VII DHARMA. Three Stages of Human Society (II)


Human knowledge and power manifest in many ways in the course of evolution. Three stages of it can be noticed — a natural state dominated by the body and controlled by the life-force, an intermediate and more advanced state preeminently rational, and the last and highest state in which the soul is predominant.

Man, when he is dominated by the body and driven by the life-force, is a slave of desire and interests. He knows only inherent selfishness, ordinary instinct and impulse. And he prefers whatever social arrangement seems to be convenient and is brought about by the chain of events resulting from the clash of desires and interests; he calls the collection of a few or many such regulations his dharma or way of life. Customs that run in the tradition or family or in society are the Dharma or Law of this lower natural state. The natural man has no idea of liberation, he does not know about the soul. The place where he can indulge without restraint his physical and vital impulses is an imaginary Paradise. To attain such a heaven after physical death is his salvation.

The man who is primarily intellectual always tries to regulate his desires and interests by reason. Where lies the fulfilment of desires, which particular interest among many different ones should have precedence, what is the nature of the ideal life, how and which discipline, as determined by reason to be followed so that nature may be cleansed and the ideal realised — he is ever engaged in thinking about these matters. He is willing to establish as his dharma a certain regulated cultivation of that nature and ideal principle. Such a sense of dharma is indeed the regulator of an advanced society enlightened by rational knowledge.

The dominantly spiritual man is aware of the secret soul beyond the intellect, the mind, the life, and the body and bases his life movement on self-knowledge. He directs all his activities towards liberation, self-realisation and the attainment of God, knowing these to be the culmination of life. And he regards as his dharma that way of life and the cultivation of that ideal which are conducive to self-realisation and which leads the movement of evolution towards that goal. The highest type of society is led by such ideal and such dharma.

From dominance by life to reason, from reason to the suprarational love, these are the steps of man’s ascent to the peaks of God.

There is not just one line of evolution in a particular society. All these three types of men exist in almost all societies and the community consisting of such a collection of people is a mixed one.

There are also in a natural society people ruled by reason as there are others ruled by the spirit. If these are few in number, disorganised or imperfect, then they make very little impact on society. Still some progress they are able to effect, have a hold on the society; however their influence becomes strong only if they can organise the many. But the natural men are far greater in number; the Law of the rational or spiritual man often becomes distorted, that of reason degenerates into mere convention, that of the spiritual man under the pressure of personal fancy and external custom oppressed, overwhelmed, made lifeless and diverted from its goal. Such is the end, we always observe.

We see that when reason is dominant, it assumes the leadership of society and tries to found a dharma enlightened by intellectual knowledge after changing or even destroying irrational taste and structure.

The enlightenment of the West — equality, liberty, fraternity — is only a form of this attempt. Success is impossible. Even the rational man, owing to want of spiritual knowledge, himself distorts his own ideal under the pressure of the impulses of mind, life and body. This stage is intermediate and there cannot be stability here — either there is a fall or an ascent towards the heights. Reason vacillates between these two pulls.

(Vividha Rachana, 1955)

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