Monday August 20, 2018

Decoding Adharma: How one should not speak

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Gleanings from Hindu scriptures: Part 15

Hindu scriptures classify actions into Dharma (righteousness and duty) and Adharma (unrighteousness and prohibited) depending upon whether an action leads to the overall welfare of the person and the society, or whether the actions result in harm, pain, and sorrow respectively. These actions can further be classified into three ways: actions committed through the body, through speech, and through the mind.

In the last installment, it was seen how a person can commit various Adharmic actions through his body, which will ultimately lead to sorrow and suffering for the individual as well as for the society. In this installment, let us take up the unrighteous actions that should be avoided. Manu Smriti (12.6) says:

pArushyamanrutam chaiva paishUnyam chApi sarvaShaH |

asambadda pralApashcha vAngmayaM syAchchaturviDhaM ||

Abusing others and speaking harshly; speaking untruth; gossiping and backbiting, and talking idly and without context, shall be the four kinds of (unrighteous) verbal action.

In a single verse of two lines, Manu Smriti beautifully captures the very essence of human conduct. It clearly gives guidelines about what one should not speak and how one should not speak.

The very first action of speech which is considered unrighteous is ‘paarushyam’, which means speaking harshly such that it causes hurt to the listener. In other words, Manu Smriti is asking people to speak sweetly and calmly. But, in the present society, we witness the very opposite of this. Fathers abuse their sons, daughters talk back to their mothers, bosses shout at their employees, house owners shout at their servants, and even strangers abuse each other over trivial things.

Use of Abuse and harsh language, in many a sense, has become an inseparable part of the current social norms and media narratives. On TV, one can easily witness panelists and anchors shouting at the top of their voices, movies that are full of people using expletives in frustration. The assimilation of the act of shouting and cursing has seeped in so deep that they are today recognized as a ‘normal’ way of expressing frustration and anger.

Then, of course, there are people who cannot speak even a single sentence without inserting a word or two of abuse and there are those who love to insult and humiliate others. Harsh speech not only refers to using expletives, but also to using speech as a medium to insult and humiliate others. Humiliation has become the single most important tool used by corporate bosses to get works done in their offices.

Thus, speech and communication in the present society has been completely contaminated with harsh speech. People do not realize that hurting someone, or causing stress or depression to a person is as unrighteous an action as causing physical violence. For this reason, Manu Smriti has upheld ‘harsh speech’ as the very first of Adharmic actions through speech and has advised people to avoid it.

The second tenet is ‘untruth’, lies, and distortions. Hinduism has given highest importance to Satya or Truth. Thus, the famous saying ‘Truth Alone Triumphs’. The present conditions often force people to lie day in and day out. Sometimes speaking falsehoods are a compulsion and at some other times, they are done for simple fun. The habit of speaking falsehood becomes so ingrained in some people, that they become compulsive liars and actually end up being dishonest to their own selves.

Lies and distortions are the foundation of dishonesty and corruption. Speaking truth is at the heart of practicing righteous Dharmic life. And falsehoods take one to exactly the opposite destination- Adharma. Hence, the scriptures urge people to try to adhere to the truth, and cultivate pure, pleasant, and truthful speech. It may not always be practical to speak the truth in the present complicated life circumstances. Yet, one must strive hard to adhere to the truth to the best of one’s abilities. Otherwise, once a person gives himself to falsehood and corruption, it is very difficult to return to the righteous path and such a person will ultimately end up in pain and suffering.

The third tenet of Adharma is ‘gossiping and bitching’, another very common phenomenon that can be observed in the society. Manu Smriti explicitly asks people to avoid wasting time in this useless activity. Rumor mongering can be considered as one of the worst kind of actions that a person commits. Backbiting and spreading rumors are nothing but verbal violence committed on the victim, which has the potential to defame and ruin the reputation of an innocent victim. Thus, this behavior must be completely avoided.

The final tenet of Adharma through speech is speaking idly and without context. This phenomenon can often be observed among people who visit temples for example. Temples are places of worship and meditation. Yet, most people who visit temples are engaged in conversations on a wide range of issues, ranging from household works to political issues. A similar scene can be witnessed in a marriage or at a funeral ceremony as well. Then, there are some people who are compulsive speakers, and some, who love to intervene in any and every conversation that other people are having, to show off their knowledge. This behavior is being called as ‘Adharma’ because it is sheer nuisance and disturbs others.

Thus, Manu Smriti pretty much sums up the whole art of speech. These actions of using swear words, speaking falsehoods, gossiping, and talking too much, may appear small and trivial things. But, to avoid them in everyday life requires constant vigilance and self-control. Though they appears trivial, these may lead a person to great trouble and suffering. The best example can be scores of defamation cases that are filed across the country every year. Perjury or speaking falsehood under oath is treated as a great crime.

These actions of speech are considered as Adharma not only because they are unethical and unrighteous, but also because they cause huge discomfort and pain to others and ultimately land the perpetrator in hardships and suffering. Thus, people should strive hard to adhere to Dharma and avoid Adharma in body, speech, and mind. We will take up the Adharmic actions committed through the mind in the next installment of the series.

More in this segment:

Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 1
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 2
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 3
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 4
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 5
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 6
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 7
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 8
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures – Part 9
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures – Part 10
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures – Part 11
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures – Part 12
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 13
Gleanings from Hindu Scriptures- Part 14

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Hinduism Should Not be Viewed Through the Narrow Prism of Marxism

Regarding menstruation, the seers of ancient India set down certain dos and don’t. It is no exaggeration that they realized the subtle intricacies of not only the tangible body and but also various sheaths of spiritual bodies

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Hinduism
Indeed all ancient Hindu scriptures put the female on the same footing as the male.

