Ethics of the Gita – lessons for individuals to work according to their nature

– Dr. Shakuntala, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy,  University of Gauhati, Guwahati, Assam

Dr. Shakuntala did M.A. and Ph.D. from North-Easter-Hill-University, Shillong, Meghalaya. She has authored the following books – Enquiry into Nature of Self (2009), Essays on Philosophy of JidduKrishnamurti (2010), ‘What Ought I to Do?’ The Gita’s Perspective (2014), Rethinking Philosophy of JidduKrishnamurti (2015), and Revisiting the Upanisads (2016).

In the ethics of the Gita svabhava or one’s own nature plays a very important role. It holds that everyone, including the man of knowledge acts according to his own nature. It further says that one is compelled to act as prescribed by his nature and it is simply futile to try otherwise. Krishna tells Arjuna that it is pointless on the part of Arjuna’s to say that he would not fight for nature will certainly induce him to fight. ‘That which, through delusion, thou wishest not to do, O Son of Kunti (Arjuna), that thou shalt do even against thy will, fettered by thy own acts born of thy nature.’ (XVIII.60). Arjuna is born Kshatriya and thus there is no escape but to fight: ‘Even the man of knowledge acts in accordance with his own nature. Beings follow their mature. What can repression accomplish?’ (III.33) Gita says that the karma or action prescribed by one’s nature or svabhava is one’s duty or dharma. What one ought to do is prescribed by what one’s nature is. ‘Heroism, vigour, steadiness, resourcefulness, not fleeing even in a battle, generosity and leadership, these are the duties of a Kshatriya born of his nature.’ (XVIII.43). In fact, there is no good other than performing one’s duty as prescribed by one’s nature: ‘Having regard for thine own duty, thou shouldst not falter, there exists no greater good for a Kshatriya than a battle enjoined by duty.’ (II.31).

Now, if one indeed realizes the truth of such a situation, that one cannot escape doing what one’s nature forces one to do, one automatically becomes happy. When one acts according to one’s nature there is no conflict between what one is and what one thinks one ought to be. The ‘is’ is the ‘ought’. In other words, there is nothing one is putting up as ideal in such a situation to achieve. There is no gap between what one is and what one is trying to be- action becomes niskama, that is, action is performed without desire for becoming.

bhagavat-gita

We further see that svadharma of the Gita as prescribed by one’s svabhava also dissolves the gap between individual and social duty. Arjuna by svabhava is a Kshatriya and thus is asked by Krishna to give up the thought of not-fighting and enter into the battle. But while performing his individual duty he also performs the social duty of a Kshatriya that demands from him generosity and lordly nature; demands that Arjuna does not get affected by personal preference while deciding an action that can change the fate of thousands of people. The Gita does not say that one is to perform two kinds of duties- individual and social. In the Gita in performing one’s individual duty one helps in smooth running of the society.

The Gita does not tire of saying that one cannot change the way nature behaves. Actually this has an important bearing on the whole issue of the ethics of Gita. On one hand we have seen that it helps one in performing action without desire, and on the other hand such a realization, the Gita shows, helps one in working out moral dilemmas.  According to Gita the realization that one cannot change the way nature behaves automatically brings in detachment. When one truly understands the futility of trying to change course of nature, one in a way resigns to it. This attitude, the Gita shows, helps one in solving moral dilemmas of life. In the Gita, Arjuna is shown not questioning the rightness or wrongness of the action of going to battle. But Arjuna is shown as not wanting to enter into battle having seen his friends and family as his opponent: ‘When I see my own people arrayed and eager to fight O Krishna, my limbs quail, my mouth goes dry, my body shakes and my hair stands on end.’ (I.29). The question for Arjuna is not rightness or wrongness of action of doing battle but whether he would incur evil by killing the people who are his relatives: ‘And I see evil omens, O Kesava (Krishna), nor do I foresee any good by slaying my own people in the fight.’ (I.32). Krishna is reprimanding Arjuna for his behaviour that is borne out of attachment for his loved ones: ‘Thou grievest for those whom thou should not grieve for, and yet thou speakest words about wisdom.’ (II.11). If Arjuna were detached, he would not have been affected by who is standing against him but would have performed his duty: ‘As the unlearned act from attachment to their work, so should the learned also act, O Bharata (Arjuna), but without any attachment, with the desire to maintain the world-order.’ (III.25). Again, if Arjuna were detached he would have seen the fact that the battle would not stop with him not-fighting and in fact his not-fighting would affect the fate of all those people who agreed to enter into the battle and are fighting for the Pandavas in a negative way.

