Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Golden Rule in Hinduism: the Mahābhārata and Narayana Hitopadesha

THE GOLDEN RULE IS FOUND ENSCONCED WITHIN the lengthy Hindu epic poem, the Mahābhārata. The Mahābhārata is one of the two major epics of ancient India, and is one of Hindu's most important religious narratives. Although the Mahābhārata as a whole is not widely known in the West, and its length is virtually overawing [about 100,000 verses, 1.8 million words, ten times the length of the Iliad and Odyssey combined; in the Critical Edition of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (the "Pune" or "Poona" edition), the Mahābhārata was 13,000 pages in 19 volumes!], the popular Bhagavad Gita, which is well-known, is part of it. The text of the Mahābhārata is quite old, parts of it reach back to the 4th century B.C., but in its final form it probably stems from the early Gupta period (4th century A.D.). The Mahābhārata is divided into 18 books or parvas. The Golden Rule is found in Book 13 or the Anushasana Parva (Book of Instructions). The Golden Rule is the rule of righteousness: it is Dharma (धर्म) Its opposite, selfishness and disregard for others, is Adharma (अधर्म).

Mahābhārata English

Anasuna Parva Section CXIII

Kisari Mohan Ganguli, trans.

Mahabarata Sanksrit

महाभारत

"Yudhishthira said, 'Abstention from injury, the observance of the Vedic ritual, meditation, subjugation of the senses, penances, and obedient services rendered to the preceptors,--which amongst these is fraught with the greatest merit with respect to a person?'

"Vrihaspati said, All these six are fraught with merit. They are different doors of piety. I shall discourse upon them presently. Do thou listen to them, O chief of the Bharatas! I shall tell thee what constitutes the highest good of a human being. That man who practices the religion of universal compassion achieves his highest good. That man who keeps under control the three faults, viz., lust, wrath, and cupidity, by throwing them upon all creatures (and practices the virtue of compassion), attains to success He who, from motives of his own happiness, slays other harmless creatures with the rod of chastisement, never attains to happiness, in the next world. That man who regards all creatures as his own self, and behaves towards them as towards his own self, laying aside the rod of chastisement and completely subjugating his wrath, succeeds in attaining to happiness. The very deities, who are desirous of a fixed abode, become stupefied in ascertaining the track of that person who constitutes himself the soul of all creatures and looks upon them all as his own self, for such a person leaves no track behind. One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one's own self. This, in brief, is the rule of Righteousness. One by acting in a different way by yielding to desire, becomes guilty of unrighteousness. In refusals and gifts, in happiness and misery, in the agreeable, and the disagreeable, one should judge of their effects by a reference to one's own self. When One injures another, the injured turns round and injures the injurer. Similarly, when one cherishes another, that other cherishes the cherisher. One should frame one's rule of conduct according to this. I have told thee what Righteousness is even by this subtile way.'

