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BOOK EIGHT: THE MAN WHO WAS SIDDHARTH GAUTAMA
Book Eight, Part I—His Personality
1. *His Personal Appearance* — 2. *The Testimony of Eye-witnesses* — 3. *His Capacity to Lead*
§ 1. His Personal Appearance
1. From all accounts the Blessed Lord was a handsome person.
2. His form was like the peak of a golden mountain. He was tall and well built; with a pleasing appearance.
3. His long arms and lion gait, his bull-like eyes, and his beauty bright like gold, his broad chest, attracted everyone to him.
4. His brows, his forehead, his mouth or his eyes, his body, his hands, his feet, or his gait–whatever part of him anyone beheld, that at once riveted his eyes.
5. Whoever saw him could not help being struck with his majesty and his strength, his splendid beauty, surpassing all other men.
6. On seeing him, he who was going elsewhere stood still, and whoever was standing followed him; he who was walking gently and gravely ran quickly, and he who was sitting at once sprang up.
7. Of those who met him, some reverenced him with their hands; others in worship saluted him with their heads; some addressed him with affectionate words; not one went on without paying him homage.
8. He was loved and respected by all.
9. Men as well as women were ever ready to hear him.
10. His voice was singularly sweet and deep as a drum, lovely, vibrant and eloquent. It made his speech as though it was heavenly music.
11. His very tones convinced the hearer, and his looks inspired awe.
12. His personality alone sufficed to make him not only a leader, but a god, to the hearts of his fellows.
13. When he spoke he obtained hearers.
14. It mattered little what he said. He influenced the emotions, and bent whoever listened to his will.
15. He could create in the minds of his hearers [the sense] that what he taught was not only a verity, but the very hope of their salvation.
16. His hearers could recognise in his words the truth that makes of slaves, free men.
17. When he talked with men and women, his serene look inspired them with awe and reverence, and his lovely voice struck them with rapture and amazement.
18. Who could have converted the robber Augulimala, or the Cannibal of Atavi? Who could have reconciled King Pasenjit to his queen Mallika by a single word? To have come under his spell is [=was] to be his forever. So charming was his personality.
§ 2. The Testimony of Eye-witnesses
1. This traditional view is supported by the testimony of eye-witnesses who saw him and met him while he was alive.
2. One such eye-witness is a Brahmin, by name Sale. After seeing the Blessed One face to face, he uttered the following sentiments in praise of him.
3. Arrived in the Lord’s presence, the Brahmin, seating himself after greetings, scanned the Lord’s body for the two and thirty marks of a Superman, and in time observed them.
4. Quite sure now about the presence of the two and thirty marks, Sale still did not know whether or not he had enlightenment. But he remembered hearing from old and aged Brahmins, teachers of teachers, that those who became Arahats, all enlightened, reveal themselves when their praises are sung, and so he made up his mind to extol the Lord to his face in the following lines of eulogy:
5. “Perfect of body, goodly, Lord, art thou, well grown, well liking, golden-hued, with teeth which gleam [with] lustre; vigour fills the frame; the body’s full perfection manifests each single sign that marks a Superman.
6. “Clear-eyed and handsome, tall, upright art thou, effulgent as a sun among thy train, so debonair, so golden-hued–why waste thy beauty’s prime as homeless anchorite?
7. “As world-wide monarch thou shouldst ride in State; and indeed from sea to sea[all] should own thy sway. Proud princes shall thy village headmen be; rule thou mankind, as sovereign, king of kings!”
8. Ananda describes the colour of his body as exceedingly clear and bright–so much so that the pair of [garments of] cloth of gold, when placed on the body of the Blessed One, appears to have lost its splendour.
9. No wonder he was called by his opponents a glamour boy.
§ 3. His Capacity to Lead
1. The Sangh had no official head. The Blessed One had no authority over the Sangh. The Sangh was a self-governing body.
2. What was, however, the position of the Blessed One over the Sangh and its members?
3. In this we have the evidence of Sakuldai and Udai, contemporaries of the Blessed One.
4. Once the Lord was staying at Rajagraha in the bamboo grove.
5. One morning the Lord went into Rajagraha for alms; but, deeming the hour too early, he thought of going to Sakuldai in Wanderers’ Pleasance; and thither he repaired.
