YUDHISHTIRA ASSERTS HIS APPROACH
Draupadi on Yudhishtira's patience
Draupadi, dilating on the sufferings that she and the Pandavas had been constrained to undergo following Yudhishtiras defeat in dice, said that there was no Kshatriya in the world who did not get angry. The term, Kshatriya, meant one who harmed. But Yudhishtira who was a Kshatriya was different in nature from this description. She told him that a Kshatriya (king) who did not exhibit anger when he ought to was disrespected by all living beings, pranis (especially those at the level of the subaltern who struggled to survive). It was improper to be tolerant towards the enemies, she said. They had to be undoubtedly killed by might (sakti). Similarly a king (kshatriya) who was not patient and tolerant when he ought to be so was despised by all pranis (living beings, especially the weak and poor). His present status would be ruined and so too his future if he did not meet their expectations. (Ch.27 Vanaparva)
Prahlada and Vairocana Bali
In this connection Draupadi (to be precise, Vaishampayana) drew the attention of Yudhishtira (Janamejaya) to the conversation between Prahlada and his grandson Bali, son of Virocana. Prahlada was a senior asura (feudal chieftain) noted for his wisdom and knowledge of the secrets of dharmas. Bali asked him which of the two traits, patience and anger, was better. Prahlada said that patience was not always desirable nor fierceness (tejas) was always desirable. The disputation was between whether the state should follow a soft and lenient policy or it should be harsh and refuse to tolerate dissent. The disputation took place between a reformed and retired asura chieftain (Prahlada) and a typical and new asura incumbent (Bali).
Prahlada said that the policy of tolerance had many defects. One who was always gentle and tolerant was disrespected and insulted by his subordinates, by those who were neither friends nor enemies, and by those who were inimical to him. The peoples (janas) would never obey him. Hence the learned (rulers) had always avoided patience. The petty-minded and non-intellectual subordinates insulted the gentle master and became guilty of more misdeeds and desired to get hold of his wealth.
Prahlada did not expect the intellectuals who had foresight and adhered to rules of good conduct to indulge in such exploitation of the gentle masters. But the petty-minded subordinate officials were seen to refrain from distributing the gifts that the king had ordered to be paid to the deserving. They would not honour him even when they had to honour him and show their loyalty. To be insulted so was worse than death. This pious ruler, said that servants and sons and attendants and those who were neutral criticised such a lenient master severely. Even his patient wife would disrespect him. His womenfolk would go astray.
If the master did not punish the criminals they would rejoice and commit more sins and inflict harms. A commoner even if he were an elder would not be respected if he never harmed others. [Most feudal chieftains, asuras, and authoritarian heads of families and clans had retired from their positions and were respected as elders, pitrs. They were not different from the commoners, manushyas, in their outlooks and conduct. Prahlada was one such elder guide.] Those who were always patient had these and other faults Prahlada said, dealing with the relevance of the concept of patience and lenience to society, economy and polity.
The chronicler noted that the commoners (manushyas) feared and worshipped the industrial workers (sarpas), as the latter would hit back if they were harmed. The technocrats (nagas) too could cause harm and hence were respected. The Garuda who killed those nagas was not worshipped, the chronicler said. He was obviously commenting on the conduct of the king, Janamejaya, who had launched a campaign to massacre the sarpas, members of the industrial proletariat who had revolted against his predecessor, Parikshit.
Then Prahlada dilated on the concept of a tough administration. One in rage was always under the influence of the trait of aggressiveness (rajas) and inflicted punishment on those who deserved to be punished as well as those who did not deserve to be so punished. He developed enmity even with his friends. Both his social world (loka) and his relatives would turn inimical against him. That person (manushya) faced shame and loss of wealth and underwent censure and lack of support and revolt and enmity. Under rage he lost his awareness and gathered enemies.
A commoner (manushya) (king) inflicted many unjust punishments on other commoners, Prahlada said, indicating his disapproval of the concept of governance by a commoner (like Prthu) and his preference for governance by the cultural aristocracy (devas). Such a ruler soon slipped from his wealth and charismatic sovereignty (aisvarya) and from the beings of the different social sectors (pranas) (especially those of the subaltern who were at the bare subsistence level) and his kinsmen (bandhu) and native population (jana). [Bali became the chief of Janasthana.]