"Vaisampayana continued, 'The preceptor of the deities, possessed of great intelligence, having said this unto king Yudhishthira the just, ascended upwards for proceeding to Heaven, before our eyes.'"
1 [य] अधर्मस्य गतिर बरह्मन कथिता मे तवयानघ धर्मस्य तु गतिं शरॊतुम इच्छामि वदतां वर कृत्वा कर्माणि पापानि कथं यान्ति शुभां गतिम 2 [बृहस्पति] कृत्वा पापानि कर्माणि अधर्मवशम आगतः मनसा विपरीतेन निरयं परतिपद्यते
3 मॊहाद अधर्मं यः कृत्वा पुनः समनुतप्यते मनः समाधिसंयुक्तॊ न स सेवेत दुष्कृतम 4 यथा यथा नरः सम्यग अधर्मम अनुभाषते समाहितेन मनसा विमुच्यति तथा तथा भुजंग इति निर्मॊकात पूर्वभुक्ताज जरान्वितात 5 अदत्त्वापि परदानानि विविधानि समाहितः मनः समाधिसंयुक्तः सुगतिं परतिपद्यते 6 परदानानि तु वक्ष्यामि यानि दत्त्वा युधिष्ठिर नरः कृत्वाप्य अकार्याणि तदा धर्मेण युज्यते 7 सर्वेषाम एव दानानाम अन्नं शरेष्ठम उदाहृतम पूर्वम अन्नं परदातव्यम ऋजुना धर्मम इच्छता 8 पराणा हय अन्नं मनुष्याणां तस्माज जन्तुश च जायते अन्ने परतिष्ठिता लॊकास तस्माद अन्नं परकाशते 9 अन्नम एव परशंसन्ति देवर्षिपितृमानवाः अन्नस्य हि परदानेन सवर्गम आप्नॊति कौशिकः 10 नयायलब्धं परदातव्यं दविजेभ्यॊ हय अन्नम उत्तमम सवाध्यायसमुपेतेभ्यः परहृष्टेनान्तरात्मना 11 यस्य हय अन्नम उपाश्नन्ति बराह्मणानां शता दश हृष्टेन मनसा दत्तं न स तिर्यग्गतिर भवेत 12 बराह्मणानां सहस्राणि दश भॊज्यनरर्षभ नरॊ ऽधर्मात परमुच्येत पपेष्व अभिरतः सदा 13 भैक्षेणान्नं समाहृत्य विप्रॊ वेद पुरस्कृतः सवाध्यायनिरते विप्रे दत्त्वेह सुखम एधते 14 अहिंसन बराह्मणं नित्यं नयायेन परिपाल्य च कषत्रियस तरसा पराप्तम अन्नं यॊ वै परयच्छति 15 दविजेभ्यॊ वेदवृद्धेभ्यः परयतः सुसमाहितः तेनापॊहति धर्मात्मा दुष्कृतं कर्म पाण्डव 16 षड्भागपरिशुद्धं च कृषेर भागम उपार्जितम वैश्यॊ ददद दविजातिभ्यः पापेभ्यः परिमुच्यते 17 अवाप्य पराणसंदेहं कार्कश्येन समार्जितम अन्नं दत्त्व दविजातिभ्यः शूद्रः पापात परमुच्यते 18 औरसेन बलेनान्नम अर्जयित्वाविहिंसकः यः परयच्छति विप्रेभ्यॊ न स दुर्गाणि सेवते 19 नयायेनावाप्तम अन्नं तु नरॊ लॊभविवर्जितः दविजेभ्यॊ वेद वृद्धेभ्यॊ दत्त्व पापात परमुच्यते 20 अन्नम ऊर्जः करं लॊके दत्त्वॊर्जस्वी भवेन नरः सतां पन्थानम आश्रित्य सर्वपापात परमुच्यते 21 दानकृद्भिः कृतः पन्था येन यान्ति मनीषिणः ते सम पराणस्य दातारस तेभ्यॊ धर्मः सनातनः 22 सर्वावस्थ मनुष्येण नयायेनान्नम उपार्जितम कार्यं पात्रगतं नित्यम अन्नं हि परमा गतिः 23 अन्नस्य हि परदानेन नरॊ दुर्गं न सेवते तस्माद अन्नं परदातव्यम अन्याय परिवर्जितम 24 यतेद बराह्मण पूर्वं हि भॊक्तुम अन्नं गृही सदा अवन्ध्यं दिवसं कुर्याद अन्नदानेन मानवः 25 भॊजयित्वा दशशतं नरॊ वेद विदां नृप नयायविद धर्मविदुषाम इतिहासविदां तथा 26 न याति नरकं घॊरं संसारांश च न सेवते सर्वकामसमायुक्तः परेत्य चाप्य अश्नुते फलम 27 एवं सुखसमायुक्तॊ रमते विगतज्वरः रूपवान कीर्तिमांश चैव धनवांश चॊपपद्यते 28 एतत ते सर्वम आख्यातम अन्नदानफलं महत मूलम एतद धि धर्माणां परदानस्य च भारत










































































































In one sense, the Golden Rule in Hinduism is more extreme that that of Christianity, in that it extends beyond other men, to all of brute creation. This solicitude largely stems from the Hindu belief of metempsychosis or reincarnation and the transmigration of souls (the result of which is to sacralize animals, or viewed another way, extend the universe of human souls to outside the bodies of men and women). From a Christian standpoint this extension is dogmatically erroneous. (That is not, however, to suggest that animals may be mistreated or abused.)

Mahābhārata English

Rajadharmanusasana Parva
Section LXVI

Kisari Mohan Ganguli, trans.

Mahabarata Sanksrit

महाभारत

It is certainly sacred, O tiger among men. That man who regards all creatures to be like his own self, who never does any harm and has his wrath under control, obtains great happiness both here and hereafter.

