The Ramayana on the Need for a Proper Leader, By Stephen Knapp

 

Sometimes people think that the ancient Vedic literature no longer has any real usefulness in this day and age. That it is little better than an antique of foregone days. However, this article shows the universal and ever-relevant nature of the Ramayana, and how it explains the symptoms of society when there is no ruler, or when there is an unqualified leader. When there is no such ruler of a country, they describe an assortment of symptoms and problems in society that become prominent, and thus spoil life for the citizens. The descriptions are of a society that is falling apart, wherein the citizens are troubled by the lawlessness and corruption that abounds.

However, these symptoms are what we find so common in today’s world, which shows the timeless nature of the instructions given by these great sages.

Nonetheless, in other situations in the Ramayana, we find remedies for these problems. Such as when Vibhishana instructs Ravana on some of the duties of a king, which we briefly look at. However, Ravana did not like being instructed in this way because he was not interested in acting like a good king anyway, similar in ways to some of the rulers we see today.

Furthermore, the descriptions of Ayodhya when Lord Rama returns to lead the people shows the effects on society when there is a good and proper ruler, and how such a ruler should lead society for the ultimate good of everyone. It also shows the influence that such a king can have all over the land, which we obviously need more than ever in this world. So let us look at these descriptions.

 

THE RESULTS OF A LEADERLESS SOCIETY.

This especially points out how the Ramayana held views on the means for a harmonious society, and what helped provide or prevent it. This section outlines how a society without a leader, or without one that is qualified, will never be harmonious, and will actually exhibit symptoms that will prevent such a united society. Although these describe a time thousands of years ago when facilities were different, it can still be compared to what we would expect to see, or not see, in this day and age. Amazingly, many of the symptoms that are described are the same conditions as we see in society today.

The reason why I wanted to elaborate on these teachings is that as we look around this world, many parts of it seem to be falling apart with each passing day. How can we change things? It is time that people of the world understand what to look for in a leader if we are going to live harmoniously with ourselves or with nature. It is time that we know who to elect if we are going to have a leader who provides the right kind of protection and guidance, and who holds and practices the proper virtue if we are going to steer society in the right direction. And that is, unfortunately, not someone we often see today. It is not that the Ramayana is some kind of outdated book that no longer provides any wisdom, but we will see that it still holds practical advice that will help us correct our misguided aims of life by reconsidering the insight as given by the sages in the Ramayana. So let us take a look at some of these verses, and we will see many of the same indicators right now of a leaderless society that it describes.

This is from the Ayodhya Kanda, Canto 67, verses 9-38, as described by Markandeya and other great sages to urge Vasishtha to install a qualified prince onto the throne.

“In a land destitute of a ruler, the thundering cloud wreathed with lighting does not drench the earth with rain water.” 9

So here we see that drought is common when there is no proper ruler, or when society is misdirected. In such a situation, people no longer work in harmony with nature so that it reciprocates with the needs of the people. People often feel that nature is something to dominate and control, to take what they want from it. But actually we are a part of nature and should be in harmony with it. Otherwise, nature merely reflects the mass consciousness of the people who inhabit the planet, and thus drought is not uncommon.

“In a rulerless land, handfuls of seeds are no longer scattered (for fear of uncertainty of crops). (Nay) in a rulerless land, a son is not amenable to the control of his father, nor his wife amenable to the control of her husband (there being no executive authority to enforce correct conduct).” 10

Herein we see that a leaderless society becomes lawless, with no respect for authority on any level.

“In a rulerless land, people do not construct assembly halls (for public gatherings, there being no such gatherings), nor do joyous men plant lovely gardens (for fear of their being destroyed by enemies of peace and order) or build sacred houses (such as temples and buildings for the free accommodation of travelers and strangers, etc).” 12

In this way, no one builds elaborate structures since the lawless or the enemies will come and destroy them because of a lack of respect for the culture, or to drive out those who are not of the same disposition or religion.

“In a rulerless land, festivals (in honor of deities) in which actors and dancers exhibit their art in a highly ecstatic mood, and convivial gatherings promoting the welfare of the state do not gather strength.” 15

Again this shows how a sophisticated culture will be set to ruin by adharmic forces if there is not a ruler who can gather the means to defend the culture.

“In a rulerless land, parties to a law-suit are not able to have their dispute settled, nor are those given to hearing stories from the Puranas, etc., pleased with such stories told by those to whom the narration of such stories is agreeable.” 16

It may be somewhat amusing to see this description being a result of a rulerless land, especially in India where lawsuits are known to take many months or even years. Without a qualified leader who can execute an efficient system of law and order, the court system becomes increasingly backlogged with cases that are not resolved, not because they can’t be dealt with, but because of a lack of efficiency and honesty in the judicial system, and the interest of the courts to resolve such cases without accepting bribes or other complications before such cases are heard.

“In a rulerless land, virgins decked with gold ornaments do not for their part go united to gardens to sport at dusk (for fear of being abducted or violated by miscreants).” 17

These days no one can go out at night or even in daylight without the risk of being robbed or abducted. This is surely a sign of a lack of proper leadership wherein the citizens know that a crime will be punished, and people will be protected. Without good leaders, criminals know they can get away with many criminal acts.

“In a rulerless land, wealthy husband and cowherds, even though well protected (by their attendants) do not sleep with open doors (for fear of thieves and dacoits).” 18

Again, all doors to a house must be locked where there are criminals, or those who have no respect for authority, which means the authority is too weak to uphold the law and give appropriate punishment to criminals.

“In a rulerless land, the sound of plucking the bow-string with the palm produced by Kshatriyas uninterruptedly discharging arrows while practicing the use of bows is not heard.” 21

This merely indicates that those like the police or soldiers meant to protect the people are in limited numbers, and are not around to help keep law and order. This is usually because the leaders put their interests and priorities in other directions rather than in protecting law abiding citizens or in building a strong military or police force to defend the country and citizens.

“In a rulerless land, merchants travelling far and wide do not safely move about fully equipped with abundant salable goods.” 22

“In a rulerless land, nothing is one=s own in the eyes of anyone. Like fishes, men always devour one another. 31

Again, here we see that in a land without a qualified ruler, merchants cannot move about without the fear of being robbed or killed for their merchandise. In such a case, society is hardly civilized at all.

“In a rulerless land, there is no acquisition of property and no security of possessions. Nor is the army able in a rulerless land to vanquish the foes in a battle.” 24

Even the army becomes ineffective and without proper direction when there is no qualified leader, thus leaving the country vulnerable and unable to oppose its foes, or uphold law and order.

“In a rulerless land, self-controlled ascetics moving all by themselves and contemplating on the Self with their own mind and taking up their abode wherever the evening falls do not move about (freely for want of hospitable householders).” 23

Herein it is described how ascetics who hold the knowledge of the spiritual path are not very abundant, prominent, nor are they often respected. People in general lose interest in such topics when there is no ruler to show by example how to uphold, respect or protect the Dharmic path.

“In a rulerless land, men well-versed in sacred lore do not meet (freely) holding disputations in forests and groves.” 26

Again we see the lack of respect for those who hold within themselves spiritual knowledge, who no longer roam about ready to give such wisdom to the masses, knowing that they may simply meet with the contradictions and criticisms of materialistic people.

“In a rulerless land, flowers, sweetmeats and sacrificial fees are not brought together for the worship of deities by self-controlled men.” 27

In fact, even proper worship, pujas, and Dharmic traditions are soon lost without a leader who will uphold their protection. This means that such a leader must follow or at least respect the Dharmic traditions and the deep spiritual knowledge that is preserved therein.

“A state without a ruler is really no better than rivers without water, a woodland without grass, and cows without a keeper. 29

“If there is no king demarcating good and evil in the world, oh, this world will be reduced to (utter) darkness as it were and nothing can be clearly perceived.” 36

In other words, a land without a qualified ruler is a wasteland wherein the real goal of life is not understood, nor is it practiced, and mere existence with the attempt to avoid so many problems is all that is left to achieve, and that also only with great struggle. With this as the standard, such a society is reduced to utter ignorance of the true purpose of life.

 

WHAT THE KING IS MEANT TO BE

Now that we have seen some of what the Ramayana presents as dangers of a lack of real leadership, there are also a few verses that give insight to what a real ruler should be. This points out the power of such a king by these qualities, if he possesses them.

“(Just) as the eye ever strives for the good of the body (by serving as a guide to it and showing it the right path), so does the king, who is the fountain of truth and righteousness, ever strive for the good of the state. 33

“The king is truthfulness and virtue (incarnate); the king constitutes the nobility of birth in men of a high pedigree. The king is the mother as well as the father; the king is the benefactor of men. 34

“(Even) Yama (the god of retribution); Kubera (son of Vishrava, the god of riches), Indra (the ruler of gods), and the very mighty Varuna (the deity presiding over water) are outstripped by a king of excellent conduct by virtue of such conduct (inasmuch as he combines in himself the virtues of all the above-named deities).” 35

 

HOW A KING SHOULD GUIDE SOCIETY

A king is not only supposed to maintain law and order, but a real king, a Vedic king, should also provide the means that people can attain the real and spiritual goal of life. So now we look at the solutions to the above problems with how a king should give proper guidance to the people. This is described by Kumbhakarna while rebuking Ravana for all of his misdeeds. Naturally, Ravana, typical of many politicians today, did not like to hear such advice, simply because he had no intention of following it. But it is described in the Ramayana for our benefit.

From Yuddha Kanda, Canto 63, verses 7-21, it explains:

“Holding consultation with his ministers, he who takes into consideration the five aspects of the threefold duties (with reference to hostile kings) moves along the right path.” 7

In this case the five aspects means: 1. The method of initiating an action, 2. The person or material to be worked with, 3. The time and place of action, 4. Provisions necessary to make it successful, and 5. The calculated chances of success. And these aspects are used in three kinds of circumstances when dealing with enemies, which are: 1. The way to attain peace through reconciliation, 2. Acceptance of their allegiance through the acceptance of gifts, or 3. Invasion to force coercion toward peace. A ruler must be strong enough to make these considerations or he will be pushed aside or removed by the enemy who will take over his territory.

“A king who seeks to determine his duty in accordance with the science of polity and perceive his friends too, along with the ministers, understand aright.” 8

Herein, as explained, a king has to realize who he can trust among friends and ministers, and then he can move forward with confidence. This is essential if the king or ruler expects to stay in power or hold onto his position.

“The self-controlled king who, having deliberated with his ministers, bestows gifts, takes to (expedients of) conciliation and, sowing dissension among the hostile ranks, exhibits prowess, O prince of ogres, or resorts to them (all) together and takes recourse both to right action and the reverse of it at the right time and pursues virtue, worldly gain and sensuous pleasure at the proper time never meets with disaster in the world.” 11-12

A self-controlled king means a king with spiritual wisdom and virtue. Without understanding what real virtue is, no one can fulfill the proper role of a leader, or for that matter even a husband, teacher, father, or one who employs others. But more important than merely knowing what true virtue is, is the need to follow it and live according to those virtues, which is especially expected for any ruler. Only by applying this kind of wisdom and virtue will a king encounter success and avoid disaster, not only in his personal life but also for his country.

“A king should take action (only) after considering what is salutary in consequence to him in consultation with his ministers who make their living by their intelligence and know the reality of things.” 13

Herein the point is simple, that regardless of how intelligent a ruler may think he is, the saying is two heads are better than one, and a king must consult with his qualified ministers to make sure of the proper action to take. However, this verse also refers to ministers who know the reality of things, as opposed to those who are merely academically trained.

“People whose mental level is in no way higher than that of beasts, and (yet) who have been allowed to take their seat among counselors, desire to express their views through (sheer) impudence without fully knowing the import of the scriptures. The advice tendered by such people, who having no knowledge of the scriptures, are (equally) ignorant of the science of wealth, or who seek immense wealth, ought not to be followed. 14-15

“Men who tender unwholesome advice in a salutary garb through (sheer) impudence should be excluded from deliberation as they mar the (very) purpose (of the deliberation).” 16

Here is said the obvious, that those who are not qualified, though they may try to appear so by such things as academics, wealth, etc., and with pride may try to force their opinion on others, should not be given any consideration. No one should listen to them, not the citizens and least of all the king, because they will only take the country in the wrong direction, causing problems that will later take much time and money to correct. History shows many examples of this, from which we should learn. Furthermore, those who are not true friends of the king or of the citizens and have their own agenda, or who have been bought off by the enemy, will bring the ruler and the country to ruin, as explained in the next few verses:

“Getting united with shrewd enemies, (evil-minded) counselors in this world prevail upon their master to undertake wrong actions in order to bring him to ruin. 17

“A ruler should make out (the reality of) those ministers who have been won over by the enemy to their side (through bribe, etc.) and, thus, have become enemies though appearing as friends, (as discerned) through their (actual) behavior when a final decision is being taken after deliberation. 18

“Aliens find out the weakness of a ruler who is (easily) led away by false appearances and rushes headlong into actions … A king who, disregarding the enemy, does not actually protect himself, undoubtedly meets with reverses and is dragged down from his position.” 19-20

 

SOME OF THE SYMPTOMS OF RAMARAJA

What follows are descriptions of some of the symptoms of a proper and royal leadership, such as when Lord Rama ruled over the land. This shows the effects on society when there is a good and proper ruler, and how such a ruler should lead society for the ultimate good of everyone. It also shows the influence that such a king can have all over the land, and that any problems within the kingdom, at least in the olden days, was considered to be the fault of the king who then had to take responsibility and account for them through his own efforts, knowing it was his own lack of quality for the existence of such problems. Therefore, the people should make sure to avoid an unwanted and unqualified ruler and check that the leaders are properly qualified with knowledge and habits of virtue before being elected. Otherwise, the adversities and difficulties of life will be many.

This is from the Yuddha-Kanda, Canto 128, verses 98-106. This is when Bharata gives back the kingdom of Ayodhya to Lord Rama.

“While Sri Rama ruled over the kingdom (of Ayodhya), there were no widows to lament (over their loss) nor was there any danger from beasts of prey or snakes, nor again was there any fear of diseases. 98

“The world had no robbers or thieves, nor did anyone suffer harm. Nor again did old people (ever) perform obsequies relating to [the death of their] youngsters. 99

“Every creature felt pleased, (nay) everyone was devoted to righteousness. Turning their eyes towards Sri Rama alone, creatures did not kill one another.” 100

This is the effect of a qualified leader, that his influence can change the whole atmosphere in the cooperation among people, in reducing or eliminating the criminal mentality, in the endeavor to work in harmony with nature, and in everyone to have empathy for all creatures and fellow citizens. This may not be wholly possible in this day and age, but a qualified leader can certainly move humanity in this direction. But if a leader is merely posing as a great personality while harboring wicked or materialistic desires and misguided intentions, the whole country will be directed toward ruin.

“So long as Sri Rama ruled the kingdom (of Ayodhya), people lived to an age of thousands of years, were blessed with thousands of sons, and remained free from diseases and grief. 101

“So long as Sri Rama ruled the kingdom, the talks of the people centered around Sri Rama, Sri Rama, and Sri Rama alone. (Nay) the world itself appeared (to them) as transformed into Sri Rama. 102

“Trees in Ayodhya ever remained firmly rooted and bore fruit and flowers perpetually. Clouds sent down rain (only) when desired and the wind was (ever) delightful to the touch. 103

“Remaining entirely free from avarice and satisfied with their own avocations, the Brahmanas (priestly class), the Kshatriyas (the warrior class), the Vaishyas (members of the mercantile class), and the Shudras (the laboring class), remained content in their own duties. 104

“So long as Sri Rama ruled, the people remained devoted to pious observances and never told lies. (Nay) all were endowed with auspicious bodily marks and all were given to righteousness. 105

“With his (three younger half-) brothers, the glorious Sri Rama ruled for ten and one thousand years.” 106

 

THE KING IS FORCED TO ACCEPT 1/6TH OF KARMA OF HIS SUBJECTS

From the Ramayana we also understand how important it is for the ruler of people to watch or patrol over their territory to make sure that all unfairness, criminal activities, or unrighteous acts are immediately put to a stop. This is because all such actions produce contrary reactions, not only for the people and the country, but also for the ruler, which is reflected back on them through the acts of nature, disrespect from the citizens, and the dark future created for their next life. Therefore, this shows the importance of electing a ruler who will not neglect his responsibilities of leading the people properly, uphold virtue and spiritual wisdom, and protect and defend the citizens and country without hesitation.

In this regard, the Uttara-Kanda, Canto 74, verses 30-33, explains: “Whenever one performs unrighteous deeds not to be performed, and rooted in lack of prosperity, [such a person] indeed goes to hell, however the king also undoubtedly (goes to hell). Righteously ruling over the subjects, the king shares one sixth portion of the (merit) that accrues from pious deeds performed by study and penance. (However) the king also partakes of one sixth (of his subject=s bad karma) if he does not protect the subjects (by leading them properly). So you, O lion among kings, investigate your territory. Whenever you see unrighteous actions done, then make efforts (to put them right); thus righteousness and longevity will prevail among men [as well as for the king].”

 

REFERENCES

Srimad Valmiki-Ramayana, Sanskrit Text and English Translation, Gita Press, Gorakhpur, India, 1995.

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Becoming a Dharmic Leader, by Stephen Knapp

            Becoming a Dharmic leader, or one who truly represents the Vedic path of Sanatana-dharma, is similar to becoming the ultimate revolutionary, but a spiritual revolutionary. It is being an agent of reality in a world that still lacks reality, meaning the genuine basis of what is our true spiritual identity. This is beyond politics or a violent revolution against the typical establishment construct, or anything like that. But it is working to bring in a new dimension, a higher consciousness, and a loftier awareness of who and what we are. It is like the saying by George Orwell: In a time of deceit, telling the truth itself becomes a revolutionary act. In this way, in this age of Kali-yuga, a time when the basis of most business transactions, politics, or relations in general is deceit and dishonesty, becoming truthful enough to speak the deeper truth of spiritual reality and following Vedic Dharma itself becomes revolutionary.

            Of course, “revolution” is a word which invokes many images or ideas. But in the sense in which we are speaking, it has nothing to do with promoting some kind of uprising against the present establishment, government, dictators, or the like. It is much more refined. It is an internal quest of an individual to reach one’s real identity as a spiritual being and then assist others in doing the same. It is a matter of reaching the ultimate freedom a person can attain. Only after becoming truly free can a person help others also become free. You cannot free others if you are tied up or confined in the same trap of ego and ego-based conceptions that are promoted and perpetuated in much of  society. In the end truth prevails, thus the main endeavor of a Dharmic leader is to never stop finding the ways to present the real truth and meaning of the deepest spiritual knowledge, which is the Vedic philosophy, for this is what can overcome all obstacles in time. Therefore, Dharmic leaders must operate on many different levels and help others in many different ways.

            Therefore, Dharmic leaders and Agents of Reality are:

1. Always working to be in touch with their higher spiritual realizations and perceptions. A Dharmic leader, teacher or guide always makes sure that he works on his own spiritual development in order to stay in touch with the spiritual dimension. That is his foundation, his inspiration, and the basis for his insights and his motivation in helping all others. Without that he knows that he cannot be free enough to lead others to the same freedom.

2. A Dharmic leader must know how to free others from being a prisoner of the false aims and perspectives that are commonplace in materialistic life. Because a true Dharmic leader has a connection with the spiritual realm through his own spiritual development, he naturally wants to give the same to others, and works for that purpose. This kind of freedom cannot be fully appreciated until it is experienced. And that is the object of everything that a Dharmic leader does. Through this process, a Dharmic leader works to help free others from the illusions, the bodily concept of life, and find the ways to deliver the higher perception of the purpose of life in a way that others can understand. This must include everyone so that no one is left behind. Thus, he lives for the benefit of others. 

As Dharmic leaders, we are trying to free others from this limited dimension of existence and bring them to a higher level of spiritual reality, at least for those who are acceptable to it. Here the material existence is like a temporary dream from which we need to awaken and of which to be free, and we must know how to maneuver our way through it.

3. A leader also has to fully understand the importance of the Vedic spiritual knowledge and its culture, follow it appropriately, and show by example how others can also benefit from it.

4. A Dharmic leader must also be properly educated in the Vedic spiritual knowledge and to work to spread that genuine spiritual information and culture for everyone’s well-being. When questioned about Vedic philosophy and culture, he must know how to answer with an equipoised mind and with proper responses. He must know how to deal with practical issues, both in the temples and how they operate and are managed, and also in regard to social issues, like casteism, caring for the poor, dealing with discrimination, and other matters that are often found in India.

He must know how to educate others so that they also understand, in whatever way is best for them, the importance of this information and how to apply it to their lives. It cannot be given in a way that appears overly lofty, impractical or too unapproachable by the average person. The point is that if a person does not understand this knowledge, they will never be able to remember it, and if they cannot remember it, they will never be able to apply it to their lives. Thus, the importance of receiving this spiritual knowledge from a Dharmic leader who has the cultivated knowledge from proper references and is also experienced or realized and knows how to explain it in practical terms is most important.

            Furthermore, Dharmic leaders must know how to explain the customs and their purpose to others, not merely go through the rituals without describing the reasons for them or what is going on. He must be able to explain the objective of the rituals and the benefits of performing them so that people comprehend their purpose. Otherwise, if such rituals do not make sense, or if people do not appreciate their purpose, soon they will be given up and forgotten.   

5. A Dharmic leader must not afraid to be inventive and look at and try to use new ways to infuse the message of Vedic Dharma that can be fun, enjoying and entertaining for both the young and old in order to invoke their desire to learn more. There are so many ways to do this. Otherwise, the message can seem to get old and boring, and then people lose interest. Another problem with many Hindus is that they think they already know all they need to know, and there is no longer any reason to learn, study, or take guidance. But when it comes time for them to explain the Vedic culture to someone else, they are at a loss for what to do. This means that, if they cannot even remember enough to repeat or present to others, then actually they have a long way to go, but may refuse to admit it. A Dharmic leader, however, can even invent new ways of teaching the message, while maintaining the proper and traditional standards. The fact is that there will need to be new variations in the approach of teaching it for each succeeding generation to make it interesting.

