Monthly Archives: September 2015

[Reprint Post] Selfishness: The Real Root of All Evil

A version of this Post was published on Andhra Cultural Portal on March 12, 2015


Selfishness

It is often said that money is the root of all evil. Some even point to lust as its origin. But the reality is that it is Selfishness: svaartha, that privileging of one’s own inclinations, interests, and desires above others, that is the true root of evil.

 

We’ve all seen the characters or come across such behaviour. The stubborn fellow who has to have his way, others be damned. The spendthrift wife who runs up her husband’s debt. The brutish husband that neglects his wife’s needs. The bulldozing billionaire fat cat who disregards the welfare of the community. The ambitious politician who destroys his own society. All these examples are ingredients in the destruction of civilization. All represent unrestrained selfishness, Nihit Svaartha.

In our era of instant gratification, competition, and survival-of-the-fittest, many of our sophists and pseudo-philosophers may decry this deconstruction of selfishness as an attack on the “liberty of the individual” and an”obstruction of the talented“. The even more infantile may cry “John Galt!” like so many infants in a nursery. But the reality is such personages neither have a concept of liberty nor know what it truly means to be a member of society. Such self-absorbed troglodytes are all too happy to feed at the trough of publicly provided positive externalities (from schooling to roads to national defense), when it suits them, but balk at having to give back to their communities, help the needy, or even look after their extended families. Indeed, what they are really asking for is not the liberty to be unoppressed, but the freedom to exploit and to harm as they will. In short, what they are in fact demanding is license and licentiousness.

All human beings experience various desires and temptations. Men tend to be more prone to lust, and women to money (though we increasingly see the reverse these days), but both experience temptation in the process. Nevertheless, it is the recognition of the rights of others and their mutual claim to Respect, that causes the person of conscience to curtail and ultimately master his or her desires.

VN_SelfishnessDestructive natures are brought about when individuals begin privileging their own needs and interests above the rest of society. Indeed, Duryodhana is the classic example of this. For all his sins, he had a number of good qualities as well (such as generosity to his friends), but even these qualities were all ultimately subject to his Nihit Svaartha. It is this inability to put society above self that leads to destruction.

However, one need not turn to the Mahabharata to see selfishness on display. This ghor kaliyug is itself the manifestation of selfishness, so much so that pseudo-philosophers have verily turned it into a virtue…

Some may be wondering, “Why this upadesh?”, “We all can’t be saints”, “One must be selfish to survive!“. But what they fail to realize is that selfishness not only affects those around them, but affects even politics and the destinies of nations. It is selfishness that drives an individual to privilege his ambition over the needs of the common good.

Some of our half-educated half-reads may declare “Vell, Adam Smith said invisible hand vill guide us—let each man pursue his self-interest! Fight for your right!”. But these morons have neither read Smith nor understand his philosophy.

First off, he didn’t speak of naked self-interest, but ENLIGHTENED self-interest. This means that an individual should weigh his interests in line with the common good. An example of this is the telecom debacle, where wealthy businessmen were advocating on behalf of foreign equipment manufacturers because…it was profitable. Even government officials were toeing this line. They cared nothing for the national security ramifications of giving possible future adversaries access to government lines of communication. So where then is this alleged “virtue of selfishness”?

Second, even before he wrote the Wealth of Nations, Smith composed the Theory of Moral Sentiments. Many of our videsh-returned wunderkinds believe they’ve unlocked the secret to wealth creation in Italian suits, Milton Friedman, and iPhones. Indeed, a number of them have even opened up revenue generating retirement homes and grossly profitable gated communities to replicate their MBA model in India. But let’s take a look again at what the patron saint of Capitalism himself wrote in his earlier work:

 “The laws of all civilized nations oblige parents to maintain their children, and children to maintain their parents, and impose upon men many other duties of beneficence”—Adam Smith TMS, p.81

Thus, even the philosophical poster boy for profit has advocated the importance of duty and beneficence (i.e. generosity, unselfish action), to one’s parents, children, and fellow man. As such, calculation of one’s interest cannot be in a vacuum. Self-interest must be weighed with societal interest. Even when the cause is just, one must ask whether correction is advocated in the correct way. The current documentary controversy is perfectly illustrative of this selfishness.

Many of our half-educated shrilly cry that the documentary should not be banned. FOE is being infringed as is their right to watch (leave aside traditional speech law on defamation, obscenity, and time/place/manner restrictions). What’s more, some of our youth feel this is precisely what is needed to shake up chauvinism and rowdy-ism they’ve experienced in their lives. And that is precisely the problem: this perspective only looks at the issue from the immediate view, rather than the societal one. It refuses to take into account data showing lower rates of violence, higher rates of conviction, and under-reporting even higher in other countries. The immediate self-centered emotion of avenging personal injustice is privileged above national interest, even if their Fathers, Brothers, Husbands, and Sons are unfairly tarred and stereotyped, and culture, illogically labeled.

Now, to be sure, violence against women is indeed a problem, as is staring/leering. And others will declare that fighting crime against women is societal interest too (it most definitely is). But is the way to combat this by playing into the hands of the nation’s adversaries? One need not be some paranoid theorist to say that there are parties interested in smearing India’s culture.

For those wondering precisely how invaders were finally able to establish kingdoms in India during the medieval period, they need only see the laundry list of alleged nationalists speaking out in support of this documentary. Like the Sindhi Kshatriyas angry at the rule of the Brahmin Raja Dahir, they gave their support to foreigners they stupidly thought would be fighting their just cause for them. Because you see, these videshis must really be acting out of a sense of “justice”…cause they really care!…so darn much! It is this gullible stridency in both men and women that makes it next to impossible to get anything constructive done. But then again, unrepentant stupidity has been almost an uniquely Indian quality for the past few centuries.

Duryodhana, the epitome of Selfishness, meets his doom

The infuriating and sinful disrobing of Draupadi fueled not only the Pandavas’, but Krishna’s desire for the destruction of the Kauravas. However, even Krishna achieved justice for Draupadi after weighing all the factors: When, Where, How, Who, What, Why. He did not merely advocate war immediately. He took into account the factors against and even tapasya required on the part of the Pandavas, before, in the name of all women, Duryodhana and Dushasana could be brought to justice. And brought to justice they were, in the most terrible of fashions. But this was achieved and societal attitudes corrected because even an humiliated and vengeful Draupadi patiently listened to the wisdom of Sri Krishna. Rather than putting her cause above Dharma, she focused on Dharma, which in due time, gave her the justice she so richly deserved. That is because, no matter how just the cause, weighing and prioritizing of all interests (not just one) and correction of all crimes (not just one) is required.

Indeed, it is the failure not of pursuing one’s interests, or frequently even societal interests, but the failure and stubborn refusal to prioritize interest properly that frequently leads to problems not only for societies but even for relationships.

Nothing kills a relationship as quickly and easily as does selfishness. As even tragically beaten wives and cruelly cuckholded husbands can attest, it is not ill-treatment but pure and raw selfishness that destroys relationships and makes one feel alone. Nothing numbs love like neglect.

If you only prioritize your interest. If you only care about yourself. If you only look after yourself, how can your relationship, any relationship, survive? Romance isn’t dead today because modernity makes it impossible or obsolete. Rather, the Death of Romance took place because individuals (the constituent parts of a relationship) are too selfish to make the relationship work. What self-absorbed, selfish woman (no matter how physically beautiful) will inspire the continued romantic sentiment in her husband? What selfish brute of a man can continue to retain the romantic affections of his wife? Indeed, it is not compatibility, but selfishness and brutishness, that makes a relationship impossible. Even the classic English drama Pygmalion demonstrates this.

