Tuesday, November 10, 2009

renounce smaller selfish interests for the bigger good - त्यजेत् कुलार्थे पुरुषं

renounce one person for the sake of the family,
a family for the sake of village;
village for the sake of country and
even the [kingdom of] earth for one's own sake.

tyajet kulArthe puruSham grAmasyArthe kulam tyajet |
grAmam janapadasyArthe AtmArthe pRithivIm tyajet ||

त्यजेत् कुलार्थे पुरुषं ग्रामस्यार्थे कुलं त्यजेत् |
ग्रामं जनपदस्यार्थे आत्मार्थे पृथिवीं त्यजेत् ||

this is a very much misunderstood shloka, and the misunderstanding comes from not taking in account the context, the speaker and the essence of the statement. this shloka appears in many shloka collections, including panchatantra and hitopadesha. the earliest reference seems to be in vidura neeti 5-17, which is part of the larger mega-epic mahAbhArata.

the wise minister vidura, of the kuru super-empire, is advising the emperor dhRitarAShTra to follow the path of dharma, right conduct, and not to let unfair things happen due to power intoxication or familial attachment. the emperor was literally blind, but metaphorically blind in parental attachment to his son duryodhana, and lets him get away with some of the most blatant and unfair thing he does out of jealousy and ego. duryodhana, the son was not ignorant of the right conduct, but he accepted he had a natural liking for a-dharma, even though knowing well he was doing wrong.

there are three common misunderstanding regarding this shloka -
#1. that the sacrifice of the [good of] smaller unit SHOULD be done to be able to get the good of the larger unit. this makes it a prerequisite to the greater good, which is not so.

#2. that this justifies mass killing like that done by Mao, Stalin, Naxal insurgents of india in the name of greater good. even eminent thinker like gurcharan das got this one wrong.

#3. giving it a spiritual spin, the last part is translated as 'abandon the [attachment to this material] world for your own moksha, nirvana.' i.e. leave worldly attachment, only then you will be able to liberate yourself.