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A VOICE OF THE LEAST , LAST, AND THE LOST
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IS GITA COMPATIBLE WITH MODERN TIMES?
Positive Jurisprudence assumes that Judges must be above board and refrain themselves expressing their personal views at public places. As a well-known saying goes, "Justice is not only done but must be seen to be done", However, Justice Dave's above statement clearly mirrors his mind set and leaves an independent observer wondering how he has decided cases in his court? Clearly Justice Dave appears to be predisposed and must quit.
Everyone suffers his/her own prejudices so do so do I being an atheist. For the last few months on and off I have been watching latest version of Mahabharata on Star Plus TV. Although I do not keep a track of all the versions but to the best of my knowledge this is the third version of Mahabharata on Indian TV. I have an additional advantage of watching a French version of the Mahabharata in three parts (each 90 minutes on old Cassettes) subtitled in English which Peterbrooke, a well known French Director directed bit in 1988. Initially, it was staged live in Paris and London and then it came on the TV. I was in at Australian National University at that time and I still go the three cassettes but now I do not have a TV to insert those old cassettes as everything in CDs. In any event, to date I consider that is the marvelous piece.
At the very outset let me clarify that unlike the Krishna Conscience people (better known as Hare Krishna) I do not take Mahabharata as real event, rather I take it more as a pedagogical. Before I am ambushed by both the Hindu fundamentalists and Marxists I am commenting with a caveat that I am not trying to discover dialectics in Gita like late CPI Leader AP Dange or his son-in-Law Deshpande nor do I claim an expertise on Hindu epics.
I note that the script writer and the Director have done slightly better job than the previous Hindi/Sanskritize versions. Although there is always a long story to tell I am going comment on the issues which I could identify as relevant and found of great interest in the serial. However, before I comment on the relevant issues in Mahabharata let me look into the historical perspective. Tale is like this, “Yada yada hi dhramshya glani hi bhavti bharat...” And a Dude called Krishna appeared from somewhere and for me being an atheist from nowhere to put the society in order and establiGita sh Dharma, a just society in which ‘Rule of Law’ would prevail. Krishna’s role was more of a match referee, of course as usual some bias to oversee the war so that the justice could prevail. He would not rule out, if it becomes necessary, to use the force to establish a new order. Now step back for a moment and look at the plight of common man, in particular working class, during the industrial revolution in Europe. Longer working hours up to18 hours’ day, children and women working to derive their subsistence and children at the age of 14 drafted as there was no law on minimum wages let alone having any labour laws to protect them. Perhaps, it was worst than what it was prevailing then and Pandavas were subjected to by their cousins and their people in post Vedic era. There was another Dude called Karl Marx who was born, not from somewhere or nowhere, but he was a product of material condition of that time and called for working class around the world, not locally but globally, to unit and fight and even use force, if it becomes necessary, to establish a just society what is now known as Socialism to Communism. My comments are as follows:
1. Definition of Religion:
First of let us be clear unlike the publicly held view that Gita is a religious book, it is guide to way of life as to how to conduct yourself in a civil society. Krishna defines religion with five ingredients, namely; knowledge, justice, love, generosity and tolerance. This is quite different from the biblical definition of religion. However, such an order cannot be maintained without a constant struggle, so I added one more ingredient i.e., struggle which is an integral part of other human development.
2. Male-Female Friendship or Comradeship:
In modern India, in spite of rhetoric, particularly ‘the middle class’ does not accept male-female friendship or looks at it very suspiciously. Krishna, though Lord, breaks this backward Parampara, i.e., tradition and addressed Draupdi (collective property of Pandavas) as a Sakhi, basically that’s mean a friend. This becomes clear from Krishna's dialogue with his friend Draupdi (Punchali) which in my view even today RSS/BJP/VHP/SMGPS guys would not accept. Though Draupdi suffered great deal and had anguish agst Kauravas she was petrified with war and its dire consequences, a lot of destruction on either side Kauravas and Pandavas and wanted to avoid the calamity so she explored with Krishna, if peace was a possibility? Krishna rejected her proposition right away and said war is inevitable to establish Dharma, therefore, though the choice is binary, but not between the war and peace, but it is between the more struggles or less struggle. Hence, struggle is an integral part of life for social development which sounds like dialectics.
