Introduction > Page1
The Hindu political, legal and economic thought is included in the Mahabharata, Dharma-Shastras (of which Manu-Smriti, hereafter Manu, is the most important), Nīti-shastras or the science of state-craft (of which the Shukra-nīti-sara, hereafter Shukra, is the most elaborate), and Artha-shastras (of which Kautilya's Artha-shastra is the most popularly available today). The following ideals summarize some of the ancient Hindu views of the political, legal and economic systems which evolved in India over several thousand years:
Man is potentially divine, but is the victim of his ignorance, passions and immoral tendencies, created by his own past actions (karma). An ethical and just state is necessary to help man to overcome his sinful and immoral tendencies. "If the king [state] did not vigilantly inflict punishment on the guilty, the stronger would have roasted the weaker like fish." (Manu 7.2)
Dharma (morality or righteousness) is the cornerstone of a just and equitable state. Dharma preserves the individuals and the society. The oft-quoted axiom is: "Hunger, sleep, fear, and sex are common to all animals, human and sub-human. It is the additional attribute of dharma that differentiates man from the beast." Thus, the political philosophy (danda-nīti) of the state must be grounded in dharma. In ancient literature, the righteous king (state) is believed to be dharma itself, created by God for the protection of all beings. (Manu 7.3 and 7.14).
In personal life dharma is expressed as virtues and duties. In the political life dharma is expressed as the just and equitable laws which restrain evil and promote virtuous life. In the Hindu polity, politicians are required to inspire virtue and loyalty to the laws of the state by their own examples. In Hindu legal literature the word dharma conveys the same meaning as the words ethical, reasonable, and equitable in Western legal literature.
Author : Shri Bansi Pandit