The social world (of commonalty) withdrew in fear from a king who was a terror to both the officials who increased his treasury and the thieves. How could one who made the world tremble become rich, Prahlada asked. [This was a counsel that the chronicler gave Janamejaya who was a terror to all.] At the appropriate time the world would destroy him, Prahlada warned. Hence a king should not exhibit his rage. At the same time he should not be always gentle. Whether one should be gentle or tough depended on the situation and he should adopt the appropriate attitude. Only then he would for the present and in future be happy. Prahlada then explained to Bali when, according to the scholars, one should observe patience.
One should forgive the fault of a person who had helped him earlier and help him again. Those who had committed mistakes out of ignorance should be forgiven. If one knowingly committed a crime but claimed that he had committed it out of ignorance he should be killed. Prahlada despite his reformation retained tinges of his asura heritage. The first mistake of every one should be excused, but not the second, he said. If one had committed a crime out of ignorance it should be well examined before pardoning him. Prahlada told his grandson, Bali, that of the four means (sama, dana, bheda, danda) pacification (sama) was the best. It killed the (cruelty of the) cruel person and also the (error of the) good person. There was nothing that could not be achieved by this means, Prahlada asserted. But it was the harshest and the most difficult of the four means (sama, dana, bheda and danda), the reformed warlord (asura) said.
Prahlada pointed out that one should know the occasion and ascertain his strength and weakness and the cause that motivated the action of the offender and then decide whether to be harsh or lenient with him. Those who were expecting favourable place and time could not do anything when these were absent, Prahlada said. Similarly one should tolerate the crime out of fear of the people (who might oppose all cruel acts). These were the occasions when one was asked to be patient. On occasions different from these he should show anger, Prahlada advised his grandson, Bali.
Draupadi's exhortation and Yudhishtira's response
Draupadi told Yudhishtira that it was then the opportune time to adopt a harsh approach towards the sons of Dhrtarashtra who were greedy and had always been criminals. It was no longer a time to be soft to them, she said. When it was the time to be angry he should express anger. One who remained soft then would be disgraced while the world trembled before one who was harsh, she said. Only one who knew and showed both anger and patience would rule the world. (Ch.28 Vanaparva)
Yudhishtira was however not impressed with the simplistic position that Prahlada, a reformed feudal lord, took on the issue of soft state vis--vis tough administration. He pointed out to Draupadi and his brothers and the scholars around him in his forest abode that rage destroyed the man who acted under it and also raised his status if he suppressed it. One who controlled his rage (born out of helplessness) would be able to gain wealth (in the case of a commoner) and sovereignty (aisvarya) even if he was a petty ruler or administrator. Constant exhibition of rage brought only terrible destruction.
Yudhishtira drew their attention to the situation in which the beings (pranis) at the level of the subaltern were in the social world (loka) in which they were then. That social world was not like the ruling nobility or the native commonalty enjoying certain rights. The subaltern was reduced to poverty and confined to the forests with no right to till the land or amass wealth and surviving on roots and fruits. It could not live on hunting too. Its members exhibited rage but in vain. Rage only further ruined their social life leading to killing one another and committing sins. One in rage insulted his teachers and elders. Learned elders who observed these faults and sought to live a meritorious life in the present and in the future conquered their rage, he pointed out.
How could one like him do a harsh act that was discarded by a scholar (pandita) who had mastered the traits and conduct of all living beings (pranis)? He was living in forest rather than in village or town. These scholars (panditas) who could observe events taking place far in time or locale (dirgadarsi) considered one as having prowess who kept rage afar, even as the region known as abhyantara, the secluded high industrial zone was inaccessible areas of forests and mountains. According to Yudhishtira the learned who understood the laws based on satya, considered as valorous only one who by his intellect controlled his rage.
A commoner (manushya) in rage failed to see realistically the deed to be done (karya) and did not deliberate on what was not the deed to be done (akarya). He would not notice the limits of propriety (maryada). He would kill those who were not to be killed and harass the teachers. Hence (the officials who were given to) rage had to be expelled to distant areas.