6. At the time, Sakuldai was sitting with a great company of Wanderers, who were making a great noise about being and not being.
7. When from some way off, Sakuldai saw the Lord coming, he hushed his company by saying: “Be quiet, sirs; do not make a noise; here comes the recluse Gautama, who is a lover of silence.”
8. So they became silent and the Lord came up. Said Sakuldai, “I pray the Lord to join us; he is truly welcome; it is a long time since he last managed to come. Pray, be seated; here is a seat for the Lord.”
9. The Lord sat down accordingly, asking Sakuldai what had been their theme and what was the discussion which had been interrupted.
10. “Let that pass for the moment,” answered Sakuldai; “you can easily gather that later on.”
11. Of late, when recluses and Brahmins of other creeds met together in the Discussion Hall, the topic was mooted, what a good thing, what a very good thing, for the Magdha people in Anga, that such recluses and Brahmins–all at the head of confraternities or followings, all well known and famous teachers, all founders of saving creeds, held in high repute by many people–should have come to spend the rainy season at Rajagraha.
12. There was Purana Kassappa, Makhali Ghosala, Ajit Kesakambal, Pakudha Kacchayana, Sanjaya Belaiputta, and Nata-putta the Nigantha, all men of distinction and all of them here for the rains; and among them there is also the recluse Gautama here, at the head of his confraternity and following, a well-known and famous teacher, a founder of a saving creed, who is held in high repute by many.
13. Now, which of these lords, which of these recluses and Brahmins of such eminence as teachers, is esteemed, respected, venerated and adored by his disciples? And on what terms of esteem and respect do they live with him?
14. Said some: “Purana Kassappa gets no esteem or respect; no veneration or adoration, from his disciples; they live with him on no terms of esteem and respect.”
15. Time was when, as he was preaching his doctrine to some hundreds of his following, a disciple broke in with–”Don’t question Purana Kassappa, who does not know about it; ask me who do; I will explain everything to your reverences.”
16. With arms outstretched, Purana Kassappa tearfully remonstrated, saying: “Do be quiet, sirs, do not make a noise.”
[[SURELY THIS CAN’T REALLY BE THE END?]]
Social Engineering and the Republic of Hunger
India has now gone through some seventeen years of a neo-liberal prescription. Its results are there for us to see. If India has produced some 39 new dollar billionaires on the one hand, it has seen the increase of those unable to meet the 2200 calorie intake from 56.4% in 1973-74(the then poverty line for consumption) to 58.5% in 1993-94 and to 69.5% in 2004-05 of the rural population of the country. The All India figures for urban India in the same period were: 57% in 1993-94 to 64.5% in 2004-05. It is evident then that a handful became richer at the cost of impoverishing the rest. In fact in 2004-05, nearly 84 crore people lived on an expenditure of Rs.20 per person per day, of whom some 24 crore lived on less than Rs. 9 per person per day.
How did the government show decline in its figures of poverty? It simply brought down the definition of those living in poverty from 2200 calories to 1800 or less. In other words, the decline of the percentage below the poverty line was a statistical fraud. There are other figures that support our contention. While the necessary minimum availability of food grains is 478 gms in per person per day, the figure in 1998 was 450.9 gms in 1998, and some 428 gms in 2004-05, a reduction of 50 gms. per person per day. The figures for lentils are similar. The government tried to hide this fact by saying people had diversified their diet, drinking more milk and eating more meat and grain. But if that were so, the amount of grain required would be considerably more to produce a lesser weight of meat and milk. The figures of the steadily increasing stocks of unsold grain with the Public Distribution System are proof of the fact that this is yet another fraud on the people by the votaries of neo-liberalism.
