Author: Bhaskar Aspari.
Editorial Note: Bhaskar Aspari , discusses the metaphysics of (karma) action and the source of Kshatra in the context of Dharma.
Take a close look at the articulation of dissent in this picture. What does it tell us? Is this a genuine cry for justice backed by a well-intentioned and careful study of events, history, culture, differences, challenges or quite simply an opportunistic expression influenced by a deep-rooted attitude of civilizational hostility and battle of identity, of ideology…. the anguish of being different?
The human propensity for violence has been unparalleled. A powerful vital force that acts guided by rigid conclusions, identities, ideologies or goals and seeks not to explore, understand or harmonize but to pulverize, incinerate and annihilate for it is doggedly certain of its beliefs. Reason is merely a tool for the justification of its ends as opposed to being an instrument facilitating sincere inquiry, discovery and evolution. The characteristic feature of such an entity or person is a highly disproportionately developed personality deeply unaware of the many forces operating within, and the complexity of existence.
One’s intentions then may be guided by ignorance admitting to which we can together assuage tensions in our approach to problem solving and open up the possibility of genuine inquiry through which one may establish an evolving unfolding of order primarily from within. In other words, inwardly.
But the problem is compounded when one is either submissive or there is a willful refusal to reason or learn, motivated by arbitrarily favorable unalterable agendas because of which one sees divisiveness as beneficial in one way or another. This manifests as malice and perversion whose actions are inherently manipulative.
What is apparent is either the genuine struggle or a willful refusal to establish order born out of enquiry due to this lack of understanding and education, thus facilitating an atmosphere that increases the probability of error and also nurtures a compulsive need to employ brutality in subtle and overt forms towards achieving goals. Thus, the need for violence.
In other terms, this problem also appears as a characteristic aversion for anything that disrupts the semblance of order that one may have established thus far and depend upon. In the desire to maintain this capricious peace or preserve poorly understood – let alone unrealized or embodied – insights and sublime truths carefully and tastefully expressed by the Dharmic exemplars, more often than not, we sanction and admit all sorts of perversions to permeate into our psyche, be normalized, even deified and celebrated with a deafening and distorting loudness.
Additionally, such tendencies are also rationalized as solidarity, secularism, friendliness, camaraderie, non-violence, peace, compassion, forgiveness, Vasudaiva Kutumbakam and more while such intentions aren’t necessarily mutual. To add to this problem, many Sanskrit words are equated and tagged with English words causing further cultural distortion and inadvertently support attempts of digestion. Some typical examples are Shantih and Peace, Dharma and Religion, Murti and Idol, Moksha and Salvation among many others. These words embody whole ecosystems and are non-translatable.
It is thus pertinent to question here whether these words, (in Sanskrit or English), are ignorantly or cleverly employed to serve our own needs and preserve the sense of security that our comfort zones appear to provide or if we are sincere in our investigation, of the complexity of the problem at hand.
So then, terms such as compassion for instance, take on perilous connotations while malevolence rampages almost unimpeded in the most insidious and unexpected ways psychologically and in society. While the desire for well-being – as abstract as it sounds and on which I shall not elaborate here – is a fundamental drive or movement, this particular approach is in actuality a weakness that impairs our ability to discern, reduce error and identify those forces that show no traces of desire for dialogue, understanding, care and mutual growth by any genuine measure – for such forces are not always crude in their method and more often than not appear extraordinarily progressive, even intellectually honest.
The effect of such notions of compassion on these forces would not be very different, for instance, from the impact it had on the retreating invaders in a battle , that was not pursued, perhaps to what could have been its alternative, even Dharmic conclusion by the forces of Prithviraj Chauhan – History is replete with such examples and the burdens borne by our civilization are unimaginable. To quote Jordan Peterson:
“I don’t think that you have any insight whatsoever into your capacity for good until you have some well-developed insight into your capacity for evil.”
Our choices of action and response then, need no longer suffer for they emerge as a consequence of continuously and contextually putting into work our ability to discern genuine curiosity & intent impelled by the sovereign aspirations of evolutionary forces from hostility to manifest right action.
Our awareness is indeed veiled on various levels and degrees and as much as we must struggle with errors, aspire and work towards growth, the problem takes on a staggeringly immense vitality in bringing about suffering when ignorance turns into malevolence, takes on perverse forms while we remain unprepared or underprepared to deal with it (both from the inside and the outside) or perhaps credulously wait for someone else to do all the work.
A determined hostile force has nothing more than its own notoriously guarded agenda and also effectively utilizes the overzealousness, pent up energies, frustrations and boredom of many unsuspecting people who want to “matter” – especially in our already suffering education system – towards its own end under the garbs of civility, justice and reason.
I believe it is pertinent at this point to share a conversation between Shri Rajiv Malhotra and the members of Democratic Secular students’ forum of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai in helping us find direction in this endeavour.
If a beatified existence is what we sincerely aspire for, leading an examined life can no more be an option or luxury for real danger and malevolence lurk waiting to strike at an opportune moment and it first happens from within – psychologically.
I would like to end this article with a passage by Sri Aurobindo on compassion from “Essays on the Gita”. This is the divine teacher’s reply to Arjuna’s reaction of recoil from battle. Sri Aurobindo describes divine compassion as follows: