Endless comments on how Salman Khan should be forgiven because he is a reformed man, have been making the rounds, ever since he has been held guilty and convicted for his crime of running over a person. There are also a lot of people who feel that the sentence of five years is too harsh. Then there are others who are just happy that justice has been served. And there is a group of people who believe that justice would be served if Salman were made to pay compensation to the families of those affected. One of the supporters of Salman Khan went to the extent of comparing the killing with that of an engine driver who accidently kills in his line of duty.
Among those people who are in conflict with all the above sentiments are the so-called spiritualists, including me. They feel that every sinner who has reformed or who repents for his actions should be given a chance; else no sinner will feel encouraged to reform. They quote ancient scriptures to validate this sentiment. One of the favorite examples quoted is that of Ratnakara, the murderous bandit who was transformed into Valmiki, the saint who penned the Ramayana. But can every reformed sinner be compared to Valmiki? Is there hope for every sinner? When can a sinner be forgiven?
To understand the above questions, it is imperative that we understand what ‘Dharma’ is … Dharma has been loosely translated as Duty; Dharma is that which your true nature is. For example, the Dharma of a tree is to give fruits, to give shade. The Dharma of a teacher is to teach; a mother is to love and nurture her children; a butcher is to sell meat, and so on. Any work done with full conviction in one’s line of duty is not considered a sin as per Hindu scriptures; in normal parlance, it is not a crime. That is why when a butcher kills an animal for meat, he is not committing a sin; similarly when a soldier kills an enemy soldier at the border, it is not a sin; an engine driver running over a jaywalker on the tracks is not committing a crime; when a police officer kills gangsters, it is not considered a crime. But the same police officer, when he kills a colleague or an ordinary civilian, it is a crime. Similarly when a soldier kills a tourist from an enemy country, it is a crime.
Let us understand this concept further, using examples from our scriptures – the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Kaikeyi, the Queen of King Dasharatha is one of the most hated characters of the Ramayana. She was responsible for sending Rama to exile for fourteen years. Although she repented her act sincerely, so much so, that she even gave up all royal pleasures for the rest of her life, she was never condoned by her own son Bharata or by the people. The reason for this is that she went against her Dharma of being a mother. Mothers are those who teach their children love, who protect their offspring, who bind a family; Kaikeyi’s sin was that she was responsible for breaking up her family, albeit temporarily. Since she went against Dharma, she was never condoned. If Bharata had accepted her actions, would she have repented? Chances are that she would not have … thus her repentance could not be considered as reformation.
Valmiki was Ratnakara in his early years. He used to loot and kill people mercilessly. But there was a difference. Ratnakara did not know of any other life … he had never paused to think that he was committing a sin. For him, banditry was the means of his livelihood; it was his Dharma. But when realization sank in that he was committing a sin by following this life, he renounced it completely and was transformed. Thus he became Valmiki and he never went back to his previous life. His Dharma itself had changed.
In the Mahabharata we come across Karna, Kunti’s first born, who was abandoned by her. Karna was hated by the Pandavas since he had committed serious crimes – he supported Duryodhana during the disrobing of Draupadi, he was party to the killing of Abhimanyu in the most vile manner, he had also fraudulently gained knowledge from his Guru, Parashurama. On the other hand he was known for his benevolence so much that he was called ‘Daanveer Karna’ ie. the most generous of all. Shouldn’t his benevolence have been considered when counting his sins? Those who speak good of Salman Khan’s project – Being Human, should be able to easily answer this, right? Why then was Karna punished for his sins? The answer – Dharma. As a king, a warrior, it was his duty to protect women and children, not humiliate them or treacherously kill them. When he forgot his basic Dharma, he had no recourse behind his other good actions. His other good work just wouldn’t measure up against his sins.
What about Krishna? As Narayan Himself, He could have prevented the war from taking place. As the Preserver of Creation, how could he allow all the members of a family to be wiped off? Gandhari asks this of Krishna and so does Uttanga Rishi. Krishna accepts their accusations and also accepts Gandhari’s curse that His own family will be wiped off. A sin committed even by God Himself is a sin and there has to be punishment for the same, in an appropriate manner.
Coming back to Salman Khan, if the accident would have been during the course of his acting profession, for example, a stunt gone wrong, he would not have been considered as having committed a crime. His having reformed by doing good deeds through his ‘Being Human’ foundation cannot be linked to a totally unrelated crime done because of his being criminally irresponsible. If he had been truly repentant, even if one were to assume that another person was behind the wheel of the car he owned, he should have compensated the victims of his own volition, irrespective of the judicial proceedings. But this did not happen. His ‘reformation’ cannot be construed to be complete because even after this incident, he has not renounced alcohol or other intoxicants and has not transformed himself into a perpetual state of sobriety. Thus he deserves the punishment meted out to him, as per the laws of the state, as per the norms of Dharma.
Spirituality cannot be partially blind.