The state of employment also reflects the same reality. Not only has the growth of employment come down from 3.21% from 1980-1990 to 1.01% in 1990-2000, but the percentage of unemployment rose from 6.3% to 7.32%. And it has since increased to 8.3%. The wage situation is worse. In 1989, profits were 19.07% of value added and wages no less than 50.78% but in 2005, profits had increased to 55.64% and wage fell to only 32.37%. In the last three years profits have increased two and a half times while wages have gone down by a third. This is the state of affairs of the organized sector. Those in the unorganized sector are much worse off. If we take the agricultural labourers, the days or work available to them have come down from 100 a year in 1990 to 70 in 2000 and possibly only 38 in Punjab today. Surely this does not reflect their prosperity in the absence of alternative employment. True, some alternative employment is emerging in the form of work in brick kilns and at construction sites, but it can hardly be said to be a replacement for the days lost in agricultural work.
The farmers are, if anything, worse off. Every year, for over a decade now, 33 lakh farmers are forced to sell their land and enter the ranks of the landless. State after state, not excluding Punjab, has reported farmers’ suicides. The figure of suicides in the whole country from 1997-2007 is no less than 1, 66,304. Of these 78,737 committed suicide between 1997-2001, but the figure increased to 87, 567 in 2001-2006, reflecting these are a growing phenomenon.
The causes are not difficult to identify. This tragic state of affairs began in 1991 when Manmohan Singh as Finance Minister cut back on fertilizer subsidy and on development expenditure so sharply that the per capita GDP came down in a year and we saw the first suicides of farmers. In the same period, the issue prices of grain from the PDS were doubled, so that by 1995 there were 320 lakh tones of foodgrains lying unsold with the government.
Worse, in 1994, following the redefinition of the priority sector for loans by the M.Narasimhan committee report on financial liberalization, the earlier policy of 1969 treating agriculture and small scale industry as a priority sector was given up adding a personal financial crunch to the collective one, with rural development expenditures coming down from 4% of the Net National Product in the seventh plan period to 2.6% now. We were told if the government left the space vacant, private players would step in. They did not. The United Front government with Chidambaram as Finance Minister further compounded the distress of the rural poor by creating Above and Below poverty line categories of the PDS. The BPL virtually excluded all but those who could not buy from the system, while the APL prices were raised so much that they often were the same or more than the market price. Further, between 1996 and 2001, the NDA intensified the attack on farmers by doing away with Quantitative Restrictions on the import of most agricultural products over four years before it was required by WTO, leading to a fall in the price of cotton, foodgrains, jute, sugar tea and coffee fell between 40%-60% ruining farmers all over the country and suicides were reported from not only Karnataka, but Kerala, Andhra and Punjab as well. The stock of food rotting in the government’s godowns rose to 640 lakh tones and was eventually sold as pig feed to the USA and Europe at half the price it was being sold to Indians by the Atal Behari government. The work begun by Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram as finance ministers was completed by Yashwant Sinha with devastating effect.
The UPA government, with Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister, P.Chidambaram as Finance Minister and Montek Singh Ahluwalia as Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, was expected to see the World Trade Organisation policies implemented to the hilt. Indeed, it has, if one looks at the cut backs on funds for rural development schemes and failure to spend an adequate amount, as noted in the Standing Committee Report submitted to Parliament. But the restraint of being a minority government with Left support under a Common Minimum Programme that enjoined secularism, legislation like Employment Guarantee, Womens Reservations, the welfare of Agricultural Labour and unorganized workers, restraint on privatizing PSUs, spending 6% of the GDP on education, protection of the PDS, no reduction of EPF rates, land reforms, forest rights, the Right to Information Act and an independent foreign policy, among other provisions prevented this trio from going full steam ahead with policies that would make our foreign policy subservient to USA, sign the Doha agreement and push the final nail into the coffin of India’s agriculture dominated by petty producers, giving the go ahead with vast takeovers of land for SEZ’s with tax holidays for the rich and no protection for the workers, outright sales of Public Sector Units and the destruction of the PDS.
