Friday, August 28, 2015

Soldier's pride is nation's security

27 August 2015

By Lt Gen PG Kamath (Veteran)
It was post 1971 and the nation was euphoric. Our countrymen were lauding the Indian Armed Forces for a spectacular victory that had changed the geography of the sub-continent. The nation was savouring the victory and more than 97,368 prisoners were in our Prisoners of War Camps. It was the second largest surrender in the Military History; second only to the surrender of Gen Von Paulus, German, 6th Army at Stalingrad in the Second World War. The Armed Forces were feted everywhere for its courage and the people were convinced that it was one instrument that would never let the country down.
Amidst this euphoria there were 4000 families, who had lost their fathers/sons/husbands in the war. Another 10,000 were wounded and maimed for life. They were picking up the lost threads of life to continue their journey in the forbidding world. However their sorrow was lost amidst the mirth, laughter and jubilation of victory.
Unknown to the services a band of bureaucrats were conspiring as to how to cut the Armed Forces to size. Defence Secretary was Mr K B Lal, who was literally there for the entire duration of the Third Pay Commission. He was the one, who provided the inputs to the Third Pay Commission. The Commission was constituted a year before the war and concluded two years after the war. It’s final recommendation marginalising the Armed Forces was made public two months after Fd Marshal Manekshaw relinquished the post of Chief. Indeed it was a clever move as the most popular person in the country was not able to take cudgels against the government. This Pay Commission cut the Armed Forces to size for winning the war for the country. Even Fd Mshl Manekshaw was not spared; more of it later. ‘Ingratitude unkinder than the winters wind’ to adopt Shakespearean phrase to an ungrateful government. How did the Government go about the act?
Firstly they abolished a separate Pay Commission for the Armed Forces and formulated an equivalence between the Armed Forces and Civilians. It was here that the Pay Commission struck its vilest blow when they considered that ‘a trained infantry soldier with three years of service is below a skilled labour. Little do they know that it is the infantry soldier who does the actual fighting and charges the enemy with naked bayonet literally on the very front edge of the battle and makes eye and steel contact with the enemy. He is the one who bears the brunt of more than 90% of casualty in all wars and yet he was considered the lowest strata to base their comparison. It also means that the infantry soldier with less than three years’ service was considered an semi-skilled/unskilled labour? Just mark the irony of the sinister and ignorant move? Rest of the soldiers were equated based on this preposterous formulae?
Next step was to reduce the percentage of pension for the Armed Forces. The OROP that was effective till 1972, was annulled after the third pay commission. A soldier then served only for 15 years and went on pension at the ages ranging from 33 years to 36 years of age. In view of this, his pension was 70% of his basic pay and an officers pension was 50% of his basic pay as the bulk of them retired at 50 years of age. The civilian counterparts were getting only 30% of their basic pay as pension. Please note they served till they were 58 years of age (now 60 years) and the soldiers retired a quarter century earlier. The wretched Third Pay Commission did not consider the additional 25 years of service his civilian counterpart served and raised their pension to 50% and reduced a soldiers pension from 70% to 50% in order to achieve the so-called parity. Further the government put mandatory 33 years of service for full pension fully knowing that the soldier then retired after 15 years of service. They further as a largesse made a seemingly generous gesture to the Armed Forces by pegging the mandatory service for full pension (50%) to 25 years. Just look at the clever move; fully knowing that the soldier retired after 15 years of service. Thus the soldier in effect got only 30% of pay after 15 years of service, as extrapolated from full pension of 50% of pay with 25 years of service. Thus the Government ingeniously cut a soldiers pension from 70% to 30% of pay at the same time enhancing the civilian pension from 30% to 50%. Look at the perfidy; how can possibly a Government run down her own Armed Forces? It is indeed a remarkable feat from a nation that was a slave nation for over two centuries, yet disregards her Armed Forces who ensure her hard earned freedom?
Our Defence Ministry were hand in glove with the proposals. There was not a whimper of protest to set right the injustice. The soldiers had to pay heavily for having won the war for the country. Their travails were not over; more was yet to come!
One would wonder why the soldiers did not protest against the brash injustice perpetrated on them? It would be difficult to believe, as those were the times the officers in particular were told that politics and pay were not to be discussed. They were naïve and had full faith in the government that in the long run; no injustice would be done to them? The disarming naivety of our officers appear incomprehensible now; but it was true then. Hence the entire master stroke of cutting the armed forces to size by impoverishing them was done with so much of dexterity, it took us couple of decades to realise its negative impact.
