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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Thought provoking Upadesam from the Mahaswami .

There is the general perception that democracy, which allows the general public to have a share in the governance, is a concept that became known to us only through the westerners. The reality, however, is that even from the vedhic period onwards, the ruling of a kingdom was conducted in such a way as to provide room for the opinions of all of its subjects. Vedhas mention three kinds of organizations called ‘sabha’, ‘samithi’, and ‘vidhatha’. Under these auspices, learned people seemed to have gathered together and made decisions after discussing the administrative affairs, and only in accordance to these decisions did the king rule. Even the western historians agree that these organizations did not seem to be confined to the Brahmins or kshathriyas alone; instead, they seem to be organized in such a way that all social divisions were represented.

Administration of a kingdom is a serious business and a complex one, too. The task of managing a kingdom, providing security to a large population, enacting laws for them, ensuring that these laws are obeyed, etc., requires a high level of education, analytical skills, cleverness in execution, and worldly experience. Managing even a small household seems to be quite a task. Imagine the complexity of managing a whole kingdom! If a large portion of the general public seems to be lacking in the skill to run even a household, what would happen if they were given direct responsibility for running the country? Therefore, it is not prudent for everyone to take part directly in ruling the country. It has to be conducted through a select few who possess the necessary qualifications.

I have two fears; one is the fear that the voters might create a blot for this entire nation by venturing to bribe the candidates after being elected as members for receiving some favour or the other. This itself is a terrible fault. However, something that is a lot worse, an enormous blemish, has become possible now. That is my second fear. I am referring to the possibility of vote buying. In our land, where ninety percent of the population has modest means, people could be tempted by money flashed by the candidates for votes. I get jitters thinking about this and wonder what will become of our country that has been praised as ‘punya bhumi’ (meritorious land) so far. Giving room for this one transgression of voting for money might open up room for more breaches, and eventually, getting used to this, people might lose all inhibitions about committing misdeeds. Generally good-natured people, when they are subjected to the one blemish of receiving a bribe, might receive it from opposing parties also. Then, betraying one of them, they could also be subjected to a greater blemish of dishonesty. In place of some sporadic incidents of bribing an officer here and tipping a peon there, the entire nation, en masse, could be driven in to such adharmic ways of bribery, dishonesty, etc from the exalted status of ‘punya bhumi’. It is very saddening and it makes one wonder, ‘Is this what democracy is for?’

Just as water gushes out through opened floodgates, the independence that has been finally won after a prolonged British rule has created a climate for all the people to act with sudden outburst without proper restraint, composure, and order. Under these circumstances, if no qualification is mandated for either the candidate or the voter, I have a hunch that it might lead to unimaginable levels of bribery, discord, lies and evils, involving all these parties, tearing the nation asunder in the name of election. If we suffer decline in dharma just for the sake of showing ourselves off as the biggest democracy in the world, then the glitter of the garb of democracy would simply be an embellishment for a lifeless body.

In those days, whatever was mentioned as ‘papa’ by the sasthras were also treated as crimes by the law of the land. Currently, some of these acts mentioned by the sasthras do not come under the category of crime in the book of law. Actually, doing whatever has been prohibited in the sasthras as ‘papa’ is indeed considered a sign of progress and adhering to some sasthric injunctions is considered violation of the law. Such is the current trend. In the olden days, both the Dharma sasthras given by the rishis as well as the legislative process of the kingdom were one and the same. There was no necessity for using the conjunction ‘and’ while referring to them together as in ‘according to the law and according to the sasthras’. Sasthric rule was the rule of law. Whatever the sasthras regarded as a crime was also specified as a crime according to the law. If a process of atonement is specified in the sasthra, the royal court also considered someone who underwent such atonement as emancipated from that crime
It is the Ramanaya, Mahabharata, and the other puranas that have led numerous later generations into virtuous path. Even the present day novels and movies draw their inspiration from these originals. Our nation is now following the system of democracy which is the slogan of the western countries. Currently, preparations are underway for conducting elections for the village panchayat boards and other governing bodies all the way up to the Delhi Parliament. The administrative affairs of the villages, districts, states, and the entire nation are going to be conducted with these members elected by such popular votes. We need to pay attention and examine this carefully. Is it going to aid the common people in cultivating more noble qualities and obtaining the grace of Iswara by following the path of dharma and punya? Is it really conducive to the national well being and the society’s benefit? Or, will it really corrupt the people and aid only in fostering the well being of a small segment of the population? These reasons are only external and do not have a direct bearing to the main purpose of the country’s or the village’s pure and dharmic administration. Giving importance to them might actually harm the main purpose, and it will not be a wise move at all. Most of the aspects in the new system that we are aware of seem to be quite worrisome. The motto of ‘The government of the people, by the people, and for the people’, etc might end up becoming, ‘the government of the ignorant people, by the ignorant people and for the ignorant people’. It is quite frightening to think of this possibility.