*The translation of the verses are taken from The Bhagavadgita by S. Radhakrishnan, HarperCollins India, Impression 2008.

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विज्ञान, कामरेड कन्हैया, एवं वेदांत

 

– प्रोफेसर बलराम सिंह, सदस्य, बोर्ड ऑफ़ डायरेक्टर, वेव्स

BRSडॉ. बलराम सिंह, प्रोफेसर एवं प्रेजिडेंट, इंस्टिट्यूट ऑफ़ एडवांस्ड साइंसेज, डाटर्मॉउथ, यू एस ए, २५ सालों तक यूनिवर्सिटी ऑफ़ मेसाचुसेट्स, डाटर्मॉउथ, में केमिस्ट्री, बायोलॉजी एवं इंडिक स्टडीज के प्रोफेसर और डायरेक्टर रहे हैं। वे एक दर्जन पुस्तकों, ३०० रेसेरच आर्टिकल्स और करीब ४०० कांफ्रेंस प्रेसेंटेशन्स के लेखक रह चुके हैं।

9 फ़रवरी के जे एन यू के देशद्रोही नारों की घटना के बाद से ही कामरेड कन्हैया कुमार सिंह के बारे में बहुत कुछ सुनता आ रहा हूँ। बड़ी जिज्ञासा थी उनके बारे में जानने की विशेषरूप से जब से पता चला की वह भी मेरी तरह एक ग्रामीण क्षेत्र से है। 39 साल पहले मैंने भी गाँव से आकर जे एन यू में प्रवेश लिया था, यह बात और है कि मैं स्कूल ऑफ़ लाइफ साइंसेज में था और कामरेड कन्हैया कुमार स्कूल ऑफ़ इंटरनेशनल स्टडीज में। संभव है हम दोनों के अनुभव एक जैसे हों।

आखिर में कामरेड कन्हैया को शर्तिया जमानत मिलने के बाद पहली बार सुनने को मिला। मजा आ गया! कई कारण थे उसके। पहला तो कि उसने अपनी सारी बातें हिन्दी, वह भी ग्रामीण लहजे में कही। यह बात मुझे बड़ी भाई और मेरे अपने जे न यू में एडमिशन के इंटरव्यू का दिन याद दिला दिया। मैं स्कूल ऑफ़ लाइफ साइंसेज के 1977 तक के इतिहास में पहला व्यक्ति था जिसने हिन्दी में इंटरव्यू दिया था। दर असल पहले मेरे यह कहने पर कि मैं इंटरव्यू हिन्दी में देना चाहता था, मुझे  इंटरव्यू रूम से बाहर जाकर इन्तजार करने को कहा गया था। फिर काफी देर के बाद बुलाया गया और कहा गया कि अगर सवाल इंग्लिश मे पूछा जाय तो क्या मैं समझकर हिंदी में जबाब दे सकता था। मैंने यह शर्त स्वीकार करके इंटरव्यू दिया और सौभाग्य से मेरा सिर्फ एडमिशन ही नहीं हुआ बल्कि मुझे एडमिशन की लिस्ट में शीर्षस्थान भी प्राप्त हुआ।

rangoli
उन दिनों जे एन यू में हिन्दी बोलने वालों को हेय दृष्टि से देखा जाता था, तो अब कन्हैया को हिन्दी में भाषण देते देख मैं तो गदगद हो गया, वह भी यह देखकर कि ना कि सिर्फ कामरेड टाइप के विद्यार्थी समझ भी रहे थे बल्कि हंसकर तालियाँ बजाकर प्रतिक्रिया भी जाहिर कर रहे थे।

मैं कन्हैया कुमार को कामरेड इसलिए सम्बोधित कर रहा हूँ क्योंकि एक तो मैं एक सेमेस्टर के लिए एस एफ आई का चरनिया सदस्य हो गया था। दूसरे उनके भाषण, खासकर उनकी वैज्ञानिकों से संवाद की रूचि से कामराडरी (सहमारगिता) उत्त्पन्न हुई है।