The ability to complete the project prescribed, deliberating on the means to harass the enemies, subduing the enemies and ability to complete the project quickly were the visible aspects of influence (tejas), Yudhishtira explained. Tejas is not to be confused with ferocity (rage, krodha). One who got angry would not be able to acquire these traits. A commoner (manushya) would acquire proper prowess only if he abandoned rage. Even the intelligent would not be able to acquire the power (sakti) needed for the time and locale of the project if they were in rage. The ignorant misconstrued rage as prowess, Yudhishtira told his audience.
He referred to the scheme that classified the society on the basis of the three traits (gunas), sattva, rajas and tamas. The nobles and sages excelled in the trait of gentleness, sattva. The commoners (manushyas) were advised to graduate from the level of inert and ignorant beings (pranis) marked by tamas to that of dynamic (rajas) persons. Yudhishtira was dealing with the pre-varna Vedic social order in which both the nobles (devas) and the sages (rshis) formed a cultural aristocracy excelling in gentleness (sattva) and the commonalty (manushyas) were marked either by dynamism (rajas) or by inertness (tamas). They were told that this dynamism would go awry if they yielded to rage and their social world (loka) would get destroyed. Hence a commoner who often did good deeds (that would raise his status) should give up rage, Yudhishtira counselled. The commoners and the free men (manushyas and naras) were advised to perform their respective duties, svadharma. One who under the influence of rage deviated from them was not regarded as a good person.
The unintelligent tended to commit errors because of various reasons. What would lead a learned person like Yudhishtira to commit mistakes? (He learnt the answer from the scholars around him.) If there were none among the commoners (manushyas) who were patient like bhumi (earth, agriculturists) there would be no unity (coming together) amongst them. Anger was the root of enmity. One who is harmed will harm the other. Even the teacher should not harm the student, he agreed. If rage, enmity and mutual harassment prevailed, adharma (violation of and non-adherence to social laws) that caused ruin would spread, he warned. If mutual conflict prevailed and not mutual love, it would affect social progress and even threaten the survival of the human species. The (economy and culture of the) population would decline.
Hence rage would lead to ruin for the subjects (prajas) of the state and decline in wealth, Yudhishtira said. Because there were persons who were patient like the earth (bhumi), living beings especially at the bare subsistence level (pranis) recreated themselves and wealth (aisvarya) was created, he said. Yudhishtira was explaining the policy to be adopted for ensuring social stability and welfare when he said that commoners (manushyas) should observe tolerance in all dangerous situations as the evolution of the living beings (pranis) at the base level to higher levels was attributed to patience. In other words, social development was a slow process that called for immense patience. He reiterated that a learned person (vidvan) attained permanent high positions only by observing patience under all circumstances, even if censured or beaten. But one who got angry faced ruin, he warned.
Yudhishtira then narrated to Draupadi how the great sage, Kashyapa, had eulogised patience (kshama). He claimed that Bhishma, son of Santanu, Krshna, son of Devaki, Drona, Vidura, Krpa, Sanjaya, Somadatta, Yuyutsu, Asvattama and Vyasa too upheld the value of patience. He was sure that under the influence of these great personages, Duryodhana would return him his kingdom. If out of greed he did not do so he would face ruin. According to Yudhishtira, observing patience was a duty prescribed by Sanatana Dharma. He would observe patience (kshama) and harmlessness (ahimsa) as prescribed by the laws based on truth (satya) that were in vogue before the more considerate laws (dharma) were legislated. (Ch.29 Vanaparva)
Draupadi's reaction to Yudhishtira's policy of forbearance
Draupadi who was the worst affected by Yudhishtiras gamble however could not appreciate his claim that he was committed to remain patient, as it was one of the duties prescribed by dharma. She did not believe in the concept of the benevolent god (isvara) who fulfilled ones desires and in that of the present life being determined by the deeds done in the previous lives (purvakarma). [Did the chronicler put forth the views of the heretics through her outburst?] Yudhishtira seemed to have unduly lost interest in the kingdom that he had inherited. She claimed that for every birth (that is, for every stage in ones life) what one should enjoy had been prescribed. The deeds (karma) of one had definite results but it was out of misconception (moha) that one wanted to renounce their fruits. [She was deprecating the stand Krshna took in Bhagavad-Gita.] She argued that one could never obtain wealth (aisvarya) by adhering to dharma, non-violence, patience, uprightness and compassion.
