HINDU SOCIAL POLITY
BOOKS TWO, THREE, FOUR
THE UPANISHADS AND
HINDU POLITICAL SOCIOLOGY
V. Nagarajan D.Litt
C/o Sharada Nagarajan
501 Dipesh Enclave 402, Savitri Apartments
Pawar Nagar Laxmi Nagar (West)
THANE 400601 NAGPUR 440022
(Maharashtra, INDIA) (Maharashtra, INDIA)
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1. Rta, Satya, Dharma
2. Social Polity-Upanishads
3. On the Upanishads and Hindu Political Sociolgy
4. Allegory of the Asvamedha and the Society
5. Brhaspati and Rout of Feudalism
6. Brahma School of Thought
Evolution of the Four-fold Society
7. Social Analysis, Social Equity and Integration
8. Purusha and Brahma School of Thought:
Ajatasatru and Gargya on the Officials of the Expanded State
9. Yajnavalkya, Maitreyi and the Honey Doctrine
10. Yajnavalkya and his Detractors
11. Yajnavalkya and Vidagdha
On the Yajnavalkya Constitution
12. Yajnavalkya and Janaka of Videha
The Role of the Scholarly King as Jurist, Brahma
13. Yajnavalkya and Maitreyi
14. The Message of the Sage of the Great Forest
15. Pravahana and Uddalaka on the two paths
16. The Message in the Chants on Aum
17. Regulation of Social Relations and
Chanting of the Vedic hymns
18. The Metres and the Social Polity
19. Implications of the Allegory of the honey-comb
20. Janasruti and Raikva on Adhyatma and Adhidaivatam
21. Gautamas Instructions to Satyakama on Brahma
22. Gautama on Purusha and Brahma,
Training of the Prince of Kosala
23. Pravahana counsels Gautama on the functions
of the talented social leader, Purusha
24. Asvapati of Kekaya counsels Uddalaka on Vaisvanara, Brahma
Constitution and Representatives
25. Uddalaka instructs Svetaketu on social classification
Of the Vedic times
26. Uddalaka encourages Svetaketu, Tat Tvam Asi
27. Sanatkumara counsels Narada on the Prthu Constitution )
28. The Vipra describes the Academy of Scholars, Brahmaloka
29. Svetasvatara Upanishad:
Rudra School of Social Thought and Social Reorganisation
30. The Message of the Monks on Brahmavidya
Mundaka Upanishad and Vedic Social Constitution
31. Four Sections of the Socio-political constitution, Brahma
32. Taittiriya UpanishadThe Convocation Address
33. The Stauettes of the Purusha
34. Privileges, Immunities and Bliss, Ananda
35. Bhrgu and Varuna on the concept, Brahma
36. The New Constitution and BrahmaKenopanishad
37. Pippalada on the Purusha Constitution
38. Social Ascent of Naciketas
39. The Neo-Vedic Social Order: Katha Upanishad
40. On Isa, charismatic chief of the social periphery
41. The Teachings of the School of Atri
PASSAGE TO HINDU STATE
THE UPANISHADS AND
HINDU POLITICAL SOCIOLOGY
RTA, SATYA AND DHARMA
The social polity that existed in the Indian sub-continent and its neighbourhood before parts of them came under the aegis of Islam is referred to by the expression, Hindu State. It was a secular polity. It did not call upon its members and sections of the population to follow any specific creed or faith or religion or theology or form of visualization of the Ultimate and its worship.
This polity was however based on certain high and abiding values of life and purposes (purusharthas) and observance of certain norms of social conduct (samskaras) that were connected with civilization and culture rather than pursuits that were transcendental and spiritual. The roots of that polity may be traced to the pre-Vedic times but we do not have today any literary work that was anterior to the Vedas.
Even the eminent sages of the Vedic and early Vedic times could not present a clear outline of the social polities of the earlier times of this larger sub-continent. It would not be sagacious to attempt to trace the features of those polities from the extant relics of those times and claim that they are indelible and indisputable archaeological evidences.
The extant versions of the Vedas and other works that may be traced to the early post-Vedic decades indicate that the values of life upheld during the early Vedic times were correlated to the practices and informal laws incorporated in the ways of life permitted under the concept, Rta, and treated as being in tune with the personal aptitude (svabhava) of every being.
Some later thinkers referred to these laws of nature as the earliest code of righteousness, as Adidharma. Adidharma was a collection of the codes of life of the numerous clans (kulas) and communities (jatis) that have come down the ages. Some called it, puratana dharma. It did not try to uphold only what was common to those practices or determine which among them were good and desirable and which were not.
In my treatises on Hindu Political Sociology I have drawn attention to the need to distinguish clearly among the three stages, the early Vedic correlated to the concept, Rta, the middle and later Vedic, to Satya, the later and post-Vedic, to Dharma.