If divorce rates are increasing, if violence against women is increasing, if isolation in society is increasing, it is because of selfishness and self-centeredness.  A nation of narcissists and selfish brats will not long last. And a nation of people that know not how to prioritize, will not become strong.

As we have previously demonstrated, reliance on laws and never-ending legislation may punish criminals–but they won’t reform them or even prevent their creation to begin with. Indeed, a just society is the one that requires the fewest laws. This is because its population self-regulates its own behavior. Men restrained by Dharma do not selfishlessly justify their basest and even most violent urges, let alone enact them. Likewise for Women educated in dharma. Thus, a society’s civilization and justness is not determined by the number and complexity of its laws, but by the virtue and selflessness of its populace. This is because the selfish man sees only objects of pleasure/utility, and behaves only as much as law or threat of punishment permit him in a given place. In contrast, the selfless man behaves properly irrespective of law or punishment or place.

VN_CharityThe way to dignity, justice, and respect for women is not through outside intervention, but internal reform. From Adi Sankara to Basava to Vivekananda, voices rooted in the native and indigenous were the ones that most successfully appealed to our conscience and reformed society in the process. They didn’t look to outsiders to play arbiter, benevolently guiding our destinies. They recognized that while Indians were selfish and stupid, the outsider was selfish…but smart. Rather than playing into the hands of those who wished harm, they advocated internal reform and took inspiration from our own philosophies to ensure justice to all members of society. Achara is the building block for this, because it restrains our behavior for common interest.

From human trafficking to acid attacks to forced intercourse to everyday run of the mill lechery, women are overwhelming the victims of indecency and violence. But no amount of legislation can completely prevent such behavior in all settings. Only good conduct, Achara, teaches men (and women) respect for others and self-restraint. Thus, the mistake of these ladies is not in speaking out, but knowing where to speak out and how to correct and willingness to listen. So why single out the present generation of young women–who, however misguided, are nevertheless justifiably upset at world-wide violence against women, when there are those without such provocation, who seek out their own agendas. Sadly, even in the ranks of those who presume to speak out in favour of or in support of dharma do so only so far as it advances their self-interests. Even our self-proclaimed patriots and social media saviors are guilty of this sin of selfishness, and have even less reason for it. Dharma is merely a flag or (temporary) party–ambition is their cause.

One of the most tragic things in any hour, but especially during a late hour, when all of society stands at a precipice, is when those who proclaim to support dharma or righteous causes, nevertheless act in a selfish and opportunist manner. Rather than think of the common good, they prioritize advancing their own personal, career, and caste interests. Rather than do the hard work of building something from scratch, they seek to bandwagon on established efforts or gain entry into fashionable salons or seek the top position, while insulting/destroying any who stand in their way. They consume rather than contribute. If stupidity is the inability to prioritize, selfishness in many ways is about a refusal to prioritize (society above self).  That is the importance of dharma, not merely as a slogan or a convenient umbrella, but as a principle to be lived as part of a living culture. Thus, we once again come to culture as not only the glue for nations, but also the nurturing soil that germinates virtuous sons and daughters, selfless leaders, and strong societies.

We all experience a selfish urge, or make a mistake from time to time. The point is not to make those poor souls wear a scarlet S for all eternity, but to encourage them and encourage ourselves to hear out and think in the common societal interest, before self-interest. Therefore, all those looking for benevolent videshis to fight their cause for them would do well to read what happened to Sindh in 711 CE. The Chachnama gives plenty of lessons in just not what to do, and just what the ultimate cost of selfishness is to individuals and societies. As we’ve said before, you can be stupid, you can be selfish, but you can’t be both. As Indians are unlikely to match the sheer, diabolical shadyantras of videshis, their hope lies in being not quite so selfish. The fate of the region, country, and civilization itself, depends upon it.

Let Nishkama Karma (selfess action) be your slogan as well as solace, for it will prove  ultimately to be your saviour.

References

  1. Vidura Neeti
  2. Chachnama
  3. Smith, Adam. The Theory of Moral Sentiments. p.81
  4. http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/india/090311/india-bangalore-morphs-silicon-valley
  5. http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/old-age-homes-the-last-resort-of-the-elderly/article4438333.ece

 

[Reprint Post] On the Perils of Ambition

A version of this Post was published on Andhra Cultural Portal on December 8, 2013


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“Arey, he’s so ambitious, yaar”, “Do you know, she’s really ambitious”, “You should be ambitious too”….

I must have missed the memo, but since when did ambition become a good thing?

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for self-improvement (both spiritual and material), and success in one’s chosen livelihood—but when did personal gain become more important than collective good and virtue? Because contrary to popular thought, ambition actually runs in direct opposition to the collective good. Ambition overturns the just order, ambition prevents rightful inheritance, ambition pits younger against older, ambition poisons the minds of parents, ambition embitters relations between spouses and between friends, ambition blinds one to duty to society—in short, ambition destroys.

The fundamental problem with Ambition is that it asks the question Why NOT me instead of Why me?

You may ask, “what is the difference”? The difference is Why Not Me puts the burden of proof on others to ask why others are more deserving than you. Why Me considers whether you are even qualified for the position to begin with.

While just aspiration in harmony with duty is good (i.e. I want to be a politician to help people), ambition is destructive (i.e.I want to be a politician to gain position and dominate people, and damn anybody, even the country, if he comes in my way…cough…KCR). Aspiration asks, “I think I could do this—but am I the most qualified, or deserving person?”.

The great irony of our time is that our culture itself answered this question thousands of years ago in the form of the Son of Dasaratha—no, I don’t mean Sri Rama, as great as he indeed was, but in fact his brother…Bharata.

The Example of Bharata

Photo: Youtube

Rama is truly the ideal man, the rightful heir, the protector of the weak, and the eponymous and undisputed  hero of the Ramayana, but ultimately he was able to do his duty and still retain his throne because of the nobility and sacrifice of the second eldest brother, Bharata.

Indeed one of the greatest moments in the entire Ramayana (perhaps all of scripture)  is when after reluctantly agreeing to Janaka’s decision, Bharata swears to immolate himself if Rama does not take back his throne within 14 years. . .What a gesture!…Not only does this Royal Prince, whose grandfather was promised by Dasharatha to give Kaikeyi’s son the throne, whose mother gained a boon from Dasharatha to grant him the throne, and who was a qualified king in his own right, refuse this grand Kingdom, but he also threatens to give up his own life if the rightful heir is not restored to the throne within the specified period of time. Even Rama himself is moved and tells Bharata in admiration, “I should have known you would give up in an instant what takes men lifetimes to learn to reject”.

In contrast, Duryodhana  covets precisely that which he has no right to by law or any other qualification. Yudhisthira was the eldest of the Kurus, was crowned by Dhritarashtra as yuvaraja, and was the greatest in dharma. Yet by hook or by crook, Duryodhana nursed his ambition for the throne of Hastinapura and craved what was not his. In the end,while Duryodhana is defeated, Bharata is triumphant (and incidentally, is granted kingship of Takshasila (modern Taxila), which he founded).