            6. A true Dharmic leader knows that all religions are not the same. Dharmic leaders must understand the profound and deep nature of the Vedic philosophy and not resort to some wimpy idea that all religions are the same. They are not, and you will know that if you seriously study each one. They all take you to different levels of consciousness and understanding of who you are, the purpose of life and the universe, what is God, what is the soul, and so on. Some consist mostly of moralistic principles and rules for living, and hardly touch the higher principles of deep spiritual realization. Others are more like forced dogmas which must not be questioned too much, whereas the Vedic system is to guide a person to their own ability to perceive their spiritual identity and the higher dimension, not to merely depend on blind faith. Thus, all religions are not the same, and a Dharmic leader must know how to distinguish the differences between them.

            7. Dharmic leaders understand the need to bring in the spiritual energy and infinite love that is so essential for us to become complete while living in a world that is increasingly ruled and controlled by the darkness of materialism and all the negative qualities that come with it, such as anger, jealousy, envy, prejudice, competition, hatred, etc. Infinite love is the love coming from the Supreme Being. We must be clear mediums through which that love may come so that it can be received and experienced by others.

8. A Dharmic leader will also help free others from false or misleading political views and its corruption, and from sham economic strategies and promises that are often promoted by the agents of this ignorance that misleads the general masses in a way that benefits the few for profit and power at the expense of the many. This is part of the false aims of life that distract one from the spiritual goals that are the real purpose of human existence.

            We need to work to set up a life of simplicity as an alternative to the oncoming crisis of peak oil, water shortages, environmental collapse, or other economic or political disasters, the likes of which few are working to prevent. However, if a Dharmic leader becomes successful at receiving large donations of money or land, he shows the proper example by using it for the highest good to help others both spiritually and materially, while he lives a simple life. This leads to the next point:

9. Any Dharmic leader must be beyond suspicion of inappropriate activities or association. They must act in such a way to be free from any rumors or the appearance of any improprieties.

            Especially if one is wearing saffron, which is the color of renunciation, he must be free from the association of women. (If such a leader is a woman, then she must be free from unnecessary association with men.) A person wearing saffron should never be alone with a woman. That is the proper etiquette, but also because there may be those who are simply looking for a reason to spread accusations, or who try to bring an important person in the Vedic community down and ruin his or her reputation, influence, position, or life, which thus reflects back on the culture or tradition he represents in negative ways. Therefore, Dharmic leaders must be pure in all of their actions so that they do not become vulnerable to false appearances and so that they may lead by example.

            Nonetheless, a Dharmic leader knows the spiritual equality between the sexes, that both men and women are spiritual beings inside different material bodies that are like various costumes or appearances. He realizes and knows the different roles that they can play in family life, temple management, and the importance of women role models in the community and in temples. But he also knows he must never exploit others or use his position to his advantage, and, thus, is never seen in situations that can be controversial, or become food for rumors. He must be beyond suspicion of any kind.

10. Dharmic leaders must know how to collaborate with those who are from various Vedic affiliations so they can all work together to achieve the protection and preservation and practice of the Dharma. Then we can join together as one unit by using each other’s various experiences and talents for reaching something extraordinary.

In this way, unity amongst other Dharmists is also extremely important because there is strength in numbers. And the more who work together, the more force there is for the preservation and proper promotion or defense of the Vedic culture from those who try to unnecessarily criticize it or even try to bring about its extinction. The more we work together, the easier everything becomes.

Therefore, collaborating with the larger community, and with other Vedic organizations, temples, etc., and working with the power of the collective as opposed to small groups, much more can be accomplished. Dharmists in general must let go of their ego and show how to work together. The entire Vedic community, when working in a united way, can more effectively help pass laws, institute changes to suite their needs, get the attention of politicians, and show that their vote can and will make a difference. That will provide much more influence when dealing with local government agencies. This can also help provide assistance for the whole community in times of need. Working with the collective with proper leadership will always show much more efficiency, power, and speed at getting things done than merely working alone or as only one temple or one small group.

            11. A Dharmic leader must be able to delegate duties and activities to others who are also enthused to participate in working for Sanatana-dharma. Such people can then become enlivened to continue in their work and endeavors with confidence.

            In this regard, a Dharmic leader must also know how to enhance the Hindu/Vedic Community through the temples. This means to understand the importance of uniting the community with festivals, holidays, customs, and through the performance of seva. This seva or service that can be performed by other Dharmists in the community can include helping manage the temple, serving the deities in the temples, providing the means for making the temples more effective and useful to the community, and so on. Community services, such as health fairs, or prasada and food distribution, distribution of clothes to the needy, or so many other programs, can be parts of that seva in the mood of service.

Dharmic leaders must know how to coordinate activities for the protection and promotion of the Dharma, whether it is writing letters, establishing promotional campaigns, doing radio shows, television programs, or producing videos, newsletters, websites, and so on. Each leader may not know all of the ways or details to do each endeavor, but he should know how to coordinate and inspire those who do to work in unity for the ultimate goal.

            In this way, a Dharmic leader should recognize and unite people around a common set of Vedic values, concepts and traditions that can be the universal uniting factors between all Hindus or Dharmists.

            12. A Dharmic leader must also know that many people everywhere are looking for a higher level of spiritual perception and experience, but they simply do not always know where to look. This may include Indians and westerners alike. Many are those who are looking for deeper spiritual knowledge to which they can feel a stronger connection, and many are those who become attracted to the Vedic spiritual path once they know what it is and learn more about it. It is not proper for Hindus to feel that they are some exclusive group that few others can join. Such an attitude is but a prescription for a slow extinction of Vedic culture, at least in this world. Sanatana-dharma includes everyone as spiritual beings. So a Dharmic leader provides the means and openness so others, meaning non-Dharmists, can learn about the Vedic tradition, its spiritual knowledge, temple rituals and customs, or even attend yoga classes, instruction on meditation, temple festivals, and so on, to see what it has to offer, and how it may assist them in their own spiritual progress, or even bring them a deeper level of joy and happiness. There have been many instances when such people have taken a strong attraction to the Vedic culture to lend much support to other Dharmists and the tradition itself, or who have fully taken it up in their lives and now recognize themselves as Hindus, Dharmists. Such access has often lead to greater degrees of harmony and understanding with the local community.

            From this mid-set, from this perception, and from the infinite love that manifests in a true Dharmic leader’s heart, comes the attitude as summarized by the phrase “No Hindu left behind.” No Dharmist or devotee should be left behind. A true Dharmic leader will feel this in the core of his heart. He knows that he is merely mirroring the love of God to all others in the life he leads and in the actions he performs, and in the love and patience he shows to everyone. But it is also in his heart where he feels that no Hindu can be left behind. There is space for everyone, just as there is space for everyone in the spiritual world. No one can be left behind. Everyone is a part of the whole, the Complete. We merely have to awaken that completeness within ourselves. When everyone shares this vision, when it is shared amongst the whole community, that community becomes extremely powerful. When everyone is imbibed with such spiritual unity, concerned for the welfare of all, then the spiritual vibration is no longer something to acquire but it is something to witness, to experience, and to bring together through all like-minded people who work in that unity to expand that spiritual vibration, that higher energy that exists within us all. 

            The key to this love is in everyone, but a Dharmic leader knows how to draw it out and provide the means for everyone to focus on it and perceive it as their own ultimate value, self-worth, and their own offering to God and the community. Everyone in the Vedic community must see all others as Dharmic brothers and sisters who are eligible to make the same spiritual progress as anyone else. No Hindu left behind. That means everyone is eligible to enter the temple, everyone is eligible to participate in the rituals, the sadhana or spiritual practice, and the core identity of being a Hindu, Dharmist and devotee. No Hindu left behind. Everyone should feel they have a place and are valued and have something to contribute. This is the basis of enthusiasm, which everyone should feel. This is the power a united Dharmic community. No Hindu is left behind. When this is established, it creates a most positive atmosphere in all who participate, it creates a very positive future, and it creates a winning team in which many others will want to join. Who would not be attracted? Everyone wants to be in a warm and loving environment, and there is no reason why Hindus cannot create that for the whole community. And if someone cannot accept this, if someone cannot see the unity that we all share spiritually on the Vedic path, then they have not yet understood the basic Vedic principles of Sanatana-dharma. It means that they are still in the illusion, they are in the depths of maya. Yet, no one should be left in such a condition. Everyone should be taught and shown how to raise their own vision, consciousness and spiritual perception of who they are and the spiritual unity they share with everyone else. After all, no Hindu, Dharmists or devotee left behind. We must raise everyone up to higher and higher levels of consciousness, higher and higher levels of perception. Then we all become very powerful in our ability to change this world, and bring in the spiritual vibration for one and all. That is the purpose of the Vedic philosophy and its peaceful and joyful traditions.

            With that ideal of no Hindu left behind, the Dharmic leader knows how to instill the unity for everyone to take a stand, to defend and preserve the Vedic culture and all who participate in it. The usual apathy amongst Hindus is what must be given up and cast aside as we all gather momentum to make sure we all have our freedom to follow the principles, the customs, and the traditions of the Vedic path well into the future. 

            Isn’t this worth working for? Isn’t this worth dying for? What else is the purpose of life other than to benefit the spiritual well-being of others?

13. Finally, a Dharmic leader must create the means so that others can become future Dharmic leaders. It is not enough to be a leader, but such a person must also encourage and provide the means, the example and inspiration for others to become Dharmic leaders. We all grow old and eventually leave this world. So there must be those who are younger, who are trained, educated, experienced, and inspired to take up the cause and the position as a new Dharmic leader who can also work to preserve, protect and promote the Vedic tradition well into the future.

Naturally, not everyone may have the qualities, characteristics, or even inclination to be a Dharmic leader, but everyone can instead be a “Vedic Ambassador,” for which there is also a huge need. Everyone can join forces in the ranks of being a Vedic Ambassador, and all work together to show the benefits and advantages we all had the fortune to acquire through the practice and development of the Vedic tradition in our lives. How to do this is easy, and has been described in my article, “A Call to be Vedic Ambassadors,” which can be found on my website at www.stephen-knapp.com.

Dharma Rakshati Rakshitah, and Jai Sri Krishna.         

Other articles on Stephen’s website, or here on this blog, that may also be of interest connected with this article include:

American Hindus: How to Cultivate Your Culture in America

Creating a Spiritual Revolution in India For Protecting India’s Vedic Heritage

Why All Religions Are Not the Same

Hindus Must Stand Strong for Dharma

Time to Plan the Survival of Vedic Culture

Vedic Temples: Making Them More Effective

An Action Plan for the Survival of Vedic Culture

Opening Vedic Temples to Everyone

[This article is available at http://www.stephen-knapp.com]

A Cure for the Corruption in India, By Stephen Knapp

            Martin Luther King once said that he had a dream of when men would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. But I say it is up to the individual to put some content in his character. Otherwise a man will be judged by whatever traits are perceived by others. And corruption in the activities of a person is a sign of a lack of proper content. And if there are numerous individuals, especially in high places, involved in crime and corruption, so goes the character and reputation of the country.

            Therefore, it is of utmost importance that the state or government provides the means and education for its citizens to develop the right content in their character. This is the importance of character development with nation building.

            Throughout my travels in India, while lecturing at so many cities and venues, it is not unusual for businessmen, industrialists, or even professors to ask me what I think should be done about all the corruption in India, which exists on every level. We all hear about the corruption in politics, and what intrigue goes on amongst the politicians, but it goes on in so many small enterprises, too. Like paying the bribes to get a phone line in your house. Innocent people have to bribe bureaucrats, police and even judicial officials to get anything done. Or how, as one friend told me, he took a test for his driving license three times, and they never even looked at the test but denied him each time, until he realized he had to pay a bribe for it. After he paid the clerk an extra Rs. 2000, he then took the test a fourth time and they still never looked at it, but this time he got his license.

            Another example of corruption that a friend told me about was when he was riding on a train and met a government inspector who told him the story of how the military men were getting sick from all kinds of digestive problems. They narrowed down the cause to the cooking oil that was being used in preparing the food served to the men in the military. They identified a possible source for the oil, and the inspector went to the company that was producing the oil and discovered that the owner of the company was adding all kinds of polluted oil to the regular oil he was making, which is what was causing the men to get sick. The inspector told the owner of what had been found, and the owner asked how much the inspector wanted in order for him to write a positive report for the military. So the company owner paid a large bribe to the inspector who took the money and gave a good report about the company and the oil it was producing. So the military went on purchasing this contaminated oil that is probably still making the military men sick at several bases.

            One more example is that some years ago the Japanese had offered to help with cleaning the Yamuna River, which is so contaminated around the Delhi area that it cannot support any life. It is a dead river there. So, the Japanese offered $20,000,000 to build a cleaning plant to help clean the water before it continued on its way. By the time all the bribes had been taken out, all that was left was $1,000,000. So, you can still see the small cleaning plant that had been built in the Vrindavana area, but a far bigger plant should have and could have been built to actually help the country and the people that depend on the water of the Yamuna River.

No doubt, much of what is wrong with India in this sense can be found everywhere. It is not only India. And I have often said that if you could see the corruption that goes on behind closed doors amongst politicians in America, you would be shocked. Or maybe not, depending on how aware you have been of what really goes on. But things have to change.

            The British also helped jump start this corruption by two things: First the bureaucracy they established in their managerial system which they used against the Indians, most of which was adopted by the Indians in the form of a Parliamentary government and which allows for the loopholes and cracks in the system for the continuation of so much corruption. Secondly, while under the British, the citizens of India were forced to struggle so hard to exist that it forced them to think in terms of the survival of their own immediate family while giving up the consideration of the whole community. After so many years of that conditioning, this need for self-preservation and the desire to fulfill selfish concerns went from one generation to the next until it became a general trend to get whatever you need regardless of the consequences or how it affects others.

            The Indian constitution itself, under the guise of freedom and fairness for the minority religions, fuels corruption and inequality by favoring the few at the expense of the majority Vedic or Hindu population. How can this inspire a united vision?

Furthermore, dishonesty and fraud in India has reached even the Supreme Court Chief Justices and several High Court Justices, which have been involved in prominent levels of corruption. We also have seen the reports about those presently in power (March, 2011) who are looting millions of rupees from India, and depositing it into secret accounts abroad. And they only pave the way for more of their own kind to be elected in order to make things easier for themselves.

We all know that a politician or person of influence is not to amass wealth dishonestly, and then indulge in extravagance or ostentatious living. Nor is he or she meant to give favors to their relatives, or their supporters or business associates by conferring special privileges or kickbacks to them. This is nothing but the misuse of the power and position of the office, a misappropriation of public funds, and the abuse of power, as well as the root cause of the rampant corruption that has become so noticeable throughout India. 

We have also seen the wealthy spend millions of dollars on nothing more than a marriage ceremony for their children, just for the sake of mainly creating a spectacle to be noted in the press, or to outdo some other wealthy person’s wedding. This kind of thing is but a huge black spot of selfishness on the character of the persons who make such arrangements when certainly the ceremony could have been limited in its expense, and the money that was saved could have been used for something far more practical or beneficial. That would have been worth noting in the media. In fact, people should make an example of spending less on their momentary weddings and then giving more money to a worthy cause. 

            So, obviously, the kind of corruption we are pointing out goes on because of a lack of morals in the content of one’s character. This is what has to change. India is obviously progressing economically and technologically, but this corruption really slows down the amount and speed of the progress that, otherwise, could be made for the benefit of everyone in the country at a much faster pace. Therefore, it hinders the well-being of everyone, and many countries outside of India hesitate to put full confidence in their business dealings with India when this corruption is so obvious.

Today, as Shahroz Raza said in his article “Corruption Bigger Factor Than Secularism” (Pioneer, January 8, 2011), India’s economy is “growing” at over 9%, yet every second child in India is malnourished. Less than one-fourth of the rural population has access to proper toilets. Eighty percent of India’s population lives on $2 a day or less. And what is most shameful is that only four of every 10 girls who enroll for schooling complete eight years of formal education. So, as anyone should question, is that real progress? Is that real growth?    

Let’s put this into perspective. Corruption has secular implications. The money looted by the rulers of India becomes food that is snatched away from the mouth of the newborn and the hungry; or the death that is caused for want of care in a ramshackle hospital; or the unemployment for an adult. This should be avoided by proper adjustments by India’s leaders. But the problem is that politics has simply become a business, which means they use the position and perks that come with it to look out for themselves and family and friends, and collect large amounts of property and money in whatever way necessary at the expense of the masses.

            As long as this corruption is allowed to continue, which lends to the reason why certain sections of society remain poor and hungry, then India, and the world, actually is not truly civilized. Swami Vivekananda has also explained, “So long as millions live in hunger and ignorance, I hold educated man a traitor who, having been educated at their expense, pays not the least heed to them.”

A civilized society does not mean merely technological advancement or economic progress. It means that society has a unified civil code and unified vision of everyone having the right to the same basic facilities as everyone else, meaning food, shelter, clothing, and the means to an education so they can maintain themselves, however simple or sophisticated that may be. In other words, a starving sector of society means that society is uncivilized due to the wealthier section of society hoarding or profiting from the loss of others. 

            This goes back to the point that there is no real lack of anything in this world in regard to resources needed to survive. The only real lack is God-consciousness and the higher vision to see that spiritually we are all the same and that we are only barrowing things from the Supreme during the short duration of the life we are given. Thus, the world’s resources need to be distributed in a way so everyone benefits, and that it is not monopolized by greedy people in prominent positions.

            Even Mahatma Gandhi once said that the deadliest form of violence is poverty. It is poverty, whether it is planned, arranged, or merely allowed, that kills more people than all the wars that take place. In fact, all the money used for military spending could otherwise be used for solving many of the world’s problems. It is poverty which also causes much of the behavioral violence and criminality that affects us all. The problem is that as poverty expands, it becomes more difficult for the people who are affected by it to do anything about it.

            If corruption increases, the general well-being of everyone will decline, and the poor are the ones to feel it first, and feel it the most. But from there, it trickles up and affects everyone. As the people suffer, with poor people becoming poorer, farmers committing suicide, businessmen wasting or ruining the environment, we see the money launderers, smugglers, the land mafia, and others continue to plunder and loot money. Experts warn that if the existing state of severe corruption continues the way it is, then it will lead to greater national and international instability, economic failure, increased poverty, and environmental collapse. In other words, this is simply not sustainable. Things must change soon or all that will bring things back to some semblance of sanity is a people’s revolution to demand the removal of all corrupt politicians, judges, military personnel, bankers, etc.

However, the citizens of India cannot be apathetic and remain blind or tolerant to this, if they ever expect to put an end to it. And, fortunately, they are starting to realize that if anything is going to change, it is up to them to do something about it because the corrupt elitists will only do whatever it takes, and in whatever way they know, to perpetuate their kind and their ways, which has not been to the good of the people or the planet. Not all, but many of these politicians and wealthy elitists, criminals actually, are really but demons in human form, living a pampered life at the expense of the many, and driving the uplifting spiritual culture of India into extinction. They care little for anyone but themselves and have no feelings of compassion or the propensity to uphold justice towards the people they are cheating. In that way, they are like insensitive reptiles while portraying themselves to be good and qualified public leaders.

            Those in poverty in India often face a life and death struggle, where they have to make such decisions as whether to buy either medicine or food because there is not enough money for both. And even now those in poverty cannot afford certain foods, like dals, pulses, various fruits, and other foods that can provide necessary protein. The cost is too high for them. And, thus, malnutrition begins to affect an increasingly larger section of the population. So what does that say about the future potential of India? 

The latest government statistics on food inflation in India says it went up by 18.3% in the Christmas week of 2010. Even a common Indian knows the relationship between corruption and food inflation. And presently the Agriculture Minister and his cohorts are making plenty of money through their speculation in food prices, bidding on them while knowing prices are going up, or even working with those who manipulate the fundamentals to make sure the prices go up. Plus, they are allowing essential commodities to be hoarded and exported while the vast majority of India’s children are going hungry every night. This is nothing but a repeat of the same crimes that the British did to the Indian population in the late 1800s, when they exported so much food back to Britain, or used it for their own military while the people in India starved. Because of this profit-making tactic of the thoughtless British, it is estimated that between one-third and one-half of the entire population of India at the time—at least 10 to 15 million people—died from the famine. If there was ever a crime against India and its people, this was one. And now, to whatever degree, it is being repeated by the elitist Indians against their own people.

            At present, India has many multi-generational politicians who have become a caste unto themselves, making rules, or ignoring existing laws, in whatever way they choose in order to fill their own coffers at the expense of everyone else’s well-being. These politicians and similar people suffer from a value disorder, which is the addiction to the rush or thrill of acquiring more power, more money, more property. They are addicted to it and cannot control their mind or senses. If this disease cannot be cured, then they should be put out of office and forced to serve prison time for their crimes against humanity.

            Such a disease can only be cured or purged in society by having the proper training, especially while young and still growing up, in order to add the appropriate character building traits necessary to know what is a decent and balanced human being and how to be one.

THE CURE FOR THE PERVASIVE CORRUPTION

             Naturally one of the first things people would say is that we have to vote out of office those culprits that cheat the people, and are engaged in so much corruption, and vote in those who really care, if we know who they are. But where do we find those politicians who will truly help society and lead properly?

Plus, we need to work with all others who have the same realization and vision for India’s future, and want to clean up the mess we are presently in. For this to happen, people need to be aware of what is really happening and who is responsible. They need to be educated in how the corruption takes place. Therefore, ongoing meetings should provide this information.

Then there is a need of transparency and accountability in all government activities. For this to happen, we need a total constitutional reform. It is time for the majority to unite, to value the cultural tradition of India, or at least what is left of it, and take appropriate legal action to restructure the political and judicial system and eradicate the incompetence and treachery that seems to pervade so much of India. 

However, let us remember that, although necessary, these are all short term solutions. But there also has to be a long term plan to cure these previously mentioned criminal tendencies in people and create a positive effect throughout society that would make a change that would last for generations.

