Curing corruption through culture
Abuse of power is a recurring theme in the world around us since time immemorial. It’s the classic contention of power in the hands of the undeserving. Scriptures relate the story of Sringi, a reactive young lad possessing the power of brahminical purity:
Once upon a time a great saintly king, Pariksit set out on a hunting expedition into a forest. Soon the gallant and powerful king was disturbed by an unusual urge of thirst and hunger. In that desperation he came upon the hermitage of the great sage Samika. The sage appearing to be absorbed in meditation completely ignored the arrival of the king and his entourage. Quite uncharacteristically, the king was infuriated at the neglect of the cardinal vedic principle of guest reception. If, even an enemy is to be offered a warm reception, the king was not unreasonable in expecting some welcoming words and water. Disgusted, the king garlanded the meditating sage with a dead snake and left his hermitage. Nonetheless, on the way back to his kingdom the cultured king raised self-doubt over his judgment of the sage. He gave the benefit of doubt to the sage feeling that he could have been genuinely absorbed in meditation. Thus repentance dawned on him and he prayed that the reaction for his misdeed be limited to him while his family and subjects be spared.
The sage’s young son, Sringi, on receiving the news of his father’s “insult” reacted without any concern for the king’s social position or spiritual greatness. Acting like a veteran, he spewed out a death curse on the king, entirely unproportionate to the casual slip in the king’s behavior. By the blow of this fatal curse, the impudent lad ended the golden era of the reign of saintly kings and paved the way for the age of quarrel and hypocrisy to stride in. Sringi not only brought disgrace to his father who later begged pardon for him but he also miserably fell short of the brahminical principle of tolerance, making Pariksit Maharaj the first victim of corrupted power. Sringi had the power but not the maturity of subjective responsiveness.
People today react to corruption by criticizing the ones in power. Though considered fashionable, idle criticism is destructive and futile at best. People today seek pleasure in agitating others and someone expert in artfully putting down others is considered a modern sage. Fault finding however is simply an exhibition of our disrespect to others born out of the vice of envy. Even a needle can be criticized for having a hole.
Vedic solution to abuse of power and privilege is training in the ‘culture of respect’. Culture means to know how to act with the right mentality and motivations. Vedic culture recognizes hierarchy and recommends that superiors be unquestionably respected. A righteous king or an administrator is to be respected as a representative of God even if he apparently misbehaves. He has the prowess to manage and the responsibility to protect all, especially the weak. Thus respect is a suitable reciprocation to the king’s protection.
However these administrators are expected to be guided by intelligent advisors. Such advisors have no personal power except the purityof their character. The success of this system is that the advisors guide the powerful executers, while themselves keeping distance from power, well knowing its corruptive nature. Thus trained and well guided rulers work for the welfare of all. Culture thus checks our lower nature and facilities us to live by higher principles. Culture provides an environment favorable for transformation and elevation.
After taking lessons from this episode, we can gladly appreciate the entire turn of events as a divine arrangement of the Lord to use Pariksit Maharaj as a medium to present the knowledge of Srimad Bhagvatam, the guiding light in this dark, misguided world.
Contributed by Manu Grover
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