The governance and political system of a country are responsible for its social, economic, and spiritual development. Even after 75 years of independence, the political system has not advanced as far as it should. The Modi government has made many good decisions to reform the system over the last eight years, so some progress has been made, but there is still a long way to go.
In ancient times, the best system to follow was “Rajadharma,” What is Rajdharma, exactly? Examine the current system, its consequences, and what should be changed.
System of Ancient States
The political concept of Indian statesmanship, diplomacy, and rulers bound by dharma (Not religion) in ancient times was to ensure good governance for the people. Rajdharma was the code of conduct that overruled the ruler’s will and governed all of his activities. Good governance is discussed in Sanskrit and Pali ancient Indian scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita, Vedas, Mahabharata, Shantiparva, Nitisara, Ramayana, Arthashastra, Digha Nikaya, and Jataka.
Diplomacy is the art and practise of negotiating between state representatives. Diplomacy is an essential component of statecraft and is thought to be as old as the concept of the state itself. Diplomacy has a long history in Indian civilization. India had created its own ancient concept of statecraft, which included a broad and mutually agreed-upon diplomatic tradition.
It was both inclusive and exclusive among India’s various rulers, including states beyond the subcontinent’s geographical boundaries. Diplomacy was originally rooted in the concept of dharma or ethics; in ancient India, good governance was seen as part of a way of life that expected good behaviour from all and was based on a deep understanding of ‘dharma.’
The best religion is Rajadharma
Rajdharma’s vision of government included a king and states under his command. The provisions of Dharmashastra, Smriti cover a wide range of topics, including constitution and state institutions, kingship, kingship procedure, kingship code of conduct, kingship inheritance, education of young princes, and cabinet appointment. The powers and duties of the Chief Justice and other judges, the administrative department, and the King are all spelled out in detail.
The proponents of Dharmashastra declared that the power of the king (state) was necessary to keep society within the religious framework required for the fulfilment of meaning and function. Rajadharma, which established the king’s Dharma, was extremely important.
सर्वे धर्माः सोपधर्मास्त्रयाणां राज्ञो धर्मादिति वेदाच्छृणोमि |
एवं धर्मान् राजधर्मेषु सर्वान् सर्वावस्थान् सम्प्रलीनान् निबोध || शांतिपर्व (63/24-25)
That is to say, “All Dharmas are merged in Rajdharma, and thus it is the highest Dharma.”
As discussed in the Atrisamishta, good governance necessitates the state’s mandatory functions such as ethical behaviour and ethical standards.
दुष्टस्य दंडा सुजनस्य पूजा न्यायेन कोषस्य च सम्प्रवृद्धी l
अपक्षपथर्थीर्षु राष्ट्ररक्षा पंचैव यज्ञ कथिता नृपन्नम् ll
“The king [of the state] should perform these five yajnas (selfless duties): punishing the wicked, protecting the good, enriching the treasury through just methods, being impartial to litigants, and protecting the kingdom.” (Atrisamhita-28).
Kautilya incorporates a similar principle in the Arthashastra, where the objects of the king’s sovereign power are summarised as follows:
प्रजासुखे सुखं राज्या प्रजानां चा हिते हितम् l
नाटमप्रियं हितम् राजय प्रजानाम तू प्रियं हितम् ll
The king’s happiness is in the happiness of his people; his welfare is in their welfare; he should not do what he wants, but what is right for his people.” This implies that the king should regard himself as a “servant of the people” and do his duty rather than considering himself supreme and abusing his power.
Dharma serves as a beacon for all who wish to exercise their authority honestly within the constitutional system, motivating them to perform their duties selflessly in order for good governance to be manifested in action.
Because of the state’s existence and the institution of the state, its founders felt the need to define the structure, powers, and duties of the king, as well as a portion of the people’s income as taxes, for the purpose of defending the state, maintaining peace, and defining their obligations, to maintain social order and to implement various welfare measures for the benefit of the people. This requirement was met by enacting provisions to govern the constitution and organisation of the state, defining the powers and duties of the king and other state officers, and classifying these provisions as religious under the heading “Rajdharma.”
Rajadharma is treated separately in Dharmashastra and Smriti. Recognizing the importance of Rajdharma, many authors wrote treatises on it, including Rajnitisara, Dandaniti, and Nitisara, whose titles indicate that the essence of Rajdharma is a value-based society and value-based governance.
