Matsya Nyaya and Food Security Bill

When I read a news paper report about our Governments’ ordinance on Food Security Bill recently, I was reminded of a story from Vishnu Purana. The story deals with what is known as MATSYA NYAYA, which may be translated as Jungle Law! In a jungle, might is right. Actually, the origin of this expression is based on the observation of a big fish eating a small fish in a sea. In the animal world this is allowed. However, human beings are capable of intervening to make sure that an appropriate ethical standard and morality are maintained. But does it solve the problem? Far from it – as you will see what happens to Manu in the story!  King Manu, according to the story, was approached by a small fish which was about to be eaten by a big fish. The king took pity on the fish and decided to offer protection. So he transferred it into a small pot. As the fish started growing in size, Manu kept tossing the fish from one pot to another. The fish soon outgrew the pots, the ponds, the rivers and finally even the seas. And the sea waters threatened to engulf the entire universe! Thus, Manu’s extreme compassion and attachment proved to be his undoing and ultimately resulted in the problem becoming unmanageable.  Finally, Lord Vishnu came to the king’s rescue (in the form of MATSYA )by offering to take Manu, his close companions and 7 Rishis in a boat rowed and guided to safety by the Lord Himself. The boat was tied to a horn that manifested on Vishnu’s head and towed away by the Lord Himself, thus restoring Manu to a new life and order.

The story has plenty of parallels in the human history. I will only mention two examples here. The collapse of Soviet union reminds one of  Manu in the story. In this case the State took on the role of Manu offering to protect people under one umbrella and paid the penalty. Likewise, our government’s story of ballooning subsidy to protect various economically weak sections of the society also is reminiscent of the same story. The latest Food Security Bill passed by an ordinance by our Government is yet another example of  ‘Manu like’ action! The projected cost to the government is expected to run into lacs of crores of rupees, which is bound to have disastrous consequences on our economy, according to several eminent economists.

On the other hand, the near collapse of the American economy in 2008-09 was the equivalent of a jungle law, where greed prevailed over our sense of right and wrong. Here again there was Government’s intervention in the form of stimulus packages reminding one of the story of Manu.

The problem with all these interventions is that one doesn’t know when to intervene or having intervened when to stop.

I think the significance of the story of goes deeper and might offer lessons at the personal level. All of us, without exception, fall into one of the 3 categories in life – the small fish, the big fish or Manu depending on situations, place and time. For instance, one may be a big fish at home when you are tackling  your maid servant or a younger sibling but in the office, you may put on the hat of Manu while trying to sort out a problem between 2 colleagues reporting to you. Or your boss could be a big fish trying to eat you off! All these struggles of mankind in life are eternal, which have neither a beginning nor an end. What is the message in the story then? The message seems to be that none of us attempt to take on the role of Vishnu. What is Vishnu’s role in the story? He is the rescuer without taking on any role upon Himself. More than the roles, the emotions associated with each role are what cause problems. The small fish suffers from fear, anxiety, insecurity and helplessness. The big fish is dominating, aggressive, greedy etc. Manu is so overwhelmed by compassion that he loses his sense of proportion in displaying his sympathy. Every role is prone to excesses. On the other hand, Vishnu represents a state where the mind is devoid of all these emotions and hence is capable of finding a creative and sustainable solution.

Published in: on July 21, 2013 at 5:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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