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Sanatan Dharma is universal in its philosophy

CultureSanatan Dharma is universal in its philosophy

Sanatan Dharma was unique in that it respected the individual over groups.

There is nothing about Creation which is static. Even when Shri Narayana was asleep on Shri Anantha, His bed, the waters of the Ekaarnava would have been mobile, patting a gentle lullaby on Shri Anantha’s serpentine body. The very point of birth is the first step towards the end of this sojourn on Earth, called Death. There is eternal movement.
Charles Darwin termed this movement “evolution”, great apes to Neanderthals to contemporary human beings is their linear graph of progress. Anything which cannot be empirically proved falls into the realm of fantasy. It is fairly certain that many apples would have fallen on various heads. Yet it is that particular apple which was destined to fall on Newton’s head that led to the theory of gravity.
Many civilizations claim that a lot of what modern science is “discovering” now is to be found in their ancient texts. Most of these texts are in arcane languages, understood only by a few experts. Held against the laboratory proven “finds” of modern—and largely Western—science, this does not officially amount to much in scale. However, there are keen students of science who dig out truths from palm-leaf manuscripts which are (sadly) sometimes used as kindling in traditional households. Very often than not, there are libraries worth of knowledge stored in this form. There is a nascent revival of interests in these stored forms of knowledge.
Organised religions are a later discovery of humanity. And certainly it is a ubiquitous, not clearly defined (Avyaktha in Sanskrit) entity behind creation. Trying to learn more of this divinity is spirituality, as opposed to theology. A proper pursuit of religion can lead to spirituality.
The chanting of manthrams and incantations enable the physical body to be ready to receive and incorporate the finer aspects of divinity. The tragedy of humankind is that they get stuck at the basics of religion which itself is admittedly quite exhilarating. This rises from the perennial need of an individual to “belong” to something larger than her or his self. Familiarity with the starting blocks of religion, ought not to make people pompous and convinced that their system is the only right one.
“Alpa jnaanam mahaa dosham” translates to “a little knowledge is very dangerous”. A true scholar realizes that what he knows is but an atom or at most two in the vast universe of learning. Such a scholar will have an insatiable hunger for more and more knowledge. Those who are totally involved in research rarely have the time and inclination to fully apply what they know to be their patchy knowledge into practical life.
Throughout human history, we can see terrible conflicts arising out of a false sense of entitlements. Each group has its own biased knowledge. Each group insists that all the others should follow their “enlightened” way. Sanatan Dharma was unique in that it respected the individual over groups. Just as the book Das Kapital was written by Marx and not by the Supreme Soviet or the Communist Party of the Soviet Union , Shri Krishna, in His Shrimad Bhagavad-Gita tells Arjuna that he, Arjuna, has to decide what should be done. At no point does Shri Krishna, Narayan, exhort His beloved Arjuna, Nar to obey Him. Shri Krishna here is the perfect teacher. He illuminates Arjuna’s mind. Then He leaves Arjuna to live by what he has learned from the Shrimad Bhagavad-Gita. This even when Shri Krishna could have had the confused and upset Arjuna obey Him blindly.
The fundamental philosophy behind such a teaching is respect for freedom and acceptance of responsibility etc. Doubtless, children have to be guided because of their lack of exposure to the vagaries of life and their limited experience. But as the child grows and, hopefully, matures, the decisions cannot be that of the elders. Inculcating blind obedience can more often than not culminate in excesses caused by the straitjacket of a controlled life. Those who follow Sanatan Dharma are rightly proud of the vastness of its philosophy. But when some who believe they are proponents of this great way of life try to imitate a more restrictive philosophy or philosophies, disaster occurs. Like the way Shri Krishna expounded Shrimad Bhagavad-Gita, the greatest thing that Sanatan Dharma offers the world is the knowledge and the confidence that people have the sense to use the knowledge contained in its philosophy aptly. Even in the case of recalcitrant children, behaviour changes rapidly for the better when true respect to them, confidence in them, is shown.
However, it is incorrect to have a Pollyannesque view of the world. It is because the greater and largely silent majority of the world do not emulate the fringe elements that this Earth survives to this extent at least. It would be wonderful if this majority were to become vocal. If that is not, unfortunately possible for all, it is important to learn to have a sustainable defence against the few who are rabid but so loud that other, calmer, voices get drowned out.
