EDICTS OF INSTRUCTIONS TO PUBLIC FUNCTIONARIES

The people — the people — are the rightful masters of both Congresses, and courts — not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert it

—”Abraham Lincoln, [September 16-17, 1859]

                    October 18, 2011, I  called on Hon’ble  Justice  Lahoti, former Chief Justice of India, at his Noida residence,  to present to him a copy of the First Edition of this Memoir. He cast a glance through the book, but dwelt a little long reading Chapter  19 ( ‘ Understanding the Imageries at the Supreme Court of India’ ). I felt he withdrew inside himself for a few moments, and then he  gave me a copy of Message from Parliament House in which  Justice Dr. Rama Jois had compiled  the inscriptions  on the walls of our Parliament House.  I felt infinitely obliged as I could access the gems of our ancient wisdom. I  marveled at the prudence and insight of those who selected them to put on the walls to radiate all around  where our nation as a whole is supposed to be present through representatives holding our democratic destiny under sacred trust. I went through this short compilation with great joy. While reading the inscriptions,  I  recalled  comments which on different occasions, and in different contexts,  I had noted in my Personal Journal. I  intend to mention those shlokas, with short elucidatory comments.   The text of the shlokas are drawn from that book, and  the ‘Inscriptions in Parliament House’ published by the  Lok Sabha Secretariat New Delhi (April, 2004).[1] [ A caveat:  I have seen them only in my maanaslok; I  have not verified by observing the places where they are said be inscribed].  It is worth reflecting on the gems of thoughts which the rocks announce. My mind goes to these lines from T. S. Eliot’s ‘Ash-Wednesday’

Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks

                       The fragments of thoughts on the said  inscriptions can be tabulated thus mentioning the text of the quotes and  their English rendering, and the places where, as the above-mentioned sources say,  they can be noticed inscribed:

 

Text on the inscription

English rendering

Place

1

धर्मचक्रप्रवर्तनाय   (Lalit Vistara Ch, 26)

For moving the Wheel of Dharma.

overlooking the Speaker’s Chair in the L.S.

2

सत्यं वद धर्मं चर                                      (The Taittreeyopanishad  Shikshavalli)

Speak Truth; follow Dharma.

on the top of the entry gate to the Rajya Sabha.

3

सत्यमेव जयते

 (The Mundakopanishad, 3-1)

Truth Alone Triumphs.

On the Emblem of India.

4

एकं सद्विप्रा बहुधा वदन्ति                  (The Rigveda  I-164-466)

‘One’ alone exists, the learned call Him in many names

on the top of the entry gate to Rajya Sabha.

5

अयं निजः परो वेति गणना लघुचेतसाम्
उदारचरितानां तु वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम्  (The Panchtantra, 5-21)

The petty minds see the categories of ‘mine’ and ‘not-mine’ (or thine) , the broad minded persons see the whole world just as a family.

inscribed on the gate of the Central Hall.     

6

अहिंसा परमो धर्मः                          (The Mahabharata, Vanaparva  , 207–74)

‘Non-violence is the Highest Dharma‘.

inscribed on the top of the Rajya Sabha’s entry gate.

7

सर्वदा स्यान्नृप: प्राज्ञ:, स्वमते कदाचन।  सभ्याधिकारिप्रकृतिसभासत्सुमते स्थित:

(The Raajdharma: Shukraniti, 2-3)

The ruler should be wise, not ego-centric. In deciding matters he should  consider the views of the Members of the House, Officers,  and also from people at large  present in the House.

On the dome near the Lift No. 4.

8

 स्वे स्वे कर्मण्यभिरतः संसिद्धि लभते  नरः                                                   (The Bhagavad-Gita 18-45)

One attains perfection by discharging Duties.

On the top of the entry gate to Rajya Sabha.

9

सा सभा यत्र सन्ति वृध्दा:, वृध्दा ते ये 9वदन्ति धर्मम्

धर्म स नो  यत्र  सत्यमस्ति , सत्यं  तत् यत् छलमभ्युपैति                          (The Mahabharata 5-35-58)

‘Sabha’ (parliament) does not exist where there are no elders; and they are not elders whose speech does not accord with Dharma.  Their  speech cannot be righteous (dharmicif it is devoid of truthfulness, and bears the taint of  deceit.

on the dome near lift no. 1 which can be better viewed from the first floor.

