The Multi-faceted Dharam Is An Eastern Concept


By Dr. Sawraj Singh

Dharam is an Eastern Concept. Therefore, there is no equivalent word for it in English or any other Western language. Dharam is a very broad concept, which has many aspects such as ethics, morality, duty, righteousness and spirituality. It will need many English words put together to address all aspects of Dharam but one single word will not be able to do that. Dharam forms the foundation of society. Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh Religion, said that Dharam and Daya (Compassion) are like the two horns of the mystical bull which keeps the earth stable. Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, said that the purpose of life was to establish Dharam in the world.

The basic concept of Dharam is that ethics are above economics. To keep stability and order in the world, we need to address the issues of righteousness, morality, ethics and duty before considering economic factors. If we violate this basic concept then we risk weakening of the infrastructure of the society. Without a sound and stable infrastructure we cannot build the economic superstructure. If we violate this principle then we can make economic progress but this will not benefit the society and it will weaken the society. Ultimately, the society will end up paying a very heavy price for  violation of this principle.

The modern Western society is now paying a very heavy price for putting economics above ethics. The Western domination of the last two centuries is not going to last in the twenty first century. In the long run, the West could not sustain the economic progress and is already facing an economic decline. Even though the modern capitalist Western society has faced one crisis after the other, yet the present crisis is different than the others. The West was able to recover and reestablish its economic domination and hegemony over the world. However, this time, the West will not be able to re establish its domination and hegemony and the general trend of the Western decline will continue.

Unfortunately, India the seat of Dharam, has betrayed its own principles. India has adopted the culture of Globalization, which in reality is the Western capitalist culture. India is paying very dearly for abandoning its own civilization and value system. It is true that we have made some progress by integrating with the economic only Globalization which has no ethical aspect. However, the benefits have not reached the majority of people and have only been limited to the Westernized elite.

Punjab leads the other states in India in abandoning its own culture and value system and adopting the Western capitalist culture of Globalization. Punjab has suffered the most by abandoning the basic principle of putting ethics above economics. Punjab is probably the most culturally unstable state in India. Punjab seems to be leading rest of India in phenomenon such as disintegration of family, weakening of social relations and commercialization and marketization of social institutions such as marriage. Overall, Punjab seems to be declining at a much higher speed than rest of India. The decline is global. Punjab used to be in the first place in terms of per capita income, now it is in the thirteenth position. When it comes to the rate of economic growth, Punjab has probably moved to the last position.

Punjab has probably suffered the most as far as health of the people is concerned. The incidence of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer is rising very rapidly. Similarly, some mental experts feel that the incidence of mental disease in Punjab is much higher than rest of India. The sperm count has declined to almost half to what it was fifty years ago. The drug addiction has become a very serious problem .Some people think that about 30% young men have become impotent.  One respected Journalist told me that his village has become a village of the widows because no man lives to reach forty years of age because of drug addiction.

Indians in general and Punjabis in particular, have to very seriously ponder about the consequences of abandoning our time tested wisdom that Dharam is the foundation of the society and adopting the Western concept of putting economics above ethics. Our collective wisdom of thousands of years has taught us that Dharam is our foundation. It is time to reestablish our time tested wisdom. Let us put ethics above economics.

Dr. Sawraj Singh, MD F.I.C.S. is the Chairman of the Washington State Network for Human Rights and Chairman of the Central Washington Coalition for Social Justice. He can be reached at [email protected].