Thus, when ambition is cast aside, society in turn benefits, because it is spared fratricidal and internecine warfare. The energies that go into nursing pointless rivalries and political competitions go into societal welfare and good instead. Therefore, Bharatas are not only required at the highest echelons but at the lower levels of society as well. When people do what is right, rather than what is selfish–then everyone benefits, as the four Princes of Ayodhya did. Mutual regard leads to mutual gain.

We must not take or covet what is not rightfully ours. Might (or sleight…of hand, in this case) does not make right. It is Dharma that makes right. That is the lesson of Bharata. Indeed, it is for this reason that Vasishta himself is said to have remarked that “No one understood the lessons of Dharma better than Bharata.”

People ask, with all the evil going on in the world today—“where is Vishnu”?

Perhaps, when the people are ready, a Kali Yuga Rama may indeed appear, but the real question we have to ask is: where are our Bharatas?

Photo: Youtube

[Reprint Post] On Achara

Sarv Agamanam Acara |Prathama Parikalpate

Acara Prabhavo Dharmo |Dharmasya Prabhur Achyutaha

In the Vishnu Sahasranama, it is stated that “Achara leads to Dharma, and Dharma is the path to Krishna”. As such, individuals must first master good conduct as the stepping stone to understanding and embodying righteousness.

Indians (and our globe-trotting Andhras are no exception) have managed to give themselves a bad name internationally. Indian culture’s popularity, through yoga, bollywood, and cuisine, is at an all time high, but the popularity of Indians and India are beginning to approach a low. Much of this obviously due to bad press (some deserved, and quite a bit unfair)—

this blog post will thus focus on the part that is deserved

—and discuss ways you can do things about it. That’s right, I’m talking to YOU—currently lounging on the sofa or somewhere else, in between generous helpings of hakka noodles and God knows what else. And the way you can tackle it is through Achara (pronounced “Aachaara”).

The beauty of Achara is that 1/3 of India’s problems can be solved if India’s citizens follow it, another 1/3 can be solved if they follow Bharatiya Dharma (patriotic/national duty), and another 1/3 through good leadership and administration.

Of late, there has been some misunderstanding about Achara. The Manusmriti is often selectively cited to emphasize that Achara is somehow the highest Dharma coming before anything and everything—but such people represent a flawed understanding. They hide behind this to justify their emphasis of kalpya or ritual aspects of Achara, as though Purva Mimamsa were the only and highest darsana (philosophical view). But this is not the case, and it is certainly not Vedanta, which the Gita embodies.

Achara is not the highest dharma—how could it be? Was it Acharam for Yudhisthira to say “Ashvathama attaha…kunjaraha”? Was it Acharam for Bharata to angrily scold his mother for her conspiracy against Rama and disown her? Was it Acharam for Dhristadyumna to kill a learned Brahmin like Drona?

No, of course it wasn’t—but it was Dharmam, because all these actions were intended to ensure that Dharma and Rta (the cosmic/just order) were protected. Krishna made Yudhisthira speak a lie because Drona could not be defeated in battle and had to be removed to ensure the victory of the righteous Pandavas over the evil Kauravas. Bharata had to scold his mother and even disobey and disown her so she would come to her senses for the sin she had committed by overturning Rama’s birthright as firstborn  heir to the throne. It was appropriate for Dhristadyumna to kill Drona, because Drona had taken up arms and sided with Adharma, thus neither his status as a learned brahmin nor his identity as beloved guru of Arjuna could be allowed to protect him from the consequences of his actions. Thus in all these cases, Achara was broken, but Dharma was protected.

What then is the highest dharma, you ask?—Sacrifice.

No, not Yajna (that’s a different type of sacrifice)—but Tyaga (which is self-sacrifice).

Don’t get me wrong. Achara is very important. In fact, it is the building block of Dharma. The foundation that allows individuals to grow ethically and then morally, and allows societies to have a stable and just order. But Achara has, all too often, been an excuse for some sections to get lost in mindless ritual. Ritual without reflection is mere robotics.

Sri Ramana Maharshi asked of what use it was to be a lettered man if it means merely a becoming a gramophone—mindlessly and brainlessly chanting mantras and performing yajnas without improving himself. Developing Atma-vichara (self-reflection) and Viveka (ability to discriminate between right and wrong) is thus the critical first step to liberation from samsara.

Our own people, of course, stupidly gas their heads up with the hot air of caste pride and pompously ask “which dharma?”. But regardless of age, such buffoons are nothing more than spiritual children in aged bodies.

Why do we say “Aham Brahmasmin” rather than have each individual chant varna (caste) over and over? This is because one’s birth, body, and even caste, is temporary—fleeting. At the end of each life, our merits and demerits determine the nature and birth status of future lives—and those who misbehave today could find themselves taking birth as even animals.

Thus, while varnashrama dharma historically has had  a place in guiding one’s duty to society, Sanatana dharma at its highest levels is about the essentials of morality. These are the divine qualities, or gunas, of Pavitrata (purity), Karuna (compassion), Saamyama (self-control ), Yuktata (justice), Satya (truth), Tyaga (self-sacrifice) and above of all Bhakti/Prema (Divine love). This Prema is what makes possible love for the rest of society and willingness to engage in Tyag to safeguard it. This is because if the Tyagi is willing to even sacrifice himself for a greater cause, then he is willing to restrain his pleasures to avoid hurting others.

It was Bharata’s brotherly love for Rama that made him sacrifice not only only the ill-gotten Throne that had come to him, but also willing to sacrifice his own life to ensure the Kingship of Ayodhya was Rama’s alone.   He even refused to crown himself, and took up residence as a hermit-ruler at Nandigram rather than from the palace at Ayodhya. This is because, pleasure without conscience is one of the greatest dangers for the souls of men and women. And Tyag is, thus, one of our highest ideals—and the highest Dharma.

This self-sacrifice is not the mindless behavior of lemmings—giving themselves up for the slightest cause (or as masquerade for atma-hatya)—but rather a studied, difficult, and frequently reluctant one. This is because it weighs the interests of the individual against the needs of society. In fact, the most brilliant and insightful dialogue in the arbitration comes from Rajarishi Janaka himself, who says “it is easy to to die, but it is often harder to live for your loved ones”. Thus, it is critical that individuals properly study dharma to understand when the former or latter is more appropriate.

The famous story of Maharishi Dadhichi is an example.

File:Story of Vritra.jpg

The King of the Devas, Indra, was once defeated by the Vritrasura and pushed out of Heaven (Svarga). The demon Vritra had been given a boon that prevented him from being killed by any weapon then in existence—especially one made from wood and metal.

Indra went to Lord Vishnu in despondency, and Vishnu told him that it was possible to defeat Vritra, but such a weapon could only be made from the bones of Sage Dadhichi. Indra went to Dadhichi’s ashram in Naimisharanya and asked if the Sage would be willing to grant the Devas his bones to restore Dharma. Dadhichi selflessly gave up his life so that a weapon—the Vajra— could be fashioned from his bones to defeat the Asuras. This is an example of Tyaga, self-sacrifice for the need of society.

So what then is Achara?

People think that it is great evil that begets the horrors and disasters of the world, but the reality is that it is the little evils, the petty injustices that occur so frequently that aggregate over time and cause destruction.

