The very purpose for which Project SRS took birth, was to promote Equality. Giving it any other motive is a sacrilege by itself.
Having emphatically stated this, let us pinpoint why the need to have a project to promote Equality in today’s world, was so urgently felt. The concept of equality has flown from the hearts of people and become just another name to be bandied around by self promoting egos.
THE PRESENT SCENARIO
The income of the richest one fifth of the world’s population was 32 times that of the poorest one fifth in 1970. By 1990, this disparity had reached 60 times. If the trend continues, by 2050, it will be 200 fold.
Globally, an estimated 736 million women, almost one in three, have been subjected to violence, sexual or otherwise, at least once in their lifetime. The United Nations Population Fund claims that 117 million girls go ‘missing’ due to sex selective abortions.
The NCRB data says that atrocities against the SC, ST and Dalits, reveal a steady rise over the years.
So, you will agree, it is a dismal scenario today…. of a selfish, money centered society. The political scenario is constantly changing… ideologies are in flux… so, greater are the chances of ‘contamination’. Caste, creed, race, colour, even faith, have become commercial entities. They are used as vote banks on one hand and changed for financial benefits, on the other. They have become kalpa vrukshas, wish-fulfilling trees.
Misuse Of Age-old Systems
No one is concerned with the original purpose for which these divisions of society were created. They have been drastically abused. Instead of becoming a binding factor for a smooth running society, they are being used as a divisive factor to fragmentize society. These fragments are now fighting for domination. Smart, selfish persons are using these fragments, to shrewdly and stealthily divide and rule.
India doesn’t have a dearth of resources. They have been mismanaged… monopolised by a few to exploit the rest. It is a similar case all over the world.
THE REAL CAUSE
The thought of dominating others or capturing power to satisfy unbalanced fancies has become primary. With human achievement in technology and ease of its use the world is racing headlong towards further discrimination, domination and terrorism.
This need to monopolise, to dominate, creeps in when we think we are special and should maintain the elitism even at the cost of suppression of others. Who are these others? Anyone who is not mine. When the question of our near and dear ones comes, we are ready to lay down our lives for them. We want to treat them equal to, if not better than ourselves.
A PROBABLE SOLUTION
Let’s examine the concept of this inclusive equality.
At the micro level…. the body has many limbs and organs…. each with its own shape, size, nomenclature and specific activity. Yet they work in unison, responding to and sharing each other’s pain and joy, without disturbing their individuality. Imagine what would happen to our body if this inclusive equality were not there!
At the macro level…. the earth has many people … each person with his own language, race, religion, caste etc. We are definitely aware of our individuality…. but unison of inclusive equality….?…. Totally missing! So the condition of Mother Earth is pitiable.
A solution is definitely needed for the world, and to be more specific, for our country to come out of this situation.
To be frank, this inclusiveness should not be limited to human beings…. it must be expanded to cover all beings on this earth.. the flora, fauna and inert objects too.
Feeling of ‘mine’ gives rise to care and concern for what is mine. When ‘mine’ includes everything, the seed of equality is sown.
All problems, rising out of discrimination and inequality, will be addressed.
CAN WE FIND ANSWERS IN HISTORY?
To find the much needed solution, we need to go through the annals of history. Can we trace a similar situation in the society of those times? Was there any social reformer who raised his voice? Was he able to put his plan into action? The thought of this problem came to many… they addressed it too… but with negligible success. The one who could practice it himself, impress it on society and inspire acceptance in all, was Sri Ra:ma:nuja:cha:rya.
RA:MA:NUJA:CHA:RYA,AN EXEMPLARY SOCIAL REFORMER
Sri Ra:ma:nuja:cha:rya was a great visionary and an exemplary social reformer.
Before understanding a historical event or personality, we need to travel to that timezone. The mindset of the present cannot be applied to decide whether that activity was right or wrong. Having travelled back mentally, we can then realise the suitability of ‘transporting’ and applying the vision of yesteryears to the present situation.