As I said earlier, I am often asked when I am in India what to do about all of this corruption. I always answered that the best thing that I know of is to continue to teach the ethical and moralistic standards as found in Vedic Dharma. Fortunately for me, this was reaffirmed while I was in Bangalore with my visit with the eminent M. Rama Jois, the retired Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. He told me that this was indeed the best way to relieve the country of all the corruption that we see, but he explained the best means to do that.

            M. Rama Jois told me that before the independence of India in 1947, there used to be government pre-schools where the children would go to learn, not necessarily how to read and write, but about the basic rules of Dharma. Then the children would also hear of the examples of Dharma from the great epics, like the Mahabharata and Ramayana or Puranas, and about those great heroes who acted in various situations under the rules of Dharma. This way, before the children ever went to general school to learn reading and writing, etc., they were already educated in the proper content of character to know how to act as a proper human being, and know how to judge what is right or wrong in the various situations of life.

            Unfortunately, it was after 1947 when the new administration of independent India decided that learning the ethics of Dharma was religious study, and that the new secular government could no longer support such pre-schools. Thus, all such education of basic moralistic principles under Dharma were no longer to be taught in the schools of India. And since that time, the materialistic selfishness, greed, and the insensitivity to the situation of others for the benefit of oneself, have all increased to the point where now it is almost all-pervasive. 

            As M. Rama Jois explains in his book Dharma: The Global Ethic, “All our present day problems are a direct result of disregarding Dharma, under the influence of a materialistic philosophy, in the belief that it alone can usher in happiness and secure the welfare of the people. Now it is becoming clear that human problems increase as we go on multiplying our lust and desire for material wealth and pleasure, and that the solution to all the problems, whether they be social, economic or political, and in particular the crash of our moral edifice which the world and our nation are facing, is Dharma alone. There is no alternative to Dharma. This is the eternal truth. This can be realized if we understand the real meaning of Dharma.”

            So, what is Dharma? I have already written more extensively about this, but to put it simply, the Mahabharata (Shanti Parva, 109.9-11) says: “Dharma has been explained to be that which helps the upliftment of living beings. Therefore, that which ensures the welfare of living beings is surely Dharma. The learned rishis have declared that which sustains is Dharma.”

            A little more clarity can also be provided by Madhavacharya, a Minister to Hakka and Bukka, founders of the Vijayanagar Empire, in his commentary on the Parashara Smriti: “Dharma is that which sustains and ensures progress and welfare of all in this world and eternal bliss in the next world. Dharma is promulgated in the form of commands (rules both positive and negative, Vidhi and Nishedha).”

           The Mahabharata (Shanti Parva, 90.3) also says that “The proper function of the king [or any ruler or politician] is to rule according to Dharma and not to enjoy the luxuries of life.” Thus, a politician is not meant to take advantage of his position, but to execute his duties with the welfare of the people in mind, under the guidance of the rules of Dharma.

            This means that Dharma is not the teaching of a religion, but it is the global ethical standard that we all need to learn. It is the very content that forms good character, proper intentions, the means for making fair and just decisions, and good and effective plans for our future.

            The basic rules of Dharma, as explained in the Manu-samhita (10.63) are:  “Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (not acquiring illegitimate wealth), Shoucham (purity), and Indriyanigraha (control of the senses) are, in brief, the common rules of Dharma for all classes of men.”

            These are the Yamas and Niyamas, which also includes Santosha–satisfaction or contentment of mind with what one has without undue endeavor; Tapas–voluntary austerity and tolerance in body, mind, and speech for a higher cause; Swadhyaya–self-analysis, introspection, scriptural research, and reflection to understand and perceive who and what is our real identity and how we are progressing; Ishwara-pranidhana–acceptance, devotion, and surrender to God, or the offering of the fruits of one’s actions to God; and Brahmacharya–following the eternal principle of Brahma, or the control of sensual passions in thought, word, and deed, particularly in the student stage of life.

            Therefore, by learning these rules, how to apply them in all aspects of life, and by hearing the examples of the great souls in India’s history and great epics, a child would develop and build his character to be a truly strong, balanced and properly motivated individual who can continue to develop him or herself, and be a true contribution to the rest of society. When this kind of training is received at a young age, it can last for one’s whole life. This is what makes a difference in all aspects of society.

            Training in Dharma, which is certainly at the heart of India’s Vedic tradition, can help provide for an orderly society. And an orderly society is the result and an expansion or even incarnation of Dharma.

            This leads us to understand that the real happiness and prosperity of any nation is directly proportional to the number of men of character it has produced. This is why it is in the interest of the state or government to supply the means by which all children can understand these principles through appropriate education.

            Being trained in and understanding the principles of Dharma do not mean this is promoting a particular religion. It can still be considered secular training, and not going against the Indian constitution. The Yamas and Niyamas, or the codes of Dharma, are basic moralistic principles. Religion means a mode of worship of God by believers of a particular faith, and calling God by a certain name, or using a particular book and set of rituals. Religion actually divides or separates by its distinguishing characteristics between them, while Dharma unites by its unified code of conduct and seeing everyone equally. Dharma can be applied to all human beings. Thus, it sustains and harmonizes society, it does not create conflict. After all, regardless of whatever our theological beliefs may be, we can all agree on the need for kindness and honesty, self-control, compassion and respect for one another, and the need for fellowship in society to maintain harmony and cooperation, and the ways to establish these things. And the Yamas and Niyamas are merely codes of conduct to follow that will help everyone develop this content to their character.

            Even in places like America, it has been reported that over 60% of hapless Indian parents in metropolitan U.S. cities are aghast and powerless to the decadent metamorphosis of cultural changes in their children. This is especially noticeable in teenagers and the increase in behavior abnormalities, such as rudeness, rowdiness, disobedience, disparaging elders, and vulgarity and profanity in the language. There is also the deviance from traditional norms, a rise in selfishness, and little reciprocation for favors shown to them.

            However, such traits are also increasing in India. We are finding a rise in rebelliousness, lack of respect, an increase in the use of drugs and alcohol with both boys and girls, both of whom also show a higher tendency for premarital sex, which has given rise to abortions and later divorces. The traditional Dharmic culture of India is becoming lost, and the balance and harmony that once accompanied it is also becoming a thing of the past.

            Presently, humans are acting inhumanly, even using what should be blessings in the form of modern scientific knowledge and technological advancement against each other. Why? Because human beings have not been educated in the simple moralistic knowledge that provides the reasons and ways to exercise control over the mind, speech, and bodily activities, and not to inflict injury on others because of selfish motives. The point is that this is the most fundamental education that is meant to be imparted to all individuals right from their childhood. It is this education by which human beings develop the capacity and the reasons for controlling the mind, speech and actions. It is through this understanding that a person can realize that even though one might satisfy their greed or desire by indulging in illegal or immoral acts, and may secure a momentary enjoyment or thrill, but he will also cause deep trouble for himself and lose mental peace and real happiness.

            Therefore, it is this education that again needs to be offered and supplied to young students in India. This can be done by the government re-establishing the pre-schools, as previously mentioned, to teach the principles of Dharma. Or, as I have seen on my 2010 trip to India, through a grassroots effort of individuals, or husband and wife teams who give such classes on Dharma to the children of their neighbors or friends on weekends, such as Sunday mornings, they begin to influence each child who attends. This is very effective and will have long range results. Thus, everyone can do something. But people should team up and work together to make this possible and duplicate these methods that are successfully used in order to expand this process all across the country. They should also work with those honest and reputable politicians to help again establish such pre-schools throughout the nation so that gradually India can again return to being a country where corruption is not so pervasive. Then the character of the country will reflect the content of the character of the people who inhabit it.

Of course, there will be those cynics, those critics who will say that this is all too idealistic. But what other true options are there? It is either this, or let the country continue to become more hellish with each successive generation that has less and less knowledge or respect for Dharma and its universal code of ethics.  

            Therefore, the solution is through the education of the principles of Dharma that one adds to the content of one’s character, by which the person knows how to live a useful, purposeful and honest life which can give him real happiness and enable him to devote his time, energy and talents to the service of other human beings in a productive manner, and prevent him from exploiting others for selfish interests. Thus, the more such individuals populate the country, the more the whole nation will also uplift itself with a positive future.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and His Great Accomplishments

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura

And His Great Accomplishments

 

            This is the inspiring story of the great accomplishments of this important and distinguished devotee of the Lord and what he did for spreading pure spirituality and the universal principles that are based on the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. It shows why he was called “the God-sent pioneer of unalloyed devotion to God”. 

 

            On September 2nd, 1838 on a Sunday in the ancient village of Biranagara (Ulagrama) located in the district of Nadia, Thakura Bhaktivinoda took his birth in the family of Raja Krishnananda Datta, who was a great devotee of Lord Nityananda. He became known as the seventh son of Raja Krishnananda, the great grandson of Madana Mohana and the third son of his Godfather Anandachandra. In Thakura Bhaktivinoda’s paternal family line, although some devotees of the Lord had appeared in the family lineage, there was not any great respect for Vaishnava-dharma and in his mother’s family there was not any respect for Vaishnavism at all. Because of this, in the future he would be called daitya-kulera prahlada (Prahlada of the family of demons). Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s Godfather, Anandachandra, named him Kedaranatha.

  

His Childhood

 In the village of Biranagara (Ulagrama), amidst fabulous wealth, Kedaranatha Datta spent his infancy and boyhood while living in the large mansion of his maternal grandfather Mustauphi Mahashaya. In Biranagara he received his elementary education at the primary school started by his grandmother. Later he attended an English school at Krishnanagar that had been established by the King of Nadia, but after studying there a while he had to discontinue his lessons and return to Ulagrama upon the unexpected death of his older brother due to cholera.

When Thakura Bhaktivinoda was eleven years old his father passed away. At that tine the fabulous wealth of his maternal grandfather appeared to be non-existent. Upon the untimely death of his relatives the grant of land that had been conferred upon his grandmother under close supervision changed owners, thus the family was put into a condition of poverty. The young boy, Kedaranatha Datta facing all of these various troubles, passed over all of them with great endurance.

  

His Marriage and Studies in Calcutta

 In 1850, when Kedaranatha Bhaktivinoda was twelve years old, by the efforts of his mother he was married to the five year old daughter of Madhusudana Mritra Mahasaya who was a resident of Rana Ghata.

About that same time Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s uncle, Kasiprasada Ghosh Mahasaya Thakura, who was very advanced in British education, came to Ulagrama after the death of his maternal grandfather. He invited young Kedaranatha to come to his home in Calcutta and continue his schooling there. At first Bhaktivinoda’s mother was unwilling to let her son go on the plea that it was not the right time for him, but gradually around his thirteenth year Bhaktivinoda, leaving his mother and sister at Ulagrama, went to Calcutta to live at his uncle’s house which was located in the Heduya district of central Calcutta. Kasiprasada was the center of the literary circle of his time and the “Hindu Intelligencer”, of which he was the editor, drew many writers to learn from him the art of writing correct English. It was young Kedaranatha’s business to read to Kasiprasada the articles which were presented to him to be passed as fit for publication in the “Hindu Intelligencer”. Within a short time Kedaranatha Bhaktivinoda studied all the literary works in Kasiprasad’s library and freely availed himself of the use of the public library. There in Calcutta Bhaktivinoda Thakura attended high school at the Hindu Charitable Institution and after four years there he became expert at reading, writing and speaking English.

Becoming very ill due to the salty water in Calcutta, Bhaktivinoda had to return to Ulagrama and there on the medical advice of a Mohammedan soothsayer he recovered his health. At that time the soothsayer made one prediction. He said that very soon this village of Biranagara will become ridden with pestilence and epidemics and everything will become vanquished. He also told the young man, Kedaranatha Datta, that in the future he would become recognized as a great devotee of Lord Krishna!

  

Bhaktivinoda in College

 In 1856, at the age of eighteen, Kedaranatha Bhaktivinoda began his first year of college in Calcutta. During this time he wrote many articles and essays and had them published in various English and Bengali journals and he also gave many lectures in both English and Bengali. He studied many books written in English and also taught the art of fine speech to one well known orator who was a member of British Parliament. At this time, amidst the years 1857-1858 he composed a two part English epic entitled Poried, which he had a mind to complete in twelve books. These two books, written in very lucid, clear and melodious English verse, described the wanderings of Porus who met Alexander the Great in pre-Christ days.

The eldest son of Maharshi Devendranatha Thakura, Dvijendranatha, was Thakura Bhaktivinoda’s best friend at this time. With his assistance, Bhaktivinoda purused through all of the religious books of the West. Out of affection, Bhaktivinoda would address his noble-minded friend as baro dada or big brother.

As a result of his having studied all the different western schools of philosophy and many other systems of thought, the common people, unable to perceive his transcendental character, thought him to be a mere logician or rhetoritician. At this time Thakura Bhaktivinoda gave a lecture to the British – Indian Society concerning the evolution of matter through the material mode of goodness. He would show more respect to the school of Christian theology than to that of Hindu monotheism and he would spend long hours comparatively studying the books of Channing, Theodore Parker, Emerson and Newman.  

  

Bhaktivinoda in Orissa

 At the close of the year 1858 Bhaktivinoda journeyed from Calcutta to Ulagrama to visit with his mother. Upon arriving there he was very aggrieved to find the changed condition of that once wealthy and populous village which was the place of his birth. As the Mohammedan soothsayer had predicted the village had become deserted as it had been visited by an epidemic which had taken away most of its residents and its opulence and grandeur which had once been a common feature of that village but was now a mere thing of the past. After seeing this, Bhaktivinoda returned to Calcutta, bringing his mother and paternal grandmother with him. Shortly after returning to Calcutta he had to set out for Orissa to be with his paternal grandfather in his last days. Thakura Bhaktivinoda’s grandfather, Rajavallabha Datta, who was a very prominent personality in Calcutta, was living as an ascetic in the countryside of Orissa. He could predict the future and knew that his days in this world were soon coming to a close. Knowing this, he made a request to his beloved grandson to come to Orissa to be with him. At the beginning of 1859 when Bhaktivinoda was 21 years of age, his grandfather departed from this world. Bhaktivinoda was with him at this time and after receiving his grandfather’s last instructions he traveled to all the monasteries and temples in the state of Orissa.

Thakura Bhaktivinoda, having now finished his education, considered as to the means of his livelihood. Although the opportunity for earning good money within the business world was there, Bhaktivinoda Thakura refrained from such means of acquiring wealth after noticing the weakness of morality among the merchants and tradesmen of that time. Without at all thinking that a wicked life full of irreligiousness and falsehood would be dependable, he considered earning a living in an honest profession such as a school teacher to be the best thing for him. Upon deciding this he traveled to the village of Chutigrama. After staying there for a few days he obtained information of a country hamlet situated quite far from the general mass of people and he got an opportunity of seeing at that place what sort of oppression and power the big landlords forced upon the ignorant and innocent citizens living there. At this time in the village of Kendrapara, not too far from Chutigrama, Bhaktivinoda established a school for English education and thus took up the profession of a school teacher. In this way he became a pioneer in introducing English education in Orissa. After some time he came to Jagannatha Puri and there in Puri, passing a teachers examination, he got the position of a teacher in a school at Cuttack and gradually, working in the position of headmaster in a high school in Bhadraka and later in Madinipura, he drew the specific attention of the school board authorities.

While residing in Bhadraka, his first son, Annada Prasada (Acyutananda) was born. At this time in 1860 Thakura Bhaktivinoda wrote one book in English titled Maths of Orissa which gave a description of and report about all the various temples and Ashramas in the state of Orissa that he had traveled to. The well known British historian Sir William Hunter in his work “Orissa” has specifically praised Bhaktivinoda’s moral and religious character in connection with this book.

  

His Investigation and Examination of the Bhakti-shastras

 While staying in Medinipura as the headmaster of the high school there, Bhaktivinoda got the opportunity of examining various descriptions of different sectarian religious duties in spiritual discussion with the members of various religious communities. In the depraved and sinful so-called religious communities which were accustomed to the usage of intoxicants and animal slaughter, etc., there was no place for the mellows of pure devotion to God. This fact Bhaktivinoda had especially perceived from their cheap character and habits. He was also able to understand through research and investigation that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was the only one to truly preach the actual religion of bhakti in Bengal. At that tine in cultured society there was not any investigation into the area of pure devotional service to Godhead. Also at that time there was not an edition of Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, the most important book for understanding Sri Caitanya’s teachings to be found anywhere. Consequently, even through much research, Thakura Bhaktivinoda was unable to collect a copy of the book.

    

His Second Marriage and Acceptance of Government Service

 At this time Thakura Bhaktivinoda’s wife passed away and in the town of Jakapura he accepted in marriage a second wife whose name was Bhagyavati devi. In the year l86l, after having given up his work in the educational system, Thakura Bhaktivinoda accepted the post of a Deputy Magistrate under the government of Bengal. After some time, having noticed the corruptness of the peons, he gave up his post as a Deputy Magistrate and was offered the position of a Collectorate Officer. During this period he established an organization called the “Bhratr Samaja”. In l863 he wrote an English book called “Our Wants” and at this time he constructed a home in Rana Ghata. In this same year of 1863, during his stay in Burdwan, the Thakura composed two very novel poems in Bengali. One was entitled Vijanagrama (a deserted village) and the other poem was called Sannyasa. The style of these two poems was highly praised and admired by many big literary men of that time. An article concerning these two poems appeared in the Calcutta Review of 1863, vol. 39 and runs as follows: “We have glanced at this little volume of Bengali verse, which we have no hesitation in recommending as suitable especially for Hindu women. We do not expect that such will read the Calcutta Review, but many, we trust, of our readers will be interested in knowing what books may be safely recommended as good in style and unexceptionable in moral tone, and with that object we intend, if duly assisted, to take an occasional survey of the field of vernacular literature.

“The Vijanagrama, the first poem in this book, is an account of the desolation of the once populous village of Ula, near Rana Ghata, in consequence of the ravages of the late epidemic. It is pleasing in style, and evidently on model of Goldsmith; and we would rather see a Bengali using his English studies to purify and improve the style of vernacular verse than find him composing imitation English epics about Porus and Alexander,

“The Sannyasi in two chapters is an abler production, and reflects much credit on the author. Of the minor poems, the description of spring, and the translation from Carlyle are very fair specimens. We hope the author will continue to give his countrymen the benefit of his elegant and unassuming pen, which is quite free from those objectionable licenses of thought and expression which abound in many dramas recently published, the want of the day is the creation of a literature for Hindu ladies; and we trust that many more educated natives will have the good sense to devote their time and abilities to the attainment of this most desirable end.”

            The rhyme and style in which those two books were written showed a complete departure from the then existing mode of writing and they gave birth to a new way of writing poetry in the Bengali language.

  

In the Post of Deputy Magistrate

 In the year 1866 Kedaranatha Bhaktivinoda was employed in the district of Chapara in the position of Deputy Register with the power of a Deputy Collector and Deputy Magistrate. At this time he became quite fluent in Persian and Urdu. At Chapara in Saran, Bhaktivinoda had to crush a clique formed against him by the tea planters for not having complied with their unjust requests. While at Saran he visited the Gautamashrama at Godana. This place attracted his attention as fit for the establishment of a school for teaching nyaya-shastra. With this object in mind, on returning to Chapara, he called a mass meeting where he delivered a speech on Gautama (The Gautama Speech, 1866) and gained the good wishes of the people of that place. Though subsequently he did not take any part himself in the movement of which he was truly speaking, his expectation was fulfilled sometime later with the public aid, and the foundation stone of the school was laid in 1883 by Sir Rivers Thompson, the then Lt. Governor of Bengal, after whom the school was named.

Also in this year of 1866, Thakura Bhaktivinoda prepared an Urdu translation of the Manual of the Registration Department (Balide Registry), of which was gladly accepted by the government and circulated throughout the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh.

Gradually from Chapara Bhaktivinoda was transferred to Purniya at Krishnaganja and in the year 1868, taking responsibility of the government and judicial departments, he was transferred from Purniya to Dinajapur in West Bengal, where he was employed as the deputy magistrate. While the Thakura was residing in Dinajapur, he received from Calcutta a copy of the Caitanya-caritamrta and the Srimad-Bhagavatam.

  

Bhaktivinoda as a Preacher of the Gaudiya Vaishnava Dharma

 Becoming attracted to the philosophy of Vaishnavism, Thakura Bhaktivinoda would read the Caitanya-caritamrta again and again and thus he became endowed with greater faith and respect for Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. In this way he applied his mind very intently to the examination and study of Vaishnava philosophy. In one place in his autobiography the Thakura has written “From this time my respect and reverence for Sri Caitanyadeva was born. That seed of faith for the Vaishnava-dharma which was implanted within my heart soon sprouted. Now I love to study the Sastras dealing with Krishna both day and night.” At this time with a pained heart he would incessantly submit his prayers to the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna and on the strength of his pure devotion, having received the mercy of the Lord, he realized the supreme majesty and power of the one and only Absolute Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna.

At this time his song about the glories of Sri Caitanya, which was titled Saccidananda- premalankara, was published. In the year 1869 at the age of 31 while the Thakura was serving as deputy magistrate under the government of Bengal in Dinajapur, he delivered a speech in the form of a treatise he had written on the subject matter of Srimad-Bhagavatam to a big congregation of the public consisting of many prominent men of letters, religion and culture who had come from many parts of India as well as some from England.

 

 The Emancipation of a Ghost

   During this time he was transferred from Dinajapura to Camparana. At the time of going from Dinajapura to Camparana, his second son, Bimala Prasada took birth. While Bhaktivinoda was residing in Camparana he noticed many people worshiping a ghost who was living in a banyan tree. These dishonest people worshipped the ghost because he had the power to change the mind of the judge in the court to give the decision to favor the person who had worshiped him and the tree. Coming to know of this, Thakura Bhaktivinoda wanted to stop this nonsense mundane worship.

One day the father of Pandita Ramabai, a famous girl scholar, came to Bhaktivinoda for alms and the Thakura at that time engaged him in reading Srimad-Bhagavatam underneath the tree where the ghost resided. After one month when the Bhagavatam was completed, the tree crashed to the ground, and the brahma-daitya [ghost] left for good. After this incident, in the hearts of many people there, faith and attraction for the Bhagavatam became manifest.