How would Yudhishtira have reacted if such an unbearable insult to his person had been inflicted as it was done to Draupadi? Neither he nor his valiant brothers were fit to bear such sorrow. She conceded that they did not value anything more than dharma, not even their own lives. The jurists (Brahmans), the political guides (Rajagurus) and the nobles (devas) (the three cadres of the state who were superior to the king) knew that Yudhishtira held his state (rajyam) only for the purpose of upholding (and protecting) dharma. He lived for dharma.
She was sure that he would abandon his brothers and his wife but not dharma. She had heard from the elders that dharma protected by the king protected him. But she did not expect dharma to protect Yudhishtira, she sneered. She however did not deny that he had done several deeds that qualified him to be treated as an adherent of dharma. Though he was living in the forest which had no native population (jana) and was infested by thieves, he had ample benefits of dharma to his advantage. But why did he fall victim to gambling?
Draupadi on the concept, Isvara
According to Draupadi, Isvara, the charismatic (benevolent) figure who valued the deeds (karma) performed in the past while creating the social order recognised that all living beings (pranis), especially those at the lower rungs of the society experienced both comforts and sorrows and had their likes and dislikes. This charismatic personage controlled the subjects (prajas) of the expanded social polity in the same way as a person with a fixed mind moved every organ of the figurine made of wood. Draupadi agreed that this personage who dominated the wide, open space (akasa) influenced all living beings (pranis) at the level of bare subsistence and gave them security and also harmed them. The concept of Isvara as an invariably benevolent and protective figure (god) had undergone a change. He could harm too, especially those who did not obey or honour him.
As the living person (jiva) is under the control of Isvara he is not a master over himself or over others. He obeys the orders of Isvara. Like a tree on the banks of a river that has been uprooted by the floods and floats in the waters, the commoner (manushya) losing his independence of action follows Isvara. This man, a commoner who lacks intellect, directed by Isvara, unable to freely (svatantra) determine what would give him joy or sorrow, ascended or fell in social order without being able to assert himself. Draupadi implied that an intellectual unlike the commoner (manushya) or the person who just managed to live (jivan) or was just breathing and existing without any subsistence for survival (prani) was not under the influence of such a domineering all powerful Isvara.
Draupadi argued that the living beings at the bare subsistence level (pranis) came involuntarily under the influence of Isvara even as the grass could not resist the powerful wind. She denied that the concept, Isvara, denoted a benevolent figure or a personality to whom an individual got attached to voluntarily. She perceived Isvara as a domineering figure who could not but be obeyed or adhered to.
Isvara who has been visualised in later times as God who granted boons and whom none dared to disobey, was earlier but a charismatic benevolent leader stationed in the social periphery and accessible more easily to its people and the people of the open space and to the frontier society than to the commonalty. The new concept of Isvara viewed him as having widespread influence over the people of the lower rung (pranis) inducing them to do good deeds or making them do bad deeds (karma) in his name.
Draupadi (to be precise, the chronicler Vaishampayana) submitted that it was not possible to describe what Isvara was. Isvara or Isa treated the (social) body (sarira) as the field (of administration), kshetra whose different activities (karma) yielded either social benefit or harm. He mesmerised the living beings (pranis) of the subaltern and got other living beings of the same subaltern to kill them, Draupadi complained. She did not accept that the more mature sections of the larger society were responsible for this mad destruction of the weaker sections of the population. Faith in Isvara or Isa that numbed the sense (maya) led to this ruin of the weaker sections, the heretic argued.
What the calm and silent sages (munis) noticed as the truth (satya) appeared to be objects being tossed about involuntarily, caught in a cyclone. The commoners (manushyas) interpreted the same objects in different ways, Draupadi said. What Isvara did was to reorganise those objects and systems in a way different from what the commoners intended and to even destroy them if they were not according to his plan.
The chronicler described the Isvara who was the head of the academy (bhagavan) as a noble (deva) whose position was later occupied by one with the rank of Brahma, the head of the cadre of intellectuals and head of the constitution bench that interpreted and implemented the socio-political constitution, Brahma or Atharvaveda. Before this new constitution came into force, the law of might is right and the principles of struggle for existence and survival of the fittest prevailed. The concept of Isvara, who allowed one species or group to kill another species or group, had its origin in that early milieu. But this concept has not come to stay.