It is the dismissive cavalier remark that breeds resentment. It is the mean-spirited mockery that builds hatred. It is the thoughtless messiness that causes disgust. Because most people seek to avoid conflict, the frustration that brews from such incidents is typically not blown off at appropriate intervals, but all at once, in a disproportionate and destructive display. That is why the 4 main elements of Achara should be observed.

MARYADA PURUSHOTTAM RAM

1. Maryada/Saujanya (propriety/etiquette/courtesy) *Rama was called “Maryada Purushottam” for precisely this reason

  • Polite and Proper speech-i.e. not abusing people for their caste, race or vulnerability
  • Respectable behavior in public-i.e. respecting laws, customs & etiquette of a place
  • Courtesy to others, especially elders and pregnant women.   Chivalry/gentlemanliness/ladylike behavior.
  • Consideration for others and their feelings (i.e. respecting queues when possible)
  • Respecting those who are elder to you. Your knowledge or intelligence may be greater than theirs, but their wisdom exceeds yours by sheer anubhava (experience). So don’t let ahankar from your college or Veda Patashala studies blind you to their buddhi. Even if they’re wrong, respectfully tell them so . This is maryada

2. Praja dharma (societal duty as citizen worker, businessman, ruler, or priest/teacher)

  • Not just being a receiver but also being a contributor to society
  • Being a good citizen by paying one’s taxes
  • Looking after one’s parents/relatives in old age/need
  • Following proper rituals as appropriate for one’s station/occupation (Kulachara)

3. Dama (temperance/self-restraint–distinct  from and more basic than self-control)

  • Restraining one’s greed and animal urges. (greed is the root of sin)
  • Care not to cause unnecessary harm to People or Animals or Nature

4. Saucha (cleanliness)

  • Not making a mess of one’s self
  • Keeping one’s home and streets clean

In short, Achara is good and right conduct. It doesn’t mean being a mahant or mahatma or even a tyagi. It just means behaving well and being a responsible citizen of society (something our NRIs should also remember).

It means showing due courtesy to others (respect to elders and elder siblings, consideration for the weak and vulnerable, concern for the distraught, and fulfillment of basic individual functions to society), it means having good clean habits, it means not littering in public and making a nuisance of yourself, and it means not breaking the law of whatever society of which you are a part.

It also means having a sense of civic duty. As much as Hindus love to criticize the morality of the West, they cannot contest the reality that the sense of civic duty in Europe and America far exceeds that in India. In fact, this is one of the main flaws of Modern Indians. But this was not always the case.

Accounts from Greek visitors to Ancient India show how orderly and clean Indian military camps were, and how rare theft was. Chanakya’s writings in the Arthashastra itself are proof of how a premium was placed on civic cleanliness—with fines for littering, etc. Indians may take personal hygiene (barring deodorant…) very seriously, but public hygiene today is a severe problem. Thus, along with good manners, societal duty, and self-restraint saucha (public and private) is exceedingly important.

Achara is the key to Good citizenship and Civic Duty–ideas that are all too often lacking in India and Indians.

Thus, in that sense, Achara could never be the highest dharma—but is rather the basic, or elementary dharma—the foundation of dharma. Because dharma itself is subtle (sukshmam), achara must first be mastered. Then and then only can we realize when it should be bent or even broken in favor of the higher needs of Dharma.

Therefore Achara is the way to Dharma, but Dharma is the Path to Achyuta (Narayana).

Link to Vishnu Sahasranama youtube video with meaning in English.

References:

www.hinduism.co.za/dharma.htm

[Reprint Post] Dharmic Development

A version of this Post was published on Andhra Cultural Portal on October 14, 2014


Oordhva
Maharishi Veda Vyasa explaining how prosperity & happiness come from righteousness

Grohwth, grohwth, vee need grohwth, increase our grohwth, vee must have grohwth”—And what will you do with all that growth, eat it?

The fact remains that while modern infrastructure development is important and educational advancement is good, they must not be done at the expense of destroying the environment, pillaging nature, and most importantly, losing culture.

Culture should improve, culture should progress, and culture should innovate—but all should be done in a way that makes timeless values relevant in a changing modern context. Just as we have Sanatana Dharma (Timeless Dharma) and Yuga Dharma (Dharma as per the Yuga or Era), so too should core aspects of our Samskruthi be eternal while others adaptable.

Why “Debelopment” above all is not a Strategy for Success

China has made a great many strides over the past 30 years—clearly well ahead of India on the development front. But it has also paid a heavy price, not merely in the widespread decline in air quality due to coal power plants (India is not far behind here), but also in the depletion and degradation of its water sources. Indeed, so disastrous has the decline in the PRC’s environmental quality been that the Chinese themselves have been calling it “low quality growth”.

The rapid push for rapid and lop-sided urbanization and unaccountable industrialization has resulted in a slow motion catastrophe that has not only impacted the quality of the land and the quality of life, but life itself. Many pictures are too horrifying and tragic to show (particularly the human toll), but the ongoing health disaster due to cadmium rice and other such gifts of globalization should be cause for pause.

Is the massive deluge of humanity into rotting cities and under-piped settlements a humane let alone dharmic existence for its denizens? Are smart cities the solution for every citizen? Wouldn’t balanced development seek to enhance life in the village, town, and city alike rather than simply constructing gigantic megalopolises conceived as smart but ending as slum?  But why take the word of an Indian on China, when a Chinese person himself speaks on the topic:

“Chinese culture has traditionally been rural-based,” says Feng Jicai, a well-known author and scholar. “Once the villages are gone, the culture is gone.”

Due to increase in the “Landless and jobless”,  the vibrant traditional culture of China is dying in favor of the supposed greener pastures of materialism and hedonism (India not too far behind here either). Let me clarify. Preserving rural lifestyles does not mean promoting the primitive. Villages and even smaller towns can connect to the modern world without disconnecting from the holistic and symbiotic lifestyles they frequently offer, as opposed to the current parasitic model of our vastly mushrooming urban agglomerations. But why should the word “farmer” be perceived as a four letter word? There is great dignity in the life of the kisan, for civilized life is dependent on him and his hardwork. Rather than be viewed with contemptuous eyes, the agriculturalist should be thanked for making city life possible at all.

What’s more it is industrial life and commerce that is driving not only the consumption of resources but the pollution of our natural resources, even our sacred rivers.

Gangaclean

Living in harmony with the land is not the hallmark of the barbarian but the callsign of the civilized, for the highest form of civilization is not material but spiritual. Understanding and recognizing that all life is interconnected, and that we too have duties to Mother Earth and her other children, is essential.

Man’s Greed Devastating Mother Earth

It is this ahankar (false ego) mentioned previously that creates the sick desire in men to dominate others and all other life. Man does not have dominion over the Earth, how could he? Did he create it? Is his “conquest” of it so secure that a simple frown from Bhoomidevi  could not overthrow him like many ants upon a hill?

No, my brothers and sisters, the human being is merely a tenant, a guest in this vast resort of Life, here to improve, and even perfect himself/herself, not through artifice and robotics, but will to restrain the senses. The earth is merely a life-estate at best, and there are restrictions on what can or cannot be done before it is passed on to the next generation, and even to its Ultimate Owner.

