Culture, History, Spirituality

Dharma and its significance

The reason we find ourselves in this present state is a result of Dharma being divorced from culture and politics. In ancient India Dharma ring-fenced everything.

In the Shanti parva of the Mahabharata Yudhistra asks Bhishma about how the King derives his divine right to rule. Bhishma cautions him saying while it may be that he has a divine right, let us not forget that he has a social contract to the people and this social contract is subservient to Dharma. A king who fails to uphold Dharma can be removed by the people.

Kautilya makes an even more elegant observation – Dharma and Danda are the the two guiding principles but even Danda is subservient to Dharma. The power of a ruler to use Danda (punishment) is lost the moment he fails to follow Dharma or uphold it in the country and the people have the right to rebel and remove such a king. Unlike the Stuart Kings of England/Europe we were never a culture where the King was answerable only to God and by default to the Church. Every single act was for the protection and promotion of Dharma which ring-fenced the cultural, social, economic, political, religious, and spiritual domains of a state.

There is also the example of the Jain monk Aryadeva who once stood up to a King and asked him “Who are you, you who survive on 1/6 of the grains we give you, what gives you the right to treat people like your servants, you have been appointed to serve us…”

Today, those who bring up the need for Dharma-Rakhshana are disparaged as the “Cultural-right” not understanding that Left and Right are western constructs that have no meaning as far as we are concerned and cultural-right is plain stupidity.

One valid argument I have heard on this is that no one has made an attempt to build and showcase a framework of how Dharma can be brought back into focus and if a Dharma-based polity is at all possible (given how much things have changed). It is in this direction that efforts have to be made and a workable framework and/or a white paper needs to be brought out. That should be the starting point…

File:Krishna and Pandavas along with Narada converse with Bhishma who is on bed of Arrows.jpg

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