There are many lessons on democracy that we and our political leaders can learn from two of the greatest avatars, Rama and Krishna, who descended on India and blessed her and her people, says OSWALD PEREIRA
When I read yesterday the news online of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) dropping the chapter on challenges to democracy from Class 10 textbooks, my first thought was what would the man who is supreme in honour, Maryada Purshottam, Lord Rama think about this move.
Lord Rama, one of the greatest incarnations of all time, though a king, was the harbinger of democracy more than seven thousand years ago. Lord Rama was the embodiment of democracy in thought, word, and deed ― in precept and practice. Antaryami ― inner witness or the one who controls from within ― Lord Rama may have not formally used the word democracy, but it was, undoubtedly, practised in the glorious years of Ram Rajya.
Rama sent Sita to the forest when she was five months pregnant to allay doubts in his kingdom of Ayodhya about her purity falsely spread by a drunkard washerman. The king could have punished the washerman for calumny, but he instead chose to penalise Sita. She had earlier too undergone an Agni Pariksha (ordeal by fire) to prove her chastity after she was kidnapped by Ravana and kept in his captivity.
Rama is often criticised by some for what he did to Sita. But many others aver that Rama giving thought to the will or feelings of others, at the cost of both his wife’s and his happiness, shows what a great democrat he was.
During his reign, the ‘subject’ was the king and the ruler was there to serve the people. An avatar of Vishnu he was; but, in his bearing, behaviour and style of governance, he had qualities that would make the great democrats of the world throughout the history of the universe green with envy.
Our scriptures bear testimony to the fact that Lord Rama never took decisions unilaterally but always considered the people’s good wishes, his siblings’ and lieutenants’ views into consideration, in all decision-making.
Rama was also modest and humble to the core, as well as compassionate, never wearing his royalty on his sleeves. He accepted the berries offered by a humble devotee, Shabari, though she had first tasted them herself, saying, “of the many type of food he had tasted, nothing could equal these berries offered with such devotion.” He invited Vibishan, Ravana’s brother warmly into his camp, and refrained from attacking Ravana when he was left weapon-less. He never hated Ravana, despite the evil in him.
Like a true leader and democrat, Lord Rama inspired and motivated his team, which was never top-heavy. Hanuman’s Vanara Sena could complete the impossible task of building a bridge over the ocean, only because of Rama’s inspiration and encouragement as a leader.
Not far behind Lord Rama is Lord Krishna, whose leadership and democratic credentials have been proven beyond a shadow of doubt in the Mahabharata. The Supreme Leader and Teacher’s style is collaborative. He believed in discussions and talking over things, as is clearly evident in his dialogue with Arjuna to whom he gave great leeway. Krishna allowed Arjuna to take the final decision and overcome a crisis in his life.
A true democrat and leader should be a mentor ― a guide, friend and philosopher. Lord Krishna fits this role perfectly, as Arjuna eventually fulfilled his dharma, not at his behest, but under the guidance of Krishna. Like a true democrat, the Lord never took credit for the good he did, but stayed in the background.
There are many lessons on democracy that all of us and our political leaders can learn from two of the greatest avatars, Rama and Krishna, who descended on India and blessed her and her people.
We have a great history of a vibrant democracy that cannot be destroyed by the vagaries of leadership. The dropping of a chapter from a school textbook cannot change the course of our democratic history.
Oswald Pereira, a senior journalist, has also written eight books, including The Newsroom Mafia, Chaddi Buddies, The Krishna-Christ Connexion, How to Create Miracles in Our Daily Life and Crime Patrol: The Most Thrilling Stories. Oswald is a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, and practises Kriya Yoga.