The first stage was marked by the operation of the laws of nature which permitted free play to the expression of personal aptitude, svabhava. It indicated that competition among individuals and conflict between groups and struggle for existence were natural and that the fittest would survive. It also indicated that among different groups and individuals there could be empathy and co-operation even as antipathy and rivalry were there..
During the second stage these laws were first supplemented by and then supplanted by the puritanical laws that prescribed certain duties and prohibited certain acts (niyamas and yamas). Strict adherence to truth (satya) was insisted on. But soon it was found that only a few could consistently abide by truth and that the pledge to abide by it (satyavrata) could not be made obligatory for all.
Those who could not abide by it because they did not comprehend correctly what the truth was were asked to at least abjure falsehood (asatya). They were referred to as nasatyas while those who took the pledge were known as satyavratas.
When the commonalty (vis) split into two classes, haves and havenots, landlords and landless workers, Vaisyas and Shudras, the former were required to take the pledge to abide by truth (satya) and refrain from violence (himsa). This pledge of satya and ahimsa was known as Aryavrata. Vaisyas who had taken it were addressed as Aryas, men who had no enemies.
Aryas were a class (of Vaisyas) and not a race. Shudras were agricultural workers and lacked formal education. They were asked to abjure untruth, to benefit from the status of nasatyas. The highly educated Brahmans and the ruling class of Rajanyas stood apart from and ranked above the two classes, Vaisyas and Shudras, who together comprised the commonalty (vis) of the agro-pastoral core society, which was also referred to as prthvi, bhumi, manushyas and jana, the native population.
The nobles (devas) governed and protected the social world (loka) of commoners. The Vedic core society was stratified with the nobles (devas) having a higher status and more power and more wealth than the Brahmans, the Rajanyas and the commonalty (vis). Devas were cultural aristocrats. They were not gods. They too were men. Their loyal servants were known as dasas.
When the class of nobles, devas, withered away during the post-Vedic centuries, its members joined one of the three higher classes (varnas), Brahmans, Kshatriyas and Vaisyas while their dasas were admitted to the lower class of Shudras.
Such entrants to the three higher classes were referred to as twice-born (dvijas). Recruits from other cadres to these classes were not granted this status.
During the third stage, a code based on compromise between the permissive laws of nature (Rta) and the puritanical laws that called for strict adherence to truth (Satya) was drafted by the sages (rshis) who functioned under the guidance of the first Manu, Svayambhuva, and his successors to the post of Manu.
Dharmasastra was edited by a board of ten chiefs of the people (Prajapatis) who were great sages (maharshis) and legislators. Marici, a Marut leader, was its chairman and Bhrgu was the chief editor of this code. It was finalized by the times of the seventh Manu, Vaivasvata, and accepted by his council of seven sages headed by Kashyapa.
What Svayambhuva proposed is known as Sanatana Dharma and what Vaivasvata legislated for ever is known as Sasvata Dharma. Some describe the former as Srauta Dharma and the latter as Smarta Dharma. The texts of the former and the codes based on Rta and Satya are not available now.
While the laws of nature (Rta) recognized that struggle for survival was a fact and reality and was inevitable and that the fittest would survive in that struggle and hence might was right and that the mighty would prevail over the weak, the sages who spread the value and importance of Truth held that Truth (Satya) would ultimately prevail.
They recognized that every one functioning according to his nature (svabhava) did create an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty, fear of others and uncertainty about ones future. The alternative to Rta was not to function in ways that are unnatural to one (anrta).
Harming others while following one's personal interests as well as harassing one's self to help others was anrta.
When the sages claimed that Truth would win and not unnatural acts (satyam eva jayate na anrtam) they also clarified that the puritanical laws that called for strict adherence to Truth did not require any one to suppress his natural propensities.
They agreed that the new code on Dharma might be followed provided it ensured that every one would abide by truth (satya) and non-violence (ahimsa). Resort to might to settle disputes should be given up.
Dharma hence gave prominence to these two values. The Upanishadic sages who belonged to the last decades of the long Vedic era gave primacy to Satya. They asserted that there was no difference between the two sets of laws, one based on Satya and the other on Dharma. (Satya is Dharma; Dharma is Satya.)
They recognized that system of law which upheld all social worlds (lokas) though these had divergent orientations, and was in tune with the austere laws that insisted on every one knowing and abiding by Truth. They would not allow the validity of such a system of law, Dharma, to be questioned. But only a few Upanishadic sages were associated with the drafting of Manava Dharmasastra.
The four-fold paradigm of social options---prescription of certain essential duties for all, permission to every one to pursue a course of life not prohibited as immoral and anti-social and preference for a way of life from among the many permitted ones and prohibition of certain immoral acts---was liberal, compared to the scheme of prescriptions (niyamas) and proscriptions (yamas) that the earlier sages who upheld Satya insisted on.
But Dharma introduced regulatory systems that were absent during the early Vedic times when all ways of life and courses of action were allowed for want of social control over individuals and personal control over ones senses (indriyas). The Upanishadic sages were liberal in their outlook.
