Asteya of Role Models in Society

By Bal Ram Singh 

The Asteya element of Yama refers to the absence of hiding, cheating, or stealing whether material or mental. I have spent quite a bit of time explaining it, as there are many things people tend to hide in various names, like privacy, confidentiality, business secret, proprietary, diplomacy, business practices, statecraft or secrets, oath of secrecy, etc.

The only alternative to violence is the more and more talk of alternatives – diplomatic and political. Even if their meanings sound innocuous at first, it is clear that a diplomatic or political solution is anything but fair, just or virtuous. Most of the public, though, easily gets sucked into the alternatives – military vs. diplomatic or political, provided by those in charge of national and international affairs. It does not seem to matter whether the society is democratic or dictatorial.

Dictators use their power to subvert any critical thinking by the public to develop a just solution, whereas elected politicians use their craft to manipulate the public into watching their political orchestra as the way to world’s nirvana. 

Rulers all over the world have been indulging in deceptive actions designed to keep the public confused, unfocused and unrealistic. Their weapons of mass deception range from whipping of religious passion to democratic demagoguery.

The concept of democracy for the people, of the people, and by the people, makes a very fundamental assumption that the people have genuine problems and their representatives must have real-life experience so that fair, just and virtuous solutions can be attempted.

However, what we have watched over the years appears to be a slippery slide of basic human values in public discourses on economic, social and family issues., a global intelligence firm, wrote on July 20, 2003, “We see that in a democratic society, politicians frequently lie about their true motives. Instead, they invent acceptable fabrications, so they don’t have to state publicly what they think privately.” Therein lies the problem with modern democracy. The public is constantly brainwashed about lies being standard operational procedure of the system. It is perhaps easy to see some value in the arguments of each side, but it is almost impossible to fathom the level of self-trained deception the public encounters in politicians.

We are in a desperate need of leaders who can practice their own words – role models for the public, young, old, everyone in between. Where do we get our role models in the 21st century? Three major sources – sports, politics, and the reel world. All promote personalities whose claim to fame is based on fake, deceptive portrayals of life, violating the Asteya principle of Yama.

There is a fundamental issue with accepting sports figures, politicians or film/TV stars as role models. None of these represent the real life which we must encounter on a daily basis. Each represents a mirage which needs to be understood and discarded rather than followed. Sports figures practice and practice to play games. We must realize that games are just that. No society can reasonably expect to evolve and make progress following role models who are game players.

Politicians similarly cannot become role models of real people, as they can never tell the truth, nor keep their promises, and stage systematic deceptions to remain in power, as pointed out earlier for democracy. Even during the inauguration of a new Parliament, they cannot agree to even celebrate certain great milestones in a nation’s history. However, politicians at least have to face the people every few years, and thus are forced to face the real world to a certain degree. The worst role models are film actors and actresses, because they are not even real sports figures or politicians, they just pretend to be. Not too long ago, Indian villages used to have local drama companies stage shows, like nautanki, in which at least people known to the audience played the roles, thus allowing the audience to realize it to be drama, something that is gone with film actors who assume larger than life stature. In the long run, the public must search for real leaders for the role models, not those with hidden agenda violating the Asteya of Lord Yama.

Balram Singh is a Professor and the President of the Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, Massachusetts, researching Ayurveda, Yoga, Vedic education, and Vedic social and political traditions. He is also an adjunct faculty at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi.

Images courtesy of The CSP and Provided

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