Having progressively crossed the different evolutionary stages since the distant past human beings have at last reached the present stage . The journey has not been solitary: People have advanced together in society. Even in the primitive past, humans lived in clans and tribes, for alone they could not easily procure the means of livelihood. An individual who totally shuns collective life finds existence difficult, for humans are essentially social beings. Whenever one thinks of a human being one automatically thinks of the society in which he or she lives. Human existence is thus two-sided — individual existence and collective existence — and as such it has two sets of values : social values and human cardinal principles.
The social values of human beings are ascertained on the basis of social responsibilities. As a member of society a person has to discharge certain duties and responsibilities. Those who shoulder great responsibility are naturally accorded due recognition and respect, because the good of all depends upon the proper execution of one’s duties.
An analysis of history will show that in the warrior (ks’attriya) era kings and emperors were honoured most. In their courts everyone bowed before them in spontaneous respect for they had conquered the hearts of the people by virtue of their heroism, valour and chivalry. During the intellectual (vipra) era the warriors and other social classes were so overwhelmed by the intellectual might of the ruling class — which they had used to invent various things to further human welfare — that they surrendered before them. The intellectuals were regarded as wise because their intellectual research benefitted the common people. Out of awe and respect everyone prostrated at the lotus feet of these great people.
The truth is that human beings have always and everywhere paid tribute to social values, but never, not even for a moment, has anyone respected human cardinal principles.
Human Cardinal Principles
Human cardinal principles are the silver lining between the psycho-spiritual and spiritual strata of human existence. The meeting point of the spiritual and psycho-spiritual strata is called the human cardinal stratum. Human existence is trifarious, a combination of three currents: physical, mental and spiritual. Most people cannot transcend the limits of their physical existence: crude worldly pleasures become the only enjoyment of their lives. They embody all that is beastly in nature, goaded and tormented as they are by carnal desires. The subtle feelings of life, the subtle expressions and practices are beyond their reach. Their world is limited to their bodies and physical requirements.
Other people are more concerned with their minds . They feel that it is the supremacy of the mind that has differentiated them from animals. Their lives are guided by their desires for mental satisfaction. By virtue of their endeavours they create poetry, art, music, sculpture, etc. They express the finer human feelings of mercy, sympathy, love, friendship and pity. They believe that the mind flows for the sole purpose of attaining the Infinite, and hence they focus their energies on the contemplation of the Transcendental Entity. They are the spiritual aspirants, they alone are worthy of being called human beings. Drawn by the magnetic attraction of the Cosmic Consciousness they speed forward and reach the stage which marks the end of mental existence and the beginning of spirituality. At that stage one is no longer a human being, one is a veritable god. It is the duty of every person to reach this confluence of the mental and spiritual strata. It is the pinnacle of human progress. The point where humanity ceases to exist as it merges in divine beatitude. The culminating point of animality is the commencement of humanity. The highest peak of human progress is the beginning of divine bliss. Where animality ends, humanity begins, where humanity ends, divinity begins. The meeting point of the highest attainment of humanity and the blossoming of divinity is the base on which the cardinal human principles are established.
A glimpse through human history reveals that nowhere have human values been truly honoured. What is worse, nobody has looked upon humanity with sympathy. Only those were respected who, by serving their self-interests, climbed onto the higher rostrum of society. It is difficult to step down from the high position of vainglory to rub shoulders with the downtrodden. The neglect of humanity was particularly acute towards the end of each era of the social cycle. The progeny of the noble warriors, on gaining power, engaged themselves in the pursuit of pleasure and comforts, utterly neglecting their sacred duty to serve their subjects. They never cared to know people’s suffering. They were not concerned by the bent old man, decimated by poverty in the Himalayas, being mercilessly beaten by a royal servant for defaulting on his tax payment. Kind-hearted and philanthropic kings did exist, but was there any king who, besides meeting the psycho-physical needs of his people,opened the gateway to realisation of the Infinite? For self-aggrandisement and in a bid to conquer the world they invaded countries, one after another. How could they afford to inquire into the tragic plight of the common people?