The Manmohan Singh government has gone along expected lines. But it has been prevented from doing the worst. It has had to beat a retreat on the Indo-US nuclear deal. The Doha round discussions too are likely to come to a dead end. The attempt at the creeping privatization of BHEL and the sale of NALCO and NLC were stopped. This was a major victory. The foreign entry into the Insurance sector, retail trade and banking was stalled. The use of EPF funds for private investment was partially stalled. The complete dismantling of the APL category of the public distribution has been prevented. The Minimum Support Price for wheat and rice has been raised. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Right to Information Act, the Tribal and Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, have all been passed, while the pernicious Seed Act that would have ended farmers right to experiment and develop their own seed, has been stalled as have anti-worker changes in labour laws and new amendments have been made to the patent law to allow cheap life-saving drugs to the produced. Funds for education, health and credit to farmers have been increased and 71,000 crore worth of debts of farmers have been waived.
But this must not make us complacent. Many of these exercises are “wait and see” delaying tactics or mere eye-wash. The farmers’ loan waiver is only an account book exercise that allows the state to pay banks interest on what may well have been bad debts and gives the farmers nothing. That is why farmers continue to kill themselves even in Vidharba despite the Prime Minister’s package. The funds given for the NREGA are so inadequate as to make it ineffective. The framing of the Rules of the Forest Rights Act has been excessively slow so as to permit evictions. Back-door entries into the viewspapers and the media have reduced most to becoming puppets of Invaders and their puppets of NDA and UPA who are the owners . Funds for education, health, irrigation, rural credit and development have decreased or have only seen a nominal increase. It is evident that the UPA government intended these measures as eye-wash. This is obvious from the way a crisis was allowed to develop in our grain markets with foreign players being given free access to buying grain in India at prices well above the minimum support price and by allowing futures trading in the necessaries of life, so that the price mechanism has gone out of control and PDS system has been all but destroyed. At the same time in the name of checking prices that have risen to an unprecedented 8.75% the UPA government has removed import duties from a number of agricultural products, thus carrying out the job of implementing Doha prescriptions without being seen to do so.
Further, the prices of oil that could have been held back, were raised again by giving fraudulent accounts of public sector oil companies’ losses and by refusing to tax private oil companies for their super profits or reduce government taxes on the value of oil. This forces us to conclude that the Government of India is still firmly committed to carrying India along a path in which the rich will get richer and the poor poorer. And large sections of the will be dispossessed driven form their homes and forced to work in conditions not were different from slavery.
The Question of Social Engineering
Indeed, it is the tendency of retreating from every humanitarian concern that is evident from the braying of the votaries of neo-liberalism for “less government”, “fiscal responsibility”, “pseudo-secularism” and “jobs on merit” for the already privileged that should make us doubly conscious that in the conditions of India, the ideology of the ‘Devil take the Hindmost’ takes on a particularly dangerous character. This is because we live in a society where humanity itself is called into question. There are the Brahmins (Invaders) from the head of Brahma, Kshatriyas from the arms, Vaishyas from the stomach and Shudras from the thighs, who have accepted and agreed to be second, third and fourth rate souls and be their puppets. But, the Panchamas (Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath (SC/ST Untouchable) did not accept or agree for the arrangement. Hence they were kept away from the society as untouchables and unseeables stating that they have no souls and could treat them as they wished. Other Foreign Religions believed in souls of Human Beings but no souls for animals, birds, fishes and other sentient beings and they could be treated as they wished like the Panchamas. But the path shown by the Blessed, Noble, awakened Might Great Mind did not believe in souls, but treated all sentient beings as equals. That is the reason why Baba sahib Dr. B.R. Ambedkar took Deekhsa along with all his followers to that right path for the welfare and Happiness of All.
It follows from this that there is nothing like “human rights” or common principles of justice. The violent crushing of attempts at seeking social justice is given religious sanction in the Ramayana (being extolled by the BJP and a man projecting himself as the future Prime Minister) that begins with the murder of Shambhuka, a shudra who was meditating, by Rama, at the request of a Brahmin who claimed his son had died because of this. What is more, even a radical like Tulsi Das, who was expelled from Kashi for writing the Ramayana in Avadhi, cries out in it: “Drums, peasant, shudras, animals and women need to be kept in order by regular beating” and “the powerful can commit no mistake”. The present-day Congress Party too, is equally insensitive when it gives ‘Dronacharya’ awards to teachers, honouring a man who had got his tribal student to cut off his thumb as guru-dakshina.
