The Legislative Function Should Embody and Express the Dharma of the Society

Sri Aurobindo distinguishes between the executive function, with the ruler or executive charged with upholding the law or dharma of the society, while the function of developing a formal body of law and ordering of the life and economic activity of the society is to be left to a legislative function for which the executive is not ideally suited.  He clarifies:  “But legislation, social development, culture, religion, even the determination of the economic life of the people are outside his proper sphere; they constitute the expression of the life, the thought, the soul of the society which, if he is a strong personality in touch with the spirit of the age, he may help to influence but which he cannot determine.  They constitute the national dharma…”

Sri Aurobindo introduces the concept of Dharma in terms of the development of a body of law in the organisation of society.  He clarifies that there is no easy term that translates Dharma into English.  He defines it as “the law of our nature and it means also its formulated expression.”  Applied to a society, it represents the collective expression for which that society was constituted.  “Only the society itself can determine the development of its own dharma or can formulate its expression; and if this is to be done not in the old way by a naturally organic and intuitive development, but by a self-conscious regulation through the organised national reason and will, then a governing body must be created which will more or less adequately represent, if it cannot quite embody, the reason and will of the whole society.”

“A governing class, aristocracy or intelligent theocracy may represent, not indeed this but some vigorous or noble part of the national reason and will; but even that can only be a stage of development towards a democratic State.  Certainly, democracy as it is now practiced is not the last or penultimate stage; for it is often merely democratic in appearance and even at the best amounts to the rule of the majority and works by the vicious method of party government, defects the increasing perception of which enters largely into the present-day dissatisfaction with parliamentary systems.  Even a perfect democracy is not likely to be the last stage of social evolution, but it is still the necessary broad standing-ground upon which the self-consciousness of the social being can come to its own.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 21, The Drive towards Legislative and Social Centralisation and Uniformity, pp. 186-187