The ruler’s and the ruled’s self-control must be central to religious awareness and practise. According to Edward Gibbon in his book The Fall of the Roman Empire, the main cause of the downfall of mighty men was a loss of self-control.
The Mahabharata warns against haughty and ruthless rulers. There is a clear link between wealth and Dharma. Furthermore, even the mighty Bhishma, who took the great vow and lived a great life in defence of Dharma, confesses in an introspective moment.
“अर्थस्य पुरुषो दासो दासस्त्वर्थो न कस्यचित् ।
इति सत्यं महाराज ! बद्धोऽस्म्यर्थेन कौरवैः ।।”
The bitter truth is that man is the slave of wealth, and wealth is nobody’s slave. I, too, have become a slave of Duryodhana’s wealth. Financial independence and security are important aspects of character and integrity. If a powerful official does not know his Dharma, it is natural for him to be tempted by corrupt money and comforts. People’s selfishness should not be used to establish a false Dharma. A misunderstanding of Dharma leads to some foolish and suicidal actions and policies.
Leaders can learn a lot from Acharya Chanakya such as political science, economics, diplomacy, psychology, training methods, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s harmony, justice, and skills, Swami Vivekananda’s knowledge of Dharma, and an organisation like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which works day and night to devise solutions for every section of society and to understand the root of the problem to resolve in a systematic manner.
In a broader sense, Dharma includes political decision-making. Politics has become a religious arena (not Dharma). Individual decisions are influenced by the political climate and quality. This reality is vividly depicted in the Mahabharata. Individuals and individual actions are subject to political authority as units of a political system.
The legislature, the judiciary, the executive, and the constitution all wield enormous power in determining the parameters of individual and collective choices. Politics is based on three elements, according to the Mahabharata: punishment/governance, raksha/legal protection, and force/armed force. Good governance and the rule of law are essential to religious practise. The armed forces of a country are also important in protecting law-abiding citizens from both internal and external threats. Dharma is toothless and ineffective in the absence of armed force.
We learned this from the Chinese at a high cost, losing a lot of land to them. Our declarations of friendship and Panchsheel principles were ineffective in preventing the Chinese from taking over our territory by force. The protection of the armed forces is required for religious observance. As a Dharma based nation, India must maintain its armed forces, including nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Not to use it, but as a strategic force to ensure that no one dares to jeopardise our national interests.
Current political and governance system
Transparency, accountability, effectiveness and efficiency, the rule of law, strategic vision, free of corruption, fair and inclusive, responsive, participatory, and consensus-oriented are all words heard in today’s governance system. Many statesmen and political leaders use these words to demonstrate how they are good statesmen or how they can prove themselves if given power. But the truth is quite different.
The good governance that everyone desires is undoubtedly in the words mentioned above, but it is not seen in the behaviour of many rulers, leaders, and government officials, as well as in the governance system; what could be the reasons for this, and what are the expected solutions? When leaders like Narendra Modi and Yogi Adityanath reach the top and follow Rajdharma, they are ruthlessly targeted to bring them down. Surprisingly, those attempting to bring them down have no positive agenda for the country’s socioeconomic and spiritual development.
Dharma is not what Western intellectuals refer to as “religion.” Above, Dharma and Rajdharma are neatly explained. The majority of today’s leaders are unaware of the true Rajdharma. Because the Mughal and British rulers developed a kind of “mental slavery” and succumbed to selfish tendencies, the impression they have made is either based on western knowledge or they have never studied Vedas, Upanishads, and Bhagavad Gita.
That is why, among most of today’s rulers, this mentality, this selfish attitude has created a sense of family and party first, and country last. Such a mindset leads to corruption, misrule, exploitation, nepotism, poverty, and cultural and environmental degradation, which is cause for concern.
The solution is to make drastic changes to the educational system. The emphasis should be on developing individual character as well as national character. The Vedas, Upanishads, Arthashastra, Bhagavad Gita, and real history should be included in the curriculum so that national character and overall development can be promoted, and dharma and Rajdharma can be properly understood and become an integral part of life. In addition, military training for 2 to 3 years should be made mandatory for all those wishing to enter politics or government service.