Today in Punjab we find a curious alliance between these casteist elements and the self-proclaimed devotees of the Sikh Gurus who went to great lengths to break the prejudices of caste, untouchability and brought people of all castes together to share common meals in gurudwaras. But today castes are encouraged to have their own gurudwaras. Often Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath (SC/ST Untouchable) Sikhs are not allowed to serve Prasad to congregations of other castes. Inter caste marriages often lead to “honour killings”. And recently an old Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath (SC/ST Untouchable) woman was physically prevented from being cremated in the village cremation ground.
These are ominous signs, especially when we see them in the context of India having the largest number of murders in the world, nearly twice as many as in the USA, which was known for its crimes. Since 1981 to 2000, no less than 3,57,945 atrocities against SC/ST have taken place. In 2000 alone, there were 486 cases of murder, 3298 of grievous hurt, 260 of arson, 1034 of rape and 18,644 other offences. This gives us serious cause for concern as 19.2 % households in the country belong to the scheduled castes and 8.4% to the scheduled tribes. Together they constitute 27.6% of the population. Every fourth person in the country belongs to this category. Can we preserve our national unity if this oppression is not brought to an end?
Economically too, they are losing ground. In 1991, 70% of the total scheduled caste households were landless. By 2000 the percentage had risen to 75. In terms of fixed capital assets only 28% had any while for the rest the figure was 56%, in 2000. At the time 49.06% of the SC working population were agricultural labour as compared to 32.69% for STs and 19.66% for other castes. As against a national average per capita income of Rs. 4485, the SC income was only Rs.3237. The unemployment figures were also higher. Moreover, even though 15% and 7.5% of Central Government posts are reserved for SC and ST respectively, only 10.15% posts in Group A (class I), 12.67% in Group B, 16.15% in Group C and 21.26% in Group D were filled. Not only are SCs and STs relegated to Class IV jobs, the quotas are not filled there too. Of the 544 judges in High Courts only 13 were SC and 4 were ST. Only 6.7% school teachers were SC/ST, while the figures were only 2.6% for College teachers. It is evident they are being excluded in every sphere of life and the exclusion is becoming more evident with “devil take the hindmost” policies being implemented today. Of the 600 lakh child labour in India, 40% are from SC, while the figure rises to 80% in arduous and “dirty” jobs like carpet weaving, tanning, dyeing, lifting dead animals, cleaning human refuse, soiled clothes, waste from slaughter houses and sale of local liquor.
In the field of day to day life, we find that the literacy rate for SC was 54.7% while for STs it was 47.1%, compared to 68.8% for others. The infant mortality rate for SC was 83 per 1000 compared to 61.8 for others. This is not surprising as only 11 % SC houses and 7% houses have access to sanitation, as opposed to a national average of 29%. Similarly, while the national average for the use of electricity was 48%, only 28% of the SC population and 22% of the ST had access to it. Now, given the vast reduction of expenditure in the social sector, their condition can only worsen.
This is all the more important for Punjab, which has an SC population of 32% of the total households, well above the national average of 19.2%.Moreover, since 2000, their share of Punjab government jobs has declined from 23.98% to 23.01% in 2005. Predictably, only 1880 are there in Class I of a total of 11703 filled posts. The figures from Class II are 2168 of a total of 12754. For class III the figures are 47836 of a total of 2,21,517, while for Class IV they are 21594 of a total of 61833. Clearly the caste bias of reserving only menial posts for SCs is visible here and it has to be fought.
