Sunday, December 08, 2013

Desire or dharma: Dilemma that is as old as the vedas

Over the past few weeks we have been mesmerized by the tragic story of Tarun Tejpal. He was a moral voice to a whole generation, looked up to for courageous and uncompromising journalism. The evidence of sexual assault against the founder editor of Tehelka suggests that he not only failed a young colleague but collectively all journalists, workingwomen, and his legion of admirers. Millions of words have been written on this story but no one has explained why men in positions of power behave badly. We need to try and understand the nature of human desire in a patriarchic society where male narcissism is an ever-present reality and men believe they are more attractive than they really are.

Desire is instinctual energy deriving from primal biological urges. The Rigveda says, The cosmos emerged from the seed of kama, ‘desire’, in the mind of the One”. A primordial sexual act of incest populated the earth, according to the Aitareya Brahmana when Prajapati, the primeval creator, desired his daughter. She ran away and took the form of a doe. He turned into a stag, copulated with her, and deer were created. Then she turned into a cow, he became a bull, and cows come into being… and so on. The gods said, “Prajapati is doing what is not done”. A serial act of rape, sinful and violent, was the “origin of species”—a somewhat more colourful version than Darwin’s.

Human beings are not only governed by instinct. Desire travels from our senses to our imagination, and often gets focused onto a specific person. Society exploited this idea by creating the institution of marriage for the purpose of social harmony. Hence, the Dharmashastras insist that sex is only for procreation. But men and women found a way to communicate their fantasies, and this gave rise to romantic love and the art of seduction. By the Epic period when the first kingdoms were formed, kama also meant ‘pleasure’ and in fact became a trivarga, one of the three aims of life, along with artha and dharma. The elite embraced the courtly ideal of the nagaraka, ‘man-about-town’. Kamasutra taught us the sixty-four arts, wherein Vatsyayana instructs, “If you are kissed, kiss back!” Patriarchy ruled, however, and Draupadi’s disrobing in the Mahabharata is the most celebrated display of male power, and it led to a ghastly war.

Sexual desire did not sit well with the ascetic, however. In the earlier Upanishadic period, our society’s idea of the good life was challenged by the “renouncer”. Rishis like Agastya suffered sexual anxiety over losing hard earned spiritual energy through tapas, which is reflected in the many myths of tempting apsaras who bring about the involuntary ejaculation of semen. The renouncer countered by speaking adeptly of the loathsome nature of a woman’s body. The object of desire becomes an object of revulsion in the Buddhacharita, for example, which demonizes the feminine ‘other’. The tension between the householder’s act of desire and the ascetic’s conquest of desire reflects the dual nature of human beings—the erotic and the ascetic in all of us—but it did not disturb the unhappy male domination of society.

To try and understand Tarun Tejpal’s actions in the historical context of male power in society is not to excuse his wrongdoing. In a patriarchal society men want to control the reproductive body of women. The man’s viewpoint pervades the Vedas, the epics, and Sanskrit love poetry.  But all our texts also warn against the dangerous nature of human desire and remind us of boundaries. Even Vatsayana cautions in the Kamasutra that kama must be governed by dharma.

Sexual assault is a crime and it has less to do with sex than with power and male domination. All societies have been patriarchal and it is a tribute to the global women’s movement that the world has begun to change its old paradigm. Governments around the world are instituting legal changes. In India, the new anti-rape law and the Vishakha guidelines on sexual harassment at the workplace are part of this global trend. They must be quickly implemented and we must keep trying to make relations between men and women more equal and less hierarchical. The prize too is a big one—a safer and more civilized India.


downloadmoviefirst said...

Gurchan das really Very Salute To You and i also read daily Your Blog requesting You to plz visit Its Surprise from My side to you.Hope You will read and rply to me thats very grateful to me.

dynavmite said...

i agree. What was more shameful was the shameless audacity with which he and his staff went about defending or trying to feign innocence. whats even more worrying is the fact that all events and incidents have to wait to become disasters for the nation to sit up and take notice. why did the young lady keep quiet for the first few days and I am sure many more would have meekly submitted to his desires.

Abhi K said...

