beings it works through three important laws ie law of karma, law of moral causation and yoga.
According to the Law of Karma, the atman or soul passes from birth to birth on its way to realization. The Law of Causation is an elaboration of the yagna ( one of the aryan socio-religious institutions ) aspect of Rita. Through it is possible for man to reduce the number of times he is reborn by offering up his ego and by taking vows of non-violence, truth, non-possession amongst others.
Thirdly, is Yoga, the elaboration of the Tapas aspect from Rita through intensely pursued self-discipline.
Man is a divine essence with supra physical destiny which he can realize through truth and self-discipline. Self-realization implies two inter-dependant processes, one is surrender of ego and the individual self is broadened into a universal self.
When we exercise self-control over our minds and body, energy that would otherwise have been spent unproductively gets released and brings the individual in touch with the beauty aspect of the absolute , when is takes the shape of love, bhakti. Faith in this spiritual power generated by this love energy became one of the fundamental values of Indian culture.
The Absolute descends on earth in human form as an avatar, an aspirant by complete surrender of ego through love can attain him. In the post – vedic period, this faith appears to have grown. Thus at some point Naranya ( sage ), Vasudeva and Vishnu became Hari , the Supreme Lord. In ch 11 of the Gita, Arjuna sees in Krishna a god of gods, the protector of dharma, the presiding deity of the cosmic order etc. At the same time he sees in Krishna, Vasudeva who has taken birth to re-establish dharma. He is the love aspect of God in whom one can live only through single minded devotion.
In this way, the realization of the beauty aspect of the Cosmic Order through Love became one of the fundamental values of Indian culture. Now I understand why my temple pandit says , devotion to and faith in God are very important if you want to be close to him.
In order that these values revolving around the Central Idea be translated into Life, a whole superstructure of traditions, norms of conduct was reared. Social, economic, life was so molded in a manner to find fulfillment by living up to the Central Idea.
This chapter is important for all those politicians and individuals who have created the Aryan and Dravidian divide. Surely, they fought wars but the product of that synthesis is what modern day Hinduism is all about. Some western scholars have tried to compare Islamic, Christian invasions with the Aryan invasion if any. These invasions destroyed our culture and civilization while the aryan-dravidian helped both the cultures blossom and grow. If there was animosity why would Lord Shiva be worshipped in Kashmir and Lord Vishnu at Tirupati. These are just of a few of the examples that show how aryan dravidian cultures influenced one another.
There was racial fusion between Aryans and non-Aryans. Veda Vyas was the son of a fisher girl. Balarama, Krishna’s brother married the daughter of Kakudmin, who belonged to a race from Saurashtra that existed long before the Aryans came.
Importantly, the chapter explains the new shape of Rita, the cosmic order into Supreme Lord, the Law of Karma and Causation, Yoga, how did Faith become a fundamental value of Indian culture and the concept of Avatars.
THE CONCEPT OF DHARMA
During the period of the aryo-dravidian synthesis ( 1200 to 700 b.c ) the fundamental values of the Vedic System became fused, got translated into the concept of Dharma, on which the structure of the Indian culture was built.
The concept did not emerge from a single seer but was the product of creative thinking of generations of dedicated men who presided over ashrams. The aim of the rishis, disciples living in the ashrams was to live according to Rita as preached by the Vedic ages.
India was then a continent of heterogeneous tribes. The ashram was faced with two problems in the aim of aryanising all. First, was how to bring about some cohesion between the tribes to bring in them a collective consciousness. Second, was to create a social structure that would encourage people to sink their differences and live up to the fundamental values of Dharma.
The inmates of the ashrams who underwent this discipline were called Brahmans. They were bound by their devotion to the Vedas. As the movement radiating from the ashrams grew in strength, norms of conduct, social institutions, a way of life evolved with the intent of facilitating the pursuit of Dharma.
The Vedic culture had as its central idea, Rita, the Cosmic order which operated in moral, spiritual and social planes. From it flows Satya- accord between thought, word, deed that could translate Rita in life, Yagna – complete dedication of one cherished things to Higher powers to fulfill Rita, Tapas - is exercising control over body and mind. The Highest Good was to conform to Rita by pursuit of Satya, Yagna and Tapas.
