I was wondering a few days ago about the concept of manthan (sagar manthan) and its implications for critical thinking. Tension from opposing views yields the truth. That surely is the underlying message of sagar manthan. Hinduism is self-evidently embedded in FREE SPEECH and DEBATE.
DISCOURSE is therefore rooted deeply in the psyche of India. It is possible for a Hindu to take ANY perspective on God, for instance, including that God doesn't exist. Such freedom is absolutely mind-boggling and beyond the capacity of any other religion to even remotely comprehend.
Similarly, I started wondering earlier today about the meaning of the stories in Mahabharata and Ramayana and what these stories tell us about the INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK of India. In doing so I also harked back to the hundreds of wonderful stories I read avidly as a child in Chandamama.
All these stories have a message. Like the Aesop's fables, these stories are intended to TEACH.
And what they teach is Dharma - the concept of duty, of responsibility, of celebration, of war, of never mourning death (since death is impermanent). These concepts, that are embedded into the subconscious mind of every Indian, are extremely individualistic. They are all about EACH person and his role in society. The duty that the mythologies of Hinduism teach is thus focused primarily on the individual's family but also on his duty to the king (state). Even those who indulge in slander and idle talk would have nothing left to say – even in their worst, drunk moments.
Inherent in these obligations is an ENTIRE ECONOMIC SYSTEM of capitalist institutions, with property rights, and justice.
The fact that Rama allowed Sita to be swallowed by the Earth to prove her integrity, merely to stop idle slander by a drunk dhobi (washerman) can mean many things, but one of the messages in that story is of TOTAL INTEGRITY in public life. It is about justice at a level ordinary humans cannot even comprehend. Justice that must be seen. A signal of TOTAL integrity and accountability. The king would forfeit his beloved wife – and she would, acceptingly, return back to the Earth – to protect his and her reputation. For only then could he dispense justice to others.
Virtually all stories in Hinduism that discuss Dharma have such monumental implications – that reinforce the institutions of capitalism: morality, individual responsibility.
Time permitting, I'll explore these issues in more detail.
In my view all such considerations should form part of a book on Hindu Capitalism that has yet to be written, but which is becoming more urgent lest the "Hindutva" brigade bulldoze their highly distorted fascist (pro-Nazi), statist AND CLEARLY SOCIALIST message on India and prevent the discovery of the TRUE meaning of Hinduism. [I've shown at length in the past how both the messages of RSS and BJP - e.g. integral humanism, have exceptionally strong statist, socialistic, and paternalistic implications.]
First, let me just point out a book that has perhaps already done a lot of work in this area:
Its jacket says:
"Hinduism is often perceived as lacking a universalistic element and having a particularistic approach to morality. Through the use of story. however, Hinduism pays elaborate attention to both the particular and the universal dimensions of ethics, offering its followers a rich body of narrative that serves as a catalyst for moral decision making." "Written by a leading Hindu scholar, Hindu Narratives on Human Rights is organized around specific rights. such as the right to own property, the rights of children, women's rights. and animal rights. Within these categories and in light of the questions they raise. the book provides a guided tour of Hindu narratives on ethics, ranging from the famous religious epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, to various forms of secular literature drawn from almost 1,000 years of Indic civilization." "The realization that Hindu ethical discourse is narrative rather than propositional is a relatively recent one. Hence, the prevailing tendency in the West has been to overlook it in the context of the discussion of human rights. This book was written to correct that oversight. It shows that the presence of the universal, particularly in Hindu stories is a key to understanding Hindu thinking about human rights-and it indicates ways in which Hindu ethical discourse can interact creatively with human rights discourse."
1. Right to justice
2. Does Hinduism possess a concept of rights?
3. Freedom of religion
4. Hinduism and the right to property
5. Hinduism and the right to livelihood
6. Hinduism and the rights of children
7. Marriage and the rights of women : Sakauntala
8. Marriage and the rights of women : Savitri
9. Marriage and the right of a woman to choose her husband
10. Animal rights and Hinduism
11. Do Hindu women possess the right to study the Vedas?
12. The rights of the child and the right to parenthood : a case study
13. A discussion of law and morality from ancient India
14. Hinduism and egalitarianism
15. Hinduism and the rights of the dead
16. Human rights, human dignity, and Alexander's invasion of India
App. I. Universal Declaration of Human Rights
App. II. Hinduism and human rights : a critical excursus.
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