Very nice information. Thank you for sharing it. Thanks pmd

Anonymous said...

Get Recent Tech Updates at
View Funnier Side of Life at

Anonymous said...

Great Blog...its very informative and effective...
Thanks for sharing....

for Indian movies and gossips for all other Entertainment purpose please visit our site:

Tacky said...

Great insight into the behavior of powerful men. Seems as though this demonstrated in other countries also, U.S., Italy, U.K., and so many others where women are less dominated by men in society. I was a Tejpal fan and read Tehelka. I am devastated and wonder how both he and the magazine can survive.

Citrus said...

I came here hoping to find an opinion or a view about the current political state of affairs that I could consider when I vote at the national elections. I'm looking forward to reading what you might have to say.

Unknown said...

Thanks You for Sharing This information blog I am bookmark this blog, Need some more post

See my site Web Designing In Dwarka

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Excellent post.

Above Interiors

Unknown said...

Great post.Thanks for this share for us. :-)

Above Interiors

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing this information and Very good looking blog.
I am bookmark this blog need some more post.

Flats in Dwarka

Abhi K said...

Very useful information. Thank you for sharing it. Thanks

Arthienterprises said...

Thank you for providing clear information on this.Glass protection net india

Unknown said...

Get your Summer Collections with over 50% discounts now!!!

Unknown said...

very nice and helpful for fb photos visit and for for pdf books and digest search and watch online dramas and see beauty tips and mehndi design from here and speeches from and many others

Unknown said...

Get your Summer Collections with over 50% discounts now!!!

Unknown said...

This is very useful information shared here. I am really thankful for this.

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing this nice information about this topic on your blog, it is very informatics info thank for this blog
Big Height

Abhi K said...

very nice information, thanks for sharing this. packers movers

srjwebsolutions said...

We are leading responsive website designing and development company in Noida.
We are offering mobile friendly responsive website designing, website development, e-commerce website, seo service and sem services in Noida.

Responsive Website Designing Company in Noida
Website Designing Company in Noida
SEO Services in Noida
SMO Services in Noida

Unknown said... is online medical store pharmacy in laxmi nagar Delhi. You can Order prescription/OTC medicines online.
Cash on Delivery available. Free Home Delivery

Online Pharmacy in Delhi
Buy Online medicine in Delhi
Online Pharmacy in laxmi nagar
Buy Online medicine in laxmi nagar
Onine Medical Store in Delhi
Online Medical store in laxmi nagar
Online medicine store in delhi
online medicine store in laxmi nagar
Purchase Medicine Online
Online Pharmacy India
Online Medical Store

Unknown said...

We are uhe solid first platform for modeling newcomers to achieve there new dreams. The first to train and promote out models at our expense to avoid burden on them. Join the most popular agency if you modelling jobs in Delhi for female freshers, models, students, housewives aiming to start there modeling career. We are top modelling agency in Delhi offering modelling jobs in Delhi for upcoming female freshers or experienced models who want to join lingerie modeling agencies.

modeling agencies in Delhi
modeling agencies
modeling jobs
modeling auditions
model coordinators
modeling jobs in Delhi

Unknown said...

We are specialized in Mechanised cleaning of Underground and Overhead Water Tanks of all sizes. Door Step services across Delhi, Noida and Ghaziabad.

Water tank cleaning services in Noida
Water tank cleaning services in Ghaziabad
Water tank cleaning services in Delhi

Drain cleaning services in Noida

Drain cleaning services in Ghaziabad
Drain cleaning services in Delhi
Pipeline Cleaning Service in Noida

Pipeline cleaning services in Ghaziabad
Pipeline cleaning services in Delhi

Tank cleaning services in Noida

Tank cleaning services in Ghaziabad
Tank cleaning services in Delhi

Unknown said...

Battery Mantra Buy Car and Inverter battery online in India. BatteryMantra is Noida based India's No. 1 online battery store offering you genuine batteries of all the well-known battery brands at best prices.

Online Inverter Battery Store
Online Car Battery Store
Buy Inverter battery Dealer Noida
Buy battery online Noida
Online Inverter Battery Store
Buy car battery Noida