Dharma (Law of Life) and Karma (Right Action) - Dharma and Fourfold Social Order

Dharma and Fourfold Social Order

Dharma and Fourfold Social Order

One of the powerful elements of the vitality of India is to be seen in the application of Dharma in building up social institutions and structures. Dharma as applied to society had its origin in the Vedic psychological concept of the fourfold personality of the consciousness that stands behind the cosmic manifestation. If we use modern terminology to describe the fourfold personality, we may speak of it as the synthesis of the personality of knowledge and wisdom, the personality of strength, power, courage and heroism, the personality of mutuality that emerges from universal love and harmony, and the personality of skill, of work that is infused with the subtleties of skill, and perfection in works. In India, this psychological concept of fourfold personality has got formulated in terms of social organisation as a structure of the fourfold order or Varna Vyavastha. Like all social structures in any civilization, the Indian structure, too, passed through several stages, and as its mature stage, it imparted to the entire course of social development remarkable solidity, strength and vitality.
Brahmins who pursued knowledge were ready to renounce the comforts and luxuries that could be derived from activities of commerce and other pursuits of wealth; Kshatriyas manifested exemplary heroism to protect the weak and the causes of maintenance of justice and social order; Vaishyas worked for production of wealth but also cultivated the dharma of charity and offered economic support to the needs of the State and promotion of those who lived for knowledge and wisdom as also for the needy and the poor. There was a system where leading Kshatriyas and Vaishyas ensured in every village that nobody went to sleep in hunger or in privation of basic needs of life. Today, even in the declining period of that social structure, in spite of increasing rigidities, disabilities, distortions and mechanical absurdities, something of the truth of that fourfold social order still survives, and it is still one of the reasons why our society continues to survive, despite unpardonable poverty among various weaker sections of the society. It is also to be observed that the very fact that the degeneration of Varna system into casteism has been combated over a long period of Indian history by a number of saint leaders like Gyaneshwar, Tukaram, Narsi Mehta and thousands of others is a testimony that the spirit of India has been ill at ease with casteism

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Dharma and Fourfold Social Order

Happily, casteism is being rejected by the growing enlightened opinion. The development of that enlightened opinion is instructive on account of two factors. In the first place, enlightened leaders have understood the true truth of the ancient Varna system and endeavoured − not to revive the ancient system, ‒ but to apply its inner truths to new conditions under which a new ideal of social structure is proposed to be recast. An important proposal is that every individual is to be so educated as to develop integral personality that would harmonise all the four personalities that are inherent in the individual and human psychology. On the other hand, enlightened leaders have also perceived clearly that casteism imprisons the individual in a network where application of the truths of modern ideals of progress, i.e. liberty, equality, fraternity, cannot flourish. Hence, they advocate individual freedom and perceive in that freedom a gateway to the high Indian ideal of liberation, Mukti. They perceive that the individual liberty is to be reconciled with socialistic equality, at the basis of which they perceive the truth of the Indian vision of Samam Brahma. And they perceive the freedom of the individual as the true basis of brotherhood, which can thrive only when brotherhood is practised by individuals who are free and who embrace the ideal of brotherhood voluntarily.

It is true that enlightened leaders have not yet become so powerful as to root out casteism. Nor have they been able yet to develop an alternative social structure where liberty, fraternity and equality are embedded in the light of the ancient Indian aims of mukti, samam brahma and lok samgrah. But the power of the enlightened leaders is growing, and the vitality of the enlightened opinion is gripping powerfully the vision of the youth today. It may therefore be hoped more and more confidently that India will develop a new form of social structure by application of the knowledge of the perennial dharma, sanatana dharma, and will succeed in the creation of a new form of social order appropriate to the needs of today and tomorrow. The vitality of India is bound to become powerfully manifest when this new structure begins to be conceived and shaped.

Let us recall Iqbal who has expressed in one of our national songs his intuitive insight that there is something perennial in India, that there is some perennial source of vitality which does not allow India to perish.

कुछ बात है कि हस्ती मिटती नहीं हमारी

I suggest that that perennial source of vitality is the capacity of India to apply over perennial dharma, − not religion but the noble law of individual and collective development, − to changing conditions of social life and social institutions.

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