It is svaartha (selfishness) that ever-present evil, that root of all evil that drives man mad in the desire to conquer other people and other things, rather than conquer himself (the first and noblest form of conquest). It is for this reason Mahatma Gandhi said the world has enough for every person’s need, not every person’s greed. He even decried the Industrial model of the West, saying

Recent estimates have concluded that for the developing world to consume and live like the developed, we would need 3 and ½ Earths. In fact, “urbanisation is accompanied by unprecedented consumption of natural resources”

Cities occupy 3% of the earth’s land surface, house half of the human population, use 75% of the resources and account for 2/3rd of all energy and greenhouse gas emissions. If developing countries emulate the model of developed countries, a resource base as large as four planet earths would be necessary to support their growth.

Despite ongoing efforts to tarnish his name and legacy, looks like on this count, Gandhiji was right after all.

It is the fundamental conceit and hubris of man to attempt to rule over the Earth as slavemaster rather than protect and safeguard it as steward.

The unsentimental and pragmatic Chanakya himself stipulated that “The root of Happiness was Dharma (Righteousness), the root of Dharma was Wealth, the root of Wealth was Power, and the root of Power was Conquest of the Senses”:

Sukhasya moolam dharmam, dharmasya moolam artham, arthasya moolam rajyam, rajasya moolam indriya vijayam.

Thus the key to our prosperity and happiness comes not from greed, but from good. Greed is not Good–how could it be? Goodness is good, virtue is good, self-restraint and consideration for others is good. Dharma is good. Therefore, it is incumbent on humanity to channel its energies within rather than be pulled by its appetites without.

Scene from the Movie “Clueless”

Scene from “modern” India

This is not merely spiritual/ritual mumbo-jumbo from “backward” India, but increasingly the view of Nobel-prize winning Western Economists themselves.

(For those ebullient and excitable arrivistes to America (AP boasts many of them) who proclaim the greatness of all things USA, some food for thought about its economic model. One, Two, Three.)

It is not enough to merely say India must safeguard its interests by competing with China. India should learn many things from China, but it should also learn from its mistakes (which they are experts at hiding or rationalizing—unlike our people who love airing out dirty laundry to outsiders). The fact remains, “certain rules of living are to be observed if we want to ensure sustainability and peace.”

Lifestyle & Development must be in harmony with our Land & Values

“B-school taught me that ‘Africa is under-polluted’ & an under-utilized asset”

Development must be in harmony with the land. As I’ve noted previously, the tragedy in Uttarakhand exemplified the importance of respecting the sanctity of the land and not turning everything into a sprawling tourist trap.

Unrestrained, shoddy infrastructure projects exacerbated the problem in the tragic flood of 2013. Thus, as the geographic focus of AP’s development plan shifts back to our ancestral towns and cities on the coast—let us keep this ideal in mind.

It also means not turning each and every town into a new urban conglomeration. Specifically, we must find a way to balance life at different levels—village, town, and city. We must be mindful to encourage prosperity at all levels. Some of our sarcastic saviors of society have posited that village life has retained many of the worst elements of casteism, and mass urbanization is the remedy.–But to get rid of the bathwater, do we throw out the baby as well? No, the answer therefore, is to combat casteism while preserving the village.

After all, agriculture is the backbone of civilization. Only when there is surplus crop is urban society even possible. Yet urban society today is driven by the big business urge to profit unethically from everything, whether its farming or mining. The Gali family of Bellary is the perfect example of the type of crony capitalism that should not be acceptable and certainly not respectable. The natural wealth and inheritance of all Indians was mercilessly and selfishly mined and sold to India’s neighbor to the North—without national security considerations. Does it make sense to sell strategic resources like Iron and Copper to a strategic competitor that actually has more of it than India does? (Does it make sense to buy telecom equipment from the same point of origin for that matter?—“IT superpower” indeed…)

What was done in Bellary was not entrepreneurship or responsible commerce, but national plunder. Commerce with Conscience should be a prime directive for modern India and society in general. Business as usual should no longer be acceptable. Becoming rich should not be the main criterion for respectability—and how one becomes rich should also matter.

As Seemandhra walks the road of bifurcation full of uncertainty, a number of questions have been raised about the path forward. In our previous pieces we extolled the hard work of the current Chief Minister in his first innings in office. However, as is commonly known, this also came at a price. The plight of farmers not only in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, but Maharashtra as well is well known and well documented. Faulty developmental paradigms have ignored the health and human tolls.

Having effectively put all their eggs in one basket, the people of new Andhra Pradesh state are now questioning the old models for development and economic growth. Given the continuing farmer suicides in not only Andhra but the rest of India as well, there are serious questions about whether the current model of development is ultimately sustainable and beneficial to all citizens.

Thus, an opening has now presented itself for a new paradigm: Dharmic Development.

To date, growth and wealth has been an either-or proposition. Poverty or Riches, Backwardness or Development,  Communism or Capitalism, Agriculture or IT (we can also add Communalism or Pseudo-Secularism to that list–but that is another matter…).  Perhaps it is time for our people to take a page out of the book of Andhra’s own Nagarjuna.  No, not this Nagarjuna, but this one. The legendary Buddhist monk hailed from our region and presented the philosophy of Madhyamika, or the middle path that ultimately originated from the Buddha himself. This third way, in between ascetism/deprivation and sensuousness/greed, if you will, offers a new approach to development–a Dharmic one.

Regular readers are familiar with the excellent article composed by Krishnarjun gaaru called Dharmanomics. This post attempts to move forward the foundation he laid with it and I want to thank him for giving his generous encouragement in this endeavor.

Read now the wisdom of Maharishi Veda Vyasa, who wrote the following at the end of the Mahabharata (Svargarohanika Parva, S.5):

Oorddhva baahurviromyesha na kashchit shrnothi me
Dharmaath artthasha kaamascha kim na sevyati?

I raise my hands up [in frustration] and say “The way to wealth and love is through Dharma—why doesn’t anybody listen?!”

The Dharma of Development

business number nahin, business log hai” (business is not about numbers (i.e. profit/growth), it’s about people)

What is Development and what is its purpose?

Too often our newly minted college and MBA grads rote cite assorted theories on GDP and manufacturing capacity without understanding the underlying definition and purpose of development. Development does not mean merely commercial development of a country.

Development also means national development. It is the ability of a country to provide for its citizens’ material, economic, political, and social needs through the harnessing of nature for technological purposes to responsibly meet the challenges of modernity.

Thus, at its core, development is about meeting the needs of a society’s citizenry. Our current era of technological advancement has necessitated not only financial and infrastructural capital, but human capital. For far too long the assumption has existed that farming and rural life is somehow the driver of poverty. Lack of resources to meet one’s needs is the cause for poverty. When far too much emphasis is placed on the needs of only one factor of production, the others suffer. That is the current state of affairs in a global economy that is staring at the precipice.

Land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurship are all the textbook factors of production for productive economic activity (and of course, the over emphasized “growth”). What is the value of each of these? Land provides terrain for agriculture, mining, infrastructure, and housing. Labor (over-emphasized by Marx and Engels) provides the ability to harness and manufacture. Capital, alternatively specie (i.e. gold, silver) is a means of exchange acceptable to others allowing for investing in productive enterprises and storing value. And lastly, entrepreneurship, which is the expertise and drive in conceiving, building, and managing organizations and endeavors (whether commercial or societal) that productively and usefully apply the previous three. But all four of these factors are finite. While new ways can be devised to productively apply or leverage them (also a function of entrepreneurship), total productivity, and more importantly, total utility to society will eventually level off. As such, unceasing growth is simply not possible and will be increasingly diminishing in returns. So how can it be the basis of value and the basis of the modern concept of wealth? How can it be the basis for all economic decision-making?

