The Bhagvat: A Social text

Radhakanta Barik

The Bhagvat is a social text for creating a moral ethical order for Odiya people. This text is the product of the popular movement of the medieval Odisha when Chaitany Deva had an influence over the traditional intelligentsia. Fertilization of new ideas became real. There are intellectuals belonging to non Brahmin caste took leadership of the movement. Some Brahmins joined the movement as desanskritised intellectuals.  It is popularly known as the Panchasakha or five stalwarts who led the movement.  This movement enriched the popular culture by creating musicality to folk theatre and songs.  Ordinary people got emboldened by this movement who started abandoning their caste identities and joined as the Das or servants of Lord Jagannatha. People belonging to each caste started writing a new title ‘Das’ added to their names. This movement created a literary movement in Odisha which compelled people to start the community schools or Chahali as a mode of teaching children Odiya Premier and numeracy. Every village had a Bhagvat tungi or shed where people started meeting in the evening over a text such as Bhagvat to Mahabharat. This functioned as a public library for storing these books. Any child who could read these texts turned into literate. A new definition of literate got floated which is functional today. This literacy movement succeeded to create an ethical and moral order which could create public space for settling disputes and holding public discourse on spiritualism.

The Hindutva in its political project for an easy entry into cultural domain of Odisha is facing a medieval wall created by these popular spiritual texts. To break these texts they do not have any plan except falling back on Hanuman Chautisa  to counter this popular cultural ethos.  Bhagvat as a text has a pluralistic meanings to religious cum spiritual language.   We are going to examine in this paper below:
The Bhagvat as a medieval spiritual text teaches us that there are many gurus in every body 's life. This is a warning to the king that while on a move in this earth there are many teachers. The earth, fire or bird etc is a teacher. A boy is ready to learn from the birds. Learning is a continuous activity. It is a dialogue between the king and a boy. 'O King, I have many gurus. One needs patience to listen to others. I am moving on the earth, with patience and one listens to other gurus in an attentive mood. The earth, air, fire, the sky, cosmos all are educators for a child. ' Liberal and rational education does not believe in a single educator. There are many educators. But the Hindutva believes in one educator such as the RSS and their gurus.

 The Bhagvat as a text guides in everyday life which is a critical point. In the world of uncertainty where death can happen to dearest ones. There is a story of a pigeon whose son gets caught in a net which draws mother to the net, leaving the father seeing pains of separation. But maintain a distance from these personal losses, leads a normal life. In today's politics, Modi is losing power after the assembly elections to three States where the BJP was running the governments. Modi shows an element of desperation which leads him to misuse the CBI against his opponents, that he has not learned anything from the spiritual text.

The Bhagvat as a spiritual text gives an emphasis over the passionate desire to do some work where involvement of soul is there. That satisfies the person involved in the project and satisfies the target group. "Atma Kusale Sarba Sidhi and Taha janati Gunanidhi.”By troubling the soul one should not do anything including the noble works. In discussing with a woman working as Community Resource Person working in the Women Self Movement said it.  One should convince his or her own soul by which body and spirit can be combined in fulfilling the target. Bhagvat as a medieval spiritual text gives importance to an individual as individuality is the basis of searching for excellence. Autonomy to individual provides human creativity to flow. Creativity and individual excellence both go together. But Hindutva is searching for religious identity which negates human creativity. Their leaders should emphasize the reading of Bhagvat rather than Hanuman chautisha which derecognises caste and community. 'Muhim mohar ae sansaar, sakal karmahi mohara. ' Man is the center of his or her world, all his or her work are by ones efforts.

The Bhagvat as a spiritual text provides some lessons for human resource management. This can be called management by objectives. Anybody with passion and desire to contribute can do better than others who take the job as the job. "Dhan kaarapnya sevaphale, kiba asadhya mahitale." That service, dedication and passion can change the earth. Perseverance and persistence can improve the performance of the manager without greed. It needs to be service oriented work. The Bhagvat, a medieval text talks of Bhagwaan taking birth in the Yadav community of Mathura. The Brahmins turn furious and revengeful against the Yadav. They curse Yadavs and decide to destroy the community. This story has a similarity with the present political regime led by Modi. The day Yadav-Mayavati decided to go for a political formation in UP, the upper castes felt furious and Modi decided to send the CBI and ED to file the case against Yadav. As if their power to rule has been snatched by the lower strata of our society.

The Bhagvat as a medieval text speaks of heaven and earth on a different plane. The earth is heaven with all facilities and pleasures of heaven. There is nothing like heaven. That allures Gods to take rebirth on this earth. "Jeevar rupa tumbe dhar, sarba bisay bhogakar." This explains that this earth is the only place in spiritual world. There is no such heaven in the spiritual text. There is nothing like Ramarajya and there is only one world.