10

सभा  वा  प्रवेष्टव्या, वक्तव्यं  वा समंजसम्अब्रुवन, बिब्रुवन वापि नरो भवति किल्मिषी                                       (The Manusmruti,  8/13)

One may  enter the Assembly Hall, or may not do so. But once he goes there,  there is no option but to speak truth in a righteous way. The one who does not speak, and the one who speaks falsely,  both become sinners.

on dome near Lift No. 2.

11

इ_नलाहो ला यूगय यरो मा _बकौ _मनह_ता युगय यरो वा _बन _तसे हुम

“Almighty God will not change the condition of any people unless they bring about a change themselves.”  (as translated in Message)

inscribed in the arc-shaped outer-lobby of the  Lok Sabha.

12

लो कद्धारमपावा र्ण ३३
पश्येम त्वां वयं वेरा ३३३३३
(हुं ) ३३ ज्या यो
              ३२१११ इति।                        (छन्दो. 2/24/8)[2]

“Open the door to thy people

And let us see thee

For the obtaining of the

sovereignty”[3]

inscribed on Gate No. 1.

13

बरी रूवाके जेबर्जद नविश्ता अन्द बेर्ज, 
जुज निकोईअहले करम नख्वाहद् मान्द[4]

This lofty emerald like building bears the inscription in gold: ‘ Nothing shall last except the good deeds of the bountiful.’

on the dome near Lift No. 5.

 

 

 

 

 

                          On broad reflections on the above mentioned quotes, one can see that the ideas they state can be stated under  five different  heads: (i) the grammar of existence of the cosmos and everything else in it; (ii) the code of conduct for the humans; (iii) the norms which must govern the process of deliberation in this great deliberative body; (iv) the idea that ‘sovereignty’ is with the people who have the right to see, and (v) the warning of prudence for all of ust to reflect in order to act..

.  (i) The Grammar of Existence: DHARMA

                     The most fundamental concept in the quotes is of Dharma.This word cannot be translated in any of the languages of the world because nowhere else the very grammar of existence was discerned with greater profundity and clarity, and stated with such precision. It is possible to reflect on it by adopting a broad cosmic perspective, and it is also possible, and needed to comprehend it to run  human affairs in the world.  At the broadest, and cosmic level, Dharma  sustains everything to run its course in accordance with its own grammar: in effect, Dharma sustains the cosmic drama which the Hindus described in a profoundly rich figurative expression: lila. How it works can be observed just by observing how nature works, even within a drop of blood. It is amazing to see how everything in nature is on its duty in accordance with its duty. The beauty of this precision, and the pregnant metaphoric possibilities of our comprehension of their ways, lead us clearly and easily to that meaning of Dharma with which we all are most familiar.

                                      When examined from a different observation-post that we share in the world we live and work, the concept of Dharma acquires meaning more apt to our life we live.  Dharma, as Medhatithi says, means kartavya which is generally translated as ‘duties’ (Dharmasbdad kartavyata vachanah) . An expert has explained it as a set of norms  followed by those learned in the Vedas,  and are  “approved  by the conscience of the virtuous who are exempt from hatred and inordinate affection.”  The Vaishesik philosophy  defines its  objective as the promotion of welfare  (yatobhhudayani). Bhishma tells King Yudhisthira that the core of Dharma is: to love others (‘Shantiparva’ Ch. 260). Dharma sustains everything, human and non-human, and controls and regulates their nature and their acts. The Mahabharata has emphasised at several places that victory always goes with dharma : ‘Yato Dharmahstato Jayah’  [  reiterated by Karna (‘Ydyogaparva’ Ch. 142; by Drona (‘Ydyogaparva’ Ch.148); by Arjuna ( ‘Bhishmaparva’ Ch.21); by  Sanjaya  (‘Bhishmaparva’ Ch.65) ; and by   Bhishma  (‘Bhishmaparva’  Ch. 66)].

