The Monks podcast on Centralization, Decentralization and Dharma, discusses how Dharmic principles can be applied in the broader aspect of governing society.
This is a second podcast with HG Govinda Prabhu, who is an exponent of Indian culture through the wisdom of Mahabharata, Ramayana and Bhagavatam. He has an experience of almost 30 years in Vedic education and counseling and travels extensively all over the world sharing his reflective knowledge and wisdom. Whether counseling children, guiding families or mentoring corporate and social leaders his profound insights are always practical, comprehensible and relevant to all cross-sections of the society.
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To quote Govind Prabhu, “Chaitanya Charan Prabhu is a Sutradhar”. The word Sutra is derived from the principle of connecting everything from the beginning, middle and the end of the discussion. Sutra means thread. Dhaar means to hold. Hence “Sutradhaar” in Sanskrit refers to a person who metaphorically holds all the strings. Chaitanya Charan Prabhu has skilfully “threaded” the entire discussion in a summary that is distinctive, clear, cogent and eloquent.
Summary from 2.00.08:
We were talking about how democracy represents humanity in the system of governance. And then you as you said that that’s what we had in India because there was knowledge at the top and at the bottom. Whether it is like epics like Rama being rendered in vernacular languages, or even knowledge base, working knowledge of astronomy, and other meteorology and other things, it was there with the experts and the common people. So this democratization of knowledge which can say which one said represents power, this was there in various fields systems of governance, but also they were distributed. So every village was self-sufficient, and every village had its even within the village, each community, they had their own hierarchy. They had their own hierarchy, and people could rise and succeed and get their own sense of identity there. So the king there was capitalism in the sense that the Kings had power, but the King’s power was not making laws that apply for everyone, but preserving laws which were defined by different people according to their particular local systems or local customs. So we had, we could say almost the left values at the bottom level and right values at the top level.
And the idea of taking individual responsibility. The beautiful point, you said that our limitations are temporary, but our potentials are our own, they’re lasting because at the core, we are souls. So with this understanding, there is the assertion of the individual. the dignity of the individual was also part of not just something that came with Judeo Christian tradition, but it was there in our tradition also and that’s how we have been great saintly people were targeted, victimized, and they didn’t expect some rescuer to come but they withstood it and they themselves rose to glory. And whenever there was because power was decentralized, whenever there was a winner, there was abuse of power. Also, it was more of an individual abusing power, rather than a whole system, exploiting someone. And that’s why we have the works of the persecuted saints also available as a legacy today, it’s not wiped out.
We discuss elaborately about the caste system. So, the caste system is perceived as discriminatory, but within each caste also people had their dignity. And like you said that Guha was a king, although he was in one sense an outcast, and Nand Maharaj was a King. So Manu says that everyone should be independent, and people had their respect. So to some extent, the imposition of an external definition of success leads to the perception the caste system was very discriminatory, but the caste system gave autonomy for people to succeed along different channels. And to the extent there is discrimination we discussed especially against those who are handling, say human excreta. So that was unfortunate. But even that was not to that great extent, because the systems of sanitation were different in the past. And that is also exaggerated as far as then whatever his condition is there, that’s a universal human evil that every country and every civilization is prone to. So we can’t label a civilization as bad, we can look at the bad in the civilization and see how it can be rectified. And there was a tradition of reform quite actively in India also whenever customs discrimination came up.
And then we compare, say with respect to the left and the right, so the left has become very influential. You said the left can be more violent than even terrorists because it’s very subtle and sophisticated. So they put family members against family members. The family in the system of tyranny or nation as a state system of tyranny, religion as a system of tyranny in replacing that they themselves centralize power. So quite often, the left starts with love for the poor, but it ends up with hatred for the wealthy. And something that is driven by hatred, that cannot really solve any problems that will only aggravate problems. Even if some people are virtuous within that, and they really redistribute wealth and redistribute things well, they’ll be replaced by someone else who will be tyrannical. So in that sense, distributing is evoking individuals to grow by taking responsibility. That’s the way forward.
We discuss why the left becomes so powerful. One major reason is they had a long term vision by which they penetrated the centers of influence, the universities, the media, and we as a dharmic traditions, we could say the right focused more on the visible centres of piety like temples. And there was also the separation of the priesthood from scholarship. And so that’s why when now the younger generation as they go into the education system, they may have some faith which they got from their, as you said, right-wing, they are right to right-wing faith, but they have left wing values or psychologically, they are like that. And that becomes very disruptive. So the way ahead will be that we see that our internet Hindus who are coming up and there are people from the STEM fields, who are now awakening and trying to understand and share dharma. And also we as individuals, we understand that the battle between good and evil is eternal. And we have to play our part in that. And if we keep playing our part, not with the goal of eliminating evil, we don’t we don’t know. It’s not like violence to destroy, but we want to have justice so that there is a fair representation of things. So if we do our part, then Krishna has a plan and additional users in his plan the way that he sees fit.
And then the last one more important than charismatic gurus are, say, rational presentation of spirituality, from the top to the bottom systematically that rationality can be taught and that can actually lead to some overall change in society. Anything you’d like to add or conclude from