by Swami Krishnananda
An understanding of the foundational principle, behind different controlling systems of law would require an enquiry into the nature of that intriguing something, known as ‘relationship’ among things. In a way it can be said that the various philosophical systems of the world are only the laboured edifices raised by minds who have struggled hard to investigate into the true meaning of this apparently invisible but very substantially real permeating essence termed ‘relation’. We almost take it for granted that the relation of one thing to another is something very clear and so obvious that it is pointless to spend time in trying to understand what it is. But, on a careful study of the situation, it will be found that it is a hard nut to crack, and it has defied the grasp of even the best thinkers of all times. It is because of this difficulty that man simultaneously entertains a hope for a higher and higher type of unification and a greater bond of togetherness among people—he can never give up the expectation that such a thing is perhaps possible, and, at the same time, he has never achieved it up to this time—and is always in a state of unmanifest war with his brothers subtly lurking within himself, quite in contradistinction to the hope for a higher tie of oneness which he is longing for and which everyone seems to be working for everywhere in human society. This double-edged ambivalent attitude and disposition of man towards life has been his joy as well as his sorrow. Is this possibly the reason why life has managed to remain an unsolved mystery?
This enigmatic state of affairs is explicable only by the inscrutable nature of human ‘relationship’. This is also the reason why the basic principles of law and ethics are even today the subjects for newer and newer research, the end of which has not yet been reached. Human relationship is a tantalising necessity, a grandeur and beauty, due to which reason it has been always the theme of magnificent intellectual deliberations and conferences as well as the ever-beckoning objective, though one never realised fully, of philanthropists, social welfare circles and even religious idealists. At the same time, human relationship has also been an unclear spectre which keeps people perpetually in a state of insecurity due to the suspicious character of its essential nature and a doubt it often evokes in the minds of everyone that it is not always a trustworthy friend capable of being relied upon entirely on its face value. Thus it is that we have two kinds of geniuses in the world: one group which holds that life is a superb manifestation of universal harmony and a cosmic equality of everything with everything else in a profundity of love, sacrificing goodness and organic oneness towards which everyone and everything is tending and must tend; and the other which regards life as a scene of devastating suffering brought about by the irreconcilability of the psychological structures of different human individuals, holding, consequently, that social solidarity and perhaps individual satisfaction cannot be had unless there is the operation of the mighty machine of legalistic and moral control exercised upon individuals by a ruling authority, whether it be a single person or a body of persons, a Government or a Scripture. But, are we anywhere near the finale of human effort and aspiration if we remain content with a life of anxiety and tense nerves engendered by an eternal conflict of these two opposing camps of human idea and action?
We may try to go a little deeper. The crucial point seems to be a necessity to consider why there should have been these two viewpoints at all of life and its meaning. The reason appears to be that two constitutive factors have gone to make up what is known as human life: the factor of unity and the factor of diversity. Both seem to be playing a uniform role of equal intensity in the present state of human evolution, though it may be conceded that in a past or a future stage of evolution one or the other of these two factors may be predominant in varying proportions. Man is happy and unhappy at the same time, every day, indicating that he has within himself an irresistible urge for a realisation of oneness of himself with all creation and also a simultaneous pressure of his ego-ridden psycho-physical individuality which speaks in the language of selfishness and difference; physical pleasure and egoistic self-assertion which ceaselessly come in conflict with similar features characterising every other human being also. The world is both a dharmakshetra and a kurukshetra, a field of the righteousness emanating from the unitary Absolute existing as the only reality; and at once also a field of activity and struggle against the heavy odds that one has to confront daily in the teeth of heavy opposition from other people than one’s own self, each one of whom enshrines an unconquerable passion for affirming the satisfaction of the body and the pleasure of the ego.
But these are the two major acts in the drama of universal life, and unless we are able to witness the two scenes in their mutual connectedness aiming at presenting an ordered completeness of the total picture of the whole drama, we can neither live life nor have a moment’s peace of mind. And what is the solution? In the East, Acharya Sankara and Gautama the Buddha; and in the West, G.W.F Hegel and Arthur Schopenhauer tended to emphasise the unity-aspect and the diversity-aspect, respectively, in their own novel fashion of presenting the ultimate metaphysical and psychological aspects of life’s significance. There is, doubtless, a need to bring these two aspects together, which we may call the integration of life, a herculean task indeed.
Here, we also find the basic suggestiveness of social law and order, as well as of ethical and moral mandates. The political theory of Hobbes is perfectly consistent with the empirical, the psychological and the seamy-side of human relationship, but the other side, which is not in any way less important, is the ultimate ontological status of life, which was the particular specialisation of Hegel’s genius. The Social Contract Theory of human relationship and political organisation will call for a strict State-control by way of enforcement, legal legislation and imposition of external authority in order to prevent the extravagant behaviour of human selfishness which can go amuck with its predisposition to giving a long rope to its uncontrolled passions and prejudices. Without such a firm control, human society may easily turn out to be a painful scene of chaos and disaster which cannot be regarded as the honest intention or aim of any human heart. While this is perfectly true and entirely justifiable on the nature of the circumstances of the case and the prevailing conditions of things, an acceptance of this methodology of steering the course of human life as the whole truth and nothing but the truth would convert the human individual into a miserable puppet, crushed under the weight of an alien force, secretly sorrowing and dying with its hope for unrestricted freedom and joy hopelessly unrealised. But this seems to be at least fifty per cent of the truth of the human predicament; and why should it be so?
We may perhaps try to explain the human plight by a commonplace example. A magnetic field of compelling electrical force may hold thousands of minute iron filings in a powerful tie of unison so that as long as this magnetic force, though totally external to the internal structure of the filings, exerts its influence upon the filings, they cannot be scattered helter-skelter and are bound to keep to their positions in accordance with the determining force operating upon them from outside. But, notwithstanding the fact that they are so held together in a bond of inseparable relationship by the working of that power, they are essentially isolated individuals by themselves and cannot be said to have attained to a state of real unity among themselves, in the sense of a real merger of their individualities into a common existence. Likewise, while a political control of individuals by legal legislation may act as an apparent solvent of their private idiosyncrasies, personal greed and egoistic passions ready to pounce upon others’ liberty to manifest a similar freedom, and thus bring about a tentative state of peace among themselves by sheer subjection of their selfish tendencies to a proportionately equalising pressure exerted by social and political rule, the individuals cannot be said to have lost their individualities, or to have given up their selfish predilections in spite of the fact that they are held in check for a given period of time. Sleeping dogs and coiled-up snakes do not cease to be what they are merely because of their inactivity at that time. True happiness and real peace cannot be had by merely chaining the devil which is up in arms to devour us. This pious hope can become a practical realisation only when there is a sublimation of the individual’s prejudice and predilection into a more universal harmony of the nature of an indivisible compound and not merely an artificial complex of essentially differing characters. Legal legislations, therefore, have to be enlivened by the charge of the ultimate spiritual unity of existence. The absence of this essential knowledge in administrative fields of whatever nature has been the one cause of the downfall of empires, of the cracking of social structures, the failure of ethical rules in human society, and the perishing of the otherwise honest efforts of even great leaders of mankind.