From Camparana Bhaktivinoda was transferred to Jagannatha Puri. Upon arriving in Puri he merged into the ocean or transcendental happiness, his heart being overjoyed with the ecstasy of love of Godhead.

  

The Chastisement of the Mystic Bishakishena

             In the town of Kamanale, which is located near the capital of Orissa, there lived one powerful mystic yogi named Bishakishena. By mystic power he could perform many powerful supernatural feats. He used to sit erect in front of a burning fire and rock back and forth, leaning himself into the fire and then again sitting erect. He would also manifest fire from his head. He had two companions named Brahma and Siva, and he declared that he was God himself who had come down to earth in his form of Maha-Vishnu. All the small kings of Orissa bowed down before his feet and would regularly send him money to build himself a temple. They would also send him women for his rasa-lila dances. Bishakishena declared, “I will drive away the British administration and sit on the throne as King of Orissa myself.” He sent a circular to all places in Orissa and to Minapura. The British government thought that he was plotting a political revolution against the government so the District Governor under the national Government of Bengal sent out orders to arrest the offender. He had waged war against Queen Victoria, therefore he should be prosecuted and tried in open court. But who dared to prosecute? No one had the courage to touch him and take him to the court in Jagannatha Puri. The Orissa division then was under the charge of Mr. Ravenshaw, a District Commissioner from England. Mr. Ravenshaw knew and believed in the power of Thakura Bhaktivinoda, who was then the Deputy Magistrate at Puri. He especially requested and gave him charge of the prosecution of this bogus Maha-Vishu. On the other hand, Bhaktivinoda could not get a single man to go and touch him. They were all terrified of his heavenly powers, so the Thakura went personally to arrest him. Bhaktivinoda Thakura wanted to find out what the nature of his power was. He knew that it was the power of the mundane world, so he was not in the least afraid. When Bhaktivinoda approached the yogi to arrest him, Bishakishena showed some of his supernatural power and said to Bhaktivinoda, “Ah, you are Kedaranatha Datta and you have come here to inquire about my activities, but I warn you not to disturb my activities for I am the Supreme Lord Himself!” Bhaktivinoda then replied, “My dear sir, you are a great yogi. Why are you living here, you should come with me to Jagannatha Puri where you can have the darshana of Lord Jagannatha.” To this Bishakishena angrily replied, “Why should I come to see Jagannatha? He is only a hunk of painted wood, whereas I am the Supreme Lord personally.” Bhaktivinoda became like burning fire and immediately physically arrested the rogue who had to submit to the mighty godly power of Bhaktivinoda.

            He brought Bishakishena to Puri and threw him into jail. Bhaktivinoda put three dozen Muslim constables and seventy-two police from Cuttack in charge of guarding his cell day and night. Bhaktivinoda then went to find the assumed Brahma and Shiva, but these two rascals denied their positions and said it was only done in agreement with the orders of Bishakishena. Later on they were also prosecuted by one Mr. Taylor who was the Sub-Division Officer at Kodar. Bishakishena was tried by Thakura Bhaktivinoda in his court at Puri. The trial continued for eighteen days and daily thousands of people would gather in the courtyard while the trial was going on and make loud demands for the release of Bishakishena. On the sixth day of the trial Bhaktivinoda’s second daughter, the seven year old Kadambini, became seriously ill, almost to the point of death. Many doctors attended Bhaktivinoda’s house all through the night and in the morning at about 8:00 she was well and playing in the yard. Bhaktivinoda could understand that this was an exhibition of the mundane mysticism of the demon Bishakishena upon his daughter to make him afraid of the yogi. Thakura Bhaktivinoda was undaunted and said, “Yes, let us all die, but this rascal must be punished.” That day Bishakishena expressed in the open court that he had showed his power and he would display much more power and Bhaktivinoda should be afraid of his power and should release him at once from jail

On the last day of the trial the Thakura fell very ill with a high fever and suffered as severely as his daughter did. For the whole night he was awake and in the morning, with great difficulty, he was carried to the courthouse. Upon beginning the trial he declared his final judgment that Bishakishena should be thrown in jail for eighteen months under strict imprisonment for political conspiracy. While Bishakishena was being removed from the court, Doctor Walter, the District Medical Officer jumped on Bishakishena from behind and with a large pair of scissors cut off all his long hair upon which Bishakishena’s power depended. Bishakishena had not taken food or a drop of water during the eighteen days of the trial so as soon as his hair was removed he fell to the ground like a dead man without any power in his body, not even enough to walk. He had to be taken on a stretcher to the jail. After three months he was moved to the central jail at Midnapura where he took poison and died in the year 1873. By this pastime Thakura Bhaktivinoda and the energy of Lord Caitanya proved that any earthly aggrandizement or power cannot stand before the godly divine power of a pure devotee of the Lord.

    

Bhaktivinoda as a Composer of Vaishnava Literature

             Between the years 1874 and 1893 Thakura Bhaktivinoda wrote several books in Sanskrit such as Sri Krishna-samhita, Tattva-sutra, and Tattva-viveka which was sometimes known as Sac-cid-anandaubhuti. He also wrote many books in Bengali such as his Kalyana-kalpataru and besides those, in the year 1874 he composed his famous Sanskrit work Datta-kaustubham. Much of his time was spent in seclusion chanting the Holy Name of Krishna with great faith and love.

            Always anxious to use every moment in loving service of Krishna, he followed a strict austere daily schedule:

8-10 P.M.  Rest (two hours)

10-4 A.M. Write

4-4:30 A.M. Rest

4:30-7 A.M. Chant Japa

7-7:30       Correspondence

7:30-9:30     Study sastras

9:30-10       Bath, prasadam (half-liter milk, fruit, 2 chapatis)

10-1 P.M.    Court Duties

1-2 P.M.     Refresh at home

2-5 P.M     Court Duties

  

Establishing the Bhagavata-samsat

             During this time while the Thakura was living in Puri he arranged for the discussion and study of topics dealing with Krishna by establishing a society of devotees known as the Bhagavata-samsat in the Jagannatha-vallabha gardens. These gardens were formerly the place of bhajana [singing of devotional songs for meditation on the Lord] for the great soul Ramananda Raya. At this time in Puri within that society, many great Vaishnavas had assembled. Only the Vaishnava named Ragunatha dasa Babaji, who was well known as Siddha Purusha, had not joined.

  

Lord Jagannatha’s Order in a Dream to Raghunatha dasa Babaji

 Due to lack of acquaintance with the Bhagavata-samasat and because Thakura Bhaktivinoda at that time did not wear the twelve Vaishnava tilaka markings or Tulasi beads on his neck, Raghunatha dasa Babaji would not come to the meetings of this Vaishnava society. Besides all this, he requested all the Vaishnavas to refrain from conversing with Bhaktivinoda about Krishna. He did not consider Bhaktivinoda to be a trained devotee. Within a few days this Raghunatha dasa Babaji became afflicted with a deathly illness. One night in a dream Lord Jagannatha appeared to Raghunatha dasa and told him to go and pray for the mercy of Bhaktivinoda Thakura if he at all wanted release from his certain death. Upon awakening the Babaji went to Bhaktivinoda and falling at his feet begged for the Thakura’s forgiveness for all his offenses. Bhaktivinoda then relieved him of his disease with some special medicines and relieved him of his spiritual disease by bestowing his blessings. Ever since that time Raghunatha dasa was able to perceive the true Vaishnava qualities of Bhaktivinoda Thakura. This shows that a Vaishnava cannot be recognized by mere outward dress or markings, nor do such always indicate someone as a pure Vaishnava. The purity is in the content of one’s character. 

  

Sri Svarupa Dasa Babaji

 In Jagannatha Puri there lived one babaji named Svarupa dasa. He would perform his bhajana at the place called Satasana, which was located along the ocean-side. Svarupa dasa Babaji with all his heart would show great affection for Bhaktivinoda and he incessantly gave him instructions on the bhajana of the Holy Name.

  

The Story of Carana dasa Babaji

 Carana dasa Babaji was printing bogus books and preaching among the common people of Bengal doctrines which were not in accordance with the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He preached that one should chant the Hare Krishna Mahamantra in japa [personal chanting meditation] and nitai gaura radhe syama Hare Krishna Hare Rama in kirtana [congregational chanting in song]. In this way he murdered the mahamantra. It took a very long time for Bhaktivinoda Thakura to bring Carana dasa Babaji to his senses. When that Carana dasa finally came to understand his own mistake he fell at the lotus feet of Thakura Bhaktivinoda and said, “How could it be possible for me to rectify all the wrongs I have done. I have gone to every village in Bengal and have gotten entire villages to chant this nonsense mantra. I feel there is no hope for me.” Six months later he became crazy and mad and finally died in great distress.

  

The Establishment of the ‘Bhakti-mandapa’ in the Jagannatha Temple

 Lord Jagannatha had brought the Thakura to Puri, attracting him on the pretext of government work, just to accept the loving service of this worthy servant. His stay in Jagannatha Puri became transformed into service to the Lord by accepting the post of manager of the Jagannatha Temple. He became a strong faction of the government for removing the malpractices and the want of regularity in the deity worship of the Jagannatha Temple. The Thakura’s heart being very much attracted to the divine lila [pastimes] of Lord Jagannatha, he became very devoted to His service.

In the courtyard of the Jagannatha Temple, where the footprints of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu are preserved, Thakura Bhaktivinoda established the ‘Bhakti-mandapa’ and at that place he arranged for daily discourses on Srimad-Bhagavatam to take place.

At various celebrated Gaudiya Vaishnava tirthas, specifically at places like the Tota Gopinatha Temple, the samadhi tomb of Haridasa Thakura, the Sidddha Bakula tree and the Gambhira [where Sri Caitanya lived in Puri], Bhaktivinoda would spend long hours absorbed in discussing Krishna-katha [talks of Krishna] and chanting the Holy Names of the Lord. During his stay at Puri Bhaktivinoda devoted much of his time to discussion of religious works and he prepared notes on the Vedanta-sutras, the use of which was made by Sri Syamalala Gosvami in the edition which he published with the Govinda Bhasya of Baladeva Vidyabhushana.

  

The Appearance of an Acharya

             In a large house adjacent the Narayana Chata Matha near the famous Jagannatha-vallabha Gardens in Jagannatha Puri on the fifth day of the dark fortnight of Magha [January-February] in the year 1874, the fourth son of Bhaktivinoda took birth. The Thakura named him Bimala Prasada and later on he would be known as Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, the powerful acharya of the Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya and the founder of the Gaudiya Matha. Two years previous to his birth the third son of Bhaktivinoda, Kamala Prasada, took his birth.

  

The Story of the King of Puri

 In l874 eighty-thousand rupees from the Jagannatha Temple had been misappropriated by the Raja of Puri for his own enjoyment. Thakura Bhaktivinoda found out about this nonsense and forced the Raja to give Lord Jagannatha bhoga prasada fifty-two times a day. Because of this the Raja’s money was soon diminished to nothing and he was extremely angry at this action that Bhaktivinoda took on him. He wanted to kill the Thakura but he saw that it was not possible to kill him by ordinary means. Intent on killing Bhaktivinoda somehow, the Raja then began to perform of fire yajna [ritual] with fifty learned panditas. The yajna was being performed in the inner compartments of his palace so that the public did not find out about this attempt on the life of Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Still, everyday information was coming to Bhaktivinoda about the measures that the Raja was taking to kill him. After thirty days of yajnas, when the last oblation of ghee was being poured on the fire, Thakura Bhaktivinoda was to have died at that moment, but instead the Raja’s dear and only son died within the palace when the last oblation had been offered.

  

Bhaktivinoda Returns to Bengal

 Taking leave from Jagannatha Puri on special business, Thakura Bhaktivinoda returned to Bengal and there visited many places such as Navadvipa, Shantipura and Kalana. After his leave was over he put in charge of the sub-division Mahisharekha in the district of Naora. After that he was transferred to Bhadraka. In August of 1878 the Thakura was put in charge of the subdivision of Naraila in the district of Yashohar. 

  

Sri Krishna-samhita and Kalyana-kalpataru

 While the Thakura was residing in Naraila his two famous books, Sri Krishna-samhita and Kalyana-kalpataru were published. Bhaktivinoda’s Sri Krishna-samhita is such a profound and deeply moving work that it even attracted the attention of highly educated men of far-off lands. The famous European Sanskrit scholar Dr. Reinhold Rost, in a letter dated April l6, 1880, wrote to Thakura Bhaktivinoda the following; “By representing Krishna’s character and his worship in a more sublime and transcendental light than has hitherto been the custom to regard him in, you have rendered an essential service to your co-religionists, and no one would have taken more delight in your work than Goldstucker, the sincerest and most zealous advocate the Hindus ever had in Europe.”

In India many panditas and educated men, having read Bhaktivinoda’s Sri Krishna-samhita and Kalyana-kalpataru, became endowed with great faith for the Vaishnava-dharma and highly praised the Thakura for his work. The lines of Kalyana-kalpataru are extremely moving and decorated with the devotional ecstasies for a highly exalted soul who is absorbed in alloyed devotion to God.

In the year 1877 Thakura Bhaktivinoda’s fifth son, Varada Prasada, took birth. In 1878 the Thakura’s sixth son, Viraja Prasada, was born. Both of them appeared at Rana Ghata.

  

Acceptance of Pancharatrika Initiation

 Although Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura is an eternally liberated associate of the Supreme Lord, still, for setting an ideal example of a human being, he accepted formal Vaishnava initiation.

According to the Vedic shastras one who has come to the human form of life must accept initiation from a bonafide guru spiritual master if one at all desires to cross the ocean of birth and death. By taking Vaishnava initiation from the acharya and executing his instructions one’s eternal spiritual consciousness is easily revived.

Taking the ideal example of Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, the great servant of Lord Gaurasundara, Bhaktivinoda Thakura formally accepted Pancharatrika initiation from a descendant of the Jahnava family of Baghnapara. This Vaishnava family line is coming from Srimati Jahnava devi, the wife of Lord Nityananda.

At this time the Thakura’s seventh son, Lalita Prasada, took his birth at Rana Ghata.

In Naraila there were many people who had adopted the Vaishnava dharma and at this time when Bhaktivinoda was living there they would seek his association quite frequently. They could not ascertain who was a pure Vaishnava and who was not. So the Thakura would instruct them on the chanting of the Holy Name and he gave them the understanding of what was pure devotion and what was mixed devotion.

From the year 1881 the Thakura began publishing his Vaishnava journal, the Sajjanatosani which proclaimed the divine teachings of Sri Caitanya to all parts of Bengal. 

  

Pilgrimage to Vraja Mandala and the Checking of the Nanjhara Bandits

 Previously in 1866 Bhaktivinoda had gotten out for a pilgrimage to Kashi, Prayaga, Mathura and Vrindavana. So now at the close of his stay at Naraila he desired to again see the land of Vraja Bhumi Vrindavana. Desiring in this way he set out on a three-month pilgrimage to the holy place. In Vrindavana at this time there were many Gaudiya Vaishnavas residing there, amongst whom Jagannatha dasa Babaji was most prominent. He lived in his old age, six months in Vrindavana and six months in Navadvipa. When Thakura Bhaktivinoda went to Vrindavana he obtained his first meeting with this greatly learned Vaishnava who he accepted as his eternally worshipable gurudeva.

While traveling to various holy spots in the Vraja area such as Radha Kunda and Govardhana, Bhaktivinoda came to know of the oppressive and wicked acts of a band of dacoits known as the Manjharas. These wicked men would spread all over the roads of the Vraja area and would rob and murder innocent pilgrims to gain their own selfish ends. Through the Thakura’s undaunted will and untiring labor for several months the whole fact was brought to the notice of the Government and a special Commissioner was appointed to crush the activities of these powerful bandits. The result was wonderful and the name of the Manjharas has forever been extirpated from the face of the earth. By this noble act Bhaktivinoda Thakura protected all of the residents of Vraja Dhama from further disturbances.

  

The Establishing of Bhakti-bhavana in Calcutta

 From Vraja Mandala Thakura Bhaktivinoda came to Calcutta where he purchased a house near Bidana Park at 181 Maniktala Street (the present day name is Ramesa Datta Street). He called this house ‘Bhakti-bhavana’ and it was here that he established the daily worship of Sri Giridhariji. At the end of his leave from government service he was again transferred and this time he took charge of the sub-division of Barasat.

 

 The Story of Bankima Chandra

             At this time when Bhaktivinoda was staying at Barasat he met the well-known Bengali novelist Bankima Chandra, who at that time had just finished writing a book about Krishna. Bankima Chandra wanted to take this opportunity to show his work to Bhativinoda Thakura, who he knew was an authority on all subjects dealing with Krishna as well as an expert writer. This book was full of Europeanized ideas and speculations and stated that Krishna was just a mundane person with some good qualities. For four straight days, taking very little food and hardly any sleep, Bhaktivinoda put forth arguments with shastric references, and in this way solidly proved and convinced Bankima Chandra to change his ideas and his book to agree with the divine teachings of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Thakura Bhaktivinoda use to say, “Knowledge is power”.

 

 Bhaktivinoda Publishes the Gita with Visvanatha Cakravartis Tika

             In 1886, the last year of his stay at Barasat, the Thakura, at the request of Babu Sarada Carana Mitra, ex-judge of the Calcutta High Court, undertook the task of publishing a good edition of the Srimad-Bhagavad-gita with the Sanskrit commentary of Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura and his own Bengali translation called Rasika-ranjana. When published, this work was received by the public with the greatest delight and all the copies were soon exhausted. Bankima Chandra wrote the preface to this edition and acknowledged his own indebtedness to Bhaktivinoda with the remark that all Bengali readers will be very much indebted to the Thakura for his saintly work.

  

More Literary Productions

             From Barasat Bhaktivinoda was transferred to Sriramapura. While residing here Thakura Bhaktivinoda visited the residence of the great associate of Lord Nityananda, Srila Uddharana Datta Thakura at Saptagrama. He also visited the place of Abhirama Thakura at Khanakula and the seat of another great devotee of Lord Caitanyadeva, Vasu Ramananda at Kulinagrama.

            Here at Sriramapura he composed and published his masterly writing of Sri Caitanya-sikshamrita, Vaishnava-siddhanta-mala, Prema-pradipa and Manah-shiksha, etc. During this time he was also publishing the Sajjanato on a regular basis. In Calcutta during this period, the Thakura established a printing press at Bhakti-bhavana which he called ‘Sri Caintanya Yantra’. This he established for the preaching of pure Hari bhakti by publishing Vaishnava literature. On that press Bhaktivinoda printed many books such as the famous Sri Krishna-vijaya by Maladhara, his own Amnaya-sutra and the Caitanyopanishad of the Atharva Veda.

            In Bengal this Caitanyopanishad was very rare and hardly anyone had ever heard of it. In search of this book, Thakura Bhaktivinoda traveled to many places in Bengal. Hearing of his search, one devoted Vaishnava pandita named Madhusudana dasa, who had in his possession one old manuscript of the book, immediately sent it to the Thakura from his place at Sambalapura. By the request of the Vaishnava community, the Thakura wrote a Sanskrit commentary on the book and called it Sri Caitanya-caranamrita. Madhusudana dasa Mahasaya also did a Bengali translation of the verses of Caitanyopanishad and called the translation Amrita-bindu. After Bhaktivinoda brought out the first printing of Caitanyopanishad, the copies were soon exhausted.

            With the encouragement of a few devotees, Thakura Bhaktivinoda, in the heart of Calcutta, established a society which he named Sri Visva Vaishnava Sabha. This society was set up for the preaching of the pure religion of bhakti as taught by Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu. To acquaint the public with the functions and aims of the society, the Thakura published a small booklet entitled Visva-vaishnava-kalpatavi. During this period the Thakura brought out an edition of the Caitanya-caritamrita with his own Bengali commentary, called Amrta-pravaha Bhasya. At this same time he also introduced the Caitanyabda or the Caitanya era by which one calculates the year date beginning from the appearance of Lord Caitanya just as in the Christian world the year date is calculated from the birth of Jesus Christ. Thakura Bhaktivinoda also gave much assistance in the propagating of the Vaishnava almanac known as Caitanya Panjika. The appearance day celebration of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the principle fast day in the Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya and is now observed with great respect. This was made possible by the Thakura’s sincere efforts in the matter during this time in Calcutta.

            Giving lectures and readings on books like Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu is various Vaishnava societies, Thakura Bhaktivinoda gave the chance for the seed of pure devotion to grow in many people’s hearts. He published in the Hindu Herald, an English periodical, a detailed account of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s life. At this time the learned society of Vaishnavas gave Kedaranatha Datta the title of ‘Bhaktivinoda Thakura’ and from that time onward he has been known by that name.

  

The Revelation in a Dream to Bhaktivinoda Thakura

For the Discovery of Sri Caitanya’s Birth Site

              In the year 1887 Thakura Bhaktivinoda thought within himself, “Quickly taking leave from government service I will go to some forest in Vraja on the sandy banks of the Yamuna and perform bhajans with Bhaktibhringa Mahashaya till the end of life.” In this way the Thakura continuously reflected within himself this desire.

            One time on some government service he went to the town of Tarakeshvara. There in Tarakeshvara one night Bhaktivinoda had a dream in which the Supreme Lord in his form as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared to him and spoke. The Lord said to Bhaktivinoda, “You will certainly go to Vrindavana, but first there is some service you must perform in Navadvipa, so what will you do about that?” Upon saying this, the Lord disappeared and the Thakura awoke. Bhaktibhringa Mahasaya, upon being told of the dream by Bhaktivinoda, advised the Thakura to apply for a government transfer to the district heardquarters at Krishnanagara, which was right near Navadvipa. The Thakura made great endeavors to get a transfer to the land of Lord Caitanya and to gain this end he even declined to accept the offers of the personal assistant to the Chief Commissioner of Assam and the office of the Minister of Tiperrah State. He even applied to the government for pension with a view to retire from government service, but the application was not accepted. Thus failing in his efforts to be relieved of his official duties, he at last arranged in December of 1887 a mutual exchange with the Deputy Magistrate of Krishnanagara, Babu Radha Madhava Vasu and thus went to Krishnanagara to execute his mission given to him by the Lord.

