The Price of Liberty: Upholding Dharma

The Price of Liberty: Upholding Dharma

We've all heard the famous quote, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty," and it holds undeniable truth. Mahatma Gandhi demonstrated to us and the world that the fight for freedom should be conducted through dharmic (righteous) means. The Indian freedom movement was built upon ahimsa (non-violence) and love for all, including the British, our former colonial rulers.

A dharmic approach may require more time and involve some suffering, but its results are enduring and gratifying. However, once freedom is attained, what should one do with it? Preserving it and ensuring its benefits reach all is crucial. Thus, dharma is equally important both before and after achieving liberty.

The ongoing challenge is how to sustain dharma indefinitely. This necessitates ceaseless vigilance at all levels—within the government, organizations, communities, families, and individuals.

If every citizen, worker, official, manager, businessperson, administrator, politician, and leader maintains their active internal vigilance, dharma is likely to take deep root, upholding society, the nation, and the world.

Two fundamental truths bear repeating: "Dharayati iti dharma," meaning that which upholds is dharma, and "Dharmo rakshati rakshitah," indicating that when dharma is protected, it, in turn, safeguards us.

Dharma is not a one-time endeavor. While Gandhiji's achievement was historic, it cannot be taken for granted indefinitely. Every era, generation, and time must continue the fight for dharma.

There are instances where enlightened business and societal leaders take a principled stand against violations of dharma. For example, a large Indian business group recently addressed a breach of dharma within one of its companies—a recruitment scam. A vigilant small shareholder brought this issue directly to the top executive. To their credit, the management acknowledged the wrongdoing, expressed remorse, and rectified the situation, taking appropriate actions against the guilty.

There are valuable lessons here for all organizations and their stakeholders. Dharma violations can occur anywhere and by anyone. Promptly addressing such violations enhances the credibility and character of the individuals and institutions involved.

Another noteworthy example of resolute action against dharmic violations occurred in Singapore. In this case, the transgressor was not an ordinary citizen but a minister. The government acted swiftly, suspending and charging the minister.

These examples offer action implications:

  1. Do not take dharma for granted. Stay alert to warning signs without being overly suspicious.
  2. Don't assume dharma will always prevail. Individuals or groups may exploit complacency about dharma.
  3. If you have the power, address breaches of dharma within your sphere of influence. Take appropriate actions such as punishment, counseling, correction, or reinforcing systems.
  4. Approach reported cases of adharma with an open mind. Avoid jumping to hasty conclusions of guilt or innocence; let the due process of inquiry proceed.
  5. Learn relevant lessons from every instance, whether someone is found guilty or exonerated. Apply these lessons to yourself and your stakeholders.
  6. Influence those close to you, especially youngsters, to have a strong foundation of dharma. Educate them about internal adversaries like desire (kama) and greed (lobha).
  7. Practice vigilance, not just regarding others but also yourself. Your internal vigilance will grant you the moral authority and credibility to encourage awareness in others.
  8. If every leader, citizen, worker, and businessperson maintains unceasing vigilance, we can strive for the ideal of "Rama Rajya."

— Dr. M. B. Athreya

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