There should be no distinction between high and low, rich and poor for rulers. Rajdharma’s fundamental theory is based on social harmony. If we examine our history carefully, we will see that our enemies ruled for many years by causing rifts in society and weakening us socioeconomically.
Instead of learning from their mistakes, political leaders continue to win elections and spread hatred in society by instilling caste differences. Because of this, there is still a lot of inequality in society today. Today’s Sri Lanka is a prime example of how inequality is wreaking havoc on the country. There are numerous reasons for their demise, one of which is social discrimination.
हिन्दव: सोदरा: सर्वे, न हिंदू पतितो भवेत् |
मम दीक्षा धर्म रक्षा, मम मंत्र समानता ||
Akhil Hindu means that all Indians are Mother India’s children. As a result, no one can be degraded. We have taken the “Dharmakshana” initiation with the mantra “Equality.” This initiation will promote social harmony and lead the country to greatness.
Dynasticism is a curse for any country or government. National or state interest is never a priority; only how to benefit own family is, and this attitude prioritizes corruption, casteism, provincialism, linguisticism, and the country sinks into an abyss. As a result, Rajdharma should be taught in schools so that the common people do not fall prey to the elites who thrive on dynasticism.
Every individual in society is responsible for rooting out corruption, not just political parties and government officials. Corruption will not be eliminated simply by enforcing strict laws and using cutting-edge technology; strict laws and cutting-edge technology must be used, but “morality” and “character formation” must also be developed.
Political leaders supporters are protesting and destroying government property in support of corrupt leaders. The main reason for this is that the culture of Sanatan Dharma has been lost somewhere; this principle should be resurrected through education.
Different social organisations should also take the initiative and carry out various activities in society for the formation of each person’s individual and national character, using the principles outlined in ancient literature and working in the spirit of “Country First.”
The criminalization of politics is a major source of concern among the general public. The common people have been exploited and oppressed on a large scale with the attitude that power is in our hands, that we own the country and that the common people are our slaves. Arbitrary governance through the use of government systems and taking the law and regulations into one’s own hands has caused significant harm to the country.
Because our state system appears to be based on the mantra of equality, our Vedic texts do not include the concepts of minority and majority. However, many rulers today are working to create a “vote bank” for selfish politics and power greed in order to benefit a specific minority class by subverting the constitution and laws.
By weakening the majority society and establishing discourse against it, the country is creating an environment of inequality and a significant threat to cultural unity. The majority society must consider how the rulers benefit and harm society by abandoning cultural traditions and failing to properly analyse and learn from history. It is critical to raise this awareness.
Human Development Index, Leader Integrity, Welfare State/Yoga Kshetra, and Happiness Index of the country should be given special attention, and ancient spirituality should be studied to achieve success in this.
A Good Governance Conceptual Model for India
Ramayana-Egalitarian: The main feature of the egalitarian approach is equality, and if we look at Rama Rajya, we can see that it emphasises equality and justice for all.
Ethicoterian: Mahabharata Morality is the fundamental foundation of the Ethicoterian viewpoint, and governance in the Mahabharata is also based on ‘Dharma’ or righteousness.
Utilitarianism is based on the concept of efficiency, and economics promotes efficiency through the welfare state and economic empowerment which Kautilya taught and showed.
When discussing an ideal governance model, all of the features listed above, as well as some existing factors, play an important role. Ramayana Egalitarianism + Mahabharata Ethicoitarianism + Economics Utilitarianism + Existing Factors = Ideal Governance Model
The main difference between the current existing characteristics of ideal governance and the ancient model of governance is that the current existing characteristics do not include qualitative factors such as the leader’s ethics and integrity, the country’s happiness index, the welfare state, and so on, which are all very important. The state of governance in any country is determined by how much importance its rulers place on “Rajdharma.”
All energy should be used to bring the nation to its highest glory by combining Rashtradharma and Rajdharma and instilling a national character in every citizen. The greatest impediment is the wide disparity between castes, as well as the belief that religion and self are more important than the nation.
Caste cannot be destroyed, but we will come together according to Sanatan principles and consider Rajdharma and Rashtradharma as the highest, and implement social harmony, corruption-free, just governance, and political system, paving the way for us to become Vishwa Guru once more.
Writer – Pankaj Jagannath Jayswal