 

 The Discovery of Sridhama Mayapura

 While stationed at Krishnanagara Thakura Bhaktivinoda would go again and again to the present day city of Navadvipa and search in various places for the birth site of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

One time, in the dead of night, Bhaktivinoda sat on the roof of the Rani Dharmashala in Navadvipa chanting the Holy Name on his beads and as he looked out toward the north he spotted a very tall Tala tree with some very strange substance attached to it. Near the tree was a small building which gave off a remarkable effulgence. Seeing this vision, the Thakura became extremely eager to find the true place of Mahaprabhu’s appearance. With this in mind he went to the Krishnanagara Collectory where he began to study some very old manuscripts of Caitanya-bhagavata and Narahari Sarakara Thakura’s Navadvipa Dhama Parikrama as well as some old maps of the district of Nadia. Going to the nearby village and inquiring from many of the elderly people there, Bhaktivinoda came to know of many facts about the modern-day town of Navadvipa and the old Navadvipa on the eastern banks of the Bhagirathi River. After this, through much research and endeavor, Thakura Bhaktivinoda was able to understand that the place he had seen that night on the roof of the dharmashala was the actual site of Sri Caitanya’s birth. The year was 1887 and this discovery was a shining landmark in the history of Vaishnavism in India. Thakura Bhaktivinoda had brought to light the divine place of Caitanya’s birth and his discovery was confirmed by Jagannatha dasa Babaji, the then religious head of the Gaudiya Vaishnava community in Nadia. On that eventful day thousands of visitors were present at the spot where a grand Vaishnava festival was held. Jagannatha dasa Babaji was so old at the time that he had to be brought there carried in a basket. He could not walk but once he came in contact with the spiritual atmosphere at Sri Caitanya’s birthplace, he literally jumped in the air in ecstasy, confirming the significance of the location. The result of this discovery was the production of a book by Bhaktivinoda entitled Navadvipa Dhama Mahatmya.

  

The Sweeper of Nama Hatta

 Earlier in 1887 when Thakura Bhaktivinoda first came to Nadia as magistrate, he again met Jagannatha dasa Babaji who was then living in a very old house at Ravasghata. Bhaktivinoda renewed the house and repaired it using his own money. When he took leave from office for two years, he acquired a plot of land at Sri Godrumadvipa, commonly known as Svarupaganja. On that land he built a house for performing his bhajana after retirement from government service. He called the place ‘Surabhi Kunja’ and in the year 1890 he established at that place the ‘Nama Hatta’ (market place of the Holy Name) for preaching the glories of Harinama for the welfare of all. Jagannatha dasa Babaji sometimes came to stay there and have kirtana. Previously Lord Nityananda had established His Nama Hatta at this same place in Godruma. Therefore, out of humbleness, the Thakura always considered himself a mere street sweeper of the Nama Hatta of Lord Nityananda.

After the discovery of Mahaprabhu’s birth place at Mayapura, Jagannatha dasa Babaji and Thakura Bhaktivinoda began worshiping Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu there. Once one of the Thakura’s young sons was suffering from a skin disease and Jagannatha dasa Babaji told the boy to lie down at the birth site of Lord Caitanya. The boy followed his instructions and the next day he was cured.

As he was not keeping good health at Krishnanagara, Bhaktivinoda requested the government to transfer him to a good healthy station. Thus in the winter of 1888 he took charge of the village of Netrakona in the district of Mayamanasimha. From Netrakona he came to Tangaila and from there he was transferred to the district of Vardhamana.

 

 In the District of Vardhamana

 At the time when Bhaktivinoda was staying in Vardhamana he would have kirtana with the devotees of Amalajora headed by Ksetra Babu and Vipina Babu. After composing his kirtana poems like Soka-satana, he would have them sing the poems in their kirtans.

In June of l890, having been put in charge of the sub-division of Kalana, Bhaktivinoda would often go visiting many various holy places in Bengal such as his place in Godrumadvipa, the city of Navadvipa, Capahata, Samudragara, Cupi, Kasthasali, Idrakapura, Baghanapara, the place of Nakula Brahmacari at Piyariganja and the place of Vrindavana dasa Thakura at Denura. After his stay at Vardhamana, Bhaktivinoda was transferred for a few days to Ranaganja from where he again came to Dinajapura.

  

In Dinajapura

 In Dinajapura Bhaktivinoda’s youngest son, Sailaja Prasada, was born. When Bhaktivinoda was stationed in Dinajapura he took up writing his Vidvad-ranjana commentary and translation of the Bhagavad-gita and in 1891 he published it along with the Sanskrit commentary of

Srila Baladeva Vidyabushana.

  

Preaching of the Holy Name

 In 1891 Thakura Bhaktivinoda took leave from government duties for two years with the aim of preaching Harinama [the chanting of the Lord’s Holy Names, such as Hare Krishna] for the benefit of all souls. During that time he made his base of activities for Nama Hatta in Sri Godrumadvipa. He visited places such as Ghatala and Ramajivanapur and in those places he lectured in many different societies, clubs and organizations. With great enthusiasm he continued his word for the Nama Hatta by lecturing on the Holy Name and the teachings of Sri Caitanya in many highly respectable societies in Krishnanagara. In March of 1892 the Thakura, accompanied by several other Vaishnavas preached the Holy Name in different places in the Basirahata district of Bengal. As, on the one hand, he was busy with his pen, so on the other he was equally engaged in preaching Harinama and Vaishnava philosophy by making circuits of several districts. He opened many branches of Nama Hatta in different districts of Bengal to preach Harinama regularly, and the names of God rang loudly everywhere in the ears of the people. It was a grand project and it proved a great success, for the tide continued for many years, even long after the period when the Thakura was called back by the government to perform his responsible public duties and when he could himself devote little attention to his own mission, in spite of his strong desire to do so.

From the district of Rasirahata, Thakura Bhaktivinoda set out on his third trip to Vrindavana and along the way he stopped in Amalajora to celebrate the Ekadashi day with Jagannatha dasa Babaji. Upon reaching Vraja Mandala, Thakura Bhaktivinoda, in great ecstasy, visited all the forests and places of Lord Krishna’s pastimes, such as Bilvavana, Bhandiravana, Manasa-sarovara, Gokula, Madhuvana, Talavana, Kumudavana, Shantanu Kunda, Bahulavana, Giriraja Govardhana, Radha Kunda and Syama Kund, etc. From Vrindavana Bhaktivinoda returned to his Bhakti-bhavana in Calcutta and from there he began to give lectures and readings on the Holy Name of Krishna in various places.

In April of 1893, at the request of Sir Henry Cotton, the then Chief Secretary to the Government of Bengal, Bhaktivinoda rejoined the office at Sasarama where he had to tide over a political difficulty, which then appeared in the province, in quelling disturbances which arose out of animosity between the Hindus and Muslims for the killing of cows by the latter. He had to try that case under difficult circumstances but finally he obtained thanks from the Lieutenant Governor and was reposted to Krishnanagara during the winter of that year.

  

Establishing the Deities of Gaura and Vishnu Priya at the Yogapitha

 In February of 1891 during Thakur Bhaktivinoda’s leave from official duties, he was invited to speak in Krishnanagara before a large congregation of highly learned men from various places in Bengal. He gave a lecture concerning his investigation and research into the actual site of Sri Caitanya’s birth place at Sri Mayapura. After hearing his discourse they all became extremely delighted and unanimously applauded the Thakura for his noble work. Out of that assembly the Sri Navadvipa Dhama Pracarini Sabha was formed for spreading the glories of Navadvipa Dhama and Sridhama Mayapura. Later on that year, on the full moon appearance day of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, a large sankirtana festival was held in which the deities of Lord Caitanya and Vishnu Priya [Sri Caitanya’s wife] were installed at Mahaprabhu’s birth site. The installation was held with great pomp and splendor and thousands of Vaishnavas attended from all parts of India. At this time all the learned panditas of the Navadvipa area, considering all of Bhaktivinoda’s evidence, accepted beyond a doubt that this was the true place of Sri Caitanya’s appearance.

 

 At Surabhi Kunj in Godruma

  In October of 1894, at the age of fifty-six, Thakura Bhaktivinoda, against the wishes of his family and the government authorities, retired from his post as Deputy Magistrate. He felt it was too much of an inconvenience on his work of preaching the Holy Name and the glories of Sridhama Mayapura. After his retirement, he came to stay at Surabhi Kunj in Godruma from where he engaged himself in preaching the divine philosophy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. At this time he revised his old writings and gave to our hands the highest form of ideas that a man can have of the knowledge of the Supreme Being. He devoted himself to Harinam without any break, avoiding the influence of materialism and the hypnotism of Maya. He was living at Navadvipa and sometimes in Calcutta writing his books. While in Calcutta he went from door to door determined to beg a rupee from each and every Hindu gentleman for the noble purpose of building a temple for Lord Gaura and Vishnu Priya at the Yogapitha in Mayapura. His efforts were a success and he then arranged for the construction of a magnificent temple at the birth site of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

  

Preaching the Holy Name in Tripura

 In July of 1896 Bhaktivinoda traveled to the mountainous state of Tripura by the strong desire of the king of that state who was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Bhaktivinoda stayed in the capital of Tripura for four days and preached the glories of the Holy Name to the people there. On the first day he lectured on the eternal principle of bhakti and the true spiritual form of the Holy Name of Krishna. His lecture was full of deep philosophical thoughts and innumerable and unheard of before Vedic evidence supporting all his points. Upon hearing this lecture all the panditas and highly learned gentlemen present were stunned with amazement and they could now easily perceive the transcendental beauty of Hari-bhakti and the Harinama. On the next two days there the royal family and the general public obtained great ecstasy by hearing the Thakura speak on the pastimes of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

  

Sri Caitanya’s Teachings Reach the West

 Returning from Tripura to his Nama Hatta work in Godruma, Bhaktivinoda Thakura began to execute his preaching work by going to all the villages in the vicinity of Calcutta and Kumara Hatta chanting the Holy Names. At this time in 1896, in a pioneering spirit, he sent the teachings of Sri Caitanya beyond the tiny borders of India and to the West in the form of a small booklet he had written in Sanskrit called Sri Gauranga-lila-smarana-mangala-stotram. It had a Sanskrit commentary by a renowned pandita of Nadia, Srila Sitikantha Vacaspati, and for English knowing people the book contained an introduction in English called Caitanya Mahaprabhu, His Life and Precepts. This booklet found its way into the library of McGill College in Canada, the library of Royal Asiatic Society of London, and a few other highly respectable institutions. The following remarks appeared in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of London: “Under the title of Sri Gauranga-lila-smarana-mangala-stotram, the well-known Vaishnava Sri Kedaranatha Bhaktivinoda, M.R.A.S. has published a poem in Sanskrit on the life and teachings of Caitanya. It is accompanied with a commentary, also in Sanskrit, in which the subject further elucidated is preceded by an introduction of sixty-three pages in English in which the doctrines taught by Caitanya are set out in somewhat full detail. This position, and more especially as against Shanka and the Advaita Vedantists, is explained at length. The little volume will aid our knowledge of this remarkable reformer and we express our thanks to Bhaktivinoda for giving it to us in English and Sanskrit rather than in Bengali, in which language it must necessarily have remained a closed book to European students of the religious life in India.”

The Thakura’s Caitanya Mahaprabhu, His Life and Precepts, though in itself a small work, continued to be admired by the western thinkers and writers. This is evident from the following comments made by the erudite European scholar Mr. R. W. Fraser, late of the Madras Civil Service.

“Five hundred years have passed away since the time Caitanya spread a faith in the saving grace of Krishna throughout the land, nevertheless to the present day, the same spirit that inspired Caitanya continues still to dwell among his followers.

“In an interesting account of the life and precepts of Caitanya lately published by his devout and aged follower, Sri Kedarnatha Datta Bhaktivinoda, it can be read how this spirit preserves its vitality undiminished amid the changes that are sweeping over the land. This exponent of the hopes of the present followers of the teachings of Caitanya declares his firm faith, that from a devoted love to Krishna, a love like that of a girl for a loved one, shown by constant repetition of His name, by ecstatic raptures, singing, calm contemplation and fervour, a movement will yet take place to draw to the future church of the world ‘all classes of men, without distinction of caste or clan to the highest cultivation of the spirit. This church it appears, will extend all over the world, and take the place of all sectarian churches which exclude outsiders from the precincts of the mosque, church or temple.

“The spirit that is to animate this new church is to be found on the principle that ‘spiritual cultivation is the main object of life. Do everything that keeps it and abstain from doing anything which thwarts the cultivation of the spirit.’ A devoted love to Krishna is to be the guiding light, as preached by Caitanya. Have a strong faith that Krishna alone protects and none else. Admit him as your only guardian. Do everything which you know Krishna wishes you to do and never think that you do a thing independent of the holy wish of Krishna. Do all you do with humility. Always remember that you are a sojourner in the world, and you must be prepared for your own home.’”

“The simple piety of this latest preacher of the teachings of Caitanya holds that Caitanya showed His character, and preached to the world the purest morality as an accompaniment of spiritual improvement. Morality as a matter of course will grace the character of a bhakta or one who has faith.” 

During the rainy season of 1896, because of the wish of the Maharaja of Tripura, Thakura Bhaktivinoda spent some days preaching in Darjiling and Karsiyam.

In 1897 the Thakura traveled and preached in many villages and towns such as Medinapura and Sauri. In this way, by spreading Sri Caitanya’s message, Thakura Bhaktivinoda was delivering the people of Bengal from the darkness of materialism and atheistic philosophies.

  

Sisira Kumara Ghosa Obtains the Mercy of Thakura Bhaktivinoda

 Mahatma Sisira Kumara Ghosa, founder of the Amrita Bazaar Patrika and author of Sri Amiya Nimai-carita, had a great respect and reverence for Thakura Bhaktivinoda and regarded him as a true Vaishnava mahajana. Having read some of the Thakura’s books such as Sri Krishna-samhita, he became very attracted to the pure devotional mood of Bhaktivinoda. Because of a letter he had received from Bhaktivinoda while the Thakura was living in Puri and because of getting the opportunity of Bhaktivinoda’s personal association, Sisira Kumara Ghosa came to accept Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as his one and only Lord. Inspired by Thakura Bhaktivinoda, Sisira Kumara Ghosa, in great eagerness, would preach the glories of the Holy Name throughout Calcutta and in many villages throughout Bengal. His journal, Sri Vishnu Priya O Ananda Basar Patrika, was first published under the editorship of Bhaktivinoda. Sisira Kumara Ghosa had such a high regard for Bhaktivinoda that he wrote in one of his letters to the Thakura: “I have not seen the six Gosvamis of Vrindavana but I consider you to be the seventh Gosvami.”

  

Constructing the Bhakti Kuti at Puri

 At the beginning of the twentieth century Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura returned to Jagannatha Puri. When his son, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, was residing at Puri as a naisthika brahmacari [completely celibate brahmana] and was engaged in his bhajana at the Gandharvika Giridhari Math, one of the seven mathas near the samadhi tomb of Haridasa Thakura, Bhaktivinoda, for helping his son’s worship, had this monastery repaired and cleaned. When Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati left Puri to reside at Sri Navadvipa Mayapura, Bhaktivinoda gave up all connection with the Gandharvika Giridhari Matha and constructed his own place of bhajana on the sea beach there. He called this place Bhakti Kuti. At this time the Lord sent the Thakura a nice assistant and disciple in the form of Sri Krishnadasa Baba. He became very dear to Bhaktivinoda Thakura and was the Thakura’s constant attendant right up till the last moment of Bhaktivinoda’s life. Manifesting at Puri, his place of bhajan at Navadvipa, Svananda Sukhada Kunja, the Thakura would perform his bhajana in solitude. At this time many impious men tried to disturb him, but happily their efforts proved futile. Many good souls got spiritual inspirations from him and were saved. Men of all description visited him there, but none went away without receiving the Thakura’s blessings.

  

Sir William Duke

 In the year 1908 just three months before Thakura Bhaktivinoda took sannyasa, one of his sons, who at that time was working at the writer’s building in Calcutta, came home one day and informed his father that Sir William duke, who was the Chief Secretary to the governor, was in Calcutta. Thakura Bhaktivinoda had worked under this gentleman when he was a magistrate. The next day Bhaktivinoda made an appointment with him and went down to the writer’s building to see him. Just outside the building Sir William Duke met Thakura Bhaktivinoda personally and taking him into his office with folded hands, he made a plea to the Thakura: “My dear Kedaranatha, when you were District Magistrate I wanted to take you out of the office. I thought that if there were many men as qualified as yourself in Bengal, then the English would have to leave.” Sir William Duke used to read the judgments that Thakura Bhaktivinoda would make on his court cases and he always became amazed. He would also come to the house of Thakura Bhaktivinoda and study his actions. He saw that he was always writing. At that time he was writing the Caitanya-siksamrita. Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s wife, Bhagyavati, would feed Sir William Duke with puris, luchi and sweets every time he came to their house. William Duke was always so amazed at how Bhaktivinoda was so active.

In this way Sir William Duke admitted that he wanted to do some harm to Bhaktivinoda without letting the Thakura know, but now he was begging for the Thakura’s forgiveness. The English custom is that when a man becomes aged he would approach anyone who he had committed some offense to beg their pardon so that when he died he could pass away very peacefully. After Thakura Bhaktivinoda heard this apology he said, “I consider you to be a good friend and well-wisher all along.” The Thakura admitted later that he was astonished that this man was seeking the opportunity to harm him. Because of Sir William Duke’s noble and honest conduct Thakura Bhaktivinoda became very much pleased with him and gave William Duke all his blessings.

  

Accepting the Dress of a Paramahamsa Sannyasa

 In 1908 Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura formally accepted the dress of a paramahamsa by taking sannyasa at the place in Jagannatha Puri known called Satasana. At this time he was still writing some books and staying sometimes in Navadvipa and sometimes in Calcutta.

In the year 1910, for being constantly engaged in the service of the Divine Couple of Vraja Dhama [Sri Sri Radha-Krishna], the Thakura shut himself up, pretending to be afflicted with paralysis, and entered into a perfect state of samadhi. These days were very happy for him as he could thus shun the turmoil and bustle which are the concomitant parts of worldly existence.

  

His Disappearance and Entrance into the Eternal Pastimes of the Lord

On the day of the commencement of the sun’s southern course, June 23, 1914, corresponding to the disappearance of Sri Gadadhara Pandita, just before noon in Jagannatha Puri, the dearly beloved of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura, having satisfied himself that his mission bore at least some good to the world, departed from this mundane plane for his eternal services to Radha and Krishna in the divine realm of Sri Vrindavana Dhama located far beyond the tiny vision of the conditioned souls of this world.

Thakura Bhaktivinoda’s samadhi ceremony was delayed till the sun began its northern course. At that time his last remains were placed at his home in Godruma in the midst of sankirtana of the Holy Name. It was a pleasant clear day and a grand Vaishnava festival was held with the greatest solemnity in which thousands took part and the Thakura’s divine presence amidst them was perceived by all.

  

The Divine Character of Bhaktivinoda Thakura

 By studying the character, life and literary works of a great Vaishnava acharya, one can derive deep understanding of how to lead one’s life in such a way that devotion to God becomes manifest in the heart. Although in the beginning of Thakura Bhaktivinoda’s life he seemed to display the activities of an ordinary mortal man, one should not wrongly think him to be so, for he is the dearly beloved associate of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna and it was by the Lord’s divine wish that he appeared on this mundane plane of existence, for the spiritual reformation of fallen humanity of the nineteenth century was in a miserable plight. There were so many off-shoots from the main stem of religion, each sect preaching its own philosophy, that people were thrown into utter confusion and did not know what the pure religion was. It then became a necessity for a leader to save the good souls who were hankering for their real welfare. To quench their thirst a bhakta-avatara was badly needed and that avatara appeared in the form of Thakura Bhaktivinoda. His religious disposition was observed from his very childhood and as he grew older he studied all the religious books of the world and appreciated the doctrines preached by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as the most sublime of all and the surest path to lead the fallen souls to the feet of God. The enlightened and cultured men of the present age have now learned to honor this most sublime philosophy which the Thakura brought to light and which would have lain buried in darkness, had he not opened their eyes.

Thakura Bhaktivinoda clearly displayed all the qualities of a pure Vaishnava and this was seen in his eagerness to always be engaged in the service of the Lord without wasting a moment. It was once remarked in 1916 by the judge of the Calcutta High Court, Sarada Carana Mitra: “I knew Thakura Bhaktivinoda intimately as a friend and a relation. Even under pressure of official work as a Magistrate in charge of a heavy sub-division he could always find time for devotional contemplation and work, and whenever I met him, our talk would turn in a few moments to the subject of bhakti and dvaitadvaita-vada and the saintly work that lay before him. Service of God is the only thing he longed for and service under the government, however honorable, was to him a clog.”

If we examine Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s daily schedule while he was staying in Jagannatha Puri we will be able to see how he was never idle and was always engaged in the service of the Lord. Between 7:30 PM and 8:00 PM the Thakura would take rest and would rise from bed just before 10:00 PM. At that time he would light his oil lamp and begin to write books up to 4:00 AM. Then he would take a little more rest and would rise just before 4:30 AM for washing his hands and face and at that time he would sit down and chant on his beads. He never showed his japa-mala to anyone and he would chant unlimited number of rounds daily. Around 7:00 AM he would dispose of all correspondence and at 7:30 he would read various highly philosophical religious books. At 8:30 if anyone came to see him they could meet him then. If no one came he would continue to read up until 9:30 during which time he would walk on the veranda of the house and think of different religious questions and solve them in his mind. Sometimes he would solve them out loud as if he were preaching to someone. From 9:30 AM to 9:45 he would take a little rest and at 9:45 he would take his morning bath and breakfast, which consisted of half a quart of milk, a couple of chapattis and some fruit. At 9:55 he would put his office dress on and go to the court in his carriage.

As a Magistrate he would wear a coat and pants. On his neck he wore six strands of double size Tulasi beads. He was very strong in his court decisions. He would decide them immediately. None could stand before him and he did not allow any humbug in his court. He would do his business and go. He would go to the court wearing those pants, his big coat, his neck beads and tilaka on his forehead. He would shave his head monthly and he never cared what anyone thought.