                                      I  have written comprehensively on धर्मचक्रप्रवर्तनाय  in Chapter 19 of this Memoir, I  do not intend to tax your patience any more on this point. We have been accustomed to consider this ‘world (Samsar) ‘ a chakra (wheel) that symbolises  the whole cosmos of which we are the integral parts. . The Tibetan call this ‘khor ba  that means ‘a continuous flow’. My reader may read the lines in verse with which the last Chapter of this Memoir ends. ‘धर्मचक्रप्रवर्तनाय’ means that we live to achieve this highest ideal: both to be the part of this wheel, and to participate in its rotation.   

                           ‘सत्यं वद धर्मं चर’ and ‘ सत्यमेव जयते’ (Truth Alone Triumphs.) are the two fundamental norms, emanating from Dharma itself, which help us to understand what Dharma itself suggests.  In fact, as the shloka on the inscription at the item (9) of the aforementioned table would show, there is no dichotomy between Dharma and Satya: it says धर्म स नो  यत्र  सत्यमस्ति.

                    Truth is God. It never perishes.  Our sages believed that Truth always worked for good. The Sankhyadarshana said that Truth does great good (atyantlokhitam satyam) for the world. In  our classical thought Dharma is itself Truth. In the shloka at item 9 in the abovementioned table, the  expression is ‘ वृध्दा ते ये वदन्ति धर्मम् whereas in an  identical shloka that occurs in the Garudpurana, सत्यंम्  has been used for  dharmam. The context in which this expression occurs in the Tattariyaupanishad is important. After imparting full education to students, their teacher is instructing them how they should behave in life: सत्यं वद धर्मं चर (speak what is true, and act as Dharma demands). Under our cultural perception what accords with Dharma can never be untrue.  But this is the contemplation on ‘Truth’ at the cosmic and most fundamental level..

      We are familiar with two more perceptions of ‘Truth’ where this word finds its meaning in different frames of reference. One is when ‘truth’ is perceived intuitively, and the other when it is with reference to things seen, or verified through observation.  Under our cultural tradition, the best way to know the ‘truth’ of anything is to know all about it, and them to respond intuitively that.  This requires utmost honesty and good faith in perception wholly undistorted by prejudices, concealed reference, inhibitions, or stock responses. Great decisions in life are taken by perceiving ‘truth’ this way. Worldly success is no factor in the perception of ‘truth’ I recall the words of Bertrand Russell in his Autobiography (at p. 358):

               ” The Victorians ….were sane aand successful because they never came anywhere near truth. But for my part I would rather be mad with truth than sane with lies…:

      सत्यमेव जयते  is a  mantra from the Mundakopanishad, and  is most widely known as it is engraved on our country’s Emblem.   The shloka of the Mundakopanishad, also makes it clear that what is not true (naanritam) does not  ever succeed. It is interesting to note that even the Devil can delude the unwary by convincing that whatever succeeds is ‘truth’.                                

(ii) Directive Principles for  Actions 

               एकं सद्विप्रा बहुधा वदन्ति:   This immortal fragment, from the Rigveda, expresses a  most fundamental perception that finds its illustrations in the Vedas, the Upanishads, and in our cultural traditions. It is founded on the perception of the cosmic unity. The principles of fraternity and equality inhere in this.  This has led us to see the unity in diversity, this has led us to co-exist with all.   This idea has helped us maintain our social and national integrity. This idea has dissuaded us from building systems to exploit others as the exploiters and the exploited are, at the core, same. This dictum of universal validity has taught us ‘tolerance’. and counselled us to respect others. India has sustained its national integrity because of our deep faith in those words of the Rigveda. .

