28 January 2008

Freedom, Happiness and Order

Amidst all this talk of Dharma and society and order, one may ask: What about individual happiness? What about personal freedom? Is my job only to follow the rules of society (Dharma)? Don't I have any right to pursue my own happiness?

For the answer, look at any river. It is a body of flowing water, bound on both sides by its banks. As long as the banks are strong, the river flows properly. But when the banks become weak, the river spills over and floods. Its own flow is disturbed. It also causes grief to the people living near it. Such is the relationship between freedom, restraint and happiness.

Freedom does not mean absolute freedom, or the right to do whatever we like. Freedom is meaningful only when it comes with certain limits. As we long as we respect these limits, we can be both free and happy. Once we cross these limits, there is neither freedom nor happiness.

It was keeping this in mind that the rishis of ancient India developed the code of Dharma. Individual happiness can be pursued only in a stable society. If society starts falling apart, how can the individual be happy? The rules of Dharma were so designed as to strike the right balance between personal freedom and social stability.

But, as noted before, Vedic society gradually decayed. With the various invasions and conquests, Hindu society became reactive and defensive. It went into a shell. Dharma – once a living and dynamic tradition that nourished the greatest civilisation in the world – became ossified and rigid. In the name of stability and order, freedom and happiness were buried.

But that was yesterday. Today is different. After a thousand years of slavery and foreign rule we are free again. Free again to reclaim our lost Dharma. Free again to pursue happiness, virtue, beauty and Truth. This pursuit, to be successful, has to be based on our age-old tradition – one that balanced the needs of the individual with the needs of society.

Our Western-style liberals don't understand this. For them, individual liberty is everything. Dharma, society and order mean nothing to them. They fail to see the harm that excessive focus on individual liberty has done in Western societies. If we follow that path, we shall surely come to grief.

But I am an optimist. I am confident that Dharma will prevail. I am confident that Indians will achieve not only personal freedom and happiness, but also a stable and harmonious society.


guyfromblore said...

good post.

Savitha said...

deep thoughts Dheera..good one!