At 10:00 AM court would begin and he would hear between thirty to fifty cases. He would finish by 1:00 PM.

Bhaktivinoda’s capacity for work was astounding to the lawyers and Englishmen. What other Magistrates would finish in thirty to forty-five minutes, he would finish in five minutes and he would also write the judgment in detail within one or two minutes. The Englishmen over him were stunned at how he could perform this much work in such a short amount of time. They all became envious and tried to discourage him. At 1:00 PM he would come home and clean himself and become refreshed. Before 2:00 PM he would again be in the office. At 5:00 PM he would come home and take some Sanskrit religious books and dictate them in Bengali to someone. After this he would take his evening bath and meal which consisted of a little rice, a couple of chapattis and a half-quart of milk.

Bhaktivinoda worked with a pocket watch so everything he did was done on time. In this way we can see how Bhaktivinoda was always eager for the service of the Lord and was always engaged in that service despite his family and official responsibilities.

As for his quality of being charitable, it was never heard that any brahmana ever went away from his home disheartened and he who once called on him was sure to be seen meeting him again with a smiling face. He equally befriended the other castes, and especially when he preached Harinam everyone however high or low he might have been, in society or in wealth was nearest and dearest to him. He had practically no enemy in the world as he did not cherish any kind of animosity against others. Rather those who tried to be his enemy out of jealousy or with a view of thwarting him from his spiritual path were in the long run ashamed of their conduct and in most cases begged for his pardon which was never refused. His universal brotherhood made him the friend of all and he was ever eager for procuring the greatest welfare for the people of this world. Whoever once came in contact with him, could not but go without having obtained some good to himself. Thakura Bhaktivinoda was never proud and his amiable disposition was a characteristic feature in his life. He never uttered a word to anybody which could wound their feelings. He did not chastise anyone unless and until he was perfectly confident that he had a right over him to do so for his welfare, and on the other hand he who received a warning from him always thought himself gratified. He had not the least shadow of vanity and was totally devoid of a quarreling habit. He was honored and respected throughout the length and breadth of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. His profound knowledge of philosophy endeared him to all educated men and his devout bhakti made him the friend both of the highest and lowest classes of people.

In his official capacity he was always taken into confidence by the superior officers of the government, as he was himself well conversant with the policy of government. He had witnessed the hard days of the mutiny and while in office, he assisted the government in quelling all sorts of unprincipled disturbances. The Government of Bengal also on more than once occasion wanted to vest him with honors and titles, but he humbly declined the same each time, on the ground that such honors would, instead of doing good, stand against his holy mission.

From his very infancy till his last day he was a great advocate of truth and never allowed his associates to deviate from the path of duty, which he himself observed with more than strict accuracy. He avoided companies whenever he had the least suspicion of evil motives in them. He had to encounter unpleasantness on many occasions in the execution of public duty under the government, by refusing to accept any present from any person. Similar difficulties he had to face in refusing unjust requests from persons who were very dear to him. He was above corruption. Bhaktivinoda never supported the least shadow of immorality and he never crossed the threshold of any place which he knew to be immoral. He had great dislike for theatres as these were places where public women were brought in to take part in the play. He knew that common people, who cared little for religion and who spent their days carelessly and uselessly, were apt to go astray in the broad wilderness of the world if he himself refrained from showing them the proper way by his own example. Example is better than precept and so his absolute distaste for anything immoral helped many sincere souls to open their eyes and also persons already in confusion to correct themselves. When the well-known Girisha Chandra Ghosa came to request Thakura Bhaktivinoda to preside over the gathering on the opening day of his new play, ‘Caitanya Lila’, he had to politely decline the offer. Thakura Bhaktivinoda was a complete abstainer from any kind of worldly pleasure and would not even chew a betel. He completely avoided the luxuries that are everyday enjoyed by ordinary men. He had for himself very little want and led a most simple life throughout his career. The word ‘debt’ was, as it were, unknown to him for he was very prompt in making payments. He was always true to his word and punctuality was at all times specially observed by him. He always showed a brave front and was never a coward. He never performed any dishonest work in business and whatever he did he did openly for the good of his fellowmen. In this way we may understand that he possessed a spotless character.

Thakura Bhaktivinoda had a fine mode of delivering speeches and his lectures were so greatly attractive that he could keep the audience, whatever be their number, absolutely dumb-founded. His speeches were all very fluent and argumentative from the philosophical point of view and he had a nice way of joining the link of their subject matter. He was an expert linguist and knew English, Latin, Urdu, Persian, and Oriya besides Bengali and Sanskrit. He had also a taste for history and a keen habit of research. This habit made him a voracious reader of all the Puranas and Vedic Shastras as well as the writings of numerous authors of repute in Europe, both of ancient and modern. He was a member of the Royal Asiatic Society of London. He had thoroughly gone through the scriptures of foreign countries, such as the Bible and Koran, and he could easily cite any passage occurring in those books whenever there was occasion to do so. His nature was to leave no stone unturned in mastering whatever subject he took up and he did his duty in that respect to the fullest extent. The works he has left to the world are most precious and will no doubt supply materials for the improvement of many thinkers for centuries to come.

Thakura Bhaktivinoda was a great author and poet and has left for us about one-hundred books of transcendental knowledge. From the age of twelve and thirteen when he wrote Hara-katha and Shumbha-Nishumbha-yuddha till his last days before us, his pen was never idle and many a night saw him engaged in his library after he had performed a hard laborious midday duty in the court. He wrote hundreds and hundreds of poems and gave those songs to his disciples who would put them to music and sing them. All knowledge of Vaishnava philosophy can be found in them.

The Vaishnava community has received from his beautiful lotus hands many wonderful books on Lord Caitanya’s precepts. His famous work Jaiva Dharma, a Bengali novel which teaches Vaishnava philosophy in the form of various discourses, up to the present day has remained very easily readable and relishable for all classes of devotees, learned scholars and even fools and laymen. Bhaktivinoda’s Bhagavatarka-marichi-mala, which is the butter produced from churning the vast milk ocean of Srimad-Bhagavatam, has bestowed much good upon the serious student of the Bhagavatam. His explanations and Bengali translations of Krishna-karnamrita, Brahma-samhita and others have obtained a place in the hearts of all Vaishnava readers. His Harinam-cintamani and Bhajana-rahasya are eternally worshipable for all pure devotees. His Sri Caitanya-siksamrita and Sri Krishna-samhita stand as divine classics in the history of Bengali Vaishnava literature and his books of poetry and songs, such as Sharanagati, Gitavali, Gitamala, and Kalyana-kalpataru, will always be chanted and sung by those pure souls devoted to nama-bhajana or service to the Holy Name. It is our fervent hope that some day all the works of Thakura Bhaktivinoda may be made available to English speaking people for their eternal spiritual well-being.

Thakura Bhaktivinoda’s mission in this world was fulfilled by his starting the Nama Hatta at Nadia through which he distributed religious pamphlets and preached the name of Hari at every house in Bengal. At every step of his life he displayed a transparent godliness that can be observed by studying his life and writings. In his writings he has taught the difference between a true spiritualist and a pseudo one in order to thwart the vain attempts of the many pseudo devotees at that time who dressed as Vaishnava mendicants just to fill their bellies. Consequently because of this the intelligentsia of India began to recognize the truth of his preaching and the beauty of Sri Caitanya’s doctrines. He was thus recognized as the God-sent pioneer of the movement of unalloyed devotion to Godhead. He taught the people of India the true teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu both by precept and example. He always stressed that the jiva soul cannot realize himself or God unless he wholeheartedly surrenders himself to the lotus feet of a genuine spiritual master and listens to his words. Bhaktivinoda has taught us true renunciation by engaging all things in this world in the service of the Creator. He radically opposed the caste system where one is socially judged by his birth and he taught very explicitly that one should be judged by his actions and personal qualities and not by mere birth or family lineage. He also strongly protested against both elevationsim and Salvationism as being anti-devotional, that mere belief in such concepts took the place of attaining the real devotional mood necessary for spiritual development. Thus he made a tremendous effort both in his powerful writings and personal preaching effort to reform the growing materialistic mentality of the people at that time. He taught that men should live their lives according to the principles laid down in the Srimad-Bhagavatam and practice the chanting of the Holy Name of the Lord.

Thakura Bhativinoda showed through his clear and lucid writings that the solution to all contending theories, isms, sectarian dogmas and doctrines could be found in the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. With an open and liberal mind, he opened the door of comparative religion and philosophical study and thus showed the universal applicability and scientific, religious, and philosophical basis of the teachings of Sri Caitanya. In this way the Thakura lifted the spiritual cataract on the religious vision of the people of Bengal by his many writings, which were both revolutionary and endowed with the quality of sweet reasonableness. He preached that the universal religion and common function of all souls is devotional service to the Supreme Lord Krishna and ‘Back to Home, Back to Godhead’ ‘was the motto he taught and practiced throughout his life.

In his Sri Caitanya-shiksamrita he predicted a day when people of all nations, castes, creeds and colors would come under the banners of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and dance together hand in hand in the universal church of the chanting of the Holy Name of God. He believed strongly that the sankirtana movement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu would bring eternal peace and harmony to the whole world and for this reason he stressed the preaching of Sri Caitanya’s teachings, particularly through the medium of the English language in the world today.

 Other articles in connection with this one that you may find interesting are:

Srila A. C. Bhaktitivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura: The Lion Guru

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu

The Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Disciplic Succession and Its Unique Characteristics: Of Which We are a Part

Purpose and Function of Government According to Mahabharata

Purpose and Function of Government

According to Mahabharata

By Stephen Knapp

            By studying this information we will understand how our present governments are inefficient in various methods of operation that they employ, or in the idealistic foundation upon which they build the country. We should also be able to perceive how to improve them. Furthermore, these Vedic principles that are found in the ancient text of the Mahabharata are applicable for any leaders, whether they be local, state or national.

            First, before any ruler should take any position of authority, there should be a proper constitution which the king or leader must follow and upon which the whole country must base itself. This constitution must outline the real purpose of government and the ruler of the country, which is to protect Dharma and all those Truth seekers who follow the principles of Dharma. Dharma means the path that helps bring and maintain harmony, balance and peace, both individually and socially, and the Truth which can free us from illusion and bring us to the topmost reality, the spiritual strata.

PURPOSE OF GOVERNMENT

 

            The government’s purpose should first be outlined in order to establish the direction it will take for the citizens of the country. This is the reason for having a constitution. It is explained that the main objective of the constitution of the country must be for the protection of Dharma and the propagation of righteousness among the subjects according to the law of Dharma. The citizens must know how to live in an atmosphere of goodness or with a sattvik mindset [that which is in the mode of goodness and is beneficial for everyone].

            A constitution must be written only after a thorough review of the holy Vedic texts which contain a universal standard for spiritual development and an uplifting society. Only such a constitution in which Dharma is protected can there be the manifestation of a progressive country. By progressive we mean in consciousness where humanity is reaching their highest potential in growth, maturity, morals and spiritual knowledge and awareness. In the Vedic standards this is called Ramarajya, or the kingdom of Lord Rama’s rule of righteousness. This is considered a time when the ruler, namely Lord Rama, worked for everyone’s ultimate benefit, and everyone cooperated together in progressive harmony. When the constitution and the country are based on righteousness, the probability of it being affected by calamities, crime and discontent are low. But a country devoid of righteousness (Dharma) is lifeless, like a corpse, meaning that the deterioration of such a country is practically guaranteed. Without the preservation of Dharma through educational programs, then the positive future of the state is destroyed. It may go through the motions of existence, but its real purpose, values, and heart are empty. The citizens themselves will become like hollow shells compared to what they could be if they could reach their true potential in a spiritually advanced society. This is the importance of following the path of Dharma and that the rulers observe and protect it.

HOW THERE BECAME A NEED FOR A KING

 

            In ancient times, king Yudhishthira asked how there ever came to be a need to have a king. He asked: “How did the word ‘RAJAN’ come into use when a king is addressed? A king is like any other human being on the earth. His body and limbs are like those of anyone else. His understanding and his senses are similar to those of many others. He has the same joys and griefs, the same number of years to live on the earth, like anybody else. How then did it happen that he is considered different? This world is made up of men who are far superior to him in intelligence, bravery and all accomplishments. And yet, this one man rules the others: though they are superior to him. Why should it be the rule that one man is worshipped by all the others?”

            Bhishma replied: “I will tell you. In the beginning there was no king. There was no punishment. These two were not needed then. Men were all righteous and each man protected the other. As time passed on, however, the hearts of men began to be invaded by errors. Once error enters the heart, the mind gets clouded and the sense of right and wrong begins to wane. It was even so with the men of distant times.

            “Covetousness was the first guest in their hearts. When covetous-ness came into life, men began to want things which did not belong to them. The next passion to be born was lust. Lust can never exist alone. It has to have a companion and so wrath came into existence. As soon as these terrible passions found places in the hearts of men, righteousness had to beat a hasty retreat. Along with this confusion happened another great calamity. The Vedas disappeared. Righteousness was completely lost to the world. The gods were then overcome with fear. They went to Brahma Pitamaha [great father] and said: ‘Look on the world you have created, my lord! It is threatened with destruction. Please save it and save us!’

    “Brahma assured them that he would find a way. He then composed a treatise of a hundred thousand lessons. He treated [on the subjects] of Dharma [righteousness], Artha [economic development], Kama [sensual enjoyment] and Moksha [spiritual liberation]. He dealt with them in great detail. He formulated the rules for chastisement. The main features of this treatise on chastisement dealt with punishment of two kinds: open and secret punishment. It treated of conservation of wealth by traders and merchants, growth of penance of the ascetics, destruction of thieves and wicked men. There was a branch dealing with all the religious observances, and another dealt with the extensive subject of legislation and the behavior that is expected of counselors, of spies, of secret agents, envoys, and conciliation. All the many ways and means by which men may be prevented from deviating from the path of righteousness and honesty were described in it.

     “After composing it, Brahma said: ‘For the good of the world and for the establishment and propagation of Dharma, Artha and Kama I have composed this. Assisted by chastisement this will protect the world. Men are mostly led by chastisement and so this treatise will be called Dandaneeti.

     “It was studied and abridged by several of the gods, the first of them being Shankara. Finally, when it was to be given to the world, Sukra of great wisdom thought of the brevity of the life of men on earth and made the work much shorter. It contained just a thousand lessons. The gods then appeared before Vishnu and said: ‘Lord! Indicate to us a man on the world who deserves to be superior to the rest’.

     “Narayana said: ‘I will enter the body of one man and he, as well as all those who are born in his line, will be lords of the world’.

     “There was a king called Vena. From his right arm was born a man who was like a second Indra [King of heaven] in his looks and godliness. He was born with a coat of mail and all the weapons. He was proficient in all the arts and the Vedas. The rishis made him the ruler of the world. Sukra was his priest. There was current among men the feeling that he was the eighth son of Vishnu himself.

     “His name was Prithu. He made the surface of the earth level. Vishnu and the deities assembled to crown Prithu king. The earth took a form and came to him with tributes of gems and jewels. Prithu milked the earth in the form of a cow and made her yield seven kinds of crops for the food of all living creatures. He made all men regard Dharma as the foremost of all things.

     “Because he pleased all the people he was called ‘RAJAN’. Because he healed the wounds of afflicted people he was called ‘KSHAT-RIYA’. And again, because the earth became celebrated for the prevalence of virtue during his reign, she was called ‘PRITHIVI’.

     “Vishnu entered the body of that monarch. A pure man, when his punya [karmic merit] becomes exhausted, descends from heaven to earth and is born as a king. Such a person is indeed great and is a portion of Vishnu on earth. He has a heritage of divine intelligence and he is superior to all the others. He is established by the gods and he is not to be slighted. This is the reason why the world cannot command him but he can command the world. This is why the multitude has to obey his words of command though he is like anybody else.”

     In this regard, even the great Greek philosopher Plato recognized that the ideal ruler or administrator is the philosopher king. In such ancient cultures found in North and South America, or Egypt and Japan and many others, it was the sun that was worshiped and was considered the ultimate ruler. The king was considered the earthly representative of the sun, and his dynasty was the solar dynasty.

     It is a fundamental principle of government that the authority of the ruler is ultimately derived from God. The form of government that is the oldest, most prevalent down through the ages, and most widely found around the globe is that of the divine monarchy. These were found in India, China, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Babylonia, Mesopotamia, Sumer, Ur, Egypt, Ethiopia, the Sudan, in ancient Greece, as well as in Scandinavia and Celtic Europe. In all these civilizations the king was spoken of as divine representatives.

     Thereafter, Yudhishthira asked: “What are the principal duties of the subjects?”

     Bhishma responded: “Their first duty is to elect a [properly qualified] king and perform his coronation. For the sake of the treasury, the subjects should give one fiftieth of their animals and precious metals and a tenth part of their grains. From among them they should choose those who are proficient in the use of weapons, and help the king in the maintenance of the army. A fourth part of the merits of the people will go to the king and a fourth part of their evil also. A disciple behaves with humility in the presence of his preceptor. Even so a subject should humble himself before his king. A king who is honored by his subjects will naturally be respected and feared by his foes.” 1

 

 

ANARCHY WITHOUT A PROPER RULER

 

     As the morality of humanity declined through the ages, the need for proper rulers became increasingly evident. As it is further explained, when there is no ruler or proper administrator over a country, there will be anarchy in the region. In this regard the Ramayana (2.67.18) says: “In a state without a king the wealthy are insecure. Even farmers and cowherds cannot sleep peacefully with their doors open.”

     So the above description is a sure sign of improper leadership, or when a ruler has no ability to handle the situation in the appropriate way. When there is an abundance of crime and thievery, then the wealthy are especially vulnerable because those with less or who are in need will look at them with envy. Of course, the poor are even more vulnerable because they have little means to defend themselves from marauders and vandals who come through to do as they wish. Thus, the property of the weak will be forcefully taken away by those who are more powerful or clever. And the abduction of women will become common. Without good leadership, then even the police will not come forward to protect the people in an efficient manner. Furthermore, on a social level, religious principles will disappear, relationships like marriage will begin to become extinct, and crime and chaos will manifest even in the areas of business, banking, agriculture, and health care or pharmaceuticals. Even a simple and peaceful life will be increasingly difficult to find. This is further elaborated in the Ramayana (2.67.17):

     “In a state where anarchy prevails a group of young women embellished with gold ornaments do not go to the garden in the evening for recreation.” This may have been the sign of anarchy in the times of the Ramayana, but where I live in Detroit a group of women simply do not go out, embellished with gold or not. And in Africa and other parts of the world , the same situation is there that if any women are seen, they are vulnerable to rape, torture and murder. Is this not anarchy? So, according to these descriptions from the Vedic texts, a country with a crooked ruler where anarchy prevails is as good as a country with no ruler at all.

     “No soul is peaceful in a state without a ruler. In such a state men exploit one another like fish who swallow each other.” (Ramayana 2.67.31)

     So a good government and qualified leader is essential for a progressive society. But who is a good leader?

 

 

WHO CAN RULE THE COUNTRY

 

     In the Vedic system, a king is called a Raja. This means one who shines. But it also means one who rids his subjects of obstacles. This indicates that only one who ideally considers the welfare of his subjects should be a king or ruler.

     If the ideal king follows the laws of Dharma, then the people will also follow. (Mahabharata abbreviated as Mb.12.75.4) This also means that if the king is unrighteous, he will have little ability to lead people and keep them from crime and dishonesty. They will follow his own character. Thus, as rulers become more and more crooked, the same character will naturally trickle down to the general populace. This illustrates why corruption is so rampant today. The only way to escape from this situation is to have moralistic and righteous leaders, if there are any who can be found.

     Crowning an ideal person as a king is the chief duty of a nation because eventually if a state is without a proper administrator, it becomes weak and subject to the attack of its enemies. (Mb.12.67.2) This means that a dynamic country and the code of punishment for wrongdoers can only blossom with strong leadership. When the code of punishment deteriorates or when rulers begin to behave unjustly, then corruption will spread unabated. Consequently people will become unhappy and social unrest will increase.

     The nurturing of the subjects, and displaying the means to endow them with happiness and contentment, protecting the righteous, and giving the citizens the means of prosperity and to punish the wrongdoers, are the chief duties of a king. (Vishnusmriti)

     “The kingdom of that monarch who looks on while a Sudra [those who are unqualified or ill-trained for positions of rulership] settles the law, will sink (low), like a cow in a morass. That kingdom where Sudras are very numerous, which is infested by atheists and destitute of the twice-born (inhabitants) [those born a second time by spiritual knowledge], soon entirely perishes, afflicted by famine and disease.” (Manu-samhita, 8.21-22)

 

 

Recognizing the Character of a Proper Leader

     The prime protector of the citizens in the Sanskrit language is called a Kshatriya. This word means warrior, but primarily as one who protects people from kshat or unhappiness.

     Such a Kshatriya is said to display the characteristics of bravery, courage, vigilance, charity, the ability to display his prowess, and not retreating from battle. (Mb. 6.42.43)

     A proper kshatriya has the ultimate duty to protect all beings (Mb. 12.120.3) along with fostering the righteous, destroying those who are cruel, and not fleeing from the enemy. (Mb.12.14.16)

     Kshatriyas should take up their weapons only to protect others, such as individuals and the community at large. (Ramayana 3.10.3)

     However, a Kshatriya who does not display his strength according to his capacity due to fear of losing his life deserves to be called a thief. (Mb.5.134.2)

     A Kshatriya must exhibit the appropriate conduct toward his subordinates. He can exercise control of the other classes in society and is thus called a statesman. He thus must exhibit impartiality in executing his duties without favoritism or disdain toward anyone. He must have consideration for the benefit of all. He naturally must personally follow the laws as set by others. He must be able to punish evildoers regardless of their own status or position in society. He must be willing to seek counsel from others who are able to advise him.

     A Kshatriya’s own spiritual progress is determined by his ability to protect the saintly and destroy evildoers.

