DECRYPTING MYTHOLOGY: LEGIT ORIGINALS

Authored by:

Nikhil Dongol- Managing Editor, Legit by Internationalism

Ritansha- Associate Editor, Legit by Internationalism


1.Philosophy of Mahabharata (Dharma), Natural Law theory

“Values intrinsic to human nature”


The philosophy of Mahabharata, in the context of Natural Law theory, is highly empowering. The precepts of both are what are knowable by nature. All human beings possess a basic knowledge of the principles of natural law and Dharma. This knowledge is exhibited in the intrinsic directedness toward the numerous goods that orders us to pursue. The fundamental principle of both is that good is to be done and evil avoided. The concept of which is sustained in the depth of expression of “Dharma".

The word Dharma, which is derived from the Sanskrit origin “dhri” means to hold the moral values in the construction of law and to promote human good, human happiness and to develop a relational between law and nature and law and morality, which denoted to a larger extent and means the same idea as is implied by the word ‘law.’


In the great epic Mahabharata, it is mentioned that “Dharma is that which holds together the people of the universe” and the natural law philosophy, on the other hand, has played an important role in harmonizing and encouraging peace and justice and protected the public against injustice, cruelty and tyranny. Dharma, in Mahabharata in the wider sense, is the world-order of the code of laws that binds together human beings, maintaining universal harmony and peace are the fruits of universal act of Dharma. “Dharma, if destroyed, destroys everything. Dharma, if protected, protects everything”. In Shantipurva of Mahabharata, Dharma has been transcribed as a good deed, duty and justice. The Mahabharata is a great epic that deals with warriors and, the dharma of warriors, thus all those issues which define the anticipated integrity in a warrior’s life and this is what natural law theories are about, it is much more concerned with foundational issues in ethics and political theory than with law or legal theory.


The law of dharma, in Mahabharat, is the natural law that includes the right law of life and the true ideal of living and social ordering. It is the law of dharma which is neither static nor rigid nor absolute but relative, dynamic and evolving with time - always changing according to the needs and development of society. Mahabharata also shows a great emphasis on the institution of kingship and “raj dharma" to escape from political disorder, social chaos and injustice which is an aspect of Natural law theory which also refers to the theory of ethics, politics and theory of morality.


Mahabharata records and reflects the spirit and philosophy of thought and life in the tales of Pandava versus Kauravas which brilliantly portray the moral supremacy and victory of justice over injustice and Dharma over adharma. The epic demonstrated the deep obligation and faith of our sages towards justice and reflects the idea of Natural law theory. The “Values intrinsic to human nature” concept of Natural law, as well as Mahabharata, has an eternal lasting value on humans which is immutable.


2.Themis- The Goddess of Law & Justice


In any civilization, there has to be a way to administer laws and justice to maintain a "right order" in society. And when we think of extremely powerful entities and the gods of Greek mythology, it is evident that there had to be some kind of order and system of justice to keep them from falling into chaos. And that form of divine law and order came from the Titan goddess known as Themis. One of the first-generation Titan born from Uranus and Gaia, Themis name itself was thought to mean order and many considered her to be the personification of divine law. She was also seen as a goddess of prophecy, a governing figure to all of the oracles including the oracle of Delphi. This power of prophecy certainly helped Themis when she created traditional rules of conduct that were to be followed by every god. It was also her divine voice that appeared to mankind and first introduced them to the idea of justice and morality, helping them from their first set of primal laws, amongst these rules including the idea of hospitality, good governance, the conduct of assembly and the pious ordering the gods. Themis overall role in the Greek pantheon seemed to be as the voice of reason and justice. Being a goddess of wisdom, she naturally made good counsel which lead to earning her the nickname “the lady of good counsel". She often acted as the interpreter for god’s will. Unknown many Themis was Zeus' first-ever wives and she acted as his first counsellor often was seen beside his throne advising him on the precepts of divine law and rule of faith. The classical depictions of Themis were thought to be that of a woman holding a pair of scales in one hand and a sword in the other.


The skills themselves were thought to represent Themis’ ability to determine whether someone should be punished for their crime or not. The sword she carried sought to represent Themis’ ability to cut fact from fiction as there was no middle ground, either one was lying or telling the truth and regardless of what was famous that she could not be fooled. Some modern depictions are very similar to Themis but instead, the woman is blindfolded. These images are often considered to be either a modern-day version of Themis or Lady Justice. A blindfold represents impartiality, the idea that justice should be applied to everyone regardless of wealth, power or status. It's quite easy to confuse Themis with the Nemesis; the goddess of wrathful retribution but Themis was in no way wrathful she was instead pragmatic, extremely rational and she never allowed her emotion to influence her decisions. The image of Themis represents truth and the notion of impartiality that justice demands. On Olympus, she believed to bring together the goddess and gods and commands their feasts. On Earth, she draws together human beings, both individually and in social assembly. Her very name means an ancient, epitome of divine law, a right order established by nature itself for the living together of gods and humans.

What relevance can this ancient deity, Themis and law have in this modern world?