अभी हाल में ही  (दिसम्बर 27 – 30, 2015) मैंने कुछ देश विदेश के शिक्षक साथियों के साथ ही एक अन्तराष्ट्रीय वेदांत कांग्रेस जे एन यू में संचालित किया था। उसके पहले विंटर सेमेस्टर 2015 में जे एन यू में ही संस्कृत में विज्ञान एवं तकनीकी नामक कोर्स भी पढ़ाया था। वेदांत कांग्रेस में कई सेसन विज्ञान और समाज की समस्याओं पर थे जो की जे एन यू समेत देश विदेश के प्रोफेसरों एवं विद्यार्थियों द्वारा प्रस्तुत किये गये थे। उदाहरण के तौर पर ‘Vedantic Framework to Navigate through contention issue in contemporary science’, जिसे कि यूनिवर्सिटी ऑफ मासाचुसेट्स के प्रोफेसर सुकल्यान सेनगुप्ता ने प्रस्तुत किया था। Elizabeth Town College के प्रोफेसर जे फ्री लॉन्ग ने ‘Past life,  Memory, quantum Theory and Vedanta’ पर एक प्लेनरी प्रस्तुति की थी। यही नहीं एक पैनल डिस्कसन कामरेड के विशेष रुचिकर विषय ‘सामाजिक एवं आर्थिक समानता पर वेदांत की भूमिका’ के बारे में भी था, जिसमें डॉ. कौसल पवार, एक प्रतिष्ठित दलित शोधकर्ता, दिल्ली विश्वविद्यालय की अध्यापिका, जो कि जे न यू की एक शोध छात्रा भी रही है, एक एक्सपर्ट के रूप में शामिल हुई थी।

Vedant
कामरेड कन्हैया के भाषण से ऐसा लगा कि उन्हें वैज्ञानिकों से संपर्क एवं संवाद की कड़ी उत्कंठा है, इसलिए मैं अपनी अगली यात्रा के दौरान (मार्च 10 – 25, 2016) चाहूँगा कि हम लोग मिलें और उनके द्वारा चिन्हित शोषित वर्ग, महिलाएं एवं दलितों की समस्याओं पर विमर्श करें। यदि वे चाहें तो मैं जे न यू के वैज्ञानिकों को भी आमंत्रित कर लूँगा जिनमें Professor R. K. Kale (दलित वर्ग) और Professor Pramod Yadav (OBC) को भी शामिल कर लेंगे।

इतने सारे प्रयासों की तत्परता के बावजूद भी मुझे कुछ अनुभाविक शंकाए हैं। उन्हें भी सबके समक्ष रखना आवश्यक समझता हूँ। ज्ञातव्य हो कि 22nd वेदांत कांग्रेस में भाग लेने के लिए स्वामी रामदेव को जे एन यू के Rector की तरफ से निमंत्रण भेजा गया था और उसका तीव्र विरोध जे न यू छात्र संघ की उपाध्यक्ष शेला रसीद ने न कि केवल विश्वविद्यालय प्रशासन से किया था बल्कि वेदांत कांग्रेस के विदेशी प्रायोजकों एवं उनके संस्थानों को भी लिखित रूप में देकर किया था। इसका मुझे साक्षात ज्ञान है क्योकि मैं भी उन विदेशी प्रायोजकों में से एक था। मैंने शेला रसीद के पत्र का 29 दिसम्बर को जबाब देते हुए उन्हें भी विमर्श के लिए आमंत्रित किया था। आज तक उसका उत्तर नहीं आया है।

Ramdev

फिर भी उम्मीद है इस बदले माहौल में, जहाँ कामरेड कन्हैया के भाषण के समय तिरंगा लहराया जा रहा था, देश की बर्बादी के जंग की बात दूर-दूर नजर नहीं आ रही थी, और भारत के टुकड़े करने वाले कामरेडों को अगल बगल भटकने नहीं  दिया गया था चाहे वह माननीय न्यायाधीश के आदेशों के अंतर्गत ही क्यों न किया गया हो, कामरेड कन्हैया अपने ग्रामीण परिवेश वाले इस बड़े भाई बलराम से वार्ता जरूर करेंगे।

Imparting Indian Culture : A Global Perspective – II

Continued from Part-I

The Inwardness of Indian Mind

How to convey this idea of Indian spirituality to the student of Indian Culture or to an audience? Perhaps through the second characteristics “inward looking” or inwardness. Inwardness means to live from within outwards both individually and collectively. Individually it means not to live in the surface physical, vital or intellectual being but in inner subliminal or spiritual mind or soul, which can intuitively see or feel or perceive the inner invisible realities behind the outer visible forms. Collectively it means to create a society based on psychologic and spiritual principles, which felicitates the inner psychological and spiritual development of the individual towards his spiritual destiny.

Every outer activity, even something mundane like economics, is the outer expression of some inner psychological needs or forces, and these psychological forces are in turn the expression of some cosmic and spiritual truth or forces. The Vedic social ideal is to make the whole collective life of man a conscious expression of these deeper and higher psychological, cosmic and spiritual forces. We may convey the idea of the spirit as the source and goal of this inwardness and spirituality as the quest for this deepest and innermost truth of the spirit in every activity of human life.

