Friday, 4 January 2019

Punishment (Shiksha)

Original Article in Kannada by: Sri.Rajagopalan K S 
English by Dr.Shrinivasan. S

Parents often resort to punishing their children to correct their mistakes.  In schools, punishment is given by teachers and principals to students when they commit mistakes. Not everyone is punished the same way for similar mistakes. Everyone is aware of the proverb –“A nod for the wise and a rod for the fool”. Only when a hard whip is given does the thick skinned buffalo realize that it has been beaten while a thin skinned cow is alarmed by  patting.  Thus depending on the circumstance, the amount and type of punishments vary.





The net effect of punishment should be to  bring about change in the attitude of the offender. For identical offences, different punishments are prescribed in our Dharmashastras. On the face of it, this appears unjustified. However, for an unbiased  mind the principle behind prescribing different types of punishments is understandable.
The word ‘Shiksha’ used in Sanskrit (supposed to be equivalent to punishment) is derived from the root Shiksha which means ‘to educate’ (shiksha vidyopaadaane).Such Shiksha is welcome indeed. The person punished should not feel avenged.The goal is not revenge against the person punished. Instead,  The offender should feel convinced, not to commit such offences in future.

An interesting episode in the Ramayana.  When Vibhishana, after parting ways with his brother Ravana, accompanied with his close aides is on his way to surrender to Rama, Vanaras(monkeys)  were intrigued whether to take Vibhishana  in Rama’s camp. Rama solicits the opinion of chieftains. ‘Vibhishana who deserted his brother Ravana for the lure of Kingdom should not be trusted,  announces Sugriva, who once fought against his own brother Vali. Rama responds with a smile and says- Sugriva, go and  bring him; Vibhishana or even if Ravana himself  seeks my refuge, it shall be granted.  Rama does not have a personal grudge against Ravana. Rama feels that if Ravana has purified himself by repentance, then there is no need to punish him. Vibhishana is in a dilemma whether to perform last rites of Ravana, considering him to be a sinner. Rama advises - ‘Vibhishana go ahead with last rites, your brother Ravana is like a brother to me also’. Rama’s  only purpose of killing Ravana was to destroy adharma. Hence Ravana got death penalty.

Everyone may not have an occasion  to punish. While reacting to others’ mistakes, a balanced approach needs to be developed in order to educate them.
Even in Mahabharatha, Sri Krishna proposes for truce with Duryodhana. Duryodhana refuses to part even with tip of a needle of land to Pandavas(=Dharma). Sometimes, when medicines are ineffective in treating a disease, a surgeon opts for surgery.  Likewise, Sri Krishna  feels that war is the only solution.


Humans err due to misunderstanding (wrong perception).  Punishment is successful only if transformation is brought about in the mind of the offender. In such a case, punishment can truly serve as protection.

Note: The Kannada version of this article can be viewed at AYVM blogs


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