“Integral Humanism”

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…Continuing from previous issue

Dharma Sustains The Society

We shall have to examine the reasons why the state was established. No one will dispute that the state must have some specific aim, some ideal. Then this aim or ideal must consider to be of highest importance rather then the state which is created to fulfil this ideal. A watchman is not deemed greater than the treasure he is supposed to protect, nor is a treasure. The state is brought into existence to protect the nation: produce and maintain conditions in which the ideals of the nation can be translated into reality. The ideals of the nation constitute “Chiti”, which is analogous to the soul of an individual. It requires some effort to comprehend Chiti. The laws that help manifest and maintain Chiti of a Nation are termed Dharma of that nation. Hence it is this “Dharma” that is supreme. Dharma is the repository of the nation’s soul. If Dharma is destroyed. the Nation perishes. Anyone who abandons Dharma betrays the nation.

Dharma is not confined to temples or mosques. Worship of God is only a part of Dharma. Dharma is much wider. In the past, temples have served as effective medium to educate people in their Dharma. However just as schools themselves do not constitute knowledge, so also temples do not constitute Dharma. A child may attend school regularly and yet may remain uneducated. So also, it is possible that a person may visit temple or mosque without break and yet he may not know his Dharma. To attend temple or mosque constitutes a part of religion, sect., creed, but not necessarily “Dharma”. Many misconceptions that originated from faulty English translations, include this most harmful confusion of Dharma with religion.

Dharma And Religion Are Different

On the one hand we used the word religion as synonymous with “Dharma” and on the other hand increasing ignorance, neglect of our society and Dharma, and greater acceptance of European life, became the outstanding features of our education. As a result all the characteristics of a narrow religion, especially as practiced in the West were attributed automatically to the concept of Dharma also. Since in the West, injustice atrocities, were perpetrated, bitter conflicts and battles were fought in the name of religion, all these were unblock listed on the debit side of “Dharma” also. We felt that in the name of Dharma also battles were fought. However battles of religion and battles for Dharma are two different things. Religion means a creed or a sect; it does not mean Dharma. Dharma is very wide concept. It is concerned with all aspects of life. It sustains the society. Even further, it sustains the whole world. That which sustains is “Dharma”.

The fundamental principles of Dharma are eternal and universal. Yet, their implementation may differ according to time, place and circumstances. It is a fact that a human being requires food for maintaining his body. However, what a particular person should eat in, how much quantity, at what intervals is all decided according to circumstances. It is possible at times that even fasting is advisable. If a typhoid patient is given normal food, the consequences may be disastrous. For such a person, keeping away from food is necessary, similarly the principles of Dharma have to be adapted to changing times and space.

Some rules are temporary and others are valid for longer periods. There are some rules regulating our conduct at this meeting. One of the rules is that I speak and you listen with attention. If in contravention of this rule, you start conversing with one another or addressing the gathering at the same time, than there will be disorder; our work will not progress: the meeting will not be sustained. It can be said that you have not observed your Dharma. Thus it is our Dharma that we observed your Dharma. Thus it is our Dharma that we observed the rules by winch the meeting proceeds smoothly. But this rule is applicable only as long as this meeting lasts. If after the meeting is over, even when you reach home, you continue to observe this rule and do not speak, a different problem will arise.

Your family might have to call in a doctor. At home, the rules suitable there will have to be observed. The complete treatise on the rules in general, and their philosophical basis is the meaning of Dharma. These rules cannot be arbitrary. They should be such as to sustain and further existence and progress of the entity which they serve. At the same time they should be in agreement with and supplementary to the larger framework of Dharma of which they form a part. For instance. when we form a registered society, we have the right to frame the rules and regulations, but these cannot be contradictory to the constitution of the society. The constitution itself cannot violate the Societies Registration Act. The act has to be within the provision of the constitution of the country. In other words, the constitution of the country is a fundamental document which governs the formulation of all acts in the country. In Germany the constitution is known as the “Basic Law”.

Is the constitution too, not subject to some principles of more fundamental nature? Or is it a product of any arbitrary decisions of the constituent assembly? On serious consideration, it will be clear that even the constitution has to follow certain basic principles of Nature. Constitution is for sustaining the nation. If instead it is instrumental in its deterioration, then it must be pronounced improper. It must be amended. The amendment is also not solely dependent on majority opinion. Now-a-days the majority is much talked of. Is the majority capable of doing anything and everything? Is the action of the majority always just and proper? No. In the West, the king used to be the sovereign. There after when royalty was deprived of its so-called divine rights, sovereignty was proclaimed to be with the people. Here in Our country neither the kings, nor the people, nor the parliament have had absolute sovereignty. Parliament cannot legislate arbitrarily.

It is said about the British parliament that it is sovereign and can do anything. They say that “British Parliament can do everything except making a woman a man and vice versa.” But is it possible for the parliament to legislate that every Englishman must walk on his head? It is not possible. Can they pass an act that everyone in England must present himself before the local authority once everyday? They cannot. England has no written constitution. They regard tradition highly. But their traditions too have undergone change. What is the basis for making changes in their traditions? Whichever tradition proved an obstacle in the progress of England, was discarded. Those which were helpful in the progress were consolidated.

The traditions are respected everywhere, just as in England. We have written constitution, but even this written constitutions cannot go contrary to the traditions of this country. In as much as it does go contrary to our traditions, it is not fulfilling Dharma. That constitution which sustains the nation is in tune with Dharma. Dharma sustains the nation. Hence we have always given primary importance to Dharma, which is considered sovereign. All other entities, institutions or authorities derive their power from Dharma and are subordinate to it.

To be continued…

(Excerpts of the Speech delivered on “Integral Humanism” in Bombay on April 22nd – 25th, 1965 by Pt. Deendayal Upadhyaya in the form of four lectures.)