SCENARIO, A 1000 YEARS AGO
If we travel back a 1000+ years, to the 11th century, we can understand the prevalent system. Democracy did not exist. It was Monarchy…. that too under the control of temples. In other parts of the world, it was the church that controlled monarchs.
Society was not people centered but temple centered. The demerit of the caste system had raised its ugly head. Control of temples was the monopoly of priests. Rules were rigid. No one, other than priestly castes, was allowed to study scriptures. If someone tried to learn them, tongues were cut! If someone tried hearing them, ears were filled with molten lead! People were shackled with discrimination. Entry was restricted in areas where ‘upper’ classes moved. Status of women was pathetic.
CHANGE BEGINS ...
Then Ra:ma:nuja:cha:rya emerged on the scene. Things began to change.
The inner essence of Bhagavad Githa was only with a few scholars. Though he was a great scholar, it became almost impossible for Ra:ma:nuja:cha:rya to get that secret. He traversed 200 miles, on foot, 18 times. Once he got it, he couldn’t contain it within and shared it with all, irrespective of caste, creed, religion etc. He calmed his angry mentor by saying that he was willing to face Hell to save the world from misery.
This shows how expanded his sense of ‘mine’ was… how concerned he was for social equality. He was a Social reformer. His persona was so encompassing that it cannot be confined to terms like,‘religious leader.’
His parameters for equality went beyond general social equality. He was deeply concerned with gender equality. In those days of rigid rules, he trained thousands of women in scriptural knowledge. Not only did he give them opportunities, he also elevated them to a worshipable level. The daughter of an Islamic sultan who lost her life due to pangs of separation from the deity, was given the status of a Goddess. In Melkote, she is worshipped as Bibi Nachiyar, even today. It is not the religion or the caste that makes a person great, but the devotion, dedication and commitment. This incident proves Ra:ma:nuja:cha:rya’s belief in communal equality too.
Another lady, a villager, was given respect and facilities at par with scholars, for the scriptural knowledge she had acquired. She was cited as a role model for women.
Sri Ramanuja knew the importance of making people capable of earning by themselves and giving them opportunities to be included in the process of production. In those days, temple administration was under the total control of one section of society. He divided the administration into 20 divisions. 50% of these were allocated to all classes of society. He thus put his belief in economic equality into practice, making sure that these, otherwise neglected, people not only got paid but were also allotted sufficient land to cultivate and survive while doing service. This action of his, brought all people under one umbrella. It gave them a sense of being part of one family, without fences of ego, false pride and caste. Economic equality encompassed social and gender equality. We must appreciate that Sri Ramanuja never thought of discarding the age-old system of castes and division of labour. He understood the idea based on which the system had originally developed…. but he spoke about the rigid limitations that had crept into the system.
EQUALITY AMONG HUMANS
Ra:ma:nuja:cha:rya was a staunch believer of equality among humans.
In fact Vivekananda referred to him as a saint of the heart as his heart went out to the downtrodden. Dalits were given opportunities to learn scriptures and also for economic equality. In fact, his CFO, was Dhanurdas, a dalit.
MAKING SURVIVAL EASIER FOR COMMON PEOPLE.
In the normal course, rulers, scholars, elite and bureaucrats travel on parallel lines, never meeting. Common man has to go through them all for survival. It was Ra:ma:nuja:cha:rya who transformed these parallel lines into crossroads, meeting at various junctures for the benefit of common people.
SARIRA SARIRI BHAVA SAMBANDHA
This great social reformer propounded the school of thought of Sarira Sariri Bhava Sambandha, connection between limbs and body. At the micro level it is applicable to our limbs and our body… at the slight macro level… limbs, the people; country, the body. These connections should exist for a common cause.. not out of fear but out of love and joy.
Finally, for almost 600 years, everyone across the length and breadth of Bharat of those days, followed Ra:ma:nuja:cha:rya’s ideology.