Adherence to Truth having been accepted as of paramount importance in the Dharma code, they were not upset by the decision taken by the legislators (maharshis) who were also chiefs of the people (prajapatis) to permit certain acts which were not prescribed by the social and economic laws based on Satya, provided they were not explicitly prohibited by the Satya codes.
These legislators gave every one the freedom and right (svatantra) to select the course of action (karma, vocation) that suited his nature (svabhava). Dharma was liberal, even without the riders and clauses of exemption introduced under exigency as Apaddharma.
Badarayana exhorted the Upanishadic sages to concern themselves with the implementation of the neo-Vedic socio-political constitution, Brahma, to which all legislators and members of the executive including rulers were subordinate and had to be committed.
They asserted that Satya would ultimately win and not what was against humanism (anrta).
Since Rta recognized the validity of the concept, survival of the fittest, and its corollary, might is right, there could have been no common social laws, no social authorities, no abiding value systems, no permanent social bonds and no states during the early Vedic times.
What prevailed was anarchy couched in primal anarchism. As indicated by the expression, law of fishes (matsya-nyaya), the larger fish swallowing the smaller and growing further, the mighty thrived on the weak. The latter could not survive exploitation and coercion. It led to despotism.
Satyam vada, Dharmam cara
The puritans who insisted on the laws tuned to the principles of truth (satya) and the liberals who outlined Dharma and four-fold social options did not favour either anarchism or despotism.
The Upanishadic sages called upon every one, especially the students who were being trained to be members of the judiciary or of the executive to always speak the truth (satyam vada) and pronounce the verdict accordingly and to go along the path of righteousness (dharmam cara).
These sages vested final authority in the socio-political constitution, Brahma, and its interpreters, the jurists, subordinating all individuals, groups and cadres and authorities and institutions to the chief justice and head of the constitution bench, Brahma.
Brahma was superior to the chief of the people (Prajapati) who was himself superior to all other authorities of the polity.
The judiciary constituted under the system known as dharma was an independent structure though it performed a role (protection of the weak against the mighty) that was the same as the king or the head of the state was expected to perform.
The weak might appeal either to the chief judge (designated as dharma) or to the king (rajan) for protection. Hence neither might take umbrage for the other having been appealed to. If the king himself was the chief judge he was designated as Dharmaraja. Very few kings were ever heads of the judiciary. The sage of the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad says, That which is Dharma is Satya.
Dharma, the principle and methods of guaranteeing protection for the righteous but weak persons against the mighty but unrighteous persons through a judiciary that was on par with, if not superior to, the head of the state, is not different from the principles of conduct and governance incorporated in the laws that upheld truth (satya). This assertion suggests that some jurists did hesitate to treat the two on par.
The social and state laws (dharma) emphasized protection for the weak.
It was imperative to give such protection if the weak were also innocent and righteous and only recommended, if they were not pious. In either case they should not be at the mercy of the mighty. This was to be the objective of a social welfare state committed to social justice.
The laws based on satya did not permit the judge to use his discretion or to take into account any other factor than strict adherence to truth. The laws of nature, Rta, provided the guiding principle for the early Vedic society which lacked a state. This led to the subordination of the weak by the mighty. Might became Right, as a result.
These laws were known as matsya-nyaya, the law of fishes by which the larger fish swallowed the smaller and grew further. This trend was reversed during the middle and later Vedic periods when adherence to truth (satya) at all costs was insisted on. Truth could prevail over might.
By the end of the Vedic period, the concept of Dharma, a just system based on consensus among all sections was defined and legislated. It recognized that every man could be prevailed on to listen to the voice of reason and also to that of his conscience.
The sages asserted that promulgation of a new social constitution based on Dharma that created an independent judiciary that was not subordinate to any individual or cadre or state did not set aside the system of justice that upheld the importance of Truth (satya).
Dharma, though based on consensus among all concerned did not dilute the importance of Truth as the cherished ideal. When a spokesman of the constitution bench gives his verdict on the basis of Dharma, he pronounces what is Truth, Satya.
Similarly a judge who follows and stands by the laws based on Satya pronounces a verdict on any issue he speaks out the provisions of the constitution based on Dharma, which is stable, as Dharma is based on consensus. Dharma and Satya supplement each other (ubhayam).
Among the nobles (devas), Agni performed the role of Brahma, the intellectual who headed the appellate judiciary. Among the commoners (manushyas) this role was assigned to the jurist (Brahmanaspati) who had mastered the Atharvaveda (Brahma).
The cadre of administrators (kshatras) drawn from the nobles was constituted into the class of Kshatriyas some of whom were warriors and some rulers also. The other two classes were Vaisyas and Shudras, landlords and bourgeoisie, and agrarian workers respectively.
The nobles were later absorbed either in the class of Kshatriyas or that of Vaisyas. The nobles (devas) could get the desired access to the commonalty (vis) only through Agni, the head of the samiti, council of intellectuals and elders. The commoners could get their desires fulfilled only through the Brahmana, the jurist.