The era of intellectuals illustrated the same thing: the scholarly vipras were hardly accessible to the common people. The innocent masses were busy appeasing the vipras with oblations, honorariums and floral offerings. Where was the time for them to take of the needy families of the poor neighbourhoods who were perhaps dying of starvation? And what would be the material benefit of such an action? Service to the poor would pay nothing, so let them go to hell, let them die en masse. So nobody had anything to do with the poor. And anyway, the intellectual class were busy with worship, prayer and observance of sacraments. All their energies were spent in the appeasement of the gods and goddesses enthroned in the temples, churches or mosques. There was simply no opportunity to inculcate more humane qualities. According to the scriptures of the intellectual class, a temple made of bricks and wood was of more value than humanity itself. Suppose an old beggar, numbed with the cold chill of the night, is standing wearily in front of a temple, his begging bowl empty. The temple is reverberating with ringing bells, and the deity is being worshipped in accordance with the scriptural dictates. While the devotees stand before the deity with hands folded in reverence, the beggar shivers bitterly outside. On completing the ritual, the people leave the temple one by one, followed by the priest. The beggar entreats him to let him sleep in one corner of the temple, but the priest replies emphatically, “I can’t afford to pollute the temple for your sake.” And the old man has to trudge into the world of uncertainty, and perhaps bury himself in the coffin of the cold. The sanctity of inert wood and bricks is valued more than a man’s life.
Notions of vice and virtue, codes of justice and scriptural texts — which are claimed to be the word of God — have been formulated by different religions to further vested interests. Those who oppose the scriptures or the system they propound are subject to severe punishment. To socialize with a person of a different caste is a great sin and those who commit such sacrilegious acts will be excommunicated. They have to make atonement according to scriptural decree, and sometimes the magnitude of their penance may be the cause of their death. If they plea for a milder dose of punishment, the priests express their helplessness: one cannot defy the scriptures!
Those who are ensnared by the scriptures cannot be expected to know the value of human life. It takes millions of years, lives and stages to get a human body. But nobody knows how many invaluable lives have been nipped in the bud, or how many innocent lives have been slaughtered at the altar of the scriptures.
Vice and virtue are the outcome of mental perversion under the influence of time, space and person. The mental perversion which is vice in one country or in one age passes for virtue in another country or another age. Thus it is unwise to attach absolute importance to the notion of vice and virtue nurtured by some individuals at a given time. Vice and virtue have their origins either in religious faith or social prejudices,as a of natural or other causes, and they undergo changes in time, space and person. In ancient India grief-stricken wives, mourning the death of their husbands, were dragged pitilessly onto the funeral pyre and burnt to death. Those who did this remained unaffected because according to the their scriptures it was a virtuous act. Today, however it is treated as a vice.
These fabricated religious injunctions have been a repeated cause of exploitation. Placing blind faith in the scriptures people used to derive pleasure from cruel human sacrifice. The scriptures also proclaimed that to live the life of a virgin was a vice. Hence, it was not uncommon for a nine year old girl to be forced to marry an old man waiting at the jaws of death. After the death of her old spouse, hymns were chanted to make the young bride believe that she was destined to return to her husband after her own death and had no right to turn a new leaf in this life by marrying again. What a tragic existence for a sentimental woman to have to live a life of austerity to ensure unison with a husband in the life hereafter.
Polygamy, on the other hand,was not forbidden for men. A woman who was married to a man having a number of wives suffered a life of misery due to her co-wives. The folk lores or doggerels bear an excellent testimony to this: “Peace will come with my co-wife’s death. Oh what joy! I shall kill my co-wife and adorn my arm with bangles.” Even today within the same social group the cutting remarks of the mother-in-law and the husband’s sisters rob the wife of her zest for life. The story goes that a wife had her rice rationed to one earthen cup full by her mother-in-law. One day,as luck would have it , that measuring cup broke into countless pieces. Oh, what joy the wife felt. But the mother-in-law cruelly remarked, “The small earthen cup has broken, but the big one is left for us. Your joy is in vain, daughter-in-law, for my hand will now be your measure.” Can there be any greater cruelty than this? Even when supplying the minimum requirements meanness was perpetrated with such cruelty.
The inhuman rules and regulations and tortures inside the house filled a woman’s life with bitterness. Nobody knows how many have wept away sleepless nights having suffered tortures for which no redress was possible. The dogma of the scriptures crushed their emotional feelings, their hopes and aspirations like a steam roller flattening soft clay. Nobody has paid any heed to their sobs and tearful outbursts. The irrational social dictates based on vice and virtue have been a perennial source of injustice for human beings. Humanity has always been hated and trampled.
I repeat that no scripture should gain supremacy by slighting or neglecting humanity. Scriptures should be written to further human progress. They should provide rules, but these rules should in no way send humanity to its grave. Their utility lies in promoting freedom from bondage and leading humanity along the path of union with Cosmic Consciousness, the source of everything. Scriptures that throttle society to death or arrest its natural movement, should never be accepted.