To more understanding, grown through centuries of opposition between spirit and matter, divine and natural, mythology and law can seem incompatible. This modern world is a very different world from the one in which Themis was originally established where “divine and natural” was the same thing; to live in harmony with the gods was the most important aim, and the idea of “right order” proposed a synchronization that encompassed the whole diversity of the universe. Her image and the energy it carries have come through the generations as that of justice herself: Themis, often blindfolded figure with sword and scales who presides over courts of law, as a reminder to those who administer human justice of the ancient underlying principle towards which they strive. So it seems that still human need the goddess, Themis.

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This was Themis, the goddess of “Right order, Law & Justice” who stayed on earth to remind humans of the very foundation and origin of their understanding of justice and its ways.


3.Astra through the lens of nuclear weapon


A nuclear weapon is an explosive which derives energy from nuclear reactions, fission (atomic bomb) or fission and fusion (thermonuclear/ hydrogen bomb). The effects of nuclear weapons were most apparent only when it was used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, till then, its legality for peaceful use, development, testing, production, stockpiling, and transfer is assessed and hotly debated under international law. However, the jus ad bellum of nuclear weapons is still not clear.


Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) provides parties with the ‘inalienable right’ to peaceful uses requiring the Nuclear Weapons States to negotiate to eliminate nuclear arsenals ‘in good faith'. To date, only nine states (P5 nations as well as India, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan) possess nuclear weapons but represent more than one-quarter of the earth’s land area and almost half the world’s population. Because of the absence of a treaty specifically prohibiting nuclear weapons use in all circumstances, the ICJ in Nuclear Weapons Case (1996) refers to non-liquet to nuclear weapons use when the survival of the state is at stake. To cover the legal vacuum, The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted, for the first time, on 7 July 2017 to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons legally, however, it still did not come into force.


With all this in mind, let us discuss the epic Mahabharata War. It took place between Kauravas and Pandava in 18 days with the death of 1.66 billion warriors. It is said that only 10 warriors have survived. The weapons used in the war were called celestial weapons or astras such as Brahma Astra (Puranas), Brahmashirasha Astra, Narayana, Pasupathastra, chakras, etc. The interesting part is that Mantras (passwords) are required to invoke these astras and it can be only be used once in a lifetime. The force, the characteristics of destruction and the after-effects of these weapons are described in ancient texts. These ancient texts might be true might not be, however, despite its encyclopedic nature, there are an underlying plot and storyline throughout the epic.


With the development of humanitarian laws, the concept of just war is being replaced by more appealing terms like the use of force and armed conflict. However, War is inevitable and so as the weapons used in it. On top of it, the use of nuclear/celestial weapons is even more at the extreme debates. One thing in common in the present thoughts and the Epics is the relation of these weapons of mass destruction with survival. The use of these weapons endangered the survival is the obvious scenario, moreover, it is also true that the condition to which these weapons are used is also linked to the survival, whether it be the survival of the state or an individual or a clan. With these in mind, states continue to circumvent the existing proliferation regime and justify nuclear weapons use on grounds of deterrence and self-defence with the circumstances being similar to the ancient mythologies.


4.Buddhist religion mythology


Buddhism is a positivist religion with anti-metaphysical tendencies. It leads to the path of salvation through enlightenment, and its tenets are briefly summarized in the teaching of four noble truths.


According to Buddhism, ‘right’ is based upon a true conception and the impermanence of all things. Therefore, nothing is permanent, not even the soul or atman, which various Astika Philosophies accepts it. In Buddhist mythology, evil is personified in Mara, the Devil, representing sin, temptation and death. Mara signifies the fulfilment of a desire or the triple thirst, that is, the thirst for existence, pleasure and power. The Buddhistic mythology Mara, who tries to impede Buddha while he was meditating represents or in harmony with the spirit of Buddha's teachings in the relation of life.


As symbols of evil, Buddhist artists employed all those mythological personages, Mara, representing destruction, cruelty, and sensuality. The Gandhara Buddhistic art represents Buddha in all phases of his life, from his birth to the attainment Buddhahood under the bodhi-tree, and ultimately, his entering into Enlightenment or Nirvana, however, not death. As per the Buddhist philosophy, it may be trying to say that human can attain to that which is permanent. To the state of permanent, the indestructible and the deathless is, through bodhi or enlightenment, the attainment of truth; eternal. Maybe the ambiguity in the death of the Buddha is to be perceived as immortal because of the enlightenment and the eternal nature of the truth. In this way, myth in Buddhism is associated with the various scholarly levels to give symbolic and often semi-historical articulation to religious teachings.


Without the rich mythology related with the Buddha, its religion breakdowns and nothing remains except a demythologized chronicled figure that is hardly believed and the principles relied upon. The rich mythology merged if we emphasis on the religion, however, if we take it as a philosophy, Buddha would be the philosopher or teacher who by example and instruction shows people the path of salvation and guide the pacifist philosophy in the relations between states and the principles to which various law relies upon.


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LEGIT ORIGINALS: Volume I, Issue III


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