Saturday, November 08, 2008

Whither Dharma?

We seem to be having a lot of debate regarding future government for India and the relevance of Dharma for such a government.
So, is it going to be
1) the Nehruvian model of progressive liberalism, victimisation and guilthood ridden socialist government?
2) the No-holds-barred hyper-consumerism driven capitalistic system of the USA where everybody is rich and bankrupt at the same time?
3) the time-tested ideal of Dharma--the law the country has followed since ages, which the people are already conditioned to?

So let us start with a basic question: What is this government and why do we need it?

Nitin at Acorn writes an excellent post on this:
"Let’s start with an axiom: all individuals are free, and from this freedom, they possess certain inalienable rights. They possess these rights and freedoms at all times, but in a state of nature, their ability to enjoy the freedom and exercise the rights is circumscribed by their individual power. In Indian philosophy, the state of nature is termed as matsya nyaya, or the law of the fishes, a condition under which the stronger fish eats the weaker fish. Thomas Hobbes, the 17th century English philosopher, describes this as the time when “men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man (bellum omnium contra omnes).” Life, therefore, is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
To better enjoy their rights and freedoms, individuals trade-off a part of their freedom for the security offered by a state.
(In the present context, it is also important to consider what the Arthashastra says regarding internal security, upholding law and order, and disaffection.)

Now, coming to the kind of governance that our country needs, I belive that the first form of government largely stands discredited because it is based on negativistic concepts of guilt and victimhood (as you can see more about this below from some of the articles on Dharma) and not on positives of growth and national interest.

The second concept of governance, while being attractive, is not suitable for Indian psyche, because we are not known to be huge spenders. While capitalism as an ideal of allowing private enterprise is very much according to our Indian tradition, such reckless consumerism, as we have witnessed in USA resulting in mass-bankrupcy, is not in our blood. To paraphrase what M.R.Venkatesh says in this highly entertaining talk on globalisation, "The Indian wife will not allow such reckless spending and makes sure that the economy of the family is always sound." (as an aside, he had predicted the market crash as far back as February 2008).

Regarding the third one, Yossarin over at Offstumped (who, I consider to be my mentor) has written a series of articles on what Dharma is and how it protects us (regardless of our personal affiliations), as a nation, if we stick to it:
Dharma 101:What is Dharma?
Dharma 201-Part I
Dharma 201-Part II
Dharma 301: There is no Ninth Schedule in Dharma
Dharma 401: Extracts from Constituent Assembly Debates
Dharma 501: Responsible Exercise of Freedom
National Interest First, Not Human Rights
The Rise of Beedi Activism
War on Terror: Justice, Not Vengeance
Dharma 701: To Violence or Not?

That explained, he goes on to explain what Hindutva, based on Dharma means and how can it work in the current setting:
Flat World Hindutva-1: Freeing Religion from State Control
Flat World Hindutva-2: Uphold the Rule of Law as Dharma
Flat World Hindutva-3: Of Liberty, Licentiousness and Bigotry
Flat World Hindutva-4: Individual Freedom & Socio-Economic Choice
Flat World Hindutva-5: A Moral Compass to guide on Contemporary Issues
Flat World Hindutva-6: Integral Humanism and Flat World Hindutva
So after going through all of these, readers will find that the all important question "So if we desire a Dharmic government, what should we, as individuals, do?" or put in other words, "what does Dharma ask us to do?" is answered comprehensively.

First of all, any fears that if I subscribe to a Dhaarmic perspective,
--I have to shop for a brand-new Trishul and brandish it at every given opportunity yelling "Har Har Mahadev", or
--I have to start decrying and dengrating other religions just because I dont like them, or
--I have to join a gang of like-minded individuals and start playing tit-for-tat with those who have no Dharma in them, because fighting injustice is advocated in Bhagavad geeta
are plain nonsense.

Dharma is all about doing righteous actions at all times and in all circumstances. As Yossarin says, it is not about "what" of things, but "how" of the things.

As far as the Dharma of an ordinary citizen is concerned, it lies in the following three steps advocated succintly with brevity by Yossarin:
- Volunteering to join the Armed Forces or the Security Forces
- Forming Citizens Vigilance Group to work with your local police to keep an eye on suspicious activities
- Finally if you want to be a hero be a Simon Wiesenthal, make it about “Justice and not Vengeance” while not being a “Hater”.

It is time that Indians understood what real Hindutva means and work towards national interest using the Dharma as propounded by our forefathers who,
--were used to living in a society with multiple, often conflicting, ideologies,
--wanted to create sound principles, for the Indian psyche, towards betterment of all citizens,
--mostly importantly, did not wish to eliminate dissenting ideologies and wanted to include everyone in their stride.

Such an overarching, all-inclusive non-exclusivist, yet intuitive and simple principle is unheard of in any other civilisation at any point of time in history. And knowingly or unknowingly, we have been following this dharma in some way or another even before our current constitution was written down.

It is time we understand what really we should be aiming for.


Aakarsh said...

Too many links in a single post.That too, all are heavily loaded. It will take a while to read and understand them all and most importantly, interpreting them in the right sense.
Could read only 1 link for now:

nicely written. More so, cause it takes a clear stance against all wrong doings, which somehow have been mis-labelled or misconstrued as Hindutva.

Also, where the link to the blog about vedas?

Gandaragolaka said...

I know they are more than a mouthful, but please do take your time and read them. They are worth it.

link to my vedic blog:

संजीव कुमार सिन्हा said...

बंधुवर नमस्‍कार।
आप इस ब्‍लॉग के जरिये एक वैचारिक मुहिम चला रहे हैं जो कि महत्‍वपूर्ण कार्य है। आपकी जानकारी में यह होगा कि मैंने अपने ब्‍लॉग पर आपके ब्‍लॉग का लिंक दिया हुआ हैं। यह मेरे लिए गर्व की बात होगी यदि आप भी एवं का लिंक अपने ब्‍लॉग पर दे सकें।

संजीव सिन्‍हा

Gandaragolaka said...

manyavar sinhaji:
aapka blog communist evam deshdrohiyonke shadyatronka parda faash karne me shreshtam karya kar raha hai.

maine bhi apka blog mere bloglist me jod diya hai.