Draupadi accused Isvara of playing with the lives of the beings (pranis) at the lower levels of the society. He did not conduct himself as their mother and father. Like the other people (of the forest society, itarajana) he treated them with anger. She explained that she had come to this conclusion about the role of Isvara (god, in common parlance) as she was thinking over how those belonging to the higher ranks of the society and were known for good conduct were put to shame and were suffering to eke out their living while the vile were enjoying. She was censuring Isvara, as while Yudhishtira suffered Duryodhana was thriving.
What Isvara would gain by giving wealth to Duryodhana who transgressed the codes meant for the people of the higher ranks and was cruel and greedy and was destroying dharma, she wondered. As the effect of the evil that one did would reach only that person and not others, Isvara would have to bear the effects of what he had done to the pious. If this did not happen it would mean that might, would always win and she would feel sorry for the weak people (jana). (Ch.30 Vanaparva)
Yudhishtira's defence of faith in dharma and Isvara
Yudhishtira noticed that what Draupadi said amounted to atheism. He had not done acts sanctioned by dharma expecting personal rewards. He was trying to do according to his capacity what a householder ought to do. He did those acts without transgressing the social codes (sastras) and as practised by the pious (sadhus). Explaining to her why one should adhere to the path prescribed by dharma he said that sages like Vyasa and Vasishta had become noble-minded because they adhered to dharma and that such sages were superior to the nobles (devas). They had always given precedence to dharma. She as one who had all good traits was not one who should criticise and doubt the intents of Isvara and dharma out of a mind attracted by the trait of rajas. One who had faith in dharma would not have faith in any other orientation.
Condemning those who doubted the value of the socio-cultural laws, dharma, Yudhishtira warned that they departed from the intents of the Vedic codes and yielded to lust and greed and declined to the lowest social levels (naraka). An educated person who without doubting, always abided by dharma got his mind purified and in his later life got freedom (moksha) from social obligations, he pointed out. He advised Draupadi to treat the words and practices of the sages (rshis) as authoritative directions and as reflecting the ancient dharma. The chronicler implied that Yudhishtira did not advocate the new laws that were too liberal and compromised with what was earlier declared as adharma. The rites that were prescribed by the ancients were not to be condemned as of no real benefit.
He pointed out that sages (rshis), nobles (devas), free intellectuals (gandharvas), feudal lords (asuras), militant guards (rakshasas) and retired authoritarian elders (pitrs) had followed the practices prescribed by dharma not because they were beneficial but because it was imperative to do so. They held Isvara to be one who benefited his followers and followed dharma, as it was for their good. Yudhishtira insisted on that ancient and beneficial dharma. Like the skills one had and the endeavours (tapas) he made, the performance of the rites that are prescribed by dharma was useful.
Purposes of Nobles (Devas) Imponderable
How ones good and bad deeds were assessed and how major social changes (pralaya) took place were a knowledge kept secret by the nobles (devas). As no one else knew these, the living beings especially of the subaltern (pranis) wondered why they had been shunted down the social ladder. [It is not sound to interpret the term, devas as gods and argue that gods had unjustly deprived certain sections of the population of happiness.] Yudhishtira would advise his brothers and wife who were then at the level of the subaltern consigned to the periphery not to attempt to find out what the intent of the nobles of Hastinapura were while releasing them from bondage and sending them on exile.
Only the Brahmans (jurists, scholars) who were committed to lofty ideals and were engaged in strenuous endeavour (tapas) and were clear in their thinking would be able to infer the purposes the nobles (devas) had and the scales they adopted to assess the merit or demerit of ones deeds and the revolutionary changes they introduced in social control. Because the fruits of the actions and their utility were not obvious the validity of the social laws, dharma, was in doubt, Yudhishtira explained. The nobles (devas) too were not to be suspected. He urges that one should persist in performing sacrifices (yajna) and offer gifts without being jealous of others.
