03 May 2007

Cry, The Beloved Country

Pratap Bhanu Mehta examines in a thought-provoking article how political parties are straying from the path of Dharma. We must not be silent. Right is right, and wrong is wrong. We must speak up for what is right and against what is wrong. If these thuggish tendencies are not nipped in the bud, not even God can save this country. Rule of law is inviolable. The sanctity of institutions must be protected at all costs. Dharmo rakshati rakshitah.

1 comment:

prashanth said...

The following is not so much of a comment as it is a brief explanation. Please note that am making use of this space to present what I have understood and interpreted, of course substantiated by discussions with other people.

As much as I agree with what the author has to say, I have just one issue with the last phrase of his “Dharmo rakshati rakhitaha.”

To begin with, this phrase has been misinterpreted over generations and unfortunately has been passed on unaltered over time, or perhaps those who knew chose not to do so.

A literal translation of the same would mean “Dharma protects those who protect dharma.” This would be fallacious, considering the times when this phrase must have been coined, and at another level that Dharma is a non-physical entity to be protected.

Am sure we concur that the phrase at latest is immemorial, and has been oft repeated in a multitude of scriptures and texts over time. Again, as we would concur, those were the times when orderliness and law were paid its due by one and all, and thus Dharma was safe. Am I right? Is this our understanding of Dharma? Can Dharma be equated just to one’s duty? If so, what is one’s duty? Who or what defines it? Who oversees whether one fulfills or unfulfills one’s Dharma? Again, questions, subjective mostly.

It has been widely accepted cutting across faiths and lands that Dharma is the path to be taken, the path of righteousness, of virtue, duty, of one’s actions, straying away from which would be nothing short of losing oneself to the dark side, a la Darth Vader. But then, was Darth Vader an adharmi. I would not think so. He might not have been righteous, but he did what he was called upon to do, what he thought was right, what his conscience approved. Well, if fictitious characters cannot be considered, what examples would we be left with to understand what is Dharma.

In any case, fictitious characters or not, for the general understanding one could consider Dharma as the path of righteousness, one that is always right, and would never lead to ignominy. Then, if Dharma is such a righteous, holier than thou philosophy, is not it fallacious again to even think Dharma needs protection or for the matter of fact that someone is capable of protecting it!!

We have always heard of each one’s Dharma being different than the others’, such as Rajadharma, Kshatriyadharma, Brahmanadharma, etc. Considering that these people formed the upper echelons of society, if were to violate their Dharmas, who had to oversee it? If a King, a Kshatriya, or a Brahman were to stray from his Dharma or were not to know what his Dharma was who would guide them?

Based on these criteria, I would again like to reiterate that “Dharmo rakshati rakshitaha” has been understood in a fallacious manner. In all probability (this is my version of understanding the same, since no one could give me a conclusive answer), it should be understood in the passive as “Dharmo rakshitaaha rakshanti” meaning “Dharma protects those to protect.” But the question arises, “protect what?” Again, taking into account the time when the phrase might have been coined, where the all powerful upper echelons were the protectors of the common man, it would mean, in a cliched way “Dharma” will protect those who follow their Dharma (of protecting others).