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Welfare state, Liberalism and Nationalism: Prof.Dr.K.S.Narayanacharya

The prolific acharya, Ṡrīman U.Ve K.S.Narayanacharya shares his thoughts in a lecture at Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs (Indina Jeevanada mele Mahabharatada Belaku 05). The following is an English translation of some of the core message in that speech. Some of his terminology is non-translatable. In those cases I’ve given his original words in Sanskrit or Kannada, along with an approximate translation.

“Do you think it is a leader’s job to take others with him to disaster? Politics (rājakiya) doesn’t exist for mōkṣa – they are separate, secular. A leader should establish such a state where people can satiate their artha (economic progress) and kāma (pursuit of happiness) – both rooted in dharma. This is the essence of politics mentioned in all our scriputes – Ramayana, Mahabharata, Harivamṡa Purana, Vishnu Purana, Bhāgavata Purana and Kautilya’s Arthaṡāstra. Dharma means vyavasthā , suvyavastha (establishment, statute). Even when a citizen wants to pursue mōkṣa, it should be facilitated. ”Rājā kālasya kāraṇam. Rājā rāṣtrasya kāraṇam“ – There is no separate, personal happiness for a king, says Chanakya. Just like a pregnant mother protects, nourishes a baby in her womb, even without the baby asking for it, in thus manner, a king should anticipate the needs of his people and fulfil them – water supply, schools, electricity. The government should go to the steps of its people. People shouldn’t have to seek at the footsteps of the parliament. This is our expectation from a government for thousands of years in this country.”

"Dharmarāja Yudhiṣṭhira was fully qualified in this respect. However, he had the same two weaknesses that our country has been experiencing in the past 50–60 years (since 1947):

  1. Taking Ahiṃsā to its excessive redundancy (atirēka).
  2. Taking Dharma to be the same at all circumstances, without thinking front or back.

“Dhāraṇāt dharmam ity āhuḥ” – that which upholds is Dharma. Dharma is for living. Living together. Dharma cannot be translated at all. Westerners have no idea of this concept. “Bread that is bread, ale that is ale” – a baker, a brewer must prepare unadulterated products which all the people can eat and drink and be happy. That is their idea of a welfate state. They have no ideology of a dharma-rājya. We’ve imported this idea of democracy to India. Humourously, there is only a slight difference between a wel-fare state and a fare-well state."

“What is welfare? That cannot be defined. But dharma is also undefinable but everyone can know it, experience it. Each one defines welfare as per his whims. Today’s people like and want to drink alcohol. So, why do we need temples? So, the will of the majority (democracy) decides what is nyāya or anyāya, then drunkards will be more worthy than Mahabharata lecturers. All of today’s ills can be traced to the lifting of hands in vote. Can a criminal rule from a jail? If all the criminals (politicians) pass such a rule in legislature then, yes. 90% majority will vote yes, they will vote for their own selfish good. This is the principle in welfare states.”

“Hita or Ṡrēyas is different. Dharma is invisible. Without which our collective existence (samūha jīvana) is not possible, that which is difficult to practise but yet gives you happiness, that is Dharma. Natural elements – water, rocks, plants – they all follow their respective dharma. Being rooted in soil is a plant’s dharma. Rotation and revolution of earth, sun and moon – they are adhering to their paths. Nature adheres to Dharma when man doesn’t interfere.”

“An evil doer must experience evil. A good person should enjoy goodness. That is Dharma. Staying in one’s boundaries, limits must be taught from childhood. What comes under Dharma? Varṇa, Āṡrama. It has become a fashion to talk about it. Varṇa is a system (vyavasthā) for society. If you want to eliminate it, you must propose a superior alternative. It cannot be removed without a better replacement. There are rules: people have come to this lecture from far-flung areas; I’ve to respect your time.”

“Dharma has a rationale. Why should only one government collect all the taxes? Why should only one person be ruler (prime minister)? Alas! There should be only centre in a cirle. If there are more, you become eccentric! Vṛtta (circle) also means character (see Yakṣa-praṡna). It should have one kēndra (centre). Who is a Brāhmaṇa? He who teaches and makes others teach Vedas – they simply memorise. They are mūrkhas. You’ve to bring it to practise (krīyāvān). Only such person is a Brāhmaṇa”

“Which is greater – Brāhmaṇa by birth (jāti) or by qualities (guṇa)? Yakṣa asked. Jāti-brāhmaṇya is inferior to guṇa-brāhmaṇya. 123 questions. Yudhiṣṭhira answers instantly. Such a great dharmiṣṭha kept his own wife (Draupadī) as collateral in a gambling match. Can you believe it? Why do you think? He never answers it. In reality, Yudhiṣṭhira knew dharma but didn’t practise (ācaraṇa) it. Such a person is always a liability, wherever he goes. Character, character, character (ācaraṇa) – I’ve been saying it for three days now.”

“Yudhiṣṭhira was always into nirāsakti (uninterestedness), thinking about vairāgya (detachment). Not befitting a king. Killing Ṡakuni (dvāpara-puruṣa) and Ṡalya are his only achievements.”

The above transcription corresponds to the first 15 min. roughly.