Friday, February 20, 2015

Lakshman_Rekha : Hindu Philosophy of Marriage & Sex.

Asuras are often identified as demons. But a more appropriate word for them would be barbarians, people who follow the law of the jungle, known in Hindu scriptures as matsya nyaya or the code of fishes. According to this code might is right, big fish eats small fish. This code offers no reprieve for the weak, the helpless, the downtrodden. Only the fit may survive.

While the code of matsya nyaya is suitable for animals, it is not suitable for humans as humans have the faculty of reason - they can discipline natural urges of sex and violence and tame the instinct to dominate the weak. Manavas (civilized man), the descendants of Lord Manu, are expected to follow the code of dharma. This code is based on roles and responsibilities. Every creature is bound by duty. This duty bridles desire. It helps in creating a space where even the weakest can thrive.

In the realm of Manavas, sex is acceptable within marriage for the sake of procreation; violence is acceptable only in defense or in pursuit of food. Asuras do not respect the law of marriage. Violence, for them, is a tool to dominate the world. In the Ramayana story, Rama and Sita represent the code of dharma while Ravana & Surpanaka represent the law of the jungle.

Lakshmana Rekha, the line that Lakshmana traces around Rama's hut, is the divide between nature and culture. Within the line Rama's law applies. Outside is the wilderness, the realm of Ravana. Within there is regard for the law of marriage; without there isn't any. Within, Sita is Rama's wife. Outside, she is a woman for the taking. Ravana knows that if he enters Rama's hut and forces himself on Sita he will be judged by the rules of society. But when he forces himself on Sita outside the Lakshmana-rekha, he will be judges by the laws of the jungle. Within, he will be the villain who disregarded the laws of marriage. Outside, he will be a hero, the great trickster.

Culture can exist only when nature is domesticated. This is often a violent act. The forests with flora and fauna needs to be fenced and burnt down to make way for agri-culture. Nature constantly threatens to overwhelm culture. Defending culture from this threat is a never-ending struggle. Culture needs to thrive but not at the cost of nature. Dharma must not only domesticate nature, it also needs to ensure there is harmony between nature and culture.

The domesticated and the undomesticated forms of nature, the forest and the field, represent two forms of the Goddess. The former is Tripura Bhairavi, the most feared goddess in the three worlds, and the latter is Tripura Sundari, the most desired goddess in the three worlds. The Goddess is simultaneously Chandi, frightening, and Lalita, fascinating. Worshippers of Shiva distinguish the undomesticated and the domesticated parts of Brahmanda as Kali and Gauri. The former is wild and bloodthirsty. The latter is gentle and nourishing. The former drinks blood, the latter gives milk.

Nature that is tamed by dharma exists outside us as well as inside us. For culture to thrive, the mind needs to be tamed as much as the forest. Taming of the mind involves bridling desire, lust, greed, ambition - all the forces that threaten civilization.

Domestication of the mind involves balancing desire with duty, instinct, urges with responsibilities. Sex is a natural phenomenon but marriage is a social institution. In nature, any man and woman, even father and daughter, can have sexual relations with no fetters controlling their sexual behavior or the number of sexual partners. In culture, rules define how man and woman should behave sexually.

Mahabharata Folklore : Shvetaketu saw his mother in the arms of another man. When he complained to his father he was told, "All woman are free to do as they wish." Horrified by this statement, Shvetaketu realized that it was thus impossible for any man to know who his biological father was. Shvetaketu was determined to set things right, so he declared that henceforth a woman could have sexual relations only with her husband or with whoever he selected.

The story brings to light the arbitrary nature of social codes. Shvetaketu decrees that a woman shall have sexual relations only with her husband or with whoever he selects. Thus it was possible for a man to become a father without actually impregnating his wife. In society, fatherhood is not necessarily a biological concept; it is a legal status.

Source : Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik (mith = mithya).