In the era of widespread social media usage, two prominent outcomes emerge: confrontation and the dissemination of information.
Unfortunately, confrontation often outweighs the gathering of information, resulting in greater offenses, misunderstandings and eventually, censorship. To address this issue, our Dharma Sastras offer guiding principles for conducting respectful debates and constructive confrontations.
In the book “Vada,” Dr. Radha Krishna Tripathi quotes from the Mahabharata regarding the disqualification of a debater. The debater should certainly not possess below qualities:
– Vikramabhihatam: Full of words reflecting arrogance
– Sesam: Incompleteness
– Niskaranam: Unreasonableness
– Flaws of intent pertaining to making a statement out of kama (lust), krodha (rage), bhaya (fear), lobha (greed), dainya (self-pity), anaryatva (disgrace), hri (bashfulness), anukrosa (pity), and mana (ego)
In the vada tradition, scholars from different traditions engage in arguments, debates, and express their viewpoints. However, the focus is on discussing and challenging ideas and concepts rather than targeting individuals or groups. Once the debate is done they have courtesy to greet and move out.
Therefore, again the sastras talk about the virtues speech of a debater:
• Anapetarthata (wholeness)
• Abhinnarthata (coherence)
• Nyayarthata (judiciousness)
• Slaksanata (grace) and
• Asandiadhata (being free from doubt)
One of the greatest tragedies of debate is blind loyalty without knowledge. It is when one becomes loyal without having a clear understanding or picture of what exactly they are being loyal to.
Therefore, common people were trained to see the good in all, while educated scholars were taught to discern subtle differences while still maintaining cultural respect and unity.
An English scholar once said that when someone doesn’t know how to milk a cow, blood will ooze from the udder. Similarly, the sastras teach us about harmony rather than conflict and disharmony.
Satya and Dharma are not easily attained by simply being receptive to information. They require great Sadhana (rigorous practice), svadhyaya (study and contemplation), seva (service and action) and Sahakara (cooperation with the larger community beyond one’s limited identity).
Sanatana Dharma is like a vast parcel of land, encompassing diverse beliefs and practices. As a person following the dharmik path, different habits are accepted, and individuals are supported in evolving from wherever they currently stand. One’s contributions are acknowledged, and their limitations are discussed in a mature and constructive manner.
When Narada Muni saw a hunter bleeding and killing animals halfway, the great sage asked the hunter to kill them completely. The hunter had lost the idea of the pain caused to other beings. He was made to figure out the distinction between half-killing and full-killing.
Similarly, Bhardwaj Rishi, when the Bharat army came to halt before reaching Sri Rama to bring him back to Ayodhya were served with great affection. The army also consisted of warriors who are meat-eaters. Rishi organized the meat of different animals. Of course, one may argue that it means our Rishis also ate meat, but Bharadwaj Rishi was a student of Valmiki, who was a former hunter and had become param sattvik.
Therefore, the choice of meat or no meat is influenced by the cultural upbringing of different communities.
Violence of opinions over food is certainly not very comforting. Bharat was a land of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian people since time immemorial.
One great Buddhist leader is non-violent in his philosophy but occasionally eats meat. Sri Krishna is a pure vegetarian but waged war against adharma and killed many evil forces. Sri Rama, when he was in the forest, showed restraint in regards to all kinds of habits but regularly hunted animals and killed Rakshasas.
Shabari was a forest dweller but survived on fruits and roots. Ravana was a great scholar but threatened Sita Mayi that he would eat her in a meal.
The Bengal, Odisha, Bihar, Assam, and even coastal Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Kerala have many Brahmanas who traditionally eat meat. Of course, in North India and South India, there are thousands of strict vegetarian Brahmins.
There are hundreds of communities that are apparently ordinary but are pure vegetarians. Any attempt, legally, globally, or forcefully, to make everyone pure vegetarian or radical vegan or obsessive meat-eater is destined to fail.
The history of the world shows that Bharat has shown great diversity in integrating all classes of people while encouraging kindness towards all living beings.
One may read the book “Bloodless Revolution” about the fascinating world history of food habits of Bharatiyas and the lessons learned by many European travelers to Bharat. It’s an organic evolution to move forward.
The philosophies of Sri Rama and Sri Krishna emphasize oneness and diversity, guiding us to discern between good and bad. They taught us how to handle the bad, how to be good but not arrogant. They taught us to accommodate but not dilute. They taught us to remain exclusive with ourselves while being inclusive with the surrounding society.
By drawing inspiration from the lives of these legendary Avatars and greatest heroes of Bharat, we can transcend our limitations and unlock the potential to see the spark of splendor in one and all.
Certainly Vaishnavas and shaivites are strict vegetarians but they have always worked with all class of people while compassionately addressing to consume what is free from violence or minimum harm to others and accept the food as Yagna Prasad.
Aum Tat Sat !!