#Constitution #Smriti #Dharmashastra

A lot of discussion about Constitution and Smriti in the last two days.

Obviously, it is a Category Mistake to compare the two, technically.

Yet, I am sympathetic of people indulging in this comparison. This thread is to explain why.

Let us begin by understanding the difference between the two. That will also help us to understand why the Confusion.

1. Smriti-s are an elucidation of the Purushartha perspective. It is a Dharma-Artha-Kama-Moksha enterprise. For the individual, the community and the State.

The Constitution is merely the Philosophy of the Modern State & a Book of Law based on that. Minimally a philosophy, maximally Law and adequately an institutional framework for the two.

It is an administrative Contract between the State & the Society, rather the individual.

2. The Smritis (& the Dharmashastras) are a

- Pravrutti-Marga Representation of the Vedas
- World View as a Collection of Sutra (Principles)
- Consultative Texts

You need Tapasvi-s with a Rta perspective to translate them into rules/actions for a Kaala-Desha-Vartamana.

The Constitution on the contrary is an application ready Contract between the State & the Society. It is articulated for the specific Kaala-Desha-Vartamaana.

Smritis are a Srishti of a Sage. The latter is a Contract arrived at by the Society through a this-world indulgence.

3. The Purushartha perspective of the Smriti-s is at loggerheads with the Constitutional Philosophy, although the Founding Fathers did not intend it this way.

The Liberty of the Constitution has brought the Individual in direct conflict with the Community through the State.

The Constitution, and hence the State, does not recognize Dharma and Moksha. It further got deteriorated when Secularism was sneaked in, escalating the Conflict.

Further, the State does not recognize the Community an essential element of the Purushartha perspective.

4. Paradigm-wise, the Constitution is the result of the Western “Model Thinking”. The Smritis as a “Sutra Thinking” enterprise, an intellectually different entity and our own Knowledge Representation idiom.

The latter, articulated as Principles, one that recognises Timelessness (Rta), is applied to a context through a detailed consultative process.

Hindu Kingdoms had Smriti experts who never applied anything from the Smriti-s directly.

Constitution pushes direct application.

5. What then is the apparent commonality between the two that creates this confusion?

We have 40 Smritis, each written in different times by different Sages. Constitutions do the same. Some Smriti-s do suggest a rewrite for another time.

The second commonality that creates confusion is - a part of the Smriti is nearly in the language of Modern Law Books. In fact, most uncomfortable verses belong to this part of a Smriti.

These two put together make us feel that the Smriti-s ought to be updated regularly.

The Lawbook like verses in a Smriti are all metaphorical. Nobody ever delivered any punishment that the Smritis seem to prescribe. When they prescribe a punishment that is to signify the harshness with which a crime ought to be punished.

Otherwise, Dayabhaga or Mitakshara systems of Law would never have been created in India. They are more comparable to a Constitution.

No Smriti, has ever been edited, a new Smriti has been written. We may shape a new Smriti for 21st Century.

But that requires a Tapasvi, a Sage with a Dharma-Artha-Kama-Moksha worldview emerging from the Vedas for the complexities of our times but articulated as a set of Eternal Principles.

This cannot be the enterprise of a Constituent Assembly.

While the confusion is understandable (with sympathies), we should not make this Category mistake of comparing the two. Instead, we ought to strive for
- Reconfiguration of the Constitution towards Purushartha
- Recognition of Sages who can shape a new Smriti for our times

Modern State is a Reality. Constitution will be a Necessity. We need a new Harmony between the Constitution and the Smriti.

We need a Smriti that recognises new realities like Individuality, Liberty, Technology as a fundamental element of life - and related challenges.

We need set of Principles, revealed as a Smriti, that helps us navigate through these Modern realities towards our Purushartha pursuit.

But that is not a Constitution. Rather, it must guide the right Constitution just as it once shaped Dayabhaga and Mitakshara.

& by Sages.


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