Mrs Gandhi was feted and was called ‘Durga’ and she basked in the limelight of victory and self-adulation. However, she proved to be the daughter of her illustrious father by sharing the same antipathy and disdain towards the Armed Forces. She was a smart women hence concealed it to a great extent with outer façade of support and derived maximum political mileage of the victory. The running down of the Armed Forces in the Third Pay Commission could not have been done without her active and positive consent?
Their next target was the most popular figure in the country Fd Marshal Manekshaw. He was made a Field Marshall and the appointment is active for life, though ceremonial in nature. A Field Marshall does not retire and continues to wear his five star rank for life. He was entitled to Pay and Allowances for life. The bureaucrats who were literally jealous of his popularity ensured that he did not get his pay and allowances; low and behold! for the next 36 years, and finally a lump sum of ₹ 1.60 crore of arrears was released to him on intervention by then President Abdul Kalam. A non-descript bureaucrat gave him his pension dues on his deathbed in Jun 2007 a few days before he breathed his last. Isn’t it a national tragedy? Don’t you sometimes feel whether the country deserves selfless service from its soldiers? Can any country on this earth be more ungrateful towards her soldiers than ‘Mother India? What a great victory for the MOD for destroying the soldiers pride?
Let us now analyse as to why a soldier fights? Why does he give his life for a cause? What makes him charge through a fusillade of bullets and splinters against sure death and injury overcoming the instinct of self-preservation? Why is he prepared to make his ultimate sacrifice and bid goodbye to the world? Why does he not think of his loving wife, his innocent children, his aged parents and the living world of mirth and bliss; knowing he has not even spent a quarter of his life? Why all his near and dear ones pale in to insignificance and he sees only his mission like Arjuna only seeing the eye of the bird? All these questions can be answered in two words; His Pride.
It is his professional pride that make him a hero. He wants to be a hero before his comrades; before his superiors, in his unit and in his country. He is a hero of his village and hero in front of his parents. He is a hero to his wife and a super hero to his children. He also knows he is the last bastion of the nation and he is the last trump card in the hands of his nation. He knows that if he fails the nation fails. It is this emotion that drives him towards mission accomplishment. It is all the way Pride! Pride! And Pride. It is nothing else but ‘Pride’.
Sad to say; it is exactly that the Governments of his own country wants to deprive him of? He has been badgered, humiliated, impoverished and made a laughing stock in all the successive pay commissions. His status has been lowered time and again by an insensitive government. How can noble thoughts like sacrifice, mission, cause, patriotism and pride be ever understood by self-serving, sly and scheming bureaucracy? A soldiers pride has taken a beating and believe me sir! It would be a long and painful time to build it again?
Mr Prime Minister! Before you forget history; In Jun 1932 President Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of US ordered firing on the veterans of First World War for demanding the promised bonus. Two veterans were killed and several injured. Herbart Hoover lost the election with a devastating defeat and has gone down in history as a lack lustre President. The Great Depression may have contributed to his rout but the firing on veterans brought him great disrepute. Mr Prime Minister! You are certainly made of a better stuff than Herbert Hoover? Enough has been said of ‘OROP’ and nothing more needs to be said about it. Supreme court has granted it and parliamentary committee has approved it. Not a single political party has opposed it but it is still undone? For the past 70 days agitation is on and brute force of police has been unleashed on them. Dear Prime Minister! I hope you have seen the sad picture of a proud veteran trying to fight his tears and another veteran whose shirt with medals torn asunder withstands the criminal use of force against him with quiet dignity and equanimity. It is still not too late to make amends.
Reminds me the words of Edmond Burke “ Invention is exhausted, Reason is fatigued, Experience has given its judgement but Obstinacy remains unconquered”. Mr Prime Minister ! I believe you have still the ability to overrule small minions around you, who do not have the nation in their heart and are bent upon the murdering the ‘ Pride in a Soldier’. Remember ‘Soldiers’ Pride is Nation’s Security’. You kill his pride; you endanger the nation’s security.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Power doctrine of Ajit Doval