The need for a common constitution for humanity is great, especially in the present circumstances. Before they are corrupted by adult selfishness passing off as wisdom, children naturally share resources in the playground. Sunlight, air, water, ground and space are the need of every human being. To request the sun to shine selectively on the creations under it is as preposterous as claiming special rights for one set of people over another.
Caste is rightly one of the most misunderstood traditions in this country. Knowledge of Brahman (the entity and not the caste as defined by birth) was considered to be the highest calling. To be qualified as a Brahmin required rigorous training. The body, mind, heart and soul had to be single minded in search of Divinity. Just multi-stranded cotton threads looped over one shoulder was tantamount to a child play acting by wearing the headgear and gown of an academic. It is, after all, highly unlikely that one would trust the building of a dream home to a novice at architecture.
One of the grave dangers of some streams of philosophy is to denigrate the physical world. In spite of that, it is a reality that in many respects the physical dominates the other worlds. Spirituality is said to be in the realm of the intangibles. Yet its presence could suffuse the entirety of an individual’s existence in the physical world. Even arguments about philosophy come out of mouths that speak, into ears that hear.
It is important to first familiarise oneself with the various theories of philosophy. The greater the choices, the better the decisions. Luxury is nothing but a wide range of options. Almost all the “phalashruthis” or listed benefits flowing from the Vedas to the Sthothras and Sthuthis prioritise a good and rich life on earth and salvation after death.
An individual has every right to choose that method of spirituality that suits him or her. This includes the ritual of death by starvation prescribed in some texts. But the moment the person tries to foist it on others, it begins to lose its inner appeal and sanctity. Rather than place their faith in those who parrot politically correct words and do little else, the populace would do well in first finding out who the people who embody what is best in society are and then allow them to lead. It would not be the most seductive beseecher of votes who wins and therefore gets power. Rather, it would be the most deserving one who gets to govern companies and nations. As with the actual intention of the original caste system, these people too would have to qualify for their job.
In all groups (as in herds of animals) there are fringe elements. To wish that they are never created is yet another foolish dream. What is needed to is to ensure that their nature does not affect the rest of the population. Hunters were asked to “cull” dangerous man-eating carnivores from a locality, to save that population. Extreme views of a few need to be dealt with through ignoring rather than accepting the toxic rantings of the fringe.
It is important not to initiate physical violence. It is equally important not only to defend oneself against violence, but to make sure that the violence of retaliation is so strong that the very thought of physically harming anyone is quickly removed from anyone’s thoughts. There was a huge outcry when four men who raped and murdered a girl got killed in custody. But a lot of people were secretly and openly admiring this police action. Taking the law into one’s hands is indeed dangerous and not to be recommended. But equally, to be soft on the perpetrators may be worse. One has to close the sometimes deep chasm between law as carried out in practice and justice, with emphasis on the latter.
One of the hot topics of discussion is the belief in many that there exists “love-jihad”, which they say is called “grooming” in other countries. Such individuals lament that there is no army of Vish Kanyakas, or women who were trained to ingest poison from childhood, making them sexual killing machines. The charm offensive of predators using feigned love as a potent weapon for indoctrination would, they say, be countered by an equally soft method. Love ought never to be feigned and employed in any purpose other than what is ethical. But “Vish Kanyakas” no longer exist.
More often than not, it is fear which is a deterrent, rather than logic. Individually, human beings may be amenable to reason. But when gathered in a mob, it is the lowest common thought that usually holds sway over the rest. Individuals have to seek their own salvation. While they do so, they have to inhabit a collective place on earth. Successfully negotiating the experience of life without any harm to oneself or to others is the mark of a human being. It is this special quality which made our Ancients place human beings as the creation to be proud of.

Thiruvathira Tirunal Lakshmi Bayi is XII Princess of the erstwhile state of Travancore.

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