Value is the core of anything that exists. Values are definitely bound by time and space. Things having value at some point in time lose its sheen at another. Some retain value for a short period of time while others hold it for a long time. Apart from these dynamic one, there are eternal values which are standing on par with time. In Sanatana Dharma, many attempts have been made by the Rishis, Vedas, Mahatmas to describe this Paramatma, Parabrahman to us using words like Satyam (Truth), Jnanam (Knowledge), Anantam (Infinite). Many of these esoteric and subtle traits have been brought down to the practical plane as values.
All religions, ideologies, -isms have some values at their core. They also have lost many of their core values. Christianity which touts showing the other cheek when insulted never followed it, be it the time when Constantine used it as a political machinery or the Crusades or the active missionary, which is eager to harvest your soul with every deception in the book. Today, Islam, which wants to proclaim itself as the religion of peace, is the dominant vehicle used to kill others, has a dangerous hero worship culture of making martyrs out of suicide bombers of innocent people. Islamists want to claim that their culture treats women with respect, yet no islamist is willing to challenge the use of religion for justifying untold cruelty to Islamic women, be it genital mutilation, triple talaq, nikah halala, nikah muta (which is nothing but prostitution authorized by religion). Despite this, these religions are only fear based (fear of going to hell or violating what was told apparently to that historical one person – prophet). Even the Ten Commandments at the core of Abrahamic religions are not followed by and large.
Unlike Ten Commandments or Prophet dictates which never give a reasoning for Why to follow a value, Sanatana Dharma makes it easier by reflecting the Paramatmic traits as values to be followed by the human society. For instance, being truthful is not a dictate or a commandment or a cutesy thing, but a value that is practical in the vyavaharic plane, yet its constant practice refines one’s self to mirror the Cosmic one.
Sanatana Dharma has emphasized many core values - layered and interwoven. This rich tapestry of values is a framework to take a man enmeshed in the vasanas, a creature of habit, to a higher plane, where he is above this bondage. Today, we find most do not understand the idea behind most values, typically followed as a core tenet of Sanatana Dharma. Many values held their place in the society through rituals, stories of itihasas and puranas, family traditions. Today an even more horrible scenario is unfolding before us. The core values treasured by our civilization for centuries and millennia are not only abandoned, but the exact opposite is gaining traction and spotlight. We will refer this phenomenon as Inversion of Values.
The article aims to merely spotlight this trend by looking at few examples and to trigger a discussion. Let us commence by reflecting on shaucha (Cleanliness). We saw in Hinduism – an inner gaze, how Bhagavatam refers to the four central values of human civilization as Tapah-Shaucha-Daya-Satyam (austerity-cleanliness-compassion-truth) to an allegorical cow with four legs. We also learnt that each Yuga it loses one leg and in Kali, the lowest state it continues to stand on Satyam. This does not imply that the value will be lost in entirety, but will lose its primacy in the society. As evident, Shaucha was (and is) a core value proposition, begins with the body and eventually antahkarana shuddhi (mind and intellect) that lead to atma shuddhi.
One of the exciting features of the Saraswati Valley Civilization, also known as the Indus valley or Harappan Civilization, is the presence of modern civic amenities to all its citizens, spread over a million square miles and spanned over 2500 years. The denizens enjoyed access to indoor wells, extensive community water harvesting and sharing options, in-house toilets connected to an extensive city wide sewer network which disposed the sewage far outside the dwelling limits. They also appear to have enjoyed public garbage disposal network. From cleanliness as a central emphasis on every aspect of the society, we are ironically the world’s leading nation in open defecation. A mere photo from any Indian city is sufficient to prove that we are the antithesis of our ancestor’s values. Though within each house, cleanliness still remains, the lack of respect for common areas of society is appalling at best.
There was immense respect for Water. There were strong edicts and cultural practices instructing the masses with DOs and DONTs. Today most Indian urban areas witness the repurposing of water bodies as dwelling areas. Even a river cannot have its free flow. To make it worse sewage and pollutants get dumped into most water bodies degrading their quality even further. The misery cannot be more glaring than the case of the Ganga – a river that has been central to the Indian civilization after the Vedic period. The holiest of rivers is the most abused and filled with the most ironical treatment when one sees the same river witnessing millions of devotees not just for Kumbh Melas in Haridwar and Prayag or even daily at Rishikesh or Kashi.
One gains most Punya by digging wells, planting trees as these nishkamya karmas are very powerful cleansing tools that help large masses over time. Many Kings and wealthy people took pride in building tanks, dams, lakes, wells. Today the callous attitude with which people abuse these resources is horrendous. We are raising a generation where kids do not know even where their food comes from. A nation that venerated its animals, not just cows, today is battling amongst its own dominant community as to why not exploit it as a resource. Jokers of the left leaning masses, media and the Breaking India forces like Arundati Roy, John Dayal make it political and communal at the drop of the hat.
The inversion of values is very evident in case of snakes. Nagas have been worshipped throughout the millennia. It is very possible the reference was allegorical, yet it is nothing short of shocking to see how we mercilessly kill any snake in sight without any provocation. Still we have the shamelessness to go and pray to Shiva, Vishnu, Amman (form of Parvati in South India) all adorned with snake. The compassion and ability to see the larger picture of all life forms as a representative of Brahman is almost lost. Tokenisms like merely following western Environmentalism or Green Peace or having Blue Cross shelters for animals will not suffice. The core attitude towards all living beings must be restored.
