Monthly Archives: March 2012


No one can disagree with Sri Suki Sivam’s argument that the true mark of spirituality is not asking favors from God, like passing examinations, receiving a promotion, arranging a marriage, etc (Sun TV, July 9, 2011), but rather the true mark of spirituality is seeking God Herself and nothing else beyond Her.  Suki Sivam quoted several saints like Manikkavasagar, Thayumanavar, and Satya Saibaba, who said that seeking money, gold, and silver is not the true mark of spirituality.  He also rightly rebuked the practice of arranging a special prayer for students’ examinations, saying, “simply praying for an examination, God won’t help any student to pass. God may or may not help in passing the examination, rather students should study and be prepared for the examination”.

Unfortunately, the overall mark of spirituality, at least for the common man, is not seeking God and God alone.  There are even a few saints who are not a good model for spirituality.  Suki Sivam pointed out that asking for two kg of dhal or a few biscuits of gold are not the mark of spirituality, but it never reflects the total view of spirituality, at least in the life of any saint and bhakta.  For example, Sundarar, who is even called ‘Tamibran Thozhar’ (Friend of God), asked the same and even went further by asking paddy, gold and even God’s help to have a second wife (Song 3386, p. 218) and also to counsel his estranged first wife (song 3482, p. 264) for which God Thyagaraja (Siva) of Tiruvarur went several times to her door to pacify her anger and to reconcile them (song 3500, p. 274). 1

For the common man, spirituality is not merely seeking God and God alone, but even demanding that God take care of his mundane needs.  “Your duty is to uphold me and my duty is to serve you,” says Manickkavasagar.  The thought is that the true mark and purpose every avatara of God is to help Her bhaktas in their (mundane) needs and not merely to show the path of spirituality.  Even the very word ‘bhagavan’ means “one who shares her bhagas.2  In the same way, many students who pray for their examinations never think that without proper preparation, by mere prayer alone, God will help them to pass the examination.  In fact, prayer is not putting any ‘pressure’ on God, but a way of expressing our dependence on Her to remove some of our ‘pressure’.  It is a kind of counseling, to use a modern term, to remove our inner anxiety and trust God.

I do not disagree with the main point of Suki Sivam about the true mark of spirituality, but it would be good if he could point it as the culmination of bhakti for everyone—even for sannyasis and Babas who accumulate money, power and authority in the name of serving humanity, then his talk would be more appealing.  Particularly, he should take extra caution to quote the saints of the past as examples, because there were several saints who behaved even worst than common bhaktas in the name of their bhakti to God in involving violence (See Periya Puranam for Murka Nayanar, Kotpuliyur Nayanar who used violence to demonstrate their bhakti.3).  However, few Hindu apologetics like to explain such incidents, yet the fact remains that not all saints are good models for us to quote or to imitate, particularly for true mark of spirituality.

Dayanand Bharati, July 9, 2011


1. Periyapuranam, Chennai, Varthaman Publishers, 2000.

2.  …Bhagavaan has been variously explained, e.g. as `the One who possesses and shares bhaga or bliss, well-being’ or `the One who possesses the six bhagas or attributes’..— Julius Lipner, HINDUS Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, Routledge, London 1994, pp.308-309

…Bhagavan means one who shares with us all the six bhagas.  What are those six bhagas? … aiswarya …wealth(p.383) virya – power, energy, shakit…. yasa glory … shri – splendour … gnana … wisdom … vairagya …unfettered freedom.— — Swami Amalorananda, Atma Purna Anubhava, Anjali Ashram, Mysore, 2000,  pp. 383-84

…Dispenser (Bhagavan)..—‘The Religious Discoveries of the Vedic Indians’ in, Editors R.De Smet and J. Neuner ,Religious Hinduism, Fourth Revised Edition, 1997, p. 77

3. Murkar: who gambled to get money and stabbed those who refuse to pay when he wins (song 3626, vol. 5. p. 337); Kotpuliyr kills all his relatives, including infants who used the paddy to feed themselves to escape from famine, which he kept to offer to God, song 4141, vol. 6.p. 292 in Periyapuranam, Chennai, Varthaman Publishers, 2000

In continuation with the above topic, here I would like to share my views on prayer.  On 26-10-1993 when I had to take some important decision on certain issues, I wrote the following poem as a prayer:

இது வேண்டும் அது வேண்டும்

என நிதம் பல வேண்டாமல்

எதை நான் செயவேண்டும்

என உளம் நீ கொண்டாயோ

அதையே நான் செய்ய வேண்டி

அருளை நீ தருவாயே!

In stead of asking for this and that; whatever you want me to do; give me your grace only to accomplish that.

But I am not the only person who offered such prayer.  Several centuries before Manikkavasagar, the leading Saiva Saint of Tamilnadu wrote a beautiful poem which I always considered as the TRUE PRAYER:

வேண்டத்தக்க தறிவோய்நீ வேண்டமுழுதுந் தருவோய்நீ

வேண்டும் அயன்மாற் கரியோய்நீ வேண்டி என்னைப் பணிகொண்டாய்

வேண்டி நீயா தருள்செய்தாய் யானும் அதுவே வேண்டினேன் அல்லால்

வேண்டும் பரிசொன் றுண்டென்னில் அதுவும் உன்றன் விருப்பன்றே.- குழைத்தப்பத்து, -6

–you know what my need is; you will provide what all I need; you are rare indeed for Brahma and Vishnu; you voluntarily called me for your service; voluntarily you gave me your grace; I too requested the same; if there is something I need, I will leave that too for your choice. (Kuzhaitapp pathu, 6).

Though such prayer could be the mark of total surrender of a bhakta, yet seeking God and Her will alone is not all that is recorded in so many poems by saints.  This is true even in other scriptures also.  So it will be an interesting study if we could do it based on the topic of prayer.  Though it is a big subject, knowing my limitation, I would like to limit it with the Muktiveda and few Hindu scriptures.

Dayanand Bharati,July 21, 2011.

Regardless of your faith, after a long struggle with the spiritual discipline of prayer, there is one secret: Live one day at a time.  Of course this has never been a true secret as it is the experience of many  saints.  ‘Each day’s concern is enough for that day’ says Muktiveda.  Though we know this, living it on a day to day basis is the real challenge and tapasya.  By living such a life I have learned that God will not allow me to face any challenge which I cannot handle with Her help.  When it looks like it is beyond my ability, then She sends the help, but I should have the discerning spirit to see that help and make use of it.  However, my ego and self-dependence could blind me to see the help that God has arranged.  Therefore, an important thing in ‘living one day at a time’ is : TRUST GOD, DO YOUR PART, GIVE UP EGO AND ACCEPT THE HELP THAT WHICH GOD HAS ARRANGED.

The next important part of prayer is to not run ahead of God or doubt Her.  For example: I have prayed for a particular need.  Then, I must wait for God’s Time to receive it.  After doing my part of praying and waiting, I should not run ahead of God to make my own arrangements.  Here we should not confuse our planning with making arrangements before God will act.

I can best illustrate from my current experience:  Narayanan, who is working here, couldn’t continue his seva, as he has to take care of his cattle.  He said that he will sell some of them and keep minimum (two) and then will come back and do the work.  Until that time I have to manage on my own.  Getting laborers is not an easy thing in a rural area, particularly after the MARAGA scheme in which a minimum of 100 days work is assured; people get easy money without much strain.  They work for two to three hours and then get around Rs. 100/-.  They also get around 30 kgs of free rice through the public distribution system in Tamilnadu.  So, when we ask them to come for work, they say “no”.  If you compel them, then they ask for double the amount.  Even if you are ready to pay double, there is no guarantee that they will do the work to your expectations.  Whatever they do you have to accept and you should not make any complaint about their work.  If you do, the next day they will not come.  In such a scenario, without someone to help, it is difficult to manage such a big property.  However, I prayed about it and trusted God. Though often I am tempted to find some other alternative, I have to resist that temptation.  I myself asked Narayanan to sell the cattle and then come for work as he find it difficult to manage both. And I also gave him some time (I told him one week, but I have decided to give one month as selling cattle is not easy).  The main help that I need is to buy vegetables from Thally and some other provisions.  But Viji is coming once in two weeks and bring things from Hosur.  And Santanam is also helping.  Above all, Narayanan is also coming twice in a week to buy vegetables and other things from Thally.  The milkman is also ready to help me to get vegetables from Thally.  And as some rain is coming I do not need to water the plants.  And my mother manages her own things (washing her cloths) and doing the rest is not a big issue for me.  Even if Narayanan comes, we do most of the household work.

Once I see all of the blessings and other arrangements that God has arranged for me, I need to wait patiently for God to answer my prayer for a worker.  I can keep in mind that, at present, I am in good health and that these works give me some exercise that I very much in need. Sweeping, washing and other works help me more than they make me tired.  Above all, as I have to do these works, I do them at my own convenience and plan and have begun to enjoy them.  So don’t experience any mental tension or irritation in completing these works, which I strongly feel is the work of God.  This is illustrates my feeling that God won’t allow any trial which is beyond my ability to handle.  The first ability is mental strength, then physical strength.  As long as these works give joy and do not become a burden, then I feel that God is in control of things and I need not worry too much about the need of a worker.  The day I become tired and feel the work as a burden and do not find joy in them, but rather do them out of compulsion, God will interfere and will make proper arrangements.  Until that time, I need to trust God and wait patiently for Her Time and Way to resolve the issue.

This is what I mean by living One day at a Time.

Note:  Narayanan returned back to work after five weeks, but without selling his cattle.

August 7, 2011.

I never read Quran.  So I have to limit my thoughts on prayer within the worldview of Hinduism and Muktiveda (Bible).  For a common Hindu, the life is centered on four ‘purushartas’ aims of life.  Though we Hindus never use those terms in everyday life or punctuate our talk referring always with scriptures, yet our life is based on this.  They are: Dharma, artha,kamaand moksha.  And they are not isolated concepts but interlinked with each other.  So to attain them we seek the grace and ‘help’ of God.  And what all the means to achieve them is part of our prayer.  Even the ritual done to deities (to please, appease, in gratitude etc. etc.) is part of that prayer.  That is why the ritual portion of the Veda viz., ‘brahmana’ means ‘prayer’. So prayer is not only to seek God and God alone but also to seek Her help to get all that we need for a proper life.  At the same time we have to remember here that all these aims of life can be also sought and exercised without the need of God.  And those Hindus who do not believe in God or do not want to disturb Her, could still carry these aims in life.  Then ‘prayer’ is meaningless to them.  But such Hindus are only a insignificant minority. Many Hindu saints expressed their needs to their respective deities in their poems.  Of course their list is not limited only with the need of the body alone but also that related with other aims of life like: dharma, and moksha.  I like Sri Ramalinga Vallalar’s one song in this respect:

ஒருமையுடன் நினது திருமலரடி நினைக்கின்ற

உத்தமர் தம் உறவு வேண்டும்

உள்ளொன்று வைத்துப் புறமொன்று பேசுவார்

உறவு கலவாமை வேண்டும்

பெருமைபெறும் நினது புகழ் பேசவேன்டும்

பொய்மை பேசா திருக்க வேண்டும்

பெருநெறி பிடித்தொழுக வேண்டும்

மதமான பேய் பிடியாதிருக்க வேண்டும்

மருவு பெண்ணாசையை மறக்கவே வேண்டும் உனை

மறவா திருக்க வேண்டும்

மதி வேண்டும் நின்கருணை நிதி வேண்டும் நோயற்ற

வாழ்வினான் வாழவேண்டும்…

–திருவருட்பா, மூலமும் உரையும், உரையாசிரியர்: ஓளவை துரைசாமிப் பிள்ளை, சுத்த சன்மார்க நிலையம், வடலூர். முதல் தொகுதி, பாடல், 8, p. 82

In this song Vallalar seeks the fellowship true bhaktas, one is honest in speaking the truth; only to talk about the glory of God; never tell lie; following the true path; should not have religious fanaticism; forget lust for woman; but not forgot God; need of a good mind; God’s grace; life without sickness etc.;–Tiruvarutpa, with commentary by Ovai S. Duraisamip Pillai, Suddha Sanmarga Nilayam, Vadalur. Vol. 1. song 8. p. 82 Vallalar’s life and teaching mainly centered on ‘Jeevakarunyam’ showing compassion to all living creatures.  So when he wrote such songs, he never sought them for his personal life or need, but representing the need of others he wrote this and all other songs.  So his prayer is not just to seek God and God alone but super imposing other’s need on him, he earnestly prayed to God for so many things that are in  need for a normal and healthy life here and also for eternity. Bhakti is not only total surrender to God but equally demand Her with equal right as Her child.  As I quoted above from Manikkavasagar, ‘Upholding is your duty and serving is my duty’(’தன் கடன் அடியேனையும் தாங்குதல்; என்கடன் பணிசெய்து கிடப்பதே’).  A bhakta strongly feels that she came to this world as per the will and grace of God, however all other facts like karma etc. too play important role.  Desire of parents with the grace of God a child is born.  So she came to this world not on her own will or desire.  Once she was brought to this world then it is the duty of both her parents and God to provide all that she needs to grow and live this life.  And true bhakti will also help one to see this very life also a gift from God.  So demanding the needs for life is not against bhakti but become part of bhakti.  And true bhakti is not seeking God alone but also asking for the needs for our life according to the will of God.  Any scripture that promote true bhakti will never deny this.  And Lipner rightly said: “…the divine avatara is made not only to help man towards some ‘other-worldly’ salvation but also to take account of legitimate, if lesser, worldly, desires, such as ‘wealth’ and ‘desired objects’.  Thus the divine avatara is a tribute to the Lord’s compassionate accessibility.”. (Julius Lipner, The Face of Truth: A Study of Meaning and Metaphysics in the Vedantic Theology of Ramanuja. Albany, State University of New York Press, 1986, p. 103) And few more songs by other Hindu saints are sufficient to show this fact (which I will give later).  So I would like to quote them without adding any comments, as the songs themselves speaks more clearly and loudly about what they asked God in their prayer.  This is what Sundarar asks Siva at Nagai, not just for himself alone but also to his beloved wife:

பண்மயத்த மொழிப்பரவை சங்கிலிக்கும்

எனக்கும் பற்றாய பெருமானே!

மற்று யாரை உடையேன்?

உண்மயத்த உமக்கு அடியேன் குறைதீர்க்க வேண்டும்,

ஒளிமுத்தம், பூணாரம்

ஒண்பட்டும் பூவும்

கண்மயத்த கத்தூரி, கமழ்சாந்தும் வேண்டும்

— Beloved lord both for me and (my wife) Paravai, whom else I have other than you. You have to remove the shortage of your bhakta.  I need pearls, jewels, silk cloths , flowers, Kasturi and other scented items.—[T. M. Baskarat Thondaiman, Venkatam Mudal Kumari Varai [from Venkadam to Kumari], Chennai, Nallarappadippagam, 2009, 6 vols. Vol. 3. p. 141.  Not only here but Sundarar asked so many times gold, paddy and other things from the Lord in different pilgrimage centers. July 23, 2011 Prayer in Muktiveda Though there are many similarities between Muktiveda and other scriptures (particularly in Hinduism) on the topic of prayer, yet there is some unique distinction between them.  One important uniqueness in Muktiveda regarding prayer is that it depends upon our relationship with God and fellow human beings.  Simply having faith in God one cannot ask anything in prayer.  This very seeking for our need in life is primarily related to our relationship and attitude with our fellow human beings.  To say in other words, without having right kind of relationship with our fellow human beings we cannot even ask any favor from God.  God won’t listen and answer our prayers unless we first mend our relationship with others, forgive our offenders, seek reconciliation etc.  So without adding any comment here I give certain vachanas from Muktiveda which will speak themselves these points: Our Mother in Cosmos; hallowed be your name (9); your rule come, your will be done among us as it is in the Universe (10) Give us today our daily food (11); Forgive us our shortcomings as we also have forgiven our offenders (12); And lead  us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. (Matthew Ch. 6: 9-13, my own rephrasing) Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; she who seeks finds; and to her who knocks, the door will be opened.  Which of you, if her daughter asks for rotti will give paper (to eat); or if she asks for rice, will give her sand?  If you, then though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Mother in Cosmos give good gifts to those who ask her. (Matthew 7: 7-11) This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to her will, she hears us.  And if we know that she hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of her. (1 John 5: 14-15)

March 30, 2012


One main theme that recurs throughout the Mbh. is ‘dharma’.  But this dharma is not a general term in most of the context but talk about ‘varnashramadharma’, in which each Varna has to uphold their respective dharma for the very existence of society.  And even in this varnashramadharma, though other varnas have equal role to play, yet one often feels that the rest of the three varnas are their only for the Brahmins.  Or Brahmins are the central stage around which the entire dharma evolves and rotates.  In a play, as the center character alone get all importance and attention, one feels that in Mbh., as a play the central character is Brahmins.1 As the script, scene and the role of other characters are set to highlight the heroine of the play, I felt that the rest of the varnas in Mbh. are displayed to highlight the importance of Brahmins alone.  While the Brahmins are standing tall, the rest of the two dvijis (twice born) Varna stand on both side upholding the Brahmins and the Shudra always sitting at their feet, particularly to serve the Brahmins.2

I know some of my points look bit exaggeration.  And one can reprimand my point by taking several points from the same Mbh.  But no one can deny the fact that Brahmins not only occupy the central stage but has an important role to play, enjoys special privileges and equally have high responsibility.

But am I qualified to write something about Brahmins, as I born in a Brahmin family?  I feel that I have the opportunity to know them from within as others cannot understand them from outside.  Whenever I read or hear anything written or said against Brahmins, then naturally as a Brahmin I get irritated by the way they write and say something that will serve their purpose.  At the same time when I read or hear others glorifying Brahmin and Brahmanism, then I equally get irritated and want to immediately expose all the hypocrisy and undue importance to give both to Brahmins and Brahmanism.

When I took my brother and his wife toNorth Indiatrip, after visitingGaya, Kashi,Allahabad, we were proceeding toDelhi.  In the train, I met another Pandit from Kashi who was going toDelhion the same train.  After some initial talk, when he began to praise the South Indian Brahmins for still keeping all the orthodoxy (rather orthopraxy) and tradition intact, I get irritated (as I know well about their orthodoxy/orthopraxy as an insider), I said, ‘but what is the use?  See my brother.  He is not ready to adjust even on small things while on this travel’. Then I mentioned how he wanted to upheld several rituals related to eating, sleeping etc., that Panditi said, ‘by strictly observing such rituals and orthodoxy, your brother is compensating what is lacking in other Brahmins in order to uphold the cosmic order and dharma for everyone’.  This remark and attitude about Brahmins as the custodian of tradition, orthodoxy/orthopraxy and to some extent to culture is not new in our (pan)-Indian culture, (scriptural) tradition.  Sometimes even these privileges are imposed on them (and also equally claimed by them) put them in an inconvenient place in our Indian society.

After reading Mbh. I felt sorry for the Brahmins than appreciating all the privileges they were granted by Mbh. Even as an idealism, it is very difficult to be a Brahmin, though the same is true with other three varnas.  But relatively, Brahmins deserves our sympathy considering the demands of Mbh. on them, whether or not they all were literally sanctioned and followed by the Brahmins (or any other caste in any time.)  A separate study on Brahmins based on scriptural, cultural, social, historical perspective will be an interesting study.  But as it is the field for the scholars, let me not even imagine of doing such things.  Here as my sharing is limited to Mbh. let me share what all Mbh. says about Brahmins.

Dayanand Bharati,March 2, 2011.

  1. …The Brahmanas [Brahmins], who were the custodians of literature, utilized the epics, as they became popular, for propagation of their culture and religion.  So, many religious and ceremonial elements which did not originally belong to it, entered the huge body of the Mahabharata and it became a reference book for the Hindu religion.  The Mahabharata was regarded as a Samhita as early as before the fifth century A.D. [Buhler and Kirste, contrib. To the history of the Mahabharata.  Siteungsher wien, 1892. 4-27]….— Rajbali Pandey, Hindu Samskaras:  Socio-Religious Study of the Hindu Sacraments, Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass, (Second Revised Edition, 1969), Reprint, 1987 p.9

…As his name [Parasurama] Bhaargava indicates he is the hero of the Bhrgu group of Brahmans who were responsible for inflating the Mahabharata and through it bolstering the pretensions to superiority of the Brahmans.— J. L. Brockington, Sacred Thread, A Short history of Hinduism, Oxford, 1996 (1981, Edinburgh University Press). p.68

2. …Manu [X.43-45] and the Mahaabhaarata [Anusaasanaparva 33.21-23 and 35.17-18] were prepared to admit that several foreign races like the Sakas, Yavanas, Kambojas, Dravidas, Daradas, Sabaras, Kiraatas etc. were originally kstriyas but had been reduced to the status of suudras by losing contact with braahmanas or by not liking the idea of being subject to the braahmanical system.  The Visnupuraana [IV.4.47-48] says the same….

Brahmin and Kshatriyas:

.…He who desires his won prosperity, should ever be guided by his priest….(77) a king, who is without a Brahmana, can never acquire any land by his bravery or nobility of birth only.(78)…therefore know that the kingdoms with Brahmanas at their heads can be retained for long.(79) [Gandarva to Arjuya](172:77-79)—ibid. ADI PARVA p.240

11… O king, one  should  never  be  without  a  Brahmana  if  he  wishes  to  conquer  this world  and the  next  for  long.  Having  got  a Brahmana  well  -versed  in  religion  and  worldly  affairs and  cleansed  of  passion  and  folly a king destroys his enemies….[Rishi Vaka to Yudhisthira]—ibid.  Ch. XXVI. VANA PARVA, Vol. 2, p. 38.

15. Like  an  elephant  without  a  driver  in  battle   the  strength  of  a  Kshatrya, with  out a  Brahmana  decreases. 16. Incomparable is the sight of a Brahmana and the might of a Kshatryas; when they proceed in unison the whole world is delighted. [Rishi Vaka to Yudhisthira]—ibid. Ch. XXVI. VANA PARVA, Vol. 2, p38.

6. The life of even a Brahmana….who follows the observances of a Kshatriya, is not blamable, for Kshatriyas also have originated from Brahman. [Arjuna to Yudhishthira] — ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva Ch. XXII P. 26

10. Indra himself, though a Brahmana, became a Kshatriya in his deeds, and fought with his sinful kinsmen for eight hundred and ten times. [Arjuna to Yudhishthira] — ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva Ch. XXII P. 26

18. The king who does not use (in a particular case) the rod of chastisement, should fast for one night.  The priest who does not advise the king to inflict punishment (in a proper case) should last for three nights. [Vyasa to Yudhisthira].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.XXXVII. P. 51

22. …the Brahmanas should never be punished by you….23-24…..Fire has originated from water, the Kshtriya from the Brahmana, and iron from stone. The three, viz., fire, Kshatriya, and iron, can act on every other thing, but coming into contact with their respective origins, their force becomes neutralized. 25. When iron strikes stone, or fire fights with water, or Kshatriya treats a Brahmana inimically, these three soon become weak….[Bhishma to Yudhisthira].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva Ch. X. p. 78

Pururavas said: 9.Tell me, truly, O god of Wind, to whom does this Earth fairly belong.  Does it belong to the Brahmana or to the Kshatriya.

The god of Wind said: 10. Everything that exists in the universe belongs to the Brahmana on account of his birth and precedence.  Persons, conversant with morality, declare it. 11. What the Brahmana eats is his own. The place he dwells in is his own. What he gives away is his own. He deserves the respect of all the (other) orders. He is the first-born and the foremost. 12. As a woman, in the absence of her husband, marries his younger brother, even so the Earth, for the refusal of the Brahmana, has accepted his next-born, viz., the Kshatriya, for her master.  This is the first rule. In times, however, of distress, there is exception to this. [Pururavas to Wind god] — ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva. Ch. LXXII. P.108

11. The king should never treat indifferently those Brahmanas who do not observe their duties. For the sake of making his people virtuous, he should punish and take them away from their betters. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira] — ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva. Ch. LXXVI. P. 113

21. Even as a Brahmana in a time of distress may officiate at the sacrifice of a person for whom he should never officiate and eat forbidden food, so there is no doubt that a Kshatriya may take riches from every one save ascetics and Brahmanas. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva. Ch. CXXX. P. 191

11-12. …That Brahmana who has been compelled by want to fast for three days, may take away without permission, according to the rule of a person who cares only for today and not for the morrow, only what is necessary for a single meal, from the husking tub or the field or the garden or any other place of even a degraded man.  He should, however, whether asked or unasked, inform the king of his deed. 13. If the king knows his own duty he should not punish such a Brahmana. He should remember that a Brahmana becomes stricken with hunger only through the fault of the Kshatriya. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira]— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.CLXVI. P. 243

41. I am a Kshatriya. I do not know how to say the word—Give.  The only thing, O best of twice-born ones, that we can say is—Give (us) battle. [king Ikshak to a Brahmana] 44. You boasted that your words always pray for battle. Why then do you not pray for a battle with me. [the Brahmana to king Ikshak]. 45. It is said that Brahmanas are armed with the thunder of speech, and that Kshatriyas have might of arms. Hence, O learned Brahmana, this wordy warfare has taken place between you and me. [king Ikshak to a Brahmana] — ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.CXCIX. P. 295.

8. It is impossible for a king that is hostile to Brahmanas to continue living in this world or in acquiring happiness in the next. [Sudasa to Utanka].— ibid. ASHWAMEDHA PARVA, VOL. 7Ch.LVIII. P. 425

Dana (receiver of dhana; to be supported):

Yudhisthira supports by giving thirty servant maids to each of eighty-eight thousands Snataka Brahmanas who lead domestic life. [Duryodhana to Dhritarastra] (49:17)—ibid. SABHA PARVA p.386

50…  I  desire  it [wealth] only  for  the  support  of  the  Brahmanas….[Yudhisthira to Saunaka]—ibid. VANA PARVA, Vol. 2, p  4.  Ch. II.

82. …Try  now  to  obtain  success  in  penances in  order  to  support  the  Brahmanas….[Saunaka to Yudhisthira]—ibid. Ch. II. VANA PARVA, Vol. 2, p  6.

78. Whatever sin a king commits in acquiring dominions, he consumes it all by means of performing sacrifices in which large Dakshinas are given away. 79….as the moon emerges from the clouds, so does a king emerge from all sins by bestowing thousands of villages and kine on the Brahmanas. [Bhima to Yudhisthira].—ibid. VANA PARVA,Ch.XXXIII. Vol. 2, p.51.

37. As you support numerous Brahmanas, learned in the Vedas, your continued residence here (in this forest) may exhaust the deer of the forest and may be destructive of the creepers and plant. [Vysa to Yudhisthira].—ibid. VANA PARVA, Ch. XXXVI Vol. 2, p.55.

77. …As an offering of ghee to Agni is never in vain, so a gift to the Brahmanas learned in the Vedas is never in vain. [Markandeya to Yudhisthira.].—ibid. VANA PARVA, Vol. 2, Ch. CXCX. p. 299

86. …A Brahmana is the (proper) time for a Sradha (i.e. there is no special time for a Sradha.  It may be celebrated whenever an able priest can be secured)…. [Yudhisthira to Yaksha]—ibid. VANA PARVA, Vol. 2, CCCXII, p. 449

2. The residue, after supporting the Brahmanas, should be devoted to the support of other people.  Nobody should take by injuring the Brahmanas. [Bhishma to Yudhishthira].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.LXXXIX. P. 132

6. The king should further say to him [Brahmana who want of support, wishes to leave a kingdom],–Indeed, O Brahmana, people say that only that which is sufficient should be assigned to a Brahmana to maintain him. I, however, do not hold that opinion.  On the other hand, I think that if a Brahmana seeks to abandon a kingdom for the king neglecting to provide him with means of support, such means should be assigned to him, and, further, if he wishes to take that step for procuring the means of luxury, he (p.132) should still be requested to say and supplied with those luxuries. [Bhishma to Yudhishthira].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.LXXXIX. Pp. 132-3

3. Only the Dakshina, should be given to those Brahmanas who are not poor.  Uncooked food should be given beyond the limits of the sacrificial altar, to those Brahmanas that have fallen away (in consequence of their sinful deeds) from their own dignity. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira] — ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.CLXVI. P. 243

13. For a Brahmana living like a house-holder, there is no means save the acceptance of gifts for the sake of the gods, or the Rishis, or the Pitris, or the preceptor, or the aged, or the diseased, or the hungry. [Vyasa to Shuka].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.CCXXXIV. P. 355

7. In that house where Brahmanas do not eat, the departed manes refuse to eat. [Bhishma to Yudhishthira].— ibid.ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. XXXIV. P. 97

36. If a Brahmana accepts the gifts made to him by the king, he loses, by such acceptance, the merit that he would otherwise win by his penances, that day….[The Seven Rishis to king Vrishadarbhi].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. XCIII. P. 201

13. If one seeing a celibate a Brahmana arrived at one’s house, offers to him the first portion of his food that belongs as of right to a Brahmana, and eats the residue, he is considered as eating Amrita. [Vishnu to Indra].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. CXXVI. P. 269


Learned in the Vedas and the Vedangas and an inspirer of confidence in all creatures, kind to all, truthful, and forgiving (11:15); And a great retainer of the Vedas in memory,–these are the natural duties of a Brahmana…. [ Khagama to Ruru] (11:17)—ibid. ADI PARVA p.35

20. …no Brahmana ever sold the Vedas, and none of them ever read them aloud before a Sudra. [Vaishampayana to Janamejaya]—ibid. Ch. 64. ADI PARVA p.88

…the earth swallows up a … Brahmana who does not stir out of his house [for studies]. [Duryodhana to Dhritarastra] (55:14)—ibid. SABHA PARVA p.395

5…begging, which is a success to the Brahmana….[Bhima to Yudhisthira].—ibid. VANA PARVA,Ch.XXXIII. Vol. 2, p.50.

13. By japa by Mantras by Homa, and by the study of the Vedas they (Brahmanas) build a Veda boat and with it they  save others as well as themselves. [Markandeya to Yudhisthira.] —ibid. VANA PARVA, Vol. 2, Ch. CXCX. P. 296

75. The Brahmana, who eats in silence from a plate, keeping his hands between his knees, succeeds in saving others.  76. Those Brahmanas who abstain from drink and who are never spoken by others as having any fault and who daily read the Samhitas are capable of saving others. [Markandeya to Yudhisthira.]. —ibid. VANA PARVA, Vol. 2, Ch. CXCX. P. 299

83. That Brahmana who adores (the goddess) Sandhya in the morning and in the evening and who recites the sacred Gayari, who is the mother of the Vedas, (84.) is cleansed from all his sins after being sanctified by the latter….. [Markandeya to Yudhisthira.]. —ibid.  VANA PARVA, Vol. 2, Ch. CXCX. P. 299.