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In ancient India, philosophy for the sage and seer is the intellectual expression of his spiritual experience.  For others or for the collectivity, philosophy is a means for the intellectual being of the individual and the collectivity to receive, hold or assimilate the truth of the spirit as much as they can, with whatever limitations or imperfections. Religion in ancient India is the attempt to communicate the truth of the Spirit to the instinctive and emotional being of the masses through concrete symbols, images and legends.  Through philosophy and religion, the spiritual truths discovered by sages through spiritual experience were made accessible to the intellectual and emotional being of the community or in other words, we may say light of the spirit descends into the intellect and emotions. This may lead to much dilution of the spiritual truth, but at the same there is a greater diffusion of the truth of the spirit into the masses.

Towards a Balanced Approach

However the student of Indian Culture should not be given the impression that ancient Indian Culture is a total success or something perfect or complete. It was a great attempt to create a civilization based on a spiritual vision.  But the attempt was only a partial success with some glaring failures. It was a great success in religion, philosophy and culture. But in society and politics, the attempt broke-down and went astray somewhere in the middle. In society, Indian attempt achieved only what Sri Aurobindo describes as “half-aristocratic, half-theocratic feudalism” (Sri Aurobindo, Collected Works, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry, SABCL, Vol.14, Foundations of Indian Culture Pg.335) with the caste system as its last result. In politics and government the attempt to govern politics by dharma couldn’t be sustained after the epical age. As Sri Aurobindo describes this attempt to govern outer life by Dharma –

“But the difficulty of making the social life an expression of man’s true self and some highest realization of the spirit within him is immensely greater than that which attends a spiritual self-expression through the things of the mind, religion, thought, art, literature, and while in these India reached extraordinary heights and largenesses, she could not in the outward life go beyond certain very partial realisations and very imperfect tentatives,—a general spiritualising symbolism, an infiltration of the greater aspiration, a certain cast given to the communal life, the creation of institutions favourable to the spiritual idea. Politics, society, economics are the natural field of the two first and grosser parts of human aim and conduct recognised in the Indian system, interest and hedonistic desire: Dharma, the higher law, has nowhere been brought more than partially into this outer side of life, and in politics to a very minimum extent; for the effort at governing political action by ethics is usually little more than a pretence” (Sri Aurobindo, Collected Works, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry, SABCL, Vol.2 Karmayogin, Pg.210).

 The main aim of the political thought of Ramayana and Mahabharatha is to uplift politics to a higher level by harnessing it to the yoke of Dharma or in other words, dharmic elevation of the political life of the community. But in later ages Dharmic aims were subordinated to the practical and economic interests, Artha. This Indian term Dharma is a pregnant concept with a multidimensional significance. But in general we may define Dharma as the values, ideals or ways of living derived from the higher laws of life or Nature, which leads to the higher evolution of humanity in the mental, moral, aesthetic and spiritual domains of consciousness.

So while it is necessary to highlight our past achievements, the student should also be given a very unbiased and objective assessment of our past failures. In fact our emphasis should be neither on our past achievements nor our failures but on the future work to be done by India. The factors or causes behind our achievements and failures have to be brought out in such a way that it gives a clear direction to the future work to be done.

So our aim in the education of Indian culture should be not to create a narrow-minded and sentimental patriot, but someone who is imbued with the essential spirit and genius of India but at the same time with a broad global outlook which can understand and appreciate the greatness in other cultures.

-Mr. M.S. Srinivasan, Senior Research Associate, Sri Aurobindo Institute of Research in Social Sciences, Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry, India.

Imparting Indian Culture: A Global Perspective – I

-Mr. M.S. Srinivasan, Senior Research Associate, Sri Aurobindo Institute of Research in Social Sciences, Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry, India.

MS Srinivasan Profile PhotoThe main theme of his studies and research is to evolve an integral-spiritual approach to human development and its application to various fields of knowledge and activities of life with a dominant interest and focus on Management, Psychology, Social Sciences and Indian Culture. He is the editor of e-magazine in management published by SAFIM: Fourth Dimension Inc. Towards Integral Management.  His blog page: https://integralmusings.aurosociety.org & https://gnosticpsychology.aurosociety.org

Culture is the expression of the Mind and Soul of a Nation and the source of its true genius. A Nation can play its true role in the evolutionary progress of humanity only when it discovers its deeper Mind and Soul through an awakening of its cultural values and ideals. So, if India has to recover its greatness and fulfill its mission, there must be a widespread cultural awakening through education. However, culture should not become an instrument for promoting narrow-minded religious or cultural chauvinism. The culture of a Nation has to be understood in a global context of the evolutionary destiny of humanity as a whole.  This article examines some of the basic concepts and attitudes, which have to be inculcated in the mind of the learner to create such a deep and broad understanding and appreciation of Indian Culture in a global perspective.

