Rules do not make Ram

Mahabharata, Modern Mythmaking, Ramayana 36 Comments

Published in Mumbai Mirror, August 18, 2011

If there were no rules, would we be corrupt? Do rules make us corrupt? After all, only when there are rules can rules be broken or bent. Only when there are rules, do we have need for regulators and courts and auditors to keep watch over society. What would the world be without rules? The world without rules is the jungle – where might is right and only the fit survive. Humans made rules so that the meek can also inherit the earth, so that even the unfit can thrive. That is why rules exist. That is how human society came into being.

Both Ramayana and Mahabharata are about human society and about rules. In the Ramayana, Ram follows the rules but in the Mahabharata, Krishna breaks the rules. We are told both are righteous. Both uphold dharma. Both are forms of God. Both fight corruption. How can that be?

In the Ramayana, the villain breaks rules. Neither Surpanaka nor Ravan respect the laws of marriage. Surpanakha uses force to get rid of competition and get herself a desirable mate. Ravan uses cunning to steal another man’s only wife, despite having many of his own. In contrast, in the Mahabharata, the villain does not break a single rule. No one – neither Bhisma nor Drona nor Karna nor the Pandavas – cry foul when a woman is dragged and disrobed in public, as technically Duryodhan has not broken a single rule in the gambling hall. A rule-following Ram can combat a rule-breaking Ravan. But would he succeed against a rule-following villain like Duryodhan? That is why even God had to change his avatar, and become Krishna, who bends the laws of nature, and gets cloth to materialize to rescue Draupadi from her shame.

Corruption is not about breaking the rules: corruption is about rejecting our human side, embracing our animal side, and reserving resources for the mighty and dominating the meek. Corruption is about becoming the territorial alpha male who excludes competition and includes no one except those who surrender to him.

In India, every politician follows the rules, and every bureaucrat follows the rules, and every judge follows the rules. There are many rules to follow! Despite this, land is grabbed but no one is arrested or punished. Riots take place, hundreds are killed but despite enquiry commissions, no one is convicted. Rapes take place but rapists are released on technicalities. There are never enough witnesses and not enough evidence. Even a terrorist who murders people in front of rolling cameras remains an ‘alleged’ criminal, and perhaps a political pawn, for months and years.

So the rage of the common man is understandable. So the outrage when Anna is put in jail is understandable. The Government seems to be full of Bhismas and Dronas and Karnas and Pandavas – all rules are being followed while India is being disrobed. Expression of outrage gets you to Tihar jail.

Within Tihar jail, you find criminals: ‘alleged’ criminals as far as the court is concerned. These are high profile politicians who have broken the law: small fish, who everyone knows, will in time, be honorably discharged because there will not be any evidence and not enough witnesses and because our complex laws can be read in myriad ways by brilliant lawyers.

In this scenario, Lokpal bill is yet another set of laws and rules and auditors hoping to cleanse the country. Will it really stop Ravans? Or will it create many smarter Duryodhans? Will it create Rams or will it hinder Krishnas?

The point is not about the absence of suitable laws; it is about the absence of integrity. Let us not forget, we have the best Constitution in the world. This has been changed over 80 times in the past 60 years! What does it say about us?

Every person who follows the rule, imagines himself to be Ram, but his enemies see him as Duryodhan. Everybody who breaks the rules, imagines himself to be Krishna, but his enemies see him as Ravan. For the Government, Team Anna is a rule-breaker while for Team Anna, the Government is the rule-breaker. Team Anna imagines itself as rule-keeper and so does the Government. Who is being objective, I wonder?

The courts can only tell us if rules are broken or not broken. But the question today is about intent. Intent is invisible, intangible and subjective. Yes, as humans we may have moved out of the jungle but clearly the jungle has not moved out of humans. That is why our streets and jails and governments are full of stubborn alpha-males, each one smug and self-righteous and highly territorial wanting to dominate the other. Stripped and abused, India weeps in the gambling hall, while her adults point fingers at each other like children in a playground.


  • Gaurav Ahuja

    But then the question is how can you identify someone with good ( or human) intentions and beliefs? Who decides that?

    • aarthi raghavan

      God, I guess, because He doesnot have any bias & cannot be bribed.

    • Gujjarputtar

      Guarav, Ram and Krishna have never defined the rule. Valmiki Rushi author of Ramayan or Ved Vyas never had any rules in their mind when they wrote both Scriputres.

      These two scriptures inspire us when we read in right context. Sad part is only few wants to take trouble reading and understand them and implement for the person life development.

      Ram and Krishna both are Purushottam- the best among human being. Both of them show self restrains means nobody imposed on them. Both of them lived their lives for the family and society and cared for the people. Both of them had opportunities to rule the kingdoms they won and not given. Both had let those opportunities let go.

      We have right to judge our self and no body else. As Swami Vivekanand said ” Other peoples attitude is reflection our own attitude” Bhagavad Gita is using the word “Atmapaumanya” means treat others as we would like to be treated by others. This is necter of Ram and Krishna’s life.

      Thanks Devdutt, another good article.