By Salil Gewali

“A little knowledge is more dangerous than ignorance”. And far more dangerous is when that little knowledge is spread in the society being propelled by the fuel of “prejudices”.  This write-up is with reference to a number of articles by a certain class of writers published in the mainstream media. Those articles are intended to rake up the issues in order to push the sacred temple of “Sabarimala” of Kerala or Shani Shingnapur and the culture associated with it, into the mire of controversy. Tarnishing the image of Hinduism is the main goal. Not unexpectedly, some stories even proclaim that in India “women” are thus demonized and their menstruation is abhorred.

Having gone through some of them I immediately contacted a number of top scholars in Kerala for hands-on verification — whether “women” are being despised so heartlessly or not. Since one of my books is translated into their language I did that with all ease. Not a single scholar (women included) informed me suggesting that they, or temple management of Sabarimala, have ever “despised women”, or hated “menstruation”.  I rather got an earful for asking such absurd questions.  They instantly reiterated referring to Hindu scriptures which teach all and one to look upon women as “Motherly figures”. One scholar remarks, “this confrontation has actually been orchestrated by the politicians with the help of certain forces which want to demean our culture”.  I heaved a sigh of relief!

Indeed all ancient Hindu scriptures put the female on the same footing as the male. But some vested interests with an ulterior motive have been distorting the true history/legends of India and also merrily belittling or shrugging off the literary treasure troves of the country. It was first done by the British in order to divide and rule Indians, in which they were very successful. And later, the legacy has been faithfully and aggressively carried forward by the Indian intellectuals influenced by certain thinkers and writers of the West and their culture.

Hinduism
Representational image.

Well, the seers of ancient India not only knew as information but they “fully realized” that everything, in and out, is pervaded by “Brahman” (Almighty). The modern science too has arrived at the “same conclusion”. The father of Quantum Mechanics — Erwin Schrodinger has scientifically discussed this fact in his world-famous book – “What is Life?”.  All knowledge associated with the ONENESS of Universe and the “Unity in Diversity” is systematically enshrined in 108 Upanishads.  They expounded with a force that “Purusha” (male) and “Pratriki” (female) both combine themselves to put forth the infinite COSMIC CREATION. One without other is like the fire without the heat. They are mutually complementary, inter-dependent and inter-related. The “discrimination” of any kind, not just “against women”, but even against the tiny “insects” and “plants” are considered irreligious. I would also request such biased scholars to read between the lines from the literature authored by Sri Aurobindo and Vivekananda who just quote from them to gloss over the footprint of their agendas. One wonders when they will learn to shake off the baggage of prejudices against while getting down to study the literature of the home country.

Now about the legend Ayyappa of Sabarimala in brief. The story which is long and interestingly too drawn-out, says —  Lord Ayyappa, who was born out of Lord Shiva and the feminine energy of Lord Vishnu, had exceptional power. His birth on earth was in order to kill a female demon– Mahishi. After having been killed the demoness, the curse against her ends. She again takes birth, this time the Goddess incarnate. This is laws of karma works. When she grew up she approached Lord Ayyappa for the marriage. But Ayyappa, who was practicing celibacy, denied. But, he consoles her saying that he will only marry her when no “first timer” will visit his temple for blessings. However, Lord Ayyappa asks her to reside just near to his temple. Later, in her memory, the devotee constructed a temple known as Malikapurathamma just adjacent to the temple of Ayyappa.

Since Lord Ayyappa, who was known for his celibacy, and had promised to marry Malikapurathamma, it has become a sort of a tradition among women not to visit the temple.  It should not be  misunderstood that it is apparently as a mark of showing respect to both Lord Ayyappa and Goddess Malikapurathamma.

Hinduism
Representational image.

Regarding menstruation, the seers of ancient India set down certain dos and don’t. It is no exaggeration that they realized the subtle intricacies of not only the tangible body and but also various sheaths of spiritual bodies (five sheaths mentioned in Upanishads). The areas of study are very vast. They caution that a woman during her monthly cycle should abstain from the religious public rituals, but can perform the personal spiritual practice. In fact, contrary to the modern tradition and practice, the seers didn’t “limit themselves” to the personal and public hygiene alone, but they went further, and so taken the “spiritual aspect” into consideration. Of course, lot many such dos and don’ts are beyond the understanding of we mundane people with limited five senses and “scattered mind”. It is too absurd who interpret that it is a practice of “untouchability”. A medical doctor will never allow you to enter into ICU unless you are well washed. Is not everything there meticulously sterilized?  Do you say that the hospital is practicing “untouchability”? I don’t think any mother will allow her children to enter the kitchen and take food immediately after the latrine without washing hands and feet.

Going by such biased articles in the mainstream media intended to denigrate the culture and heritage of the country; and also literary books (who unfortunately receive “Sahitya Akademi” and “Padma Shree” awards), I fervently wish that one should have the deeper knowledge of the subjects. Here the crucial prerequisite is that they must first unlearn false history and start to learn the true history without being weighed down by the prejudices.  Moreover, the cosmic ocean of the Indian wisdom is so deep, even it has described many “inconceivable” laws and principles which are seemingly out-of-box and discriminatory. I humbly suggest not to selectively pick up a few odds and use them to demean this vast culture of knowledge. The Vedanta should not be view through the narrow prism of Karl Marx and LeninEven their favorite master Fredrick Hegel (front ranking philosopher of the west) cheerfully confessed the depth of ancient wisdom, –  “It strikes everyone in beginning to form an acquaintance with the treasures of Indian literature, that a land so rich in intellectual products and those of the “profoundest” order of thought”. How I wish that a dagger not be wielded by an untrained person or else it will be disastrous!

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali.