Truth is right Dharma, it rulers even the Rulers


Washington Prof Lubin at Mahindra University
Ancient Dharma of India is embedded in the present day ‘rule of law’ concept in the form of maxim “Dharmam Kshatrasya Kshatram” which means Dharma is the ruling power of the ruling power. The faculty centre for History of School of law of Mahindra University has recently organized his talk to explain the students of Ancient History which is an important part of non-legal subjects in five-year integrated law degree.
A distinguished historian of religion and law of South and Southeast Asia, Professor Timothy Lubin, who is the scholar and specialist of Sanatana Dharma gave an insightful lecture on “three Factors in the Formation of Dharmashastra” at a webinar in School of Law, Mahindra University. He is presently working as ‘the Jessie Ball duPont Professor’ of Religion at Washington and Lee University.
Referring Upanishads, Professor Timothy Lubin tried to define the grand but complex cosmic concept of “Dharma” saying “Dharma is the sovereignty of the law that prevails. The Dharma is the ruler of both the people and the rulers themselves. In fact. ‘what is right’ is the Dharma. Therefore, nothing is higher than Dharma and, on this basis, a weaker person is able to make claims against a powerful person just as one might appeal to the king or the source of justice because Dharma is the “truth”.
In his fascinating presentation, Professor Lubin charted the three focal elements that were brought together in the earliest Sanskrit texts on Dharma: (1) rules of ritual practice modelled on the older Vedic priestly rulebooks; (2) rules for royal policy and legal procedure from the tradition that produced the Arthashastra; and (3) customary norms, mainly those of various Brahmin male authorities but also (in principle) those of women and other groups.
Lubin mentioned that the ashramas are equated to ascetic duties in a person’s life. He drew parallels with Greek-Aramaic bilingual edicts from Kandahar to point out Dharma is observance of duties to God. Referring to roots of Dharma the professor mentioned, Veda (wisdom) originates from Shruti (hearing) and through Smriti (memory) it is transferred from one generation to another. Good and exemplary customary practices (achara) leads to atma-tushti i.e. what is satisfactory to one’s conscience. Brahmin teachers seem to have gotten the idea to develop treatises of instruction (shastra) on Dharma in the wake of the Emperor Asoka’s edicts in which, although he was inspired by the Buddhist model, he endorsed a more general ideal of Dharma as piety, i.e., “right conduct in regard to the gods,” which is manifested in reverence and generosity toward “ascetics and Brahmins,” in temperance, and in other social virtues. The earliest Dharmasutra, that of the Apastambins, introduced the idea that the life of a Veda-trained householder can constitute an “ashrama” (a quasi-ascetic discipline) equal in holiness and merit with the celibate forms of permanent asceticism. Meanwhile, a somewhat separate strand of Brahmin teaching closely connected with the Atharva Veda put forward precepts of “Dharma for Kings” (raja-dharma), which included patronage of Brahmins, protecting subjects, recognizing valid customs, and providing justice in the courts. The confluence of these factors took fuller form in the Law Codes of Manu (ca. 150 CE), Yajnavalkya (under the Guptas), Narada (5th/6th c.), and Vishnu (7th c.). In these sources we can see how the strands interwoven yet often still distinct.
Professor Madabhushi Sridhar Acharyulu, Dean, School of Law, in his concluding remarks said Rajadharma corresponds to “rule of law” which holds the basis of our Constitution.
Professor Timothy Lubin is also associated with the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi, and the French Institute of Pondicherry. Earlier he taught at Harvard University and University of Virginia. He is a continuous researcher in Dharmashastra, and their relationship to practices discernible in inscriptions, working with sources in Sanskrit, Prakrit, Old Javanese, and Old Tamil. He co-authored book, “A Śaiva Utopia: The Śivadharma’s Revision of Brahmanical Varnāśramadharma”, and he is co-authoring the translation of an Old Javanese version of the eighth chapter of Manu’s Code of Law. He is currently a Director-at-Large of the American Oriental Society and Regional Director (for USA and Canada) of the International Association of Sanskrit Studies and also a fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies. He is a collaborator on the DHARMA Project (ERC no. 809994) that was launched in 2019.
Dr. Paromita Das Gupta, Faculty at School of Law, the organizer of the webinar, welcomed. all. Dr. Sehar Khwaja proposed a vote of thanks.

Madabhushi Sridhar


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