Power doctrine of Ajit Doval: Why it is much better than empty Gandhi-giri

We have not seen much clarity in Indian strategic thinking despite the coming and going of governments. Maybe, this is now changing. Ajit Doval, our National Security Advisor (NSA), spoke in Mumbai yesterday (4 August) on “State Security, statecraft and Conflict of Values”, and he had this to say: “India has a mentality to punch below its weight. We should not punch below our weight or above our weight, but improve our weight and punch proportionately.”
This is a simple, if not all that original, statement on the importance of wielding power effectively — something Indians have seldom thought through in over 5,000 years of civilisational history, despite indulging in periodic speculation about the true nature of power. If Doval and his boss Narendra Modi convert this principle into strategic thought and purposive action on the ground, India will be a safer place in the longer term.
Among other things, Doval pointed out the obvious: weak states invite trouble rather than mitigate or combat it. “If you make a provocation, you are partly responsible. But if you are not able to exercise power, it is as good as not having it,” The Indian Express quotes him as saying. This again is something that is obvious to all but those who substitute emotion for clear-headed thinking – and especially those peaceniks who believe lighting candles at Wagah or offering unilateral concessions will bring peace with Pakistan. This is useful idiocy from Pakistan’s point of view, but won’t do much for the security of Indians.
Ajit Doval. AFP
Doval also made an important distinction between individual morality and state actions. An individual can embrace non-violence and accept non-retaliation as a personal principle, but a state cannot. States have to act for the larger good, and a “nation will have to take recourse to all means to protect itself.”
He also pointed out the silliness of assertions that hanging Yakub Memon, convicted for the 1993 Mumbai blasts, was some kind of “state-sponsored killing”, as Shashi Tharoor tweeted. Doval said: “The first duty of the government of India is to protect itself. In this protection, conflict of interest is automatic…when a state acts in a judicial way (through) the due process of law, its actions are correct, and it does not reduce you to murderers.” (Note: One presumes when Doval talked of the government of India, he meant the Indian state and not a specific government.)
The point of quoting Doval at length is not to justify the Memon hanging or to indulge in macho muscle-flexing about terrorism, but to talk about the usual Indian ambivalence about power and its concomitants. We have allowed all issues relating to power to degenerate into issues of personal morality, and in the process reduced ourselves to ineffective and weak statehood. We are paying the price regularly for this.
The Abrahamic religions (and the resultant civilisations) and Indic faiths like Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism asked themselves a key question about power and its durability. They came to opposite conclusions. Both recognised the transient nature of individual power — ultimately we all die, powerless to change our fate — but the conclusions we drew from this realisation have made a huge difference to our attitudes to it.
Indic philosophers saw power as transient and decided (by and large) that the only power worth having is the power over ourselves – since that directly impacts the quality of our inner and outer lives. We thus became “seekers” of truth rather than “believers” in absolute truths. We developed ambivalent attitudes to power and we are still uncomfortable with its acquisition and use for temporal ends. Hence our emphasis on meditation, conquest of ego, individual dharma — all of which empower us spiritually, but leave us naked when confronted with the external, physical power of our enemies.
The west looked at power and its transient nature and saw the need to make it last — and they developed law and institutions to perpetuate power beyond one lifetime.
The truth is not that the west was right and we were wrong, but that both approaches are needed.  Today, if the west is adopting yoga and meditation as lifestyle choices, it is because they see the pointlessness of having money and power and an empty, meaningless life. We have to learn the opposite lesson: how to use real power for long-term benefit to society, even without losing our belief in inner spiritual growth.
Our failure to seek a balance between power over oneself and long-term state power has resulted in our embracing soft options and temporary non-solutions as a substitute for strategy and long-term thinking. I am, of course, oversimplifying, for it is not true that Indian philosophers and empire builders did not seek this balance (Chanakya Niti is one example of the kind of thought that went into creating the ideal state using varied elements of power), but the overall failure to harness power and put it to good use has been very visible in Indian history – and endures to this day.
This is evident in our wariness about the acquisition of economic and military power even today, and explicit in our tendency to confuse arguments about power with arguments about personal morality.
