Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Nyaya, Tyaga and Bhaichara - Potents for a New Interpretation

 Social Change and Nyaya(Equality), Tyaga(Duty) and Bhaichara(Kinship)


Every movement for social change over the past 2500 years has been initiated by a fresh interpretation of the concepts of nyaya(rationality & equality), tyaga(duty) and bhaichara(kinship with all life forms) in the realm of ordinary life practice. Such interpretations were put forth by gurus and sants/swamis(saints); ‘accepted and absorbed’ into the belief systems and life practices of ordinary people. Their lives thereafter underwent changes appropriate to the sustenance of such changes. Most often, this led to the ‘formation’ of different sects within the all pervading sanatana dharma that characterized Indian society.


Such interpretations can be seen, for example, in the teachings of the Buddha and Mahavira and later in the teachings of Basaveswara , Guru Gobind Singh and many others. More recently we find that Mahatma Gandhi too, offered a new ‘talisman’ for ordinary life practices through his interpretations of these concepts. All these ideas/interpretations formed the bases of mass ‘movements’ and we know, historically, that they did lead to social change. However, with the onslaught of capitalist mode of production, and the concomitant ‘destruction’ of the natural environment, such changes in society and life-style have been under severe pressure and the very sustenance of the belief system and social formations, that those interpretations engendered, have been pushed to the brink of ‘extinction’.


Nyaya, Tyaga and Bhaichara in the context of the Knowledge Movement


Premise:

All characteristics of inter-relationships are primarily, and in the main, determined by interactions between individuals and between communities/collectives, and governed by the evolving worldview that determines these relationships. Concepts of equality(nyaya), fraternity(bhaichara) and collective governance(swarajya) evolve through such economic, social and cultural exchanges . The contemporary capitalist-market worldview, that influences ALL relationships today, will have to make space for Knowledge-based (Lokavidya) dharma which will henceforth influence ALL relationships within and without Lokavidya Samaj. This is the basis and agenda of the movement for social change.


The concept of dharma has NO equivalent in non Lokavidya-based societies and it has, therefore, been subject to 'silencing' by commentators and analysts trained in other knowledge traditions and influenced (unconsciously perhaps) by the prevalent market-driven values. Lokavidya dharma should incorporate Nyaya, Tyaga and Bhaichara Nyaya, Tyaga and Bhaichara as axiomatic principles.

Public discourse should be in the vocabulary of vidya and dharma ; their meaning is commonly understood by ordinary people albeit in different ways. Such understanding is not in conflict with principles of Nyaya, Tyaga and Bhaichara and should now serve as the basis of establishing a system of interactions for the protection of fundamental right to life and livelihood, in a globalised Knowledge-based society.


  1. The march towards the establishment of an order, based on Nyaya, Tyaga and Bhaichara, begins, in this 'Knowledge era', with ensuring the Right of individuals, individually and collectively, to live by and base their livelihoods on the Knowledge they possess and practice.


  1. The aspect of inequality, arising from the exchange-activity process, has to be addressed by redefining the concept of value of a commodity/service, by incorporating the idea of knowledge-based value. In a knowledge paradigm, that recognises the fundamental equality (in utility) between all knowledge and knowledge-based activity, the sustenance of a concept of knowledge-based value and the social and economic equality that it engenders, will not prove beyond the new political imagination, that will evolve in society.


[ Value:The value of a commodity ( this term to denotes ALL goods and services which are produced by and through human labour for self-consumption and/or exchange) is neither pre-determinable nor pre-assignable i.e. there is no intrinsic value to any commodity. A value accrues to a commodity as a result of it being essential to life and/or during the process of social exchange and is by nature a dynamic variable.]



Ideas on Knowledge equality- an important aspect of Nyaya


1. from Basaveshwara:


The inequality, which Basaweshwara lamented, was not the inequality of personal endowments, but of the social, economic, religious and spiritual practices which created inequality and came in the way of development of individual personality. He went to the very roots of the state of nature in attacking the inequality created by human beings.


Basaveshwara gave a concrete meaning to the conception of work or occupation in the form of

Kayaka which is regarded as an important means for the removal of all inequalities–economic, social,

religious and spiritual. Kayaka is a spiritual view of labor and not merely a materialistic view. Every

kind of labour is looked upon with high honor, dignity and spiritual significance. Kayaka doesn't

encourage amassing wealth or hoarding of money. It is NOT motivated by profit.



2. from Gandhiji's “Autobiography” summarising Ruskin's “Unto This Last”:


“A lawyer's work has the same value as the barber's, as all have the right of earning their livelihood

from their work”

“ A life of labour i.e the life of the tiller of the soil and the handicraftsman is the life worth living”

“ The right system respecting all labour is, that it should be paid at a fixed rate; but the good

workman employed, and the bad workman unemployed”

“The equality of wages, then, being the first object towards which we have to discover the road, the

second is that of maintaining constant numbers of workmen in employment, whatever may be the

accidental demand for the article they produce”



3. from Dharampalji's “Essays on Tradition, Recovery and Freedom” summarising the Chengalpattu

data:


“An elaborately worked out system of sharing of the produce of the region also seems to ensured fairly equal distribution of economic and cultural prosperity among the various communities and occupational groups that inhabited the region”




4. from Paul Mason’s article in The Guardian titled” The end of Capitalism has begun”


A study for the SAS Institute in 2013 found that, in order to put a value on data, neither the cost of gathering it, nor the market value or the future income from it could be adequately calculated. Only through a form of accounting that included non-economic benefits, and risks, could companies actually explain to their shareholders what their data was really worth. ...The knowledge content of products is becoming more valuable than the physical things that are used to produce them. But it is a value measured as usefulness, not exchange or asset value... (but) information as a social good, free at the point of use, incapable of being owned or exploited or priced.




