Friday, August 18, 2017

"Ahimsa Paramo Dharmah" - How to Quote Out of Context and Harm a Nation for Centuries.

The majority community in this Nation is peace loving one. It is so much peace loving that despite numerous attacks they never reacted collectively and rarely repulsed or fought with full force with the attacker. Instead, it just assimilated the attackers within it self. One way it is a great trait but it may also signify that since they did not or could not fight in a united manner,  they just assimilated attackers as a fait accompli.

But then the question that comes to the fore is, it may be good to live peacefully and assimilate the newcomers but why were the attacks not repulsed with full force in the first place? It is hard to believe that with so much of population the counter attacks or the opposition to external attackers (and no religiosity was really involved in external attacks. All attackers actually came for consolidating their power and to destroy known prosperity and loot the wealth of India, religion was merely a fig-leaf to justify their attack) was not what it should have been.

While I am propagating this thought, I am mindful that we had Prithviraj Chouhan, Maharana Pratap, Hemu, etc but most of their resistance crumbled some or the other time (like in the case Prithviraj Chouhan, may be on the 18th time after defeating the attacker 17 times).

Let me get down to the main argument of mine. First damage to majority psyche came from so called
जाति प्रथा (Caste system). According to the Caste system, only the people belonging to warrior clan were entitled to bear arms, protect society from all kind of aggression and were solely responsible for putting up resistance whatsoever.

The balance 3/4 of the people (3 castes out of 4 by Varna division) consisting of Priests, traders and workmen communities were told to concentrate on their profession. This 75 % population was de-franchised from arms and warfare. They never picked up arms, not even as citizen soldiers to join the warfare when the need for all to take up arms and stand up arose.

In a nation fed on basic teaching of Srimad Bhagwat Gita of कर्मण्ये वाधिकारस्ते फलेषु कदाचना कर्मफलेह्तुर भुरमा ते संगोस्त्वकर्मानी॥  , ४७ (meaning - You have the right to work only but never to its fruits. Let not the fruits of action be your motive, nor let your attachment be to inaction), the 75 %  population were fed that your karma is practicing your profession, protecting yourself and your nation is not within your Karma. You just do your duty as Priest, Trader or Craftsman. It is for Warrior clan to fight because it is their Karma not yours. 

In turn loot, killing, humiliation and all other attended things became part of nation's Karma, because the nation was let down by 75 % of its population under a misplaced notion that bearing arms is not theirs but someone else's duty (karma). All this was happening when the basic teaching of Srimad Bhagvat gita had ordered that do not fear death as death is merely a change of body by your soul because the Atma (soul) can not be created nor can it be destroyed - नैनं छिन्दन्ति शस्त्राणि नैनं दहति पावकः चैनं क्लेदयन्त्यापो शोषयति मारुतः .२३ (The soul can never be cut into pieces by any weapon, nor can he be burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind).

The 75 % of the Indian population (by caste division not by absolute numbers) believed that taking up arm is not their Karma. Even bigger damage to the Indian psyche was done not so much so by Varna system but by numerous well-respected teachers and preacher of various sects who very confidently preached, to the masses, quoting out of context, what was prescribed only for the holy men (including the preachers), “Ahimsa Paramo Dharmah. This injunction was never meant for the common man but the common man was feed that this is your “Param Dharma” (the most sacred duty) overlooking the basic teaching of Srimad Bhagwat Geeta.

Here is the proof of my statement (least I am called Preposterous)  The full text of this shloka from Adi Parva is as under

अहिंसा परमॊ धर्मः सर्वप्राणभृतां समृतः
तस्मात पराणभृतः सर्वान हिंस्याथ बराह्मणः कव चित
Meaning - Verily the highest virtue of man is sparing the life of others. Therefore a Brahmana should never take the life of any creature.

As seen from above, if the full text was used, it was very evident that this diktat was meant for only Brahmanas (Which may not be the full truth anyway). That would mean, at least in the context of  Shloka mentioned above, which was and is often half quoted or quoted out of context, the other three Varnas, namely Warriors, Traders and Artisans, that is three out of four Varnik divisions (and not Warriors alone) were free to bear arms to protect themselves and their nation, if only they were fed correct information, there would have been lot many additional warriors to fight the invaders.

Let me now examine if it was an injunction for all Brahmanas (is it appears to be, by verbal translation). Was it true for even Priest class? In Kurukshetra War both Dronachrya and krupacharya, brahmans and married, fought on the side of Kauravas and so was Ashwathma, Dronachrya's  son. In recent times, there were Brahmin Chieftains including 
The Peshwas in the Maratha Kingdom right from Shivaji's days who fought for Maratha Kingdom and spread the Maratha Kingdom far and wide.

Thus It actually applied to Sanyasis (and not to all Brahmans) who have to leave all the worldly things and be kind to all the living being. But if it was an injunction for all Sanyasis, how come Lord Parshuram picked up Arms despite being a sanyasi (under exceptional circumstances). The famous novel Anand Math by Bankam Chandra Chatterjee, which had the patriotic song “Vande – Matram” in it. has a central theme of Sanyasis taking up Arms to fight against a repressive regime. If taking up arms were forbidden for Sanyasis at all times, these examples would not have been there.

As can be seen, there was no absolute compulsion of "Ahimsa Param Dharma" on even Sanyasis, therefore, the Brahmans including Sanyasis were also free to pick up arms when needed. It must be mentioned that in the normal course, it was not expected for brahmans to be armed with anything more than knowledge but remember, that was valid only for normal times, not during exceptions when they could bear arms and use them.

