Flow my way

Published: Nov 18, 2012, 07:33 IST | Devdutt Pattanaik |

The Bhagavat Puran tells the story of river Yamuna which flowed past Vrindavan, the forest that was the favorite haunt of Krishna and his companions

The Bhagavat Puran tells the story of river Yamuna which flowed past Vrindavan, the forest that was the favorite haunt of Krishna and his companions. One day, Krishna’s elder brother wanted to take a bath and he asked Yamuna to come to him. Yamuna said, “But I cannot break the riverbanks. You must come to me.” Balaram did not heed her words. He simply swung his plough and hooked it on the riverbank and dragged Yamuna, by the hair, to come towards him.

This story can be seen as a metaphor for canal irrigation. Unless the riverbank is broken, water cannot be made to flow into the fields. Violence helps man reorganise nature to his benefit. This is saguna violence, violence that can be seen. Violence associated with agriculture, industrialisation and development is visible violence.

Illustration/ Devdutt Pattanaik

This story can also be seen as a metaphor for domesticating the mind. Our imagination flows in different ways as determined by our whim. Society however demands we control our imagination and function in a particular way, guided by rituals and rules. This is also violence: mental violence or nirguna violence, violence that cannot be seen. Every human wants to live by his rules but laws, values, systems, processes, regulations compel them to live by organisational rules. This results in invisible violence. Through mental violence, the human-animal is compelled to behave in a civilised way. At first there is resistance; then it becomes a habit.

In nature, there are no rules. Nothing is right or wrong. Every living creature is allowed to do whatever it takes to survive. Words like ethics and morality do not come into the picture.

But culture is about rules; society is about rules. Organisations are about rules. Rules are artificial. They prop up society, which is a man-made structure.

Nothing about society is natural: it is all of man, by man, for man. And here, unfortunately, man does not mean human. Human society is created by the male of the species and favours the male of the species.

But whose rules are we talking about? My rules or your rules? When it is my rule, I love culture. But when I have to live by someone else’s rules, I do not like culture, unless I have chosen to voluntary accept the rules of someone else, because it gives me some benefit. This is a contract.

Of late, rules are coming into question. Rules made by secular authorities. Rules made by religious authorities. Rules of the individual that are conflict with the rules of a community. In India, the Khap panchayat makes rules that are against rules of the nation state. The anti-corruption movement sought to create more rules to check those who are breaking current rules. In Ireland, the medical community follows Catholic rules in matters related to medical termination of pregnancy that has recently led to the death of lady doctor of Indian origin. Everywhere, everyone seems to be assuming that my rules are better than yours. Underlying rules is violence that we often do not see.

The author is Chief Belief Officer of the Future Group, and can be reached at devdutt@devdutt.com

The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper. 

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