Every deed (karma) has its specific result
He referred to the counsel that Brahma, the head of the academy of scholars, had given his disciples, that the deeds (karma) had their results. The sage, Kashyapa, knew this stand of dharmasastra. Yudhishtira advised Draupadi to realise this and give up her intense distrust in the use of being a follower of dharma (atheism, as generally interpreted) and not to censure Isvara. It was because of the blessings of Isvara, who had the status of Devata (a liberal aristocrat of the frontier society), a commoner (manushya) was able to rise to the status of a cultural aristocrat (deva) of the core society. Hence Isvara should never be spoken ill of, Yudhishtira counselled.
Yudhishtira called upon the peoples of the core society who held the nobles (devas), sages (rshis) and elders (pitrs) in high esteem not to object to the granting of the status of devata (a rank marginally lower than that of a deva) to the charismatic benevolent leader (Isvara) of the other society and of the social periphery. Rigorous rationalism requires that the fine distinctions among the concepts, deva, devata and isvara are appreciated correctly and that none of the three is used to imply god. (Ch.31 Vanaparva)
Draupadi defends her heterodoxy
Draupadi however was not convinced with Yudhishtiras arguments. She said that she did not disrespect or censure dharma or the chief (pati) of the people (prajas). She pointed out that every one born in this world has to perform certain duties and be engaged in economic activities (karma). While the static and stable sectors of the population (sthavara) might live without doing any work, the other living beings (pranis) who wandered in search of livelihood and the commoners (manushyas) could not. (The terms, sthavara and jangama, are generally understood as implying inanimate and animate objects.) They had to work and earn their livelihood for the present and the future. All commoners (manushyas) learnt the means by which they could ascend in the social ladder. They experienced the results of those activities that were visible to their community.
Draupadi argued that the beings at the lower level too noticed which means would give them a higher standard of living. Even the charismatic leader (isa) of the social periphery and the (followers of) dharma followed their respective vocations (karma). On the other hand the other living beings (pranis) at the level of the subaltern who had no vocation did not have any means of livelihood. She was drawing attention to the failure of the dharmasastra to pay attention to the subaltern.
Dharma and prescribed vocation, karma
This code outlined the duties and rights and vocations that the persons assigned to the four classes (varnas) were eligible to. But it overlooked the needs of the lowest strata of the society. She however did not want the individuals and communities that had been assigned certain duties and vocations to abandon them. In other words they should not renounce these under the excuse that they were exercising their duty to strive for salvation (moksha).
Only one in a thousand intellectuals knew what the vocations to be followed by different persons were. Such persons like Yudhishtira had a place in administrative cadres connected with increasing the wealth of the individuals and protecting the people and the state. If one spent money without fresh earnings, even huge treasuries would deplete, she knew. If the subjects (prajas) of the state did not carry out their economic activities (karma) every thing would be ruined. If the economic activities did not yield fruits there would be no economic progress.
Draupadi and the school of Brhaspati
Draupadi was drawing attention to social systems and codes that prescribed economic activities but prohibited profit making and held such systems as harmful though they might have been lauded as good and as within dharma. A few might do their duties without expecting rewards. But the commoners (jana, native population) did expect results. If there were no rewards they would not have any livelihood. Draupadi was putting forth the views of the school of Brhaspati.
This school did not appreciate any member of the social world (loka) of commonalty (manushyas) treating the nobility (devas) as superior to the commonalty and their views as binding on the latter. [These two social worlds, manushyas and devas, belonged to the core society of the agro-pastoral plains.] At the same time it did not want the nobility to be abolished or its views ignored. It respected the individuals who were devoted to their vocations (karma). It did not want any section of the commonalty to be idle and submit itself meekly to the directives issued by the aristocracy (daivam). In other words, the idle rich were not to be construed as a privileged class. They were only wasting away their identity like a raw clay pot immersed in water. One who was capable of working but refused to work would not be protected (by the state) and would suffer and would not survive for long, this school warned.
Rewards; Human Effort and Wishes of Aristocracy
If in the commonalty one obtained rewards without any intent or plan it was said to be the result of persistence in a given work that was begun a long time back for accomplishing certain goals. But the original purpose was no longer obvious. Draupadi told the son of Prtha (Kunti) that the rewards obtained by pleasing the nobles (devas) in accordance with the rules (vidhi) are interpreted by many as results of the wishes and acts of the nobles (devas). [Draupadi and the school of Brhaspati were not believers in the concept of godsend or acts of divine pleasure.] The rewards that a commoner (manushya) obtained for his work and which could be seen directly were recognised as those resulting from human endeavour.