And if bearing arms and using them for just cause was forbidden, why would lord Kirshna tell Arjuna in Kurukhstra war to treat the Mahabharat war as a war for just cause and against injustice hence fighting this war is his dharma, to be performed without attachment (as espoused in various chapters of Srimad Bhagwat Gita), despite knowing fully well that this war was to cause doom in Bharatvarsha. 

I hope I have been able to conclude that there is no religious or Varna restriction on bearing arms on any one belonging to any caste or sub-division in India. Particularly when the need to protect what is sacred to the nation, protecting self, family and society against any aggression, internal or external. Alas, if only this was clearly brought out in our society many centuries ago, our history would have been very different.

When it was the question of the survival of the Nation, Village, Communities or neighbours and own family, picking up Arms and fighting for the Just Cause was a duty for every Indian. It is so even today.

Alas, The population of this nation was quoted an important teaching only partially, out of context by some teachers and leaders who possibly themselves did not go deep in the meaning of the full sholaka (given below) or out of some vested interest-

अहिंसा परमॊ धर्मः सर्वप्राणभृतां समृतः
तस्मात पराणभृतः सर्वान हिंस्याथ बराह्मणः कव चित

And the worst is, this misquoting was done for many centuries by some teachers of various sects of those times,  thereby damaging Indian Psyche which paved way for many centuries of attacks by invaders and subjugation of the nation. The people of this nation did not pick up arms even when their families and their own survival was at stake, when their houses were being burnt and women being dishonoured. Why? Only because people thought that they are following the great (conveniently told only partially)dharma - अहिंसा परमॊ धर्मः. What a shame.

I don't claim to know more than great teachers. In fact, I know very little compared to them. I am only trying to tell India and Indians, when it comes to आत्मरक्षा,परीवार  रक्षा or राष्टरक्षा, taking shelter behind Ahimsa is cowardice. All should come out and defend themselves, their families, their neighbours and their nation. For other times, Ahimsa can be followed. 

Time to put things in correct perspective. Even Rigveda commended in verse 1:39-2 “May your weapons be strong to drive away the attackers, may your arms be powerful enough to check the foes, let your army be glorious, not the evil-doer.”

Let us not pretend to be Ahimsak in the face of aggression to hide our weakness but rather do your Karma (duty), of Self Defence and defence of our Kith and Kin. Let the boggy of Ahimsa perpetuated as the "only truth" be forgotten and removed from our collective psyche.

Ahimsa towards those who are weak, defenceless and vulnerable is our duty even without being holy men or Sanyasis, but in all other circumstances, when danger to our life, life of our kith and kins and well being of our nation, “Ahimsa Paramo Dharmah” does not apply to anyone including Sanyasis. for picking up arms in the righteous cause of self-defence.

There never was a religious injunction on the common man irrespective of his Varna, Caste or sub-section but the whole nation was fed wrong information thereby damaging our Psyche and thereby allowing the nation to be subjugated and suffered. If only everyone had fought against invaders, things would have been very different

PS – 1. While many texts on the internet show these two phrases as a full Shlok, “Ahimsa Paramo Dharma, Dharma Himsa Tathavia Cha” I have not found any citation for it. 

2.    Also read :अहिंसा-परमो-धर्मा-damage-caused-by-preachings-of-hindu-swamis/

3.    Response of a reader in :


  1. Very well analysed, Sir. As also stated in the Mahabharata, and I quote -
    "अहिंसा परमो धर्म:।
    धर्म हिंसा तथैव च।।"
    This line has been misinterpreted by people through generations. People need to be made aware of the complete shloka and its meaning.

    1. I am looking for citation for this श्लोक. If u can get chapter and verse reference it would be great. I hv said in the end of my blog post that for want of citation I could not quote this श्लोक.

  2. Very well written. It is important for people to understand the meaning of this shloka in full and not in parts as it is being used today

  3. Well articulated Harshad! Happy that after retirement this guy is keeping his pen moving to good effect! Now my two Anna bit:-

    1. Varna system was a good system to ensure symbiotic well being of society and was never meant to be carried forward as inheritence by birth! Nothing to support this "by birth right" in scriptures ! it is absolutely a corruption of a good system propagated and fuelled by vested interest at the helm of affairs of the society !

    2. Bramhan was never supposed to be a cast and whatever is referred to as "Bramhan" in our scriptures actually refers to "a learned/wise being who was supposed to take care of the Bramham- entire world through his/her knowledge" . It is a clear misguided interpretation that Bramhans as a cast - as came to be known - was never meant to take up arms.

    3. As we had Varna system for maintaining control and well being of the society, we also had four Ashrams to keep control and well being of individuals and as a corollary the society. The Ashrams were not decided by age but loosely defined by the individuals progression in life stage. Depending upon the type of courses opted by each individual, his Bramhacharyashram would be short or long only after that he could progress to the next ashram Grihasthashram, and so on. So when one would progress into the next stage was an individuals choice, but it was expected that each individual on own volition would progress to the next stage and this was important. So applicability of " Ahimsa Paramo Dharma" reduces to only those individuals who have retired/progressed to Sanyasashram and such individuals were from any of the four varnas - the old, infirm, worldly wise but dependent for sustenance. Role of Grihasthashram and Vanaprasthashram was huge and major portion of life span was dedicated to these two stages and that left very limited number of individuals who in any case weren't capable of really doing "Hinsa" as we know. Of course with their world vision and wisdom they could wrought heavier damage - but that is another angle to the story.

    Liked your interpretation. Enjoyed scratching my brains too! Thanks.