With the progress of time the three concepts listed above were accepted as parts of Dharma. The human being who wants to live a truthful life has to develop a spirit of dedication ( yagna ) and self-control ( tapas ). The man who wants to lead a dedicated life cannot do so without developing truth ( satya ) and self-control. And so on. That is how each value came to embrace the contents of all three.
Tapas in its original sense signified self-control but came to comprise truth and non-violence. The spirit of a non-violent India has originated from this concept. India has never invaded any other country in its 7,000 yrs plus history. Pakistan invaded India thrice since independence but India has never been the first to attack inspite of grave provocation’s in Kashmir and elsewhere. The spirit of Bhakti originated from Tapas. When a human being exercises self-control over his mind and body, there is a conservation of energy. When this energy gathers strength it releases love energy.
So Dharma came to symbolize steadfastness, self-mastery, control of sense and anger, absence of malign and hate, charity, learning truth, non-violence, bhakti.
In its primary sense, Dharma was the Cosmic Order which upheld the whole creation. In its secondary sense, Dharma meant pursuit of the Highest Good by living in conformity with the Cosmic Order. Dharma believed that man was not the creature of environments but a meeting point of hereditary, environmental, moral and spiritual forces operating through a series of lives. By pursuing Dharma, he could alter the course of his future and current lives.
The Law of Moral Causation, an aspect of the Cosmic Order is universal for eg if truth is realized lasting achievements will follow ( ie short cuts to success or achieving it by unfair means is not a passport to long-term success ), if sexual waste is controlled vigor will follow, if non-violence is realized love will follow and so on.
Another aspect of the Cosmic Order is the Law of Karma which governs the journey of a mans soul from one life to another. It is not fatalism. By internal change and action a human being can change his conditions. According to this law, when we are born we bring with us associations of actions of our previous birth. So also, actions our current birth would affect our lives in the next birth. Its only acts that are inspired by desires attract consequences. If our acts are not inspired so, they attract no consequences. The chain of cause and effect is thus broken, the personality is integrated and the soul finds self-realization.
Let me tell you a short story on how the fatalism, destiny has been accepted blindly by the weak and ignorant. Devi Lal, a haryana farmer ( no offense meant ) was told by God that he would live till the age of eighty. At the age of forty his village got flooded as the Yamuna river was overflowing. The village had to be evacuated. On days one, two and three the people of the rescue boat asked Devi Lal to accompany them but he refused on the premise that there was no way he could die since God had promised him a life of eighty. Due to heavy rains he was forced to move to the higher floors of his house at the end of each day. On day four, there was no higher floor for him to go, so he drowned and died. When he reached heaven, he asked God why he died when he was promised a life of eighty. God said, you fool, I sent three boats to rescue you but you refused to take them. Surely I could not come down and rescue you.
What this proves that unless a man uses his own intellect, his condition cannot improve.
The way of life dominated by Dharma, shortly referred to as Manava Dharma had definite spiritual aims and purposes, are believed to be framed by Manu, held in great veneration by many.
Manu Smriti has been the source of inspiration of the later dharma shashtras composed during the last two thousand years. It has provided a framework within which numerous tribes have,over the centuries led a cohesive life without losing their autonomy. It has given our society social and religious life, continuity and vitality enabling most Indians to survive the catastrophe that foreign invasions brought along. My mind goes back to what Allana Iqbal had to say “ There is something about the entity of our civilization that has defied destruction despite persistent onslaught by its enemies over centuries.”
The basic concept of Manava Dharma is that if Dharma is pursued earnestly by an individual, it influences his present and future lives but social and material enviorments as well.
According to Manava Dharma, women as wives and mothers have a respected place as guardians of the family, the norms of conduct on which the unity and stability of the family rests. Their role is very important as their fall from grace is a precursor to social chaos and cultural decadence. It is they, who, in most cases hold the family together, listen to the outbursts of other members in silence, love their children without expecting anything in return. I cannot imagine home without mom and so would millions of us. Women are in no way inferior to men. Having said that, God has blessed with them with certain functions, traits and capabilities that are applicable to them only. That cannot be changed. Moksha is open to them as it is to men.
LEADERSHIP OF THE DEDICATED CLASS
Caste System – Its Origins and reasons
In order to reach the Highest Good, the leadership of society had to be a disciplined one. Life had to be dedicated to the studying and the teaching of the Vedas without any lust for wealth or power. Such was to be the life of the Brahmans. He was to dedicate his life to society, dharma. He was respected for his knowledge, spirit of sacrifice, character. This might explain the pre-dominance of the brahman community today. A brahman who did not meet these qualifications was looked down upon. While he was not subject to a extreme penalty he lived a life that was worse than others. He was shunned, ex-communicated. Its like a sick man who does not die as compared to another who dies and does not have to go through the pain associated with sickness.
