Apr 28, 2014

Policy and Law: Moral consequences in the Here and Hereafter

Ethics, Policy and Law are concerned with distinguishing 'right' from 'wrong' and enforcing a balance of right in society. But do diferent religious-cultural backgrounds have a different colouring effect on Policy and Law? If so, do jurisprudence and policy frameworks conceived in the West and East complement or pervert one another? The service-relationship between the Conscious and Subconscious minds determines the semantics of Policy and Legal systems.

If only a Way existed so that each human being could know right from wrong, the world would be a better place, both, in the Here and Hereafter. Below are two different approaches found in the world. Whether the 'Hereafter' means the ever-present 'subconscious' or a postmortem destination is immaterial. It all depends on what one's reference of communication is - a Person or Book?

Dharma - Personal Fountainhead
Yudhiṣṭhira was Dharmarāja, king of Dharma. When K. recommended that he lie about Aśvatthāma's death in order to throw the latter's father Droa into grief-stricken confusion, Yudhiṣṭhira hesitated to lie. Immediately the wheels of his chariot, which hitherto spun two inches off the earth, hit the floor. The common people's version says that this happened because he lied. But the theological commentaries say it happened because he hesitated to lie on K.'s suggestion. धर्मं तु साक्षाद् भगवत् प्रणीतम् - "Dharma is what is laid down for enactment directly by the Lord, without proxy." The word sākāt is important - it means immediate, live, without proxy.

After passing from this world, Yudhiṣṭhira passes a test of patience, loyalty and intelligence: He reaches Heaven, only to find that it was filled with his erstwhile enemies, the Kauravas. He was then taken to Hell where his brothers and wife were suffering bitter torments. Shocked by the blood and gore he saw there, his initial reaction was to flee. But then he made a value judgment - he decided it was preferable to endure Hell with good people he loved than enjoy Heaven in the company of evil. Eventually this also turned out to be an illusion to test him, as Indra soon revealed. But significantly, the commentaries point out that it also served to atone for his sin of having lied to his guru, Droa - a breach of loyalty to someone he loved.

So, it was in his Hereafter that Yudhiṣṭhira atoned for the lie, and not in the Here & Now of Kuruketra. In the Present Moment of Kuruketra, Yudhiṣṭhira paid for not heeding the amoral impetus of K.'s advice. His connection with his Lord fell short of intention without reservation. Whereas in the Hereafter he atoned for the overt lie by way of commitment to a value - its meaning and purpose re-orienting his intelligence after he overcome the initial impetus of the reactive mind.
धर्मं तु साक्षाद् भगवत् प्रणीतम्
न वै विदुर्ऋषयो नापि देवाः ।
न सिद्ध-मुख्या असुरा मनुष्याः
कुतो नु विद्याधर-चारणादयः ॥
"Real religious principles (Dharma) are directly enacted by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Although fully situated in the mode of goodness, even the great Seers who occupy the uppermost Heavens cannot ascertain the real religious principles, nor can the demigods nor the leaders of the Heaven of the Perfected Souls, to say nothing of the Demonic Titans, ordinary human beings, and other Celestial beings." 
~ Srimad Bhagavatam, 6.3.19
The word sākāt above is key - "immediate, witnessed live, without proxy". So in the Dharmic traditions, ultimate morality is based on connectedness, not on proxies such as a book, an ideology, and the diktats of a reigning priesthood. [Head, Heart & Connectedness: Browsing the marketplace of identities].

Morality is discovered as a circumstantial undercurrent rather than depicted as an overt isolated quality. [Moral equivalence - Exterior manifestations vs. Undercurrents]. In other words, morality is consequential, not deontological.

The desideratum - connectedness - is achieved through using up one's gifts in the energetic service of goodness, and by making a sacrifice based on intelligence - rather than surrendering one's intelligence to priestcraft. [The Dasyu-Dāsa dynamic vs. "class struggle" theory]

That intelligence suggests a different formula for different conditions of existence, and different circumstances of time, place and maturity of stakeholders. [The Resurrection of the Karma Kanda]. Therefore, great law-givers are humans, albeit of transcendental intelligence. Being human, every law codex has an expiry date, nothing absolute about it. Thus, it is not surprising that Hindu civilization, for example, has had various codices of law (dharma-śāstras) at different times and in different areas - the smritis of Manu, Apastamba, Baudhayana, Gautama, Vasishta, Parasara. None of them are absolutely sacrosanct, all of them yielding way to others. In modern times, sadhus campaigning on behalf of political Hindutva go from village to village brandishing the Constitution of the Republic of India as a modern smriti that has to be upheld as sacred law - and the intentions of its authors in the Preamble be honored rather than subverted in letter and spirit. 