Gandhi typified this attitude best. He considered Jesus’s Sermon on The Mount — a sermon for losers that extolled the virtues of meekness — as his guiding principle. Nehruvian policies — of high moral principles and a low ability to live up to them — are a direct outgrowth of Gandhi’s predilections.
Gandhi’s advice to the victims of Hitler’s aggression was something like this: throw yourself at his mercy, don’t fight, and win the fascist dictator over through love and peaceable activities. When it came to dealing with Hitler, racist Winston Churchill had better ideas than hyper-moral Gandhi. This is not to say Gandhi was wrong, but advice that may be all right for an individual to apply to himself may not be right when applied thoughtlessly to others – or the whole of society. Personal morality that results in failure (or success) only affects one individual; when it applies to society or state, it can lead to disaster.
In Arun Shourie’s book Eminent Historians, he quotes Dr BR Ambedkar to show how internally focused Buddhism failed to note the threat of Muslim invaders and their iconoclastic zeal. In one fell swoop, the invaders destroyed all Buddhist monasteries and idols of the Buddha, hastening the religion’s demise. Passivism and lack of real power played a key role in Buddhism’s extinguishment from the land of its birth.
Nothing illustrates our own current self-defeating attitudes to power and morality better than the arguments we have heard over the death penalty. Those who want to end the death penalty are fond of quoting Gandhi’s observation that an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth will leave the whole world blind and toothless.
Gandhi clearly did not understand game theory and the practical outcomes of his personal morality. What may be true for individual violence may not be true for societies and the state. If I hit you in the eye and you hit me back, and I break your teeth and you return the compliment, we may both become blind and toothless. But this is not what happens to the larger society when a tit-for-tat policy is followed. When eye-for-eye and tooth-for-tooth, both action and reaction, continue for some time between two combating societies or their respective states, both learn to start acting more carefully. Both states proceed to protect themselves from going blind or toothless. Thus eyes and teeth get better protection, and over time, both learn that there is no gain in taking the other’s eye or knocking out his tooth. In short, mutual strength creates mutual deterrence over time — and leads to a durable peace.
This was clearly established in game theory experiments conducted by Robert Axelrod in 1980 at the University of Michigan. Axelrod invited game theorists to submit strategies for testing in computer-simulated games to check whether being saintly is a substitute for being sensible. His experiments tried to establish whether opponents tried to cooperate or cheat when they were unclear about the other person’s real intent. To cut a long story short (you can read a summary of his experiments here), the strategy that won more often than not was “tit-for-tat”. That is, all players should try good faith in the first instance, but if the rival plays dirty, you pay him back in the same coin. Over time, the players can learn to cooperate.
The Gandhian argument of blindness and toothlesses is valid only in the individual context, where winning and losing can be defined by each person. An inability to hit back in the societal or national context will, on the other hand, actually invite attacks – as Nehru found out with the Chinese in 1962, and as we have repeatedly found out by treating Pakistan with kid gloves. A strong state with the ability to give as good as it gets is a pre-requisite for peace.
Now consider what the true inheritors think of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount actually do as opposed to what they profess. No Christian majority nation — from America to Britain to any member of the European Union — will ever turn the other cheek when hit. Did George Bush turn the other cheek after 9/11? He hit back twice as hard. Does Israel believe in rolling with the punches or give it back in double measure? They retaliate, they fight, they try to win. No Muslim state will ever talk peace if it feels wronged — whether the wrong is real or imagined.
The reason is simple: the west has learnt to separate personal morality from state morality. Individual Christians may be willing to be fed to the lions in pursuit of their moral ideals, but the state will never throw its citizens to external lions for the sake of peace.
The west’s answer to the transient nature of power was to make it endure not through individuals, but the creation of a strong state, through law and institutions. This is an important lesson for us to learn. A strong state puts law and institutions above the individual and thus can act benevolently in practice; a weak state will be tyrannous in reality as it cannot be held accountable for failing to do its job. After all, it is weak by definition.
Only a strong state can wield power sensibly and punch at its true weight. When it comes to the state, weakness equals immorality.
Source : firstpost