Modern World has been swearing by Equality of Man.
The hard reality that different people are blessed with different intellects, temperaments, men are not equal. Division of society into groups based on common vocation, interest is common. Recognizing difference in temperaments, those possessing aspirations were Brahmans, those possessing energy with the urge to purify were Kshatriyas, those possessing energy without aspirations were Vaishyas and those possesing inertia were Shudras. The Kshatriyas and Vaishyas received education in the Brahman’s house but could not do the duties allotted to Brahmans. A kshatriya was the protector and the upholder of Dharma. The Vaishya was the producer and distributor of wealth. A Shudra could serve the Brahman, follow arts and crafts, enter the army and when in distress follow the vocation of Vaishya. He could not study the Vedas but could study the Puranas, Epics.
Thus a place was accorded in society to each group according to the duties and functions that it could perform best. If the west truly believed in the equality of man, what was the need for Martin Luther King. Inspite of material prosperity, there is racial discrimination in Germany, the Blacks of America are poor.
The Dalits of today are critical of Manu Smriti, the caste system etc. While I empathize with their plight and the problems faced by them what prevents them from studying, working harder ( not that do not ), facing up to life to improve their conditions. Do they not see that there are poor people belonging to the other three castes. Former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Manohar Joshi is believed to have come to Mumbai virtually penniless. While some of you may questions the means, none can deny the hard work that has gone into making him a prosperous businessmen today. If a member of the backward caste can become a distinguished member of the country’s foreign service and be its President, cannot others attempt to reach half way. Are not problems faced by all of us. Are they unique to my dalit brothers.
When two children of the same parents can have different intellects so also can people of the same country.
To understand the social philosophy we must try and remove certain ideas that we have been ingrained into our minds. Manava Dharma ruled out a competitive society because such a society has a tendency to stimulate egotism, greed, untruth. On the other hand, by following the competitive model, there is no equality either. Employment is uncertain and worry, frustration engulf you. Insecurity, frustration, tension, heart-attacks, blood-pressure follow. In a competitive society , the strong will prosper while the poor will be pushed towards the wall, their minds filled with envy and hatred. Some sociologists believe that the riots in India are a result of the class conflict between the have be and have nots.
Some of you might argue, that if there is no competition, how do, we decide admission into medical colleges, employees get increments, we bring out the best in individuals. Competition is a part of modern society but it is our approach to it that determines our state of mind. If we were to enter an examination hall worried about how tough the paper would be or start worrying about the results after appearing we are bound to get stressed. On the other hand if our approach were to be study hard, give it our best short and leave the rest for the future to figure out we would be much happier.
Manav Dharma takes into account the biological fact that every person is likely to inherit the traits and aptitudes of his parents. Family association would make more easily available for the child to uphold family traditions and value. Working with a community spirit leads to greater degree of cooperation. If one’s duties are clearly laid down the scope for greed, self-indulgence, a life of egotism is reduced.
Some of you might argue that how can this system in a globalised economy with huge corporations like General Electric, Unilever. We must realize that the Manu Smiriti was written thousand of years of ago. What was relevant then might not be wholly relevant today. But the concept of joint effort, cooperation, different traits in human beings are as relevant today as they were thousands of years ago.
Creation is the outcome of the Cosmic Order. Rita or Dharma upholds and governs all that is. It operates on all planes, material, ethical, spiritual.
One can live in conformity with the Cosmic Order only through developing Satya, Yagna and Tapas.
Efforts by an individual to attain the Highest Good not only works changes in the individual but in social and material environments in this life and lives to come.
Two important aspects of the Cosmic Order are the Law of Moral Causation and the Law of Karma.
Dharma in its social aspect of Manava Dharma must so regulate society that traditions, norms of conduct make it easy for individuals to attain the Highest Good. To achieve this society must be organised on a non-competitive basis.
Five bago, a group of American Indians and myself were talking about India, the political situation, corruption, population explosion etc. Out of the blue one of them suprised us with this ? What has made the Indian civilization survive thousands of years unlike the Greek or Roman ones that have become museum pieces today ? Silence !