Ideas on Tyaga or Fundamental Duty

(Tyaga is neither renunciation nor charitable donation/alms-giving)



1.from Tirukkural (Valluvar's instructive text focused on wisdom, justice, and ethics.)


Goals of poruḷ (wealth obtained in ethical manner) and inbam( refers to pleasure and fulfilment of

one's desires) are desirable, yet both need to be regulated by aṟam(dharma). Valluvar holds that aṟam

is common for all, irrespective of whether the person is a bearer of palanquin or the rider in it.



2. from the Bhagavad Gita


Karmanye Vadhikaraste ma phaleshu kadhachana OR "Perform your duty but do not have any

expectation of the fruits". It speaks of being dedicated to your job, your art, your science (your

livelihood practice)as a fundamental duty. The Indian tradition also holds that there exists an inherent

tension between artha and kama. These must be pursued with "action with renunciation" (Nishkama

Karma), that is, one must act (do one’s duty)without craving in order to resolve this tension



3. from Basaveshwara:



Kayaka is to be done in the spirit of Dashooha. Dasooha meant working hard for one's livelihood and

for the maintenance of society. In his view, a dasohi should consider himself, but a servant of society. Therefore, Dasoha in principle assumed that what belongs to God must return to Him and what came from society should be given back by way of selfless service.

Kayaka is a duty by which each one has to maintain oneself, and render its proceeds to the welfare of all. As per the principle of Dashooha, since every one earns his minimum requirement through Kayaka he contributes the rest of his labour to the society rather than accumulating personal wealth. Therefore, Kayaka does not encourage the amassing of wealth if it is done in the spirit of Dashooha, Human beings are equal by nature in their wisdom and virtues, that should be maintained accordingly.



4. from Guru Gobind Singh


Dharam dee kirat karnee – Do your work(livelihood practice) as a duty

Dasvand denaa – Donate a tenth share of your earnings.

Langar Parshaad ik ras vartaaunaa – Serve Langar prashad(food) with impartiality.


Ideas on Bhaichara or Kinship


1. from the Maha Upanishad


Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam meaning "the world is one family".

The Gandhian vision of holistic development and respect for all forms of life; nonviolent conflict

resolution embedded in the acceptance of nonviolence both as a creed and strategy; were an extension

of the ancient concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam


2. from the teachings of Mahavira


A central tenet of his teaching was a renunciation of violence in all its forms and a concern for all

forms of life; that all living beings, irrespective of their size, shape, and form how spiritually

developed or undeveloped, are equal and we should love and respect them.



Social action for Change


It does not take much to see that ALL the great movements for Social change, in different parts of the

world, have been based on teachings (new interpretations of Nyaya, Tyaga and Bhaichara),such as the

ones quoted above, and have led to new social(religious) groupings based on belief systems which

have incorporated the essence of these teachings. These movements have been sustained through

centuries by the tyaga that dominated(and governed) these social groups; that is until the

onslaught’(both ontological and ethical) of modern western Science and Technology, especially and

very perceivably by the advent of the globalized capitalist market system.



Climate Change, a fallout of the Capitalist Development paradigm, is directly linked to the absence,

neglect or down-grading of Bhaichara (as enshrined in various belief systems ). Environmental

Movements against the ill-effects of Climate Change have , in almost all cases, re-emphasized the

understanding of Bhaichara; that was a given in the World of the Tribal/Indigenous Peoples of the

World.


It appears that the space and opportunity for redefining Nyaya, Tyaga and Bhaichara has been opened

up by various peoples’ movements across the world. In India too, the current Farmers’ movement has

provided a space for this redefinition by ordinary people who form the bulk of this non-violent mass

movement. The reason for stating this is that this ‘movement’ has been going on for the past 6 months

attended largely by small farmer families from Punjab, Haryana and UP. The Langar, local

arrangements for stay & facilities and healthcare have been provided for by bigger farmers and their

organisations. It is my opinion, that the urge to stay together seems to be the overarching belief that the

(Khalsa)leadership is being guided by the teachings of Guru Gobind Singh: of grow food (as a

duty), share food through Langar(Bhaichara) while ‘fighting’ for justice(Nyaya) for the entire

community (that is dependent on agriculture). Those teachings will certainly be reset to the

contemporary context in order to sustain the movement, but this provides the hope that a new

interpretation of Nyaya, Tyaga and Bhaichara could well emerge and be ‘accepted’ by ordinary people,

through this movement.


Krishnarajulu

25 May 2021

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