Adventures in Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy and science of spirit. We are one you and I; are you curious why?..


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Social Roles

Hari Om

Each 'Choose-day' we will investigate the process by which we can reassess our activity and interaction with the world of plurality and become more congruent within our personality.


Last week we explored something of what it is to work in harmony, or against, the natural world. It is really not difficult to understand, but somewhat complicated by the humankinds's tendency to think it can 'tame' it. This week let us see what it means to obtain some peace within the world of humanity. A rather more complex issue!

Peace in the Social World.
what is the meaning of peace in the social world? Society is dynamic. There cannot be peace all of the time. There will be disturbances; but if we want to bring about communal prosperity and harmony and a reasonable degree of peace, then that is only in our own hands. There have been 'golden ages' in the history of the world where peace and harmony reigned. In the Mahaabhaarata, there is a dialogue between Yudhishtira and his mother, where he asks her 'Is man the victim of circumstances, or their master?' Mother Kunti replies powerfully, 'Let there be no doubt in your mind, it is the king who creates his times. He creates the opportunity and he creates the situation. If there is change to be brought about in the society, the king is to be the master of circumstances.' (M.B. 5:10:15)

In the Bhagavad Gita also, Lord Krishna makes it clear that whatever a great person or leader does, other people follow. All follow a standard that is set by a great person. So, if peace, law and order and prosperity are to be brought about, it becomes the duty of the ruling class, the leaders, to be role models. They cannot shrink from that responsibility.

There are guidelines in Srimad Bhagavatam; three main duties of a leader. Firstly that he should be protector. His duty is to enforce the law and give his people a sense of security, for with that, there can be no prosperity. Secondly, he must be able to provide employment to all citizens, for unemployment brings all kinds of mischief. Thirdly and importantly, it the leader's duty to provide education based on righteousness to all; nowadays we call this 'value-based' education. However, we tend to find more like base values; when we look at educational institutions and see the students' aspirations, we wonder what is going to happen to this world. Students eagerly wait to reach the legal drinking age (or don't wait!); they want to party, to carry guns, access drugs. All forms of rebellion are there. Value-based education may not capture all, but would surely minimise the damage potential.

Power is a great thing, but if that power is uncontrolled and without direction, it will create problems. The role of dharma (integrated living) is to give direction and discipline.

Bhagavatam further says that if a leader fails to give his people the education needed to understand dharma and fails to elucidate duties and responsibilities, and if they then commit crimes, all the sins will be accrued to that leader. That is the load of responsibility upon our leaders! Of course we can see this at the top of the national tree in politics; but the writings in the scriptures are also very much about example to the individuals with society. Thus the 'leader' could equally be the town's mayor. Certainly priests and teachers themselves might be expected to uphold the value system. Within the family, parents must set the example.

Some might say, 'these are duties of great men, but I am not great, it is not my responsibility!', but this is an excuse and we cannot escape so easily. Every person is great to someone! Therefore each one of us has a great responsibility.

The weight of that is not always worn well. History has many examples of peoples who felt betrayed by those who were supposed to be their protectors and guides. At such times, many would turn to their faith in God to help through the difficult regimes and disturbances caused by them. Society is thus resilient. In this world which is so full terrorism, turbulence, restlessness, we are still generally interacting with good people on a daily basis. There are more good people than bad and over all, goodness prevails. When we go out each day, we trust the world is going to permit us to go about our daily routines with little risk of harm. The entire world is sustained on trust.  Invisible and unseen, that force is there. We place trust in our leaders to do the right thing by us, by society and by the world. If they do not, then there is fear of disintegration of the value system and its knock-on effect to society.

Thus, for peace in society, all who have a power of authority must take their roles seriously with regard to righteousness and general well-being. Political leaders are at the top of that tree, but we also need great leaders in education and spirituality.

...and then there is the individual...

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Hari OM
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