Some got engaged in certain works because it was their personal nature (svabhava) to be so involved in those works. They were not thrust on them by their clans and communities (kulas and jatis) or by the ruling elite (devas). The concept of svabhava, svadharma and svakarma was in existence and was recognised even before the concept of classes (varnas) based on native traits, gunas, came into existence.
The rewards obtained might be for natural voluntary deeds or for conventional works prescribed by the commonalty (manushyas) and approved by the nobility or for deeds directed by the nobility (devas). The school of Brhaspati was not satisfied with the dichotomy, human and aristocratic (manushya and daiva) and obvious and invisible, while dealing with rewards for deeds. It distinguished three types of rewards. It might be noted here that the school of Brhaspati recognised the concept of free individual pursuits in addition to pursuits as members of the commonalty and pursuits under the directions of the ruling elite (wrongly interpreted later by some as deeds fated to do or as directed by gods). Whatever rewards one got by any of these three types were for deeds done earlier (purvakarma). [It is not to be interpreted that they were done in an earlier birth.]
In the social periphery and the forest society, the authority of the charismatic benevolent leader, Isvara, who was also known as benefactor, Dhata, prevailed. Whatever its commoners did in the past (when they were in the core society) was assessed and classified as good or bad and the rewards were granted (by him) when they moved to the forest society or to the periphery. The dropouts and those who were deviants were included in the social periphery as individuals, bhutas, with no jobs. The good ones who had retired from their economic activities stayed in their forest abodes and pursued higher interests. The charismatic leader, Isvara looked after both. He assessed whether what one in the forest or in the periphery did was good or bad. The individual in this area (unlike in the core society) was not free to select his activities. He had to function as a member of a specified socio-economic group.
Mahesvara Scheme and Purposive Work
Although all the beings (pranis) in the subaltern did not have the ability to plan in advance and carry out the works (karya) that would lead to their objectives, they were directed by the Mahesvara, to carry them out. The Mahesvara scheme did not give the freedom to choose ones activity or the freedom to refrain from doing any work. In other words it did not grant approval to the concepts of svakarma and samnyasa. It was only the commoner (manushya) of the core society who was able to deliberate and decide what benefits he wanted and what activities he should pursue to attain them. He himself was the karana for the activity, karya, and not any other person, deva or isvara.
Addressing Yudhishtira as purushasreshta, a prominent social leader, Draupadi told him that the duties, activities and vocations so assigned and permitted were numerous. For the achievements of the urban civilisation, it was the commonalty (manushya) that had to be paid credit. She implied that though mainly the idle rich aristocrats occupied the cities and built up that civilisation, the physical contribution of the commoners in building it was not to be ignored.
A bold person was expected to know the means by which by one could locate and bring out the resources hidden in nature and their power. After locating them he should enter into the causes (karana) that would lead to the attainment of success (siddhi) in these enterprises. Draupadi was emphasising the approach of the school of Brhaspati that lauded entrepreneurial activities (rather than speculative economy). In the social periphery (where the Pandavas were then living) the living beings (pranis) especially those at the subaltern lived on the successful completion of those activities (karmas) engaged in by the commonalty (of the expanded society).
The deeds (karma) may be classified as perfect ones done by the capable and clumsy ones done by the fools. [The school of Brhaspati was not willing to distinguish them as morally good ones or bad ones.] If there had been no purposes behind the acts (karma) done by the commoners (manushyas) the fruits of the voluntary acts meant to fulfil ones desires (ishta) and for completion (purta) of the requirements of the society would not have been available (for the people of the subaltern). This school did not approve leaving the commoners to the mercy of the benevolent nobility.
As the commoner (manushya) was the worker (engaged to help the people at the subaltern) he was praised if his activity led to success and was censured if it did not. This school exhorted the commonalty to put in more voluntary effort to raise the standard of living of the weakest sections of the larger society without depending on aid from the nobles. Draupadi wondered how such welfare activities of the commoners could get ruined.