Vice and virtue should be defined in the interest of human values not on the whims of certain individuals. People must move towards that stage which is the zenith point of human progress and from which no further advancement is possible. That which blocks this movement is vice and that which facilitates it is virtue. To exploit an individual, a group or the entire society for one’s own interest or the interest of the group is vice. To rob a person of the right to exist is also vice. There should be scope to punish such acts; but punishment is not an end in itself. If punishment kills or prevents one from progressing along life’s path, it may also be treated as vice. Punishment should be for rectification. The penal code will be based on human values. Ananda Marga’s social treatise states: First use sweet words and inform the offender of their mistake. Then use harsher words to convince them of the social damage caused by their actions. In the third stage, inform them about the possibility of penal measures. And in the fourth stage, if the situation warrants such action, take penal measures against him, but remember, punishment should be inflicted humanely.
Those who commit acts of vice, for whatever reasons should be given scope for rectification. If they fail to realise what they have done, they should be convinced by logical argumentation. If they ignore such reasoning they will be liable for punishment. Only the offenders themselves will be punished — under no circumstances will their relatives be punished too. Penal measures will be withdrawn as soon as the offenders have corrected themselves. An entire life should not have to be wasted over a single act of vice. On no account should anybody be branded forever.
Those who worship a marble deity in the dark corner of a temple and neglect the poor multitudes — who are themselves an embodiment of God — gain nothing in this life nor for the life hereafter. The neglect of a person who is the embodiment of God is tantamount to neglecting God Himself. A truly righteous person realises that God does not confine Himself to the temple, but manifests Himself in His creation.
Why are you lying in the gloom of the temple?
Raise your eyes. Look! God is not confined to four walls.
He has gone where the farmers are tilling and toiling all year round.
- Rabindranath Tagore
In the intellectual era, humanity was affronted by the creation of divisions between high and low. People of high-birth would lose their caste if they merely stepped on the shadow of the so-called low-castes. Even worse, if a Vedic Brahman touched a person from a low family he was declared an outcaste. In no other age has humanity suffered such hatred and insult. Rabindranath says, “By standing aloof from your fellow man daily, you have hated the God enthroned in his heart”.
Instead of hating anyone, the spiritual revolutionaries (sadvipras) will encourage everyone to build good careers. This will be their principle duty. None should feel that they have been doomed for good.
The Present Age and Human Values
At present life is valued on the basis of money.
Yasya’stivittam sah sarah kuliinah sah panditah
Sah shutaban gunagnah sa eva vakta’sa ca darshaniiyah
Sarve gunah kancana’ma’ trayanti.
That is, these days, a person who possesses wealth is respected and revered whereas a person without money is a person honoured by none . The poor, whoever they may be, have to woo the rich just for the sake of earning their livelihood. Human values have become meaningless,for human beings have become the means for the rich to earn money. The rich, having purchased the human mind with their money, are busy playing a game of chess with the other members of society. Bereft of everything, people toil round the clock to earn a mere pittance. Today the motto of people is , “I have to send some food particles into the apathetic stomach after somehow taking a dip in the muddy water amidst hyacinths”.
Those who are at the helm of society, constantly suspicious of others, forever count their losses and profits. They have no desire to think about the plight of humanity. Rather, to gratify themselves they are ready to chew the human bone, and suck human blood. For the self-centred there is no place for feelings of mercy, sympathy or camaraderie. The railway stations and market places are full of half-clad beggars and lepers desperately stretching out their begging bowls, earning their livelihood in the only way they know. They are fortunate if anyone contemptuously flings them a copper coin. The old blind beggars sitting all day long on the steps of a bridge automatically lift their bowls whenever anyone walks past. But their hungry pleas fall on deaf ears. On the other side of the social coin, sumptuous dishes are being prepared to entertain the rich dignitaries. These contrasts ridicule the present human society.
Today, those who occupy high posts are also respected. Dignity is attached to post or rank. A station master will take great pains to prepare the railway minister’s visit, but will never trouble himself with the inconveniences faced by the ordinary passengers. Luxurious houses are built for high-ranking officers while the poor live in shanty towns, barely protected from the elements. I don’t say that large houses should never be built, but that everyone should be provided the minimum requirements. “I admit that both rice and tasty dishes are necessary for people, but I shall not demand a sumptuous dish from the goddess of food until I see that India has been overflooded with an abundance of rice.”
