A Guru once set a task for his students.
One morning he gave each one of them a fruit, and told them to eat it during the course of that day. There was one condition though- they were to eat their fruit without anyone witnessing it. They were to report back to him in the evening.
That evening the students assembled in their teacher’s hut once again. One student told the Guru that he had gone deep into the forest and eaten the fruit where no one could see him. Another said that he had climbed to the top of a tall tree and eaten the fruit. One shishya even said that he had dived to the bottom of the nearby lake and eaten the fruit under-water! The Guru noticed that one student was quietly sitting listening to all these narratives. He asked the boy where he had gone to eat the fruit.
The student said in a low voice.” Guru ji, I could not eat the fruit. I thought of several lonely places where I could go. But I realized that wherever I went, God would still see me eat the fruit.”
Whether one believes in God or not- the message in this story is worth thinking about. We should act as morally in private as we would act in public. We should not deceive, steal, lie, or murder- whether we are found out or not.
It is not as though we do not know this. So what has gone wrong? Why is corruption present in every sphere of our social life? What has happened to the ideal of “Satyamev Jayate” ?
Aerophytes, or air plants are plants which do not derive their sustenance from the earth. They get moisture and nutrients from the air and rain. Air plants usually grow on other plants, not in the ground.
Many of us having discarded our values, are we, as a society, now raising a generation of air plants? A generation without firmly grounded roots which would enable them to grow strong and confident? A generation which does not value the virtues which build character? A generation which is becoming increasingly self-centered and materialistic?
If so, why is this the situation today? I think one reason is that we have discarded the ideals of earlier generations.
Chatrapati Shivaji is now considered communal because he fought to oust the Moghul rule and establish “Hindavi Swarajya”.
Veer Savarkar, Shaheed Bhagat Singh and other revolutionaries are discounted as “espousing violent means”. Even the freedom fighters of the 1857 Freedom Struggle are also dismissed as having fought for selfish reasons.
Having discarded our earlier ideals, we have given our children very few ideals in their place. We do not support social institutions which could teach ideals and build character.
We have continued with the British teaching system and oppose any attempt to introduce teaching practices more suitable to our culture.
Children today are expected to be the fastest, most intelligent, most talented, in their peer circle. Competition, and not co-operation, is expected of them. By the time they grow up and are ready to take their place as adult citizens of this country, our children look at our country from a western viewpoint, think amassing material wealth is of paramount importance, and see nothing wrong in “getting ahead” by fair means or foul.
Nothing is ever enough for us today. “Ye dil maange more” is today’s Mantra. More, more, more! When will what we have ever be enough? Will we just keep on grabbing what we can without a thought to others in the society we live in? Is there a way out of this situation?
Perhaps we should think back to Mahatma Gandhi’s idea of “trusteeship”? As I understand it, this does not mean that people should live lives of ‘sanyasis’. But it does mean that once a person has enough for a comfortable life, he is not the owner of the rest of his wealth. He is a mere ‘trustee’, and the wealth should be used for the good of society.
So how could this attitude, this mentality, of using wealth for the good of society be encouraged?
Dharma could show us the way. There is, of course, the personal aspect of Dharma, which shows individuals the ideal way to live their lives.
But there is also the social aspect- धारणात् धर्ममित्याहुः धर्मो धारयति प्रजाः | The power which brings individuals together and sustains them as a society is Dharma.
Dharma shows us that our life has a social aspect as well as an individual aspect. And that these two are dependent on each other. The individual and the society he lives in- both should prosper. The individual should not prosper at the expense of others in society.
If an imbalance happens, if individuals try to ‘get more and more’ by immoral means and by depriving others in society of their fair share-
-well then- what is happening today happens.