She noticed that some held that the results of all deeds were on account of persistence in those deeds (karma) by the commoners. Some others held that the favourable intent of the nobles (devas) led to those desirable results. They thought that this alone was enough for completion of those projects (karya) in which the commoners persisted. The intent of the nobles and the event that took place or help gained accidentally were not visible to the naked eyes of the recipient of the aid. But the results of persistence of the workers and the aid extended by the nobles are seen to continue. A commoner (manushya) obtained certain advantageous results by his persistence and some by the good wishes and support of the nobles (devas) and some others as a reward for his previous (good) acts. The commoners who knew the truth and had the ability to carry out any project asserted that there was no fourth factor (karana) that led to those good results.
Similarly in the social world of the subaltern where beings only existed (jivas) but were incapable of intelligent and persistent work if there was no beloved and benevolent leader (Isvara) who was impartial and awarded benefits without likes and dislikes, there would be none who was not weak. In other words the poverty of those in the ghettoes was on account of those persons failing to exert and persist in work and instead depending on the benevolence of patrons.
Dependence on god who did not discriminate between the good and active and the bad and inactive, rewarding the former and penalising the latter, had resulted in the pitiable plight of the poor of the periphery. If the process of every earlier deed bearing and yielding the appropriate fruit later did not hold, the intents that the commoners had while working for certain objectives would not bear fruit. This stand of the school of Brhaspati did not find favour with Yudhishtira.
Yudhishtira had accused Draupadi of talking like an atheist. She retorted that those persons (commoners) who did not realise that there were three traditionally accepted causes (karana) for the fulfilment (siddhi) of the activities (karya), (persistence of the common worker, favourable intent of the supportive noble and every act inevitably leading to its fruits) were like atheists (nihilists, nastikas). She pointed out that Manu had asserted that duty prescribed (karma) should be carried out. In other words, the individual was not given permission to opt out of them and aim at salvation (moksha). [She must have been referring to the policy of the Manus, which did not accept the view that one could enter sanyasa, the stage of renunciation, without going through the stage of an active householder.]
Draupadi pointed out that the Pandavas were not making efforts to get their objective of regaining their wealth and avenging the insult heaped on her. Encouraging Yudhishtira, she said that the efforts would certainly yield the intended fruit. An indolent person would never succeed, she pointed out. If a deed (karma) did not yield the fruit, there were means to remove the flaws in that effort. Only by carrying out the duties (karma) one was freed from his debts (rnamukti). Exhorting him not to be indolent out of diffidence, she said only when all the constituent factors came together an action (karya) would attain fulfilment. If suitable means were not available or not used the act would be less effective or be even ineffective.
An enterprising person (dhira) by his intellect brings together the factors of time and place and means (and blessings) for advantageous use of strategy and might, she said. Valour (parakrama) itself counselled resort to strategy (upaya) to complete the intended project (karya). One could get a thing done even by using only strategy. But she would extol the importance of valour for an intelligent person finds many advantages in it.
Besides calling for the application of all the (six) policies (gunas), security too was to be taken into account, the teacher counselled. He was not advocating war though he valued valour. Ensuring peace was imperative for economic (artha) gains. But for gaining those benefits one had to do the appropriate work. Draupadis teacher did not advocate acquisition of wealth through war. Even if threat from enemies came from across the seas or from beyond the mountains, the natural boundaries, the king (in exile) should try to put it down and liberate his country (desa), Draupadi urged.
If so, the commoner (manushya) who stayed back amidst his core society was certainly expected to fight for defending his lands. One who always tried to locate the rift among the opponents ensured that he met his debts to himself and to others. [One, who entertained the three non-economic sections, devas, rshis and pitrs, and continued to protect them even as his ancestors did, obtained freedom from debts, rnamukti. Returning the help that he had received from others too was like discharging ones debts.] One should not disparage oneself if he wanted to become rich. She thus explained to Yudhishtira in what fulfilment (siddhi) of ones objective in social life lay. The form of fulfilment depended on time and exigency, she conceded. Draupadi had learnt this lesson from a teacher belonging to the school of Brhaspati while she was at her fathers residence. [Brhaspati was an exponent of lokayata, methods of social control.]