18. …No vicious-minded man can ever expound the mysteries of virtue and vice.19. As it is very difficult for a Sudra to learn the mysteries of eternal religion.  I do not consider you to be a Sudra.  There must be some reason for all this. 20. You must have been born as a Sudra as a result of your past Karma (in a previous birth).  O high-souled one, I eagerly desire to learn truth of this matter.   Tell this to me with attention and according to your inclination. [Kunshika to Fowler]… 22. …I was a Brahmana previously (in my another birth); I was well-read in the Vedas and learned in the Vedangs. 23. Through my own fault I have been degraded to my present state… [Fowler to Kunshika].—ibid. VANA PARVA, Vol. 2,.Ch. CCXIV. p. 323  [So it is explained as usual that the Fowler was or should be a Brahmana in previous birth.  Because other than a Brahmin others, particularly a Sudra cannot posses such knowledge.—Dayanad]

24. …conducting sacrifices on behalf of others, teaching, charity, celebration of sacrifices and acceptance of gifts,–to be the duties of the Brahmanas. [Dhristadyuman to Vibhatsu {Arjuna}].—ibid. Drona Parva, Vol. 4Ch.CXCVIII. P.354

45….The Brahmana, or the regenerate persons, are characterized as presiding at sacrifices, teaching, and also by the acceptance of pure gifts, and again, the Brahmanas, that is, the twice-born persons, were established upon the earth inorder that they would shower forth blessings upon all the people. [Salya to Duryodhana]. —ibid. Karna Parva. Vol. 4 Ch. XXXII. P. 440

8. Penances, sacrifices, forgiveness, learning, mendicancy, restraint of senses, contemplation, living in solitude, contentment, and knowledge (of Brahma), should…be practiced by Brahmanas to the best of their ability for the attainment of success. [Vyasa to Yudhishthira] — ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva Ch. XXIII P. 27

22b…Brahmana should [get over their difficulties ] do so by Mantras and Homa…. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira]— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.CLXVI. P. 244

24. The Brahmana living like a house-holder should conquer anger and envy, practice the virtues already named, and, adoring the gods in the five sacrifices, eat after having fed the gods, Pitris, and guests. [Vyasa to Shuka].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.CCXXXIV. P. 357

23. A Brahmana has not been born for the gratification of senses. On the other hand, his body, for being subjected to mortification and penances in this world so that he may enjoy peerless happiness in the next world. 24. The status of Brahmanhood is acquired by long-continued and austere penances.  Having gained that status one should never waste his time in the gratification of his senses….[Vyasa to his son Shuka].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.CCCXXII, p. 509

5. A Brahmana should never do anything else than what has been laid down for him.  Protected, they should protect others.  By acting thus, they are sure to acquire what is for their behoof. [Bhishma to Yudhishthira].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. XXXV. P. 98

55. That Brahmana who wishes to secure his own good, should always live upon the remains of the food that may remain in his house after satisfying the needs of all others…. [Maheshwara to Uma].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. CXLIII. p.296

22. Know that three of these acts should form the livelihood of the Brahmanas, viz., teaching (pupils), officiating at the sacrifices of others, and the acceptance of gifts from a person who is pure. 23. As to the other duties which remain, numbering three, viz., making of gifts, study, and sacrifice these are accompanied by merit. [Brahman to Seven Rishis].— ibid. ASHWAMEDHA PARVA, VOL. 7Ch.XLV. P. 407

On emergency (to survive):

2. When a Brahmana loses his means of livelihood and is visited by distress, he may certainly act like a Vaishya and derive his support by agriculture and tending cattle, if, of course, he is not capable to perform Kshatriya duties. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira] — ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva. Ch. LXXVIII. P. 115

29. The Brahmana, by fighting for the three other castes, does not commit sin.  People say that there is no higher duty than renouncing life under such circumstances. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira] — ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva. Ch. LXXVIII. P. 116

34. The Brahmana, by fighting on these three occasions, does not commit sin, viz., for protecting himself, for compelling the other castes to follow their duties, and for punishing robbers. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira] — ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva. Ch. LXXVIII. P. 116

25..In a time of distress, when ordinary practices cannot be followed, a Kshatriya may support himself by even unjust and improper means. The very Brahmanas, it is seen, do the same when their means of living run out. 26. When the Brahmanas act thus, what doubt is there regarding the (conduct of the Kshatriyas):  This is, indeed, settled…..[Bhishma to Yudhisthira].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva. Ch. CXXX. P. 191


A certain Brahmana saw the king roaming in the forest.  Being hungry, he begged of the king some food with meat.[Gandharva to Arjuna] (178:24)—ibid. ADI PARVA p.247

Having fed thousands of Brahmanas with sweetened milk mixed with rice, honey and Ghee, with fruits and rots and with the meat of boar and deer, the ruler of men king Yudhisthira entered into it (the palace)… With the various preparations of meat, with various kinds of other food,…the king gratified the superior Brahmanas…. [Vaishampayana to Janamejaya] (4:1-4)—ibid.  SABHA PARVA p.324

4. The best of men [the Pandavas] ate the produce of the wilderness and the (meat of) deer killed with pure arrows, which they first dedicated to the Brahmanas. [Vaishampayana to Janamejaya]—ibid. VANA PARVA, Vol. 2, Ch. L. p. 75

6. There were ten thousand most illustrious Snataka Brahmanas, who had perfect knowledge in the matter and means  of salvation, and whom Yudhisthira fed in the woods. 7. He dedicated the black and other kinds of deer and clean animals of the forest to those Brahmanas, after having killed them with his arrows. [Vaishampayana to Janamejaya]— VANA PARVA, Vol. 2, Ch. L.—ibid. p75

22. The bull, earth, little ants, worms born in dirt, and poison, should not be eaten by Brahmans. (p.51) 23. They should also abstain from eating fishes that have no scales, and four-legged aquatic animals like frongs and others, except the tortoise. [Vyasa to Yudhisthira].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.XXXVII. Pp. 51-52

34….Rice boiled in sugared milk, food mixed with the Tila seed, meat, and cakes, that have not been dedicated to the gods, should not be taken by Brahmanas, who live as householders …..[Vyasa to Yudhisthira].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.XXXVII. P. 52

8. He [robber kayavya] showed great reverence for those Brahmanas who had retired from the world for living in the forest.  Killing the deer, he often took meet to them. 9. As regards those who were reluctant, from fear of others, to accept gifts from him for the profession he followed, he used to repair to their houses before dawn and leave meat at their doors. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva. Ch. CXXX.V P. 196

21. …I sometimes eat rice and meat and other food of the riches kind…. 23. I never reject such enjoyments as are not inconsistent with virtue and as can be secured without effort. I do not at the same time, stir myself for gaining objects difficult of acquisition. [Brahmana Ajagara to king Prahrada]— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.CLXXIX. P. 269


Guru, guide:

17. …Making the Brahmana [Kunishika] proceed before him, he (fowler) departed towards his own abode. [Markandeya to Yudhisthira]. —ibid. VANA PARVA, Vol. 2, Ch. CCVI. P. 310 [This means that no one should walk before a Brahmin but always follow him.  This I experienced personally in North India.  When I went to Rewa area in M.P., in the villages, others will only walk behind me and never before me.—db]

17. An exception should be made…in the case of a Brahmana, though he be addicted to all sorts of vices; for a Brahmana is the preceptor of all the other classes, and he is allowed precedence in everything. [Draupadi toKrishna] —ibid. UDYOGA PARVA. Vol. III.  Ch. LXXXII, p. 120

2. …The four modes of life … have been laid down for the Brahmana.  The other three orders do not adopt them,….— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva.Ch. LXII. P. 91



Bramhana’s heart is as soft as butter even though his words are like sharp razors.  But contrary is the case with the Kshatrya.  His words are as soft as butter, but his heart is like a sharp instrument. [Paushya to Uttanka]— M.N.[Manmatha Nath]  Dutt, Mahabharata,Delhi, Parimala Publications, 7 vols.Vol. I.1988,Ch. 3:124 ADI PARVA p.27

The might of the Kshatryas lies in their physical strength,–that of the Brahmanas lies in their forgiveness….[Vashistha to Nandini](177:28)—ibid. ADI PARVA p.246


24-26. The Brahmanas, that have thoroughly studied the Vedas, that have obtained tranquility in their souls, and that have subdued their anger, obtain a high reward by performing many sacrifices. But such reward is not obtained by men who are wicked in their acts, who are overwhelmed with covetiousness, who are mean and disreputable, who have their souls unblessed and impure. Therefore O Brahmana, know that his reward which is obtained by only self-controlled men and not obtained by ignorant and foolish men—this which is attainable by asceticism alone, –produces high merits. [Deity (Narayana) to Markandeya]—ibid. VANA PARVA,Ch.CIXXXIX. Vol. 2, p. 280.


22. …O proud one, do you not know, or have you not heard from old men that.  23. Really the Brahmanas are like fire, and even can burn the whole earth. [The Brahmana to the woman in the story of Kunshika]. —ibid.  VANA PARVA, Vol. 2, Ch. CCV. P. 308


61. As regards ourselves, we are Brahmanas, by nature merciful and reluctant to give pain to any one. We desire your, as well as of others, well-being, even as we wish the good of ourselves. [The sage Kalakavrikshiya to Kshemadarshin, the king of Koshala].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva. Ch. LXXXII. P. 123


37. You should always treat the Brahmanas like the gods. The Brahmanas, if enraged, can inflict pains in a variety of ways. 38. If they be pleased, you will win high fame.  If otherwise, great will be your fear. If pleased, the Brahmanas become like ambrosia.  If enraged, they become like poison. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira]— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva. Ch. CXLII. P. 220


37. A Brahmana can have no wealth which is the state of being alone, the state by virtue of which he can look upon everything impartially, the practice of truthfulness, good conduct, patience, abstention from injury, simplicity and avoidance of all rites and sacrifices. [Medhavin to his father]— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva Ch. CLXXV p. 264.


35. …There (p.417)  is no eye like Knowledge. There is no reward like Knowledge. 36. There is no sorrow like attachment. There is no happiness like Renunciation. 37. For a Brahmana there can be no wealth like living in solitude[Medhavin to his father].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.CCLXXVII. Pp. 417-18


38. Why do you require riches, relatives, friends and wives?  You are a Brahmana and you have death to encounter!  Search your own Self which is concealed in a cave.  Where have your grandfathers gone and where your father too? [Medhavin to his father].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.CCLXXVII. P. 418


10. The most courageous men are struck with fear at their [Brahmana] name. Their virtues and powers are extraordinary and immeasurable. Some amongst them are like wells and pits with mouths covered by grass and creepers, while others resemble the sky shorn of clouds and darkness. 11. Some amongst them are of dreadful dispositions.  Some are as mild and soft in disposition as cotton. Some amongst them are very cunning.  Some amongst them are given to the practice of penances. 12. Some amongst them are employed in agricultural pursuits. Some amongst them are engaged in the keep of kine.  Some amongst them live upon eleemosynary alms.  Some amongst them are even thieves.  Some amongst them are fond of creating quarrels and disputes.  Some, again, amongst them are actors and dancers. [Bhishma to Yudhishthira].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. XXXIII. P. 96


19. Expert in praise and dispraise, and themselves the origin or cause of other people’s fame and ignominy, the Brahmanas, O king, always become angry with those who seek to injure others. [Bhishma to Yudhishthira].— ibid.ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. XXXIII. P. 96


5. A Brahmana should always practice self denial controlling even speech, and recite the Vedas.  The Brahmana should marry and surround himself with children and relatives, from desire of acquiring virtue. He should never sleep. 7. He should restrain from meat …. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. XCIII. P. 199


Not to do:


[Sukra said] ‘That wretched Brahmana, who being unable to resist the temptation, will drink liquor from this day, shall be considered as to have committed the sin of slaying a Brahmana, and he shall be hated both in this and in the other world.(65)  I set this limit to the conduct of the Brahmanas everywhere.  Let this (my solemn words) be heard by the honest men, by the Brahmanas, by the celestials, and by those who regard their superiors.’(66). [Vaishampayana to Janamejaya]  (76:65-66)—ibid. ADI PARVA p.116


20a. Hence a Brahmana without self-restraint is an object of censure….[Ashwatthaman to Kripa and Kritavarman]. —ibid. Vol. V. Sauptika Parva. Ch. III. P. 133


17. If a Brahmana well acquainted with the Vedas takes up arms and tries to kill you in battle, you may proceed against him for taking his life. By such an act the slayer does not become guilty of Brahmanicide. [Vyasa to Yudhisthira]— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.XXXIII, p. 48


29. …The true Kshatriya, ever observant of his duties, should punish a Brahmana, in spite of his being the master of the Vedas if he rushes to battle with an uplifted weapon. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva Ch. X. p. 78


6. Those, who are employed in law courts for summoning people, those who perform worship for others for money, those who perform the sacrifices of Vaishyas and Shudras, those who officiate in sacrifices on behalf of a whole village, and those who make voyage on the ocean,–these five are regarded as Chandalas among Brahmanas. 7. Those who become Ritwijas, Purohitas, counselors, envoys and messengers, become, O king, equal to Kshatriyas. 8. Those, who ride horses or elephants or cars or become foot-soldier, become, O king, equal to Vaishyas…..[Bhishma to Yudhisthira] — ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva. Ch. LXXVI. P. 113


4. A Brahmana must not sell [when he follows the duties of a Vaishya] wines, salt, sessamum seeds, animals having manes, bulls, honey, meat and cooked food, ….under any circumstances, A Brahmana, by selling these, would go to hell. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira] — ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva. Ch. LXXVIII. P. 115


20b…The fault of the Brahmanas is their non-observance of vows…. [Narada to Vyasa].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.CCCXXIX. P. 522


14. Those Brahmanas who practice as physicians, those who get regular pay for adoring the images of gods established by the rich, or live upon the service of the gods, those who observe vows from pride or other false motives, and those who sell Soma wine, do not deserve to be invited. 15. Those Brahmanas who are, by profession, vocalists, or dancers or players or instrumental musicians, or reciters of sacred books, or warriors, and athletes, should not, O king, be invited. [for Shraddha] [Bhishma to Yudhishthira].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. XXIII. P. 72


19. …Much wealth, when possessed by (p.141) a Brahmana; becomes a source of evil to him. 20. Constant association with riches and prosperity is sure to fill him with pride and cause him to be stupefied. If the Brahmanas become stupefied and steeped in folly, virtue and duties are sure to suffer destruction. Forsooth, if virtue and duty come to an end, it will lead to the destruction of all creatures. [Bhishma Yudhishthira].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. LXI, pp. 141-42


23-24. The offerings made in all rites in honor of the celestials and in those in honor of the departed Manes, should never be given away to a Brahmana who has accepted service under the king, or who rings the bell or attends to minor duties in acts of worship or at Shraddhas, or who keeps kine, or who drives a trade, or who follows some art as a profession, or who is an actor, or who quarrels with friends, or who is destitute of Vedic studies, or who marries a Shudra woman. [Dharma to the deities].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. CXXVI. P. 269


15. If a good Brahmana takes the food of one who lives by his learning, he is considered as taking the food of a Shudra.  All good men should avoid such food. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira]— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. CXXXV. P. 278 [A Brahmin should not make a living through his learning—db]


5. In accepting meat, or honey, or salt, a Brahmana becomes purged off of all sins by standing till the rising of the Sun. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira]— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. CXXXVI. P. 278 [The idealism here is that a Brahmin should not receive these things.—db]


6-7. If a Brahmana accepts gold from any one, he becomes cleansed of all sins by silently reciting the great Gayatri, and by holding a piece of iron in his hand, before the public.  In accepting money or clothes or women or gold, the purification is the same as before. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira]— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. CXXXVI. P. 278 [The idealism here is that a Brahmin should not receive these things.—db]


20. The Brahmana who takes his food in the company of Shudras, is purged from all impurities by duly performing the ceremonies of purification. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira] — ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. CXXXVI. P. 279


17. The food that comes from cruel and fierce persons is censurable.  So also is the food that has been cooked for serving a large number of persons.  The same is said of the food that is cooked for the first Shraddha of a dead person. So also is the food that is sullied for the usual faults and the food that is supplied by a Shudra.  These should never be taken by a Brahmana at any time. [Maheshwara to Uma].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. CXLIII. p.294




6. The  celestials have  compassion  on  their  devotees specially  on  the  brahmanas   whose   conduct  is pure. [brahmanas to Yudhisthira ]–ibid. Ch. II. VANA PARVA, Vol. 2, p. 3.


98-10. Eight preliminary causes ruin a man; despising the Brahmanas, the struggle with the Brahmanas, the acquirement of a Brahmana’s wealth, taking the life of Brahmana, rejoicing at reviling them, disapproval of praise to them, not remembering them on occasions of festivity, and finding fault with them when they ask for anything. These defects should a wise man understand and understanding them, should avoid. [Vidura to Dhritarastra] —ibid. UDYOGA PARVA. Vol. III. Ch. XXXIII, p. 45


….8. Brahma can never live in one who is not a Brahman. [Parasurama to Karna, as he cheated him by telling that he was a Brahmana to obtain the celestial weapons]. —ibid. Karna Parva. Vol. 4 Ch. XLII, p. 464


17. Upon his [Brahmana] death, the rewards sought by him become eternal.  Indeed these wait upon him for eternity like servants ever careful to execute the orders of their master. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva. Ch. LXI. P. 91




4….  The   sufferings  of  the  brahmanas  may  overwhelm  even  the  celestials ,   what  to  speak  of  me….[ Yudhisthira  to Brahmanas]—ibid. Ch. II. VANA PARVA, Vol. 2, p.  3.


17. All the gods, with the preceptors and the Rishis, went to the spot where Shakra lay stricken with fear. 18. There did they perform the sacrifice of a horse on a large scale, capable of absolving one from the sin of having slain a brahmana, for the absolution of the large minded Mahendra. 19. Then, O Yudhisthira, was the crime of slaying that Brahmana divided among the trees, the rivers and the mountains, and the world and the women. (p.16) 20. (This sin) being thus divided among all beings and having left the lord of the gods, Vasava was cured of his disorder and getting rid of his sins, came to himself. [Shalya to Yudhisthira] —ibid. UDYOGA PARVA. Vol. III. Ch. XIII, pp. 16-17


22. Stained as you are with the sin of Brahmanicide, people looking at you the slayer of a Brahmana, have to look at the Sun for purifying themselves. [Arjuna to Dhristadyuman]. —ibid. Drona Parva, Vol. 4 Ch.CXCIX. P.356


12. Everything is protected by protecting Brahmana’s wealth….[Bhishma to Yudhisthira] — ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva. Ch. LXXV. P. 112


[The worm, who born as a Kshatriya which remembered his previous birth because:] Vyasa said: 19. I have to-day been adored by you O king, with various words expressive of respect.  Changed into a worm, your memory had become clouded.  That memory has again appeared. 20. The sin you have committed in a pristine life, has not yet been dissipated—that sin, viz., which was acquired by you while you were a Shudra covetous of riches and cruel in conduct and hostile to the Brahmanas. 21-23. You were able to obtain a sight of my body.  That was an act of merit to you while you were a worm. On account of your having saluted and worshipped me, you shall rise higher, for, from the Kshatriya order you shall rise to the status of a Brahmana, if only you die on the field of battle for the sake of kine or Brahmana. [The worm (which moved quickly on a road to avoid the carts to be crushed) to Vyasa].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. CXVII. P. 258


16. Kings are desirous of acquiring piety, and Brahmanas are causeways of piety.  Therefore, the king should always strive to protect the twice-born ones. [Brahman to Seven Rishis].— ibid. ASHWAMEDHA PARVA, VOL. 7Ch.XLIII. P. 404




…A Brahmana should never be disregarded whether his acts be right or wrong. [The Brahmanas to other Brahmanas on seeing Arjuna in disguise as a Brahmana went to the Suvayamra of Drupadi.] (190:13)—ibid. ADI PARVA p.260


31a. …That end which becomes theirs who touch the Brahmanas and the fire with their feet…[Arjuna to Yudhisthira.  Arjuna took vow to kill Jayadrath and says these things] —ibid. Drona Parva, Vol. 4.  Ch. LXXIII, p.106 [The point is that one should not touch a Brahmin and fire by their feet—Dayanand]


72. One should never appear deceitfully before a king; nor before a Brahmana; nor before his wife when that wife is possessed of every wifely virtue.  Those who appear in deceitful guise before these three very soon meet with destruction. [Janaka to Sannyasini Sulabha].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.CCCXXI. P. 503


27. let the Brahmanas live in whatever way they like. You should always bend your head to them with respect….[Bhishma Yudhishthira].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. LIX, p. 139


18. Solicited by a Brahmana, one should not enquire about his family or conduct or Vedic learning.  Asked for food, one should give food to him who asks. [Narada to Bhishma].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. LXIII. P. 147


So many chapter about adoring, respecting, protecting serving etc of Brahmins in Mbh. For example from CLII to CLIX  in Anushasana Parva (p. 325-337) (around 268 verses) is devoted for this purpose, apart from so many verses in other places in the whole of Mbh.—db. And read this how both Vasudeva and his wife Rukmini even served the Brahmana:


29. Highly intelligent that Brahmana shone with effulgence like fire, and struck, before me, my youthful Rukmini, as if she were an animal born to drag the cars of human beings. 30. Seeing this, I did not fee the slightest grief born of malice or the desire to injure the Rishi.  Having yoked Rukmini to the car, he went out, desirous of passing along the high road of the city. … 33. The poison of a virulent snake is greatly powerful.  More powerful than poison is a Brahmana.  There is no physician for a person who has been bit or burnt by the virulent snake of a Brahmana. 34. As the irresistible Durvasas proceeded on the car, Rukmini tottered on (p.236) road and frequently dropped down. At this the twice-born Rishi became angry and began to urge Rukmini on by striking her with the whip. … 38. [Durvasa said: to Vasudeva] …I have not found the slightest fault in you, O Govinda, I have been highly pleased with you.  Do you solicit the fruition of such desires as you please. …. Vasudeva said 52. Entering our house I saw that everything which the Rishi had broken or burnt had re-appeared fresh. [Vasudeva to Yudhisthira].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. CLIX. Pp. 336-37




78. The Brahmanas have anger as their weapon; they never fight with weapons made of iron or steel. The Brahmanas kill their enemies with anger, as the wielder of thunder killed the Asuras. [Markandeya to Yudhisthira.]. —ibid. VANA PARVA, Vol. 2, Ch. CXCX.—p. 299


73b…The power of Brahmanas well-versed in the Vedas is in the Vedas….[Janaka to Sannyasini Sulabha].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.CCCXXI. P. 503


17. The Brahmanas are competent to make him a god, that is to a god. They can, again, divest one who is a deity of his status as such.  He becomes a king, whom they wish to make a king.  He, on the other hand, is crushed whom they do not love or like. [Bhishma to Yudhishthira]. — ibid.ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. XXXIII. P. 96




[Vinata to Garuda] But let not your heart be ever set on killing a Brahmana.  A Brahmana is not to be killed amongst all creatures; he is like the fire. (3) A Brahmana, when angry, becomes like the fire or the sun or the poison or a (p.46) sharp weapon.  A Brahmana is declared to be the Lord of all creatures.  For these and other reasons the Brahman is adored of all. (4) O child, he is never to be killed by you even if you be angry.  Enmity with Brahmanas is never proper under any circumstances. (5) O sinless one, neither fire nor the sun does consume so much as does a Brahman of rigid austerity when angry. (6) You must know a good Brahmana by these indications.  A Brahmana is the first-born of all creatures, the best of four castes, the father, master and teacher of all. (7). (28:3-7)—ibid. Ch. 28 ADI PARVA pp.46-47


[Devjani said] Brahmanas have already been mixed with Kshatryas, and Kshatryas with Brahmans.  You are a son of a Rishi and yourself a Rishi.  Therefore, O son of Nahusha, marryme.(19)  [Yayati said]  O beautiful lady, the four orders have no doubt sprung from one body.  But they have different duties and virtues, which are not the same (for every order.)  The Brahmanas are superior to all. (20) …The wise men know that a Brahmana is more to be avoided than an angry and virulently poisonous snake, or a blazing and flaming fire.(23) …The snake kills only on[c]e.  The sharpest weapon kills but a single person.  But the Brahmana, if angry, destroys many cities and kingdoms. (25)  Therefore … I think that Brahmanas should be avoided more than the two, (the snake and the fire)….(26) [Devjani and Yayati] (81:19,20, 23,25&26)—ibid. ADI PARVA p.121


1. When no Bramhana passes along a path, it then belongs first to the blind, then to the deaf, then to women, then to the carriers of burden and then (last of all) to the king. But when a Bramhana is met on the way, it solely belongs to him [Astavakra to King Janaka].—ibid. VANA PARVA,Ch.CXXXIII. Vol. 2, p.194,


66… The merit equal to that of giving  away a Kapila cow in Puskara (thirtha ) is obtained by washing the feet of the Brahmanas.  As long as the earth remains moist with the water touched by the feet of a Brahmana, so long do the Pitris drink water from the lotus leaves. [Markandeya to Yudhisthira.]. —ibid. VANA PARVA, Vol. 2, Ch. CXCX. P.298


88. Whether learned in the Vedas or not, whether pure or impure, they should never be insulted, for Brahmanas are like fires, covered with ashes.  89. A fire that blazes forth in a place of cremation is never impure, so is a Brahmanas either learned or ignorant is always pure.  He is superior to a celestial. [Markandeya to Yudhisthira.]. —ibid. VANA PARVA, Vol. 2, Ch. CXCX. P. 299


22. Not to mention the men on earth, even Indra bows down to them….. [The Brahmana to the woman in the story of Kunshika]. —ibid.  VANA PARVA, Vol. 2, Ch. CCV. P. 308


8. …All (inferior) creatures seek to be born as men.  Among men, again, the dignity of a Brahmana is much coveted….How happy, again, should you feel yourself, as you think that amongst living creatures you are a superior Brahmana. [Indra appearing in the shape of a jackal to Kashyapa who wanted to give up his life when knocked down by a rich Vaishya by his ratha]— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.CLXXX. P. 270


12. The remnants of a Brahmana’s food are like nectar.  They are like the mother’s milk.  People highly value those remnants. The good, by eating them, attains to Brahma. [Bhishma to Yudhishthira]. —ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva  Ch.CXCIII. P. 286


7. The three other castes should be placed under the control of the Brahmanas. If those three castes be kept within the limits of virtue, then the subsidiary caste (that have sprung from intermixture) will imitate their practices. [Satyavat to Dyumutsena].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.CCLXVII. P. 399


34. Sacrifices have the Brahmanas for their progenitor, and truly they depend upon the Brahmanas. The whole universe depends upon sacrifice, and sacrifice depends upon the universe. [Syumarashmi to Kapila]— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.CCLXVIII, p. 402


9. …The Brahmanas represent the eldest creation amongst men. None were created before who were superior to the Brahmanas.  He who offers food into the mouth of a Brahmana is considered as pouring libations into a burning fire…. [Vishnu to Arjuna].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.CCCXLIII. P. 558


6. Passing through numberless orders of existence by undergoing repeated births, one at last, in some birth, becomes born as a Brahmana. [Bhishma to Yudhishthira].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. XXVII. P. 86


30. One born as a Chandala can never acquire that dignity [of Brahmana] which is considered as the most sacred among the celestial and Asuras and human beings. [Indra to Matanga].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. XXVII. P. 87


14. If, … the dignity of a Brahmana be really unattainable by any of the three other castes, alas, men do not adhere to it who have succeeded in acquiring that high status. [Matanga to Indra].— ibid.ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. XXIX. P. 88


16. Forsooth, the dignity of a Brahmana is highly difficult to attain, and being attained, is difficult to maintain.  It is capable of removing every sort of grief.  Alas, having got it, men do not always seek to keep it up. [Matanga to Indra].— ibid.ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. XXIX. P. 88


30. …The status of a Brahmana is highly difficult to get; having become a Brahmana, it is highly difficult to obtain the status of a Rishi; having become a Rishi it is difficult to become an ascetic. [Rishi Chyavana to king Kushika].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. LV. P. 133


34. It was only the Kshatriya and the Vaishya who could serve the Brahmana by touching his body or approaching his presence….[Bhishma Yudhishthira].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. LIX, p. 139


22. The Brahmana is the guest of all creatures in the universe.  He is entitled to the first part of every food…..[Narada to Bhishma].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. LXIII. P. 147


9. Without the Brahmana, all would be darkness.  Nothing would be known. The four castes would not exist.  The distinction between virtue and sin, truth and untruth, would disappear. [Maitreya to Vyasa].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. CXXI. P. 261


10. By the very food they [Brahmana] eat, they rescue the three worlds from great fear.  They are, as it were, theIslandfor all worlds.  They are the eyes of all persons gifted with sight. [Bhishma to Yushisthira].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. CLI. P.324


13. Shorn of attachments, purged of all sins, getting over all pairs of opposites, they [Brahmana] are unattached to all worldly things….16. They [Brahmana] would make gods of those who are not gods, and not gods of those who are gods.  Enraged, they can create other worlds and other Regents of the worlds than those who exist….18. They are the gods, and the cause of all causes.  They are the authority of all authorities.  What man of intelligence and wisdom is there who would seek to humiliate them…. 20. Even the Brahmana who is destitute of knowledge is a god and is a great instrument for purifying others. He amongst them, then, who is possessed of knowledge is a much higher god and like the ocean when full (to the brim). 21. Learned or unlearned, the Brahmana is always a great deity. Purified or not, Fire is ever a great god…. 23. So if the Brahmana be always engaged in evil deeds, he is still to be considered as deserving of honors. Indeed, know that the Brahmana is always a great god. [Bhishma to Yushisthira].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. CLI. P.325


Who is a Brahmin:


21. O monarch of snakes, it is said that he is a Brahmana in whom are found (the qualities of) truthfulness, charity, forgiveness, good conduct, benevolence, asceticism and mercy. [Yudhisthira to Snake].—ibid. VANA PARVA,Ch.CLXXX. Vol. 2, p. 261


25. The Sudra in whom these characteristics are present is no Sudra (i.e.) something higher, a Brahmana, and the Brahmana in whom these are wanting is no Brahmana at all (i.e.) a Sudra. [Yudhisthira to Snake].—ibid. VANA PARVA,Ch.CLXXX. Vol. 2, p261.


30. If, O monarch as you assert, a Brahmana is recognized by certain virtues then, O long lived one, the distinction of castes is to no purpose so long as he does not possess these qualities. [Snake to Yudhisthira]—ibid. VANA PARVA,Ch.CLXXX. Vol. 2, pp. 261-62.