These days educated people are so proud of their erudition that they detest illiterate people and avoid the company of commoners. Thus they shun village life and live in towns. When the question of returning to the village crops up, they say, “What on earth would we do in a village? There’s not a single person to talk to. Only idiots live there.” This explains why almost all attention is focussed on the urban areas to the detriment of the villages. While soliciting votes, political leaders pay a short visit to the villages with a mouthful of attractive promises. They promptly inform the ignorant populace about their great achievements in constructing huge dams; though perhaps village cultivation is becoming impossible due to want of irrigation. They give detailed descriptions about their plans to build bridges and bungalows and install television sets, though perhaps in that village people die for want of medicine, or beg for food in poverty-stricken desperation. And yet the common villagers constitute the backbone of society. Even in the towns not everyone gets equal opportunities. The pavements have become the home for so many people. Rabindranath says, ” There are always a number of uncelebrated people in the human civilization. They are the majority, and they are the medium, but they have no time to become human beings. They are raised on the leftovers of the national wealth. They are poorly dressed and receive little education, yet they serve the rest of society. They give maximum labour but are rewarded with ignominy — they die of starvation or are tortured to death by those they serve. They are deprived of all life’s amenities. They are the candlestick of civilization: they stand erect with the candle resting on their head. Everyone gets light from it, while they suffer the discomfort of the wax trickling down their sides. In this way, the dishonest of humanity or the neglect of human values has become a social malady.”
Another glaring example of the neglect of human values is the present judicial system. When arrested, people have to stand in the dock for the accused and face a trial based on evidence and the lawyer’s eloquence, no matter if they are guilty or not. A criminal who can afford to hire a reputable lawyer may emerge from the legal processes unscathed, whereas an innocent person of meagre financial means who is unable to appoint a good counsel, may end up in prison. If a thief is set free it is a crime, no doubt; but if an innocent person is punished it is a severe dishonour to humanity.
One of the primary causes of crime today is the lack of virtuous people. Those who are honest try to follow moral principles in their private lives, but at times have to abandon moralism under the pressure of poverty. Eventually they may find themselves in the dock of the accused, charged with committing theft. The law is not concerned with the poverty which forced them to steal, nor, indeed, does the law make provisions for the maintenance of their families if they are given a prison sentence. As a consequence, their children will have to become pick-pockets and petty thieves and their unfortunate wives have to embrace an ignoble and sinful life in the underworld, for survive they must. On being released from jail, the men will meet social discrimination and alienation and, with little other choice, will be forced to select crime as their profession. In this way hundreds of families are being ruined each day. Nobody feels their agony or offers them sympathy; for today the common people are not anybody’s concern.
The black marketeers who escape punishment by virtue of money are now occupying the commanding positions in society — the more one is devious and hypocritical, the more powerful one becomes.
To spiritual revolutionaries the value of human life surpasses all other values. So states and scriptures, societies and religions, acquire significance only insofar as they develop humanity to the maximum through learning, culture, physical health and economic plenty. It is for the sake of developing humanity that civilization has so many institutions of different kinds, that states take their various forms, that theories proliferate, and that the scriptures abound in ordinances and regulations. What in the world does the state stand for, what is the use of all these regulations, and what are the marvels of civilization for, if people are prevented from manifesting themselves, if they do not get the opportunity to build good physiques, to invigorate their intelligence with knowledge, or to broaden their hearts with love and compassion? If, instead of tending to lead human beings to the goal of life, the state stands in the way, it cannot command loyalty, because humanity is superior to the state. According to Rabindranath Tagore, “Justice and law at the cost of humanity is like a stone instead of bread. Maybe that stone is rare and valuable, but it cannot remove hunger.”
It is customary to give preference to social value over human value. The spiritual revolutionaries want to strike at the root of this custom. For them, human value takes precedence over social value. Human beings form the society, and hence human value must lay the foundation for the social value. In other words, those who show respect to human value will be entitled to social value. It was mentioned earlier that human value means nothing but to treat the joys and sorrows, hopes and aspirations of human beings sympathetically, and see them merged in Cosmic Consciousness and established in divine majesty. And if one is to elevate oneself to that sublime height, he or she will have to be supplied with an environment suitable to his or her physical, mental and spiritual existence. It is the birthright of everyone to make headway in their trifarious existence. It is the duty of society to accord recognition to this human right. Society has failed to do its duty, and that is why life is full of sorrow and suffering.
