Ruth VanitaNov 17, 2022
The Dharma of Justice in the Sanskrit Epics
Debates on Gender, Varna, and Species
Oxford University Press 2021
Ruth Vanita's book The Dharma of Justice in the Sanskrit Epics (Oxford UP, 2021) shows that many characters in the Sanskrit epics - men and women of all varnas and mixed-varna - discuss and criticize discrimination based on gender, varna, poverty, age, and disability. On the basis of philosophy, logic and devotion, these characters argue that such categories are ever-changing, mixed and ultimately unreal therefore humans should be judged on the basis of their actions, not birth. The book explores the dharmas of singleness, friendship, marriage, parenting, and ruling. Bhakta poets such as Kabir, Tulsidas, Rahim and Raidas drew on ideas and characters from the epics to present a vision of oneness. Justice is indivisible, all bodies are made of the same matter, all beings suffer, and all consciousnesses are akin. This book makes the radical argument that in the epics, kindness to animals, the dharma available to all, is inseparable from all other forms of dharma.
Raj Balkaran is a scholar, online educator, and life coach. For information see rajbalkaran.com.