THE SRAMANA RESPONSE TO THE HUMAN PREDICAMENT
Studies in the contemporary relevance of Sramana Dharma
Dr. Vincent Sekhar, S.J.
Religion gives meaning to society. It operates from ultimate perspectives in terms of end or goal of life. It does not provide merely an abstract creed as a set of beliefs but offers as well at the level of behaviour certain ethical principles by which the behaving community seeks to attain the proposed goals. The different institutions in society may wield an autonomy of their own with their own objectives, but it is the task of religion to see to the overall purpose of these institutions, namely, the common good of humanity where individuals as well as groups cherish mutual love and respect in justice and freedom.
It is true that religion and society shape each other in history. Society, its cultural and other changes, might affect the external structure of religion. There might be structural adaptations, even renewals. For example religions like Buddhism and Christianity have inculturated themselves in various lands, absorbing and expressing the cultural traits of the local people. But this does not mean that the basics of these religions have changed. The central figures of these religions, the worship and adherence to their precepts have remained the same throughout. It is such changeless elements that offer newness to life at all time. These changeless elements in religion do influence the life of the individual and of the society, challenging the structure and functioning of every human institution. The perennial features of Sramana Dharma are still valid in the face of the corroding life-situation.
1. The ugly face of the human situation:
The current human situation can be broadly characterised by inequality, poverty and fundamentalism. The speciality of inequality in India, as Prof. Alfred points out, is that it tends to be cumulative in the sense that groups that are under-privileged in one...