[These are just a few thoughts that came to mind because of some recent discussions and articles I read. I would love to know the opinions of my blogger friends about this subject.]

…………………………………………………………………………………….

 Action has to take place according to a certain method if it is to bear fruit. If there is rainfall on the top of a mountain, the water flows away in a haphazard manner and benefits no one. But if this same water is contained in a canal, it enables many acres of crops to grow. Its strength lies in its restraints.

We see that even God himself- or Nature as one may believe- acts according to certain rules. Life on Earth is possible, because of the precise movements of the Sun, the Earth, the Moon. The tides ebb and flow, the seasons change, plants grow, animals and birds flourish- all according to specific rules.

In our Bharatiya culture, great importance is given to the concept of Swatantrata. ‘Swatantrata‘  does not mean acting without any rules at all. ‘Swa‘ means I or We. ‘Tantra‘ means method, discipline, or rules. So Swatantrata means acting according to our own methods or rules.

But these rules are not a burden, because we have accepted them ourselves. They have not been forced upon us by anyone else.

In one of his thought- provoking books in the series ‘Jeevan Mulye’ (Principles of Life), Prof. P G Sahasrabuddhe has given an example from the Mahabharata.

Seeing his relatives and elders standing in front of him in the Kurukshetra, Arjuna hesitates to pick up his weapons. Shri Krishna explains why he should proceed to fight, putting forward innumerable theories and examples.

After narrating the complete Bhagwad Gita of 18 chapters, Shri Krishna leaves the decision whether to do battle or not, up to Arjuna, saying “I have told you all that I wanted to tell you. Now you should do as you wish.”

This is ‘Swatantrata‘.

Our sages of earlier times have said that to be truly free, a person must understand the nature of this ‘swa’. In other words, he must know who he himself is. If he succeeds in understanding this, he will understand how he should act, he will understand what his ‘Dharma‘ is. 

If he does not, it is possible that he may become a traitor to himself, and also to his country. As were those, who helped the British and Moghul invaders against their own countrymen. As were those, who gave local assistance to the terrorists at the time of the Mumbai attacks in Nov. 2008. As are those today, who appropriate public funds to line their own pockets.

For in our culture, ‘swa‘ does not mean merely the individual in isolation, but the individual as a member of his family, as a member of society and as a citizen of this nation. And as such, the individual is bound to take care that while enforcing his right of freedom, he does not cause harm to the society and country he is a part of.

In our culture, the individual considers his country to be his Matrubhoomi. He feels that just as he, himself, is a child of his Matrubhoomi, all other citizens of this land are also children of this same Matrubhoomi.

Therefore, while enjoying his right of freedom, he is also able to identify with the joys and sorrows of these others. And that is the reason, while enforcing his freedoms- of speech, of expression, of action, – he takes care not to cause harm to the other children of his Matrubhoomi.

……………………………………………………………………………………..

The Economic Times saw fit to publish on the front page, on Monday, the following statements by artist in self- imposed exile, M F Hussain.

I left India for freedom, and out of fear:

India has become the land of puzzling paradoxes. On the one hand is an artist’s freedom of expression, a right that our society is founded upon and one that we appreciate on a deeply personal level.

On the other is the cherished value that allows all Indians to live harmoniously in a multicultural society with sensitivity and respect towards the religious sensibilities of other cultures.

 

I feel that in reality, the so-called paradox stated by M F Hussain, is no paradox at all.

 Any person considering himself to be a child of this nation, will take care not to hurt his brothers and sisters. His freedom will be a tempered freedom, not absolute in nature.

This will not be because anyone forces him to curtail it. It will be because, as we discussed above, he will be able to identify with the joys and sufferings of other children of this land.

 If he is unable to do so, perhaps it suggests that he has lost sight of the meaning of ‘swa‘?

Maybe it is time for him to look inwards, instead of at the words and actions of others?

………………………………………………………………………..