17 –18 . One should with great care feed them at the time of Sradh ceremonies but those among them (Brahmana) that are cursed or fallen that are either exceedingly handsome or excessively black, that have diseased nails, that are lepers, that are deceitful, that are bastards, born of widows or of women with their husbands in exile and that support  themselves by the profession of arms – all these should be excluded.— [Markandeya to Yudhisthira. ]—ibid. VANA PARVA, Vol. 2, Ch. CXCX. P. 297


32. …the wrath of persons, that resides in their body, is their mortal enemy.  The gods know him to be a Brahmana, who forsakes his wrath and spiritual ignorance; and who also speaks the truth here, and comforts the preceptor.  The gods know him to be a Brahmana, who having himself injured, never injures others; and who, again, possesses passions all controlled; and who is holy, virtuous, and ever devoted to the studies of the Vedas. [The woman to Kunshika]—ibid. VANA PARVA, Vol. 2, CCV. P. 309


13-14. There is no doubt that even now I consider you to be a Brahmana, for the Brahmana who is vain and haughty who is sinful and evil-minded and who is fond of degraded practices, is no better than a Sudra.  The Sudra who is, endued with righteousness, self-control and truthfulness, 15. is considered by me as a Brahmana. A man becomes a Brahmana by his own good act; by his own evil Karma a man meets with an evil and terrible doom.[Kunshika to Fowler]—ibid. VANA PARVA, Vol. 2, Ch. CCXV. P. 324


108….Neither birth nor learning (makes one a Brahmana).  It admits of no doubt that good character only is the cause of Brahmanhood. [Yudhisthira to Yaksha]—ibid. VANA PARVA, Vol. 2, CCCXII, p. 450


34. That man is to be regarded as a Brahmana whose religious practices remain ever unknown even to the members of his family among whom he lives—wise men also known him to be a Brahmana. [Sanat-Sujata to Dhritarastra]. —ibid. UDYOGA PARVA. Vol. III. Ch. XLII, p. 68


10. That man who is houseless, who roves over the world like a mendicant who has the foot of a tree for his refuge, who observes the vow of silence, never cooks for himself, and tries to control his sense, is, …Renouncer observing the vow of mendicancy. 11. That Brahmana who, disregarding anger and joy, and especially deceitfulness, always devotes his time to the study of the Vedas, is a Renouncer observing the vow of mendicancy. [Nakula to Yudhishthira].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.XII. P. 14



5. That Brahmana who has sufficient stores for feeding his family for three or more years, deserves to drink the Soma. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira]— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.CLXVI. P. 243 [But the ideal for Brahmana is that he should not have food stored for more than three days.—db]


27. Those Brahmanas who know women in their season, or who never celebrate sacrifices, or whose families have no members well-read in the Vedas, are considered as Shudras in act. 28. That Brahmana who, having married a Shudra girl, lives for twelve years continually in a village which has only a well to give water, becomes a Shudra in act. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira]— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.CLXVI. P. 244


24. The gods regard him as a Brahmana who is shorn of desire, who never struggles [for worldly emoluments], who never lowers his head to any one, who never flatter another, and who is shorn of all sorts of attachment. [Vyasa to Shuka].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva Ch. CCXLV P. 371


2. He who has mastered all the Vedas, having served dutifully his preceptor and practiced the vow of celibacy, he who knows all the Riks, Yajushes, and Samans, is not a twice-born person. 3. One who treats all creatures like his kinsman, and one who is acquainted with Brahma, is said to be the master of all the Vedas.  One who is shorn of desire, never dies. It is by such a conduct and such a bent of mind that one becomes a truly twice-born one. 4. Having performed only various sorts of religious rights and various sacrifices completed with sacrificial presents, one does not gain the dignity of a Brahmana if he is devoid of mercy and has not renounced desire. [Vyasa to Shuka]— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva Ch. CCLI P. 378


34. The gods consider him a Brahmana who has cast of all desire of fruit, who does not exert for worldly acts, who never bows down his head to any one, who never praises others, and who is gifted with strength though his acts have all been weakened. [Tuladhara to Jajali].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva Ch CCLXIII. P. 393


30. The gods consider him a Brahmanas who has cast off his upper garment, who sleeps on the naked earth, who makes his arm a pillow, and whose heart is endued with tranquility. 31. That person who … pays no attention to the joys and griefs of others, should be known as a Brahmana. [Kapila to Syumarashmi]— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva Ch. CCLXIX, p. 404


14. I know that person as a Brahmana and Muni who governs the rising impulse of speech, the impulse of anger appearing in the mind, the impulse of thirst, and the impulse of the stomach and the organ of pleasure. [Swan to Sadhyas].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva Ch. CCC. P. 463


Yudhishthira said: 5. It has been said that a Brahmana who is sought for the performance of a religious rite should never be examined.  The learned, however, hold that while performing rites for the Pitris, the Brahmana who is sought to be engaged, should be examined. Bhishma said: 6. As regards the religious rite for the deities, these do not yield fruits on account of the Brahmana who is engaged in doing them but through the grace of the deities themselves.  Forsooth, those persons who perform sacrifices acquire the merit of those acts, through the favor of the deities. [Yudhishthira and Bhishma].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. XXII. P. 70


7. Penances, knowledge of the Vedas, and birth in a pure family, these are the causes of the status which one acquires of a Brahmana.  When one is possessed of these three qualities, then does he come to be called a twice-born person. [Maitreya to Vyasa].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. CXXI. P. 261


48. Even a Shudra, O goddess, who has purified his soul by pure deeds and who has controlled all his senses, deserves to be waited upon and served with respect as a Brahmana.  This has been said by the Self-Create Brahman himself. 49. When a pious nature and pious deeds are seen in even a Shudra, he should, according to my opinion, be held superior to a person of the three twice-born classes.  50. Neither birth, nor the purificatory rites, nor learning, nor offspring, can be considered as grounds for conferring upon one the dignity of a twice-born person, Indeed, conduct is the only ground. 51. All Brahmanas in this world are Brahmanas on account of conduct.  A Shudra, if he is of good conduct, is considered as equal to a Brahmana. [Maheshwara to Uma].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. CXLIII. p.296


Experience and Individualism

Stokes had no remorse over his decision, “I have never for a moment regretted this step of mind, for I am convinced that our supreme duty is to be true to the guiding of the light within, and that no inspiration founded upon misapprehension can be of great lasting value.  As long as the Brotherhood was a true expression of my inner spiritual life, that life would be a real inspiration to others; when the inner spiritual outlook had so changed that such a life was no longer a true expression of it, it would have been mere hypocrisy to have continued to live it.”[Stokes to Agnes, personal notes of 1921] (Sharma, 1999)1

Living according to inner light is another sophisticated term for living a life based on experience.  Although an individual may be correct, and even have the right to lead such a life, she cannot easily desert the idealism which helped her to reach that inner light or experience.  Above all, anyone who tries to live a life based only on the guidance of such inner light will soon run out of the oil to supply the inner lamp to burn.  Others who, up until this point, have helped and cooperated with the same ideal will carry their life according to their own ideals and convictions; this group may not have the same ‘inner light’ or ‘experience’, thus failing to advance her cause.  Finally, the individual who tries to live a life based on ‘inner light’ or ‘experience’ will become exhausted.  Her energy, vision, enthusiasm and even experience will run dry and, in despair, she will give up her hope of leading a life according to inner light.  Survival will force her to carry on with this life without any inner light.  She will soon retreat into herself with much frustration—sometimes even blaming herself or others.

While a place for inner light and experience should be given in every idealogy or group life/vision, obedience to the common vision and ideal is compulsory.  Giving concession on methods and showing charity to all kinds of thoughts and ideas—not distorting the core value and ideal—will help every individual in the group and will also foster a movement where individual group members complement each other in their strengths, correct each other in their weakness, and give clear guidance to one another and the next generation to pick up that vision.  Otherwise, every kind of individualism in the name of ‘inner light’ or ‘experience’ will help none, except that individual becomes rebellious and controversial for some time and finally disappears into the thin air of her own inner experience.

Dayanand Bharati, Gurukulam, June 30, 2011




  1. Sharma, Asha.  (1999).  An American in Khadi: The Definitive Biography of Satyanand Stokes.  (p94).  Delhi: Penguin.

Dharma and Mbh

Before reading the following on dharma, I have to confess that some of my comments on Sri Badrinathji’s view still need to be revised.  I cannot claim that I have understood Badrinathji’s view completely.  So if anyone could point out the mistakes that I have committed without understanding Badrinathji I will correct them.  As I cannot understand very sophisticated and high English, I do mistakes. Thanks.


One can find all kinds of secular, religious, spiritual, ethical, moral social etc., thoughts in Mbh.  According to my understanding the main thirst of Mbh. is on ‘dharma’.  But what is dharma is a Himalayan question.  About this Prof. Daya Krishna says, particularly in Mbh.:

Any discussion about dharm is always trouble some.  There is always trouble in dharm.  Then how to decide which is dharm and which is adharm?  Mahabharata fail to give any kind of answer to this question…. Mahabharata story is presented as the purvapaksha in Srimad Bhagavata.  There Vyas says that by composing Mahabharata he didn’t receive peace….Just think why Srimadbhagavad made Mahabharata as purvapaksha?  It was told through Narad, ‘O Vyas you have done a mistake by discussing about dharma but you should have discussed about  rasa and bhakti.  Srimadbhagavat told like this.—Prof. Daya Krishna, in Bhakti: A Contemporary Discussion (Philosophical Explorations In the Indian Bhakti Tradition), Edited by Daya Krishna, Mukund Lath & Francine E. Krishna, Indian Council of Philosophical Research 2000, New Delhi, 2000, p. 247

The word ‘dharma’ is difficulty to translate in English.  We need not dwell here much about the complexity related with the word dharma.  I have dealt about it (briefly) in Understanding Hinduism.  So here we can approach ‘dharma’ in Mbh. as ‘duty’ one’s own work related to his ‘varna’ and ‘asrama’ in life.  Only if we approach dharma in Mbh. from ‘varnashramadharma’ (duty based on caste and stage in life) perspective, then only many points in Mbh. will make sense to us.  Of course one can easily give any philosophical, spiritual, moral, ethical, social and even secular interpretation on dharma in Mbh.. And Mbh. always gives scope for this, as many character several times discuss and argue even from different point of view.  However it is mainly one’s own ‘duty’ (svadharma) that mostly defines ‘dharma’ in Mbh.  At the same time, we have to keep in mind that understanding dharma in Mah. is not going to be that much easy as Doniger points out:

[in Mbh.] Dharma continued to denote the sort of human activity that leads to human prosperity, victory, and glory, but now it also had much more to do. For now the text was often forced to acknowledge the impossibility of maintaining any sort of dharma at all in a world where every rule seemed to be canceled out by another. The narrators kept painting themselves into a corner with the brush of dharma. Their backs to the wall, they could only reach for another story.— Wendy Doniger, The Hindus An Alternative History,New Delhi, Penguin/Viking. 2009, p. 278

However, dharma, as ‘duty’ is not any arbitrary and isolated activity or work done just for the duty sake.  One of the important points of Gita, viz., nishkamyakarma (the very word is not in Gita) of doing one’s duty without expecting any fruits is not so prominent and dominant in Mbh. Of course what Gita says about doing one’s duty without expecting fruit is in the context of not entangled by its result.  Though Gita is part of Mbh., yet its has its own message to convey.  So in everyday life we never do any work just for the sake of work but expect some kind of result for it.  And that result or fruit of  work is the satisfaction that one gets.  The modern phrase ‘job satisfaction’ can help us to understand the nature of dharma in this sense.  So dharma is not an isolated concept or principle, but for the needs and satisfaction of everyone.  So dharma (of Mbh) can be carried out by any one as a member of a family, community, society, country, world and even part of the universe.  Thus the conditions for dharma is not set by me individually but decided by others as well.  This is a common fact of life.  And Mbh. endorses this view. Exception to this can be found in Mbh as it accommodate all kinds of views by allowing any one to add any of her view in it.  Thus the definition of dharma is what one does for herself and for others needs and satisfaction.  And Badrinath’s scholarly presentation will help us further to understand this clearly:

The Mbh. does not base its understanding of human life on divine revelation or on philosophic presuppositions a priori.  Neither does it ask for the definitions of things but for their laksana,1 attributes, by which a thing is known, is recognized.  That is how the discussions concerning dharma and truth proceed, enumerating their laksana-s, their attributes, by which they are known, or by which they become manifest.  However complex the discussion about them, they invariably are connected with the simple question as to how they are reflected in one’s relationship with one’s self and with the other.  Likewise the question is not of the definition, say, of ‘happiness’, but: what is a happy person like, or what is an unhappy person like, in relation to himself, or herself, and in relation to the other?….In other systems of philosophy, moksha is squeezed to death by all kinds of intricacies (p.13) and speculations; the Mbh. only asks: what is a free person like in his, or her, relationships?  What are his, or her, attributes by which he, or she, can be recognized?  To define a thing is to set its boundary, which is the definition of ‘definition’.  But boundaries are set arbitrarily, which explains how empirical facts often upset definitions completely.  Life is so diverse and complex that no aspect of it can be limited to the boundaries of definitions without leading to untruth.  However, this does not mean that there are no boundaries or limits whatsoever, and that all things can mean everything, in which case nothing will mean anything in particular.  What the Mbh. suggests is that these boundaries and limits cannot be conceptual, for life is not limited to concepts, nor is it bound by them.  Thus, for example, ‘truth’ is not a concept.  It is the foundation of life and relationships; and they would suggest, and not some arbitrary definition of it, what truth is.— Chaturvedi Badrinath, The Mahabharata: An Inquiry in the human condition, New Delhi, Orient Longman, 2007, pp.13-142

Thus defying any kind of definition, interpretation, condition, concept or boundary, dharma is a complex subject.  So arranging them under any one particular topic or category is not going to be easy in Mbh..  Even one single category of ‘laksana’ or attribute to understand dharma (in relationship with oneself and with others), as ‘the substance of the teaching of the Mbh.’ is to be approached cautiously.  Because the laksanas through which dharma could be recognized for oneself and the other is also decided by various other factors of life.  Even any ‘clear, straightforward and genuinely universal’ view would be relative in its scope3, as we will find in Mbh.

Mabharata, is not an independent work considering its encyclopedic nature.  Naturally all other teachings that we find in other Hindu scripture is also found in it.  (This we already noted in Introduction).  So in understanding Dharma in Mbh. we need to keep this in mind.  However comparing Mbh.’s teaching with other Hindu scripture may help one to understand its inclusive nature of that particular subject than clearly demonstrating its uniqueness of that subject.  One reason for this confusion can be the approach to Hindu scripture in chronological order.  This chronological arrangement of Hindu scriptures might help us to understand their teaching in a systematic way.  But this artificial method, several times becomes a problem when we try to understand a particular subject (here dharma) in a scripture by comparing with other scriptures.

For example, while Samhita portions were composed, other parts of Vedic corps were side by side developing.  However it will help us to understand the Vedic corps in a chronological order as: Samhita first, then Brahmana, following Aranyaka and finally Upanishads (also known as Vedanta, viz., end of Veda), it won’t give the correct picture about the entire Veda.  In the same way, as Mbh. was compiled and it grew gradually, comparing its teaching with other Hindu scripture and arriving any definite conclusion, though helpful for us to have a systematic teaching, won’t convey the whole picture.

And particularly on this topic of ‘dharma’ in Mbh. and its relationship with rest of the scriptures which deals with ‘dharma’ in their own context is bit complex in my understanding.  That’s why, the following points by Badrinath on dharma comparing with Mbh. and Dharmasastras, however good and scholarly one, need to be understood the complex nature of the origin, growth and influence of Dharmasastras as independent works—both apart from and along with Mbh.  Because Dharmasastras is a narrow window of Brahminical worlds.  It is through which they viewed outside the world for their relationship ‘with oneself and with others’.  It is of the Brahmins, for the Brahmins and by the Brahmins, through which they set boundaries to themselves and insulated their life.  And from this perspective alone they set all kinds of rules and regulations, not only for themselves but for others also.

There is no definite proof that the entire Hindu society, and particularly the so called twice born’s life is governed exclusively by this Brahminical Dharmasastras instructions.  All the (textual) information that one can collect to prove this, again, according to my opinion is provided only by the Brahmins.  This kind of approach to understand Hindu world and Indian society through the narrow window of Brahminical literature and worldview is not going to give the complete picture about all Hindus.  (see Dharmasastras in Understanding Hinduism).

Of course Mbh. too is primarily a literature of Brahmin’s contribution.  However, it never limited its scope with that Brahmin’s world.  So condemning the ‘lust for legislation’ and the ‘legislative insanity’ of Dharmasutra/sastra4 works in comparing with Mbh. won’t do full justice either to Mbh. or Dharmasutra/sastras.  This we should keep in mind to understand  Badrinath’s scholarly presentation of Dharma in Mbh. comparing it with Dharmasutra/sastra works:

…the Mbh. is concerned with the foundations of family life everywhere as a human attribute. In that, as in everything else concerning the human being, it clearly breaks away from the world of the earliest of the dharmasutra-s, and from their lust for legislation.  There was perhaps no other area of human living than the life of the householder to which the lawgivers, the shastri-s, devoted their attention more.  That attention reached a point of legislative insanity….—Badrinath,  p.336

1)      In the shastric schemes for human life, everything, everything, was classified and divided into numerous groups, which were of course created artificially [like varna and ashram]…. [on the other hand] The Mbh. is concerned that every person overcomes divisions—divisions  within the self, and the divisions between the self and the other, created by wrong perceptions of the self and of the other and of the relation between the two….—ibid. p.337

2)      …The daily rituals, if they were followed to their last prescribed detail, must have so exhausted the householder that little mental energy was left to look at one’s social contexts critically…. [whereas] The air breathes in the Upanishad-s and in the Mbh. is not the air of prescribed rituals but the liberating air of self-awareness. —ibid. p.338 …

3)      The chief concern of the dharmashastra-s was with the outward ritualistic acts prescribed for the householder, and not with feelings that nourish life in the family.  The range of the former touches the fantastic; the stock of the latter is poor, or very nearly absent.(p.338) The Mbh. concentrates on relationships and not on ritualistic acts.  It is a systematic inquiry into the foundations of relationships, personal and social, which support, sustain, and enhance life: their dharma….—ibid. pp.338-39

4)      …the idea of pollution pervaded at once the dharmashastra-s and the householder in every single act….. The Upanishad-s, and especially the Mbh., draw our attention to the real and not imaginary impurities of life: the impurities of the mind and the heart.  They teach us that no human being is impure; nor is any occasion impure; nor is any place impure.  Greed, anger, deviousness, arrogance, and untruth are the sources of all pollution, which reside in man’s heart.  And those can be removed, not by taking ritual baths, or by ritual rites, but only by self-knowledge and self-disciplines….—ibid. p.339

What we saw above on dharma in Mbh. and Dharmasastras can be extended to other scriptures as well.  What Badrinath presents about dharma in Mbh., as per his understanding and interpretation is remarkable and will help one to see the teaching of Mbh. from that particular view (of relationship with one self and others).  However, we need to caution ourselves to understand dharma in general and particularly in Mbh. from this perspective alone that too comparing it with rest of the scriptures and their context and understanding of dharma.  Either we need to study the teaching of each scripture independently without comparing with other scriptures.  Or, if we try to learn the teaching of a particular scripture comparing it with other scriptures, then we need to consider both the immediate context of each scripture and the overall textual, historical and theological context of all the scriptures.  Or if we want to read any of our modern interpretation on the teaching of any old scripture, then we have to do it independently on its teaching.  And if we began to read it comparing its teaching with other scriptures and then claim that it has given a new meaning dismissing the (traditional) views of other scriptures, needs to be questioned by a sincere student of all scriptures.

For example, the impurities that the Upanishads talk about are in the context of self-realization and not get rid of them through ritual baths or rites.  That is why they also hold the view that a ‘mukta’ (realized person) goes beyond the needs and demands of any kind of purity—both physical and mental.  What Edgerton says will help us to understand this.  Though bit long, yet we need to read it, as a summary of it cannot convey it clearly:

Even  good deeds are still deeds, and must have their fruit, according to the doctrine of “karma.”  And to attain the summum bonum man must get rid of all deeds, of all karma.  Therefore, while most if not all Hindu systems teach a practical morality, they also teach that no degree of morality, however perfect, can lead to final salvation.  In this, too, they are anticipated by the Upanisads. The perfect soul is “beyond good and evil.” (Kausiitaki U, I.4; cf. BrhU,4.3.22, etc.)  Neither good nor evil can affect him.  At times the Upanisads seem even to say or imply that when a man has attained enlightenment, he can do what he likes without fear of results.  This somewhat dangerous doctrine is, however, not typical, and is probably to be regarded only as a strained and exaggerated manner of saying that the truly enlightened soul cannot, in the very nature of things, do an evil deed.  If he could, he would not be truly enlightened; for “he who has not ceased from evil conduct cannot attain Him (the Aatman) by intelligence.” (KathaU, 2.24)  This is similar to the Socratic notion that the truly wise man must inevitably be virtuous.  The difference is that the Upanisads regard even virtue, as well as vice, as transcended by perfect (p.24) knowledge; the possessor thereof passes beyond both, and rises to a plane on which moral terms simply have no meaning.  Morality applies only in the world of karma, the world of ordinary empiric existence, which the enlightened man has left behind him.  In the final state of the perfected man, as we have seen, there can be, strictly speaking, no action; so how can there be either moral or immoral action?  The attitude of the Upanisads, and following them of most later Hindu systems, is then that morality has only a negative importance, and in the last analysis none whatever, in man’s struggle for salvation.  Immorality is a sign of imperfection; it can only be due to the prevalence in the soul of ignorance, causing desire, leading to action and rebirth.  It must be got rid of.  But it will fall away of itself with the attainment of true wisdom.  And no amount of good deeds will bring that wisdom which alone can lead to release.  Good deeds result in less unhappy existences, but that is all; salvation is release from all empiric existence.  This does not prevent the teaching of a system of practical ethics, for the guidance of those who have not yet attained enlightenment.  In actual practice, most Hindu sects inculcate very lofty moral principles; and many of them devote much attention thereto.  But theoretically, at least, such things do not concern their fundamental aims.— Franklin Edgerton, The Bhagavad Gita, Translated and Interpreted, Mothilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd. Delhi, First Published Cambridge, 1944, Reprint:Delhi, 1996. pp.24-25

The impurities that dharmasastras talks are mostly related to ritual that too for a Brahmin (in his relationship himself and with others on social intercourse and not on moral plan).  Whereas what the Upanishads talk about is in the context of ‘mukti’ and in Mbh., in Badrinath’s own words ‘in relationship with oneself and with others’ in the context of doing one’s duty (dharma).  So, in order to highlight the teaching of Mbh. if we try to dismiss the views of other scriptures at the cost of their own context, we cannot do justice to any scripture.

One or two examples will help us to understand this.  Parasara, the father of Vyasa while crossing Ganga with the help of a fisher woman realizes that the particular auspicious time has come in which if he put his seed in a woman the son who born will become a great person.  And so with the consent of that fisher woman (Satyavati) who was taking him across in the Gangain an island in the Gangahe put his seed in her. That is why Vyasa’s another name is Krishna Dvipayiina (born in an island).  Then Parasara walks away without any guilty conscience of violating the virginity of Satyavati or moral responsibility of bring up his son.  As an enlightened soul (mukta) this act, which otherwise will be considered immoral is considered as not immoral.  In the words of Badrinath, in his relationship with himself and with that fisher woman (who was a virgin also) Parasara violated personal ethics, yet being a ‘mukta’ was not polluted by it.  Then can we defend Parasara’s act as one done without any personal need for sexual gratification but keeping the larger interest of the humanity is correct one?  At least his son Vyasa who gave his seed to the two widows of his step brothers born to his mother Satyavati who married the king Vichitravirya (brother of Bhishma) can be justified as he has only fulfilled the duty and command of his mother, when she called him to sleep with his two widowed daughter-in-laws, to have successors for the kingdom (Dridharashtra and Pandu born to the two widows and Vidura to their servant maid through Vyasa).  Whereas Parasara acted on his own.  But any kind of modern secular interpretation, keeping our legal codes (both of civil and criminal) won’t help us to arrive any conclusion that will serve our present purpose.  Leviratical marriage, rishishs begetting sons through virgins without any desire of physical pleasure of defiling the virgin herself also loosing the merit of his tapas should be understood as per the custom of those times (whether actually existed or imaginary one).  Any reading of modern secular interpretation won’t help us much.

The reason for me to say this is that texts must be read and interpreted keeping their central message intact.  Otherwise like allegory, we will stretch our interpretation to such an extent that both the message and the media get lost.  For me in overall central simplified message of Mbh., is the dharma of Kings—their privileges and responsibilities.  The entire theme is moves and completes only on this.  In between so many other stories were told where one can read any kind of message.  But this should not be done at the cost of the core message—dharma of Kshatriyas(kings)..

For example, Badrinath says that

…The Mbh. radically change the meaning of yajna, tapas, karma, and tirtha, and in making them relational, it gives them a deeply ethical meaning.  The word rta is heard only rarely, and dharma becomes the dominant sound.  The chanting of mantras is replaced with the sound if inquiry into the foundations of relationships of the self with the self and of the self with the other.—p. 15

Even to this radically changed new meaning given by Mbh., we need to understand them in their own context.  For example what Veda, particularly Brahmana (not Brahmin), which deals about sacrifices talks about it is different from what the dharmasastras talks about the ‘pancha-maha-yajna’5 (five great sacrifices that too for a twice born.).  The same is the case with tapas (for rishish and sannyasis), karma (the general meaning of it and what the Mimamsikas talk about it is different) and tirtha (in puranas to earn merit).  However Mbh. might give new meaning to them, there are several references in Mbh. where we find yajna, tapas, karma and tirtha were done for their own merits.  For example Pandavas went to tirtha yatra during their exile period. And in so many chapters (in Vanaparva) are assigned to give all the details of the importance of that particular tirths and the respective merit that one would derive by going there.  Arjuna performed tapas to procure celestial weapons from Siva.  So it is too simple to say that in one stroke Mbh. dismissing the other meaning of them, suddenly gave a deep ethical meaning.  By such a claim, one can give some elated position to Mbh. but it cannot represent the overall meaning of it.

Regarding rta, not only Mbh. but in most of the post vedic scriptures it was replaced with dharma.  However this does not mean that dharma completely replaced the idea and importance of rta.  Rta was on cosmic level and dharma is on individual level.  Reading any modern and secular views in Mbh., which will be universal is not a problem. But Mbh. have never done this at the cost of the view of other scriptures or replacing their meaning and purpose to accommodate to our modern and secular views.  One is free to read such view on dharma or any other view in Mbh. But insisting that it has done a radical change in these views is not doing justice to Mbh. and other scriptures.  This does not mean that I am challenging the scholarship of Badrinath but raise my genuine question as a student of Hinduism.

And in similar way he further says:

…the Mbh. had marked a radical shift from the atman to dharma, and the one was no prerequisite for the other.—ibid. p.68 .

Badrinath says this under the title : ‘The Spiritual and the Material in the Mbh.’ (Chapter Three:).  And we have to agree with him that, ‘…At no time in its very long history did Indian thought posit any polarity between the material and the spiritual, much less an irreconcilable polarity….’ (p.42). And particularly pointing about this in Upanishads which deals more about atman he further says,

All Upanishad-s are saying to us, in the clearest language, that by understanding the material, human beings develop their spiritual faculties; and by understanding the spiritual, they develop their material existence.  In that, there is self-increasing, happiness, good health, love, fulfillment of desire, prosperity and peace.*(p.43)

However he also brings to our notice that, *‘But this is generally missed in most writings on the Upanishad-s’ (notes 2.p.595).  This is important to note.  Because, in general, almost all the scriptures in Hinduism while discussing anything about atman, they are more concerned with its relationship with Brahman, not ignoring or insisting or shifting to dharma from atman.  This we can also found in Mbh.  Overwhelmingly if Mbh’s concern is ‘dharma’, yet when it comes to any particular point—here atman, it also deals about it elaborately.  Again and again, my argument is that during its course of developing as a full grown great epic, Mbh., gave a space for all kinds of views and thought—not one at the cost of the other or suddenly shifting from one to another (viz., atman to dharma).  By generalizing we could say that the main concern of Mbh., is ‘dharma’ the same can be said about Upanishads about spirituality—however it equally talk about the importance of ‘material existence’.  Because, we have to keep in mind that all the Upanishads were not pen down by one person or belongs to one time or one thought.  And even within the same Upanishads one can find some polarity between material and spiritual, as there was every scope for interpolation –big or small level.  Though Upanishads belongs to Sruti, yet they are so many sectarian Upanishads.  According to Prof. Daya Krishna:

In fact, the Upanishads continued to be written till almost the 13th century.  But, if this is true, how can this be regarded as sruti.  For, if something is a sruti, or if something is regarded as sruti, we cannot add to it.  The whole idea of what is sruti, what is accepted an authority, is a vexed question.— Daya Krishna, op. cit. p.53

Even Bhagavadgita which belongs to Smrit is also called as Upanishad at the end of each chapter where the title of the chapter is mentioned (this was not an original part of the Gita) the Gita is also referred as an Upanishad (srimadbhagavadgitasu upanisadsu).

What I have said above Mbh. and its relationship with others scriptures is the same here too.  In this context what Badrinath further says about Samkhya and Mbh. is also important for us to understand the complexity of this topic:

…This is first stated as an essential part of the Samkhya metaphysics, as we heard in the conversations of the sages Bhrigu, Panchashikha, and Vyasa.  Then, in its own radical shift, the Mbh. quietly disconnects the two….Independent of the Samkhya metaphysics, it will remain experientially true that, with self-knowledge and self-discipline, the self can channel the energies within.  That is what the Mbh. is mainly concerned with—not the knowledge of the atman but the living in dharma.  The one is not a presupposition of the other.—ibid. p.70

To understand this we have to see what Badrinath says about this ‘self-knowledge’ which he claims that the Mbh. talks about independent of Samkhya:

Self-knowledge is through contexts and situations in which one finds oneself, and also which one creates for oneself.  It is through the given and the selfcreated that, understanding one’s self in the distinctive character of one’s self as a person, one beings to have also the knowledge of one’s self as a fragment of a larger common human reality.  That is the journey of understanding the self and the world on which the Mbh. takes us; and on that journey, it whispers into our ears, without making a metaphysics of it, belief in the atman is of no particular help, nor is disbelief in any such entity and particular hindrance.—p.69

To understand what Badrinath says that Mbh. ‘independent of the Samkhya metaphysics’ is not ‘concerned with the knowledge of the atman but the living in dharma’ we have to understand its relationship with Samkhya itself.  Of all other schools of thought, Mbh., is closely linked with Sankhya and it derives its most metaphysics, categories and terms from Sankhya.  Mbh., highly exult Sankhya and about this Prof. Kane says:

It is not a vain boast when the Santiparva asserts that whatever knowledge is found in the Vedas, in Sankhya and Yoga, in the various Puranas, in the extensive Itihasas, in the Arthasastra and whatever knowledge exists in the world, all that is derived from the Sankhya.—History of Dharmasastras,  vol. V, part. II, p. 1384.


…most epic descriptions of Samkhya are not by Samkhya teachers but report their views. Although consequently these passages are not primary sources for knowledge about the system, they do include ideas then current and may well have been composed during the period when Samkhya schools were emerging….…mostly the versions of Samkhya found in the Mahabharata are nontheistic, unlike Yoga. The clearest theistic version is found in the Bhagavadgita.— The Sanskrit Epics, John Brockington, in The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism, Gavin Flood (ed.), UK, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Indian Reprint 2003, p.125

So we need to remember that there is not a single schoolof Samkhyathought existed.  (See also ‘Unifying Hinduism: Philosophy and Identity in Indian Intellectual History’ by Andrew J. Nicholson, Ranikhet, Permanent Black, (2010), 2011, particularly pp. 67-100 & 124-142).  We need to keep all these points in our mind when we make any kind of comments on Mbh., in its relationship with Sankhya.  There are several verses in Mbh. concerned with the knowledge of the atman and not merely living in dharma.  Though Mbh is more concerned with the living in dharma, it is equally concerned with the knowledge of the atman.  The conversation between Vyasa and Suka alone is enough to understand this.  Just one example is sufficient here6:

1. The objects by which one is encircled are created by the Understanding.  Without being connected with them, the Soul stands aloof, lording over them. The Understanding creates all objects. The three principal qualities are continually begin transformed. The Soul, gifted with power, lords over them all, without, however, mingling with them. 2. The objects created by the Understanding partake of its own nature.  Like the threads created by the spider, the objects created by the Understanding partake of the nature of the Understanding. [Vyasa to Shuka]—Dutt, Vol. 6. Shanti Parva Ch. CCXLXI P. 376

Now comparing dharma in Veda with Mbh. Badrinath says:

Dharma and adharma were thus the direct results of following, or not following, the self-evident commands of the Veda.  Dharma could be called ‘virtue’; but in being motivated by something external, it had little to do with the ‘ethical’; neither did adharma have the meaning of ‘unethical’[Surendranath Dasgupta, A History of Indian Philosophy, II, (Cambridge University Press, 1932, 484)…..Whatever action is based on the Veda, according to the Bhagavatapurana, is dharma; whatever is not, is adharma.  According to Medhaatithi (ninth century A.D.), any custom or practice that is not based on the teachings of the Veda is to be discarded as notdharma. [Surendranath Dasgupta, A History of Indian Philosophy, IV, (Cambridge University Press, 1932, p.7)

The Mbh. will completely discard this ritualistic, narrow, and sectarian perception of dharma….—p.80

If one wants to understand the Veda’s view on dharma, it should be done based on its own merit and claim and not one’s personal interpretation of it in Mbh.  If we do it, then we will arrive to a ‘narrow perception of dharma’ in Mbh.  Because it is too simplistic to say that all that the Veda talks about dharma is in a ‘ritualistic, narrow and sectarian perception’.  One can say that the ritualistic perception is more strong and dominant.  But completely brushing dharma in Veda as ‘ritualistic and sectarian’ is a very restricted personal view and not the complete view of Veda.  For example Kane says:

It is very difficult to say what the exact meaning of the word dharma was in the most ancient period of the Vedic language.  The word is clearly derived from root dhr (to uphold, to support, to nourish).  In a few passages, the word appears to be used in the sense of “upholder or supporter or sustainer” as in Rig.I.187.1 and X.92.2 … In most cases the meaning of dharman is “religious ordinances or rites” as in Rig.I.22.18. V.26.6, VIII.43.24, IX.64.1 etc….(p.1)

…the word dharma passed through several transitions of meaning and …ultimately its most prominent significance came to be “the privileges, duties and obligations of a man, his standard of conduct as a member of the Aryan community, as a member of one of the castes, as a person in a particular stage of life”.  It is in this sense that the word seems to be used in the well-known exhortation to the pupil contained in the Taittiriiya Upanishad (I.11) “speak the truth, practice (your own) dharma etc.”.  It is in the same sense that the Bhagavadgita uses the word dharma in the oft-quoted verse “svadharme nidhanam sreyah” (3:35).  The word is employed in this sense in the Dharmasastra literature. (pp.3-4)

…the Vedas so not profess to be formal treatises on dharma; they contains only disconnected statements on the various aspects of dharma; we have to turn to the smrtis for a formal and connected treatment of the topics of the Dharmasaastra….-Vol. I. Part.I. 2. Sources of Dharma. p. 10.