  • Giriraj Bhatia

    In one of your articles you had mentioned that for happiness you need to have all three Laxmi, Saraswati & Durga. However, we as a nation have become obsessed with Laxmi and are ignoring the other two hence, we are not becoming happy.

    Corruption happens due to wrong economic environment. The government should make the economic environment such that people do not feel the need to be corrupt. They should feel that they can achieve their aspirations & ambitions without being corrupt

  • Sid

    Rules are needed. The issue comes when rules are not followed in spirit without understanding the reason. I feel recession wud not have happended if rules were followed in spirit…check out full analysis on my blog…http://sidsavenue.blogspot.com/2010/08/recession-must-have-not-happened-dont.htm l

  • Totally Alive Online

    Government rules provide physical survival for the weak and unfit ?
    Bhiksha for the physical benefit of the needy , by individuals ?
    Daan / Philanthropy for the emotional growth of the giver and for survival of knowledge , skills , performance of the needy ?
    Competition provides growth ?
    Competition in Quality , helpfulness , beauty , intelligence , usefulness , …… , provide growth in knowledge , skills , performance ?

    • Gujjarputtar

      Bhiksha and Dan both are taken in wrong context.

      Bhiksha is for physical benefit that is true, but it is not for needy. Bhiksha is being asked for by coming to persons home. The host feel honored for giving the bhiksha.

      Dan has broader context than what it is understood today. Each individual needs support in any form from others. We help each other out.

      Normally, the ego of giver is boosted and the ego of taker is suppressed as he/she feels obligated. When something is given with disrespect or putting other person down it is not Dan. And, currently, beggars became professionals, even the so called Charitable institution.

      Dan, in trues sense, is for distribution of wealth to bring harmony in the society. The hand is extended gracefully to those who in needs. Receiver does not become burden to the giver, but eventually, receiver extend his arms to others and form a long human chain for the benefit of the society. It is just like an engine pulls the first car and first car pulls second car and so on. Wealth is not limited only to money, but all resources.

      Duryodhan, Karna and Pandavas all of them giving their resources.

      Duryodhan was doing for his selfish motive, Karna was doing selflessly but with pity and Pandavas had use their resources for constructive work for the society.

      They were same resources. But due to intention, Duryodhan’s resources is called as Vitt- money, Karna’s is Lakshmi and Pandava’s Mahalakshmi.

  • Totally Alive Online

    Competition makes us feel powerful and in charge of our own destinies and makes us grow :)

  • Abhishek Verma

    Dear Sir,
    First of all I want to tell you that I am a big fan of yours. I just want to ask you that who decides which rule is right and which is wrong? I think the rules are always made to benefit the ruler.

    P.S. Sir, you have taught us so much about our culture. You books are bundled with so much information. When will you write a book regarding Vedas and Purans. It will be a honor to read about the teachings of them with the ink of yours.
    Thanks if you have read this. Waiting for a reply. One of your biggest fan.

    • Gujjarputtar

      Rules/Laws are always broken even by followers. e.g. Traffic rules.

      Patanjali Yogasutra mentions Yam and Niyam as first two limbs of ashtanga(eight limgs yoga).

      Yam: abstentions–They are ; Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmcharya and aprigrah

      Niyam–Observance: Shuach, Santosha, Tapa, Swadhyay, Ishvarpranidhan

      These are cardianl principles and not rules that one need to follow.
      Ram Rajya means anushaashan- a shahan without any imposed rules. It was rajya with common understanding of people.

  • Prashant kumar S Patil

    Every person who follows the rule, imagines himself to be Ram, but his enemies see him as Duryodhan. Everybody who breaks the rules, imagines himself to be Krishna, but his enemies see him as Ravan. For the Government, Team Anna is a rule-breaker while for Team Anna, the Government is the rule-breaker. Team Anna imagines itself as rule-keeper and so does the Government. Who is being objective, I wonder?

    The above paragraph is very true and a great food for thought… Amazing as always Devduttji!!

  • It is not more “rules” or “laws” we need, but more “dharma”. Dharma is fair and dharma is universally fair.

    Laws are made by the powerful to protect their position, wealth or power. Hence, laws are often unfair.

    In the gambling hall of Kurus, everyone broke the law and dharma. To cheat to win a game is unlawful. To gamble your wife is unlawful. To make lewd remarks to your sister-in-law in public is against dharma. To not answer a question truthfully, when petitioned by a person is against dharma. Where dharma and law were both corrupt and dead, there was no other option but to make war.

    Krushna make have broken a law or two, but he never broke dharma. For those of us who only look at the written law to guide us, we can not understand the subtle line between law and dharma. But the line exists and to bring India back from the brink, we need to reestablish dharma.

    • aarthi raghavan

      Hi Bhagwat,
      I absolutely agree with you. Nothing was good in that gambling and nothing was bad in what Krishna did.

      • babu

        Read Jaya of devdutt pattanaik u eill understand

        • Shishir Katote

          “dharmastu sakshad bhagavad pranitam”
          hdarma is defined as word of God. Krishna is the Supreme Lord. HE decides what is dharma. so there is no breaking of law done by Krishna. If Krishna drives the bike in red signal, then the law of traffic will change. He is the lawmaker. nobody can challenge Him.

