Wednesday 29 May 2024


 – P. Parameswaran JI (Yuva Bharati, 50th Year Special Commemorative Volume, oct 2009)

In the Hindu tradition two similar words regularly occur 'Vada' and 'Samvad'. 'Vada' means an argument and 'Samvad a dialogue. Both have the same objective, to arrive at the Truth by means of discussion or debate. These two words are found in the Shrimad Bhagavad Gita also. Practically the entire Bhagavad Gita is in the form of a single dialogue, divided into 18 chapters, each dealing with one special aspect. The dialogue, as we all know, is between Bhagawan Krishna and Arjuna. In chapter 10, Lord Krishna describes himself as 'Vada' among all kinds of arguments.


"There are in our study of logic in India, three types of pravadana. When you discuss a subject with somebody, you can do it in three ways. They are called Vada, Jalpa, and Vitanda. What a wonderful classification! In Vada, your objective is to find out the truth. So, you are discussing a subject with the motivation of finding the truth. You are calm, quiet, and never getting into heated arguments. Such an argument is called Vada; what science does, also what is done in high spiritual life, that is called Vada. The second is Jalpa, in which you forget the purpose for which you started your discussion. You want to get victory over your opponent without making an honest attempt to arrive at the truth. And when it comes to Vitanda, you try to win simply by refuting the other's position. You are not interested in the truth. You are only fighting with words. It is something like our democratic State and Union politics today-less Vada, more of Jalpa and Vitanda. A parliament is where one is supposed to engage oneself in Vada. We discuss with a view to do good to the nation. That is the purpose of discussion in a democracy. That we forget, and we get into Jalpa and Vitanda. Now we have to return to Vada once again since democracy is governance by discussion."


(Page-442, Volume-2, Universal Message of Bhagavad Gita, Swami Ranganathananda)


'Samvada' means a dialogue. Almost all Hindu scriptures, right from the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita are in the form of Samvada or dialogue between the Guru and Sishya. A person who is in quest of the ultimate Truth approaches a qualified and competent Guru and with all humility requests him to show the path to knowledge and ultimate fulfilment. He places before the Guru his doubts and dilemmas and seeks clarifications. The Guru, after having convinced himself of the earnestness and qualification of the Sishya, explains to him step by step, guiding him to his goal. Sometimes the Guru provokes doubts and create confusion so that even lurking and potential doubts and misunderstandings are brought to light and satisfactorily cleared.


Dialogue is the best form of communication between the teacher and the taught. Unlike the modern classroom lectures which are mostly monologues, the traditional Hindu system is one of dialogues where both are participants. The interest never wanes; it is always kept aflame. There is a living and warm relationship. It is this inter- human relationship that brought about enduring bond which continued for generations in our traditions. 'Guru Sishya Parampara' is a unique feature of the Hindu tradition.


The highest form of dialogue is believed to be communication through 'silence' (mauna) where no spoken word is employed. Communication through utter silence requires extra-ordinarily high level of spiritual attainment. Dialogue through language is always liable to be imperfectly understood, if not totally misunderstood. But unfortunately for ordinary human beings, there is no other option. But those who have attained high levels of spiritual power, communicate in silence or even by just a glance; great sages are credited with such rare abilities. Guru Ramana Maharishi was one such living example in modern times.


There is a famous description about Shri Dakshinamoorthy as to how He taught through the language of silence.


Chitram vatatharor mule Vrudha Sishya gururyuva Gurosthu maunam vyakhyanam Sishyasthu chinna samshaya


Shri Sankaracharya whose mission was to establish Advaita as the fundamental principle of Hindu Philosophy, toured the length and breadth of Bharat and discussed with the Acharyas of all philosophical systems and paths of worships and successfully propagated Advaita and also laid the foundation for the cultural and spiritual unity of India employing this traditional method of enlightened and respectful dialogue, supported by invincible force of logic and irresistible spiritual power. It was Hinduism thus strengthened and revitalized which enabled Bharat to successfully withstand the series of barbarian invasions and painful slavery for a millennium. That shows the power of dialogue over that of the dagger. Sankara was not a solitary exception. All our Acharyas, sages and saints, seers and visionaries employed the same means of dialogue to convey their ideas and convince others. This is in sharp contrast with those cultures and civilizations which cruelly suppressed, persecuted, imprisoned and burnt to death earnest seekers who dared to think and believe differently.


Bharat gave absolute freedom to believe and also to behave according to one's own conscience. That is why at the end of the Bhagavad Gita, after answering all the questions and clearing the doubts raised by Arjuna, Lord Krishna gave him absolute freedom to act according to his own free will 'Act as you wish'. This is the greatness and glory of Hinduism.