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Pakistan Tests Modi's Mettle

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

An Epistemology of Dharma as a Scientific Law

An Epistemology of Dharma as a Scientific Law – I
by Come Carpentier de Gourdon on 01 Aug 2015  
Abstract: Dharma is a normative empirical concept derived from the observation of nature and the contemplation of the individual and collective self (inner nature) for the regulation of society in accordance with the laws of the universe. Further Dharma is the essential, non-material or “noumenal” character, sign or number (in the pythagorean-platonic sense: onoma-nomos, related to skt nama (rupa) of both the whole and each one of its parts. As such it is the identity of every phenomenon which is a process and not an object, perceptible only in its interaction with other processes, including our own sensorial perception rooted in our own ends (our dharma).

In that way, every dharma is a mathematical theorem and sanatana dharma can be described as an axiomatic meta-theorem, allowing us to describe the unified field of manifestation in its specifics and operating laws. Just as quantum physics describes atomic objects either as particles or as waves, dharmic epistemology regards all things as distinctive and yet as dynamic products of interactions between all other things - like the fractal quasi-crystals of physics and biology - in an indivisible web of being, the brahmajala.


Superficially Dharma and Science, at least in its “western” modern understanding, have very different meanings. Even in the Indian context, science in the traditional translation is vidya or jnana, while Dharma, from the root Dhru: to hold together, support or sustain (whose latin version is dur/us( - a), found in the roman maxim: Dura lex:  viz. the law is strict or hard, has both a biological and a moral significance, applying to the universe as a whole as to the human being in particular.

Further illustration of the semantic connotations of Dharma is provided by the latin words: firmus (firm), root of firmamentum (heaven or sky which holds all things) and frenus, hence ‘frein’ in French (brake) and ‘rein’ in English (1). In Avestan, the Iranian language akin to Samskrit the equivalent word is daena (whence the Arabic Deen) whereas Asha is the cosmic law (rta in Samskrit).

As Alain Danielou wrote: “For the Hindus, the world... is the realization of a divine plan in which all aspects are interconnected. Hindu society is the result of an attempt to situate man in the plan of creation” (2).

There is a relationship or organic link between Dharma and the Vedic cosmic law of rta (or ruta), a sanskrit cognate of the greek rythmos and the latin Ars and ratio in both arithmetical and moral senses: rate and reason, particularly if we think of the 17th century Classical European understanding of it as a divine regulatory principle as well as the highest human faculty and the Enlightenment notion of reason as the supreme law of society which the French Revolutionaries  promoted as a substitute for the Christian Biblical God. The eminent jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes referred to that notion when he spoke of “The path of law… (as) a trace of universal law…an echo of the infinite”.
As an additional illustration of Dharma’s semantic family, we can contemplate the relationship between the sanskrit dhru and the English verb “to draw”, from the common Old Indo European source. The very ambivalence of the term which denotes both the act of producing a graphic and the  extraction of water or any other substance or being (as in “drawing out) is manifested in the abstract use, as in “to draw a parallel” which can be interpreted either way.

Likewise Dharma is extracted from the observation of natural laws, as revealed to rishis in a state of samadhi in the form of Sruti but it is also drawn or mapped according to a transcendent archetype, as Plato’s nomos, related to the Sanskrit nama, the name which qualified and defines a thing, i.e; its law and role and also its numerus: number (both rational and irrational), the Pythagorean language of God related etymologically to numen: what is perceptible only to the mind and not directly by the physical senses.

For Pythagoras as for Plato their number is the ultimate being of things as such; their ding an sich. Dharma is thus not promulgated but discovered in nature and in the mind that is a reflection of the former (as when the Buddha “set in motion” - in the minds of his disciples - the wheel of Dharma). As such it is axiomatic and may be called “the Divine Plan” and it is also comparable to the greek Ethos, the law and status of all beings and things decreed by Fate (Ananke) or by the gods.