Thus even in understanding the concept of dharma both complex and overlapping with other views.  So, try to understand its meaning in Mbh., alone that too super imposing our view on Mbh., will put restriction not only in our understanding but the scope of each scripture.

The same is the case with the following points which Badrinath takes from other scriptures and comparing it with dharma in Mbh.  And my comments is the same as I said above.  However it will help us to understand the complexity of dharma while we compare it with it in other scriptures and the particularity in respective scripture.  So I am giving them here with my short comments limiting to the context of the scriptures:

…The authors of the Amarakosha, the famous dictionary, mentioned several meanings of dharmaPunya, ‘the merit that comes of virtuous deeds’; vedic-vidhi, ‘the vedic ritual sacrifices or commands’; nyaaya, or ‘law, justice’;[As in the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, I.4.226] svabhaava, or ‘one’s specific nature’; aachaara, ‘social conduct’; and so forth—but all of them subsumed again in the varnaashrama meaning.  That is, dharma as a particular social structure, with its institutions.  It was certainly not universal, for elsewhere in the human world there were different social structures founded upon different beliefs about human life.

That, that is how dharma was being perceived in the times the Mbh. was being composed, is recounted with its full force in the (p.81) Mbh. itself.[See Vanaparva, 151.22-3. Shantiparva, 59.2, 8-56; Chs. 60-2; 64.5-6; 238.104-8; 244.14-6.  And Anushasanaparva, Chs. 208-54.]  That is a part of its clear method: state the prevalent presuppositions, beliefs, conflicting opinions, and then subject them to a searching inquiry….—pp.81-82

–here the problem of such view of Mbh., that it subjected the prevalent ‘presuppositions, beliefs, conflicting opinions’ to a searching inquiry (of oneself and one’s relationship with other) could be true if the entire Mbh., was compiled by one author in one single time keeping all the ‘presuppositions, beliefs, conflicting opinions’ of his time.  But Mbh., was compiled and so many materials were added.  So it subjected all other views in the course of its development.  Or it accommodates all such views along with its inquiry.  I think this problem comes once Badrinath fixed the inquiry of Mbh. to his famous thesis of ‘one’s relationship with one’s self and with the other’ based on his interpretation of dharma in Mbh.  Now once fixed such a frame work for our understanding of Mbh., then he has to re-read, re-interpret or even reject what the other scriptures says about Dharma, as if Mbh. says what it wants to say in one voice and one view?  Once we understand this, then while highly appreciating the scholarly alternative approach to understand Dharma in Mbh. by Badrinath, yet we need not limit ourselves our approach on Dharma from this narrow scholarly interpretation both on Dharma and Mbh.

Amarakosha, indeed all other ancient Hindus scriptures, including Mbh., know only the prevailing social structure of their location and time—even within India.  So what is ‘universal’ needs to be questioned first.  Because Amarakosha, Mbh., or other Hindu scriptures (of respective time and place) are more concerned about their immediate need of time and place.  It is not their problem if we want to stretch their ‘presuppositions, beliefs, conflicting opinions’ to other social structures of the entire world.  Even in this 21st century, can we say that the need of the social structure of the entire world can be subject to the inquiry of Mbh., with our modern secular interpretation?  How many diaspora Hindus themselves have time and need for such modern inquiry on dharma to survive in their new homes outsideIndia?  It may help them in their fight for their separate identity in the first and second generation.  This too would be possible for those who made a good living and somehow settled down.  But for others survival was their priority and no more inquiry of dharma or any other concept.

The following view by Badrinath will help us to understand my critic on his further:

… the liberating air of the Mbh’s teaching on dharma as the universal foundation of all relationships: of the self with the self, and of the self with the other.  The use of the same word, for the most part clearly, but also to connote things dissimilar, in context very different from one another, gave rise in India to a tradition that was in sharp contrast to philosophic care in the use of words.  Now meanings were blurred; in that twilight one thing was taken for another; the need for interpretation arose, but one interpretation was as good as the other, and no interpretation being decisive, the pandits and the commentators flourished, and the common man grew stupefied.  In the practice of it, an idea seemed to its adherents clear; in the theory of it, it vanished into mystery, or into unending arguments.  One result was that there was no definite meaning to anything.  If a thing meant everything, and then at will, then nothing meant any one thing.  Whatever else is involved in defining the meaning of a word, giving it a boundary is the least that is.  It is the refusal in theory to give dharma boundary, when it had acquired in social practice a clear boundary all the time, that is common to the modern apologists of dharma.

After using the word dharma in all sorts of manner, maintaining that no one meaning could be given to it, when it came to defending dharma upon (p.82) which by common consent is founded the whole of Indian culture, the defence has always been of the social order, mainly varnaashramadharma.—ibid. pp.82-83

It is a contradiction to say that Mbh ‘liberated’ dharma from any narrowly conceived meaning based on ‘religion’ and ‘ritual’ and then point out that ‘the same word [dharma], for the most part clearly, but also to connote things dissimilar, in context very different from one another’.  Though we need to agree with the author’s interpretation of both ‘dharma’ and the way it is ‘handled’ in Mbh. as ‘the universal foundation of all relationships’, yet following the same tradition of ‘pandits and the commentators’ what he proposes is one among the several interpretation of both the word ‘dharma’ and also the way ‘Mbh. handle it’, which again vanishes ‘into mystery, or into unending arguments’.  But if keep in the mind that Mbh. is not the work of one single author but an encyclopedic work, such contradiction will be easily resolved.  However, considering the fact that now if it is ‘varna-ashrama-dharma’ as the common consent, then it (varnashrama-dharma) is based on religion, ritual etc., which ends where it began.  So, one would like to read the ‘secular’ meaning in the word dharma, yet it is basically related with religion and ritual and not exclusively a secular concept.

Continuing our topic of understanding dharma in Mbh. comparing with it other scriptures and how Badrinath handled it, here comes, next Upanishads:

…It has been a paradox that it is mostly through incorrect understandings that the truth of a thing is reached.  Therefore, as for example in the Upanishad-s, before we could say what a thing is, it often necessary first to say what it is not.  But the knowledge of what ‘it is not’ implies already a knowledge of what ‘it is’.  And about that there can be different perceptions, and the consequent need to reconcile them somehow, often at the expense of truth.—p.83

This is bit confusing.  Because according to the author ‘neti, neti’ actually means ‘‘not yet the end’, ‘not yet complete’ (p.16).  Therefore the Upanishads saying of ‘neti’ is not ‘it is not’ but ‘not yet complete’ etc.  Therefore if I understand the author’s earlier view of ‘neti’ the Upanishads never says that we have ‘an incorrect understandings’ of truth, but only ‘incomplete’ ones.  So, the different perceptions is not to ‘reconcile’ the various approaches, but various interpretations about the truth.  I don’t think any one who gives a different interpretation ever claims that other’s understanding is at the ‘expense of truth’ but a wrong ‘understanding of truth’.  So such statements that ‘it has been a paradox that it is mostly through incorrect understandings that the truth of a thing is reached’ could be a cleaver logical way to prove her point of the wrong understanding of the word ‘dharma’  but those who have different interpretation and understanding never would say that they reached that understanding at the expense of ‘truth’ (here ‘dharma’) from its ‘correct’ meaning, (as proposed by the author).

Next Badrinath comparing dharma from tradition and modern says:

There have been two wrong understandings of what dharma is: one traditional, the other modern. The traditional wrong understanding of dharma consisted mostly in perceiving it as synonymous with varna, a given social structure, and ashrama, a certain scheme of the stages of life.  The Mbh. disentangles dharma from them, pointing out at the same time that varna and ashrama have themselves been wrongly understood as to their foundations, and liberates them as well from the oppressive results of that wrong understanding.  Dharma is the natural foundation of all social arrangements everywhere.  It cannot be reduced to being synonymous with the social structures developed in India, with caste as its basic feature, simply because the word dharma is added to varna.—ibid. p.84

But this is the context in which dharma is developed all through ages.  Because the author says that, ‘the liberating air of the Mbh’s teaching on dharma as the universal foundation of all relationships’ yet also points out that ‘for the most part clearly, but also to connote things dissimilar, in context very different from one another….’ (p.82)  This is crucial.  As I have commented on this point, at the end of the day, however Mbh. seems to liberated ‘dharma’ from its ‘other traditional’ interpretation, finally it also ended up by reducing it with the ‘social structures developed inIndia’.  This could be even proved by the fact, that thisvarna (here caste) based structure is very strong even today and not dharma transcending such structures, however we love to give a sophisticated interpretation to it.

Another point of Badrinath giving a ‘natural sovereign’ to dharma is that:

If one dharma is destructive of another dharma, then it is wickedness in the garb of dharma, and not dharma. Only that is dharma truly that is established without denigrating and opposing another dharma.[Vanaparva, 131.11]—p.87

In case there is conflict between one dharma and another, one should reflect on their relative weight, and then act accordingly; what does not denigrate and obstruct the others is dharma.[Vanaparva, 131.12 and 13.]—p.87

Whatever is not agreeable to him, that he should not do unto others.  This, in brief, is dharma; all else is only selfishness.[Anushasanaparva, 113.8.  Also Udyogaparva, 39.71.]—p.88

…In each of these areas [artha, kama, danda, varna], which cover so intimate a part of human life everywhere, dharma is shown to be the natural sovereign, to whom each one of them must be [in Mbh.] subject if human existence is to come into its full worth….—pp.88-89

I have a problem with the word ‘natural sovereign’ because even in all these crucial areas, in emergency (aapatkal) the same dharma becomes ‘relative’.  So Mbh. ‘natural’ position is relativism in its approach in all areas of life, including dharma.  So understanding dharma in Mbh., is a complex one.  As it gives scope for all kinds of inclusiveness, try to elevate it at the cost of other views will never help us to understand not only dharma in general, but also in Mbh.  This issue gets more complicated once we try to understand the concept of dharma in Mbh. by comparing with other scriptures in Hinduism.  But this pluralism and relativism is the strength of Hinduism, as it is ready to adopt and adapt to the need of a person in relationship with herself and also with others.

Dayanand Bharati, March 13, 2012.  Gurukulam.


1.. The Mbh. dwells throughout upon laksana, the attributes, by which dharma is to be recognized.  Evenly divided, they relate with the self and the other.  In relation to one’s self, those attributes are: satya, truth; dama, self-control; shaucha, purity; aarjava, lack of deviousness; hri, endurance; achapalam, resoluteness of character; dana, giving and sharing.  And tapas and brahmacharya, which are not, as generally translated, ‘austerity’ and ‘sexual continence’, but … the other names of truth and self-control.

In relation to the other, the attributes of dharma are: ahimsa, or not to violate the other’s being; samata, the attitude of equality; shantih, peace or (p.109) tranquility; anrasansyam, lack of aggression and cruelty; and amaatsara, absence of envy.

They flow into each other.  Dharma, like truth, is a state of being—in relation with oneself and with the other.  This is the substance of the teaching of the Mbh.—Badrinath,  pp.109-110

…one of the characteristics of the Mbh. has been that, in the place of definitions of things, it asks for their attributes, or Laksanas.  All definitions are arbitrary, whereas the Laksanas, or the attributes, are what show a thing, through which a thing becomes manifest.  Thus, not the ‘definition’ of truth, or of love, but the attributes of truth and love, by which they are known.  The question what is dharma? is answered likewise in terms of its Laksanas, attributes, which are clear, straightforward, and genuinely universal….—ibid. p.418

2. We need to know Badrinath’s view on dharma to understand further his interpretation about it in Mbh:

…Is dharma a self-determining reality that gives direction to a person’s life, and is it to be discovered in a process of self-discovery as to what one is meant to be?  And since self-discovery cannot ever be a finished product, is dharma a state of becoming, changing with the different perceptions one has of oneself at different times?  Or is it determined collectively by each society, determined differently by different societies at different times, so that it is history that will determine what an individual person is meant to be?… …what are the universally unchanging elements of dharma, and what is in it that will necessarily be open to change, which is unpredictable besides?  How is this tension between the eternal and the transient to be resolved, when both form parts of the same reality?  This question will apply to dharma as the foundation of law and governance most of all….— Chaturvedi Badrinath, The Mahabharata: An Inquiry in the human condition,New Delhi, Orient Longman, 2007, p.4

3.  It is repeatedly stated in the Mbh. that the nature of dharma, and of truth likewise, is exceedingly subtle and difficult to grasp.  It is another way of the Mbh. saying that human relationships, of one’s self with the self and with the other, are full of complexities and ambiguities, and are subject to the changing desha and kala, besides …. —ibid. p.192

4. Though Badrinath uses only ‘dharmasutra-s’, we have to take both dharmasutra and sastras as one unit to know all about the law given by them to a householder:

In general, although the Dharmasutras are older and more succinct than the sastras, they are not necessarily more authoritative.  The former are in prose or in prose mixed with verse, whereas the latter are almost entirely verse texts.  Further, Dharmasutras are each associated with a particular Veda, while the Dharmasastras are more or less independent in this respect.  As to subject matter, like the Grhyasutras, both the dharma sutras and sastras are meant to serve as guidelines only and are not exhaustive–HINDUS Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, Routledge,London, 1994. pp. 84-85.  See further see Understanding Hinduism on this subject.

5.  Brahmayajna which consists in the study and teaching of the Veda, pitryajna which consists of tarpana (offering water through ritual), daivayajna which consists in offerings made into fire, bhutayajna which is offering oblations to beings and manusyayajna which consists in honouring guests.– Kane, History of Dharmasastras, vol. II, part II. p. 698.

6.  27. In [if?—db. Refer] the Vedas has been described the subject of the Soul’s liberation, along (p.352) with the ten means formed by study of the Vedas, adoption of the domestic mode of life, penances, observance of all duties, common to all the modes of life, sacrifices, performance of all acts leading to pure fame, meditation which is of three kinds, and that kind of Liberation called success (Siddhi) attainable in this life. 28. That incomprehensible Brahma which has been described in the words of the Vedas, and which has been described more clearly in the Upanishads by those who have an insight into the Vedas, can be realized by gradually following the practices referred to above. [Vyasa to Shuka].—Dutt. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.CCXXXII. P. 352-53

23. They who have true knowledge see their own self as existing both in and out. Such men, O child, are truly twice-born and such men are gods. [Vyasa to Shuka].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva Ch. CCXXXVII P. 360

16. The soul cannot be seen with the help of the eye, or with that of all the senses.  Getting over all, the soul can be seen by only the light of the mind’s lamp. [Vyasa to Shuka].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva Ch. CCXXXIX P. 362

34. That indestructible Soul which is said to be endued with the attribute or action is nothing else than that indestructible Soul which is said to be inactive.  A learned person, by attaining to that indestructible essence, gives up for ever both life and birth. [Vyasa to Shuka].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva Ch. CCXXXIX P. 363

13. This topic [Soul?], O son, intended for your instruction, is the essence of all the Vedas. The truth expounded in it cannot be understood by the help of inference alone or by that of mere study of the scriptures.  One must understand it himself by the help of faith. [Vyasa to Shuka].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva Ch. CCXLVI P. 373

2. The objects of the senses are superior to the senses.  The mind is superior to those objects. The Understanding is superior to mind.  The Soul is considered as superior to Understanding. [Vyasa to Shuka].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva Ch. CCXLVIII P. 374

15. The soul cannot be seen with the help of the senses whose nature is to roam about among all objects of desire.  Even pious men, whose senses are pure, cannot see the soul with their help what then should be said of the vicious whose senses are impure. 16. When, however, a person, with the help of his mind, firmly holds their reins, it is then that his Soul sees itself like an object coming in view on account of the light of a lamp. [Vyasa to Shuka].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva Ch. CCXLVIII P. 375

21. …The qualities cannot apprehend the Soul. The Soul, however, apprehends them always. [Vyasa to Shuka]— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva Ch. CCXLVIII P. 375

22. The Soul is the witness which sees the qualities and duly works them up.  Mark this difference between the Understanding and the Soul both of which are highly subtle. 23. One of them creates the qualities. The other does not create them.  Though they are different from each other by nature, they are, however, always united. 24. The fish residing in the water is different from the element in which it resides.  But as the fish and the water forming its residence are always united, likewise the quality of goodness and the individual soul exist in a state of union.  The gnat begotten of a rotten fig is really not the fig but different from it. As the gnat and the fig are seen to be united with each other, so are the qualities of goodness and the individual Soul. 25. As the blade in a clump of grass though distinct from the clump, exists in a state of union with it, so these two, though different from each other and each exists in its own self, are to be seen in a state of perpetual union. [Vyasa to Shuka]— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva Ch. CCXLVIII P. 375

1. The objects by which one is encircled are created by the Understanding.  Without being connected with them, the Soul stands aloof, lording over them. The Understanding creates all objects. The three principal qualities are continually begin transformed. The Soul, gifted with power, lords over them all, without, however, mingling with them. 2. The objects created by the Understanding partake of its own nature.  Like the threads created by the spider, the objects created by the Understanding partake of the nature of the Understanding. [Vyasa to Shuka]— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva Ch. CCXLXI P. 376

3. Some hold that the qualities, when done away with by Yoga or knowledge, do not cease to exist. They hold this because when once gone, the marks only of their return are not perceived. Others hold that when destroyed by knowledge, they are at once destroyed never to return. 4. Meditating duly upon these two opinions, one should try his best according to the way one thinks proper.  It is by this way that one should acquire eminence and take refuge in his own Soul alone. [Vyasa to Shuka]— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva Ch. CCXLXI P. 376

10. This knowledge is the possession of a Brahmana in particular by virtue of his birth. Knowledge of the Soul, and happiness like above, are each fully sufficient to lead to Liberation. [Vyasa to Shuka]— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva Ch. CCXLXI P. 376

10. One sees the Soul with the help of the lamp of knowledge.  Seeing, therefore, yourself with your ownself, cease to regard your body as yourself and acquire omniscience. [Vyasa to Shuka]— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva Ch. CCL P. 377

Having seen all the complexity about dharma, particularly in Mbh., let us now turn to other points of dharma in Mbh.:

Absence of dharma:

14. At first there was no sovereignty, no king, no punishment, and no punisher. All men used to protect one another piously.15. As they thus lived…righteously protecting one another, they found the task (in time), to be painful.  Error then possessed their hearts. 16. Having become subject to error, the perceptions of men…became clouded, and thence their virtue began to wane. 17. When their perceptions were clouded and when men became subject to error all of them became covetous….18. And because men tried to secure objects which were not their own, another passion called lust seized them. 19. When they became subject to lust, another passion, named anger, soon attacked them.  Once subject to anger, they lost all considerations of what should be done and what should not be. 20. Unrestrained sexual indulgence began. Men began to say what they liked. All distinctions between clean and unclean food and between virtue and vice disappeared. 21. When this confusion set in amongst men, the Vedas disappeared.  Upon the disappearance of the Vedas, and righteousness also was gone. 22. When both the Vedas and righteousness were lost, the gods were overcome by fear. Overcome with fear,….they sought the help of Brahman….25. With the loss of the Vedas, O Supreme Lord, righteousness also has been lost. For this, O Supreme Lord of the three worlds, we are about to be reduced to the status of human beings. 26. Men used to pour upwards while we used to pour downwards.  For the stoppage of all religious rites among men we will suffer great distress. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.LIX. p. 83

All can have it; seek it:

61. The wise have said that the mind of every creature is the true test of virtue. Hence, all creatures in this world have an innate tendency to achieve virtue. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. CLXII, p. 343

14. All men are equal as regards their physical organism.  All of them, again, have souls which are equal in nature.  When dissolution comes, all else dissolves away.   What remains is the desire for acquiring virtue.  That, indeed, re-appears (in next life) of itself. 15. When such is the result, the inequality of condition, seen among human beings cannot be considered in any way anomalous. So also, it is seen that those creatures that belong to the intermediate orders of existence are equally subject, about their acts, to the influence of example.— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. CLXIV. P. 345

Apat dharma

59. In difficulty, every one forgets considerations of virtue….[ Yudhishthira to Duryodhana] —ibid. Vol. V. Shalya Parva. Ch. XXXII, p. 64

11. Virtue again, according to time and place, becomes sin.  Thus misappropriation of another’s property, untruth, and injury and killing may under special circumstances, become virtue. [Vyasa to Yudhisthira].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.XXXVII. P. 51

Cause (replacing rta)

Q. Who is the cause for the setting of the sun?

A. Dharma causes him to set. [Yaksha to Dharma].— Kamala Subramanian, Mahabharata, Vana Parava, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan,Bombay, 1985, p. 244


13. The regions of happiness which represent the results or rewards of virtue are not eternal, for they are destined to come to an end.  Virtue, however, is eternal.  When the cause is eternal, why is the effect not so?  The answer to this is as follows.  Only that virtue is eternal which is not prompted by the desire of fruit or reward. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. CLXIV, p. 345

56. Formerly, the great Rishi Vyasa, having composed this work, caused his son Shuka to read it with him, along with these four verses. 57. Thousands of mothers, and fathers, and hundreds of sons and wives arise in the world and depart from it.  Others will arise and similarly go away. 58. There are thousands of occasions for joy and hundreds of occasions for fear. These affect only him who is ignorant but never him that is wise. 59. With uplifted arms I am crying aloud but nobody hears me. From Virtue originate profit and pleasure.  Why should not Virtue, therefore, be sought? 60. For the sake neither of pleasure, nor of fear, nor of cupidity should any one renounce Virtue. Indeed, for the sake of even life, one should not renounce Virtue.  Virtue is eternal.  Pleasure and Pain are not eternal. Jiva is eternal.  The cause, however, of Jiva’s being covered with a body is not so. [Sauti to Shaunaka].— ibid. SWARGAROHANIKA PARVA. VOL. 7.Ch.V. p. 556

Faith in dharma

4. As regards faith in virtue, it is this. To place faith in virtue is the mark of the wisdom of all persons….[Bhishma to Yudhisthira].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. CLXIV, p. 345

Guidance to dharma:

Yudhishthira said: 10. Tell me, O grandfather, which among these (four) is more authoritative viz., direct perception, inference from observation, the science of scriptures, and various kinds of practices which distinguish the good. Bhishma said: 11. While virtue is sought to be destroyed by wicked persons possessed of great power, it is capable of being protected for the time being by those who are good if they work with care and earnestness.  Such protection, however, is of no use in the long run, for destruction does overtake virtue at the end. 12. Then, again, virtue often proves a mark for covering sin, like grass and straw covering the mouth of a deep pit and concealing it from the view.  Hear, again, O Yudhishthira.  On account of this, the practices of the good are interfered with and destroyed by the wicked. 13. Those persons who are evil-doers, who discard the Shrutis—indeed, those wicked persons who are haters of virtue destroy that good conduct, hence, doubts attach to direct perception, inference, and good conduct. 14. Those, therefore, among the good who are possessed of understanding purified by the scriptures and who are ever contended, are to be considered as the foremost. Let those who are anxious and deprived of tranquility of soul, approach these…. 16. The conduct of those persons never goes wrong or meets with destruction, as also their sacrifices and Vedic study and rites. Indeed, these three, viz., good conduct, mental purity, and the Vedas together form virtue. Yudhishthira said:… 18. If these three, viz., the Vedas, direct perception and behavior (or mental purity) together form what is to be considered as authority, it can be alleged that there is difference between each.  Virtue then becomes really of three kinds although it is one and indivisible. (p.341) Bhishma said: 20. The truth is that virtue is one and individible, although it is capable of being seen from three different points. 21. The paths, of those three, which form the foundation of virtue have each been laid down…. 22. …let no doubts like these ever take possession of your mind. Do you obey unhesitatingly what I say.  Follow me like a blind man or like one who, having no sense himself, has to depend upon that of another. [Bhishma and Yudhisthira].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. CLXII. Pp. 341-42

Fools despise dharma:

16. …Fools, again, hold that virtue is an empty sound among those called good. They ridicule such persons and consider them as men bereft of reason. [Yudhisthira to Bhishma]— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.CCLX, p. 387

Kinds of dharma

74.Performance  of  sacrifices study  gifts penance   truth  forgiveness  subduing  the  senses  and  renunciation   of  desire –these   are  the  eight  Dharmas  declared  by the Smriti. [Saunaka to Yudhisthira].— M.N.[Manmatha Nath]  Dutt, Mahabharata,Delhi, Parimala Publications, 7 vols.Vol. I.1988,Ch. II. VANA PARVA, Vol. 2, p.5.

6. The Brahmana [of Mahapadma in the family of Atri] thought that there were three kinds of duties laid down for observances.  There were, first, the duties ordained in the Vedas about the order in which he was born and the mode of life he was leading. There were, secondly, the duties sanctioned in the scriptures, viz., those especially called the Dharmashastras.  And, thirdly, there were those duties that eminent and revered men of ancient times have followed, though not laid down either in the Vedas or the Scriptures. 7. Which of these duties should I follow? [Bhishma (quoting the conversation between Narada to Indra) to Yudhisthira].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.CCCLIV. P. 587

7. The control of anger, truthfulness of speech, justice, forgiveness, begetting children upon one’s own married wives, purity of conduct, avoidance of quarrel, simplicity, and maintenance of dependents,–these are the nine duties which all the four orders should follow. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva Ch. LX. p. 88

23. Abstention from injury, truth, absence of anger (or forgiveness), and liberality or gifts—these four, O king do you practice, for these four form eternal virtue. [Bhishma andYudhisthira].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. CLXII. Pp. 342

Marks of dharma (lakshna)

4c….The virtuous never follow the path of the sinful. [Yayati to Astaka]— M.N.[Manmatha Nath]  Dutt, Mahabharata,Delhi, Parimala Publications, 7 vols.Vol. I.1988,Ch. 89. ADI PARVA p.130

67. Truth constitutes the essence of the Vedas. Control over passions constitutes the essence of truth. And self-denial (refraining from the worldly enjoyments) forms the essence of self-control. These attributes are always present in a virtuous conduct. [Fowler to Kunshika].—ibid.  VANA PARVA, Vol. 2, Ch. CCVI, p. 312

94-95. A man must not offend anybody.  He must be charitable. Also he must speak the truth always. Those great men of highest virtue, who are kind on all occasions, and who are filled with compassion, obtain the (p.313) greatest contentment and ascend the superior path of virtue; and whose acquisition of virtue is most certain. [Fowler to Kunshika].—ibid. VANA PARVA, Vol. 2,Ch. CCVI, p. 313-14

7. Fame, truth, self-control, purity, simplicity, modesty steadiness, charity, asceticism and Bramhacharya are my limbs. [Yaksha [Dharma] to Yudhisthira]—ibid. Vanaparva,  Ch. CCCXIII. P. 451

9a. It is by good fortune that you are given to the (practice of the) five (virtues namely, equanimity of the mind, self-control, abstinence from sensual indulgence, forgiveness, and Yoga)…. [Yaksha [Dharma] to Yudhisthira]—ibid. Vanaparva, Ch. CCCXIII. P. 451

75d. …and forgiveness is the strength of the virtuous. [Vidura to Dhritarastra] —ibid. UDYOGA PARVA. Vol. III. Ch. XXXIV, p.49

12-13. To persons capable of judging, acts are of two kinds, viz., virtuous and sinful.  From the worldly and the Vedic points of view again, virtue and vice become good or bad.  From the Vedic point of view, virtue and vice, would be classed under action and inaction. Inaction, i.e., abstention from Vedic rites leads to liberation (from re-birth) while the fruits of action i.e., performance of Vedic rites, leads to repeated death and re-birth.  From the worldly point of view, acts that are evil, lead to sins and those that are good, to virtue. From the worldly point of view, therefore, virtue and vice are to be marked out by the good and the evil character of their fruits. [Vyasa to Yudhisthira].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.XXXVII. P. 51

19. That virtue by which one remains unchanged in weal and woe is called fortitude. That wise man who seeks his own well-being always practices this virtue. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira]— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.CLXII. P. 241

21. Abstention from injury to all creatures in thought, word, and deed, and kindness, and gift, are the permanent duties of good. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira]— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.CLXII. P. 241

6. Time can never make the cause of misery.  One should, therefore, know that the soul which is virtuous is certainly pure. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. CLXIV, p. 345


7. …The word ‘Duty,’ as used in the Vedas, appears to have been coined first for general application.  Therefore the application of that word for the rites of marriage is, instead of being correct, only a form of speech forcibly applied where it has no application. [Yudhisthira to Bhishma].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. XIX. P. 63

No Use

5.O Krishna, I do not find that the practice of virtue leads to any good, or that  sinful practices cause any evil, for the magnanimous Yudhisthira is miserable with matted locks, –a wanderer in the forest with barks of trees as his garments . 6. Duryodhana is ruling the earth; the earth does not swallow him up. From this men with little intelligence would consider that a sinful life is preferable to a virtuous one. [Balarama toKrishna]—ibid. VANA PARVA,Ch.CXIX. Vol. 2, p. 179.

Obstacles to dharma:

4. Desires adhere to a man and they are the source of all impediments to virtue.., A wise man, having killed them beforehand, gains unspeakable praise in the world. 5. Thirst for wealth is a bond in this world,… Those, who desire it, go against virtue as it were….The man, who desires pleasure, becomes degraded for the sake of pleasure. 6… the man, of vicious intellect, devoid of virtue, is ruined even if he obtains the earth. [Sanjaya to Yudhisthira] —ibid. UDYOGA PARVA. Vol. III. Ch. XXVII, p. 31

49. No man can become virtuous unless allowed by the gods… [Bhishma to Yudhisthira].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.CCLXXI. P.410

62. One should achieve virtue alone or single-handed.  Indeed, one should not proclaim himself virtuous and walk with the standard of virtue upraised for purposes of show.  They are said to be traders in virtue who practice it for enjoying its fruits. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. CLXII, p. 343

How to Preserve Dharma

39a. Virtue is preserved by truthfulness….[Vidura to Dhritarastra] —ibid. UDYOGA PARVA. Vol. III. Ch. XXXIV, p.48

Provides, fruits, results:

39. There can be said many things as regards the goodness or the badness of our actions. But he who sticks to the Dharma of his own order acquires great fame.[Fowler to Kunshika].—ibid.  VANA PARVA, Vol. 2,Ch. CCVII, p. 315

4. Desires adhere to a man and they are the source of all impediments to virtue.., A wise man, having killed them beforehand, gains unspeakable praise in the world. 5. Thirst for wealth is a bond in this world,… Those, who desire it, go against virtue as it were. He who chooses virtue is wise. The man, who desires pleasure, becomes degraded for the sake of pleasure. 6. A man, who makes virtue his prime duty, gains great fame and shines like the sun; and the man, of vicious intellect, devoid of virtue, is ruined even if he obtains the earth. [Sanjaya to Yudhisthira] —ibid. UDYOGA PARVA. Vol. III. Ch. XXVII, p. 31

4.  Desires adhere to a man and they are the source of all impediments to virtue.., A wise man, having killed them beforehand, gains unspeakable praise in the world. 5…He who chooses virtue is wise…6. A man, who makes virtue his prime duty, gains great fame and shines like the sun… [Sanjaya to Yudhisthira] —ibid. UDYOGA PARVA. Vol. III. Ch. XXVII, p. 31

5. Those who wish to acquire virtue practice various rites according to the scriptural injunctions. They do not, however, attain to liberation.  They only acquire those good qualities….[Bhishma to Yudhishthira]— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva Ch. CC XIV. p. 318

55a. The gods, Brahmanas, Yakshas, and all good men and Charanas always adore (p.410) the virtuous… [Bhishma to Yudhisthira].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.CCLXXI. P.410

11. One is born alone, O king, and one dies alone; one crosses alone the difficulties one meets with, and one alone meets whatever misery falls to his lot. 12-13. One has really no companion in these deeds.  The father, the mother, the brother, the son, the preceptor, kinsmen, relatives, and friends, leaving the dead body as if it were a piece of wood or a cold of earth, after having mourned for only a moment, all turn away from it and mind their own affairs. 14. Only virtue follows the body that is thus left by them all. It is, therefore, plain, that virtue is the only friend and that virtue only should be sought by all. [Vrihaspati to Yudhishthira].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. CXI. P. 244

21-22. Earth, wind, ether, water, light, mind Yama (the king of the dead), understanding, the soul, as also day and night, all together witness the merits of all living creatures.  Without these, virtue follows the creatures (when dead). [Vrihaspati to Yudhishthira].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. CXI. P. 244

1..If one does good deeds or causes others to do them, he should then expect to attain to the merits of virtue; likewise if one does evil deeds and causes others to do them, he should never expect to attain to the merits of virtue. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. CLXIV, p. 344

7. As regards sin, it may be said that, even when it is very great it is incapable of even touching virtue which is always protected by time and which shines like a burning fire. 8. These are the two results achieved by virtue, viz., the purity of the soul and un-susceptibility of being touched by iniquity.  Indeed virtue is fraught with victory. Its effulgence is so great that it lights up the three worlds. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira].— ibid. ANUSHASANA PARVA, Volume VII. Ch. CLXIV, p. 345


21. O king the virtue, that produces afflictions on one’s ownself and on one’s own friends, is no virtue at all.  It is vice that produces calamities. 22.O sire, virtue is sometimes  (the indirect cause of) the weakness of men. Dharma and Artha forsake such men, as pain and pleasure forsake a dead man. 23. He who practices virtue only for the sake of virtue always suffers afflictions. He can never be called a wise man. He cannot know the (real) purpose of virtue, as a blind man is incapable of seeing the light of the sun. 24.  He who considers that his wealth exists for himself alone does not at all understand the purpose of wealth. He is like the servant tending kine in the forest. 25. He, again, who pursues Artha (profit or wealth) too much without pursuing Dharma (virtue) and kama (pleasure) deserves to be censured and killed by all creatures. 26. He who always pursues Kama without pursuing Dharma and Artha loses his friends and also lose virtue and profit.— ibid. [Bhima to Yudhisthira].— VANA PARVA, Ch. XXXIII. Vol. 2, p. 49.