3. ARJUN’S NERVOUSNESS AND APATHY TO WAR:
When Arjun saw Kauravas and Pandavas’s armies standing in front of each other ready to kill, he got nervous and became reluctant to wage a war against his own cousins, Guru Drauna, Grand Father Bhishma and others. Krishna said to his Dude Arjun, "All traditions are based on religion, but every tradition is not religion". Hence, there is nothing wrong fighting against the bed traditions and against the traditions that are incompatible with the Dharma (religion) as defined above.
4. IS PURITY OF MEANS NECESSARY?
Perhaps everyone is aware of Mahatma Gandhi’s emphasis on the purity of means therefore he advocated the principles of non-violence. He did not hesitate to condemn even freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh Azad, Subhash Chand Bose, Communists, etc., who employed violent methods not to kill but to scare British Raj. However, Krishna rejected the theory of nonviolence to realise the just order. He tells his Dude Arjun that to establish Dharma, a just society with all the ingredients outlined above, there is nothing wrong in employing unjust means like violence, deceits, lies, tricks, and even retreat (i.e., one step backward to go two step forward) because in order to create a new order (Nave Nirman) the old traditions must be completely destroyed, In fact, the catastrophe is the cause of new creation. Sounds like Krishna’s Biblical Communist Manifesto. In this regard, he justified the collateral damages saying not to worry about the falling leaves or growing new leaves, but to worry about the roots and the stem of the tree as ultimately the outcome of war for Dharma (justice) will determine the means (that is end justifies the means, a typical Marxist argument). Krishna calls for Arjun to take up his bow and battle against injustice.
5. Laissez Faire v Altruism
Krishna also asked Arjun to stop thinking in self-interest i.e., about cousins, Grandfather, Guru and his own family and guided him to direct his entire energy and mind in the interest of the greater good in the whole world, thereby he suggested that he must prefer altruism over laissez faire principles. He said to Dude, "Old teaching of Vedas based on deeds (work) and capabilities has been reduced to only words. In fact, just principles of Vedic society have been replaced by outdated and unjust traditions of birth, inheritance and power. Hence, there was nothing wrong to destroy the old ideas, customs, habits and religion (injustices) with violence to serve the greatest good of the greatest number. Sounds like Mao’s Cultural Revolution!
6. VIOLENCE V NONVIOLENCE
Last but not the least, after killing everyone except Duryodhana, Krishna calls for nonviolence (Ahimsha) as the right path to follow which shocked everyone in Pandavas camp. Naturally, this prompted his best Dude Arjun to ask Krishna, then why so much violence was necessary? Krishna’s telling response was amazing when he said, "Nonviolence is not a mean, but it is an end, as if one follows nonviolent means under the Adharma Rule (in an unjust society), then it may be construed as a cowardly act and could be suppressed by use of unjust power. Krishna also told him that without pay back in blood no one would realize the value of true “Dharma”.
Mahabharata serial which is now over, to complete the lessons to be drawn, I would like to add a few points: At the conclusion, after killing all Kaurvas and finally Aswasthama killing all sons of Pandavas except Krishna's miracle against the divine weapon to kill Abhmanyu's wife Uttra and her child in her womb....Draupdi asked Krishana why it was necessary to kill so many people and shade so much blood? Why he couldn't do all this with his miracle? His telling response was, "No miracle is substitute for sacrifice that is needed for realization of value of justice and without paying the price in blood it would not be possible to establish the Rule of Law - if it is done on mercy means giving up on pursharth...The he goes on freedom in a just society, he says, "Freedom does not allow you to use your wisdom rather it makes people self-centered and follow the King, evil and his sycophant who commits injustices!!
There is some force in this line of thinking as hardly anyone realizes the value of independence and freedom that way Gandhi got for India. Hence, a violent death to unjust rule is not only necessary but it is inevitable as nonviolent path could not be maintained in the absence of just and equitable society. By the way who could disagree with such preaching as it appears close to what was being suggested in French Revolution and latter in a more organized way in the Communist Manifest and Mao De Tung use many teachings of Confucius and translated them into his own for greater good.....hahahah.. However, no BJP/RSS/VHP person or Justice Dave would agree with this proposition!!!!
Prof. Suresh Deman, London