Social Relationships and Social Behavior :

The foregoing consideration of dharma and society primarily addresses the question of the ideal structure of society. As we have seen, Maharishi derives this structure from a consideration of the inner mechanics of the absolute basis of life and its evolution. At the same time, Maharishi provides unique insight into the nature and structure of the social relationships, and the behavior that flows from them, which constitute the actual reality of ideal life in society. These principles will be the focus of this section.

Maharishi begins by observing that all social relationships are based on love. He explains this principle in the context of the commentary on verse I.25:

Before Bhishma and Drona and all
the rulers of the earth, Lord Krishna said:
Partha (Arjuna)! behold these
Kurus gathered together. (I.25)

With great delicacy of understanding, Maharishi (1967) singles out the word "Partha" for special attention, and from it develops a fundamental principle of social life:

Lord Krishna addresses Arjuna as "Partha," the son of Pritha. With this expression He reminds Arjuna of his mother and thereby creates a warm wave of love in his heart, the warmth of love that connects son and mother. It is this tender bond of love that develops into all family and social relationships, that maintains a family, a society, a nation and a world. (p. 47)

There is great psychological insight in Maharishi's understanding of the effect of this one word on Arjuna; and his reflection on it, expressed in the second sentence of the above quotation, enunciates a principle of great power. Maharishi unequivocally applies it to social life at every level, from its elemental form in the family, to the wider society, and ultimately to the global society, conceived of as a whole. Maharishi is here speaking of social life in its ideal form; or, to put it another way, whatever is worthy of the name of social life. Relationships that are exploitative or damaging, or in some way negative, are not worthy of the name "relationship," except in the technical sense of interaction between two or more people. Thus, when Maharishi (1967) speaks of relationships, he emphasizes the nourishing, evolutionary aspect of what people can bring to each other. The principle is amplified as follows:

Having created this wave of love in Arjuna's heart, Lord Krishna desires to strengthen it; and for this He says: "Behold these Kurus gathered together." This quickens all the ways of the heart, where different relationships are held in different shades of love." (p. 47)

In the last clause Maharishi more precisely explains the relationship between love and society: The different social relationships-those constituting family, society, nation, and world-are seen as "different shades of love." Love is the essential content of society: It flows throughout, directed in different ways to different objects at different levels, and creates the different contexts in which social relationships arise. Maharishi infact seems to use the term "love" to refer to the same absolute value of life described in I.1, here denoted in its subjective character. Love is thus far more than the localized personal phenomenon we usually associate with the term; Maharishi locates its universal character. Elsewhere Maharishi (1973) expounds:

Love is the sweet expression of life, it is the supreme content of life. Love is the force of life, powerful and sublime. . . .
Love is the supreme blessing of life; love as love is universal. Personal love is concentrated universal love. (pp. 13, 19)

There is thus, Maharishi (1967) teaches, an intimate relationship between dharmas in society and social relationships. The one structures, or finds expression in, the other:

"Family dharmas" are the powers of different principles which uphold the coordination between different members of a family, at the same time enabling every member, consciously or unconsciously, to help every other member on his path of evolution. Such family dharmas are, for example, those that go to make the relationship of a mother with her son or daughter, or of a brother with his brother or sister, and so on. (p. 68)

The term translated as "family" here is kula which has the sense of an "assemblage," inclusive of all kinds of social relationship, including community, caste, and so on, with "family" the primary meaning (Monier-Williams et al., 1979, p. 294). The principle enunciated therefore carries the inference of being applicable to every level of society and social life. Again we may note the practical nature of Maharishi's commentary: Social relationships have their value in the assistance each member of the relationship brings the other in accelerating the pace of their evolution, of their growth to higher states of consciousness.

Maharishi (1967) re-emphasizes this point later in the Bhagavad-Gita (II.33) from the perspective of the moral code of the society, which, he observes, comprises all the varieties of relationship that structure the society, just as the absolute field of dharma comprises all the varieties of dharma:

It may be mentioned that the moral code of conduct in any society has dharma at its basis, whether or not the people in that society are aware of the inner workings of nature guided by the invincible force of dharma. The fundamentals of social behavior in every society on earth are based on this principle which governs the laws of evolution. (p. 110)

It is interesting here to note the qualification "whether or not the people in that society are aware of the inner workings of nature." Maharishi is pointing out that the absolute field of dharma, the field of pure intelligence, is an objective reality of nature, transcending the level of thought and feeling that constitutes the normal daily level of human awareness, and governing life-including the ideal structure of social relationships-from that level. In a similar way, one may not be aware of the existence of the electromagnetic or gravitational field, yet the laws pertaining to these fields govern the phenomena of their respective domains, and constantly impinge upon the material domain of everyday life.

Finally, Maharishi repeatedly makes the point, particularly in his commentary on Chapter I, that a mark of developed consciousness is the natural flow of compassion for others. Love, he teaches, is the impulse of giving; a relationship thrives only when each person gives to the other (1963, pp. 180-182). Arjuna's dilemma, he points out, is brought about by the greatness of his heart and mind-the fullness of his feeling for his kinsfolk and for the whole society, and the strength and clarity of his insight into his duty to others. A lesser man, surrendering to one or other impulse, might have launched himself into action without further reflection. Arjuna's status is different, Maharishi (1967) remarks:

This brings to light the greatness of Arjuna's heart and mind. His vision is clear: he views the situation with a serene and deep insight. His logic is p rofound. His thought is balanced and noble. His feeling is for others: when he thinks, it is in terms of others; if he wants to fight and gain sovereignty, it is for the sake of others; if he wants to amass enjoyments and pleasures, it is for the sake of others; if he wants to live, it is for others. Such is his developed consciousness, devoid of any thought of self-interest. This is the status of truly great men-living, they live for others; dying, they die for others. (p. 57)

At the highest level of human development, in the state of enlightenment, Maharishi (1967) teaches, this principle takes on a new reality of a universal value:

As the unwise act out of their
attachment to action, O Bharata,
so should the wise act, but without
any attachment, desiring the welfare
of the world. (III.25)

Maharishi (1967) comments:

The effects of the enlightened man's actions spread out in the world and everything benefits from them. . . . His actions are in response to the needs of the time; they fulfil the demands of their surroundings. The wise are tools in the hands of the Divine; they innocently carry out the divine plan. Their actions arise from their desire for "the welfare of the world."(p. 218)

Here the field of social relationships has expanded to embrace the whole of humanity, the ideal of what Maharishi identifies as vasudhaiva kutumbakam (Maha Upanishad, 6.17) and translates as "the world is my family" (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, 1987, p. 9).

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[Dharma as the Absolute Basis of Society]

[Dharma and Society]

[Social Relationships and Social Behavior]

[The Causes of Social Disintegration and War]

[Fulfillment of Society]