67. O king of men, a man who in order to earn a greater measure of virtue casts away like seeds the little virtue that he is sticking to, is certainly considered to be wise. [Bhima to Yudhisthira].—ibid. VANA PARVA,Ch.XXXIII. Vol. 2, p.51. Ch. XXXIII.


21… It is as difficult to find out the reasons of duties as it is difficult to find out the legs of the snake. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva. Ch. CXXX.II P. 193

3.. All these embodied creatures, it seems, take birth, exist and renounce their bodies, of their own nature.  Duty and its opposite, therefore, cannot be determined.  O Bharata, by study of the scriptures alone. 4. The duties of a rich person are of one sort. Those of a person who has fallen into distress are of another sort.  How can duty in the time of poverty be determined by reading the scriptures alone? 5. The acts of the good, as you have said, form virtue.  The good, however, are to be known by their acts.  The definition, therefore, has at the bottom a begging of the question, and the result is that what is meant by conduct of the good remains unsettled. [Yudhisthira to Bhishma]— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.CCLX, p. 386

11. Virtue again, according to time and place, becomes sin.  Thus misappropriation of another’s property, untruth, and injury and killing may under special circumstances, become virtue. [Vyasa to Yudhisthira].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.XXXVII. P. 51

13. Virtue at first appears in the form of the romantic house of vapour seen in the distant sky.  When, however, it is examined by the learned, it disappears. [Yudhisthira to Bhishma]— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.CCLX, p. 387


22…I regard Dharma as superior to life it self and divinity. Kingdoms, sons, fame and wealth all these do not come up even to a sixteenth part of truth….[Yudhisthira to Bhima].—ibid. VANA PARVA,Ch. XXXIV. Vol. 2, p.53.

…Virtue is superior to body, and it lasts after the body perishes. [Arjuna to himself] (215:20)—ibid. ADI PARVA p.289

31. When one, able to discriminate the propriety of time and place and knowing both virtue and worldly good, is doubtful of his course, he should without hesitation do that which is virtuous. [Parasurama to Bhishma]. —ibid. UDYOGA PARVA. Vol. III. Ch. CLXXX. P. 246

3. Once on a time a Brahmana shorn of riches tried to win virtue, actuated by the desire of fruit. He continually thought of riches for employing it in the celebration of sacrifices.  For gaining his end he engaged in the practice of the austerest penances.4. Determined to achieve his object, he began to adore the gods with great devotion.  But he failed to acquire riches by such adoration of the gods. 5. He thereupon began to think aside,–What is that god, hitherto not worshipped by men, who may be forthwith favorably disposed towards me? 6. While thinking thus with a cool mind, he saw stationed before him that retainer of the gods, viz., the Could called Kundadhara. 7. As soon as he saw that mighty-armed being, the Brahmana’s feelings of devotion were excited, and he said to himself,–This one will surely give me prosperity!  Indeed, his form indicates it. 8. He lives near the gods.  He has not as yet been worshipped by other men.  He will surely give me profuse riches without any delay! 9. The Brahmana then, having determined thus, adored that Cloud with incense, perfumes and garlands of flowers of the most superior kind, and with various sorts of offerings. 10. Thus adored, the cloud became very soon pleased with his worshipper, and uttered these words of benefit to that Brahamana: 11. …There is no expiation, however, for one who is ungrateful. 12. Expectation has a child named sin, anger, again, is considered to be a child of envy.  Cupidity is the child of deceit. Ingratitude, however, is barren…. [Kundadhara said] 25. I do not pray for this devotee of mine mountains of pearls and gems, or even the whole Earth with all her riches.  I wish, however, that he should be virtuous. 26. Let his heart find pleasure in virtue.  Let him have virtue for his support. Let virtue be the foremost of all his objects. This is the favor which I am inclined to give my support. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti ParvaCh.CCLXXI. P.409

Ways to attain dharma:

8. Know that absence of cruelty, impartiality, peacefulness, asceticism, purity, and want of pride are the (so many) avenues (of attaining to me)…. [Yaksha [Dharma] to Yudhisthira]—ibid. Vanaparva,  Ch. CCCXIII. P. 451

56. Sacrificial ceremonies, study, gift, devotion, truth, forgiveness, mercy, and contentment—these are the eight ways to virtue, according to the Smriti. 57. The first four of these may be followed from motives of vanity; but the last four do not exist in those that are not great. [Vidura to Dhritarastra] —ibid. UDYOGA PARVA. Vol. III. Ch. XXXV, p.52


No teaching will be effective unless one is ready to ‘learn’.  But once ready to learn, one will always keep her physical and mental faculties open to learn from everything.  I may be wrong, but after the western type of education is introduced in India (thanks to the British rule) the very concept of teaching and learning become more program oriented than life oriented: which could be narrowed down to two level—getting certificates/titles and using it to make a living.

I don’t want to brag about our past golden tradition of learning and teaching through ‘Gurukulam’ process.  Gone are the days in which this tradition was carried out for its own sake of learning and teaching.  Except few genuine exceptions, now even such ‘Gurukulam’ type of teaching and learning also become program oriented than life oriented-which can be debated from different point of view.

Well, even in this idealism of teaching and learning, according to me, everything depends upon the person who wants to learn than the one who wants or expected to teach.  One who is sincerely wants to learn will use every opportunity to learn through any means.  Ekalaiva learnt the archery just keeping the idol of his guru Dhronacharya.  This may be a mythological story.  But the lesson here is: once you are ready to learn method and mean is secondary and the entire cosmos is wide open for that.

So learning is not merely a program based on printed text or audio visual aids but by one and only one method of ‘observance’.  Even in this program oriented teaching era one cannot learn by merely reading a text or listening an audio or watching any visual aid, unless one is mentally ready to learn from those materials.  When it comes to learning from another person, more can be learnt by observing the life and activities of the one who teaches.  In fact the life and activities of the teacher is more important for one to learn properly.  For example even in a school a teacher can teach more effectively by the way she teaches than simply doing her duty of teaching (for salary).  Here I don’t mean her personal life outside or inside her class or school.  But even at the time of teaching the sincerity, dedication, care, concern and sense of responsibility could teach more effectively than mere audio-visual presentation of her subject.  However, if the students fail to notice this and merely pay attention to the subject without doing their part of learning with the same sincerity, dedication, care concern and sense of responsibility they will miss a lot.  Without a spirit of ‘learning’ all preaching will remain mere ‘noise’ (which one could here without listening); text mere words and visual aids mere ‘picture’.

Though the following one is personal, yet this will help me to communicate my thought with personal experience and illustration.  This I share not to defend my role or to criticize others.  When visitors come here, I pay more attention to give best hospitality that I can provide apart from taking care of my mother.  But some visitors are get bit disappointed for not receiving more or proper teaching from me—however which I tried to do at my best.  But for me the question of teaching and learning is not limited what I could share orally for half an hour or one hour—it should come through my life itself.  And any visitor who comes here to learn only open one of the faculty of ‘listening’ will miss other opportunity to learn through my life.

Let me close this with a traditional example. A shishya approaching his guru asked him to teach about ‘Brahman’ or God.  But the guruji remain silence.  So the shishya repeated the same question for the second and third time.  Finally the guruji said, ‘all these time I was teaching but you alone were not listening’.

So learning is more than listening to some speech/talk/discourse or reading text or watching some visual aids.  It is only observance, not only others life but also keep our physical and mental faculties open to learn from everything.


Db. Gurukulam, January 16, 2012



When Congress party won the election and was about to form the government in 2001/02, there was a crisis and Sonia tried her level best to become the PM, but after failed in her attempt, she stage managed a renounce drama.  That time I wished and prayed that Dr. Manmohan Singh should become the Prime Minister.  And as I wished (thanks to Dr. Kalam’s behind the screen effort to stop Sonia to become the PM, which is an open secret), finally I thought that we got a Prime Minister what we deserve after a long gap.  But after the breaking of all kinds of scams and the way Dr. Manmohan Singh openly expressed his inability to control both his govt. and Cabinet because of Coalition Dharma, I not only felt sorry for him but also regretted to have such a Pitiable Prime Minister.  In the past we had able PM (Nehru), crooked PM (Indra Gandhi), noble PM (Sri Lal Bhahadur Sastriji); honest PM (Sri Morarji Desai); shrewd PM (Sri Narasimha Rao), hopeless PM (Sri Deve Gouda), Cunning PM (V.P.Singh) hierarchy PM (Rajv Gandhi) Grand PM (Sri Vaijpayeeji) and many other PMs, who are not worth to be mentioned by naming them even as PMs.  But never had we had a Prime Minister who deserves our pity like Manmohan Singh.

Well, my intension is not to degrade few PMs and glorify others.  However, though rest of the PMs in the past has their own character, at least they had some political base and have contested and won the election.  So there was some legitimacy for them to campaign for their respective political party in the election.  But I cannot think why Dr. Singh has to waste his time and the public money by addressing election campaign, that too for state election, particularly in South India.  For the State Assembly elections to be held in April 13th at Tamilnadu and Kerala he came to both the states to address just ONE meeting (at Coimbatore) and for this elaborate arrangements with security covers had to be made.  By his one single election address all know, including him that not a single voter is going to change his mind after watching him reading his election speech (which he does in every election speech).  And thin crowd which has to be arranged, much highlighted his mass appeal.  Even his own party members were not there to listen his reading.  He does not even enjoy his right as the citizen of India to speak what he wanted but had to read what he was asked by his political boss.

Why need for such a tokenism and symbolism wasting public money?  The same is the case with Sonia addressing one meeting at Chennai.  But it could be excused as she is the unchallenged boss of her party and so that kind of symbolism—however it is not going to affect the electoral prospect of her party of the DMK coalition, could be justified.  But the symbolism and tokenism of Dr. Singh’s election campaigns are mere waste and it further degrade his image as a weak PM and our pity for him further increases.  As a free citizen I have the freedom even to write this, but poor him, he cannot even say anything other than what he is asked to say by his boss.

What a pitiable Prime Minister?  Our democracy never deserves such a Prime Minister.

Dayanand Bharati, Gurukulam,April 11, 2011


Liberalization and corruption

‘After liberalization, corruption in few sectors like Telephone etc. has come down considerably.  Before the liberalization of economy, even to get one phone connection, not only one needs to wait for long time, but also has to bribe from line man to officials.  And the M.Ps and M.L.As even made money by selling their quota of phone connections.  But this problem is completely solved’ was one among the topic in recent discussion on handling corruption in India (Face the Nation, with Sagariga Gosh, CNN-IBN, August 25th, 2011).  Though this is true, but it is not whole truth.  Of course corruption has come down in such sector, but people are get cheated by various ways and means by the Private operators.  And on the part of Govt., sector like BSNL due to lack of staffs and other internal issues work is not done properly and customers are still getting affected.

My personal story is more than enough to highlight the issue.  When I got phone connection for Gurukulam, due to interior place, I got Will Phone at the end of November 2007.  But to get the Internet connection I had to struggle a lot for several months.  Not only I had to make several calls and contact various people in BSNL, but also had to use the influence of higher Officials, whom I know in BSNL (at Hosur).  Finally after a long struggle I got the connection, but they again made some mistake in the Password and after several rounds of phone calls from Denkanikkottai (under which my phone comes), Hosur, Dharmapuri, Trichy,Coimbatoreand Dindugal, finally that problem was resolved.  The irritating factor was that it was a small mistake which they forget to notice and inform me.  I was first given instruction to type the entire Password in small letter, whereas I had to type all in Capital letters.  Finally they found the problem and I resolved it.

But the problem did not stop there.  As I don’t know various schemes available in BSNL, I did not notice that they gave me One Indian Plan for which I had to pay monthly rent Rs. 180/-.  Whereas, as I am living in Rural area, they had to charge only Rs. 50/- per month. When I found that problem in 2008, I tried to solve it.  It is a long story to tell all the letters that I wrote, phone calls that I made.  But in spite of the sincere efforts by few Officers at Dharmapuri no body could solve the problem.  Finally in 2011 August one New Officer (Miss Sultana) found the exact problem and told me to give on letter requesting to change from One India Plan to Rural plan.  Then it was a matter of one letter and my phone monthly rent was corrected.  All the credit goes to Miss Sultana, as she alone spent three hours to locate the problem.

The reason to say all this is that Liberalization has solved one problem corruption (only in a small level) but it undermined the capability and capacity of Govt. based public sector like BSNL to meet the demands of the Consumer.  On the part of the Private players they cheat the consumers by various ways and means.  Just one example is sufficient here.  When I asked the recharge fellow for my mobile phone, he asked for how much.  I said Rs. 200/- When he done it, I got only talk time for Rs. 87.  The reason was that, without knowing that he should charge as per the scheme and not more than that.  Finally I had to incur the loss of more than one hundred rupees.  In this way Private players make few subtle arrangements in the scheme to cheat the customers.

Whatever form of economy we have, in the end common people are not much benefited and affected in a different way.

Dayanand Bharati, Gurukulam,August 26, 2011

CWG Vol. 8

In this volume we read Gandhiji’s continuous fight against all kinds of laws (which began in volume 7) of Indian interest, the way he challenged and prepared the Indians for a fight on the principle of Satyagraha, ditched by few Indians, his goal-going, then the compromised that was reached not giving up the Indian interest by conceding to voluntary registration, for the same reason he was assaulted and later accused of giving up Indians’ right, again the way govt. went back etc.  Here we cannot give all the details about those law and all that Gandhiji has written and done.  But reading them is important for us to understand Gandhiji’s service to the Indians in SA.  However I collected those points which shaped Gandhiji as an undisputed leader of Indians, leaving the details of all those laws.

Regarding Satyagraha, Gandhiji reminds the Indians the need for patience in such struggle (18).  The story of Ramsundar Pundit will come to a sad end of his betrayal (18, 61-62).  However it is also important for us to understand Gandhiji’s defence for the ‘cause’ for which Ram Sunder was honored first: ‘The honour that we accorded was not to an individual, but to the qualities of truth and courage which we attributed to him.’ (80) Gandhiji continued to write and publish the names who ditched Indians which caused him much pain (20).  Several times we read about the un-Christian and lack of justice in British govt. acts (26).  Though He was critical about British govt. on several issues, he never failed to appreciate them for their excellent service like that of G. U. Pope. (121) or the support of Whites for his struggle.  He even hosted a dinner to honor them for their support for Indian cause. (213-15). In the same way, he ‘glorified’ the role of Chinese in their struggle for the rights of the Asians: ‘But for you, we would have lost. But we revere you especially for your good qualities of character, which, we believe, (p. 237) ennobled our campaign, with the result that Asiatic communities are treated today with respect. You combine courage with courtesy and humility, on account of which all of us bear you love and want to seek your guidance.’ (pp. 237-38).  However at the end of this meeting, as per his nature, he didn’t forget to impart his teaching that, ‘It would be a good thing for the Asiatics not to be flattered by these compliments. There are yet many tasks ahead. If we fail in these, there will be a set-back. It is necessary we maintain the utmost courtesy, humility and truth. We cannot do so unless we are pure in our hearts [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 28-3-1908, 114. JOHANNESBURG LETTER, CHINESE MEETING—pp.237-38]

Gandhiji’s idealism of Satyagraha is at one’s personal cost.  However his concern about the suffering and need of those who involve in such struggle and helping in their need by suggesting to use their ‘services…for some public work project’ is remarkable one(p.29).  We began to hear about Gandhiji’s spirit of Swadeshi from this volume.  And it starts in finding proper Gujarati terms to replace English words.  And according to Gandhiji, ‘respect our own language, speak it well and use in it as few foreign words as possible—this is also a part of patriotism.’ (p.32)  I think every sensible person will agree with him. It is interesting to note how Gandhiji approved the word ‘Satyagraha’ for ‘passive’ resistance (81).

Gandhiji’s view on sex is very strange one which is debated during his life time and also after that.  So reading his original thoughts will help us to understand his view (p.34).  Similarly, the way he links common issues related to hygiene and governance with ‘sin’ might look strange to us.  But this reflects his deep sense of religion which he stretches to all areas of life. (pp.34-35) And Gandhiji always taking a higher ground for Indians over the West reflects more his sentiment towards Indian values than reality. (p.34) What Gandhiji said about plague during his time is relevant even now for cases like ‘bird flu’ ‘swine fever’ etc.  We Indians never change on such issues.  Unless one gets affected personally, issues related with public life are somebody’s problems. Now we learnt to blame the govt., on such issues.  Personal commitment and responsibility related to common cause still remain a distant dream to Indians living in India.  But it is interesting to note how dramatically we are ready to change and accept it when we are forced to follow in line when we visit outside India and began to live there!  At home one is free!!!

Gandhiji’s leadership is not limited to his political and other activities related to public cause, but reflects in other areas of his life.  A good leader should learn more to share with his followers.  Gandhiji has done this by reading a lot and often shared what he learnt with others through his writings. (233-34) Extracts from Arab Wisdom is one good example. (p.35, 236)

The first trial of Gandhiji and sentenced to go to goal begins in this volume. (40-42) Gandhiji’s pleading in the court on behalf of him and his clients are important for us to understand the nature of the Satyagraha and all the legal issues related to the law (30. TRIAL OF P.K. NAIDOO AND OTHERS, [JOHANNESBURG, December 28, 1907, Indian Opinion; 44-45).  And Gandhiji’s letter to the Star will highlight the plight of Indians who refused to submit to the Law imposed on them by the govt. (32. LETTER TO “THE STAR”, December 30, 1907, The Star, 30-12-1907.—pp.47-49).  We also hear about Gandhiji’s request to the Magister to impose heaviest penalty on him which was granted. In the foot notes by the editor of CWG we read his initial agitation about becoming a prisoner (95-96).  The humility which Gandhiji showed even after he achieved what he wanted through the compromise (103) highlights his leadership quality (101-02, 106).  He also wrote extensively about his goal experience, the condition there, food and other things about his time in prison. (pp.182-85; 198-200; 203-07; 210-211; 217-221)   However we will read the way he was misunderstood by his own people for the very same compromise (115-16, 117,120-122) and the way he was physically assaulted and was taken care by Mr. Duke, a clergy (154-58). All that Gandhi wrote about this and his reflection about the attack on him reflects his personality in clear terms.

Though Gandhiji refuse to accept the compromise reached as a victory for the Indians but only for the Truth, yet the way he reached the govt.,  shows the face saving formula where both parties could exist from the struggle without have a sense of humiliation(118). In the same way he reaches out those betrayed the Indian cause by asking them to contribute to the construction of Federation Hall out of the money they earned is notable one.  This will help them to ‘admit their mistake in all humility and be reconciled with the community’, which they should do voluntarily. (123, 124-25). If the Indians remain honest in their commitment of doing voluntary registration, then alone the Indian Opinion will be put in Golden Letters: ‘We sincerely wish to see that no Indian is proved dishonest and that all the applications for registration are passed without exception. The glorious success that Indians will achieve then, the hosts of heaven will come down to watch. The law will then automatically stand cancelled, and that will be the time to accept the suggestion for printing Indian Opinion in golden letters. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 8-2-1908.]—pp.124-25.  But in spite of Gandhiji’s enthusiasm and expectation all not well with his dream.  In response to the acquisition that the compromise was reached out of self-interested, Gandhiji said that, ‘In fact, every act is motivated by some kind of self-interest’ (139-40) reflects the reality than any of his personal self-interest as the leader of Indian community.  At the same time Gandhiji was pained to see the way he was not completely trusted and wrote in length about the Muslim’s misunderstanding.  This shows the way he tirelessly worked hard for the Hindu-Muslim unity. (161-63)

Gandhiji’s principle about Satyagraha as, ‘an attitude of mind’ and ‘He who has attained to the satyagrahic state of mind will remain ever victorious,’ is worthy to read all the time for those who want to follow his path of Satyagraha. (152-54). In the same tone he also reminds the Indians that doing one’s duty is more important than think about the result (194).  What he says about this might look very philosophical for many, but for me he looks very practical from his stand point of view, as he integrated such values as part of his life.  Though the word ‘Satyagraha’ is very much attached with Gandhiji, it was Maganlal# Gandhi who suggested this (195-96), who refused to accept the prize money or want his name be published.  This shows Gandhiji’s influence on others, who were willing to follow his principle.  Even sharing about his experience in goal, Gandhiji never miss an opportunity to insist his principles. (219-212).

#1 Maganlal Gandhi (1883-1928); second son of Khushalchand Gandhi, Gandhiji’s cousin; manager of the Phoenix settlement after Chhaganlal Gandhi’s departure for India on his way to England, and later of the Satyagraha Ashram at Sabarmati. (p230)

Several non-Indians also served along with Gandhiji in his seva in SA.  And we read about one MISS SCHLESIN’s involvement.  This shows Gandhiji’s personality which appealed every one irrespective of their nationality. (83)  In the same way he objected to the use of the word ‘cooli’ for Indians from Calcutta and Madras. (169) showing respect for all Indians.

          I cannot understand why Gandhiji has to use the words of Jesus Christ regarding God and comparing it with the law against Indians?  May be, he thought as it was a Christian govt., imposing such law; he has to use their own terms to communicate his thought. (93)

          Gandhiji, though practical in so many issues, yet looks too idealistic and impractical when it comes to the moral issues, particularly dealing with the Indians.  I think this we will find in his whole life.  Merely appealing to the (religious) sentiment or nationalism, morality cannot be imparted to any one, unless it comes through regeneration.  Gandhiji’s rebuked Indians about lack of morality linking it with famine in India etc. are good examples. (231-32, note especially p. 245, 266-67) for this.  Similarly he encourages Indians to settle down in their colony than remain as migrant all the time (246) and acquire knowledge only to serve others and not to earn money (246).  But at present, like in the past, not only Indians but almost all the migrants in the world, done it for economic cause and survival than for any noble idealism.  Either to encourage or to rebuke Indians (both at India and outside) Gandhiji often used the life and teachings of world figures like Socrates.  However the foot notes given by the editors of CGW about the summary of Socrates, as the ‘Story of a solider of Truth’ (Indian Opinion, 4-4-1908.—pp.247-49) reminds how one should approach such writings of Gandhiji. @

@ Gandhiji’s Gujarati summaries of important works had often a contemporary relevance or practical purpose and were not intended to be historical. Here, for example, he renders the Greek “gods” as Khuda in Gujarati. Elsewhere he refers to God as Khuda-Ishwar. (247).

While fighting for the rights of the Indians, Gandhi never hesitated to prevent the unlawful activities of the Indians and cooperated with the govt. to prevent such acts like ‘permitless Indians …crossing over into the Transvaal from all directions.’ (p.257). He never missed an opportunity to request the Indians to get rid of bad habits like drinking (259).  As usual we read about the racial discrimination where Indians and colored people need to pay a fee to keep dog in municipal limits whereas Whites are exempted from this. (259)

Gandhiji’s complain about lack of religious instructions to the Indian (Hindus and Muslims) prisoners comparing the visit of Christian Priests never reflects the practice of teaching in various religions.  Like Christianity religious and spiritual instructions of all kind (ritual and spiritual) is not the responsibility of the priests among Hindus.  We learn it at our home and from gurus and acharyas.  Priests are paid to do the ritual for a fee like any other professionals.   (235-36)

We know Gandhiji’s view on conversion.  However, though it looks he is supporting in few cases (like that of the conversion of lepers), yet his point is to correct the mistakes of Indians for neglecting them than supporting their conversion. (LEPERS’ BLESSINGS, 255-56)

From this volume we will hear Gandhiji’s view on Swaraj.  Though he begins this by sharing the writings from John Ruskin under the title Sarvodaya, yet he used this article to share his ideals about Swaraj.  So it is important for us to read what all he said about Swaraj beginning from this volume. A summary of Ruskin runs several pages [pp.318-19, 335-37; 349-51; 361-63; 368-69; 383-86; 407-08; 456-60)].  But I wonder who would have read all those articles and assimilate what Gandhiji try to communicate?  Several points discussed with (imagined) illustrations, though important yet looks more idealistic than practical.  What surprises me is the interest and enthusiasm Gandhiji showed not only to read them, but also give a summary in Gujarati in Indian Opinion, with an aim to teach Indians in SA.  Of course idealists like Gandhiji often leave a lot of (written) materials and even examples through their life.  But they remain, most of the time a point to appreciate than implement by majority, though there are notable exceptions all the time.



… It was for this reason that he {Gandhiji} expressed the feeling that Lord Elgin had put an undue strain on Indian loyalty by sanctioning this Immigration Restriction Act. That Act, to his mind, was a barbarous Act. It was the savage Act of a civilized Government, of a Government that dared to call itself Christian. If Jesus Christ came to Johannesburg and Pretoria and examined the hearts of General Botha, General Smuts and the others, he thought he would notice something strange, something quite strange to the Christian spirit….[Indian Opinion, 4-1-1908.]—p.26


The late Dr. G. U. Pope1, whose biography in The Times we reproduce elsewhere, was one of the few Anglo-Indians carrying forward today the traditions of fifty years ago. His erudition and scholarship need no other outward token than the monument of works with which his name will always be associated. There have been few Englishmen for whom the people of Madras should bear greater reverence and deeper respect than Dr. Pope. His example is a shining light to the educated classes of Madras leading them along the path of investigation and explanation so that the world may know something of that great past which only recently was sunk in oblivion, that the treasures of literature, philology, philosophy, and theology may be brought to light, and that the people may receive some indication of their line of growth for the future. The demise of Dr. Pope is a loss to Indian and European scholarship alike. His memory will be ever dear to all who love India and those who have worked for India’s enlightenment in a spirit of sympathy for the people among whom they have spent a lifetime of toil. Indian Opinion, 14-3-1908.—p.201

1 George Uglow Pope (1820-1908); did missionary work in South India,

1839-81, and took holy orders in Madras in 1845; University lecturer in Tamil and Telugu at Oxford, 1884-96; author of First Lessons in Tamil, A Handbook of the Ordinary Dialect of the Tamil Language, A Textbook of Indian History, and translations of Kural and Tiruvachagam.



The Indian community fulfilled one of its many obligations on Saturday last, the 14th.

Some Europeans have helped us a great deal in the satyagraha movement. It was but proper that the community should do something to show its regard for them. It was eventually decided to arrange a banquet and to issue tickets for the purpose. The tickets were to be priced and the proceeds spent on meeting the expenses of the banquet. This would show whether or not the Indian leaders were willing to loosen their purse-strings. The Association would not have to bear the expense, and we would be enabled to come into closer contact with the whites. The suggestion was approved by all. A date was fixed for the banquet…(p.213) …Mr. Hosken, who replied on behalf of the whites. In the course of his speech he said: I feel ashamed now to think that in July [1907] I had advised the Indian community to accept the law. I meant well. I felt it would prove to be futile to resist the Boer Government. But Mr. Gandhi told me that they did not depend on human help for their movement. They depended on divine aid. They were sure of help from Him in Whose name they had embarked on the movement. I see his words have come true. The courage shown by the Indian community has won for it increased sympathy from the whites. The Indian community has taught the whites a great deal. I was glad to receive your invitation. Whites and Coloured persons ought to live together amicably. The Indian community deserves praise for the unity, patience and humility it has shown.(p.214)

…The menu consisted of 24 dishes. Meat being excluded, the courses were so chosen that they would be acceptable to everyone and could be liked equally by the whites and our people. The drinks served were lime juice, soda-water, etc. It is said that this was the first gathering of its kind in South Africa. The dinner was not publicized so as to avoid needless provocation to the feelings of any whites. It was kept strictly private. (p.215).  [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 21-3-1908].—pp.213-15



… Jesus Christ had said that no man had seen God because He was a spirit. Similarly it was not possible to describe in words the underlying spirit of the Act. Every Indian felt that spirit, and having felt it shunned it as he would shun Satan….[Indian Opinion, 18-1-1908.]—p.93



… The task of bringing medical aid to these people appears to have been left to the whites. The Hindus have among them a whole class of people whom they may not even touch. Members of this class are subjected to severe privations and hardly ever treated as human beings. Here again, it is the Europeans who go to their rescue.

…What is the object behind this work? The question is simply answered. Their aim is, undoubtedly, to convert to Christianity the victims of the disease who go to them. But no one is sent away for refusing to be converted. Their constant objective is to treat these people, whatever happens. Is there any reason why people, who so nobly serve humanity and from among whom thousands come forward for such work, should not prosper? Why indeed should they not rule? How can Indians expect to prosper if they refuse to shoulder their own burdens of this sort and forsake what is clearly their own duty? How can they expect to have swaraj? And what will they gain from swaraj? It is not as if there were no lepers in England, or other deserving causes [for their money]. But the British do not depend on others for such work. They attend to their tasks themselves. We do not accept our own responsibilities, let alone help others…(p. 255) It may well be that the British preside over an empire and prosper because of the blessings of these lepers while we live in misery because of their curses. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 11-4-1908]—pp.255-56



We have been assured that the law will be annulled, and [the principle of] voluntary registration has been accepted. That this is a victory, everyone will grant. But in this article we want to approach the question from a rather different point of view. On reflection we find that in this world what people take to be success is in most cases not real success. Sometimes that may signify failure rather than success. We do not exaggerate when we say this. If someone sets out from home with the intention of committing a robbery, and after much effort gains his end, it may be a success from his point of view. On second thoughts we realize that his success was in fact a defeat for him. If he had failed, that would have been true success. This is an obvious example, for it is easy to understand in this context. There are hundreds of occasions in a man’s life when he is unable to distinguish easily between right and wrong. It is therefore difficult to determine whether the achievement of one’s aim is truly failure or triumph. It follows from this that success and failure do not essentially depend on the result. Besides, the result is not in one’s hands. Whenever success (p.193) makes a man vain, he behaves like the fly on the wheel which imagines that it is making the wheel go round. Man’s duty is to do the best he can in a given situation. What he achieves then will, in fact, be true success. The physician’s duty is not to save the patient, for that does not lie in his hands, but to use all his skill in a  sincere effort to save him. If he does that, he will have succeeded well enough. What happens to the patient—whether he lives or dies—will not detract from, or add to, the physician’s success. We are certain that, if we could have had the law repealed without much effort, that would have satisfied us. But then there would have been no question of victory or defeat. There would have been no occasion for us to take out a procession [in celebration], neither would the Indians’ victory be hailed as it is today the world over. This would suggest that the Indians’ victory does not lie so much in the expectations that the law will be annulled as in their exertions to bring about that result. Even if the repeal of the law had not come about, the Indians courage would have been admired in every home….