Priestcraft and cultural solutions are only scaffolding to support one at various stages of the journey home. Later it becomes a resource base to contribute one's own experience and knowledge to, for the sake of future seekers. [Priest-craft: Managed solutions vs. Unmanaged customizations].

Religious-Ideological 'Scripture' - Impersonal Template
In a tradition that is religious in a purely ideological sense (or obversely dubbed "secular", i.e., shy of the domination of a religious priesthood), morality is measured purely by overt affiliation with a certain dogma and set of beliefs.

At this level of 'thought', a book and variegated literature in pursuance of its contents become the direct word of God. The book is not a proxy in this consideration, it is God Himself. It is not that God is experienced immediately (not via 'feelings' or a 'spirit') in the Word, but rather that a recorded word is itself God, whose human-intelligible interpretations bring one experience of God in the Hereafter. It is not that the Sabbath was made for Man, but that Man was made for the Sabbath. At this level of existence, memory processes are such that Commemoration of a historical event is mistaken for Remembrance of a Living God. At this level of existence, preference is given to commemorating the cultural products (sanskriti) of some previous spiritual process instead of personal implementation of a living spiritual process (sabhyatā).

Of course, even within a Dharmic framework, for the seeker who is not self-realized, who lacks connectedness of conscience with the divine, books and disciplines are necessary and a virtue. But even in that case, the adherence to tenets and practices is subordinated to the subtle immediate connection, and this is so clearly emphasized by Dharmic scripture that the maxim is "Dharma is subtle (sukshma)", not overt. Whereas in a non-Dharmic context, all logic is subordinated to the word of 'scripture', and it becomes almost totally deductive. In the post 'Yukta-Vairagya: Natural merger of Classical & Sacred' I quoted:
YOUTUBE: Discussion of Madhusudana Saraswati's Prasthāna-Bheda - by Shri Narendra Khapre 
Why and when would one ignore a religious scripture? It says: "If it interrupts or impedes a purushārtha (one of the 4 natural human dynamics of righteousness, ambition, sensuality, and liberation)." That's an essentially classical view. But in a purely sacred dāsa-kūṭa tradition, or an Abrahamic religion like Islam, it goes something like this: Refer to your awliya (saints and their predecessors), but if their justifications contradict the statements of the sahābā (Companions of the Prophet), then reject it and go with that of the Companions, and if the words of a Companion contradict that of the Prophet and Qur'an, then bypass that and go with the Qur'an and prophetic Sunna. In other words, its "logic" is purely deductive and has no anchor point in the real world in Present Time.
In the Dharmic context, the classical is the substrate of all 'sacred' experiments, until one reaches full self-realization. Whereas in the non-Dharmic context, the sacred is the substrate of all culture and observation, and anything that does not fit into that framework is discarded or suppressed.

Empiricism vs. Legalism
The logical framework of Dharmic spirituality devolves to Experientialism, whereas the logical framework of religious-ideological spirituality devolves to Legalism. 

Even in dāsa-kūṭa traditions within the Dharmic context, after delineating a million do's and don'ts - all with the purpose of pleasing the Lord - the final "how to" is invariably येन-केनापि - "somehow or the other!" - ultimately leaving it to the intense desire and inventiveness of the seeker after launching himself/herself from that framework. In this context, social law and its punishments serve to preserve the integrity of the classical tradition and culture (sabhyatā), rather than enforce individual morality which is a matter of personal experience and the nuances of one's specific family background.

