Clarifying Secularism 

I am very delighted to go through the Dec ’14 issue of BTG and find “Beyond Fanaticism and Secularism” an excellent piece of writing of great practical value in today’s social and political scenario of confusion caused by the term “secularism.” Sri Damodara nityananda dasa, the writer deserves all praise for this excellent article. His article elaborates on the issue and clarifies the mist of harmful impressions created by the term “secularism” by basing the arguments on the principles of true religion and commonality of good aspects across all religions.
 —Shyam Sunder Sharma, by email

Sama-darsi vision 

In Bhagvad-gita (5.18), what is the logic in mentioning the specific examples?
 —Anonymous, by email

Our reply: Lord Krishna mentions the specific examples of a brahmana, cow, elephant, dog and dog-eater to explain the concept of spiritual vision that sees equanimity based on the presence of the same spirit soul in different bodies. One explanation given by our previous acarya Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana is that Lord Krishna uses these examples to show the vision of equality not only with regards to duties (brahmana and outcaste) within the same specie but also across different species (cow, elephant and dog). Another explanation offered by Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura is that Lord Krishna uses these examples to show equal vision across three modes of material nature — goodness (brahmana and cow), passion (elephant) and ignorance (dog and dog eater).

King Janaka's importance

What is the importance of mentioning King Janaka in Bhagvad-gita?
 —Upin Vasani, by email

Our reply: For an ordinary person, there is always a conflict between one’s desires and one’s duties. Working to satisfy desires gives immediate sensual pleasure (preyas) of a lower nature while working to perform one’s duties gives delayed pleasure (sreyas) of a higher nature. Common men are usually attracted to preyas, which eventually leads to pain and suffering (Gita 18.38). Thus, the scriptures advise detachment from the pleasures of this world. However, detachment when accepted immaturely does not stand the test of time and causes great internal conflicts to such a person caught between reality and expectation. Also, when exposed such false renunciation causes a great damage to the faith of society. To avoid such a catastrophic situation, it is important to set a code of conduct for common men who are usually clueless about their duties. Rajarshis (saintly kings) like King Janaka, King Priyavrata and others offer themselves for this noble task. Although involved in kingly duties involving power and proprietorship externally, these kings were always detached from this world by internally being intensely attached to Krishna . Irresponsible detachment is easy as is attached responsibility, but responsible dutiful detachment is toughest. By offering their own lives as examples of this most difficult task, they lead common people on the road to perfection.

For every leader, there are two types of adherents – those who imitate and those who genuinely follow. Imitation (anukarana) is easier to perform and faster to gain recognition of foolish bystanders; genuine following (anusarana) is a challenge to practice and puts tremendous responsibility of introspection on the follower. Few people of this world introspect whether they are practicing anukarana or anusarana. When one’s leader is dutifully discharging his responsibilities without getting affected by the accompanying power and prestige, it is easier for people to choose anusarana over anukarana, thus facilitating their spiritual progress.

When such value-based leadership as exemplified by King Janaka is in power, loka-sangraha (unity in society) results; in case of power-hungry leadership, there is loka-sangharsha (conflict in society) due to lack of proper example by the attached leader which leads to an absence of understanding and enactment of proper duties by the subjects.

The above answers were written by Nanda Dulal Dasa.