…. We want [to own] land; we want to be free to ride in carriages. To achieve all this, we shall have to exert ourselves as strenuously as we did on this occasion. If we do, it is easy to see that every step forward is in itself a victory. For we will be doing our duty at every turn. No one will be inflated with success if he looks at it in this light. He will never make a mistake and will not even be concerned about the outcome of his labours, for he will not assume the responsibility [for the result]. The Creator alone must bear that responsibility. It is there fore sheer ignorance for one to be impatient to do things like the dog [under a moving cart] who fancied he was  drawing the cart. [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 7-3-1908.]—p.194


47. JOHANNESBURG LETTER, [Before January 10, 1908]


Miss Schlesin1 is an unmarried girl of twenty. Very few Indians know how hard she has worked for the community. She works indeed not for a salary, but because of her deep sympathy [for the Indian cause]. She attends cheerfully to everything that is entrusted to her. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 11-1-1908.]—p. 83

1 Sonja Schlesin; a Jewish girl with “a character as clear as crystal and courage that would shame a warrior”; joined Gandhiji as a steno-typist at the age of 16; made herself very useful to Indian Opinion; was ardently interested in the Indian cause. “Thousands of stalwart Indians looked up to her for guidance. When during the satyagraha days almost everyone was in jail, she led the movement single-handed. She had the management of thousands, a tremendous amount of correspondence, and Indian Opinion on her hands, but she never wearied.” Vide also Satyagraha in South Africa, Ch. XXIII, and Autobiography, Part IV, Ch. XII. (p 83)


1 In October 1908, the Rev. Joseph J. Doke wrote about this occasion of Gandhiji’s first imprisonment as follows: “There is the trial in the B Criminal Court, a great mass of the excited Asiatics crushed in at the door, and spreading to a great crowd outside. The cynical Magistrate with his face flushed, presiding at the Bench; the horse-shoe of legal offices below”. Vide M.K. Gandhi: An Indian Patriot in South Africa. (p. 95)

…Mr. Gandhi asked leave to make a short statement, and, having obtained it, he said he thought there should be a distinction made between his case and those who [sic] were to follow. He had just received a message from Pretoria stating that his compatriots had been tried there and had been sentenced to three months’ imprisonment with hard labour; and they had been fined a heavy amount, in lieu of payment of which they would receive a further period of three months’ hard labour. If these men had committed an offence, he had committed a greater offence, and he asked the Magistrate to impose upon him the heaviest penalty.

MR. JORDAN: You asked for the heaviest penalty which the law authorizes?

MR. GANDHI: Yes, Sir.

MR. JORDAN: I must say I do not feel inclined to accede to your request of

passing the heaviest sentence, which is six months’ hard labour with a fine of £500. …(p.96)

Mr. Gandhi was then removed in custody.1[Indian Opinion, 18-1-1908.]—pp.95-96

1 Gandhiji was “somewhat agitated”, as he recorded some years later; being alone in custody, he “fell into deep thought”. “Home, the Courts where I practised, the public meeting,—all these passed away like a dream, and I was now a prisoner.” If the people failed to fill the prisons, “two months would be as tedious as an age”. But these thoughts soon filled him with “shame”. And he recalled how he had asked people to look upon prisons as “His Majesty’s hotels”. “This second train of thought acted upon” him as “a bracing tonic”. Vide Satyagraha in South Africa, Ch. XX.—p.96


Asked for a final message previous to his incarceration, Mr. Gandhi gave the following to a Rand Daily Mail representative:

I have undertaken this struggle prayerfully and in all humility believing in the entire righteousness of the cause, and I hope that one day the Colonists will do justice to my countrymen. So far as my countrymen are concerned, I can only hope that they will remain firm in their sacred and solemn resolution. By doing so they have nothing to lose. Even though they may have to lose their all they can only gain in the esteem of their fellow-men by being resolute. I sincerely state that in effecting my arrest General Smuts has done a very honourable act. He believes that my countrymen have been misled by me. I am not conscious of having done so, but I may have been misled myself. In any case removing me from the arena will show whether the position is real or unreal. The position therefore is absolutely in our own hands.[Rand Daily Mail, 11-1-1908]—p. 97


…The impression gained during the conversation given above was that Mr. Gandhi was in no way inclined to consider his release from gaol as a victory to the participants in the passive resistance movement. On the other hand he seemed keenly pleased that a settlement had been come to by which neither side had suffered in honour, integrity or prestige The remaining Asiatics will be liberated from the Fort this morning. [Rand Daily Mail, 31-1-1908.]—pp.101-02


…We have, however, no reason to feel triumphant over the measure of success that we have achieved, neither have the whites any cause to complain against the Government. Even God is won over by humility. It is, therefore, humility which will ensure our success in a just struggle. We must not play foul with the Government; rather, by adopting the highest standard of conduct for ourselves, we must convince the Government and the white Colonists that we do respect laws which uphold our dignity. If, through an oversight on the part of the Government, the door is left open and there is scope for some kind of fraud, our duty will be to shut that door. The Government will see for itself that we do not practise deception…. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 8-2-1908.—p.106


I have worked and will continue to work as a passive resister, which means that I must fear no one but God. Some persons are threatening to resort to violence if the community agrees to give the ten finger prints. I must tell these persons that I myself gave my finger-prints twice while in gaol. If violence is to be used against anyone, let it be first used against me. I will not lodge a complaint with the magistrate on that score. Rather, I shall thank the person who assaults me, grateful for the blow from one of my brethren and feel honoured by it. The responsibility for whatever has happened is mine as it will be for whatever happens in the future. No one therefore but (p.115) myself is to be blamed for any of the things [that have happened]. I wish not to be proud of being the leader of the community nor do I claim any credit for that; I wish only to remain a servant. I shall feel joy in rendering whatever service I can do the community. It is my duty to make public the true state of affairs; that is what I have always done. If, under the new law, I were asked to take out the register by only signing my name, I would have refused to do so. Once the new law is withdrawn, I hold that it will be in keeping with our dignity to take out the register voluntarily. Our pledge has been honoured and the demand that we insisted upon has been conceded which means that we shall be treated as men. No one else knows about the law as much as I do and can explain it as well as I. I do not say this out of pride; only because whatever explanation I give, will be correct to the best of my judgment. I am thoroughly familiar with all that has happened since 1903…. I am doing nothing for the community for the sake of reward or fame. Everything I do is as a matter of duty, and I shall continue to do so in future. If anyone wants legal advice, my office is always open. And I shall give the best advice I can. You may accept or reject it as you think best. I am always with the community. I have explained the question about the law, but further elucidation will appear in the Opinion, which may be referred to.[From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 8-2-1908.]—pp.115-16



I had intended to write to you in Gujarati, but I cannot…. [These] things cannot affect me, at any rate seriously, as they will affect you, for two reasons: (1) because I am [much inured] and seasoned; (2) because being at a distance I can take a proper perspective. The discontent in Durban does not affect me or disturb me in the slightest degree. I did not expect it in such vehe[mence]; but neither is it unexpected, if you could perceive the difference between the two expressions. I am fully prepared for it, for the simple and sole reason that, while I have utilized all the help received and promised, I have never placed unflinching reliance on any such helps. At best, I have treated them as so many instruments through which God,  otherwise Truth, has worked…. a time might come when every vestige of support might [be] withdrawn from us? Even then, we [will] continue to do our duty unflinchingly, undismayed, and without being morose. That time has not come, but those who are prepared for the worst can always philosophically take the intermediate stages….


From the handwritten original signed by Gandhiji with a Gujarati postscript inhis hand: S.N. 4794. Courtesy: Chhaganlal Gandhi.—p.117


Furthermore, your view that our offer is tainted with self-interest is rather ill-considered. In fact, every act is motivated by some kind of self-interest. Even in my example, there is an element of self-interest in the service which I render to a friend. My self-interest lies in the(p. 139) inner happiness which I seek. It is the will of God that I should work for such happiness. Knowing this as I do, whatever I do to obey that command is in fact inspired by self-interest, if of the best kind. If I did it so that my friend might love me the more, that also would be self-interest, albeit of a lower kind. In voluntary registration, there is undoubtedly such an element of self-interest. If a man living as a servant of God devotes himself wholly to the service of men or of all living creatures, he is also impelled by self-interest in seeking to be in the presence of God, [that is] to work for nirvana. We revere such a man. If there were many such in this world, we should find in it holiness, prosperity, peace, happiness and unity instead of the wickedness, suffering, misery, starvation and disease which we see in it today.[From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 15-2-1908.]—pp.139-40



For my part, I am not in the least surprised that I was assaulted….When, in the meeting in front of the Mosque, there’ was strong opposition to the idea of Indians voluntarily giving their finger-impressions, I asked myself what I would do if I had the real spirit of satyagraha in me, and then I declared my resolution that, if I (p.154) was alive on Monday, I would positively give my finger-impressions. I still do not regret having done so; rather, I think that I did my duty to my God and my community….

My only recollection of what followed is that I received very severe blows. I took severe blows on my left ribs. Even now I find breathing difficult. My upper lip has a cut on one side. I have a bruise above the left eye and a wound on the forehead. In addition, there are minor injuries on my right hand and left knee. I do not remember the manner of the assault, but people say that I fell down unconscious with the first blow which was delivered with a stick. Then my assailants struck me with an iron pipe and a stick, and they also kicked me.   Thinking me dead, they stopped. I only remember having been beaten up. I have an impression that, as the blows started, I uttered the words ‘He Rama!’. Mr. Thambi Naidoo and Mr. Essop Mia intervened. Mr. Naidoo was hit as a result and injured on the ear. Mr. Essop Mia received a slight injury on a finger. As I came to, I got up with a smile. In my mind there was not the slightest anger or hatred for the assailants.

On reflection, I feel that we fear death needlessly….If I had not regained consciousness, I would not have felt the suffering that I went through later. We can thus see that there is suffering only as long as the soul is in intimate union with the body. I became aware of the suffering only when the soul’s union with the body was restored.


I do not blame anyone for the assault.1 Those who attacked me (p. 155) would have at one time greeted me and welcomed me enthusiastically. …When they assaulted me, it was in the belief that I had done them and the community harm. Some people thought I had sold the community by having agreed to [the system of] finger-impressions [in our compromise] with the Government. If that is what they thought, is it surprising that they attacked me? If they had had some education, they would, instead of assaulting me, have adopted other means of venting their dislike of me. In either case, they would have had the same reason. Experience tells me that some people know of only one way of expressing disapproval. For them physical strength is the one supreme thing. How then could I be angry? What point would there be in having them prosecuted? My real duty consists in disproving their charge against me. That will take time. Meanwhile, as is the way of the world, people will persist in the methods of violence. In this situation, the duty of the wise man is only to bear the suffering in patience. I think of myself as a wise person. I have therefore no choice but to endure the suffering inflicted on me. My religion teaches me to have no fear save of God….


… Mr. Doke,a clergyman, who did a great deal of work for us during the later stages [of our campaign], hurried to the spot on hearing news of the assault; he suggested that I should be taken to his place. After some deliberation, I agreed to his suggestion. Mr. Doke is a Baptist and nearly forty-six years old… He is not exactly a friend. I had met him barely three or four times before then, and that in connection with the campaign in order to explain the position to him. It was thus a stranger whom he took into his house….(p.156) …son himself slept on the floor in the library. While I was ill, Mr. Doke would not allow the slightest noise anywhere in the house. Even the children moved about very quietly….. He did more than attend on me and attend to all those who came to see me. He also did whatever he could about the difficulties of the community….it is small wonder that a nation which produces such men should march forward. And how can one say that a religion to which such gentle, kind-hearted and really noble persons belong is false in any way? His only object in doing all this was to please God. He also, as was his wont, prayed nightly sitting by my bed. In his daily life, too, he always said grace before and after a meal. His children were also made to take turns at reading from the Bible. I at any rate could see no selfish motive in him; in his conduct and in the education of the children, all that one could see was truth. I saw no touch of insincerity in anything that he did, neither did I feel that anything was done to Please others. It is not often we come across such single-mindedness and nobility in Hindu or Muslim priests and grihasthas. These are not common even in Englishmen. Some nations have more of these [qualities], others have less. Without entering into a discussion of that point, I would only pray that there might be hundreds of Indian families like Mr. Doke’s.


….Though I was under the care of a physician, the treatment consisted entirely of home-cure methods. For the first two days I had nothing to eat or drink. That had the effect of keeping the fever down. On the third day I had no temperature. I started on a diet of a quarter pound of milk, and gradually added to it grapes, pears and other fruit…. I am still on that diet. On account of an injury to three of the upper teeth, I shall not be able to eat anything hard for several days to come. Apart from the wounds, my mouth was swollen and so was my forehead. A poultice of clean earth was put on these, and the swelling has now subsided….

The doctor was afraid that the application of earthen poultice on wounds might cause sepsis. But I had them put on my own responsibility. The doctor is now, however, convinced that the earthen poultice has done much good. Normally wounds which have to be stitched up rarely escape becoming septic. I am emphatically of the view that with an earthen poultice wounds heal without becoming septic. And that is what has happened. I have used many remedies involving the use of earth. I think, if earth is judiciously used, it can be a useful remedy in many ailments. I hope later to be able to tell readers of Indian Opinion [more about] my experiences.


My object in writing this account is not merely to tell a story or to fill the pages of this journal, but only that my experience may be of use to others. The lesson that every servant of India is to draw from the assault is this: if anyone wants to serve the community, and always do the right by it, he must be prepared for physical assaults. If we do not take these things to heart, we shall have more peace of mind and happiness and, to that extent, more strength to serve the community. Such assaults should really be looked upon as rewards….[From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 22-2-1908.]—pp.154-58

1 Gandhiji in fact wired to the Attorney-General to say that his assailants were not guilty; vide Satyagraha in South Africa, Ch. XXII. The telegram itself, however, is not available.



People who accuse me [thus] do not know me at all. If there was one person who enjoyed being in gaol, it was I. I did not find anyone else as content to be in gaol as I was. I should welcome gaol again if the occasion demanded it; so sure am I of myself….  [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 29-2-1908.]—pp.177 &180-81



… The gaol has a library which lends books to prisoners. I borrowed some of Carlyle’s works and the Bible. From a Chinese interpreter who used to visit the place I borrowed a copy of the Koran in English, Huxley’s lectures, Carlyle’s biographies of Burns, Johnson and Scott, and Bacon’s essays on civil and moral counsel. I also had some books of my own; these included an edition of the Gita…some Tamil books, an Urdu book presented by Maulvi Saheb, the writings of Tolstoy, Ruskin and Socrates3. Most of these books I either read [for the first time] or re-read during my stay in gaol. I used to study Tamil regularly. In the morning I read the Gita and in the afternoon portions of the Koran. In the evening I used to explain the Bible to Mr. Fortoen, a Chinese Christian. As he wished to learn (p.233) English, I taught it to him through the Bible. If I was going to serve my full term of two months in gaol, I had intended to complete the translation of one of Carlyle’s books and another1 of Ruskin. I believe these books would have kept me wholly occupied. If I had been awarded an even longer term, not only would I not have found it irksome, but I could have added usefully to my knowledge. I would have been quite contented. I believe that anyone who enjoys reading good books can easily bear to be alone anywhere…..[From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 28-3-1908.]—pp.233-34



I have received your letter. You need not worry about me. I think I shall have to sacrifice myself. I do not believe that Smuts can play foul to the end. But it gives an opportunity to those who have reached the limits of their patience and are ready to strike at me. If that should happen, we need not be unhappy. If I have to give my life for a cause which I consider to be good, what better death can there be? If God found it fit to take away Gokaldas, why should the idea of death make us sorrowful? This world is transient. If, therefore, I leave this world, why should one be worried on that account? It should be enough to wish that nothing improper is done by me as long as I live. We should of course be careful that we do nothing improper even by mistake. True, I have not yet reached the stage when I can attain liberation but I do believe that if I leave this body while treading the path along which my thoughts are nowadays running, I shall be reborn and speedily attain to moksha at the end of that life.

Blessings from


From the Gujarati: Mahatma Gandhijina Patro, ed. D. M. Patel, Sevak Karyalaya, Ahmedabad; 1921.—p.333



It is known the world over that the Hindus cremate their dead. A request was made to the Government that cremation facilities similar to those available in Durban be provided for the Colony as a whole, and to this Mr. Diwan has received a very discouraging reply. The Government has said, without assigning any reasons, that the arrangements asked for cannot be made. Admittedly, there have been numerous instances of Hindus burying their dead, but we cannot put up with peremptory interference with a religious practice. We may argue that the Hindus themselves are to blame for not having always insisted on cremating their dead because of the inconvenience in (p. 443) doing so or for other reasons. But it was of their own volition that they earlier did not do so. Since it is the Government which now wants to stop the practice, it is imperative that we protest. A petition signed by all the Hindus should be submitted to the Government. If it is signed by thousands of persons, there is hope of its being looked into. Muslims, Christians, Parsis can all help in this matter. Today one of our religions is under attack; tomorrow it may be the turn of another. We hope therefore that not only will the Hindus take up this issue, but also that the other communities will help. [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 11-7-1908].—pp.443-44




… We read in the book Arab Wisdom that he who enjoys no respect has no religion.1 It is by defending their honour over a long period of time that nations achieve greatness. Honour does not mean arrogance; real honour consists in a state of mind that does not countenance the loss of a right, and in action flowing from such a state of mind. He alone can attain to such honour who really trusts—depends on—God. I am convinced that it is impossible for a man without sincere faith to discern the truth in every situation and act on it. [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 28-3-1908.]—p.236



…. The Government have shown their strength in having even at the eleventh hour recognized the necessity of consulting Indian sentiment. The much discussedfinger-prints remain, though in an elastic manner, and their acceptance by the Indian community shows not only its prudence, but it shows that the Indian objection has never centred round fingerprints. We must decline to call this compromise a victory for Indians. were an abuse of terms, but, if it be at all applicable in this…connection, the victory is for Truth. [Indian Opinion, 8-2-1908.]—p.118


…There is no humiliation in polishing a friend’s shoes as a gesture or of our free will. But polishing shoes out of fear, when ordered to do so, would amount to demeaning ourselves as menials. In other words, whether a particular thing is good or bad depends on the context. We know that there are many Indians who have mistakenly assumed that our campaign is against the giving of ten finger-prints. But such Indians should realize that there is no humiliation in giving ten finger-prints when not compelled by the law. Doing so certainly does not amount to a violation of our pledge….(p. 122) [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 8-2-1908].—pp. 122


…To those who accepted the outrageous law, we would suggest that they admit their mistake in all humility and be reconciled with the community ….The suggestion about building a Federation Hall has been revived. If such a hall is built, these persons can offer much help. While the whole community has suffered hardships and heavy losses, those who submitted to the outrageous law have made money. In any case, they submitted to the law for the sake of money. It is therefore only proper that they should offer a large and adequate subscription towards the cost of the Federation Hall. This suggestion of ours is not to be forced on them. That will not bring about any sincere repentance. Their donation will have grace only if they offer it with sincere concern for the benefit of the community or the country….(p.123) [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 8-2-1908.]—p.123



…However, we  think it worth while to make an attempt to give a partial answer to this question. After careful thought, we have come to the conclusion that, if the plague, starvation, etc., have become more widespread in India, it is because of the sinfulness of the people. If anyone wants to attribute it to the wickedness of the Government, we shall agree with him. It is a common experience that people suffer when the rulers are wicked. But it needs to be borne in mind that it is only a sinful people who have wicked rulers. Besides, it is as a rule more profitable to examine our own faults than to blame others. Disunity and enmity between Hindus and Muslims are sins. But they are not fundamental sins. If disunity disappears and the two communities live in peace and amity, foreign rule may go or the ways of the rulers may change. But there is no reason to believe that when that happens, the plague and famines will disappear as a matter of course.  The chief sin is the untruthfulness of the people of India.

During the plague, we deceive the Government and deceive ourselves. We make an outward show of cleanliness, but do not really observe it.

…Rules are given as to how cleanliness should be maintained. Whether they are such as should be observed or not is a different question. There can be a difference of opinion on that point. What we want to prove is that we base our conduct on falsehood. In most matters we only make an outward show. That has a debilitating effect on our nerves. Our blood becomes poisoned with the impurities of sinfulness and succumbs to germs of any kind. It is observed that certain castes or communities are not affected by the plague. The reason is that they do not make any false pretences with regard to cleanliness or any other matter. They do not show themselves better than they are. To that extent, we think they are superior to those who make a false show. We do not imply by this that all people behave in this manner. But by and large that is what happens….they {in the West} only seek means of surrounding themselves with material comforts and luxuries. By following them, the Indians, too, can in course of time win freedom from the plague, etc. But we do not think the evil tendencies of the West can have a foothold in India.  That means that India will either keep herself free from sinful ways of living, with her eyes fixed on God, and so win happiness, or will ever remain in a state of death-in-life, enduring never-ending slavery, cowardly and fearful of death, rotting with the plague or such other inflictions.  Some people will find these ideas strange, or ridiculous, or as born of ignorance. But we make bold to assert that every thoughtful Indian ought to give them his fullest consideration. Such as they are, these thoughts are the result of this writer’s deep experience of life. In any case, there will be no harm in putting them into practice. No one will lose anything by observing truth and celibacy. And it need not be asked what the people will gain if just a few persons follow this way of life. If anyone asks such a question, he will be taken for an ignorant person. [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 28-12-1907.]—pp.33-34


A reader from Durban writes to say that many of us are in the habit of referring to Indians from Calcutta or Madras, in public as well as in private, as “coolya” or “coolie”…. referring to persons from Calcutta or Madras who may not be labourers. The correspondent informs us that he once heard an Indian businessman refer to a person from Calcutta as a “coolie” in the presence of a lawyer. We hope that every Indian who has this habit will give it up, if only because such behaviour stands in the way of bringing all the Indians together. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 29-2-1908.]—p.169


… owing to the famine in Central India, five crores of people were faced with the prospect of starvation…Since the calamity is the result of a goddess’s wrath, they feel helpless. There must also be some who blame this on the British Government. We think that all these persons are wrong. It is a common habit to point to the faults of others and not to see one’s own. Others’ mistakes attract ready attention. Let us, however, go deeper into the question.  We are convinced that, though this condition is undoubtedly the result of divine will, the blame lies with us, our chief fault being that we have very little truth in us. It is generally from experience that the whites accuse us of untruthfulness Not all of them accuse us out of malice. We are annoyed by the charge. It instead of feeling  annoyed, we look at the matter in the right perspective and ponder over it, we may derive much profit. The Indians here are not very different from those at home….It is necessary that we fight ourselves. We must overcome this habit of deceitfulness. In our private lives we behave as we do with the Government. The result is that we become cowardly and, in order to cover up our cowardice, we resort to deception and hypocrisy at every turn.

In Natal, we spend any amount of money to obtain trading licences by underhand means, but we will not observe cleanniness, which is the thing necessary. There are very few Indians who deserve trading licences on merits. In the Transvaal everyone thinks only of self-interest…(p. 231)

Some readers may wonder what the connection is between fraudulent practice in relation to permits in the Transvaal and trading licences in Natal on the one hand and famine on the other. That we do not perceive this connection is in itself an error. Our examples are only symptoms of a chronic disease within us. We are sure that, as long as they remain addicted to cheating and deception, Indians will never be rid of their troubles. It would be a great and true help indeed it instead of sending money from here or being useful. in  some other way, a reformed ourselves and learnt to be truthful. If the Indians here observe  in word and deed and behave with courage, that cannot but have some effect in India. Pain in any part of the body is felt by the mind. The healthy condition of a part Was a benign effect [on the whole]. Similarly, good or bad actions of individuals have a corresponding effect on a whole people.  We believe this to be a divine law, and if our readers agree that it is so, we think the only real help the kind-hearted among the Indians can render to their country is to take the path of truthfulness immediately after reading the heart-rending account of starvation among five crores of Indians. This is admittedly a difficult step to take. But it is also a very effective one. After a little reflection, anyone will realize that this is the only solution. [From Gujrati, Indian Opinion, 28-3-1908.]—pp.231-32


…We find that in this world we generally get what we demand and deserve. If we really want to settle in diverse regions of the world and prosper, we shall find the necessary means. Three measures appear imperative: (1) that every Indian should faithfully follow his religion; (2) that Hindus and Muslims should remain united; and (3) that Indians should acquire the right kind of education.

If the first condition is realized, the remaining two will be fulfilled as a matter of course. We believe all the great religions of the world to be true. If, therefore, every community follows its religion diligently, it will come to have faith in and consequently to cherish nothing but truth. If we practise our own religion in its proper spirit, we shall not squabble among ourselves, but remain united. Further more, those who would follow the path of religion sincerely cannot choose to remain uneducated and ignorant. They will find it impossible to remain idle and, if there is no idleness, everyone, whether child or adult, will be busy learning. We invite the attention of every Indian to these thoughts. We are living through times which enjoin us to be alert and wide awake. [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 4-4-1908.]—p.245


…Indians, however, must not think of accepting compensation and running away. Those Indians who have settled in Natal must learn to look upon the Colony as their second home and settle there. If anyone wants to drive them out of Natal, they must not oblige. Indians must learn to feel that Natal is as much their country as it is of the whites, and be proud of working for its prosperity. We should not therefore approve of the proposal to fix a time limit of ten years. On the other hand, it may not be possible for us to prevent such legislation. But during the period of ten years we can so enhance our power and status that the whites themselves will think in terms of retaining us rather than driving us out. It is within the power of Indians to bring this about. [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 4-4-1908.]—p.246


…The Indian community has a moral to learn from this case. Without the right kind of education, the community will not only remain backward, but become increasingly so. Education in England, the study of English, world history and of the sciences-all these are essential in the world of today. Without them one is crippled. It is also necessary to learn how to put the knowledge thus acquired to proper use. In itself knowledge is only a means. It can be employed for good, for making money, and in the service of public causes. Knowledge is justified only when it is put to good use and employed in the public cause. Otherwise, as we pointed out once earlier and as everyone will readily admit, it is like poison.[From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 4-4-1908.]—p.246


…We were weak but are not so any longer, and even if we are, we must resolve not to remain weak. Being strong, we shall fight for our rights and our honour. When we think in this vein, we must not imagine that strong means “physically strong” or that “fight” means “fight with swords and guns”. It is indeed necessary to be physically strong. If the Indians want to learn the use of fire-arms and swords, by all means let them do so. But they will always remain strong if they have the weapon of truth in their hands, and will succeed even against those who have guns at their command. The most important reason why we should not assume that it is because of our frail physique that we are (p.266) thought weak is that the Kaffirs are thought weak by the whites despite their superior physical strength. They are intellectually backward. They are unlettered and have no arts. We can say that, despite the whites’ physical strength, their arts, their industry and their education, we will be able to defeat them if we are truthful. Whatever education and other things are needful will come to us as a matter of course. We can find hundreds of instances of their having come in this manner [to a people].  But we shall soon find that, if we want to be accepted as strong by cultivating truth, we must concur in the Colony’s view that there is a large enough population of Indians here for the present. There should be no objection to the entry of those who have a legal right to come in. But we must put an end to the illicit immigration and welcome the prohibition on the immigration of indentured labour. If the Indians already settled here can win the respect and status due to them, other disabilities will disappear. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 18-4-1908].—pp.266-67


…But whites do not look on helplessly [when attacked by anyone]. They equip themselves with the means of self-defence. If anyone counters by saying that we are not allowed to keep arms or that we cannot have them when we need them, those excuses will not be valid. We can defend ourselves without weapons. It is a matter of training one’s body and of skill….

Many whites are able todefend themselves without so much as a revolver. Indians must learn to do likewise. This of course cannot happen in a day. ‘While a fire is raging, what is the use of advising one ever so wisely that one should start digging a well?’ This would be a well-deserved taunt. But we wish to suggest a measure that can be adopted immediately and will forestall this taunt. Primarily our duty is to search out the hidden causes and suggest permanent remedies. It is quackery to apply ointment on a boil; the infection should be traced to its source and effectively treated.

The immediate thing for the Indian community to do is to petition the Government asking for stricter police protection in localities where murders are frequent….(p.360) employ their own watchmen. Alternatively, the people in sparsely populated areas should shift to more thickly populated ones. Acting collectively in these matters is an essential characteristic of nationhood. We are about to become a nation. But Indians must bear in mind that they are not yet a nation in the modern sense of the term. We cannot become something by imagining we are that. [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 6-6-1908].—pp.359-60


Following upon our article2 on the murders committed among the Natal Indians, a correspondent states that the growing prevalence of adultery among Indians is the cause of these murders. He observes that [the cause of] most of these murders can be traced to women. This is regrettable, if true….

If it is true that adultery is on the increase among the Indian youth, that is a sign of our degeneracy. We are in the habit of comparing our vices with those of the whites and if we have some in common, we take no further notice of them.  This attitude reveals how depraved we are. Following that line of thinking, we conclude that the whites are superior to us and that they have attained the acme of virtue. In fact, the whites are generally not superior to us. It is equally false that we cannot become more virtuous. There is no more fallacious argument than that we may indulge in adultery because the whites do so. Their adultery is a different sort of thing…(p. 381)

But the whites can afford to do what they are doing. We cannot. We have fallen very low indeed. We have to uplift ourselves. We therefore need an enterprising spirit. It is a fact of experience that the habit of adultery daily undermines the strength of people among whom it is widespread. The Indian youth, therefore, need to give this problem their earnest attention. If we observe [conditions among] whites for purposes of comparison, we shall find that Purity Societies are being set up among them. Their priests are working actively to prevent the young people from going astray….Let it be remembered that Rome, Greece and the other nations that fell were destroyed mainly because of the prevalence of adultery [in those societies]. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 20-6-1908.]—pp.381-82



….I also see that the objections some persons have to the compromise are only a pretext, their real intention being to set the Hindus and the Muslims at variance with each other. I believe I have equal regard for the two communities. In public service, Hindus and Muslims have stood together as a united people. It is not, I have noticed, the Hindus who have blamed me; they are presumably satisfied that the compromise is a reasonable one. The condemnatory letters that I have received are all from Muslims. It is necessary to go into the reason. I am reluctant even to write of this matter, but it would not be proper to keep back [from the readers] what is on the lips of many and has become a subject of talk. Not only that; it may prove positively harmful to suppress the incident. When the passive resistance movement was at its height, Mr. Ally2 could not continue to trust me fully because I was a Hindu.  (p. 161)

He therefore sent a telegram to Ameer Ali@. On this occasion, a few Muslims thought of sending a telegram to Mr. Jinnah, and the Pathans eventually sent one. I do not blame Mr. Ally for what he did. Again, I do not blame the Pathans for what they have done now. I have known Mr. Ameer Ali. I asked for his help on behalf of the community and it was given. I have also known Mr. Jinnah. I regard them both with respect. I do not therefore write to complain but only to point to these things as symptoms of our mental state. The symptom is this: I occasionally observe some lack of trust [in me] though I have worked hard to bring the two communities together. This is a sign of our weakness. It makes me unhappy. I have heard some Muslim brethren say in arguments about the compromise, “Gandhi has totally ruined the Muslims and has been doing so for the last fifteen years.” It is most regrettable that any Indian should utter these words. I am sure those who say this themselves know that I have never even dreamt of harming anyone.

…Also, had not a large number of Muslims worked hard for it, there would have been no victory. How can it be said then that I have brought utter ruin on the Muslims?