But in the Legalistic framework of Islam, satisfaction in the pure duplication of the Prophet Muhammad's (pbuh) actions in different circumstances is considered the pinnacle of self-realized morality (a philosophy finding its full expression in the works of Imam Rabbani a.k.a. Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi). In the legalistic framework of Islam (fiqh), all actions pertaining to every aspect of living can be pigeon-holed into one of five groups:
Fardh - Those commands of Allah (recorded in scripture) which are obligatory, without which one falls from one's status as a faithful believer. 
Wajib - An act that usually accompanies a Fardh, and are practically compulsory - unless there is a very good scriptural precedent to omit it in a special circumstance. 
Sunnat-e-muakkadah - A habit or act of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) that is extremely desirable to imitate. To omit its performance now and them can be overlooked, but to become habitually neglectful of it is a sign that one is misguided. 
Sunnat-e-ghair muakkadah - A habit or act of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) that the Prophet himself often omitted without any reason - thus freeing the faithful from the obligation to deductive reasoning. However, performance of even such occasional or arbitrary acts of the Prophet brings great reward and are highly encouraged. 
Mustahab - Those actions that are to be encouraged, but are not compulsory. There is no harm if one omits it, but there is reward in doing it 
Mubah - Those actions that are neither encouraged nor discouraged, such as whether to wear a green or red shirt. 
Makrooh - Acts considered disgusting to Allah, the performance of which is not forbidden but highly discouraged nevertheless. In certain extenuating circumstances they may be done, or even encouraged. 
Haraam - Those acts that are forbidden. Anyone who denies the forbidden nature of such acts is considered an unbeliever. There is reward in refraining from such acts. 
All except Haraam acts are considered 'Halaal' - those that do not make one lose one's status as a believer. The entire spectrum of action (halaal to haraam) is based on "authenticated texts" as transmitted by bona fide transmitters. It is these personal ethics that are to be enforced via state law. The nuances of one's specific family and cultural background are to be wiped off if they are not a smooth fit to this curve.

Law, Policy and Interpersonal Culture
In a Dharmic situation, the law serves policy, and policy serves the civilization and culture of self-realization. In a non-Dharmic situation, cannibalized cultures are made to serve policy, and policy serves the fullest possible implementation of the law in any given condition of existence.

In that non-Dharmic context, while the law and its intent is clear, a wise policy is to be used to realize its implementation. Violence is a last resort, though the threat of violence and the overwhelm of power is apparently encouraged in some cultures more than others. At the best of times, polite admonishment is the best policy, often just with the eyes. At the worse of times, one uses lies and dissimulation, subversion and overt complaints, negotiations and treaties in order to protect or further the cause. Somewhere inbetween these two extremes is a love of doing battle.

I think whether Dharmic or non-Dharmic, there is a fair overlap in policy choices, and one cannot determine the Dharmic quotient merely from a snapshot of policy. But perhaps by observation of long-running policy trends, and discerning the service-relationships between law, policy and interpersonal culture, one can draw conclusions. The 'modes of doing' are common to the human condition in general. [See table in 'Be Do Have: Creativity, Faith, Works and Witnessing'].

The basic equations between the three definitely has a huge bearing on inter-personal relationships and also inter-communal relationships [Blasphemy and Multicultural Democracy]. For example, in the command-obedience scheme, this Qur'anic command assumes extraordinary importance: "al Amr bil Ma'aroof wal nahi an'il Munkar" - "To enjoin what is good and to forbid what is wrong". But "good" and "wrong" are values that have no real empirical basis here, except as handed down to "believers". So the Shi'a considers it his godly duty to curse and condemn the other 3 Caliphs and several Companions of the Prophet (pbuh) who were politically in a different faction from 'Ali (rs) - because the Shi'a needs to forbid to his fellow Muslims and human beings the wrong guidance they may be getting from those people who are not chosen by the Lord. On the other hand, the Sunni needs to forbid and condemn this blasphemy of the Shi'as, who dare to blaspheme the holy Companions who descended onto this Earth to participate in Muhammad's divine career ("leela", as it were), and are all sacrosanct by association despite any apparent human imperfections. Their apparent imperfections must be seen in terms of various paths to tawheed (cognition of Oneness) and attraction to Muhammad (who is perfect), and so every Muslim chooses to emulate one or the other holy Companion based on something that draws him to that Companion's character, something he can identify with. By denigrating large sections of Companions and questioning several hadiths, the Shi'as are spreading mischief and doubt among the Muslim ummah and its perfect system for approaching tawheed. Therefore, the Shi'a and the Sunni are locked in mutual condemnation, one reacting to the other. The only time this death-spiral pauses and transforms into unity is when the non-Muslim casts a shadow, for the non-Muslim threatens things that both Shi'a and Sunni consider even more sacred than their mutual differences. Therefore, this is a tribalistic mindset, where blood and faction are closely related.