(Sanskrit text not found)





















The Golden Rule is also evidenced in the Hitopadesha, which is a collection of Sanksrit fables written in the 12th century A.D. that intend to give advice and to instruct particularly the young in a manner of life. We find the following in Book I of the Hitopadesha, named Mitralabha, Gaining Friends, in the tale of the Traveler and the Tiger.

As our life to you is dear,
So is his to every creature.
The good, for all, compassion bear
By analogy with their own nature.

Of aye and nay, of pain and pleasure
Of what may nice or nasty be,
Man can get the truest measure
By making self-analogy.
. . .
As dirt, to see the wealth of others
And wives of other men, as mothers;
In creatures all, yourself reflected:
Who sees thus is the man perfected.
[Who feels for others as he feels for self,
He is [a] true pandit, he is [a] true wise man.]
Narayana Hitopadesa (London: Penguin, 2006) (A.N.D. Haksar, trans.), 19 (last two verses are as quoted in H. T. D. Rost, The Golden Rule: A Universal Ethic (Oxford: Goerge Ronald, 1986), 29 (citing erroneously as the Manu smirti as quoted by Bhagavan Das in his Essential Unity of All Religions).

In assessing Hinduism's Golden Rule, we should keep in mind that Hinduism's great virtue is atmaupamya, the notion that the same soul resides in every being. The term atmaupamya, literally means a substantial equality, that is, identity, of others with oneself, is used in the Bhagavad Gita (śloka VI.32).

He, O Arjuna, who sees with equality everything, in the image of his own self, whether in pleasure or in pain, he is considered a perfect yogi.
The concept stems ultimately from the Upanishads. For example, verse 6 of the Isah (Isavasya) Upanishad states:

The wise man who realizes all beings as not distinct from his own self, and his own self as the self of all beings, does not, by virtue of that perception, hate anyone.

There is thus a fundamental difference that exists behind the Golden Rule as understood by the Christian and Jewish religious traditions, and the Eastern traditions such as Hinduism. It would seem that the Golden Rule is ultimately intra-personal in Hinduism, in the sense that the Hindu sees all creation substantively one with Brahman, while the Christian and Jewish sense of the rule is ultimately inter-personal, where we are all one under and in God, without ever losing our individual personhood. As Fr. Mariasusai Dhavamony explains it: "He who practises the golden rule [as understood in Hinduism] constitutes himself the soul of all creatures and looks upon them all as his own self. The meaning is certainly that such a man identifies himself with Brahman (the Absolute) and hence leaves no trace of his own self." Mariasusai Dhavamony, S.J., Hindu Spirituality (Rome: Editrice Pontifica Universitá Gregoriana 1999), 192.

While there is therefore a significant parallel between the understanding of the Golden Rule in Hinduism, and that of the Golden Rule in Christianity and Judaism, we ought not to be lulled into thinking them identical. There is a significant distinction in anthropological and theological assumptions behind the two rules. In practice, however, it may be that there is a great overlap between the two, and so Hinduism, like Christianity, has a great regard for human life, family life, and discipline over the passions, which, if uncontrolled can be so damaging to others.

2 comments:

  1. How many languages do you know, man? Who are you? Obviously Catholic, obviously highly educated if not working as a professor. Is this blog done by a team or are you monk? A team of monks?

    I agree on the ultimate "intra-personal" nature of morality in much Hinduism. It's like Aristotle's "two bodies having one soul" definition of friendship filtered through Hindu cosmology: "everybody having one soul". One should act in accord with the friend's good, who is incorporated into the same existence as you are.

    How do you think the idea of dharma relates to natural law in Hindu thought? I thought dharma was more than just a rule of righteousness but included one's duties in life--more deontologically and personally oriented. From what I remember, there is morally tense interplay between dharma and karma in the Bhagavad Gita, with Krisna giving his counsel to what's his name in the chariot about whether to wage war against his own family members, etc. In other words, in the Bhagavad Gita there can really be true moral dilemmas, unlike in the traditional Christian account of a moral universe.

    Am I confused here?

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  2. I'm none of those things. I'm just a Catholic layman, a practicing trial and appellate lawyer, trying to figure things out in a spirit of faith, with a thousand questions yet (hopefully) never venturing into doubt. I don't know if I "know" any languages, even English, but I have varying working ability with a number of them.

    I hope to address dharma straight on in the future, but I think your notion of dharma is right in terms of being something beyond a rule of righteousness. There is a dharma for every state in life.

    The incident you cite in the Bhagavad Gita is one of the more beautiful, and more poignant in all of literature.

    Thanks for your comments.

    ReplyDelete