Vedic thought in social context
Dr Satya Pal Duggal
Vedic seers identified four areas of social activities and relationships: service, commerce, administration and culture.
Parent-child, teacher-pupil, husband-wife, employer-employee have a relationship of mutual service. These universal relations have a variety of modifications having roots in traditions and social conditions. Societies which value personal comfort and pleasure can learn a good deal from societies which cherish humane values of affection , security, cultivation of healthy habits and attitudes.
Production and distribution of material resources. A number of models are being tried within the extremes of universal good and exploitation of men and materials for mundane comforts and pleasures. Social groups that value austerity and sharing have better chances of survival in the struggle for existence. The core group of selfless social workers is the guarantee for the survival of Hindus in the current struggle.
Administration ( governance) :
The model evolved by the Hindus in this area at least 2500 years ago is gaining almost universal acceptance. There were gana rajyas?republics at the time of Lord Buddha and Mahavira. The rulers were elected by the ruled, thus laying the foundation of democracy. In the recent past Voltaire gave the essence of democratic approach in these words, ? I may not agree with what you say, but I shall fight till death for your right to say it.?
On a critical review of evolution of human thought in the context of religious interactions one finds that it is a continuum from religious exclusiveness, fundamentalism to democratic approach in religion and worship-openness and catholicity.
On a critical review of evolution of human thought in the context of religious interactions one finds that it is a continuum from religious exclusiveness, to democratic approach in religion.
Democratic approach in Religion
Transfer of democratic approach from political arena to religion and worship is a long drawn out process. Societies may be identified at different levels on the exclusiveness-openness scale. Each phase signifies quantum jump in the approach of society towards person or society having a different set of values.
History is familiar with intolerant, aggressive fanatics. Their approach is comparable to authoritarian, monarchical political set up. Human society is viewed as split up into two groups of believers and non-believers. Believers assume the role of agents of God and acquire the divine right to convert non-believers or finish them. The same treatment was meted out to the non-scriptures in the libraries at Alexandria, Nalanda and many more unknown seats of learning and what a loss to human pool of knowledge. Pockets of training camps of barbarism, terrorism are scattered all over the globe. And the so called developed countries, the self proclaimed protectors of democracy have due share of such training centres. The trained hordes are ready to pounce on any weak target and on any petty excuse.
Middle East countries have restricted tolerance?restricted, superficial interaction between social groups. Islam is the state religion and mosque is the only place of public worship. No other religious group can buy or build or hire a place of worship.
Most of the democracies in the west and southern hemisphere have a deeper impact of democratic approach on religion-spiritual thought. There is no restriction on building places of worship. The non-believers are not only tolerated but there are also attempts to understand the other religions. All sorts of religious scriptures are published. In USA conscientious objectors like Jehovah'switnesses do not even participate in oath of allegiance to the national flag and the country. Government funds are not spent on promoting any faith. So far so good. But does this imply shift in religious thought? The answer is no. Two episodes may be narrated in support of this answer.
As a Fulbright exchange teacher in USA this writer was requested to discuss the situation in South Asia with the seniors in a Minnesota High School. I asked them, ?During the past two years I have lived as per the moral code of this place. I accept Jesus as a great saint but I do not recognize him as the only saviour. Do I deserve heaven or hell?? Prompt came the reply, that according to their faith the first moral principle is to accept Jesus as the only saviour. So obviously I deserved hell.
A teacher'sresponse to the above poser was that the first moral principle is that one shall not believe in other gods.
This writer explained through the local newsherald that Hindus believe that the entire creation is a universe not a multiverse. It is regulated by One. All names signify that One. Therefore how can one believe in other gods.
It seems that the apparent tolerance is tactical to serve enlightened self-interest. There is no attempt to propagate the gospel among the visitors to democracies. One wonders at the motivation and enthusiasm of the missionaries to promote conversions among the underprivileged in remote corners. The tolerant democrats support missionaries through charities to serve their narrow national enlightened self interest?to have forward posts in far away lands. The underprivileged at home are ignored , of course.
Along with Buddhists and Sikhs Hindu leaders succeeded in proposing a review of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the General Assembly in 1948 to make it clear that proselytisation is not sanctioned by the declaration. Ted Turner of CNN conveyed at the summit that no sect should think and behave that they are the only ones going to heaven. Ashok Singhal rightly emphasized at the Millenium Peace Summit (MPS), ?Just as the United Nations had sought to uphold the territorial integrity of nations, religious leaders should promote protection of all religions and faiths in the world.?
The democratic approach shall obviate the possibility of believing in other gods. All gods shall be accepted as different names of the One and the only One. Morality shall depend upon conduct rather than belief.
Hindus have been holding this belief for the last many millennia and are there to welcome humanity to this Catholic approach. In the present tension-ridden human society cultural reclamation is probably the only ray of hope.
Human society has waited for over a century for a liberated saintly follower of any prophet to reciprocate the lofty ideals of Vivekanand, ? Jesus Christ was a soul, nothing but a soul, just working a body for the good of humanity. And this was all his relation to the body. If I, as an oriental, am to worship Jesus of Nazareth there is only one way left to me. That is to worship him as God and nothing else.? Some brave souls in the semitic faiths may respect Shri Rama, Shri Krishna, Lord Mahavira, Lord Buddha, Guru Nanak Dev as souls that worked a body for the good of humanity.
The concept of democracy and freedom in the sphere of faith and religion imply that :
A God worth the name is impartial. He looks to the welfare of all. His message is there for all people and at all times.
Periodically saints not only restate the spiritual values in the language that the people understand but they also show by their own example that these values are practicable.
Values are the highest common factor, the perennial philosophy. The only one message of all religions is to be merciful, to be tolerant, to love thy neighbour. Mr Kofi Annan summed up at the MPS that no religion could claim monopoly on such teachings.
MPS adopted a Earth Charter that articulates a set of basic ethical and moral principles to guide the behaviour of people and nations towards earth and each other.
All spiritual leaders have emphasized that an ounce of practice is far more important than a ton of theory.
All paths leading to faith in God are valuable and venerable.
Rituals i.e. symbols and practices divide men not the underlying spiritual values.