     Philosophers have stated that a warrior who is brave enough to be killed on the battlefield acquires the state of an ascetic who has been devoted to the practice of yoga. In other words, he attains heaven after this earthly life.

     Again it is emphasized that only the rulers who can always protect the righteous and drive away the evildoers should be crowned as king. The entire universe lives on his support. (Mb.12.78.44) The strength of the downtrodden and the desolate lies in the king. (Ramayana 7.59) This means that those who are poor depend on the king for their welfare. Without that they are forever doomed to poverty and without condolence.

 

 

A Qualified King Must Be Self-Controlled

     “A wise man should learn good behavior, good words and good acts from every side, as a gleaner collects grains of corn from the field abandoned by the reapers. Virtue is preserved by truthfulness: learning by application: beauty by cleansing the body: high lineage by good character. Mere lineage, in the case of one whose behavior is not good, cannot command respect. A king or a man who envies another’s wealth, beauty, might, high lineage, happiness, good fortune and honor, suffers from an incurable disease. Good behavior is essential to man. Intoxication of wealth is much more to be censured than wine; for a man intoxicated with prosperity can never be brought to his senses unless and until he meets with a fall.

“Like the moon during the lighted fortnight, calamities increase for him who is a slave to his senses. The king who wishes to control his counselors before controlling his own self, or the king who wishes to subdue his adversaries before controlling his counselors, fights a losing battle, losing his strength. A king should first subdue his own self, regarding it as his foe. He will then never fail to subdue his counselors and later his enemies. Great prosperity waits upon him who has subjugated his senses, or controlled his soul, or who is capable of punishing all offenders, or who acts with discernment, or who is blessed with patience.

     “One’s body is the chariot: the soul within is the driver; and the senses are its steeds. Drawn by those excellent steeds when they are well trained, the wise man pleasantly goes through the journey of life in peace. The horses, however, if unbroken and incapable of being controlled, lead the unskilled driver to destruction in the course of the journey. Many evil-minded kings, because of their want of mastery over the senses are ruined by acts of their own, lust for kingdom being the cause of their sin.” 2

 

     

The Strengths Kings Should Have

     “Kings are said to have five different kinds of strength. Of these the strength of arms is considered to be the most inferior kind. The acquisition of good counselors is regarded as the second kind of strength. The acquisition of wealth is the third kind of strength. The strength of birth which one naturally acquires from one’s sires and grandsires is the fourth kind of strength. That, however, by which all these are won, and which is the foremost of all kinds of strength, is called the strength of the intellect.

    “Illustrious and mighty kings have ruled this mighty earth so full of wealth and glory and joy. All of them have become victims of the Universal Destroyer. They went away leaving behind them their kingdoms and their immense pleasures. The son, brought up with anxious care, when dead, is taken up and carried away by men to the burning grounds. With disheveled hair and with piteous cries they cast the body into the funeral pyre as though it were a piece of wood. Others enjoy the wealth of a dead man while birds and fire feast on the elements of his body. Only two things go with him to the other world: his merits and his sins. Throwing away the body, relatives, friends, and sons retrace their steps like birds abandoning the tree without flowers or fruits. The man cast into the funeral pyre is followed only by his own actions. Therefore should men, carefully and gradually, earn the merit of righteousness.” 3

    Yudhishthira further asked: “How should a king behave?”

    Bhishma answered: “Righteousness is the watchword of a king. Nothing is greater than that in this world. A righteous king can easily conquer the entire world. His counselors should all be pure in heart and pure in mind. Malice should have no place in the heart of a king. His senses should be perfectly under control. He should use his intelligence and he will then be glorious: swelling in greatness like the ocean fed with the waters of a thousand rivers.”4

 

 

Characteristics That A King Should Possess

     “Poison kills but one man: so does a weapon. But wicked counsels destroy an entire kingdom with kings and subjects. The highest good is righteousness. The one supreme peace is forgiveness. Supreme contentment is knowledge. Supreme happiness is benevolence. A king can easily become great by doing just two things: refraining from harsh speech and disregarding those that are wicked. Three crimes are considered to be terrible: theft of another’s property, outrage of another man’s wives and breach with friends. Three things destroy the soul: lust, anger and covetousness. Three are essential: a follower, one who seeks protection and one who has come to your abode. These should be protected. A king, although powerful, should never confer with these four: men of small sense, men that procrastinate, men who are indolent and men who flatter. Five things have to be worshiped: father, mother, fire, the preceptor and the soul. Six faults should be avoided by a king who wishes to be great: sleep, drowsiness, fear, anger, indolence and procrastination. These six should not be forsaken: truth, charity, diligence, benevolence, forgiveness and patience. A king should renounce the seven faults [which are women, dice, hunting, harshness of speech, drinking, severity of punishment, and waste of wealth]. Eight things glorify a king: wisdom, high birth, self-restraint, learning, prowess, moderation in speech, gifts given with discrimination, and gratitude. This human body is a house with nine doors, three pillars, and five witnesses. It is presided over by the soul. The king who knows this is wise. These ten do not know what virtue is: the intoxicated, the inattentive, the raving, the fatigued, the angry, the starving, the dejected, the covetous, the frightened and the lustful.” 5

 

 

Further Descriptions of the Character and Duties of a King

     Here is the advice given for one to be a proper Dharmic king:

     Bhishma was immensely pleased with the humility and eagerness of Yudhishthira. He smiled at him and said: “My child, I am only too eager to tell you all that you want to know. A king’s first duty is to worship the gods and the brahmins [those spiritually advanced individuals who are meant to work selflessly for the spiritual upliftment of all others]. A king should essentially be a man of action. You might have heard from many that destiny rules a king. It is a fallacy in reasoning if you think so. Destiny does play a part. I grant that. But without action a king can never help destiny to play her part. Destiny is powerful but action is equally powerful. Both are potent. But to me, it seems that action is the more potent of the two. It is action which shapes the destiny.

     “The next equally important duty of a king is Truth. If you want to inspire confidence in the minds of your subjects, you should always be truthful.

     “All accomplishments find a home in a king. His behavior should be above reproach. Self-restraint, humility and righteousness are qualities which you have to look for in a king if he has to be successful. He should have his passions under perfect control.

     “Justice should be the second nature of a king. There are three more things which a king should cultivate. He should know how to conceal his own weaknesses carefully. By weakness is meant the weaknesses in his kingdom. He should take the trouble to find out the weaknesses in his enemies and he should be very careful to be secretive about his plans.

     “A king’s conduct should be straight forward. Another danger for a king is mildness. He should not be too mild. He will then be disregarded. The subjects will not have enough respect for him and his words. Again, he should avoid the other extreme. He should not be too fierce because then the subjects will be afraid of him, and that is not a happy state of affairs.

     “A king should know the art of choosing servants. He should have compassion as part of his mental make-up, but he should guard against too forgiving a nature. The lowest of men will take advantage of him and his nature if they are considered weak.

     “Alertness is a great necessity for a king. He should study his foes and his friends too, incessantly.”

     “Skill, cleverness and truth are all three necessary in a king. Old and fallen buildings and living-houses should be renovated by him if he has to win the good opinion of his subjects. He should know how to use his powers in inflicting corporal punishments and fines on miscreants.”6

 

 

A KING MUST PROTECT HIS SUBJECTS

 

     Time and again the Mahabharata and other Vedic texts stress that a ruler must be able to protect and care for the citizens. This is done in a variety of ways, which are briefly explained in the many quotes that follow. But if a ruler cannot look after his subjects with concern and firmness, then it is obvious that such a person is unfit to continue in any position of leadership. As it is described:

     “Having thus arranged all the affairs (of) his (government), he shall zealously and carefully protect his subjects. That (monarch) whose subjects are carried off by robbers (Dasyu) from his kingdom, while they loudly call (for help), and he and his servants are quietly looking on, is a dead and not a living (king). The highest duty of a Kshtriya is to protect his subjects, for the king who enjoys the rewards is bound to (discharge that) duty. (Manu-samhita 8.142-144)

     “A king should protect his subjects just as a pregnant women nurtures the foetus in her womb.” (Mb.12.56.44) In this way, as a pregnant woman sacrifices her own interests for the sake of the child in her womb, so also a king should be able to give up his own interests to address the needs of the citizens.

     “Just as a father helps his son rise over a crisis, so also a king should deliver his subjects from difficulties.” (Bhagavata Purana 11.17.45)

     “If a king is too gentle, then people disobey him. And if he is authoritarian they fear him. Hence, depending on the situation he should be authoritarian or gentle.” (Mb.12.140.65)

     “Keeping the subjects happy on this earth itself is the code of righteousness (Santana-Dharma) of a king.” (Mb.12.57.11)

     “Punishing evildoers, honoring the righteous, enriching the treasury lawfully, deciding the cases of petitioners, and protecting the nation are the five sacrificial fires (yajnas) or spiritual duties of a king.” (Atrismruti 28)

     “The king who nurtures his subjects on the best possible way is certainly knowledgeable in righteousness. Why does such a king require penance? Why at all does he need to perform sacrificial fires?” (Mb.12.69.73)

     The feeble and downtrodden, blind, dumb, crippled, orphaned, old, widowed, diseased and distressed should be provided with food, clothing, medicines, shelter, etc. (Mb.12.86.24)

     Provisions of facilities such as lakes and water canals, distribution of seeds, control of rodents, elephants, and those things which destroy harvests, augmenting farming by developing meadows for cattle to graze, etc., are all part of the assortment of ways meant to be overseen by the king and his government for the protection and continued development of the citizens.

     “A king must consider that his first duty is to his subjects. He should guard them as a mother guards the child in her womb. Will any mother have thoughts of pleasing herself when her child is in her womb? All her thoughts will be bent only on the child and its welfare. Even so, a king should subordinate his desires and wishes to those of his subjects. Their welfare should be his only concern.”

     “The best king is one whose subjects live in freedom and happiness as they do in their father’s house. Peace will be theirs, and contentment. There will then be no wickedness, no pretense, no dishonesty and no envy.

     “The very core of a king’s duty is the protection of his subjects and their happiness. It is not easy. To secure the happiness of his people he should use diverse methods.” 7

 

 

Taxes

     One of the primary functions of a ruler is to oversee and design the development of his country, and one of the means he uses for this is taxes. But how he collects tax must be systematic and with proper consideration of his subjects. As it is described: “Just as a bumble-bee sucks nectar from flowers without harming them, so also a king should collect money from his subjects without hurting them.” (Mb.5.34.17)

     “Just as a bumble-bee sucks nectar from flowers delicately without harming the plant so also a king should collect money by levying taxes on his subjects, without hurting them. One who milks a cow does not milk it dry but takes care to see that some milk is left for its calf. Similarly a king should levy taxes on the people carefully after considering that they will be sufficiently provided for.” (Mb.12.88.4)

     “Like a leech, a king should gently take money from the state by levying taxes. A tigress lifts its cubs with its teeth yet does not harm them. Similarly a king should levy taxes on his subjects without causing them distress.” (Mb.12.88.5)

     “O king, it is the ruler’s great folly if despite taking one sixth of the income of his subjects he does not nurture them like his children.” (Ramayana 3.6.11)

     “It is said that a king who without protecting his subjects takes one sixth of their income (in the form of taxes) acquires their sins.” (Mb.1.213.9)

     “A king should become a gardener, not a coal manufacturer. A gardener takes care of plants to obtain flowers and fruits from them. Similarly a king should guide his subjects towards prosperity and then secure one fourth of their income from them in the form of taxes. A coal trader uproots a tree and then chars it completely. A king should not uproot his subjects likewise plundering their wealth totally.” (Mb.)

     “Just as one who cuts off the udders of a cow with the hope of getting milk never acquires it, so also a state in which taxes are levied inappropriately, thus harrassing the subjects, does not prosper.” (Mb.12.71.16)

     “Most of the authors of the Smritis have stated that taxes should not be levied upon the Brahmanas (priests) who have mastered the Vedas. This is because the king gets one sixth of the merits acquired by a Brahmana following the righteous path.” (Vishnu Dharmasutra 3.26-27)

     The point is that it is the duty of the king to support and look after the worldly and spiritual needs of learned Brahmanas, ascetics and scholars and teaching institutions. This would augment a king’s prestige. The king would treat them with a great respect since they are meant to assist in the preservation of Dharma and social balance whereby the whole society can work in harmony and continue their spiritual development by which all can be content and happy. .

     “The king should levy taxes, but they should never be so high as to hurt the subjects. He should know how to milk his kingdom. He should be like a bee gathering honey from the flowers. He should be a leech which draws blood mildly without the victim being conscious of it. He should behave like a tigress with her cubs while handling his subjects: she catches them with her teeth and yet never hurts them.” 8

Therefore, the king must also adopt the attitude that he is the servitor of the citizens. A crooked government must fear the citizens who will sooner or later revolt against a dishonest leader. Otherwise, what value is there in the citizens paying high taxes to a crooked leader who is not ruling them properly, and not being able to protect them, either militarily, economically, educationally, etc. A leader is meant to get a salary from the taxes collected only when he or she can do the proper job. Otherwise the taxes collected for such purposes are wasted.

 

 

Use of the Treasury

      The main purpose of how a king is meant to use the treasury is also explained: “The treasury of a king is meant for the protection of the army, his subjects and of righteousness (Dharma). If it is used for these purposes, it will prove beneficial. On the other hand, if the treasury is misused, it will prove disastrous. Should the king use the royal treasury for his wife and children and to fulfill his own sensual pursuits, it will bring him unhappiness and he will attain hell.” (Shukraniti 4.2.3-5)

      The ruler must use only his personal account for any of his own interests, but must never divert any administrative accounts and finances for inappropriate purposes. Not only will he accrue the bad karma that will take him to hell, but often his own life, private and political, along with the future of his subjects and country, becomes doomed in due time.

      “The king should remember that his treasury should always be full. Supervision of the work of all his officers should be done by the king himself. He should never trust the guardians of the city or fort implicitly.” 9

 

 

Defending the Country–Being Aware of the Enemy

      In protecting the citizens from obstacles, overseeing the safety of the country from enemies is certainly a prime concern that must be addressed by the ruler. Herein it is further advised:

      “O king, it is neither written on one’s countenance nor engraved in words that so-and-so is an enemy or a friend. The one from whom one experiences harassment is termed as an enemy.” (Mb.2.55.10)

      “Despite being feeble those who are cautious are not slain by the enemy, as against this is a powerful one who is not vigilant about the enemy is annihilated even by a weak enemy.” (Mb.12.138.198)

      “Even if an enemy is weak when its strength rises, even a powerful man cannot afford to ignore it.” (Mb.5.9.22)

      “Even if one is powerful one should not consider a weak enemy inferior because though a flame is small it is sufficient to burn, and even a minute quantity of poison is enough to snuff out life.” (Mb.12.58.17)

      “In this world there is nothing more dangerous than being inadvertent. All wealth deserts such a careless individual and then he has to face catastrophes.” (Mb.10.10.19)

 

 

Dealing with an Enemy

      Once an enemy has been recognized, there are specific ways of dealing with them, according to one’s position. “One should befriend an enemy by conciliation with a false air of friendship but should fear him constantly like a snake that has entered the house.” (Mb.12.140.15)

      “One should speak (to the enemy) meekly but should actually be heartless. One should speak with a smile but never reveal one’s true nature by performing a harsh act.” (Mb.1.140.66)

      “One should win the enemy’s trust by convincing him with valid reasons and after sometime when his position becomes unstable, one should attack him.” (Mb.12.140.44)

      Lord Vishnu told the deities before the churning of the ocean of milk, “O deities, to accomplish a great task, you may even have to befriend the enemy. Do that and once you accomplish your mission, just as a rattlesnake swallows rodents, destroy the demons.” (Bhagavata Purana 8.6.20)

      “A king who does not annihilate his enemy will not gain fame on this earth, will not acquire wealth and his subjects too will remain insecure. Even Indra was accorded the status of Mahendra after he slew the demon Vritrasua.” (Mb.12.15.15)

      “A person who foolishly disregards a flourishing enemy is totally vanquished by it, akin to an ailment in its terminal stage.” (Mb.2.55.16)

      “One should not let an enemy realize one’s weaknesses. However, one should certainly find out the enemy’s weaknesses. Just as a tortoise keeps all parts of its body hidden beneath its shell, a king should keep all the strategies of the state a secret and should be careful about his weaknesses.” (Mb.12.140.24)

      “One who trusts an enemy and sleeps peacefully after making a truce with the latter is akin to a man sleeping on a treetop who wakes up only after he falls down.” (Mb.12.140.37)

      “One does not acquire the great Lakshmi bestowing governance (Rajalakshmi) without striking the enemy at its strategic points, exhibiting tremendous valiance and without slaying the enemy like a fisherman kills his catch.” (Mb.12.140.50)

      “When the enemy becomes weak, wise men do not hesitate even for a moment to destroy it. An enemy should be slain specially when it is facing a calamity. If a clever one annihilates an enemy in such circumstances, not only is he called righteous but he also becomes famous.” (Mb.8.90.71) An enemy in this regard is also considered to be an enemy of Dharma, the destruction of which destroys all means of peace and stability in society. Thus, Dharma must be defended at all times.

      Sri Krishna to Yudhisthira explains: “O Dharmaraja, vanquisher of enemies, so long as you continue to reconcile with them (the enemies of the Kauravas) they will continue to rule your kingdom.” (Mb.5.73.8)

      “Despite being intelligent, if a king does not attack his enemies, then like a non-venomous snake he will always fall prey to his enemy.” (Mb.12.58.16)

      “If one finds an enemy who deserves to be killed, then one should never let him go.” (Mb.5.38.29)

      “Just as a debt keeps growing even if a fraction of it is unpaid, if the lives of your enemies are spared, then because they have been insulted, in the future they will generate terror just as neglected diseases become dreadful later.” (Mb.12.140.59)

      “Even if the enemy who charges with a weapon on the battlefield is a scholar of the Vedanta, a king who observes righteousness (Dharma) should wage a righteous war and defeat him.” (Mb.12.56.29)

      “One should speak to him (the enemy) sweetly both when contemplating an attack on him and also during the attack. In fact, even after the attack one should show sympathy and grief and shed tears as well.” (Mb.1.140.56)

      “One should not fight several enemies alone. One should resort to the four methods of reconciliation, compromise with money, breaking the amity of allies and punishment appropriately and annihilate them one by one. Even if very powerful, the wise should never make the folly of fighting several enemies simultaneously.” (Mb.3.52.22)

      “Do not attempt to swim across when the opposite bank is beyond one’s reach. Never seize anything that will later be snatched away by someone else. Never dig at something which cannot be uprooted. Never strike one who cannot be beheaded.” (Mb12.140.69)

      “A king should first win over his own mind, then it becomes easier to gain victory over his enemy. How will one who has not won over his own mind vanquish his enemies?” (Mb.12.69.4)

      “A king should be wise in dealing with six problems. The first is making peace with a foe who is stronger. The next consideration is making war on one who is equal to him in strength. Invading the country of one who is weaker in his next problem. He should use his discrimination when he makes a decision about these things. He should be prepared to seek protection in his fort if his position is weak. The most important work of a king is to cause dissensions among the chief office-bearers in his enemy’s country. He should have clever spies at his service and find out the secrets of the enemy. He should bribe and cajole the officers of the enemy and win them over to his side.

      “A king should be pleasant in speech. He should have about him men who are all like him in nature and in noble qualities. The only difference between the king and his officers should be the white umbrella. 10

      “He [the king] must produce disloyalty among the people in a hostile country and he must have friends and allies there.

      “He should amass troops, and this should be done in secret. A king can never protect his kingdom by candor and by simplicity. A king should be both candid and crooked. He must employ crookedness and wrong acts when he wants to subdue the enemy. All these things should be concealed behind a candid and open exterior.” 11

      The king is expected to have control over his mind and senses if he is to have control over his enemies and subjects. He must rise above the influence of the six defects, namely desire, anger, greed, pride, and the desires for fame and happiness. Otherwise both the king and his kingdom are doomed. We have often seen that rulers who exhibit weaknesses, whether toward women, liquor, gambling, or hunting and other vices which stem from desire; or other unbalanced mindset regarding criticism, misappropriation of money, or being overly cruel with punishment, etc., all of which originate from excessive anger and pride, lead to a downfall or disaster. Thus he must avoid these issues and weaknesses in order to rule pleasantly over his subjects.

      In this age of Kali-yuga, rulers in any part of the world fail to lead properly because they are filled with their own weaknesses and unable to control their own minds and senses properly. The leader must be focused without the distractions of the senses, or the tendency to give privileges to political groups because of an attraction to the money they offer. When the senses of a ruler are controlled, then the state can become prosperous in all aspects and as a result, wealthy. When the ruler is not able to control his senses, then the citizens suffer the results of a leader who is too easily swayed and distracted with the result of a lack of impartial justice and leadership. Thus, the government itself becomes the home of corruption and thieves. When the leader becomes a thief, then the citizens become beggars.

 

 

The Army

      The army is, of course, the main agency through which the king handles enemies. Herein are a few statements in how the army must be guided, not necessarily by the king himself, but through farsighted military leaders.

      “A military organization functions best if it is well guided. The army is blind and ignorant. Hence farsighted leaders should guide it appropriately.” (Mb.2.20.16)

      “Soldiers brimming with enthusiasm for battle is the prime sign of achieving victory.” (Mb.6.3.75)

 

 

Responding Rather Than Reacting

      Herein it is explained that any response by a king to an enemy or someone in the world who should be curbed should be done after a well thought out plan, rather than merely by an emotional reaction, which is often based on an impulsive and prideful basis rather than wisdom and focus.