The irony is most evident when we see women. From a society where no grihastha can even qualify to perform rituals without the presence of his wife (even Rama had to make a golden Sita as a substitute when he conducted Asvamedha and other yagnas) and where we had great women rishis like Gargi and Maitreyi of the yore to great women poet saints like Avvaiyar or Karaikal Ammaiyar, we have fallen to a society where there is such great abuse of women. The girl struggles right before her birth with gender bias. Sanatana Dharma is buried deep when we ill-treat women at every step of the way. This cannot be solved by a western style feminism, which has very ulterior motives and displays lack of holistic understanding.
The four purusharthas – Dharma-Artha-Kama-Moksha are at the core of Sanatana Dharma like no other value. A simplistic understanding tells that a human has to balance the societal (relationship) – resources (monetary) – psychological (emotional) – rise above the influence of all the above pressures in life. This comprehensive model helped our ancestors to not only evolve in all aspects of life, but also in a balanced way. It was only due to the emphasis on Dharma and Moksha, we were the wealthiest nation in the history of mankind during most pre-British era. Today we have imbibed the western model of materialism which centers on money and desires – Artha and Kama; both are anchored around “I-Me-Myself”. We see the calamities how a society that never knew divorce a hundred years ago is filled with one.
This also has accentuated the corruption in the society as wealth is deemed supreme and gaining desires in any mechanism can be justified. Along with the loss of emphasis, we also see how the varnashrama dharma has collapsed. Today we do not have a kshatriya class to defend dharma. The vestigial brahmana class is struggling and barely connected with the riches of the past knowledge. The forces eager to see the destruction of Sanatana Dharma values from outside apart from the intellectual retards within complement each other. The West, even China has introduced Yoga in its schools and society, yet in the land that gave birth to it, the ruling junkies have made it a communal issue.
Everytime, anything remotely considered Hindu is aggressively attacked by the Hinduphobic forces be it the Western lens providers like Sheldon Pollock, Wendy Doniger or sepoys like Arundati Roy, Romila Thapar or openly left leaning media like The Hindu or NDTV. These characters define the nation as dominant radical and communal Hindus and the poor minorities, though it has been evident that the society has been deliberately fractured along these lines. These Breaking India (an idea identified first by Rajiv Malhotra) forces first inoculate such worthless refuse through academics. The media, instead of challenging it, aid in fanning the flames of such blatant lies. This is due to the fact most Indian publications are controlled by left and communist leaning forces, which dub any neutral one as right wing to intimidate them. The political class in India has specialized in exploiting the fissures for retaining their vote banks. To leverage it completely they deliberately foment dissent and mistrust between the different groups, thereby replacing the core values that made this civilization great for millennia.
Family and society were at the core of Indian prosperity and values. Today the core idea of family and riches through mutual cooperation within the society is seriously threatened by the western idea of individualism. The western model which is not only defunct, but also dangerous and not organic to our subcontinent is being glorified through media, school, movies and eventually global integration. From an idea where the King took pride in being a representative of the Vishnu, so held himself to the highest idealistic standards, we have come down to the worst corrupted politicians. Following the dictum, yatha raja thatha praja, the common masses try to excel these corrupt politicians in their badness.
Let me assure the readers that this article is not a rant about the society. We are merely attempting to trace the philosophical bedrock behind the deteriorating Indian society. I merely want to highlight the fact devoid of the values and ideals that characterized this great civilization; the inversion of values is default. Darkness is not some existing entity, it is merely absence of light; the same way coldness does not exist, except that it is a mere absence of heat. Devoid of the core values of Sanatana Dharma, the inversion of values is evident.
So what is the remedy?
- Reviving the values is the only response. Reintroduce these values in schools, reinforce it at home. Parents must work on themselves and raise the bar for their kids. Every individual has the responsibility to stretch and grow in this aspect. Hiding their character flaws by claiming I am no Gandhi is the most ridiculous animalist mindset we seem to have bought into. Just because we speak TRUTH and be COMPASSIONATE, we do not become a swamiji, instead we start becoming HUMANS. To shed the animalistic mindset one MUST embrace these idealistic human values.
- Apart from this, we have the best HOW TO and STEP by STEP MANUAL for DUMMIES on how to live a good human life in the BHAGAVAD GITA. Krishna labors out of kindness to outline the various aspects that elevates every human to the level of Supreme Consciousness. We saw in detail in the three part series – Whom Does God Love – part 1, part 2 and the concluding part. Of course Krishna has given lots more in other chapters.
- Another change we can make is to read our Itihasas – Ramayana and Mahabharata not through stories alone but also including the conversations, discourses discussed in the text. Yaksha Prashna is a good example, as also the conversation between Rama and Sugriva on why he must accept the surrender of Vibhishana. It will also help immensely to avoid seeing these through the TV Soap Operas model as they distort them tremendously to get TRP ratings. Involve these ideas with your kids, friends.
- Periodically not only read the scriptures and ponder about them. Listen to good pravachans, not the New Age Gurus and Swamis that are popping up everywhere telling that they discovered some idea. Stay away from the ones who do not give the Vedas, itihasas, puranas as Shastra Pramana. Such egotistical gurus can do more damage to one’s spiritual progress than it appears.
- Let us all make Bhagavad Gita as our guide for better living. Anyone who has cracked it open and with a decent commentary, be it from Swami Chinmayananda, Swami Sivananda or Swami Tapasyananda, any that is not cultish, will realize that Bhagavad Gita is perhaps the most practical, structured manual that can cater to sadhaks of all statures. Only decision is to read and follow it.
May we all strive to set a good example to others by focusing on our own values. Let us deliberate on the loss of values and the inversion as a starting point to fix the ailments plaguing Hinduism. The real name of these ideas is called Sanatana Dharma, which means eternal. Only by personally upholding these values, by leading by example, these values will get passed on. Every day, every single effort counts.
Om Tat Sat