Each man reaches perfection by doing his own duty; he worships god – from whom all beings come, by whom this universe was stretched forth – by doing his appointed work, with no desire for reward. You must do the work for its own sake and not for anything that it may bring to you. When pleasure and pain, gain and loss, victory and defeat are the same to you, you may go into battle without sin. If you dedicate your deeds to God, with no desire for reward, sin will not touch you, as a Lotus leaf is not wet by water. God dwells in the heart of every creature, O son Kunti, moving them all by his divine power. Take refuge in him with your whole heart, and you will find peace.
Have you listened with singleness of heart, O conqueror of wealth? Has your weakness, which came from ignorance, been vanished?
I was first introduced to the exchange between Krishna and Arjuna, of which the above quote forms a part, as a child via Hippolyte Fauche’s 1863 translation of the Mahabharata into French. Recently, as I have been thinking about the issues that have been raised on Blak and Black over the last two and a half years, I’ve had pause to revisit the spiritual and philosophical texts that shaped my childhood and youth. Major and recurrent themes running through all of these texts are those concerning duty, integrity and accountability, all the things that concern me as a person and all the things that the Australian Public Service, the Australian Federal Police and the Australian polity as a whole lack in spades!
The story of the Bhagavad Gita, the song of Lord Krishna, is a story of inter-family squabbling and fighting. There are two families, a good and bad family. They’re at war with one another and they happen to be cousins. The good family is called the Pandavas and they’re fighting against their cousins over who is going to rule North India. The protagonist in the story is Arjuna, who is the greatest Pandava warrior. The abovementioned battle scene, one of the greatest classical battles ever described in literature erupts into the climax of the Mahabharata. However the battle itself no matter how heroic, serves to further illustrate the theme of the epic itself, and coincidently one of the major themes of Blak and Black: that hatred and greed inevitably lead to ruin, and that the only real conquest lies in winning the battle within oneself.
Before the battle, Arjuna sees that his opponents are relatives and friends and teachers and he experiences a crisis of conscience. He drops his weapon and turns to his charioteer. (The charioteer happens to be Krishna, but Arjuna doesn’t know that he’s a god.) Arjuna says he can’t fight, because he doesn’t want the bad karma of killing many close relatives. He says he needs to become a renunciant instead. So the charioteer, Krishna, engages him in a wonderful philosophical discussion. During the dialogue, the charioteer lays down a new understanding of Hinduism that’s going to be at the centre of the bhakti faith. Where there were two yogas, now there are three. There isn’t just jnana yoga and karma yoga (the discipline of action), there is another option: bhakti yoga.
Dharma and moksha can be pursued at the same time. It’s possible to affirm the world, do your dharma, and yet somehow achieve moksha. As a practical matter, Krishna tells Arjuna to fight, because it is his duty. It is his varna ashrama dharma. He is a member of the warrior caste, and warriors are supposed to fight. In fact, he’ll get bad karma if he refuses. But then Krishna says that death is inevitable for all of us. We cannot really kill or be killed because the Atman in each of us is unborn and eternal. Arjuna is supposed to act selflessly and without ego, and he’s supposed to offer his actions to god without any attachment to the fruits of his actions. If he acts in this way, he will not have bad karma. At the end of the story, Krishna reveals himself and Arjuna bows down and worships him as the supreme lord. What’s interesting about this ending is that it has led some people to believe that the battle here is not really a physical battle, but a spiritual battle for our souls. It is a story about desire and renunciation, that it is possible to live a life of renunciation as a lay person. The key issue is being devoted to god. Another idea is that there are many paths to God. There is not just one path. There is the bhakti path. There is the jnana path. And all go to God.