                   अयं निजः परो वेति गणना लघुचेतसाम्, उदारचरितानां तु वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् : We all know that the Mabharata War was caused by Dhritarashtra’s ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ notions: the Kauravas were his (‘mine’), the Pandavas were different (‘thine’). The idea that this shloka expresses is most relevant to our times in two important ways:  The idea that the shloka expresses is most important for us living in the days when materialism and consumerism have made us  embrace the culture of narcissism. Christopher Lasch has portrayed the state of affairs in this sort of  society in his the well-known book The Culture of Narcissism (1979). He identifies our generation as  ‘the Me generation’.  The shloka tells us to treat all humans as the members of one family. This is our vision of ‘globalization’. For the weal of all we have always been ready to consider noble ideas coming from all sources.  This shloka  warns us not to create conditions under things get choreographed thus, to say in the immortal words of William Blake:

Some are born to Sweet Delight

Some are born to Endless Night

 

(iii) The Art of Management

 सर्वदा स्यान्नृप: प्राज्ञ:, स्वमते कदाचन।  सभ्याधिकारिप्रकृति: This shloka is an instruction to the ruler. He must  ‘ always be wise and intelligent’.  ‘Wisdom’ is evidenced by his sense of propriety, proportionality, discrimination, fairness, and dedication.  He should listen to what others in the House say before he decides.  He is to act for the weal of all.  The  Padma Purana calls it done for: सर्वलोकसुखप्रदम; and the  Shankhya Darshan calls  it the putsuit for ‘general weal’ (अत्यन्तलोकहितम् सत्यम् ).    

                 अहिंसा परमो धर्मः    It is interesting to note the context and the situation in which  this great idea was stated in the Mahabharata. In the ‘Vanparva’, this statement was made by an ordinary hunter, and  it was again said by an ordinary trader in the ‘Shantiparva’.  The context in which the statement occurs in the  Anushasanaparva is deeply suggestive. The destructive Mahabharata War was over. Despite all the efforts, this War had to be waged, and destructive consequences faced. Yet the importance of Ahimsa is recognized both by the great Bhishma and the Pandava King. Ahimsa is considered the greatest Dharma. They also violate this principle who cause sufferings to others by exploiting others, or work against the just claims and interests of others.  When duty demands to take arms to fight for justice, it is also Ahimsa.

 

           स्वे स्वे कर्मण्यभिरतः संसिद्धि लभते  नरः  We  believe that our Constitution expects all the organs of the State to  discharge their constitutionally and legally prescribed duties (कर्तव्य kartavya ). The shloka bids everyone to do his duty.    Article 51A of our Constitution prescribes the fundamental duties of ‘every citizen’. Article 84 prescribes that none can ever be a member of Parliament unless he is ‘a citizen of India’. Hence, it is clear that all the duties, which Article 51A casts on ordinary citizens, are also the duties prescribed  for the members of Parliament.  I recall, while delivering my concluding address before the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the Indo-Mauritius Tax Treaty Abuse  Case, I quoted  Lord Nelson’s  electric signal to his fleet at the battle of Trafalgar; “England expects that every man will do his duty”; and then  I, as the  Petitioner before the Court,  added: India expects that every citizen will his duty”. 

                  The determination of one’s kartavya in a given moment  is difficult. It is context-specific, and can change from moment to moment.  Kartavya  is one’s perception of the right line of action.  But ‘kartavya’ can be determined by a person  when he knows things well, when he has perceived and considered  all the parameters with wisdom (viveka).  

(iv) Right Parliamentary Procedure

 

                सा सभा यत्र सन्ति वृध्दा:,…….: [An assembly does not exist if wise persons are not there.  In the shloka,  the word वृध्दा (briddha) means ‘the wise and learned’. Sanskrit literature contemplates three types of ‘briddha  ‘vayobriddha (old in age), gyanabriddha ( mature in wisdom and experience ), and   aagamabridddha  ( mature with acquired knowledge  ). But none can be considered ‘wise’ unless he promotes righteousness.  And  there can be no  ‘righteousness’  unless  it  accords with ‘truth’. This shloka deserves to be read with the  hymn with which  the Rig-Veda ends. I have quoted those lines in Chapter  22  of my Autobiographical Memoir, On the Loom of Time.  The shloka tells us about  essential traits, in effect, qualifications,  of the members of the Sabha[5] : (i)  they should be learned and wise; (ii) they should have courage and imagination to say what is righ,  (iii) they speak truth, and (iv) and they must be capable to realise that Truth never exists where craft and covin, fraud and collusion, deception and delusion  operate. 

