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Anekanta : Philosophy of Co-existence: 11.02 Man and Society (2)

Published: 11.08.2010

Chapter 11

Man and Society

Man and Society (2)

In such a situation individual freedom is hurt. The social organization influenced by moksha-dharma is thus also deeply influenced by compassion. In this situation both individual freedom and control over accumulation are affected. But for this it is very important to direct oneself to improve and refine the quality of social character. Is it possible to establish a relationship between social organization and moksha-dharma with Anekānta! Can a unity between violence and non-violence, possessiveness and non-possessiveness not be established? The advocates of Anekānta explained opposites in terms of unity and, therefore, this question is natural. By ignoring this truth we cannot understand the anekantic view, which says that the very attribute, of unity is not the same as disunity. In an object, contradictory attributes of permanence and impermanence lose their contradiction. But with respect to the attribute to which the object is permanent, it is not impermanent with respect to the same attribute. Similarly, with respect to the attribute to which it is impermanent, it is also not permanent. And yet, permanence and impermanence both exist in unity in an object. That is why an object is both permanent and impermanent and its holistic description can be made in relative terms. In a social organization violence and non­violence, possessiveness and non-possessiveness exist in unity. Through anekanta it is not possible to establish oneness between social organization and moksha-dharma. It is not possible to define the unity between violence and non­violence or possessiveness and non-possessiveness. But in the context of social organization it is possible to describe their existence. Violence and possessiveness cannot be separated from a social organization just because one cannot equate social organization to moksha-dharma. But in fact that in a social organization violence and possessiveness can be minimized, one can see unity in social organization and moksha-dharma.

Dharma being beyond emotions cannot be manifested. It relates to the soul. But since it is a person's attribute, it is also manifested. Morality is an attribute of man and so it is manifested. But it is towards others and so it is social. It is social but not different from the social code of conduct. Social conduct is framed with respect to space, time, changing of different societies and their requirements. Morality does not change with space and time, it is the same everywhere and is influenced by dharma.

Both dharma and morality can be categorized as eternal truths whereas societal conduct cannot be kept in the same category. The first two are intrinsic in man. Societal conduct, however, is imposed on society. In its pure sense, it is societal. In its °rigin morality is personal and in its expression it is societal. In its true sense dharma is related to the soul and in its expression is personal.

In the trinity of purpose there is a mention of dharma with wealth and desire. This is essentially social ethics. The dharma that is often mentioned along with wealth (artha) and attachment (karma) is with reference to societal conduct. That is why Mahavira had talked of all these three things in terms of the world. Even in the texts like the smritis, dharma has most often been referred to in this manner. All Indians have understood this form of dharma as the eternal truth. It is on this basis that many unnecessary practices have evolved in society in the form of:

  1. Orthodoxy:
    Dharma has given rise to orthodoxy. It being in the name of dharma that people did not have the courage to break traditions and customs.

  2. Exploitation:  
    In the name of dharma, women have been continually exploited. The theory of karma has prevented a rebellion from the ever-exploited poor.

  3. Lethargy and fatalism:  
    Dharma has fostered fatalism. The result is that people are lazy and inactive.

  4. Violence and war:
    Many pages of human history are filled with stories of war and jehad in the name of redemption of religion.

  5. Hatred:
    Cast distinction and untouchability also result from this understanding of dharma.

In sociological literature the difference between dharma and morality has been explained as the prevalence of some things that are wrong in terms of morality but right in terms of dharma. Some times dharma advocates against social good. Dharma established untouchability. From the perspective of morality this is wrong. A wife cannot leave her cruel and evil husband - another idea that is supported by dharma even though it is wrong in the eyes of morality. The truth is that morality takes man forward while dharma obstructs man's development. The base for this kind of social practice is the definition of dharma as understood along with Kama and Artha. The kind of dharma that has been defined Jainism, Buddhism, Sankya and Vedanta philosophy cannot be misused like this. The dharma defined by them is a definition of eternal truth. It has no role to play in the ever-changing social structure. Social organization cannot be built in the name of dharma. With the interpretation of a changing truth as an unchanging truth, fundamentalism has come into being. Thinkers, the authors of smriti texts, accepted the changing social organization. But had its presentation not been in the form of eternal truth this fundamentalist expression of dharma would not have come so far. The projection of women as a weaker sex is also a result of such a lopsided organization. It has no relation to eternal truth.

Mahavira has given the maximum explanation of karmavad. His karmavad does not in anyway endorse the fact that the poor will remain poor and to absolve their karma they will have to put up with exploitation by the rich. Poverty and prosperity are social states. Their relation is to the organization of the society and not to karmavad. Mahavira gave hard work (purusharth) predominance. In his dharma there was no place for lethargy or inertia. Through effort, major changes can be brought about in the results accrued from karma.