Empty bellies, but Exporting food

It is the height of folly and adharma that India is now joining the bandwagon of countries like China and the Gulf states to rely on African agricultural land for Agro-business. When India has the second largest supply of Arable land on the Earth, how on Earth can its business interests join the Adharmic rush to have Africans supply food to the rest of the world? A continent whose countries such as Somalia have become synonymous with famine and starvation cannot possibly be expected to supply food to wealthier nations when its citizens have vast numbers of empty bellies to fill. Proponents argue that it is a more efficient use of resources (presumably they come from the same school as this “genius”). But before citing David Ricardo and comparative advantage, MBA automatons would be well-advised to study Adam Smith–no, not his Wealth of Nations, but The Theory of Moral Sentiments (yes, he was a moral philosopher as well–imagine that!). There is no moral or ethical or dharmic basis for countries like India and China to lay claim to agricultural lands that would better serve an African.

It is imperative that business and political leaders see not only what is profitable or efficient–but also what is ethical. Even Bentham spoke of “the greatest good of the greatest number” in his theory of Utilitarianism. Does it make any sense to deprive Africans of arable land so that India and China can allocate theirs to manufacturing and IT sweatshops?! That is the importance of Dharmanomics and Dharmic Development.

Dharmic Development

DharmicDevelop

Dharmanomics Rules

  1. Dharmanomics is about blending natural economy, natural justice to the modern situation”
  2. “Food economy is the root of prosperity.”
  3. ” balancing food economy and high-end manufacturing is critical for prosperity and to defend that prosperity from external threats.”
  4. “farmland shouldn’t become an instrument of investment for profit. Only professional farmer have to be allowed ownership of farmland and the community.”
  5. “The Panchayat has to certify him as farmer ”
  6. Harmony of self and environment is the essence of Dharma and to see the possibility of such harmony in the economy is Dharmanomics

Dharmic Development Corollaries:

  1. State shall adhere to Dharmic mandates of Raksha, Palana, and Yogakshema of the land and its people
  2. Sanctity of Spiritual places must be observed/preserved
  3. Development must be Sustainable in nature with fair, productive, and ecologically harmonious distribution of resources
    • Emphasis on renewables/caution with permeables
    • Any drastic changes to or transformations of ecologies only at utmost to dire need
  4. Decentralized development should be premised on responsible & preferably decentralized ownership
    • Agricultural and Manufacturing Cooperatives for economies of scale
    • Life cycle planning-Corps have responsibility to not only plan end user marketing, but also end user goods disposal/recycling
  5. Prioritization of agriculture and the needs of agriculturalists
    • Arable land should be should be used primarily for agriculture
    • Individual farms the building blocks, not big business
    • Organic food & Community Ownership seed banks to preserve bio-diversity
  6. Emphasis on  societal/national interest and the family unit
    • Due consideration for weaker and vulnerable sections of society: i.e. pregnant women, children, the elderly, infirm, and disabled.
    • Corporations are not citizens…citizens are citizens
    • Prioritization of the needs of children in marriages
  7. Protections against exploitation of human beings, whether through means of force, finance, or enterprise
  8. Humane treatment of animals, especially livestock, whether for products or byproducts, in line with Bharatiya Dharma
  9. Balance of rights and duties. Duties come first.

Dharmic Development Corollaries Explanation:

1.State shall adhere to Dharmic mandates of Raksha, Palana, and Yogakshema of the land and its people

The Arthashastra emphasized Raksha (protection from external threat), Palana (internal law and order) and Yogakshema (welfare of the land and people) as the three obligations of Government. Thus, rather than brainless parroting of vacuous nostrums such as “reform”, “globalization”, “economic liberty”, public officials must bear these in mind when instituting and implementing policy. India’s telecom blundering is a textbook example of violating all three. Government is not subordinate to business, business is subordinate to government and the Yogakshema of the citizenry.

2.Sanctity of Spiritual places must be observed/preserved

I know some long time supporters may not like it (but healthy disagreement and civil discussion is good anyway), but I have to differ with the current push to turn spiritual places like Tirupati and Prayag into IT hubs and Smart cities). Opponents may argue that Tirumala is not Tirupati and Prayag is not what is called “Allahabad”, but the reality is the spiritual suburb itself is dependent on the greater urban area for supplies, workers, and atmosphere.

The Immaculate & devotee maintained Golden Temple a model

If the sanctity of Harmandir Sahib (Sikh Golden Temple) can be preserved cooperatively by even an Amritsar Domino’s pizza reportedly refusing to serve alcohol within 1km of the sansthan, then there is no reason not to expect Tirupati or Greater Prayag’s sanctity to not be similarly respected. After all, pilgrims themselves stay in Guest Houses that are very frequently outside the Devasthanam, etc, should they not go with spirituality in mind rather than pubs and clubs?

3.Development must be Sustainable in nature with fair, productive, and ecologically harmonious distribution of resources

Resources such as water and other essential commodities for life are part of the common wealth. After security from external threat and internal disturbances are taken care of, priority shall be on ensuring fair and reasonable distribution to the public. In particular, treated waste water (grey water) should got to industrial use. Priority for clean water should be for personal consumption, then agriculture, and then only industrial use. Furthermore, the citizenry and the business community should be educated on how not to waste water and how to harvest it.

Next, there should be an emphasis on renewables & caution with permeables. Accidents with nuclear power in Japan (as well as gas in the US) are well known, resulting in countries like Germany preventing the construction of new plants and the phasing out of old ones. As such, while there may be a basic need for strategic reasons, India should proceed with utmost caution with respect to emphasizing nuclear power and mining of its required resources. While renewables such as solar, wind, and hydro come with their own host of issues, responsible use of them (coupled with R&D) may offer better alternatives.
Third, any drastic changes to or transformations of ecologies should only be at utmost to dire need. China has come under the microscope for its penchant towards giant dams (such as the Three Gorges). Hydrologists have established that smaller dams are better for ecosystems, displace fewer people, and better integrate with the land.

4.Decentralized development should be premised on responsible & preferably decentralized ownership

No state more bitterly learned the lesson of putting all its eggs in one basket than Andhra Pradesh. Investors and common middle class citizens alike focused on the development of Hyderabad as synonymous with the development of AP. The net result was not only neglect of other cities, but also the tragic and ongoing agrarian crisis that continues to plague farmers in both Telugu states. Thus, decentralized development is imperative. Furthermore, this should be premised on the notion of decentralized ownership.

Economies of scale has long been the sacred incantation of international economics. Joint Ventures, Corporate mergers and unrestricted FDI are pointed to as panaceas for society and “necessary reform” without proper evaluation or discussion. While productive and fair business should be encouraged, anti-trust measures must not only be firmly in place but firmly applied. Even the most famous among them can get eroded through disuse, carelessness, and misguided zeitgeist.

agrocoop

Agricultural cooperatives should therefore be encouraged as should artisan and manufacturing guilds like Ancient India’s Srenis. This will provide the necessary economies of scale (through collaboration) while ensuring that profits are fairly distributed among farmers themselves, rather than corporate fat cats.

R&D and innovation intensive strategic industries can of course continue with the corporate model, but with appropriate government oversight and accountability. Particularly for industries involving the use of harmful or polluting resources, Life cycle planning should be mandated by government. Byproducts and waste cannot simply be discharged untreated into rivers. Moreover, corporations have a responsibility to not only plan end user marketing, but also end user goods disposal/recycling. Corporate interest should not be allowed to harm national interest, in the name of “profits” & “economic efficiency”.