Pythagoras will be mentioned on various occasions in the following. As the father of greek “scientific” cosmology and mathematics. The son of a Phoenician father and a Greek mother who studied in Egypt, Babylonia, Persia and probably India according to tradition, he practiced and taught many of the tenets of Brahminical wisdom, such as renouncing violence:ahimsa, vegetarianism, ascetism and fasting, reincarnation, meditation, prayer and communion with Nature which he described in a pantheistic manner as a living being filled with intelligent living forms.

He claimed to receive direct inspiration (sruti) from the gods and from the supreme soul of the universe and to keep the memory of everything (smriti) and he evinced supernatural powers similar to those of the yogis and rishis. He professed all creation to be regulated by the harmonics of sound (sabda, mantra) as the expression of numbers and he equated the dyad, the pair (dvandva in Samskrit) as a symbol of illusion as it is merely an effect of the duplication or self-reflection of the primordial One or source.

His teachings are fully consonant with the Vedic-Upanisadic metaphysics and appear to be at least in part derived from it. There is hence a clear connection between his definition of the cosmic law and the Indic notion of Dharma. He is reported to have said that the number 4 represents the principle of justice and in the Veda, the god Indra, the ruler of the skies, is worshipped as he who holds the four-armed vajra, emblem of his protective and destructive power. The centrality of the quaternary is shown in the fourfold division of the Vedas, Varnas, Asramas, Purusarthas, Vamsas and other foundations of the Indian traditional social order.

Dharma as Truth and Reality 

Because it is the Law, or in other words the framework that makes reality, creation and life possible and durable, Dharma is inherently synonymous with the truth or essence of things (Sat-Satya), the first of the three terms which have been used to define the supreme being, with Cit: consciousness and Ananda: bliss. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (1.4,14) equates both (Dharma and Satya). Dharma is thus the essential characteristic or nature of things, both elementary and composite - a dimension of the word further developed in Buddhist philosophy - as heat and glow and the ability to burn are in the nature of fire or as expansion and gravitation are an essential property of the universe. As such, in grammar dharmin means bearer (of a property) as in the relation: sound is impermanent (i.e. is the bearer of impermanence).

In the human domain, Manava (human) Dharma however is not entirely innate as at least part of it must be learnt and consciously practiced in the form of duties, obligations and rites which characterise full cultured humaneness. Nature and culture complement each other as and when the latter is a faithful but refined reflection of the former in harmony with it. The Jaina religion divides Dharma into wordly (laukika) and unworldly (paralaukika) – for ascetics and renouncers who follow the yatidharma (pilgrim’s dharma) as opposed to the rules of conduct applying to the householders.
Rather early in the course of Indian civilisation, a correspondence was predicated between Dharma and Ahimsa (harmlessness, later interpreted as non violence) which enshrines an evident principle of Indian spirituality as “live and let live”, - rather than the activist and often misapplied notion of “do goodism” highlighted in much of western religiosity - out of the reverent recognition of the innate freedom of all living beings and of respect for the diversity that characterises the created world. Indic wisdom therefore preaches non-interference, unless help is specifically sought in the right circumstances; otherwise, Karma following its course, an intervention, however well meaning, can be a form of violence and a misguided attempt to affect the natural order.

This acknowledgment of a predetermined course of events is no mere blind fatalism although it may be interpreted as such by many. Rather it stems from the awareness of Karma (action) as the manifestation of the Universal Dharma; the immanent activity of all things.

Nature itself (the Cosmos) is the effect of sanchita karma; the sum of all karmas which impact it in its present and previous states and phases. Each being and thing manifests and shapes its kriyamana karma by its behaviour which in turn is largely determined by past formative experiences and circumstances, the prarabdha karma. In this dynamic vision objects are inseparable from the acts that produce them and constitute their existence; being (bhu) and becoming (bhava), life (jiva) and action (kriya) are part and parcel of the whole, being is indeed “interbeing” as late Swami Ranganathananda used to say. The universe is a dharma, as all are its component parts, whether fields, beings or particles. As another Greek “Oriental” sage Heraclitus said: “the One is born from all things and from the One all things are born” (Frag. 10).
Beyond the apparent ceaseless activity of nature, the steadfast, constant, stable character of Dharma is evoked by the term dharana, the first of the three highest steps according to Patanjali’s yoga sutras, which defines concentration in a seated position as the foundation of meditation and union with the Whole or Absolute.

