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- India & South Asia Political & Social Issues
By Prof. A.D.Sarkar
The shraman left for his home in Dakshin Desh somewhere in the modern day Coromandal coast. He missed the blue ocean and the food but above all his language. Siddhartha was disappointed at himself for missing him and became thoughtful as he remembered that he concluded sometime ago that unbearable grief and hence dukkha arose out of attachment to a living being. He decided to move to Gaya for no particular reason but before that he asked the Vedaparaga about adharma, anti-dharma. The Vedaparaga smiled as he said that almost everyone asked about dharma not adharma.
Siddhartha answered immediately. He said that he had thought deeply about what dharma, the code of conduct or societal law was all about. It is codified that a warrior class can fight to kill and be killed but a brahmin must abandon physical violence. The shudra class must be content to spend his life doing manual labour. He found such rigid codes very unfair. He wondered therefore that perhaps adharma, not being dharma, would be egalitarian by nature.
The Vedaparaga said “I had similar problems as you have. Long time ago in answer to my question, my Guru said that nobody would find Dharma and Adharma saying to the ones they meet, supposing they did meet, 'We are here in your midst. Neither do devas, gandharvas (male consorts of the non-earthly nymphs) nor the ancestors announce- this is dharma, that is adharma'-. I hope my Magadhi translation is adequate. In case it isn't, the Sanskrit version is as follows:
Na dharmau adharmau charata aavam sva iti; na deva gandharva na pitara iti aachaksate – yam dharma, yam adharma iti.”
Siddhartha looked puzzled. He asked, “Are you saying that we shall never know what is dharma or what is adharma?”
“No,” replied the Vedaparaga.“Just consider human societies for the moment. Dharma has archetypes which constitute the original ideal models without any flaw and humans should aspire to follow them. This seems, however, beyond the capability of us. Therefore, at times reluctantly, we resort to ectypes which are reproductions or modified versions of the ideal ones. These ectypal models are the prevalent ones in human societies and they are accepted as valid dharmas. From time immemorial humans had to confront apad which means being between the rock and the hard place. Apad arises because of human fallibility. All this means that we can only dream of archetypes but we must live with metadharma which is the modified version of the ideal form.
I must emphasise that societal dharmas have to be tailored to the contemporary circumstances. You will find, whether you live in Brahmavarta, Brhmarshi desh, Aryavarta or Dakshin desh, there will be varying laws among different groups of people. It could be different for the same group of people living apart at different places or times in their lives.
To summarise, lawmakers have designed this descriptive dharma which states that humans should, not must, be pragmatic, live in a harmonious non-violent manner with nature and with one another. However, there is also this prescriptive dharma which says that it is allowed, for example, to cut down trees for building houses, chariots or bullock-carts and firewood. The strict emphasis always of course is on non-wastefulness.”