In Bhagvat there is an emphasis on labor. Labor is the basis of creating wealth. The king who ignores labor needs to be condemned. 'Kamaku ninde kalebar, sampad rajrajeswari. ' Labor is being ignored by the king which is wealth or Sampada. He needs to be condemned. Modi has ignored the labor by banning strike for the working class. Modi as king needs to be condemned.

The bhagvat as a text discusses the concept of Paashanda as an egotistical person who lives on a false image. The person does not have human empathy as the basis of human action. 'Chite na bahe daya santi, tahaku boli atmagati. ' The person having no sympathy for another human being, he has consciously brutalized his own soul. This is what defining a person as 'pasanda'. There is no appropriate word in English vocabulary for the word 'paashanda' but bhagavat discusses such a criminal. 'Pasanda bhave anumani, amtaku boli tatwagyani'. The BJP leaders are somewhat 'paashanda' according to bhagavat a spiritual text. We should be careful of their top leaders.

The Bhagvat as a text brings out contradictions. That earth has constituents of five elements 'panchbhute' and god is a player in it. In other words what is the scientific basis of earth needs to be studied by scientists. On spiritual level god is an actor among the others. There is a limitation on super natural power of God. Bhagvat as a text shows god as a human being with limited power as other human beings. 'Brahmand rachi panchabhute, anse taharer madhya gate.' Bhagavat creates scope for scientists to investigate the nature and complexity of earth. Hindutva has no reading of Bhagvat, if someone among them has read it, then go for second reading. No point of Caricaturing the scientific truth that in ancient India people were aware of aeroplane or human genome project. Stupidity has no limits as Hindutva exhibits its stupidity.

According to Bhagvat a medieval spiritual text defines work as Karma, akarm and bikarm. As karma is a productive labor contributes to society. In labour process one gets involved without waiting for results. Modi removed CBI chief knowing well that CBI chief's karma may result in Modi' s arrest as he is involved in the Rafael deal. As the head of the government Modi gets involved in akarms or bikarm. These activities are not accepted by Bhagvat as karma. Modi should read this Bhagvat to define his akarma for which he needs to be punished.

The Bhagvat guides everybody. Leading family life is critical for doing good work for others. There is scope for making others happy which helps in sharing joys with others. Spiritual life is a joint effort by which family members and the other can participate. In doing such works one enjoys bliss in heaven. "Gruhi swavabe punyakari, swarg basanti deha dhari". Spiritual life does not negate material pursuits in worldly life. The only precondition is that wealth has to be shared by all. There is scope for making others happy which helps in sharing joys with others. The bhagvat was the first text turned into a household book in an odiya family. It guides everybody for management of their everyday life. Generating wealth and turning wealthy becomes a virtue for an ordinary person. There is a warning in bhagvat that by giving suffering to one’s body and mind one should not pursue in generation of wealth. This does not create joys and happiness. "Dukhe sanchit jete dhan, se nahe sukhe proyajan. " It is a guide to generate a material life.

 A concept of human right is existing in the text of Bhagbat. It talks of in every body's heart there's God. This brings respect for everybody without bothering of his or her religion. Human being is above religion. "Sansaar madhya jete jana, ta hriday bhagwaan". In this world in everyone there is God. Respect for everyone is the basis of spirituality. Hindutva is not respecting everybody and hurts the other. This is violence against God. Right to life is a part of Hinduism not the Hindutva. Jagannath Das's Bhagbat is taken seriously by Hindus here. For him God is an absolute not relative in its philosophy. Then in Hindu cosmology there are million deities who have no relationship with the absolute truth. It is independent of the million deities. Ram is a deity like million. Hindutva perhaps no reading of this text which provides an eclectic view of God. One can relate to the absolute that is God without going through Ram or Hanuman. Hindutva is trying to redefine Hinduism centres around Ram is their ignorance of  politics. Jagannath Das's Bhagbat is an eclectic text where religious ideas and rationalism have a coexistence. It is Saraswati Or knowledge as power can make dumb to speak and one can climb the hills. This explains the logic of science as knowledge can solve the problems of a society. This is the fear of the Hindutva of Das's Bhagbat.

Bhagvat as a social text is embedded in Odiya society. It guides everyday life. It has religious views of life. It gives due emphasis of material life. It believes one should create wealth for others. This is a trusteeship concept developed here. It believes in material prosperity for all. As earth according to Bhagvat is the real heaven if all facilities of heaven can be created here. There is no such earth vs heaven. This sort of contradiction is immaterial. There are million gods where Ram, Krishna are a part of this pantheon. Real truth is absolute which is realizable by doing work for your family and others without hurting anybody as everybody has life and soul. This text exposes the limitation of Hindutva forces who do not have a complexities of spiritual life according to Hinduism. They have not gone for the second reading of these texts.

(Most of the quotations are from the Bhagvat 11 volume)

Prof Radhakanta Barik, retired as Professor, Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi

Feb 6, 2019

Prof Radhakanta Barik

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