It is evident from these figures that caste is not class. There is no untouchability when seed is sown in the field, watered, harvested or threshed. It is only the cooking pot that untouchability applies to. Similarly stone carvers can be Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath (SC/ST Untouchable), they can carve the images of temples, even carry them there, but they cannot pray in them. Untouchability does not touch the sphere of production in general, except where certain types of unclean work is not permitted for Brahmins and Kshatriyas. It is grafted on to it to divide the working people. The rich and powerful “have no caste” as the old adage goes, “Raja Ki Jat Nahin Hoti”. Worse, the members of the scheduled castes and tribes have themselves taken on the ideology of caste to their detriment, as we can see from the legend of Eklavya in the Mahabharata when he cuts his thumb as Gurudakshina for Dronacharya. In the same way, it took Dr. Ambedkar nearly three decades from the late twenties to the fifties to realize caste institutions were intrinsically linked to the practice of Hinduism and were incapable of being reformed. They needed to be destroyed. That is why he and his followers took Deeksha. It must be noted, that Dheeksha is the only solution. For majority of the people of Jambudvipa were, are and will continue to be the Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath irrespective of their castes and Religions. In our history, the Delhi Sultans and the Mughals, who were muslims, patronized Brahminism as a way of keeping the masses divided. And the British, like Warren Hastings, had caste practices codified as law that gave caste a far greater force under colonial rule than it ever had under Hindu rulers. But such caste problem and religious fabric of Invaders will vanish in the near future. The exploiting castes, especially the landlord class and rural vested interests may have given it a function beyond just one religion. And social discrimination may exist even after conversion to other religions so the benefits of reservations should be extended to them as well and make them to realize the truth that the too are Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath). It is obvious that it must be fought primarily as a struggle of the oppressed against their oppression. As part of this the oppressed castes must take up the tasks of ending discrimination among themselves to present a unified resistance and not squabble over a few reservations. The Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath (SC/ST Untouchable) identity must be an inclusive one and not a number of mutually exclusive fragments. Encouraging inter caste marriages can play an important role in this process.
Building a Broad Coalition of the Exploited and Oppressed
As for the exploited, they must challenge the divisive agenda of caste by targetting untouchability, oppression and the implementation of reservations along with struggles for land, work, a living wage, a universal public distribution system, against rising prices, for better education and health and protection of the civil rights of all citizens. From the perspective of the neo-liberal reforms, SEZs and the corporatisation of forests and farming must be resisted alongside job-killing mechanization. The privatization of PSUs must be opposed as reserved category jobs are eliminated along with downsizing that increases unemployment on one hand and the workload on the other. At the same time a demand for reservations in the private sector can be raised. Jobless growth with its increasing workload affects workers as a whole and it must be resisted collectively, especially in government employment that affects both Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath (SC/ST Untouchable) and non Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath (SC/ST Untouchable). Discrimination against Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath (SC/ST Untouchable) like giving them only “unclean” or “class IV” work must be resisted together as it is a question that impinges on inhuman working conditions. If the conditions of work of Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath (SC/ST Untouchable), like scavengers being forced to carry nightsoil on their heads, are allowed to continue, others will also find themselves in the same state of affairs in a period of casualisation of work, lower wages and no checks on working norms.
So under neo-liberal pressure with an all-out attack and oppression unleashed on the workers, peasants, artisans, like seizing their assets, underpricing their products and cutting subsidies on their inputs, abandoning food security and destroying the PDS, while refusing to implement minimum wages acts, denying cheap credit or even diluting criminal laws so that the legal system and the police work for the highest bidder, gives us a remarkable chance to unite the working people, the discriminated against and oppressed, the petty producers and tradesmen in one coalition to fight privatization, corporatisation, asset grabbing, unemployment, casualisation, hunger, non-payment of wages, inhumanity at the work place, untouchability, physical violence and even the most gruesome crimes against those who are exploited and oppressed, for the first time since the national movement.
The choice before Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath (SC/ST Untouchable) organizations is also more flexible than ever before. They can choose the path of the BSP which has integrated with the system under the Chief Ministership of Mayawati. Earlier, in support of the slogan of “All Government Land is Ours” (Jo Zamin Sarkari Hai, Voh Zamin Hamrai Hai), Mayawati had transformed surplus land to Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath (SC/ST Untouchable). Original Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, that is the Great Prabuddha Bharath (SC/ST Untouchable) organizations have now found their own path.
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