Dharma in Buddhist Epistemology 

For Buddhism, the doctrine in its abstract normative dimension is Abhidarma which, together with the Buddha’s discourse, sutra; and the rules of conduct, vinaya, cover all aspects of the teachings of Sakya Muni. In his fundamental teaching, the Buddha discloses and expounds on the Four Noble (or Cardinal), Truths, the fourth of which is Dharma: the way of Liberation or second ratna (jewel) and saranam (refuge) of the seekers, described as the Eightfold “Aryan” (arya astanga marga) Path, attained by observing and practicing truthfulness, clear sightedness  and righteous action in order to break out of the vicious circle of interdependent origination or pratitya samutpada that keeps all beings in thrall to suffering, illusion and death. Therefore, for many Buddhists, Dharma is inseparable from the Buddha and can be seen as another, formless aspect of his ultimate reality: tathagathagarbha.

As in Hindu doctrines, Dharma has three aspects, morality or ethics (sila), wisdom (prajna) and mental concentration (samadhi) in order to achieve unity with all things through control of the senses, emotions and mind which are all impermanent and ultimately unreal.

Further, especially in Buddhist metaphysics and epistemology of the Great Vehicle or “Broad Way” all objects and events in space and time (phenomena) are called dharmas because they manifest as and are contingent upon their respective inherent laws of being and becoming, so that they are indistinguishable from the essential principle that accounts for their appearance and persistence.

Beyond the apparently material realm, there are momentary mental states or conscious elements which may or may not be real, depending upon which school of Buddhist psychology one follows. Dharmas therefore arise out of the chain of dependent origination and are indeed called pratityasamutpadadharmas so that they are also artha (results)(3). There is hence a substantial nuance in the interpretation of the term although it may be noticed that various currents of Hindu philosophy have undergone similar evolution, probably under the influence of Buddhism.

The natural law is in the mind where it reveals itself: Justice, the motionless axial notion that regulates all things has its symbol in the Dharma chakra which was Vishnu’s emblem and which the Buddha sets in motion. It is the axle and also the spokes and the circumference: chakra = kuklos = the cycle. All its parts are also the wheel and are nothing when seen in isolation. All things derive their identity from their relation to the whole even if they are apparently separated from it. Otherwise they lose their leaning and become unidentified fragments; only their positions and roles give them a name and a meaningful identity: namarupa (name and form). According to the Pali canon, the Dharma is non-speculative, non-arbitrary, testable in practice, immediate in its application, universally valid and accessible only to the spiritual elite (the Aryas) and as such it is defined as scientific if we wish to use this modern notion.

Vishnu, the original Dharmaraja, has among its emblems, the shankha or conch whose shape is based on the logarithmic spiral, expressing the Golden Ratio (so named in the West by Fibonacci who brought to Europe the Indian numeral system from North Africa) and whose sound creates the universe, and as we said earlier, the chakra or wheel whose rotation symbolises the cosmic spheres and perpetuates the created world.

Various schools of Buddhist philosophy and cosmology define in great details a number of concepts and metaphysical domains related to the notion of Dharma. One of them is the Dharmakaya, the body of Dharma which is the supreme or essential being personified as Vairocana, beyond form, matter and senses (respectively Nirmanakaya and Sambhogakaya). Another is the Dharmadhatu: the domain or realm of Dharma, the highest heaven, the Empyreus of Hellenistic cosmologists, lying beyond both the form and the formless, beyond all created beings, including the gods, and where only dwell the Dhyani Buddhas, or transcendent principles.

(To be concluded…
Paper presented at inaugural seminar of Bhopal Dharma-Dhamma University, July-August 2012