5.Prioritization of agriculture and the needs of agriculturalists

Arable land  should be used primarily for agriculture. As already touched on, counties like India should be more than capable of supplying their own food needs. Rather than having farmers mis-educated into emphasizing cash crops and questionable chemicals, organic farming should be encouraged instead. India instituted impressive land reform at Independence. As a result, rather than stumbling back to feudal, share-cropping farming under big business, the individual farmer should be able to stand on his own two feet as the building block of society.

Organic food & Community Owned seed banks should be encouraged and secured to further strengthen his hand while preserving the health of society. Rather than attempt to manipulate nature, the precepts of Dharma should mandate that man respect it, and follow its natural processes in animal husbandry and horticulture.

6.Emphasis on the family unit and societal/national interest

Due consideration for weaker and vulnerable sections of society: i.e. pregnant women, children, the elderly, infirm, and disabled should be pursued. While India already has legislation to protect these segments of society, law alone without promotion of societal interest in our culture and every day behavior cannot be relied upon. While India is woefully under-policed, who in turn are under-equipped (as 26/11 tragically demonstrated), it has nevertheless managed to have lower crime rates in general.

To ensure that they are lower still, this emphasis of society and Dharma must be promoted at all levels. After all, the common Dharma was not only for the proverbial Brahmins (scholars, teachers) and Kshatriyas (leaders, administrators), but Vaisyas (merchants) and Sudras (workers) as well. Modern day equivalents of Vaisyas, whether from Infosys or Bharti also have responsibilities to society. Thus business must be pursued in harmony with the common Dharma–which means billionaire businessmen whether born a Murthy or a Mittal must be expected to ply their profitable trade in harmony with the national interest–rather than gainsay and undermine it. And political leaders, whether Rajput or a (D.) Raja cannot give in to graft, and must uphold the national interest.
Corporations are not citizens…citizens are citizens. Much ink has been spilled on this already, but as discussed immediately above, business interests cannot be allowed to stomp all over the rights of the average citizen. While the opinions of business leaders must be solicited to ensure their needs are taken into account while pursuing national interest, they cannot be permitted to outweigh the voices of the national citizenry. In a democracy, the ultimate sovereign is not the money-minded peddler, but the people.

Finally, for development to properly take place, the needs of children, elderly parents and stable marriages must be prioritized above individual caprice. Legal protections are in place to ensure individual rights are preserved, but national development can only truly take place if responsible adults act in the interest of the next generation (as well as the previous one) to ensure they grow up in happy, healthy homes to become productive and emotionally healthy citizens of the future. Though there are certainly exceptions to the rule, the ultimate purpose of marriage is to form a stable, healthy environment for the raising of children. Aged parents as part of the Indian joint family have historically facilitated this process. While elders surely should pass on the torch to the children once they retire (as Kings should abdicate at the right time), our young modern couples should be expected to look after their mothers and fathers, not dump them off in a retirement home or ship them off to Vrindavan. Our laws and civil society should reflect this through incentives–but respectable elite and middle class society and culture should also frown upon the selfish men and women who care only about themselves and their supposedly “progressive” lifestyles.

It also means worker hours should be reasonable and work life balance promoted to prevent exploitation. Corporations should not seek to squeeze every last drop of productivity out of their workers, but motivate them through a good work environment. A happy worker is a productive worker & strong families make happy workers & healthy societies.

rp_20slid3.jpg

7.Protections against exploitation of human beings, whether through means of force, finance, or enterprise

The 2008 crisis is now a well-known facet of economic debate. Less discussed is the private debt crisis plaguing the average person in many countries. India must not replicate the same mistakes. Exploitation takes place through many means, whether socio-religious or socio-economic, thus it is imperative that India’s development not mortgage the futures of its labor force by driving to them graduate with the equivalent of mortgages on the backs of new graduates.

Furthermore, corporations, social enterprises and non-profits must also be checked from taken advantage of their role. Here is a classic example of a good idea with good intentions, gone wrong due to corporate greed. Finance and capital must be harnessed to support society rather than exploit it through usury and debt. Therefore consumer protection must be in place to prevent the illiterate or unsophisticated from being taken advantage of. The freedom of contract must be balanced by laws against exploitation and unjust enrichment. Just as a pirate has not right to argue that his plunder came from “entrepreneurship”, neither can a corporate buccaneer with respect to employees and citizens.

8.Humane treatment of animals, especially  livestock, whether for products or byproducts, in line with Bharatiya Dharma

Whether its the living conditions of animals, the cruel methods used to acquire their products, or the manipulation of their nature, it is imperative that science and profit be tempered by the ethics of Dharma. The production of milk and meat should not be dictated by bottom lines but by the natural capacity of the animal for providing, the humanity of collecting, and the tempering of the human rapacity for consuming. It is not merely a spiritual stretch-goal but a matter of human health as well.

While vegetarianism is the ideal, it should not and cannot be legally mandated. At the same time the traditions of Bharatiya culture have spanned ages, and should be respected. This means respect for all animal life, and special protection for the Gau/Avu/Cow . The native species must be preserved as far as humanly possibly rather than employing unethical means to tamper with their nature and population.Most of all, adharmic means to extract their milk in a way that causes them or their calves distress should not be employed. At the same time, this must be balanced by ensuring that meandering members of the bovine species aren’t plodding down main roads of modern cities or their various flyovers.

Gopala

9.Balance of rights and duties. Duties come first.

While the modern liberal state is founded upon Individual rights, individuals must also be mindful of their duties to society. As such, law and cultural expectations must ensure that individuals not engage in crass materialism that jeopardizes national interest and society itself. This means that while individual rights should be protected, the individual must be educated to think about society and his or her dharma to it. Far too many people are still obsessed with caste privileges, but who remembers societal duty? Without duty there can be no privilege, and without society there can be no rights. Rather than get people to obsess about their caste, whatever their caste, let them be concerned about what obligations their privilege and modern wealth brings.

In sum, development must be conducted in a way that safeguards the preservation of Saamanya Dharma–the Common Dharma irrespective of varna/jati/occupation.

How to Implement

In a recent post, we wrote on how the well known adage Cleanliness is Next to Godliness must be our watch-word for our habits and neighborhoods, but it should also be the foundation for our approach to development. Economic and even strategic needs should not be pursued without due consideration for the impact on the heath and pavitrata of the environment and its people. More than just corporate social responsibility, it means economic and national responsibility, which axiomatically necessitate not destructive development, but dharmic development. So how to implement all this?

Contrary to many of the alarmists, the objective of this proposal is not to turn the clock back 500 or 5000 years. Rather, the purpose is to take inspiration from our own native philosophies to fill the vacuum left behind by a society with only the steel frame of law sans cultural coherence or ethical mooring.

One of our greatest and yet most pragmatic political thinkers was a dasiputra (i.e. son of a servant woman). Yet Vidura was the most astute politician of his era and second in temporal wisdom only to Lord Krishna himself. Read now what this brilliant minister of Kings advised:

He that desires the highest success in all matters connected with worldly profit, should from the very beginning practise virtue [Dharma], for true profit is never separated from Heaven
He that followeth virtue, profit, and desire in proper seasons, obtaineth hereafter, a combination of all three.

