Where the Wise Roam Free

Where the Wise Roam Free
(This series unravels the dharmic dialogue between Narada Muni and Raja Yudhishthira in the Sabha Parva of Mahabharata. Part XIII dealt with protecting the wise and noble persons; Part XIV follows.)

Narada Muni questions Yudhishthira subtly if the good souls in his kingdom are protected. Not even unknowingly should such people suffer due the ignorance or arrogance of the king and other vested interests of his court. Even in Ramayana, we can see this when Ravana is killed by Sri Rama. Ravana did many wrong things, especially kidnapping and torturing Sita Devi. Yet, Ravana was extremely intelligent and a great devotee of Lord Shiva. So, upon killing Ravana and returning to Bharat, Sri Rama performs a puja to repent for brahma-hatya, the act of killing a wise person. There was a good aspect to Ravana, but he couldn’t redeem himself. Sri Rama had to do what he had to, but he also offered his respects to the nobility contained within the evil. So Narada cautioned Yudhishthira never to ruin the life of a good person.

Unfortunately, we have seen such gory instances even in Bharat’s history over the past 300-400 years. So many Sikh gurus were killed, buried alive, put in a boiling cauldron and slaughtered because they preached a truth that was uncomfortable for the dominant society at that time. Such intolerance towards an inconvenient opinion should never be encouraged.

Even when the master Adi Sankara traversed the country by foot, he had to encounter several challenges. But the  culture of the land was such that wisdom was always acknowledged. It was said that almost 75 different schools of thought were existent within Hindu philosophy at that time. It is exemplified in Adi Sankara’s debate with Mandana Mishra, a traditional karma kandin. Though Adi Sankara professed a different philosophy, Advaita, Mandana Mishra accepted defeat with dignity, after a prolonged debate. The stakes of this debate was that the losing person would adopt the ways and means of the other. This is how wisdom recognises wisdom. Mishra surrendered to Sankara as a disciple, took to the path of Advaita and became Sureshvaracharya. The wise can be questioned and debated, but society must never bring any harm upon them.

This was the advice given to a king, but how do we apply it in our lives?

Make sure that no wise person in our midst is insulted or berated upon. We may not be able to support a good cause ourselves but let us not oppose it. If we recognise that someone is honest and good, let us not stand in their way. We should never permit them to be treated badly or get hurt by society. If we do not extend support to them, we would be in a dismal situation. Imagine how this earth will be if sattvik people do not support sattva.

This is dharma, this is not a favour we do. Many times, good actions are seen as a favour. No, it is our duty.

These days we find that the sense of dharma is lost even in regular interactions. The wise are threatened for having unpopular opinions. It reminds us of the saying by the African dictator, Idi Amin. ‘There is freedom of speech, but I cannot guarantee freedom after speech.’ Sadly, in India, we can observe even Bharat Ratna awardees and famous celebrities taking back their nationalist quotes because it didn’t align with a particular group of people.

If a tweet invites the wrath of a few people, how intolerant has this society become? And what is the threshold before they threaten and eventually take the life of others? Hence, protecting the wise becomes the foremost duty of every person. We need to pay all heed to Narada Muni’s question.

‘O Monarch! I hope no well-behaved, noble, pure souled and respected person’s life is ruined or taken on false charges by your ministers, ignorant of the shastras?’

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Chinmaya Udghosh