Discipline is essential, especially when there is new found independence. It is so disturbing to see how they are loosening the controls with no restraints at this juncture and I am worried what kind of catastrophe will follow. After getting over an illness, it is very important to be cautious during the convalescence period and follow the dietary restrictions strictly. Similarly, we are now in the intervening period, between the illness of the British rule and a healthy recovery with the help of the power of independence. At this stage, if we give room to any distorted diversions to the people’s mind or the representatives’ minds, the independence that we have obtained on paper will fail to become lively independence that will foster our growth. Right now, this decision to let anyone above a certain age be given responsibility in the administration and be placed on a seat of authority is a cause for great concern. Considering the qualifications of education, property ownership, experience, and conduct to be unnecessary might lead to a little – or a huge – irregularity.

It is claimed, ‘Because no qualification is required, this is true democracy, enabling any one to contest in the election’. But in practice, since this calls for a lot of expenses, the people who have amassed wealth are the only ones likely to be nominated. In every place and every party, though several people exist who excel in sacrifice, skills and purity, only the people with economic strength will become candidates. This being the case, what will become of the democratic principles and good administration? After the election, the candidate who squandered away his money during the campaign might be inclined to recover it back and then accumulate even more for spending again in the next election. Isn’t it quite natural from him to follow this path? It is quite painful to elaborate like this. I am afraid what is going to be ushered in might really be ‘dhana’ nayakam (money’s rule) rather than ‘jana’ nayakam (people’s rule).

In the present voting system, is the government that is to be set up after the election at least going to be a democratic body comprised of the people and for the people? When several candidates contest, votes are split among them and hence it makes it possible for someone who had garnered only twenty-five to thirty percent of the votes to win and become a member. Similarly, in a sabha with a total of about 500 seats, when it is split up among several parties, even parties that have only hundred fifty to two hundred seats, well below fifty percent, might form a government as the single largest majority. So, the party that forms the government has only two hundred seats with each of its members having only perhaps forty percent of the votes can show itself off as the choice of the people. In reality, it might have garnered only the support of about twenty-five percent of the people. Though my calculation may not be accurate, even with the support of much less than half of the actual voters (leaving out the people who hadn’t voted), a party could come to power. There is yet another disparity here. The proportion of the seats won by a party in the central government may not be compatible with that of the various states. How is this democracy?

A sick person has to be cured before he is given household responsibilities. A child has to be raised to attain maturity of intellect, mind and body before it is assigned responsibilities. Would anyone handover responsibilities of a household to such a sick person or child just because they love them? The same applies to matters relating to food. Just out of love, would you stuff these sick and tender ones with all kinds of rich snacks? The majority of our general public is in the state of childhood as far as political wisdom is concerned. The British rule has debilitated them and made them sick intellectually. At this stage, if we give them responsibility in the country’s administration, how can they handle it? The primary duty and job of the leaders of independent India is to restore the people’s intellectual health and prepare them to become mature and shed all their childlike tendencies. It seems that only after developing the intellectual ability within a few years should we even think of such schemes as the adult franchise, etc.

I see signs that portend even worse evils such as bribery, dishonesty, and the rise of the party rivalry that I am afraid will ruin our nation. On one side, social equality is hailed, disregarding caste and religion. However, looking at the practical trend of caste-based parties, town-based parties, street-based parties, and parties within parties, I wonder if we have sown the seeds for people to switch from one party to another, drawn by the money and the vile campaigns, followed by party members themselves hopping from one party to another, thus doing everything solely for self-interest without any other specific goal. I am elaborating on all this only to demonstrate that we cannot claim to have a true democracy just because all the people are participating in an election. I just wanted to show that a fake democracy can make itself appear to be a true democracy.

The successors of the promoters of Ramarajya are now framing the democracy. Rama didn’t invent a new raja nithi and rule the kingdom. If there ever was one who acted without giving any weight to his own opinion and his own purpose, and instead relied totally on the sasthras, following the precedents of his ancestors, and carrying out everything accordingly to the letter, it was none other than Ramachandramurthi. Rama simple followed whatever was in practice right from the time of Manu and Mandhatha up until Dasaratha Chakravarthi. When Dasaratha decided to crown him, he was fully aware that his son had earned the total approval of all the people and that he possessed all the qualifications to the fullest extent. Inspite of this, he was supposed to have convened the sabha and sought the opinions of all the representatives of all factions of the population. Now, that is true democracy. In soliciting and listening to the opinions, no distinctions should be made and all the representatives should be consulted regardless of qualifications. Even here, note that only the representatives were listened to and not all the people as in a referendum. We cannot ignore the fact that bringing in the direct involvement of the enormous general population to the royal affairs might lead to several misdeeds, deceits and wrongs. May Ramachandramurthi bestow His grace for that one-thousand-year-old sasana to be a guiding force for today’s sasana makers! Let it not end with being a mere ancient glory.

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