Mahavira gave non-violence the highest value as a dharma. His saying (sutra) is that ahimsa is dharma and no violence can be committed in the name of dharma. Dharma is safeguarded through ahimsa and violence cannot be committed to safeguard it.

Mahavira announced that all men are one. Casteism, hatred and untouchability are all elements of violence. There is no place for them in the dharma of ahimsa.

Mahavira gave three characteristics of dharma - non-violence (ahimsa), restraint (sayam) and penance (tap). All three are related to the soul (atma) and the individual. The character evolved on the basis of these three factors is of high moral calibre. Consciousness devoid of attachment and aversion is ahimsa. It is the spiritual form of dharma. Do not kill living beings, do not lie, do not steal, observe celibacy, do not be possessive. These are the moral expressions of dharma. The consciousness devoid of attachment and aversion is indeed the soul itself. It is not with respect to anybody else nor is it related by anybody else. Not to kill is a rule to be followed with others. That is why it is a moral. Moral rules are expressions derived from a spiritual form. They are born from the spiritual form. Therefore they cannot be different from dharma. Herbert Spencer, Thomas Huxley and other similar environmentalists and Human Rights thinkers have separated dharma and morality. This does not hold water. The conduct, which is right from the perspective of dharma, cannot be wrong from the perspective of morality. The only difference between the two is that dharma is towards and within oneself while morality is with respect to others. But there is not so much of a distance between them such that one single action can be in accordance with dharma and in conflict with morality. Sociologists have highlighted the difference between morality and dharma on the basis of social conduct (smriti-dharma). In relation to this, the distance between dharma and morality can be shown. Action that is accepted by dharma can be opposed by morality. This kind of dharma born out of fundamentalism can obstruct development of society.

The spiritual form of dharma is located in the soul while the moral aspect is located in society. This way dharma is spread over two domains. Since both these forms of dharma are eternal they are also unchanging. Smriti-dharma is based on utility at a given time and place. So it is ever changing. It is only because this ever-changing dharma has been confused with, and superimposed on, the unchanging dharma that many social ills, which have been discussed by sociologists, have come into being.

Smriti-dharma has given directions for the earning of wealth and its consumption. Even directions to assuage desires have been given. To give these directions are mandatory for smriti-dharma. But this is not the job of dharma based on eternal values. If it were, however, to give directions to guide passions and wealth then it will take the form of an unchanging rule and cause impediments to the growth of society, as it is doing today. But the management of passions and wealth as designed by smriti-dharma can be supported by dharma. Mahavira provided this support. From the rules of conduct he gave to individual householders, social organization can be greatly benefited. As an example the following rules can be quoted:

  1. Do not rob your labourers of their livelihood.
  2. Do not over burden animals.
  3. Do not give false evidence.
  4. Do not have relations with anybody other than your wedded wife.
  5. Draw a definite limit to accumulation of wealth. Do not go beyond that limit.
  6. Do not go to the distant places to accumulate wealth or increase consumption and so on.

Mahavira gave the secret to reduce attachment that causes wealth accumulation and passionate obsessions. He however did not give the manner in which wealth accumulation should be organized or how passions should be quenched. He worked within the parameters of a spiritual seer and did not intrude into the territory of an economist, sociologist or endocrinologist. In this respect if anybody thinks his philosophy is incomplete, then they are most welcome to do so. Some may even say that his followers have to look elsewhere for social organizational rules. If eternal vision and eternal truth did not have this dependence then smriti dharma would totally cloud the perspectives of eternal dharma. Completeness and incompleteness can only be relative. A man can exist even without dharma and morality but without wealth and passion, he cannot exist. That the man is real and the society is unreal - with this idea the individualistic philosophers have given man the freedom to acquire limitless wealth and thereby increased exploitation in society. A relative acceptance of the element of man and society can free man from these problems.


Without knowing the mind we talk a lot about what we think.
We reflect about that which we do not know.
The job of the mind is to think.
Is it efficient in its job?
If yes, then how much faith can we have on thought?


Anekanta: Philosophy of Co-existence Publisher:  JainVishwa Bharati, Ladnun, Rajasthan, India Editor: Muni Akshay Prakash

Edition:  2010 (1. Edition)

ISBN:  817195140-6

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Ahimsa
  2. Anekanta
  3. Anekantic
  4. Anekānta
  5. Artha
  6. Atma
  7. Buddhism
  8. Casteism
  9. Celibacy
  10. Consciousness
  11. Dharma
  12. Jainism
  13. Kama
  14. Karma
  15. Mahavira
  16. Non-violence
  17. Purusharth
  18. Sayam
  19. Smriti
  20. Smriti-dharma
  21. Soul
  22. Space
  23. Sutra
  24. Tap
  25. Vedanta
  26. Violence
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