  • ashim

    Rules are made to provide security to all …. rules are broken by those who inject insecurity to others for personal gains.
    And in the process, the rule breaker suffers from insecurity complex and delves further into breaking rules.
    A great article and thought-provoking too !!

  • Gayatri

    Amazing. You are our true guru. Every article of yours is enlighting. Very satisfying

  • Ganesh Iyer

    what a wonderful thought Devdutt!
    this one’s a real eye-opener, and it being published in the newspaper adds to the glory. People seriously need to understand what is happening and why it is happening. Most just follow a large herd and forget their own opinion. And yes, I totally agree to your point that what we need today is integrity, rather than just shouting at the street corners against the government, against some activist-group aor against anyone, people should take time to realise what they are doing.

  • shiva karadi

    I bow to your divinty,…such a sheer way of narration and explaining Sir..Jai ho..!!

  • Pramod

    One aspect I am interested to know is who were the aggrieved / victims in both the epics. In Ramayan we know Ram and Sita were aggrieved and in Mahabharat the Pandavas were.

    But what about the Lankans and the citizens of Hastinapur?

    Were Duryodhan and Ravan cruel and unjust rulers? Is there any such reference to their misrule in the epics?
    So many people died in the wars in the epic, who benfited from their sacrifice? Was it only Ram/Sita and Pandavas or did the world benefit from the death of these villians?

    • Shishir Katote

      I have found a reference where i it is mentioned that the citizens of hastinapur were tense after thinking of being ruled by cruel kauravas.

  • Kinara

    I love the way you frame your closures. Nice article.

  • j. sudhakar

    today i have watched your programme on CNBC . it is amazing.

  • Naveen Kumar

    When a rule has to be changed it has to be broken first….Rules have life too and expires….

  • One thing is sure, Anna and his teammates ( and also Ramdev) have good intentions while our politicians, especially congressmen don’t.

  • Mystical Sense

    “The courts can only tell us if rules are broken or not broken.”….so aptly said. We can see what courts are capable of: “doing justice” vs. “upholding dharma”.
    And how valid does the procedure of “taking oath” proves to be there is anybody’s guess.

    The pendulum of the mind alternates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong. Carl Jung.

  • Great article Devdutt. Regards

  • Reason is a weapon very much required to fight the battles of the day, good way to surface reason.

  • Manas Ghosh

    Hi All,
    There never b an Earth which 100% ideal in realistically. That should be a final destination. There will remain some Durjodhan and Ravana (Adhrma) always. Integrity (Dharma) comes from Education (Sarshwati) and culture (If we consider our culture is rich). I think the most basic root problem is Education domain and system. If it takes more active role for making more in character building and space for fresh ideas (saraswati) rather then create competitive balloon system among youth then automatically integrity will comes in long term.

  • Avinash Vikram

    Very nice article about to rule followers and rule breakers, Now we all need to understand the intention of rule followers and rule breakers.

  • Prof. Sunil V. Chaudhary Anand

    Disrespect for women either in form of Sita in Ramayan and Draupadi in Mahabharat was the cause of war. Lord Ram like a true husband protected not only wife Sita but sent the message to society to respect women. Lord Shri. Krishna protected Draupadi and also gave the same message to respect women as well as behave ethically. Ravan and Duryodhan were guilty of not respecting women and indulging in unethical behavior and were punished by Lord Shri. Ram and Lord Shri. Krishna. In Bhagwad Geeta Lord Shri. Krishna rightly said that the greatest enemies of humanity are greed, lust and anger while answering and solving suspicions and queries of Pandav Prince Arjuna. Both epics teaches us to respect women and behave ethically.

  • Kiran Kumar Epari

    So its not just about rules, its about upkeeping the moral values and justice..and giving victory to the righteous and the defeat of the wrong and bad persons..To achieve these good causes, rules also need to be broken, which is proved by lord rama and lord krishna both..during the war between bali and sugriva, and also during kurukshetra war..

    • Rhea Xanj

      Rules create a framework that does not change whatever the situation. Contexts always changes in any community, society, anyone’s life- so should have been the rules! The lesson I derive from this is that the rules do not really matter what matters is doing the correct/right thing even it implies staying within the rules or breaking them! Now how to decide right or wrong is a whole different story!

  • Unstoppable Leo

    You raised a point about us humans having moved out of the jungle but not having really removed the jungle out of us. We humans indeed have not lost our animal side. It is still a predator’s world among humans as much as it is in the jungle. The ugly law of ‘survival-of-the-fittest’ where the weak are at the mercy of the strong very much holds good in today’s world. In the animal world, the strong kill the weak for good. In the human world the strong exploit, abuse, mistreat and trample over the weak. The reasons could be for personal profit, spite, arrogance or ego gratification. So practically speaking, a fair world would only be possible if everyone was strong and nobody was weak. Where the power differential between the strongest and the weakest was nil.

  • Pingback: Raghukul - Telly Updates()

  • Pingback: Raghukul – Sony TV()