… I therefore wish to warn my Muslim brethren against those who are out to set people at variance with each other by saying these things; they ought to be treated as enemies of the community, and no one should take any notice of what they say.  (p.162)

…To the Hindu brethren I would say that all of us must live together as one people, regardless of the things a few Muslims who are enemies of the community may say. Looking at the matter in that light, they should give no thought to others’ mistakes. They must not answer back. There can be no quarrel unless both the sides are at fault. Let them be careful, therefore, not to be in the wrong even partly. In South Africa, I have only one duty: to bring the Hindus and the Muslims together and serve them as a single community…. I request every Indian to read this patiently several times over.[From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 22-2-1908.]—pp.161-63

1 This was published in Indian Opinion under the title “A Letter from Mr.  Gandhi”.

2 Haji Ojeer Ally; born in Mauritius in 1853 of Indian and Malay parents; spoke Dutch, English and Hindustani fluently (vide Satyagraha in South Africa, Ch. XIV); came to South Africa in 1884 and devoted himself whole-heartedly to the Indian cause; took notable part in the agitation against Cape Franchise Law Amendment Act; elected Chairman, Cape Coloured People’s Organization in 1892; founder-President, Hamidia Islamic Society and member, along with Gandhiji, of the Transvaal Indian Deputation to England in 1906 (vide Vol. VI). Unable to join satyagraha campaign and unwilling, at the same time, to submit to the Asiatic Registration Act, he left the Transvaal in 1907, leaving behind large interests; vide “Johannesburg Letter”, 31-8-1907

@1 Syed Ameer Ali ( 1849-1928); Member, Judicial Committee of the Privy Council; Judge of Calcutta High Court, 1890-1904; author of Islam and books on Mahomedan Law, etc. In July 1907, H.O. Ally wrote a letter to Ameer Ali, a member also of the South Africa British Indian Committee, expressing his opposition to Gandhiji’s continued campaign against the Asiatic Registration Act, for, he said, that would ruin “thousands of my co-religionists who are all traders while the Hindus are mostly hawkers”. He sought the intervention of the Committee against the satyagraha movement. Vide “Ally’s Mistake”, 27-7-1907



To respect our own language, speak it well and use in it as few foreign words as possible—this is also a part of patriotism.  We have been using some English terms just as they are, since we cannot find exact Gujarati equivalents for them. Some of these terms are given below, which we place before our readers. We shall publish in this journal the name of the person who supplies Gujarati equivalents for them which may be found acceptable…Cartoon; Civil Disobedience. There are other words too, but we shall think of them some other time. It should be noted that we do not want translations of these English terms, but terms with equivalent connotations. There will be no objection if the words are derived from Sanskrit or Urdu. [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 28-12-1907.]—p.32



.…What is the point of being hasty when fighting for such big stakes? The end will come only after a large number of persons become seasoned in gaol, the others remaining unbending, meanwhile. …. No one should imagine that our struggle is not a battle because it involves no bloodshed or use of real ammunition. Ours also is a battle, with this difference, that in it, the right being on our side, there can be only one result. If we become impatient, that will mean that to that extent we are less in the right. Truth is to win, it can be only in the fulness of time. In fact it wins soon enough, but when we look at the matter superficially, we get an impression of long delay. Those who are prepared to defend their oath and honour at any cost as they would defend their life have nothing to lose if the result is slow in conning. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 21-12-1907.]—p.18

Ramsundar Pundit:


Punditji has been released. And he may have been also rearrested by the time this issue reaches the hands of our readers. His life is no longer his own, it belongs to the public. He has placed himself at the disposal of the community. It is not possible for him now to retreat. His spirit deserves admiration. There is a heavy responsibility on him. He is a priest and also a preacher. We hope to see in him the spirit of renunciation. Such men ought to be without any attachments, and naturally modest, gentle, truthful and free from greed. Till there is a large number of such men, it will not even be possible for India to be free. Punditji has taken a big step. We hope and pray that he will retain the honour that he has won. [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 21-12-1907.]—p.18


Ram Sundar is no longer a “pundit”, and so we have had that part of his name set up in smaller type. “Pundit” was a title he himself had assumed. But now that he has lost the qualities of one, he should no longer be known by that name.  We apologize to our readers for earlier having showered praises on Ram Sundar in this journal, for having used grand epithets to describe him and held up his attitude to the law as an example.1 We are guiltless for we were misled; we were unaware of the facts. We have a saying that no one can divine what lies in the heart of a man or in the hollow of a drum. We could not peer into Ram Sundar’s heart. We believed his professions and thought him brave. We will continue to do so with others in future. That is the only way for man to live in society. It will be to claim omniscience to suspect one who is apparently sincere, or to shun his company. God alone knows the hearts of men. We can only know people through their actions. We admired Ram Sundar’s conduct, and it was our duty to hold it up before the people. Now that the hypocrite has been unmasked, we have no hesitation in exposing him to our readers. That is our way of atoning for an unwitting error. As far as the community is concerned, Ram Sundar is dead as from today. He lives to no purpose. He has poisoned himself by his own hand. Physical death is to be preferred to such social death. He would have enjoyed undying fame if he had beenkilled in an accident at Germiston before the critical moment when he entrained for Natal. But fate decreed otherwise. Having meanly betrayed the people of Germiston, his community, himself and his family, he has fled like a coward in fear of imprisonment. Even now we pray to God to show him the right path. We have used bitter words, but in our heart there is compassion for him. It would be cruel to hide his fault. There would have been no need to publicize his faults if we had not extolled his virtues. We still need to retain the image of Ram Sundar before our eyes. With that image before us, we should pray constantly,‘O Khuda-Ishwar, save us from Ram Sundar’s fate. Do not give us only the semblance of courage. Keep us on the right path till the end.’ Whenever anyone has unworthy thoughts, let the memory of Ram Sundar startle him into self-contempt and let him turn to God in prayer. We frighten children saying, “Look! Demon!” We should think of Ram  (p. 61) Sundar as a demon, and guard ourselves against being possessed by it. Indians have a long way to go yet. It has been given to us to witness the farce by Ram Sundar early in the campaign. We ought to be grateful to him for that. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 4-1-1908.—pp.61-62]

1Vide “Memons who have escaped”, 16-11-1907, “Punditji’s Patriotic

Service”, 23-11-1907 & “Ram Sundar Pandit”, 7-12-1907

46. RAM SUNDAR, [Before January 10, 1908]

We hear many things said about the honour once accorded to Ram Sundar. We have even received some letters on the subject. Some people say that he was an indentured labourer, others that he has cheated a number of people. There are those who argue that, because such respect was lavished on a person like him, the Indian community is unlikely to listen to any of its leaders again. It was, they argue, a great mistake to have closed their shops for a man of his type, and no one should now expect shops to be closed for any Indian, whoever he may be. There are yet others who have been eagerly waiting for an opportunity to drive a wedge between Hindus and Muslims. We think all these people are in the wrong. If Ram Sundar was an indentured labourer and if, knowing this, the Indian community had eulogized him for his genuine courage, that would have been all the more creditable….The work that he did and the speeches that he made invited praise. It was not Ram Sundar who was honoured in royal fashion, but the person who suffered a month’s imprisonment. The shops were closed not for the sake of Ram Sundar, but tangibly to show that we were grieved at the wrongful imprisonment of an Indian and to bring home to the others the fact of our unity. The Indian community has already reaped the benefits of the closing’ of shops and of the homage [done to Ram Sundar]. What Ram Sundar gained, he has thrown away. The honour that we accorded was not to an individual, but to the qualities of truth and courage which we attributed to him. What happened in Ram Sundar’s case was only fit and proper. Now that we have seen through his duplicity, we pour scorn on him. That again is natural. Such has always been the way of the world….[From Gujarati;Indian Opinion, 11-1-1908.]—p. 80



Replying to questions on the larger issue, Mr. Gandhi remarked: The compromise arrived at is largely the same that was offered by the Asiatic communities before proceedings under the Registration Act were commenced. This compromise will give complete identification of every Asiatic over the age of 16 years in the Colony, and those who may be entitled to remain in or re-enter it. The main distinction between the Act and the identification under the offer will consist in the sting of compulsion being removed. The compromise puts Asiatics on their honour and responsibility, and if it is not carried out faithfully by my countrymen I have no doubt that our position will deservedly be worse than it would have been under the Act. But I do not anticipate any difficulty….[The Transvaal Leader, 31-1-1908.]—p.103


January 31, 1908]

…We will now register voluntarily for purposes of identification and the scrutiny [of our rights of domicile] and the Government has accepted this [offer]. That means that the obnoxious law will die altogether. The stigma that attached to us under the law will now disappear. Under the proposed arrangement, the Government will accept signatures by educated persons and by owners of property, but unlettered people have to give ten finger-prints on the application forms. Though I am against this myself and will strive with the Government to the best of my ability to have the requirement waived, I see nothing wrong in having to give finger-impressions if the Government does not come round. For after all we shall be giving them of our own free choice…. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 8-2-1908.]—p.105


 ..The Government has placed great confidence in the Indian community and an equally heavy measure of responsibility. The demand of the Indian community has been accepted, namely, that the law should not apply to them. The words, “the law should not apply to them”, need to be carefully understood. An oath was taken in September 1906 not to submit to the law. Submission to the law was the only issue at that time. The regulations made under it in July [1907] did (p.120) not then exist.1 The Government has now promised not to apply the law to Indians on the condition that the objective of the law should be secured by the Indians themselves acting of their free will, that is, without the compulsion of that law. This condition means voluntary registration. The Indian community has time and again offered to register on its own. The Government has now at last accepted the proposal and agreed not to apply the new law to those who register voluntarily. This means that the law will remain valid only for the blacklegs; alternatively there may be another law applicable to all…. (p.121)

…There is no humiliation in polishing a friend’s shoes as a gesture or of our free will. But polishing shoes out of fear, when ordered to do so, would amount to demeaning ourselves as menials. In other words, whether a particular thing is good or bad depends on the context. We know that there are many Indians who have mistakenly assumed that our campaign is against the giving of ten finger-prints. But such Indians should realize that there is no humiliation in giving ten finger-prints when not compelled by the law. Doing so certainly does not amount to a violation of our pledge….(p. 122) [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 8-2-1908].—pp. 12-22




…the Johannesburg Gaol has a chapel for Christians. But only white prisoners are allowed to worship (p.235) there. I asked for special permission for myself and Mr. Fortoen, but I was told by the Governor that the church was open only to white Christians….

The Jews have a rabbi to visit them. But there is no corresponding arrangement for Hindus or Muslims. But then, there are not many Indian prisoners. All the same, it is rather humiliating that the religious needs of the Indian community should be ignored in gaol. Leaders of the two communities should give thought to this matter and arrange for instruction in both religions even if there should be only one Indian [in gaol]. The Maulvis and Hindu priests chosen for this work should be sincere men, otherwise their instruction is likely to be something of an infliction.


… We read in the book Arab Wisdom that he who enjoys no respect has no religion.1 It is by defending their honour over a long period of time that nations achieve greatness. Honour does not mean arrogance; real honour consists in a state of mind that does not countenance the loss of a right, and in action flowing from such a state of mind. He alone can attain to such honour who really trusts—depends on—God. I am convinced that it is impossible for a man without sincere faith to discern the truth in every situation and act on it. [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 28-3-1908.]—pp.233-36



…  We have repeatedly stated that, if anyone suffers monetary loss before he is imprisoned, he will have to bear the loss himself. The community can offer no help in such a case. But it will be cruel to remain indifferent when hundreds of people face starvation. We are told, besides, that starvation may drive a man to the meanest of jobs.… If therefore a large number of men are thrown out of employment, it will be necessary to provide aid to them. Every Indian must think of this problem and send whatever he can to the Association at Johannesburg. The next question to consider is what should be done after money has been collected. If doles or allowances are paid to people for days on end without taking any work from them, that will only encourage vice and harm the recipients. We are therefore of the view that the services of such people should be utilized for some public work project.

Mr. Gandhi has suggested the construction of a big hall. It is a difficult undertaking, but worth taking up, and will be very easy to carry out if there is a large number of Indians to help…. [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 28-12-1907.]—p.29

47. JOHANNESBURG LETTER [Before January 10, 1908]

The editor had invited [suggestions from readers for] a Gujarati equivalent for “passive resistance”. I have received one which is not bad, though it does not render the original in its full connotation. I shall, however, use it for the present. The word is sadagraha. I think satyagraha is better than sadagraha. “Resistance” means determined opposition to anything. The correspondent has rendered it as agraha. Agraha in a right cause is sat or satya4 agraha. The correspondent therefore has rendered “passive resistance” as firmness in a good cause. Though the phrase does not exhaust the connotation of the word “passive”, we shall use satyagraha till a word is available which deserves the prize.[From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 11-1-1908.]—p. 80


If this is a victory for truth, it is also a victory for satyagraha. Every Indian should by now be convinced that satyagraha, or passive resistance, is an infallible remedy. It can cure the most dangerous of ailments. Our success should lead at least to one result, namely, that we make full use of satyagraha. Only it should be used on proper occasions, and the people should remain united. It must also be realized that there are evils to which satyagraha cannot be applied. It can be effective only in situations where we are required to act positively. For instance, if the Government does not allow us to acquire land, satyagraha will be of no avail. If, however, it forbids us from walking along a certain foot-path, or asks us to shift to Locations, or seeks to prevent us from carrying on trade, we can resort to satyagraha. That is, if we are required to do anything which violates our religion or insults our manhood, we can administer the invaluable physic of satyagraha. There is one condition, however, to be observed, if the remedy is to be effective: we should be prepared collectively to accept hardships. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 8-2-1908].—pp. 121


Those who know the real meaning of satyagraha should not have the slightest doubt as to what the victory means. A satyagrahi enjoys a degree of freedom not possible for others, for he becomes a truly fearless person. Once his mind is rid of fear, he will never agree to be another’s slave. Having achieved this state of mind, he will never submit to any arbitrary action. Such satyagraha can be, ought to be, practised not only against a Government but against society as well [if need be]. It can Often happen that a society is as wrong as a government. It becomes one’s duty then to use satyagraha against society….(p.152)

…. But our satyagraha prompts us to become free and feel independent. We have therefore nothing to fear. ‘All this is idle talk. Whatever you do, you cannot start the campaign again. Once has been quite enough.’ There are persons who talk thus. If it is true that we cannot resume the struggle, it will have been in vain that we started it at all. Let us justify this view of ours. It is a matter of common observation that what we have won can be retained only by the same means through which it was got. What is won by force can be retained by force alone….

…Similarly what we have gained by satyagraha can be retained only through satyagraha. When satyagraha is given up, we may be sure that the gains will also be lost. Moreover, it is unlikely that one will succeed in retaining through physical force what one gained by  Ssatyagraha …(p.153) force the fruits of victory won through satyagraha. Even a child can see that, if Indians resort to force, they can be crushed within the minute. Likewise, if we abandon satyagraha and go on as we did before, what we have gained may be lost.  These examples serve to show that satyagraha is really an attitude of mind. He who has attained to the satyagrahic state of mind will remain ever victorious, at all times and places and under all conditions irrespective of whether it is a government or a people that he opposes, whether they be strangers, friends or relatives.

…Before concluding, let me refer to the latest instance. When the whites held an anti-Indian meeting in Pretoria Town Hall, there were only four whites to speak in our favour. They were thus four against a thousand. But the four were brave enough to express their views in the face of a chorus of abuse from the crowd. In the event, their satyagraha considerably detracted from the importance of the meeting and turned it into a menagerie….[From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 22-2-1908.]—pp.152-54


… We have therefore only one word available to us for the present, and that is satyagraha. The person5 who suggested this word would not like his (p. 195) name published, neither does he want the prize. Not that he means any slight to the prize, but being in a way connected with this paper, he does not want it awarded to himself. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 7-3-1908.]—pp.195-96

5 This was Maganlal Gandhi; he had suggested Satyagraha as an equivalent for passive resistance, which Gandhiji changed into satyagraha. Vide Satyagraha in South Africa, Ch. XII.


…Moreover, the three Chinese were given  something else in place of the rice that we got and were thus the only ones to be refused rice. This caused some heart-burning. It appeared as though the Chinese were being discriminated against as a class inferior to us. I therefore wrote out a petition1 on their behalf to the Governor and to Mr. Playford. The order was finally passed that the Chinese should get the same food as the Indians.—p.219

…both Kaffirs and Europeans get food suited to their tastes. The poor Indians—nobody bothers about them! They cannot get the food they want. If they are given European diet, the whites will feel insulted. In any case, why should the gaol authorities bother to find out the normal Indian fare? There is nothing for it but to let ourselves be classed with the Kaffirs and starve. That this state of affairs has gone on till today points, in my view, to a deficiency in our satyagraha. Some Indian prisoners get extra food from without surreptitiously. They, therefore, suffer no inconvenience on this account. There are other Indian prisoners who make do with whatever they are given, and [afterwards] feel ashamed of mentioning their misfortunes or do not care enough for others [to take up the issue]. People outside remain in the dark [about  what happens in goal]. If we were all devoted to truth and remonstrated whenever there was injustice, we would never have to suffer these inconveniences. If we think more of others than of ourselves, it will be easy to find solutions for these problems.  If it is necessary to find remedies for these problems, it is also necessary to bear another consideration in mind. A prisoner must submit to certain hardships. If there were no hardships, what would be the point of being imprisoned? Those who can control their minds can find happiness even amidst hardships and enjoy being in gaol.

Such persons, however, will not forget the hardships [of gaol life], and, for the sake of others, they ought not to. Moreover, we should give up clinging so tenaciously to our customs and habits. Everyone has heard of the saying, “As the country, so the attire”. Since we live in South Africa we must accustom ourselves to whatever is wholesome in the food of the people here….

There are some habits of ours which we must not hesitate to give up in the interests of our country. The (p.220) nations which have progressed are those which have given in on inessential matters. The members of the Salvation Army win over the hearts of the people among whom they work by adopting their customs, dress, etc. [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 21-3-1908.]—pp.219-221




…It should make us happy that we have found in South Africa an Indian who could write like that. Being an Indian Christian, it is natural that Mr. Maurice should draw most of his illustrations from Christian sources. We hope that a perusal of Mr. Maurice’s essay will stimulate greater interest in satyagraha among the people and make them more familiar with a campaign of this kind. [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 18-4-1908.]—p. 272

1 Here follows the Gujarati translation of the essay. For the English text, vide Appendix III. {484-90}

177. JOHANNESBURG LETTER [May 16, 1908]


If, however, it is established that the Government has in fact played foul, one may ask what kind of a settlement this is. But those who understand the meaning of satyagraha have no call to ask such a question. In any settlement, whenever one of the parties proves untrue to its word, the fight has to be resumed. The Indian community may thus have to resume the campaign—with this difference that we have now had three months’ respite [before doing that]. I believe we can fight now with increased strength and [therefore] more effectively. The same satyagraha that yielded the settlement can also force its implementation.


If the struggle is revived, satyagraha will be put to the test [again]. It will be all the more impressive and, if the Indian community proves resolute, a wonderful spectacle to watch. This is no occasion for cowards, only for the brave. One must be prepared to stake one’s life on the campaign. One must not look only to self-interest, but should instead strive for the common good. What do we own? What did we bring with us [when we came into this world]? What will we take back with us? I, for one, wish to assert without reservation that we must look at the matter in this light, dedicate our all to truth and draw once again the sword that has been returned to the scabbard. Let us understand this and not blame the compromise. After all, men do repudiate the written word and fight one another. This is what has happened on this  occasion. There can be no guarantee against foul play. Nor on that account can it be argued that we must never trust anyone for fear of being betrayed….(p. 327)

I place all these thoughts before Indian Opinion readers to alert everyone. They will also know the difficulties that are being encountered and at the same time realize the value of voluntary registration. I do not believe it will be necessary to resume the campaign. [I believe] General Smuts will rectify his error and the Act will be repealed. But we must prepare to act in case it is not repealed. Let us note that the first warning has come from General Smuts himself.  [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 23-5-1908.]—pp.327-28

192. LETTER TO “INDIAN OPINION”{ This was published under the title “From A Correspondent: Mr. Gandhi’s Letter”.} [JOHANNESBURG]




Though everyone knows that I write a great deal for the Gujarati section of this journal, it is rarely that I do so under my signature. Here is another occasion for me to write under my name. { For an earlier letter in the same strain, vide “A Brief Explanation”, 22-2-1908} When I saw Mr. Cartwright last Saturday, he showed me Mr. Smuts’ letter in which he has said that the proposed Bill was intended only to legalize voluntary registration. The Bill will provide for Indians who have taken out registers voluntarily to be exempted from the penalties in the new law for breach of its provisions. For all the other purposes, they too will be subject to that law. This is double crossing, pure and simple. Though not dead yet, we are as good as dead. This need not be so, however, if our cause is just.

‘The law, it was said, was sure to be annulled. What has happened to all that talk? What has come of Mr. Gandhi’s words? What will he have to say for himself now? How will he face the Indians?’ I hear (p. 351) those questions echoing in my ears.

Even now I say that the law will be repealed, provided the Indian community carries through the satyagraha campaign. I stand by my words. There is no reason for me to feel so ashamed that I cannot face my brethren. I need be ashamed if I myself betray the cause. There is nothing that can be gained through deception. Neither will Mr. Smuts gain anything thereby. It is undoubtedly true, as I said earlier, that there exists a written document.{ Vide “Letter to Colonial Secretary”, 28-1-1908}1 If Mr. Smuts chooses to give a perverse reply about this letter, that does not prove that I was to blame [for having agreed to the compromise in the first instance].

I remember the warning given by a large number of Indians and whites. They told me not to trust General Smuts. I trusted him up to a point. There is nothing else one could have done. That is how political affairs always have been, and will be, conducted. When the two parties to a settlement know their strength, foul play can avail little. I believe the strength of the Indian community consists in its truth. General Smuts’ falsehood will prove unavailing in the face of that truth. To those who blame me, I have only this to say: ‘If you were sincere in your reproaches, you should join the satyagraha movement again. It was because I put my trust [in General Smuts] that I advised voluntary registration. We took a pledge to see to it that the law would be repealed; you and I have fought together to fulfil that pledge and let us now continue to do so. It will suffice if you do this. You deserve to be congratulated in that your suspicions have been justified. If, in the sequel, my trust turns out to have been ill-placed, I do not hold myself responsible, for I had no alternative then. Even if you think otherwise, the Indian community has lost nothing for having trusted [General Smuts]. For we shall gain more now if we stand together.’

To those who were pleased with me on account of the settlement, and who approved of it, I should say: ‘If General Smuts is bent on playing foul, it does not follow that the settlement itself deserves to be condemned. It has been nothing if not beneficial. If our strength is real, we will not retreat an inch. On the contrary, the more the other side attempts foul play, the better to advantage will our truth be set off. Diamonds shine the brighter for being strewn among stones. Learn to think of truth in this way.’ Whether or not those who have been angry with me or those who approved of my action join the (p.352) satyagraha campaign, my pledge stands. I will never submit to the obnoxious Act. I will fight it unto death, even if I should be the only one to do so. I hope Khuda-Ishwar will inspire the same thought in every Indian.

I remain your satyagrahi,


[From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 30-5-1908.]—pp.352-53


…. Those who were angry with the leaders for having prematurely called off the campaign have now an opportunity to prove their sincerity. They must make common cause with the others and boldly declare that they are ready to lay down their lives for the sake of the honour and rights of Indians. If the Indian community evinces this spirit forthe last time—for the present at any rate—we have no doubt that we will win a resounding victory….

The sword of satyagraha is far superior to the steel sword. Truth and justice provide its point; divine help is the hilt that adorns it. One who has the use of this sword has no cause to fear defeat. Therefore, brave Indians, arise, and without ado, draw the sword of satyagraha and fight unto victory! When Japan’s brave heroes forced the Russians to bite the dust of the battle-field, the sun rose in the east. And it now shines on all the nations of Asia. The people of the East will never, never again submit to insult from the insolent whites. [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 27-6-1908.]—p.406




M. S. Maurice

Nineteen centuries ago one of the greatest moralists of the world laid down his life in passive resistance to constituted authority in what was then a great centre of spiritual activity. The ground for the resistance was unquestionably valid, as it has continued down to this day a memorable and living example of loyal submission to human law, where such submission was not in direct conflict with the higher law of conscience. The resistance had reference to an injunction that a living faith in a superhuman or divine power was to be abjured, and a claim to spiritual kingship over a certain race of people was to be renounced in favour of the temporal power then existing. “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ, a King.” To Pilate’s question, after asking him whether he put the question of himself, Jesus said: “My Kingdom is not of this world: if My Kingdom were of this world then would My servants fight.” His death on the cross has ever been a unique episode in the world’s history—a magnificent example of what disobedience to the law really meant. There was no question as to the doubtful character of the authority which sought to enforce the decree of death by crucifixion. The illegal nature of the punishment was not in itself a matter of dispute. It was harsh; it was unjust; it was rigorous in the extreme; it was wholly unmerited. But he who found himself placed in subjection to the law as it then operated, and to the authority which asserted itself in carrying out that law, deemed it within his right, in obedience to his conscience, to resist both, but in a passive manner: there was no idea of resisting it by force. A combination of his servants and followers against the law would have been a direct condemnation of his faith. A concerted action to enforce his claim by physical means would have been derogatory to his moral character and to his high mission….(p.484) During the same epoch of Christian history, and but a few months after the consummation of Christ, a holy man met martyrdom at the hands of his adversaries. His offence was “speaking blasphemous words against Moses and against God”. He, however, proved a passive resister. His detractors proceeded to open violence. He was dragged out of the city and stoned to death. Upon the removal of Stephen a general persecution was raised against the Church people at Jerusalem. Men and women were haled and committed to prison. Thus passive resistance obtained Divine sanction, and men had recourse to it as the only effective weapon against tyranny and injustice and oppression….



We discussed in previous issues some books in the series The Wisdom of the East1….It contains extracts from the holy Koran, and reproduces the sayings of Arab thinkers on different matters. For instance, with reference to nobility, it is said that “He who disregards his own honour gets no good from an honourable lineage . . . . Learning and high principles cover the shame of low origin.”2… The book is full of rich thoughts having a bearing on our struggle for honour. The poet says: “Men see no fault in one who respects himself.” Then again: “Be ashamed in your own sight more than in the sight of men.” Once more: “He who respects not himself can have no respect for others.” And elsewhere it is said: “Life has no worth and this world has no happiness for a man who has lost his self-respect and abandoned himself to shamelessness.” Under Character, we have: “A man is truly religious when he is truly good.” Under Knowledge, we have: “A man without education is like a brave man without arms.” “Kings govern men and learned men govern kings.” “A wise man is not he who considers how he may get out of an evil, but he who sees to it that he does not fall into it.” On Truthfulness, it is said: “No man’s religion can be right unless his heart becomes right, nor can his heart become right unless his tongue is right. . . . That man is a hypocrite who prays and fasts, but is untruthful in what he says, false to his word, and unfaithful in discharging a trust.” Such are the golden sayings contained in this little book. We advise everyone who can read English to buy this book. [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 28-12-1907.]—p.35

1Vide “The Wisdom of the East”, 15-6-1907 and “The Wisdom of the East

Series”, 13-7-1907

2 The extracts quoted here have been collated with an English review published in Indian Opinion.



There is another dreadful habit, born of this very sin, which has spread among all classes of people. And that is the sensuality—adultery —prevalent among us. This matter can be touched upon only (p. 33) in brief…Adultery does not consist merely in sexual intercourse with another man’s wife. We are taught by every religion that there can be adultery even in intercourse with one’s own wife.  Sexual intercourse is justified only when it is the result of a desire for offspring. Ordinarily, it is observed that sexual intercourse is the result of passion, the birth of a child following merely as a consequence. India, in our judgment, is in such a miserable state that it is necessary at present for births to be reduced to a minimum. Therefore, whatever sexual intercourse takes place will for the most part be in the nature of adultery.  If this view is correct, it is the duty of every thoughtful Indian not to marry. In case he is helpless in regard to marriage, he should abstain from sexual intercourse with his wife. All this is quite difficult to practise. But there is no escape from it.  Otherwise we shall find it necessary to imitate the people of the West. They adopt monstrous methods to control child-birth. They start wars and allow large numbers of people to be destroyed and, having abandoned their faith in God, they only seek means of surrounding themselves with material comforts and luxuries….[From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 28-12-1907.]—pp.33-34



May 14, 1908


…Out of a false sense of prestige or mistaken notions of affection, we think of marrying off our boys and girls at a very early age. We spend a lot of money doing so and then look on sadly at the young widows. I do not suggest that people should not marry at all. But surely we should observe some limits. We marry off little boys and  girls and make them miserable. They have children and get into difficulties. Sexual intercourse is allowed by our shastras only for the purpose of progeny. For the rest it is sheer indulgence.

I do not see that we follow this path in the least. If what I say is true, by marrying off our children as early as we ourselves were married, we only make them sensual; and thus the tree of lust flourishes. I do not think this is religion whatever others may say. I shall say no more….

Respects from


2 Gandhiji’s cousins, the former the son of a paternal aunt From the Gujarati: Mahatma Gandhijina Patro, ed. by D. M. Patel, Sevak Karyalaya, Ahmedabad; 1921, and from the Hindi: Prabhudas Gandhi: Jivan-Prabhat; Sasta Sahitya Mandal, New Delhi; 1954.—p.311



…We in India are much given nowadays to imitation of the West. We do grant that it is necessary to imitate the West in certain respects. At the same time there is no doubt that many western ideas are wrong. It will be admitted on all hands that what is bad must be eschewed. The condition of Indians in South Africa is pitiable. We go out to distant lands to make money.  We are so taken up with this that we become oblivious of morality and of God. We become engrossed in the pursuit of self-interest. In the sequel, we find that going abroad does us more harm than good, or does not profit us as much as it ought to. All religions presuppose the moral law, but even if we disregard religion as such, its observance is necessary on grounds of common sense also. Our happiness consists in observing it. This is what John Ruskin@ has established. He has opened the eyes of the western people to this, and today, we see a large number of Europeans modelling their conduct on his teaching. In order that Indians may profit by his ideas, we have decided to present extracts from his book, in a manner intelligible to Indians who do not know English…. (p.318) we offer here is not really a translation. If we translated it, the common reader might be unable to follow some of the Biblical allusions, etc. We present therefore only the substance of Ruskin’s work. We do not even explain what the title of the book means, for it be understood only by a person who has read the Bible in English.1 But since the object which the book works towards is the welfare of all—that is, the advancement of all and not merely of the greatest number we have entitled these articles “Sarvodaya”.  [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 16-5-1908].— pp.318-19 (& 335-37; 349-51; 361-63; 368-69; 383-86; 407-08; 456-60)



Our summary of the great Ruskin’s book is now concluded. Though some may have been bored by it, we advise those who have read the articles once to read them again. It will be too much to expect that all the readers of Indian Opinion will ponder over them and act on them. But even if a law readers make a careful study of the summary and grasp the central idea, we shall deem our labour to have been amply rewarded. Even if that does not happen, the reward [of labour], as Ruskin says in the last chapter, consists in having done one’s duty and that should satisfy one.

What Ruskin wrote for his countrymen, the British, is a thousand times more applicable to Indians. New ideas are spreading in India. The advent of a new spirit among the young who have received western education is of course to be welcomed. But the outcome will be beneficial only if that spirit is canalized properly; if it is not, it is bound to be harmful. From one side we hear the cry for swarajya; from another, for the quick accumulation of wealth by setting up factories like those in Britain. (p.458)

…If we observe happenings all over the world, we shall be able to see that what people call swarajya is not enough [to secure] the nation’s prosperity and happiness. We can perceive this by means of a simple example. All of us can visualize what would happen if a band of robbers were to enjoy swarajya. In the long run they would be happy only if they were placed under the control of men who were not themselves robbers. America, France and England are all great States. But there is no reason to think that they are really happy.

Real swarajya consists in restraint. He alone is capable of this who leads a moral life, does not cheat anyone, does not forsake truth and does his duty to his parents, his wife, his children, his servant and his neighbour. Such a man will enjoy swarajya wherever he may happen to live. A nation that has many such men always enjoys swarajya.