      [As Bhishma said to Yudhisthira] “Great men do not express hostility towards those who insult them all at once. Nevertheless they display their prowess gradually, with time.” (Mb.12.157.10)

 

 

DUTIES OF A KING IN DISTRESS

 

     There are times and circumstances in which a ruler will find himself in a weaker position than another, or in comparison with an enemy. Thus, the situation may dictate a different strategy for the survival of the country, or for maintaining peace among neighboring countries. In this regard, Bhishma explained: “I will tell you about the duties of a king when in distress. A foe then becomes a friend, and a friend will most probably turn out to be a foe. Circumstances will so conspire that the course of human actions becomes uncertain. This is where intelligence comes to one’s rescue. It helps you to decide whether one should make war on the foe or make peace with him. It all depends on the time and place, and, at times, it is even necessary to make friends with the enemy. You should make friends with intelligent men who are desirous of your welfare. If your life cannot otherwise be saved, then you should certainly make peace with the enemy. If you are foolish enough not to consider this, then you will never succeed in achieving things for which everyone strives so hard. A king, who makes a truce with the enemy, and quarrels with his erstwhile friends after considering the situation to the utmost, its pros and its cons, will certainly be able to succeed.

     “Friends should be examined to the utmost before accepting them as friends. Foes should be well studied and their strength and weakness known. Friends appear as foes, and foes assume the guise of friends. When friendly compacts are undertaken, it is not possible to be sure if the feelings of the other are really friendly or if it is just selfishness which prompts him to accept the pact. The words ‘friend’ and ‘foe’ are, after all, relative terms. A man considers another to be his friend so long as he is assured that his interests are safe; so long as he is sure that it is profitable for him to do so. If he is sure that this state of things will continue as long as the other man is alive, he allows the friendship to continue for life.

     “Self-interest [the instinct to survive] is the most powerful factor in the life of everyone. The entire world is pivoted round only this one factor and it ever revolves around it. No one is dear to another unless there is some gain involved. No affection is evident unless there is a motive of self-interest. One man is popular because he is very liberal-minded, another because he speaks sweetly and a third because he is very religious. Generally it is the rule rather than the exception that a man is dear because of the purpose he serves: nothing more. The friendship terminates as soon as the reason for the friendship dies.

    “An intelligent man should know when to make peace with a foe. Remember, when two persons who were once enemies become friends it is obvious that each is only biding his time when he can get the better of the other. The wiser of the two will necessarily succeed. The policy is that, while you are afraid of the other man, you should appear as though you are not. You should appear as though you trust him implicitly and all the time you should be mistrusting him. When the time demands it you should make peace with your foe and at the earliest opportunity you must wage war. This rule should apply even for a friend.” 12

 

 

A KING SHOULD TRUST NO ONE

 

    Unfortunately, a king or ruler, due to his position, must be careful regarding who he trusts. There may be so many who are envious, or who are enemies set to take over the ruler’s position, or who are enemies who wish to take control over the country. Thus, placing trust in the wrong people can have devastating effects. Thus, confidentiality must be observed in many areas of the ruler’s activities. Future plans must not be jeopardized by allowing too many or the wrong people to know too much.

    “A king should be careful not to place implicit confidence in anyone. His innermost thoughts must be concealed from even his nearest and dearest and he should not tell anyone about his decisions.” 13  

    “One should always attempt to make others trust in oneself. However, one should not trust others.” (Mb.12.138.195)

    “One should acquire the trust of others but should never trust anyone. O King, never trust even one’s own son completely.” (Mb.12.85.33)

    “One should not undertake a mission depending on another’s strength as opinions of two people generally do not match.” (Mb.2.56.8)

    In determining what kind of person a king can trust, Yudhishthira asked: “Nothing, not even the smallest act can be accomplished by a single man. He has to have assistance. This is all the more true when one thinks of ruling a kingdom. So much of it depends on the minister of the king. Tell me, what are the characteristics of a minister and his duties? Which kind of man deserves the king’s entire confidence?”

    Bhishma replied: “A king has friends and these can be classified into four types. The first is the man whose object coincides with that of the king. The second is the man who is devoted to the king. The third is one related to the king by birth. The fourth is one whom the king has placated by gifts. There is a fifth and that is a righteous man who firmly serves one and not both sides. He belongs to the side where there is righteousness. To this man the king should never confide plans which are in danger of being disapproved. A king who wants to be successful has to be righteous and unrighteous too according to circumstances. And so, he cannot be too careful in regard to these friends. A wicked man may appear to be honest and an honest man is likely to become dishonest. No man can always be of the same mind all the time. No one should be trusted completely. Entire reliance on the ministers is not wise. And again, a want of trust is also wrong. A king’s policy, therefore, should be trust as well as mistrust.

    “A king should fear his kinsmen as he would death himself. A kinsman can never bear to see the prosperity of the king. At the same time, a king without kinsmen is unfortunate indeed. The policy is: mistrusting them at heart, but behaving with them as though he trusts them completely.”14

 

 

A KING SHOULD TAKE COUNSEL

 

    The power of government should be overseen and monitored by different people or organizations because if only one person or class controls it, it will create a monopoly that generates fear and suspicion in the general mass of people. Furthermore, a ruler is never meant to make unilateral decisions without counsel as this leads to tyranny and dictatorship.

    [Rama asked Bharat] “Do you take decisions by yourself or do you seek the counsel of several others? Does your policy get published much before it is implemented?” (Ramayana 2.100.18)

    A ruler, no matter how clever or intelligent he may be, is never meant to make decisions on his own without consulting his ministers. It has been seen time and time again that any leader who draws his own designs without consultation with his advisors is soon on his way to ruin.

    As it is explained: “The one who judges the strength of the enemy and that of his own state, who contemplates intelligently on the present status, growth and destruction of his army and that of the enemy’s army and suggests the required measures for the welfare of his master can truly be called a minister.” (Ramayana 6.14.22)

    “A king should be proficient in the art of choosing honest men to hold important offices.” 15

 

 

Character of the Legislators

    Yudhishthira asked: “What should be the characteristics of the legislators, the ministers of war, the courtier, and the counselors of a king?”

    Bhishma responded: “The legislators should be men who are modest, self-restrained, truthful and sincere, and they should have the courage to speak what is proper. The ministers for war should be those who are always by the side of the king. They should be very brave. They should belong to the higher caste, and be learned and affectionate to a fault as far as the king is concerned. A courtier should be of high lineage. He should always be honored by the king. He should be a man who has the king’s interests always at heart. He should never abandon the king whatever the circumstances may be.

    “The officers of the army should again be of high lineage, born in the country of the king; possessed of wisdom, great learning, and beauty of form and features. They should be of excellent behavior, and they should be devoted to the king.” 16

 

 

The Need for Secrecy

    “Both poison and a weapon kill only one person at a time, but discrepancy in a king’s plan becomes the cause for destruction of all the subjects along with the king.” (Mb.5.33.45)

    “Just as a peacock maintains silence in autumn, so also a king should always keep his policies a secret.” (Mb.12.120.7)

    [Sage Narada explains to Yudhisthira] “The main cause for victory of a king is secret counsel.” (Mb.2.5.27)

 

 

Spies

    A ruler must hear of the intentions and actions of the people, both within and outside his country, and of both honest and dishonest people. Not that this is expected to take away the rights of the people, but only so the king will understand how things are going on amongst his subjects. By understanding the intentions of the citizens, a king can propose proper plans to his legislators for counsel. Herein it is explained: “A king keeps an eye on his subjects through his spies.” (Mb.5.34.34)

    “It is said that spies are the support of a state and secret counsel is its strength.” (Mb.12.83.51)

 

 

A KING SHOULD UNDERSTAND

CHARACTERISTICS OF A WISE MAN AND FOOL

 

    The Mahabharata also explains how a king should understand the characteristics of both a wise man and a fool. This would also have an affect on the character of the king. This is from the Vidura-neeti section of the Mahabharata in which Vidura addresses King Dhritarasthra.

    Vidura said: “I will tell you what a wise man should be like. A man should aspire for the higher things, ideals, in life. The assets of such a man are self-knowledge, exertion, forbearance and steadiness in virtue. Such a man is wise. Neither anger, nor joy, nor pride, nor false modesty, nor vanity, can distract him from his purpose. His actions are always done with the thought that they should serve both the worlds. Desire does not tinge his actions. Honest deeds delight him and he loves what is good. He is unaffected either by honors or by slights. Like a lake in the course of the river Ganga, he is calm, cool and unagitated.

    “On the other hand, the qualities of a fool are also easy to enumerate. Scripture is a closed book as far as he is concerned. He is vain: he is proud and, when he wants to have something, he will never hesitate to employ unfair means. He has a knack of desiring what he has no right to desire. Those who are powerful make him envious. Let me tell you about a peculiar attribute of sin. One man commits a sin and several reap the fruits resulting from his sin. But in the end, the sin attaches itself ONLY to the one man, while those many who enjoyed the fruits of his sin escape unscathed!

    “A wise king should discriminate the TWO with the help of the ONE. He must control the THREE by means of the FOUR. He has to conquer the FIVE. Know the SIX. Abstain from the SEVEN and be happy. By ONE is meant the intellect: by TWO, right and wrong: by THREE friend, stranger and enemy; by FOUR is meant gift, conciliation, disunion and severity: by FIVE the senses: by SIX, treaty, war, etc.: by SEVEN, women, dice, hunting, harshness of speech, drinking, severity of punishment, and waste of wealth. This means that one should know how to discriminate between right and wrong by the use of the intellect. Friend, foe or stranger can be won over by one of the four: gift, etc. The senses must be under control and a king should he familiar with treaty, etc., which are essential. The seven have naturally to be avoided if a king aspires to be wise.” 17

 

 

DEALING WITH CRIMINALS

 

    There is definitely a need for a king and ruler in any position to take a stern stance on criminals. Outlaws and wrongdoers are a prime source for fear and disruption in the lives of honest citizens. So, they must be dealt with firmly. However, the king must also be of sound character or he will not possess a mental disposition in which he will be able to take a proper or powerful stand against such criminals. This is why from the very start, a suitable king must be put into office and not someone who is ill-suited for the position.

    “Whether he be punished or pardoned, the thief is freed from the (guilt of) theft; but the king, if he punishes not, takes upon himself the guilt of the thief.” (Manu-samhita 8.316)

    “But men who have committed crimes and have been punished by the king, go to heaven, being pure like those who performed meritorious deeds.” (Manu-samhita 8.318)

    If one who has acted unrighteously is slain, then it does not amount to unrighteousness [for the slayer]. (Ramayana 2.96.24)

    No sin arises out of killing a terrorizing enemy. On the contrary, pleading before it for mercy or tolerance is unrighteous and a stigma on one’s reputation. (Mb.5.3.21)

    One who has to protect his subjects should not hesitate if sometimes he is compelled to be a little cruel or to perform slightly wrong actions in order to protect them. (Ramayana 1.25.18)

 

 

Purpose of Punishment

    Without punishment in the universe, the subjects would have become extinct, just as big fish in the water swallow the small ones, powerful people would have destroyed the weak. (Mb.12 15.30)

    Due to fear of punishment some animals do not devour each other. If people are not protected by the experience of punishment, then they would bring about darkness through the destruction of each other. (Mb.12.15.7)

    It is punishment alone which disciplines all subjects and protects everyone. It remains vigilant even when all are asleep. That is why learned men have opined that punishments are what maintains Dharma. (Mb.12.15.2)

    Everyone keeps themselves under control because of the threat of punishment. A basically pure individual is rarely found. It is the fear of punishment that makes one act properly and perform the task allotted to him. (Mb.12.15.34)

    If there was no protection by the means of punishment, then everything would be reduced to ashes, all rules would be violated and no one would own anything. (Mb.12.15.8)

    Learned men consider that it is punishment that brings unethical people onto the righteous path and punishes those who are uncivilized because of its two characteristics of control and meting out punishment. (Mb.12.15)

    When the punishing authority is highly efficient, people are very cautious. Hence, a king should keep all beings in his control through the code of punishment. (Mb.12.140.8)

    “Punishment should be given to offenders according to the immensity of the offence. The wealthy should be fined and their property should be confiscated, while loss of liberty should be the punishment for the poor offender. Wicked conduct should be punished by inflicting corporal punishment.” 18

 

 

CONSEQUENCES FOR THE KING

 

    A ruler can never do whatever he wants, whether it be in acting overly harsh, or in not being firm and decisive enough, or in being too liberal and soft. There are always consequences if a ruler does not act appropriately or if he neglects his duties. If he proves to be unfit, he is and must be rejected by the people. But there are also karmic consequences for someone who is a ruler but does not govern the people with a spiritual regard. For example, it is explained that a king who levies taxes on his subjects without teaching them about righteousness (Dharma) has to suffer for their sins and loses his opulence. (Bhagavata Purana 4.21.24) This is why, especially in this age of Kali-yuga, it is said that hardly any ruler attains anything but a dark future after death. Unable to direct his subjects properly, or even being infected with crooked desires himself, a ruler is forced to endure a hellish afterlife because of not being able to lead his subjects properly or allow them to be trained in the ways of Dharma. Such understanding of Dharma is what frees them from sinful life, and which also frees the king from accepting one-sixth of the reactions of his subjects.

    “An arrogant king in whose kingdom innocent people are tormented by evildoers loses his fame, longevity, fortune and a meritorious place after death.” (Bhagavata Purana 1.17.10)

    “Undoubtedly a king who does not perform his duties toward his subjects regularly goes to hell, a place which is devoid of air.” (Ramayana 7.53.6)

     “A king who (duly) protects (his subjects) receives from each and all the sixth part of their spiritual merit; if he does not protect them, the sixth part of their demerit also (will fall on him). Whatever (merit a man gains by) reading the Vedas, by spiritual practice, by charitable gifts, (or by) worshiping (God), the king obtains a sixth part of that in consequence of his duly protecting (his kingdom).” (Manu-samhita 8.304-5)

    “A king who protects the created beings in accordance with the sacred law and smites those worthy of corporal punishment, daily offers (as it were) sacrifices at which a hundred thousands (are given as) fees.” (Manu-samhita 8.306)

    “A king who does not afford protection, (yet) takes his share in kind, his taxes, tolls and duties, daily presents and fines, will (after death) soon sink into hell. They declare that a king who affords no protection, (yet) receives the sixth part of the produce, takes upon himself all the foulness of his whole people. Know that a king who heeds not the rules (of the law), who is an atheist, and rapacious, who does not protect (his subjects, but) devours them, will sink low (after death).” (Manu-samhita 8.307-9)

    “The subjects reject a king whose administration is faulty.” (Yogavasistha 6.84.27)

    “None, not even his kith and kin rush to the rescue of a king who behaves cruelly (with his ministers, etc.), pays them very low emoluments, behaves arrogantly, is conceited and secretly harms people in times of a calamity.” (Ramayana 3.33.15)

    “Even if the one who harasses living beings is cruel and a sinner becomes the master of all the three regions, he does not remain in power for long.” (Ramayana 3.29.3)

    “The king who does not organize a network of spies (to get news about the kingdom), or does not grant the subjects an opportunity to express their woes to him, who is controlled by others (whether by women for sense enjoyment or by political groups), is rejected by the people just as elephants abandon a river seeing the mud in it.” (Ramayana 3.33.5)

    The Manu-samhita (7.46-52) also explains that “For a king who is attached to the vices springing from love of pleasure, loses his wealth and his virtue, but (he who is given) to those arising from anger (loses) even his life. Hunting, gambling, sleeping by day, censoriousness, (excess with) women (or illicit sex), drunkenness (intoxication), (an inordinate love for) dancing, singing, and music, and useless travel are the tenfold set (of vices) springing from love of pleasure. Telling of tall tales, violence, treachery, envy, slandering, (unjust) seizure of property, reviling, and assault are the eightfold set (of vices) produced by wrath. That greediness which all wise men declare to be the root even of both these (sets), let carefully conquer; both sets (of vices) are produced by that. Drinking (intoxication), playing dice (gambling), (illicit connection with) women, and hunting (unnecessary killing and eating of animals), these four in succession, he must know to be the most pernicious in the set that springs from love of pleasure. Doing bodily injury, reviling, and the seizure of property, these three he must know to be the most pernicious in the set produced by wrath. A self-controlled (king) should know that in this set of seven, which prevails everywhere, each earlier-named vice is more abominable (than those named later).”

 

 

MORE DUTIES OF THE KING

 

    Yudhishthira asked: “What other special duties should a king discharge?”

    Bhishma replied: “A king should first know how to bring himself under subjugation. When he has achieved this he should then try to subdue his foes. The conquest of the five senses is considered to be the greatest victory. It is only such a king that is capable of conquering his enemies.

    “A king should have an immense number of soldiers in his forts, cities, frontiers and all important spots.

    “A king’s thoughts, actions, decisions and spies should be kept secret from everyone, specially the enemy. His spies should look like imbeciles. Or they should seem as though they are blind and deaf. They should be capable and they should be wise. The king should ascertain that before employing them. They should be hardy, able to bear privations like cold, heat and hunger. The king should set spies on his counselors, on his friends and even on his sons. His spies should be strangers to each other. The moment a king realizes that his foe is stronger, he should strive to make peace. If he is sure of his strength, he should collect a large army and march against the person who has no allies and friends or who is engaged in war against another. The king should know how to take them by surprise. He should not hesitate to afflict the kingdom of the enemy with weapons, fire and poison.

    “The king should take a sixth of the income of his subjects. This is for the maintenance of the army for their protection. A king’s subjects are his children. But he should guard against compassion while punishing them for their wrong behavior.

    “Honest men who are absolutely trustworthy should be appointed to administer justice. The state has her strong foundation only upon the proper administration of justice.

    “There need be no doubt whatever about the truth that it is the king that makes the age [or yuga] and not the age which makes the king. When a king rules relying entirely and strictly on the science of chastisement, Kritayuga or Satyayuga, the foremost of ages, is said to set in. Righteousness is prevalent during Kritayuga. Unrighteousness does not even exist then. The earth yields crops without even waiting to be tilled. Herbs and plants grow luxuriantly and in abundance. Diseases are not found at all and all men live long. The seasons are all delightful. There is peace and nothing but peace on earth. When the king relies on three of the four parts of this Dandaneeti [the treatise of a hundred thousand lessons composed by Brahma that deals with the subjects of Dharma (righteousness), Artha (economic development), Kama (sensual enjoyment) and Moksha (spiritual liberation)] Tretayuga sets in. A fourth part of Dharma is gone and an equal portion of Adharma sets in. The earth does yield crops but she waits for the tillage. The herbs and plants need to be nurtured. The yield is not spontaneous. When the king follows the Dandaneeti only by half, the age that sets in is Dwaparayuga. [At that time] Righteousness is diminished by half and the void is filled up by unrighteousness. The earth, even when tilled, yields only half her crop. When the king ignores the edict of Brahma and begins to oppress his people, the age is Kali. Unrighteousness becomes rampant and nothing of righteousness is seen. The world becomes the home of anarchy. Diseases appear and men die prematurely. The clouds do not rain in season and the crops fail. The king is the cause of the yugas.”

    Yudhishthira again asked: “Of whose wealth is the king said to be the lord?”

    Bhishma replied: “The Vedas have declared that the wealth of all persons belongs to the king, with the exception of the brahmins. The king’s duty is to support all the brahmins.” 19

 

 

A KING’S PRACTICE OF WORSHIP

 

    Without a doubt, a ruler must also practice the ways of Dharma like anyone else. He is not free to avoid it or do without it. Besides the basic ways of Dharma that have been discussed, here are a few more that are outlined in the Mahabharata:

    Yudhishthira asked: “The path of duty is very long. It has a hundred branches. Tell me, what are the duties that have to be practiced?”

    Bhishma answered: “The worship of mother, father and preceptor: these are the most important duties. Attending to this duty fits a king to acquire great fame and the heavens. These three should be worshiped and their commands should be obeyed implicitly. They are like the three fires that have to be worshiped daily. Serving the father helps one to cross this world. Serving the mother transports him to the heavens. Serving the preceptor one attains the region [the heavenly planetary system] of Brahma.” 20

 

“The person, to whom the gods ordain defeat, has his senses taken away from him and it is because of this that he stoops to ignoble deeds. When the intellect becomes dim and destruction is near, wrong, looking like right, strikes the heart firmly. The clouded intellect causes defeat.

“Ablution in all the holy spots and kindness to all creatures: these two are equal. Perhaps kindness to creatures surpasses the former. As long as man’s good deeds are spoken of in this world, so long is he glorified in heaven.

“The gods do not protect men taking up clubs in their hands after the fashion of herdsmen. Unto them they wish to protect, they grant intelligence. There is no doubt that one’s desires meet with success in proportion to the attention he pays to righteousness and morality. The Vedas never rescue a deceitful man from sin. Gold is tested by fire: a well-born person is tested by his deportment: an honest man by his conduct: and a brave man is tested during a season of panic: he who is self-controlled, in times of poverty: and friends and foes are tested in times of calamity and danger. Sacrifice, study, asceticism, gift, truth, forgiveness, mercy and contentment constitute the eight different paths of righteousness. The first four of these may be practiced from motives of pride but the latter four can exist only in them that are truly great.

“Do that during the day which may enable you to pass the night in happiness; do that during the eight months of the year which may enable you to pass the rainy seasons happily. Do that during youth which may ensure a happy old age: do that during your whole life here which will enable you to live happily in the hereafter.

“Untying all the knots of the heart by the aid of tranquility, mastering all the passions, observing true religion, one should learn to regard both the agreeable and the disagreeable like his own self. One should not return the slanders or reproaches of others. Strange to say, when a silent man suffers these reproaches, it is the slanderer that is consumed and the virtues, if any, of the slanderer find a home in the other man.” 21

 

These are just a few of the additional ways of continuing to travel the road of Dharma. And within this article is the brief guidelines of how a king should conduct himself and how a government must act for the benefit of the people.

 

 

NOTES

Mahabharata is abbreviated as Mb throughout the article.  

1. Mahabharata, translated by Kamala Subramaniam, published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay, 1982, pages 710-12

2. Ibid., pages 354-355

3. Ibid., page 357

4. Ibid., page 714

5. Ibid., page 354

6. Ibid., pages 708-709

7. Ibid., pages 709

8. Ibid., page 709

9. Ibid., page 709

10. Ibid., page 709

11. Ibid., pages 709-10

12. Ibid., pages 715-16

13. Ibid., page 709

14. Ibid., page 712-13

15. Ibid., page 709

16. Ibid., page 714

17. Ibid., page 353

18. Ibid., page 714

19. Ibid., pages 712-13

20. Ibid., page 715

21. Ibid., pages 355-6