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The Fundamentals of Indian Culture

What are the fundamental and unique features of Indian Culture?  Sri Aurobindo says, Indian Culture

“Has been a spiritual, an inward-looking, religio-philosophic culture.” (Sri Aurobindo (1972), Collected Works Vol. 14, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry, CWSA.42, Pg. 335.)

 Here are the three essential characteristics of Indian Culture, the meaning of which has to be conveyed to the student.

The Spiritual Genius of India

India is well-known all over the world as a land of religion, philosophy and spirituality.  But not many has a clear perception of what is precisely the essence of Indian spirituality or the spiritual genius of India.  We will not enter into any detailed discussion on the rich and many-sided vistas of Indian spirituality.  But a student of Indian culture, must be awakened to the two most important and central aspects of Indian spirituality. The first one is the quest for a spiritual reality beyond Mind as the ultimate source of the Individual and the Universe and the highest goal of human life. Second is a scientific and experimental approach to the inner realization of this spiritual reality based on a deep understanding of psychology or a Science of Consciousness.  This predominantly scientific, psychological approach to spiritual growth is the essence of India yoga which is nothing but Applied Psychology.

Thus, the essence of Indian spirituality is the systematic application of a spiritual psychology for psychological and spiritual development of the individual, culminating in an inner union or identity with an eternal and infinite Reality beyond mind.

The driving spirit behind the secular enterprise of the modern West is the application of an externalized science, technology and organization for the progress and perfection of the outer life of man. The driving spirit of the Indian spiritual enterprise is the application of an inward-looking Science of Consciousness for the progress and perfection of the inner being of humanity. But these two endeavours of the East and West are not contradictory or mutually exclusive. They have to complement each other and ultimately fuse into a synthesis, which leads humanity towards its integral perfection. This is the future evolutionary enterprise in which India’s mission is to awaken and manifest the crucial and life-giving spiritual dimension in the individual a well as the collectivity. So in imparting Indian Culture, even while emphasizing the unique spiritual genius of India and its importance for the future evolution of humanity, it must be placed in a global perspective, so that admiration for the spiritual greatness of India does not lead to any disdain of or sense of superiority over other cultures.spirituality-word-cloud-concept-26405959

Spirituality, Religion and Philosophy : The Indian Equation

However, spirituality in ancient India, remained at the summit of the civilization, like a Sun in the sky, enveloping it like a luminous penumbra, infiltrating into the society in a more or less diluted form through religion and philosophy. But spirituality never took direct control of the society, sitting on thrones of power, life and action and ruling it, except perhaps for a brief period in the upanishadic age when most of the kings were yogis. So spirituality at the summits and religio-philosophic in the mass is the structure of Indian culture. But, in Indian Culture, Religion and Philosophy worked in tandem, mutually complementing each other, with religion illuminated by philosophy and the ideals of philosophy made dynamic and living by the disciplines and practice of religion. This brings us to some clarification regarding the terminology. Swami Vivekanada, makes no distinction between religion and spirituality and uses the term religion as the spiritual quest for the Divine. But Sri Aurobindo makes a distinction between religion and spirituality and regards religion as the external form of worship or expression like symbols or mythology. And spirituality, according to Sri Aurobindo, is the inner quest for an inner community with the divine Reality. This distinction has a practical validity because most people who belong to traditional religion do not go beyond external worship towards inner communion.  Moreover Religion in ancient India is not entirely outward and external. Most of the fundamental ideals and practices of Indian spirituality like for example indwelling divinity, unity of the divine, timeless transcendence of the Absolute, many paths to the divine, meditation, paths of yoga are incorporated into the religious system and communicated to the masses through epics, mythology, symbols, religious discourses and wandering teachers. As a result a pervasive and enduring religious, philosophical and spiritual temper was implanted in the consciousness of Indian masses.  Spirituality remained behind or at the top as a general inspiring influence.

It is perhaps for the future of India to create a truly and entirely spiritual civilization and culture.  In this higher spiritual culture, spirituality or spiritual consciousness will remain no longer behind as an inspiration and influence, acting through the higher mind, or religion or philosophy, but takes direct control of every activity of the society, giving a total spiritual direction to life, with spiritually illumined leaders appearing not only in religion or culture, but also in politics, business, economics, media and the masses.

to be continued…..