No one can say for certain that no great person might have emerged from among those wayward urchins whom we are wont to slight and hate. Women who have turned to prostitution for the sake of their physical existence might have grown into noble personalities if their agony had been appreciated sympathetically, and if they had been rehabilitated by society. But since society has nothing to do with human value, a good number of great personalities are withering away in their embryonic stage. The sadvipras will undertake to revive this neglected section of humanity. To them no sinner is contemptible, no one is a rogue. People turn into satans or sinners when, for want of proper guidance, they are goaded by depraving propensities. The human mind goaded by depraving propensities is satan. If their propensities are sublimated, they will no longer be satans; they will be transformed into gods. Every course of action of society ought to be judged with an eye to the dictum “Human beings are divine children.”
Thus the purpose of the penal code which will be framed by the spiritual revolutionaries will be to rectify, and not to punish, a person. They will knock down the prisons and build reform schools, rectification camps. Those who [are] inborn criminals, in other words, those who perpetrate crimes because of some organic defects, ought to be offered treatment so that they may humanize themselves. And regarding those who commit crimes out of poverty, their poverty must be removed.
The significance of society lies in moving together. If in the course of the journey anybody lags behind, if in the darkness of night a gust of wind blows out anyone’s lamp, we should not just go ahead and leave them in the lurch. We should extend a hand to help them up, and rekindle their lamps with the flames of our lamps.
Vartika’ laiya’ ha’te calechila ek sa’the
Pathe nibe geche a’lo pare a’che ta’i
Tomra’ ki daya’ kare tulibena’ ha’th dhare
Ardhadan’d’a ta’r tare tha’mibena’ bha’i.
“While marching together with lamps in our hands, someone’s lamp has gone out, and he is lying beside the road. Brothers and sisters, will you not stop for a moment to lift him up? Stop we must, otherwise the spirit of society is in jeopardy.”
A sage (rsi) has said:
Samamantren’a ja’yate iti sama’jah.
“Society is the collective movement of a group of individuals who have decided to move together towards a common goal”.
That is, whether people are [sinners or victims (pa’pii or ta’pii) , thieves, criminals, or characterless individuals, they are so only superficially; internally they are filled with the potential for purity. The principal object of the sadvipras is to explore and bring this potentiality into play. They will accord human value to everyone without exception. Those who have done hateful crimes must be punished, but the spiritual revoultionaries will never hate them, or put an end to them by depriving them of food, because sadvipras are humanists. The pandits puffed up with vainglory could turn their attention to their books instead of attending on the ailing non-Hindu Haridas, but Chaitanya Mahaprabhu found it impossible to remain indifferent to him. He took Haridas in his arms and nursed him carefully, and thus showed respect to human value.
However, when the question of social responsibility arises, it must be considered with great care. Irresponsible people cannot be entrusted with social responsibility, because those who shoulder social responsibility will have to lead humanity on the path of development, and correct the ways of sinners. If they themselves are of evil mentality, it will not be possible for them to discharge their social responsibility. It has been said: “The collective body of those who are engaged in the concerted effort to bridge the gap between the first expression of morality and establishment in universal humanism is called society.” So social responsibility should be entrusted to those who are capable of discharging it creditably. If moralism is the starting-point of the journey of society, then those who are at its helm must be moralists. And since society aims to establish universalism, those people must be universalists. And if the gap between moralism and universal humanism is to be bridged, spiritual effort (sa’dhana’) is a must, so those people must practise rigorous meditation. Their philosophy of life must be:
“Morality is the base, spiritual effort is the means, and life divine is the goal.”
This great responsibility must never be entrusted to those who are themselves criminals. Unless and until such people correct themselves, they will not be given any social value, though in no way will they be denied human value. At present social value is given importance, but those who are selected to discharge social responsibility do not possess the aforesaid qualities. They have occupied their posts on the strength of their money or on the basis of patronage, but this has not resulted in any collective welfare. That is why there is an instruction in our social scripture:
Do not be misled by anyone’s tall talk. Judge merit by seeing the performance. Remember, whatever position one is in offers sufficient opportunity to work. One whose character is not in accordance with Yama-Niyama should not get opportunity to become a representative … to invest an incompetent person with power means to push society towards destruction knowingly and deliberately.
The spiritual revolutionaries will install qualified persons in power, and the social order which will be evolved by virtue of their leadership will give due importance to one and all. In this new society based on Neo-humanism, everyone will find their life worth living. All will regain their lost positions of honour.
Published in A Few Problems Solved Part 2 (also published in Prout in a Nutshell Part 7 and Supreme Expression Part 2 )
Copyright Ananda Marga Publ. 2011