As the point of this post is ultimately not about Hinduism or the Mahabharata for that matter, I will leave it up to individual readers to chase down the italicised terms within the aforementioned paragraphs. They are easily accessible via a Google search. The real purpose of this post is to try and generate in readers a desire to look a bit more closely at what they see going on around them and decide for themselves if what they really see, as opposed to the superficiality of what society wants us to see and therefore believe, is the type of world they as individuals want to inhabit. This is the real battle and as I have said before, the only real conquest lies in winning the battle within oneself
Mourning for justice, the victim of society’s hatred and greed
On the sunset hill
There is draped a cloudy veil,
Clothing the twilight
With dark fold upon dark fold –
A mourning robe for dead day
Murasaki Shikibu (Trans. Robert Wood Clack)
Shikibu’s vision of a draped twilight mourning the passing of the day could well be used to describe the draped citizenry mourning the passing of Australia’s democracy. The only reason our democracy has passed or at the very least is passing out of the realm of mortal men is that those charged with defending OUR rights have lost the battle within themselves. They have given over to greed and hatred, rather than dedicating their deeds to God, with no desire for reward, they have turned to greed and the wages of sin.
How can Australia claim to be a just country, a country where people feel safe in the arms of the law and our freedoms, when those laws and freedoms are denied many at the whim of the most junior of bureaucrat’s for no more valid reason than “we can do this and not be held accountable.” That’s exactly what happens in Australia on a daily basis. What is worse is that Australia has some extremely expensive window dressing in the form of administrative avenues of redress against highhanded bureaucrat’s. The problem is that these points of redress are nothing more than window dressing. The bureaucrats tasked with investigating the wrongdoings of other bureaucrats have themselves long ago lost the battle within the self. The only things that can follow in the wake of such a defeat are corruption, greed and hatred.
Sit back and think for a moment. Why would a tertiary educated, successful bank executive be screaming racism and sexism against the Australian Federal Police (“AFP”) and the ACT Department of Treasury (“ACTDoT”) if it were not true? Why would she run the risk of even further opprobrium at the hands of Canberra’s facile media and corrupt body politic if she did not firmly believe that what she is saying is true? More importantly, if she is making the whole story up, as the AFP and the ACTDoT would like all readers of Blak and Black to believe, how is it that she remains Australia’s most successful Aboriginal female bank executive? The answer is simple; Australia is a corrupt and racist society and all those who sit idly by and watch this type of thing happen without so much as a whimper have themselves lost the battle within!
It is worth remembering that we are not talking about one “black gin” here, we are talking about a system, a system that claims to be in the first order of the world’s democratic states, a system that has just won a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (“UNSC”) and yet remains a system that cannot, or worse will not, give justice to one of its own, the victim of a misogynist, racist and contemptuous white male and politically well-connected bureaucrat.
While many will have picked-up on the fact that the “black gin” I referred to above is Ms King, she does not stand alone as being the sole victim of Australia’s corrupt, racist and misogynist bureaucracy. There are many, many others, including Lucinda McMillan, Angelique, Schapelle Corby, Jill Courtney and the hundreds of other female victims, Indigenous and non-Indigenous who have given me statements about their treatment at the hands of Australia’s corrupt, racist and misogynist bureaucracy.
A land of hypocrites
Those who follow Blak and Black on Twitter may have seen that we have been tweeting Australia’s first female Prime Minister Ms Julia Gillard, the ACT’s female Chief Minister Ms Katy Gallagher and the ACT Chief Police Officer Roman Quaedvlieg directly on the Ms King issue. Why? Each of these people have spoken out publically in support of Destroy the Joint, a campaign aimed at bringing an end to the endemic misogyny within Australia’s bureaucracy, a bureaucracy which is primarily based in the ACT and has an ACT focus. Yet each of these has at the same time refused to address a glaring case of racism and misogyny in their own proverbial “backyard”, why? The only possible answer is that each in their own way is a hypocrite, a hypocrite who has lost the battle within the self.
Yes Prime Minister Gillard and Chief Minister Gallagher, dealing with the Inquisitor will peel a lot of other things open, many of them will be unpleasant, but can what lies behind the Inquisitor’s veil of lies and deceit be anymore unpleasant than being labelled, and justly so, hypocrite for failing to stand up for what you claim to represent?
I will leave you with the words of Lord Krishna: “You must do the work for its own sake and not for anything that it may bring to you.”