It is wrong normally for one nation to rule over another. British rule in India is an evil but we need not believe that any very great advantage would accrue to the Indians if the British were to leave India. The reason why they rule over us is to be found in ourselves; that reason is our disunity, our immorality and our ignorance. If these three things were to disappear, not only would the British leave India without the rustling of a leaf, but it would be real swarajya that we would enjoy. (p.459)

…Just as we cannot achieve real swarajya, by following the path of evil—that is by killing the British—so also will it not be possible for us to achieve it by establishing big factories in India. Accumulation of gold and silver will not bring swarajya. This has been convincingly proved by Ruskin. Let it be remembered that western civilization is only a hundred years old, or to be more precise, fifty. Within this short span the western people appear to have been reduced to a state of cultural anarchy. We pray that India may never be reduced to the same state as Europe. The western nations are impatient to fall upon one another, and are restrained only by the accumulation of armaments all round. When [the situation] flares up, we will witness a veritable hell let loose in Europe….

To conclude, the demand of swarajya is the demand of every Indian, and it is a just demand. But swarajya is to be achieved by righteous means. It must be real swarajya. It cannot be achieved by violent methods or by setting up factories. We must have industry, but of the right kind. India was once looked upon as a golden land, because Indians then were people of sterling worth. The land is still the same but the people have changed and that is why it has become arid. To transform it into a golden land again we must transmute ourselves into gold by leading a life of virtue. The philosophers’ stone which can bring this about consists of two syllables: satya. If, (p.460) therefore, every Indian makes it a point to follow truth always, India will achieve swarajya as a matter of course. This is the substance of Ruskin’s book. [From Gujarati; Indian Opinion, 18-7-1908]

@ (1819-1900); a Scotsman and author of many books on architecture, painting, social and industrial problems, the place of women in society, etc; Slade Professor of Art in Oxford for some time; later became opposed to vivisection and usury and interested in workers’ education and co-operative industrial settlements. Together with Munera Pulveris, Unto This Last, which was published as a series of articles in Cornhill Magazine, expounds Ruskin’s social utopia. Gandhiji describes Ruskin as “one of the three moderns. . .who made a deep impress on me”. Unto This Last “brought about an instantaneous and practical transformation. . . .I arose with the dawn, ready to reduce these principles to practice”. Polak commended this book to Gandhiji who read it on the train journey between Johannesburg and Durban. VideAutobiography, Part IV, Ch. XVIII.

176. SPEECH AT Y.M.C.A., [JOHANNESBURG. {“Are Asiatics and the Coloured races a menace to the Empire?”}

The following address was given by Mr. M. K. Gandhi, Bar-at-Law, before the Y.M.C.A., Johannesburg, in moving the negative in a debate on the question, “Are Asiatics and the Coloured races a menace to the Empire?”

It seems to me somewhat remarkable that a question of this description should arise at all, or that there should be any debate whatsoever as to whether Coloured races are a menace to the Empire. I think that a question of that description could arise only in the Colonies or, better still, only in some of the Colonies. In a well-ordered society industrious and intelligent men can never be a menace. If they have any defects, the very order of the society corrects them. At the same time, we, as practical men and women living in this very practical age, have to face facts as they are and, seeing that questions of this description arise in the Colonies, it is undoubtedly well that we should discuss them and debate upon them; and, to my mind, it is a very happy augury for the future that your humble servant can be called upon to give his views on the question before an audience like this, and I think it is also a happy augury that this hall is so well filled, showing the keen interest taken in the subject.

By the term “Coloured people” generally, I think we understand only offspring of mixed marriages, but in connection with the question before us this evening, the term “Coloured people” has been taken more comprehensively, and has been made to include the Coloured people proper—the Africans and the Asiatics. My own observations and experience, as you know, are confined very largely to British Indians, my own fellow-countrymen, but in studying the Indian question, I have endeavoured to study the question as it affects the Africans and the Chinese. It seems to me that both the Africans and the Asiatics have advanced the Empire as a whole; we can hardly think of South Africa without the African races. And who can think of the British Empire without India? South Africa would probably be a howling wilderness without the Africans. I do not think that the white (p.320) man would have come to South Africa at all if there had been no Native races.

This brings me to the White Man’s Burden as Kipling has called it. His writings, to my mind, have been very much misunderstood. We know now also that he himself has very considerably, with extended experience, revised his views, and he no longer thinks that the Coloured people are a menace to the Empire, or that the white man may not coexist with the Coloured man. Be that as it may, he has certainly shown in some of his writings that it was really a responsibility thrown on the white people, more particularly on the British people, to act as trustees for the Coloured races. But have the white people acted as trustees? Would you consider that your own wards were a menace to yourselves? The majority of people in South Africa, the majority of people in most of the Colonies, have become impatient of colour, and it behoves every right-minded man and woman to think twice before he or she jumps to the conclusion that the Coloured people are a menace and that, therefore, they ought to be got rid of with the greatest possible despatch. We hear nowadays a great deal of the segregation policy, as if it were possible to put people in water-tight compartments. Captain Cooke has written to the papers1 and has taken the trouble of discussing the same question with me, and has propounded a policy of segregation. I had no hesitation in telling him that, in my own opinion, based now on 14 years’ observation and study, such a scheme, if it was meant to people some portions of East Africa with Coloured people only or, better still, with Asiatics only, was not possible of fulfilment. How are you going to restrict Asiatics to some parts of the earth only? Will they be content to have those portions of the earth which may be apportioned to them and which are unfit for white occupation? I have certainly never been able to find any justification for the colourbarrier. In the words of Mr. Chamberlain, it is possible to make distinctions on the ground of want of education, on the ground of criminality, or some such ground. Then there will be no cry of segregation. But from the present civilisation, or, rather, from western civilization, there flow two propositions which have almost become maxims to live by—I call them fallacious  m maxims. They are “might is right” and “survival of the fittest”. Those who have propounded these two maxims have given a meaning to them. I am not going into the meaning that might be attached in our minds to them, but they have said undoubtedly, by [saying] “might is right”, that physical might is right, that physical strength is right and (p.321) supreme. Some of them have also combined intellectual strength with physical strength, but I would replace both these with heart-strength, and I say that nobody with merely physical might and intellectual might can everenjoy that strength that can proceed from the heart. It never can be that mere intellectual or mere physical strength can ever supersede the heart-strength or, as Ruskin would say, social affections. A quickening and quickened soul responds only to the springs of the heart.

That1 is the difference between western and eastern civilization? I know that I am treading on very dangerous and delicate ground. We had the distinction given to us by so great an authority as Lord Selborne only a short time ago, and I have very humbly and very respectfully to differ from His Excellency’s views. It appears that western civilization is destructive, eastern  civilisation is constructive. Western civilization is centrifugal, eastern civilization is centripetal. Western civilisation, therefore, is naturally disruptive, whereas eastern civilization combines. I believe also that western civilization is without a goal, eastern civilization has always had the goal before it. I do not mix up or confuse western civilization with Christian progress. I decline to believe that it is a symbol of Christian progress that we have covered a large part of the globe with the telegraph system, that we have got telephones and ocean greyhounds, and that we have trains running at a velocity of 50 or even 60 miles per hour. I refuse to believe that all this activity connotes Christian progress, but it does connote western civilization. I think western civilization also represents tremendous activity, eastern civilization represents contemplativeness, but it also sometimes represents lethargy. The people in India, the people in China—I leave Japan for the time being—having been sunk in their contemplative mood, have forgotten the essence of the thing, they have forgotten that, in transferring their activity from one sphere of life to another sphere of life, they had not to be idle, they had not to be lazy. The result is that immediately they find an obstacle in their way, they simply sit down. It is necessary that that civilization should come in contact with that of the West, it is necessary that that civilization should be quickened with the western spirit.

Immediately that fact is accomplished, I have no doubt also that the eastern civilization will become predominant, because it has a goal. I think you will see easily that a civilization or a condition in which all the forces fly away from the centre must necessarily be without a goal, whereas those which converge to a point have always a goal. It is then (p.322) necessary for these two civilizations to meet and we shall have a different force altogether, by no means a menacing force, by no means a force that disunites, but a force that unites. The two forces are undoubtedly opposing forces, but perhaps in the economy of nature both are necessary. Only we, as intelligent human beings with heart and soul, have to see what those forces are, and have to use them, not blindly but intelligently, not anyhow and haphazard, but with a goal in view. Immediately that is done, there is no difficulty whatsoever in [the] two civilizations meeting and meeting for a good purpose. I have said that the African races have undoubtedly served the Empire, and I believe so have the Asiatic races or, rather, British Indians. Have not the British Indians fought on many a battle-field? A people, moreover, who have religion as the basis of life, cannot be a menace. And how can the African races be a menace? They are still in the history of the world’s learners. Able-bodied and intelligent men as they are, they cannot but be an asset to the Empire. I believe with Mr. Creswell that they ought not to be protected. We do not want protection for them in any shape or form, but I do believe this—that they are entitled to justice, a fair field and no favour. Immediately you give that to them, you will find no difficulty. Whilst, therefore, Asiatics and other Coloured people cannot be a menace, Asiatics at least have been made a menace in some Colonies…. (p.323)

…Whether he should have political rights or not is another question. I am not here today to discuss the political question at all. But there should be no two opinions as to whether he may live freely without being restricted, move freely without being restricted, own land, or trade honestly.1 British Indians and Englishmen have come together by Divine Providence. I may add, and I believe it is true, that, when the British occupied India, it was not owing to humanitarian grounds, but that the act was selfish and often tinged with dishonesty.

But Nature’s ways are inscrutable. She often unmakes what man makes and produces good out of evil. Such is, in my opinion, the casewith the British connection with India. I believe that the two races, the British and the Indian, have been brought together, not only for their own mutual advantage, but to leave an impress on the history of the world. Believing that, I also believe that it is well for me to be a loyal subject of the Empire, but not I hope a member of a subject race. I trust it is the mission of the English race, even where there are subject races, to raise them to equality with themselves, to give them free institutions and make them absolutely free men. If that be the mission of the Empire, the mission of the British race, then is it not as well that the millions of human beings should be trained for (p.324) self-government? If we look into the future, is it not a heritage we have to leave to post-erity, that all the different races commingle and produce a civilization that perhaps the world has not yet seen? There are difficulties and misunderstandings, but I do believe, in the words of the sacred hymn, “We shall know each other better when the mists have rolled away.” [Indian Opinion, 6-6-1908].—pp.320-25

1 Misprint for “What”?



“With an even mind face happiness and unhappiness, gain and loss, victory and defeat, and so join battle, thou son of Prithu; thou shalt incur no sin thereby.” {1 Bhagavad Gita, Ch. II v. 38} (p.120)

….Truth is God, or God is nothing but Truth. We come across this idea in every religion. It is a divine law that he who serves that Truth—that God will never suffer defeat. Sometimes men of truth appear to have failed, but that is no more than a fleeting appearance. In reality they are not defeated. When the result is not as we wanted it to be, we tend to think we have failed. But that which appears a defeat to us is often but victory itself. There are thousands of such instances [in history]. If, with some measure of truth on our side, we strive for a certain result and fail, the blame does not lie with truth but with us. If a particular result does not serve our good, God will not grant it, however much we may desire it. That is why we quote above a verse from the Gita, which says that we must fight on, with an equal mind, through happiness and unhappiness, gain and loss. If we do so, we shall incur no sin. This is a time- honoured solution. With that key, we shall be able to open the most unyiel-(p.121) ding of locks. He who fights in this manner will fight only in the name of God. He will give no thought to success or failure. He is pledged only to the great task of serving Truth, doing his duty in the name of God. The outcome itself is in the hands of the Lord Almighty. [From Gujarati, Indian Opinion, 8-2-1908].—pp. 120-22


Literature of Violence

As we have already noted, in most of the Hindu homes, they will never keep a copy of Mbh. or read it as part of their ritual of reading (like Sundarakanda of Ramayana or Hanuman Chalisa or any other sectarian) of scripture.  The main reason for this is the War that is always attached with Mbh.  In common people’s mind, the word Mbh. always brings the picture of the Great War that took place between the cousins.  So in one way, Mbh. could be described a literature of war and violence.  Though so many other teachings are found in Mbh., it is always assumed that all those teachings and events centered on the one event of war.  So few words about the war in Mbh. will help us to understand the overall teaching of Mbh.

One fact that we should keep in mind when we discuss about the war in Mbh. is that it is a war between the kings and not a war of invasion or oppression as we found in modern times.  In fact in ancient India war is considered as a necessary part of the kings—part of their dharma and maintenance and expansion of their kingdom.  So our modern perception about war and all ethics related with it cannot be applied to the War in Mbh.  As violence is (danda) is part of the methods of a king to rule, any or all violence related with War, particularly in Mbh. should be taken in that context.  This does not mean that all the wars in ancient India could be morally justified.  Because we found so many rules are recommended, at least in theory, though we cannot claim that they are strictly implement during the war, as we found enough evidence in Mbh. itself.

In this context we have to consider the teaching of Gita also as it is the integral part of Mbh.  People like Mahatma Gandhiji read a message of peace and non-violence in Gita (and he rejected the Krishna of Mbh. but accept that of Gita).  Whatever might be the message that one would like to read in Gita, no one can deny the fact that Krishna encouraged and even challenged Arjuna to give up his delusion and get ready for the war, which finally he accepted.  Whatever one could find and quote all the teaching of Mbh. (and also that of Gita) for peace and ahimsa, the reality is that a big war took place and it brought its natural consequence with it both pre and post war situation in Mbh.  But can this force us to conclude  that Mbh. as the literature of War?

Though every war is justified by one side, yet there were wars held in the human history which no one can justify for any reason.  Several wars happened because of ego of one individual (ruler?) or the lust for power and authority over other kingdoms and people.  Well, we need not dwell here long to discuss about the pro and against about any war.  But when it comes to the war in Mbh., I consider it not just another war but a JUST WAR.

Here I would like to share Prof. Arvind Sarma’s article.  As Prof. Sarma present the fact in a scholarly way, let me quote him completely:

Does the Bhagavadgita advocate war and violence?

It is easy to see how the Bhagavadgita may give rise to such an impression.  First of all, its setting points in that direction.  It is revealed while the opposing forces are poised ready for battle.  Second, Arjuna does not want to engage in combat but is ultimately persuaded to do so.  The  Bhagavadgita starts with Arujna too dejected to fight and ends as soon as Arjuna’s spirits have been revived.  Third, one of the arguments which Krsna uses to urge Arjuna to fight appeals to the fact that Arjuna is a ksatriya and it is his duty to fight.  And finally, when Krsna displays his cosmic form, not only a violent apocalypse is disclosed, but Krsna therein also tells Arujna that he has himself made short work of Arjuna’s enemies, who have in effect already been killed by Krsna (XI.33).  That is, he should formally finish the job.  Obviously then the Bhagavadgita seems to advocate war and violence.

If one examines the context closely, one realizes that war has almost commenced.  So the real issue is not whether war is good or bad but what is the duty of the warrior when war has as good as commenced.  It is this question which the Bhagavadgita answers.  It does not sit in judgement on whether war is right or wrong.  That question does not fit its case.  And its answer is that once the battle has commenced it is the duty of a soldier to fight.  One cannot become a conscientious objector after one has been mobilized.  So to ask whether the Gita advocates war or not is to ask the wrong question about it.

It is well known that Krsna himself went on a peace mission to the Kauravas, in one last-ditch effort to avoid the war.  He went as an ambassador whose person was held inviolable, otherwise it is impossible to negotiate.  And what did Duryodhana do?  Duryodhana tried to apprehend Krsna; Krishna assumed his cosmic form and broke loose.  Many are aware of Krsna’s theophany in the Bhagavadgita, fewer are aware of Krsna’s theophany in the Kuru court.  Let it be remembered that the first theophany of Krsna is in the context of a peace mission; when that mission fails and war breaks out, then the occasion for the better-known but second theophany presents itself.

Finally, the Mahabharata was not just a war, it was a just war.  It was when Duryodhana ‘needled’ the Pandavas, challenged the Pandavas that he would not let them have even as much land as the point of a needle without a fight, that the Pandavas had to join issue with the Kauravas, to assert their legitimate right to the throne.  The choice one was left with was that of letting injustice triumph over justice. If the Bhagavadgita, one
insists, advocates war despite the evidence adduced above, then let it be remembered that a just war is involved.  The Bhagavadgita does advocate that we fight for our right, and even then fighting alone is our right!

Chips From An Indic Workshop, Prof. Arvind Sarma, McGill University, MLBD Newsletter December 2002, p.16.

A Response (by me):
Added to this, if Arjuna refuses to fight for a just case, then he would set a bad example for people not to do their legitimate duty.  Above all, his refusal to fight that just war would justify the wrong done by Duryodhana. If Arjuna had allowed the ruler (King) not to uphold dharma, naturally it will lead people also to follow the ruler’s way (arasan yevazhi kudigal avazhi-citizens follow the path of the ruler– as the Tamil proverb says.  ‘yata raja tata praja’ is its Hindi equivalent) thereby he would incur the sin of misleading common people not to uphold dharma in their life.

However I do not agree Prof. Sarma’s view that ‘The Bhagavadgita does advocate that we fight for our right, and even then fighting alone is our right!’  Because sometimes in life we have to give up our right, not fighting our enemy and resign to the will of God or to the law of the land. Tirukkural, the famous Tamil poem says ‘The best way of punishing the evil-doers is to forget their harmful deeds and do good to them.’ (32:4). [Thirukkural, Translated by M. Rajaram, New Delhi, Rupa & Co. 2009, p. 64),  Muktiveda (Bible) also endorses this view by saying; ‘don’t do evil to evil but overcome evil by doing good’ (Romans 12:21).  In the life of Muktinath (Jesus) we see an example for this.  When He was arrested and falsely accused He refuse to fight for His right and resigned to the will of God (1 Pet. 2:23).  That’s why He could even forgive His offenders
while hanging on the Cross (Lk. 23:34).

We see the same example in the life of Arujna also.  King (Dridarashtara father of Duriyodana) refused to do justice and keep silence when his son refuse to return back to the Pandava’s their kingdom as per the condition; then the Pandavas first tried to settle the issue through peaceful negotiation.  And Krsna himself become the mediator.  But when the King because of his love for his son closed his eyes (already he was blind by birth) and his son refused to listen the counsel of his elders, then alone the Pandavas
resolved to fight for the just cause.  When the ruler (law) of the land refuses to do justice, then it is the duty of the mass to rise against such tyrannical rule (of law).  Because here it is not any ‘personal right’ of the Pandavas that is at stake, but dharma itself, which everyone should adhere for the smooth functioning of society.  Again we see the same in the life of Muktinath. While He refused to fight for His ‘right’, He was not hesitant to take the whip and chase the money lenders and illegal merchants from the courtyard of the Jerusalem temple, as they were corrupting the worship of God.

The reason for these comments is that ‘we fight for our right, and even then fighting alone is our right!’ might be misinterpreted and may promote personal ‘violence’ to fight for one’s own right. This kind of interpretation of ‘fighting for one’s own right’ is the main cause of fundamentalism and terrorism in this world. And I think that neither Gita nor Mahabharata or any other Scripture would support for such violence.  So the Pandavas fought not for their right but to uphold the dharma of doing justice and promoting the rule of law even at the cost of fighting against their own kith and kin and even the King.

It is better to give up one’s right for the sake of peace and common good. But if such passive ahimsa gives hope for the promotion of adharma and injustice, then one has to fight for her right.  Otherwise it will set a wrong example for people to follow the dictum of miscreants who will uphold their law of ‘might is right’.  So, fighting all the time for one’s own right will only promote disharmony and disunity among people.  And even our right should come under the scrutiny of dharma, law and justice.  Otherwise even a wrong cause might be promoted as right, instigating ‘fighting alone is our right’.

Dayanand Bharati, January 14, 2003. (revised on 03-03-2012)

Having shared this, I think it won’t be out of place for us to see what Mbh. says about War and rules related to it.  Here we can divide the subject on War in Mbh. as follows:

Merit of war, particularly for a Kshatriya

The study of Brahma, great fame, ascetic penances and death in battle are acts that lead men to heaven.  The attainment of heaven by the three other acts may be uncertain, but death in battle has heaven for its certain result. [Krishna to Jarasandha] (22:18)— M.N.[Manmatha Nath]  Dutt, Mahabharata, Delhi, Parimala Publications, 7 vols. Vol. I. 1988, SABHA PARVA p.353

43b. …  He that is prosperous should make war…. [Sanjaya to Dhritarashtra] —ibid. Vol. V. Shalya Parva. Ch. IV. P. 8

11. O king, you should not grieve for those who have been killed in battle. If the scriptures are authoritative all of them must have obtained the highest end. [Vidura to Dhritarashtra] —ibid. Vol. V. Stree Parva. Ch. II. p. 165

14. If killed, one acquires heaven. By killing, fame is acquired. Both of these, produce great merit. Battle, therefore, is not unproductive of good. [Vidura to Dhritarashtra] —ibid. Vol. V. Stree Parva. Ch. II. p. 165

16. By celebrating sacrifices with profuse gifts, by ascetic penances and by learning, men cannot, go so quickly to heaven as heroes killed in battle. [Vidura to Dhritarashtra] —ibid. Vol. V. Stree Parva. Ch. II. p. 165

43. One should never lament for a hero killed in battle. A killed hero, if nobody grieves for him, goes to heaven and acquires the respect of its residents. [Indra to Amvarisha]— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva. Ch. XCVIII. P. 145

4..…Look, these are the effulgent regions, reserved for those who fight fearlessly! Abounding with Gandharva girls, those regions are eternal and capable of granting every desire. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva. Ch. XCIX. P. 146

War as a Yajna

18. By celebrating sacrifices with enough presents, by practicing ascetic austerities, and by knowledge, people cannot so easily go to heaven as heroes by displaying courage in battle….20. They poured their libations of arrows upon the bodies of their brave enemies as upon a fire. Great as they were, they bore in return the libations of arrows poured upon themselves.—Vidura to Dhritarashtra] —ibid. Vol. V. Stree Parva Ch. IX. P. 172

15. Elephants are the Ritwijas of that sacrifice [war], and horses are its Addhyaryus.  The flesh of foes are its libations, and blood is its liquid offering….17. Masses of blazing, sharp, and well-tempered lances and spears, of swords and darts and axes form the ladles of the sacrifices….19. Sheathed in scabbard made of tiger skin and equipt with in ivory handle, and capable of cutting off the elephant’s trunk, the sword forms the wooden-sticks of this sacrifice….21. The blood that runs over the field for the fury of the  attack, forms the final libation…. 22. ‘Cut, Pierce,’ and such other sounds, that are heard in the front ranks of the army, are the Samans sung by its Vedic chaunters in the abode of Yama. 23. The front ranks of the enemy’s army form the vessel for keeping libations.  The number of elephant and horses and men equipt with shields form the Shyenachit fire of that sacrifice. 24. The headless trunks that rise up after thousands have been killed form the octagonal stake, made of Khadira (p.144) wood, for the hero who celebrates that sacrifice. 25. The cries of the elephant when urged on with hooks, form its Ida Mantras. The kettle-drums, with the striking of palms forming the Vashats…are its Trisaman Udgatri…26-37. The sages have said that that warrior, who considers the van of the hostile army as the quarters of his wives, who regards the van of his own army as the vessel for the preservation of sacrificial offerings, who takes the warriors standing to his south for his courtiers and those to his north as his holders of fire, and who regards the hostile army as his married wife, succeeds in acquiring all regions of felicity. 38. The open space, lying between two armies drawn up for fight, forms the altar of such a sacrificer, and the three Vedas are his three sacrificial fires.  Upon that altar, helped by the recitation of the Vedas, he celebrates his sacrifice. [Indra to Amvarisha]— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva. Ch. XCVIII. Pp. 144-45

War as the dharma for a Kshatriya

22….he that is engaged on behalf of another, should surely be protected by that other.  When such men are (p.236) themselves protected they can look after the protection of the king (on whose behalf they fight). [Bhurisravas to Arjuna]— —ibid. Drona Parva, Vol. 4 Ch. CXLIII, p. 236-37

Against war:

1..The king should acquire victories without battles. Victories won by battles are not spoken of highly….[Vamadeva to Vasumanas].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva. Ch. XCIV. P. 140

Rules in combat

30. Always being led by consideration of fitness, willingness, bravery and strength, one should strike another after having challenged him.  None should strike another who is confiding or who is panic-stricken. 31. One fighting with another, one seeking refuge, one retreating, one whose weapon is broken and one who is not clad in armour should never be struck. 32. Charioteers, animals, men engaged in carrying weapons, those who play on drums and those who blow conchs should never be smitten. [Vaishampayana to Janamejaya]—ibid. BHISHMA PARVA. Vol. III. Ch. I. p. 274.

25-26. O Bharata, the slaying of a man who is not engaged in a fight, or is unwilling to fight, or takes to flight, or seeks your shelter, or joins his hands, or gives himself up to you, or is insane, be he even a foe, is never upheld by the righteous. And your superior is even all this. [Krishna to Arjuna]. —ibid. Karna Parva. Vol. 4 Ch. XLIX. P. 511

108-09. Brave and pious heroes never shoot their arrows at persons with disheveled hairs, at those who fly away from the battle-field, at a Brahmana, at him who clasps his hands, at him who surrenders, at him who prays for quarter, at one who throws off his weapon, at one whose arrows are all gone, or at one whose weapon has fallen off or been broken. [Karna to Arjuna]. —ibid. Karna Parva. Vol. 4 XC. P. 561

20.. One should not use weapons against kine, Brahmans, kings, women, friends, one’s own mother, one’s own preceptor, a weak man, an idiot, a blind man, a sleeping man, a terrified man, one just got up from sleep, an intoxicated person, a lunatic, and one that is careless.  The ancient preceptors always preached this truth to men. [Ashwatthaman to himself] —ibid. Vol. V. Sauptika Parva. Ch. VI. P. 137

9. If the enemy fights deceitfully, he should be paid in his own coin. If, however, he fights fairly, he should be resisted with fair means. 10. One should not on horse-back run against a car-warrior.  A car-warrior should fight with a car-warrior. When an antagonist is in a bad plight, he should not be struck; nor should one who has been frightened, nor one who has been defeated. 11. Poisoned or barbed arrows should not be used…One should fight fairly, without giving way to anger or desiring to kill. 12. A weak or wounded man should not be killed, nor one who is sonless; nor one whose weapon has been broken; nor one who has falled into distress; nor one whose bowstring has been cut; nor one who has lost his car.  A wounded opponent should either be sent to his own home, or, if brought to the victor’s house, should have his wounds dressed by skilful surgeons. 13. When for a fair fight between two kings, a righteous warrior is reduced to straits, he should, when cured, be liberated.  This is the eternal duty. [Bhishma to Yudhisthira].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva.Ch. XCV. P. 141.

47. The aged and the children should not be killed; nor woman nor one who is flying away; nor one that holds a straw in his lips (sing of unconditional surrender); nor one who says—I am yours. [Indra to Amvarisha]— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva. Ch. XCVIII. P. 145

Punishment for the violation of rule of combat

23-24. ‘Hearing this fallacious argument from Keshava, O king, Rama failed to remove his anger and become cheerful. He then said in that assembly, ‘having unfairly killed the righteous king Suyodhana, the son of Pandu shall be known in the world as a wily warrior. 25. The righteous Duryodhana, on the other hand, shall acquire eternal blessedness!  Dhritarashtra’s royal son who has been struck down, is a fair warrior! [Sanjay to Dhritarashtra]. —ibid. Vol. V. Shalya Parva.  Ch. LX. P. 114

53. With all my well-wishers, and my younger brothers, I am going to heaven!  As regards yourselves, with your baffled purposes and racked with grief, live ye in this unhappy world. [Duryodhana to Krishna]. 54-56. ‘After the intelligent king of the Kurus, have said these words, a thick sky.  The Gandharvas beat many many charming musical instruments. The Apsaras in a chours sang the glory of king Duryodhana. The Siddhas cried,–Praise to king Duryodhana!  Sweet and delicious breezes mildly blew on all sides. All the quarters became clear and the firmament looked blue as the lapis lazuli. 57. Beholding these good signs, and this worship offered to Duryodhana, the Pandavas, with Vasudeva at their head, were put to shame. [Sanjaya to Dhritarashtra] —ibid. Vol. V. Shalya Parva.  Ch. LXI. p. 117

Some of the misconduct in war in Mbh.

26-28. Forgetting his poignant and unbearable pains, Duryodhana began to assail Vasudeva with keen and bitter words.—‘O son of Kansa’s slave, it seems you have no shame, for you have forgotten that I have been struck down most unfairly, according to the rules of mace-fighting?  It was you who unfairly caused this act by reminding Bhima about the breaking of my thighs. Do you think I did not mark it when Arjuna (under your advice) hinted to it to Bhima?….30. Having daily bought about a great carnage of heroic warriors, you at last caused the Grandshire to be slain by placing Shikhandin to the front. 31. Having again caused an elephant of the same name of Ashwathama to be killed, O ye of vicious principle, you made the preceptor lay aside his weapons. Do you think that this is not known to me?….33. The dart that had been begged (of Shakra as a boon) by Karna for the destruction of Arjuna, was baffled by you through Ghatokach!  Who is there that is more sinful than you…..36. When again the wheel of Karna’s car sank in mire and Karna was assisted with calamity and almost defeated on that account, and—when, he became anxious to free his wheel,–you caused that Karna to be then slain! 37. If he had fought me and Karna and Bhisma and Drona by fair means, victory then, forsooth, would never had been yours. 38. By adopting the most wily and unfair means you have caused the death of many kings observant of the duties of their order and of ourselves as well.  [Duryodhana to Krishna]. —ibid. Vol. V. Shalya Parva.  Ch. LXI. p. 116

58. Hearing the invisible voice that Bhishma and Drona and Karna and Bhurishravas were killed unfairly, they were afflicted with remorse and wept in grief. 59-60. Seeing the Pandavas stricken with anxiety and grief, Krishna addressed them in a voice deep as that of the clouds of the drum, saying,–“All of them were great car-warriors and quick hands in weapons!  If ye had displayed all your prowess, even then ye could never have killed them in battle by a fair fight. 61. King Duryodhana also could never be killed in a fair fight!  The same is the case with all those powerful car-warriors led by Bhishma. 62. For doing you good, I repeatedly applied my illusory powers and caused them to be killed by various means in battle. 63. If I had not adopted such deceitful ways in battle, you would never have been victorious, nor could have gained kingdom or wealth. 64. These four were very great warriors and regarded as Atirathas in the world, The very Regents of the Earth could not kill them in fair fight. 65. Likewise, the son of Dhritarashtra, when armed with the mace, could not be killed in fair fight by Yama himself, armed with his bludgeon. 66. Ye should not mind that this enemy of yours has been killed deceitfully. When the number of one’s enemies become great, then destruction should be brought about by wily ways. 67. The gods themselves, in killing the Asuras, have followed same path. The way, that was followed by the celestials, may be followed by all. [Krishna to Pandavas]. —ibid. Vol. V. Shalya Parva.  Ch. LXI. P. 117

Facts and figures of War in Mbh.

9. One billion six hundred and sixty millions and twenty thousand men have been killed in this battle. 10. The number is twenty-four thousand one hundred and sixty five heroes that have escaped’. [Yudhishthira to Dhritarashtra]. —ibid. Vol. V. Stree Parva Ch. XXVI. P. 190

Justification of war

28. The gods, through civil war, have secured footing in the celestial region. When the very gods have won their prosperity through civil war, what fault can there be in such quarrels? [Arujna to Yudhishthira].— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva Ch. VIII. P. 9

Circumstance of a war

154. The circumstances under which peace is to be made or war declared changes as speedily as the clouds changes their form. This very day you were my enemy.  This very day again, you became my friend. This very day you have again become my enemy.  Mark the considerations that move living creatures! 155. There was friendship between us as long as there was necessity for the same (p.203) That reason, the outcome of time, is gone. Without it, that friendship also has passed away. 156. You are by nature my enemy.  From circumstances you became my friend. That state of things has gone away. The old but natural state of enmity has returned…. 158…Each of us has served the other.  There is no need for us for becoming friends again. 159. O amiable one, your object has been accomplished.  The object I had, has also been accomplished.  You do not require me except to make me your food. [the mouse Palia to Cat Lomasha after helping him to escape from the net at the same time saving himself from the Owl Chandraka with the help of the Cat by hiding under him till the hunter comes]— ibid. Vol. 6. Shanti Parva. Ch. CXXXVIII, pp. 203-204

Gurukulam, June 18, 2011