                    सभा  वा  प्रवेष्टव्या, वक्तव्यं  वा समंजसम्अब्रुवन, बिब्रुवन वापि नरो भवति किल्मिषी  :     This  is  an instruction to those in the House who believe keeping their mouth shut when their duty is to speak for public cause.  When the shloka requires the members to speak, it requires them to say only what is right and true.  Those who violate these norms are  sinners. . Two points we have learnt in our classics. When one is in a position to work  for lokakalyana, one must say, assert, and do  what promotes  that. One is free to enter, or not to enter  the House to play the role of people’s representative. But once one does that, there is no option but to play that role with fidelity and excellence.   One must cultivate competence to understand issues, and one  must acquire strength and imagination to fight for the right cause.

(v)  Weigh yourself  with utmost good faith

                   इ_नलाहो ला यूगय यरो मा _बकौ _मनह_ता युगय यरो वा _बन _तसे हुम: What the Holy Quran says is  what Lord Krishna has instructed us in the the  Bhagavadgita  ( see Ch.VI. 5). Everything that is done in the world illustrates this fundamental principle: we are our own friends, we are our foes. This law is universal, this is inexorable.

 

(vi)  “We the People”

 

                 At the very entrance of the Lok Sabha Secretariat, one can read a quotation from the Chandogya Upanishad ( छान्दोग्य उपनिषद्): “Open the door to thy people And let us see thee” This quotation speaks of the demand by the sovereign people for transparency in the institution where their representatives assemble to work realize the objectives set forth in our Constitution which ‘We the People’ have given to ourselves.  In a democratic society, like ours, the ‘sovereignty’ remains with the people. The woods of the Upanishad constitue a most revolutionay edict to the persons in power to know that they are always under the supervision of the sovereign people of this political society that our country is.

 

 

(vii)  Time debateth with Decay

 

बरी रूवाके जेबर्जद नविश्ता अन्द बेर्ज, 
जुज निकोईअहले करम नख्वाहद् मान्द: This Persian couplet says something which most men enjoy to forget, but its Truth overtakes the mightiest and  the meekest with equal ease. . The couplet says what history proves: nothing survives except good deeds. It tells us all  that we  are lucky to have an opportunity to do good to those they represent. The beauty and majesty of our nation can  remain only to the extent we do good work the effect of lasts for public good It suggests that none should forget: we are the very subject-matter of a continuing debate between Time and Decay. This  couplet reminds us of a few lines from a sonnet by Shakespeare: to quote —

 

 

When I consider every thing that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment,
That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows
Whereon the stars in secret influence comment;….
Then the conceit of this inconstant stay
Sets you most rich in youth before my sight,
Where wasteful Time debateth with Decay,
To change your day of youth to sullied night;…..

 

 

 NOTE:   I  would be grateful if my readers correct me on the points I  have touched, or on the propriety of ideas expressed in this article. I  can be contacted at shivakantjha@gmail.com .


 

[5]       If I rack my mind  to find out the best model for a Sabha, I  see it in the ‘Udyogaparva’ of the Mahabharata  (see Chapters 1-7). They had gathered there to discuss matters  to decide on the course of actions.   Yudhisthira to whom a lot of injustice had been done by the Kauravas, was now in a position to demand justice. The Sabha had to decide what was needed to be done.  They were to decide whether a war could be avoided. The deliberations led to the initiation of various efforts to come to a peaceful solution. The Mahabharata War occurred when all efforts failed, and ‘justice’ (Dharma)  had to exercise its ultima ratio.   Krishna presented the problem for consideration with utmost precision and  detachment. He explained what Dharma demanded. He left everyone free to deliberate. Various shades of views were expressed. Some of the ideas went against Krishna’s, and the motion could have failed. But the Sabha had a common pursuit, the members were learned, and all wished justice to be done.  So in the end the motion was adopted.

                      Whenever I think of the way our Parliament works, I  feel our representatives in the House can derive much  wisdom by  reflecting on the proceedings of that  Sabha than by reading such tomes as   Thomas Jefferson’s Manual of Parliamentary Practice (1801),  Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, or Erskine May’s Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament.

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