Thus wealth and profit should never descend to lobha (greed). However, only an ethical culture and dharmic education can enlighten businessmen and businesswomen to  think this way.  Our business schools and colleges must train students to balance their quest for profit with virtue/dharma/obligation to society. This lays the foundation for ensuring a grassroots commitment to Dharmic Development.

Second, laws should be reviewed to establish a regime that keeps both business and government accountable in commerce, infrastructure, and general policy.

Kautilya provided principles for Fair Trade to ensure that business was conducted dharmically by merchants. Examples include injunctions against the creation of artificial scarcity and prevention of hoarding against the public interest. As we previously wrote in the foundational piece on “Cleanliness”, nuisance to the neighbors/public/and society in general should be punished. Industry cannot expect to continue its irresponsible behavior of build and dump. Furthermore, laws to impose punishment for cruelty to animals should also be examined and implemented where applicable.  More importantly, however, was the emphasis on agriculture.

He wrote that “Cultivable land is better than mines because mines fill only the treasury while agricultural production fills both the treasury and the storehouses“. Thus the ruler “had to ensure that agriculture was protected from harassment“.  Our politicians must therefore evaluate the needs of the farmer and reorient the top-down IT economy so that it starts from agriculture at the bottom before moving up to smart cities.

Above all, is the creation of a culture of responsibility and dharma. Law and stern law-enforcement can only do so much; it is the culture of a society that drives responsible, ethical, and dharmic development. Therefore, all sections of society must be educated on the common societal Acara and the common societal Dharma. That will create the ethical citizenry needed to properly develop India and the ranks from which moral leaders can be drawn.

Some may argue that many of Kautilya’s laws were antiquated, but the point is not to implement his laws or teachings verbatim. Rather, the purpose is to infuse his spirit of pragmatic Dharma while discarding whatever may be deemed casteist or illiberal. Much as the religious aspects of Dharma change from age to age, so too do the practical aspects of Rajdharma.

One of the most common, even cliche, concerns about Dharma is “caste” (misnomer for varna/jati). Indeed, it is a matter of Debate even within the various Indic traditions. As such, the implementation of Dharmic Development and Dharmanomics should be under the precepts of Saamaanya Dharma, i.e. “The Common Dharma”. It is for this reason we have emphasized the importance of Bharatiya Dharma rather than Dharma as interpreted by a single religion, because Dharma transcends the narrow definition applied to religion (i.e. 1 book, 1 way, etc).  In fact, religion more correctly translates to Panth, thereby demonstrating that Dharma transcends religion, and why it is asserted that Indic Civilization is the home of Dharmic civilization.

Naysayers may argue by stating that this is just a ploy to “implement a brahminical conspiracy”, but this is patently motivated falsehood, as Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism all propound the importance and benefits of the common Dharma, only interpret it without caste. It is for this reason that this article is not called “Hindu Development” and ostensibly why the foundational article by Krishnarjun gaaru is not called “Hindunomics”.

Saamaanya Dharma in action means living our principles, which, more than any green technology could ever hope to do, create a society that lives frugally, selflessly, and prosperously, and all without ravaging the Earth. But rather than take our word for it, see what current research has to say on the topic.

Map of countries included in the greendex.

 “India, which has ranked first in food sustainability in every Greendex, came out far ahead again, thanks to its culturally dictated eating habits. Nearly one in four Indians is a vegetarian, and those who aren’t tend to avoid beef, the most environmentally damaging meat. Indians have reduced the amount of imported food they eat and increased their consumption of locally produced, homegrown, and organic foods.

Rebuilding Andhra…and India

Swacch Bharat is a great step forward for creating a clean, livable, and modern India. But the foundation for this vision will come not from a campaign for civic sense, a change in habits, or even sufficient infrastructure, but rather, from a fundamental shift in our philosophical outlook.

Colonialism left what was once the richest and most developed country & civilization of the world in ruins. Worst of all, was the  mental and cultural colonialism perpetrated that left naive Indians thinking they were always economically backward and culturally inferior–and that a foreign “savior” had to routinely present himself or herself to save India from superstition,caste and now (the modern reincarnation of this) “communalism”.

Rather than looking to the Middle east, Europe, or even China (we have seen how all these regions have fared–especially since 2008), perhaps it is time to look within for inspiration. It is time for a paradigm shift. Rather than continue to argue ourselves hoarse about the virtues of capitalism this, humanity that, or Confucian harmony there, it is time for the Indic concept of Dharmic Development to present itself as the middle way.

India was once the legendary land of not only philosophers and damsels, but righteous men and untold riches…with the right philosophy & guiding principles, it can be so again.

Oorddhva baahurviromyesha na kashchit shrnothi me
Dharmaath artthasha kaamascha kim na sevyati?
I raise my hands up and say “The way to wealth and love is through Dharma—why doesn’t anybody listen?!”

References:

  1. http://www.cnbc.com/id/101382610
  2. http://www.niticentral.com/2014/09/21/indias-economic-might-rests-villages-238957.html
  3. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-andhrapradesh/guntur-district-a-role-model-for-development/article152219.ece
  4. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/stoi/all-that-matters/Kedarnath-to-Kashmir-the-tragedy-of-development/articleshow/42413181.cms
  5. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/rainwater-harvesting-in-vogue-during-chozha-dynasty/article6422107.ece?utm_source=Most%20Popular&utm_medium=Tamil%20Nadu&utm_campaign=Widget%20Promo
  6. indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/holy-cow-desi-cattle-shows-dip-in-numbers-foreign-variety-up/
  7. www.mining.com/web/infographic-a-forecast-of-when-well-run-out-of-each-metal/
  8. http://www.niticentral.com/2014/08/29/cleaning-ganga-an-environmental-cultural-need-236845.html
  9. http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-by-trashing-the-gadgil-report-recommendations-did-we-just-kill-the-western-ghats-2014640
  10. theguardian.com/global-development/gallery/2013/jun/28/india-seed-corporate-grain-in-pictures#/?picture=411332809&index=9 …
  11. theguardian.com/global-development/2014/mar/18/india-rice-warrior-living-seed-bank?commentpage=1 …
  12. http://deshgujarat.com/2014/08/09/the-city-of-surat-starts-supplying-treated-waste-water-to-industries/
  13. http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/bhutan_gross_national_happiness_and_sustainable_development/#.U9s80LZvgKk.twitter
  14. http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/prehistoric-sites-lost-to-rapid-urbanisation/article5973534.ece?ref=sliderNews
  15. www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/desecration-of-environment-has-made-uttarakhand-prone-to-floods-landslides/article1-1245075.aspx
  16. http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/before-the-light-turns-green/ – .Utdql9K1ZbU
  17. http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/kerala-throttling-golden-goose/
  18. http://www.ipsnews.net/2006/12/india-diseases-follow-environmental-degradation/
  19. http://qz.com/158815/chinas-so-bad-at-water-conservation-that-it-had-to-launch-the-most-impressive-water-pipeline-project-ever-built/
  20. Rangarajan, L.N.. Kautilya. Arthashastra. New Delhi: Penguin. p. 90, 91, 336
  21. Vidura Niti. p.150
  22. Dhammapada
  23. http://www.dlshq.org/religions/mahabharata.htm
  24. http://creative.sulekha.com/evolution-of-dharma-2-of-3_312794_blog