the oath of the vayuputras - Page 21

‘Well, I have heard that on average, the female of the species is smarter. But it’s a little more complicated. Elephant herds are matriarchal and it’s usually the oldest female who makes all the decisions in the wild: when they will move, where they will feed, who remains in the herd and who gets kicked out.’

‘Kicked out?’

‘Yes, male elephants are made to leave the herd when they reach adolescence. They either learn to fend for themselves or join nomadic male elephant herds.’

‘That’s unfair.’

‘Nature is not concerned with fairness, Kartik. It’s only interested in efficiency. The male elephant is not of much use to the herd. The females are quite capable of defending themselves and taking care of each other’s calves. The male is only required when a female wants to have a child.’

‘So how do they...’

‘During the mating season, the female herd accepts a few nomadic male elephants for some time so that the females can get impregnated. Then the males are abandoned once again.’

Kartik shook his head. ‘That’s so cold.’

‘Well, that is the way it is. The female wild elephants have well-defined social behaviour and group dynamics, enforced by the matriarch. The male elephant, on the other hand, is a nomad with no ties to anyone of his kind. Since he is usually a loner, he would have to be much more aggressive to survive. Therefore he is more difficult to break and one needs to catch him young. But once he is broken in, he is much easier to handle and remains loyal to the mahout, his rider. More importantly, unlike a female elephant, he will kill without sufficient reason, just because his mahout orders him to do so.’

‘My Lords,’ said the Vasudev Kshatriya, interrupting the conversation as he pointed forward, ‘the elephant stables.’

‘I guess you already know what I suspect is Evil,’ said Shiva, looking at Gopal sitting across the small ritual fire.

‘I wouldn’t be much of a mind-reader if I didn’t,’ smiled Gopal. ‘But I suppose you are more interested in knowing if I agree.’

‘Yes. And if you do, what are your reasons?’

‘Well, first things first. Of course we agree with you. Every single Vasudev agrees with you.’

‘Why?’

‘We are faithful followers of the institution of the Mahadev. We have to agree with you, once you have the right answer.’

Shiva caught on to something. ‘Once I have the right answer?’

‘Yes. Despite so many challenges, you have arrived at the right answer to the question posed to every Mahadev: What is Evil?’

‘Does that mean you were already aware of the right answer?’

‘Of course. What I did not know were the answers to the questions posed to me. The questions for the institution of the Vishnu are very different. The Mahadev’s key question is: What is Evil? For the Vishnu, there are two key questions: What is the next great Good? And when does Good become Evil?’

‘When?’

‘Yes. While a Mahadev is an outsider, a Vishnu has to be an insider. His job is to use a great Good to create a new way of life and then lead men to that path. The great Good could be anything: a new technology like the daivi astras or a creation like the Somras; it could even be a philosophy. Most leaders just follow what has been ordained by a previous Vishnu. But once in a while a Vishnu emerges who uses a great Good to create a new way of life. Lord Ram used more than one, such as the idea that we can choose our own community rather than being stuck with the community that we are born into. He also allowed for the widespread use of the Somras so that not just the elite but everyone could benefit from its powers. But remember, great Good will, more often than not, lead to great Evil.’

‘I understood that from the teachings of Lord Manu. I’d like to hear your reasons for why this is so.’

‘We have a philosophical book in our community that answers this question beautifully. It contains the teachings of great philosophers who we have revered over the centuries, like Lord Hari and Lord Mohan. It also contains the teachings of the chiefs of the Vasudev tribe, beginning with our founder, Lord Vasudev. The book is called the “Song of our Lord”.’

‘Song of our Lord?’

‘Yes. It is called the Bhagavad Gita in old Sanskrit. The Gita has a beautiful line that encapsulates what I want to convey: Ati sarvatra varjayet. Excess should be avoided; excess of anything is bad. Some of us are attracted to Good. But the universe tries to maintain balance. So what is good for some may end up being bad for others. Agriculture is good for us humans as it gives us an assured supply of food, but it is bad for the animals that lose their forest and grazing land. Oxygen is good for us as it keeps us alive, but for anaerobic creatures that lived billions of years ago, it was toxic and it destroyed them. Therefore, if the universe is trying to maintain balance, we must aid this by ensuring that Good is not enjoyed excessively. Or else the universe will re-balance itself by creating Evil to counteract Good. That is the purpose of Evil: it balances the Good.’

‘Why can’t there be a Good that does not create Evil? Why can’t we establish a way of life that does not imbalance the universe?’

‘That is impossible. Our being alive itself creates imbalances. In order to live, we breathe. When we breathe, we take in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Aren’t we creating an imbalance by doing so? Isn’t carbon dioxide evil for some? The only way we can stop creating evil is if we stop doing good as well; if we stop living completely. But if we have been born, then it is our duty to live. Let us look at it from the perspective of the universe. The only time the universe was in perfect balance was at the moment of its creation. And the moment before that was when it had just been destroyed; for that was when it was in perfect imbalance. Creation and destruction are the two ends of the same moment. And everything between creation and the next destruction is the journey of life. The universe’s dharma is to be created, live out its life till its inevitable destruction and then be created once again. We are a downscaled version of the universe.’

‘These are just theories, Panditji.’

‘Yes they are. But they explain a lot of things that otherwise seem abstruse.’

‘Even if I were to agree with you, how would it work at our level? We are minuscule compared to the universe.’

‘Yes, that is true, but the universe lives within us in a minute model of itself. Good and Evil are a way of life for every living entity, including us. Our creation and destruction is through Good and Evil; through balance and imbalance. This is true for animals, plants, planets, stars, everything. What makes us humans special is that we can choose how to control Good and Evil. Most creatures are not given that opportunity. There were giant creatures that lived on Earth many millions of years ago. Climate change made them extinct. We have good reason to believe that they were not responsible for this but were victims of the “Evil” which suddenly reared its head. Humans, however, have been blessed with intelligence, the greatest gift of the Almighty. This allows us to make choices. We have the power to consciously choose Good and improve our lives. We also have the ability to stop Evil before it destroys us completely. Our relationship with nature is different from that of other living creatures. Others have nature’s will forced upon them. We have the privilege, at times, of forcing our will upon nature. We can do this by creating and using Good, like we created agriculture. What is forgotten, however, is that many times the Good we create leads to the Evil that will destroy us.’