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The more you abstain, the more you gain - The Times of India

R Brahmachari ()
14 November 1996

Title : The more you Abstain, the more you gain
Author : R Brahmachari
Publication : The Times of India
Date : November 14, 1996

On February 8 President Clinton put his signature on the
amended Exon Bill so that the resulting Communication
Decency Act (CDA) might squelch online pornography and
help to make the Net safe for children. But the U.S.
legal experts, at that time, were afraid that the new Act
would not be able to withstand the scrutiny of even a
misdemeanour court since it is not possible to draw a
sharp line of demarcation between decency and indecency.
The apprehension came true when, in June, a panel of
three federal judges unanimously ruled that CDA violates
the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that pro-
tects freedom of speech.

Undoubtedly the Philadelphia judges, bound by the federal
constitution, had no other option but to uphold freedom
of speech but proponents of CDA like Mr J. James Exon and
Mr Mike Russel, the spokesman of the Christian coalition,
expressed their resentment over the decision by saying
that the court might have given more attention to those
portions of the online content, posing a serious threat
for permanently altering the lives of kids, which would
ultimately lead to a degradation of social and ethical
values. In fact, indulging in individual freedom may
cause a severe damage to society and such an action is
equivalent to axing one's own legs. In this context, one
may recall the second amendment to the U.S. constitution
regarding the possession of firearms. This raises the
pivotal question - should we indulge in individual free-
dom even if such a freedom causes an injury to society
which is beyond repair?

Supreme Concern

According to Western philosophy an individual and his
freedom is of supreme concern, while the interest of
society is of secondary importance. The Indian view,
which is diametrically opposite, contends that society is
abiogenetic and hence cannot be created or recreated by
the individuals and furthermore, the interest of society
is of supreme concern. The aggregate of innate social
laws and virtues that aims to sustain the integrity of
society, to maintain its cohesiveness and bring forth
prosperity and well-being to each and every member of
society is called dharma, and this dharma is of supreme
importance. According to Indian tradition, even a king
cannot surpass dharma, not to speak of an ordinary indi-

The ancient Indian lawgiver, Manu, dictates a three-fold
indebtedness of an individual to society, namely, (1)
indebtedness to the gods for providing air, water and
other natural resources essential for sustenance; (2)
indebtedness to ancestors for providing the human body,
and (3) indebtedness to teachers for imparting knowledge.
So it is the duty of an individual to repay his social
debts by serving the gods, the elders, by properly bring-

ing up the younger generation and by serving society at
large. On the contrary, an individual who devotes his
time and energy for the sake of his personal pleasure and
well-being and denies his social responsibilities vio-
lates dharma.

Kautilya, in the Arthasastra, says that an individual
who, in spite of being financially capable, does not look
after his aged elders and other dependents or extends a
helping hand to the poor, violates dharma and is there-
fore punishable by confiscation of his entire belongings.
He also prescribes criminal prosecution of male married
individuals who accept asceticism and thus leads his
family members and other dependents to starvation. So
Indian tradition sacrifices individual freedom for the
sake of society or for the sake of dharma.

Remedial Measure

In his article, "Fifteen cheers for abstinence," Mr Lance
Morrow has suggested a future life style for the West -
that abstinence is the only remedial measure against
teenage pregnancy, disintegration of families, AIDS and
so on. He further says, "Teach this: the more you in-
dulge in anything, good or bad, especially bad - in
drugs, casual sex, violence, idiot music, stupidity,
driving too fast, bad manners, rage - the more you lose.
The more you abstain, the more you gain".

What Mr Morrow has propagated is nothing but 1 00 per
cent Indian life style. "Desire, anger and greed; this
is the triple gate of hell. Therefore avoid these
three," says the Bhagavad Gita. In fact, Vedic law-
givers prescribed complete abstinence (brahmacharya) till
the completion of studies. After that the grown-up was
permitted to marry, have controlled sex only with his
wife (grihasthya) and revert again to abstinence after
attaining 50 years of age (vanaprastha and sanyasa.)

So, it can be said that not indulgence to wild desires
but abstinence and self-restraint are the path open
before humanity and, like Mr Morrow, we can hope that in
the near future man could be able to adopt himself to
such a lifestyle. Observing the fact that most of the
smokers are nowadays giving up this bad habit, an opti-
mistic Mr Morrow says, "Change the myth, and values
follow". And we say, animality is the past and divinity
is the future of humankind.

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