Justice and Mercy
A tendency towards Haraam acts is to be punished both Here on earth as well as in the Hereafter. Wherever possible, Haraam is to be discouraged by a combination of "fear and hope", as formulated by the master theologian Ghazali. In implementing the system, legalism is again the prime recourse - in which case an interesting philosophical turn comes into sight - the relationship between Justice and Mercy. True Mercy is only in the Hereafter, for all practical purposes. A very telling hadith (narration) from the Prophet's times is as follows:
From Sahih Muslim 4206 -  
"'Abdullah b. Buraida reported on the authority of his father: There came to the Prophet (S) a woman from Ghamid and said: 'Allah's Messenger (S), I have committed adultery, so purify me.' He turned her away. On the following day she said: 'Allah's Messenger (S), why do you turn me away? Perhaps you turn me away as you turned away Ma'iz. By Allah, I have become pregnant.' He (S) said: 'Well, if you insist upon it, then go away until you give birth to (the child).' 
When she was delivered she came with the child (wrapped) in a rag and said: 'Here is the child whom I have given birth to.' He (S) said: 'Go away and suckle him until you wean him.'
When she had weaned him, she came to the Prophet (S) with the child who was holding a piece of bread in his hand. She said: 'Allah's Apostle, here is he as I have weaned him and he eats food.' 
Prophet (S) entrusted the child to one of the Muslims and then pronounced punishment. And she was put in a ditch up to her chest and he commanded the people and they stoned her.
Khalid b Walid came forward with a stone which he flung at her head, and there spurted blood on the face of Khalid and so he abused her. Allah's Apostle (S) heard Khalid's curse. 
Thereupon he (S) said: 'Khalid, be gentle. By Him in Whose Hand is my life, she has made such a repentance that even it a wrongful tax collector were to repent, he would have been forgiven.' 
Then giving command regarding her, he prayed over her and she was buried."
The believer woman in this case displayed a sterling quality of taking responsibility for her crime. Her penitence was simply in undergoing the prescribed torment in the Here, in order to absolve herself of consequences in the Hereafter. According to this level of consideration, her voluntary shame in this world contributed to her honour in the next. This consideration is common to mindsets characterized by a dipole of honour and shame, or sin and redemption.

Honesty and Introspection
Among communities with such a non-dharmic legalistic mindset are to be found several individuals who are 'honest' and friendly in terms of saying what they think and doing what they say - but they frankly cannot be apologetic for what has been prophesied, no matter how seemingly absurd, hypocritical, or horrific. Their reasoning and responsibility for personal value judgments operates within a very limited jurisdiction, one of deductions from scripture. This is quite unlike Yudhiṣṭhira.

There is something strange with their 'honesty '. It contains no part of that introspection in the sense of being the Observer separate from the Observed (drg-drshya viveka). Any 'introspection' is very superficial, about who is promiscuous (ayyash, aubash) or a devious cheat (makkaar), and who isn't.

The majority of the discourse in such cultures tends to externalize blame to conspiratorial non-believers, while being equally swift to tackle 'traitors' within. Such 'honesty' necessarily has a cruel edge to it. At the same time, the sense of responsibility is displays is equally macabre, albeit sometimes inspiring - a tribute to human nature and its willingness to sacrifice for righteousness, no matter what culture one is from.

It is rather chilling to realize that, given the naivete human intelligence is capable of, human societies can gain their sense of righteousness from rather primitive religiosity and 'honesty', as much as from a deeper introspective Dharma. It does appear that the Lord is equally generous with his blessings of righteousness (and all the powers that flow from that certainty) to both, the divine and the daemon. Perhaps when the river of Karma breaches its banks and the tide overwhelms everything including the Lord, it will be left to humans to realize that the locus of actual salvation is the Person within.

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