Dialogue is the language of the cultured whereas the language of the barbarian is the dagger. Bharat had always practised the former and won the hearts of the people inside and outside her frontiers. It is not only in matters of spirituality but also in mundane matters of everyday life, like politics and economics, social and cultural life, with equal effect. That indeed shows a high level of human development and sensitivity to higher impulses. We survived on the strength of our ability to converse with people and convince them instead of coercing them into silent submission. Though we are one of the world's largest populations, rich with innumerable diversities, our country could survive as a single people, in the face of formidable and brutal invasions, mostly on the strength of continuous communication, despite differences in languages and dialects. No invader could completely conquer India or force it to total slavery. When Kings and Emperors failed and political power passed into alien conquerors, the soul of the people remained unconquerable because from one end of the country to the other uninterrupted communication remained through channels of dialogue. Seers and Saints, bards and Bhikshus, poets and story-tellers kept up the channels open at various levels and languages. So long as these channels remained alive, no amount of force could suppress the spirit of the people.


When the social order comes under strain and becomes outdated and incapable of coping up with fast changing situations, as it often happens in all societies, continuous readjustments become inevitable. A society which fails to meet this requirement become archaic, anachronistic, frozen and passes away. Bharat had never come to this stage of stagnation because in every part of the country and at every period of history, society threw up leaders, who could feel the pulse of the times and by means of mutual and collective dialogue, devise ways and means for raising the social life in tune with the demands of the situation. Social reformers emerged in large numbers and brought about calm and silent changes. There were hardly any volcanic eruptions that shook the society and twisted and tortured it. There was no "French Revolution" or "October Revolution" in India, but gradual and constructive changes took place whenever and wherever necessary. Dialogue was the means.


This is proved to the hilt by our national history. From the ancient Vedic times to the most modern times, along the passage of time how many changes and transformations have taken place within the Hindu society? Yet, in a slightly different sense, the foundations remained changeless and immortal as the mighty Himalayas. Buddha came, Sankara came, Ramanuja and Madhva came, Sri Ramakrishna and Vivekananda came, Sri Narayana Guru came in unbroken successions and tuned up the society in such a way that necessary changes were brought about while keeping the fundamental principles unchanged. Scriptures and Shastras were interpreted and re- interpreted in such a silent skilful and subtle manner that the society was never violently shaken but always creatively renewed. That is how, to the wonder and bewilderment of the world, India continued to pass through ages and today stands poised to discharge its world mission.


Organizations, big and small, national and regional have sprung up to give expression to this cultural continuity. Great men who founded them were great believers in the power of Dialogue. They spoke among themselves and spoke to the people in languages they could understand and used every language to express the same national soul in a manner easily intelligible to the common people. Within organizations too, channels of communications were opened, so that both vertical and horizontal Dialogue went on ceaselessly. It was both territorial and hierarchical. It was the life blood of national body-politic. Thoughts and ideas, problems and solutions, challenges and responses were never blocked. The flow never got clogged; hence it flowed pure and uninfected. Acharyas and disciples, seniors and juniors, leaders and followers, brothers and sisters, all had to themselves, open means of communication, with the result that mutual understanding, faith and confidence were always maintained. No living organization or movement can afford to choke the channels of communication, as in the human physical system, choked blood vessels can paralyze the working or cause cardiac problems. Caution has always to be exercised and goodwill perpetually renewed and nourished. Again Dialogue is the means. 

All these do not mea mean that Hindus were absolutists in their belief; that options other than Samvad are a total taboo, especially when intolerant and alien invaders tried to subjugate and suppress our culture and ways of life and destroy Sanatana Dharma. Our Acharyas had always made provision for taking recourse to "other" means to take on such situations. Under such life-threatening situations, the Kshatriya takes over from the Brahmin. Weapons substitute "Samvad". Dharma has to be protected by all means. Hence the Rishis proclaimed "Idam brahmam Idam Kshastram Shapadapi Sharadapi" Bharat bears witness to the truth that dialogue is always to be preferred to force but if it fails, force is to be unhesitatingly used to preserve and protect 'Dharma'. Dharma is Supreme.

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मुक्तसंग्ङोऽनहंवादी धृत्युत्साहसमन्वित:।
सिद्ध‌‌यसिद्धयोर्निर्विकार: कर्ता सात्त्विक उच्यते ॥१८.२६॥

Freed from attachment, non-egoistic, endowed with courage and enthusiasm and unperturbed by success or failure, the worker is known as a pure (Sattvika) one. Four outstanding and essential qualities of a worker. - Bhagwad Gita : XVIII-26

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