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The separation of Church (Religious Bodies) and State (Government and Administrative Bodies) is an important concept in modern politics.

Christians love to quote Matthew 22:21

“Give therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”

and some of them try to imply that theirs was the first and only old religion where the concept of separation of Church and State finds this explicit mention.

Do we find the concept of separation of Church and State in any Hindu scriptures? Is it encoded in Smritis or Puranas where it says King should not discriminate when treating people of different faith or Mathas? I know this is the default in Indian kingdoms where people of different sects and even non Vedic religions lived peacefully. But is it explicitly mentioned anywhere when in saying about Raja Dharma.

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  • In Europe Clergies and priests had a very large influence on Nobles unlike in India where Brahmins were assigned to do religious rights and kshatriyas were assigned to rule. So we can't draw a parallel between them. Jun 25 at 17:24
  • @SanatanDarshan yes but is it mentioned anywhere that people should not be discriminated by king based on their matas. Jun 25 at 17:27
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    There is no mention about people of different religions in Hindu scriptures but they definitely command the King to serve all their subjects without any discrimination. Jun 25 at 17:46
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    @SanatanDarshan where? Give source Jun 25 at 18:34
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    Read my answer Daniel Chase. Jun 26 at 10:52

3 Answers 3

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This question can't be answered since Hinduism has no church. However, if this is a question about how a King should behave towards his subjects then it can be answered.

King must not be a tyrant

O king, thou shalt not swerve from virtue. Those men only, O Yudhishthira, whose practices resemble those of robbers, cause a king by their counsels to take to a career of war and victory. That king who, guided by considerations of place and time and moved by an understanding dependent on the scriptures, pardons even a number of robbers, incurs no sin. That king who, realising his tribute of a sixth, doth not protect his kingdom, taketh a fourth part of the sins of his kingdom. Listen also to that by which a king may not swerve from virtue. By transgressing the scriptures (one incurs sin), while by obeying them one may live fearlessly. That king who, guided by an understanding based upon the scriptures and disregarding lust and wrath, behaves impartially, like a father, towards all his subjects, never incurs sin. O thou of great splendour, if a king, afflicted by destiny, fails to accomplish an act which he should, such failure would not be called a trespass. By force and policy should the king put down his foes. He must not suffer sin to be perpetrated in his kingdom but should cause virtue to be practised. Brave men, those that are respectable in their practices, they that are virtuous in their acts, they that are possessed of learning, O Yudhishthira, Brahmanas conversant with Vedic texts and rites, and men of wealth, should especially be protected. In determining suits and accomplishing religious acts, they that are possessed of great learning should alone be employed. A prudent king will never repose his confidence upon one individual, however accomplished. That king who does not protect his subjects, whose passions are ungovernable, who is full of vanity, who is stained with haughtiness and malice, incurs sin and earns the reproach of tyranny. If the subjects of a king, O monarch, waste away from want of protection and are afflicted by the gods and ground down by robbers, the sin of all this stains the king himself. There is no sin, O Yudhishthira, in doing an act with heartiness, after full deliberation, and consultation with men capable of offering good advice. Our tasks fail or succeed through destiny. If exertion, however, be applied, sin would not touch the king.

Mahabharata Santi Parva Section XXIV

Maintenance of Social Harmony duty of a King

"Vyasa said, 'O thou of eyes like lotus petals, the protection of subjects is the duty of kings. Those men that are always observant of duty regard duty to be all powerful. Do thou, therefore, O king, walk in the steps of thy ancestors. With. Brahmanas, penances are a duty. This is the eternal ordinance of the Vedas. Penances, therefore, O bull of Bharata's race, constitute the eternal duty of Brahmanas. A Kshatriya is the protector of all persons in respect of their duties. That man who, addicted to earthly possessions, transgresses wholesome restraints, that offender against social harmony, should be chastised with a strong hand. That insensate person who seeks to transgress authority, be he an attendant, a son, or even a saint, indeed,--all men of such sinful nature, should by every means be chastised or even killed. That king who conducts himself otherwise incurs sin. He who does not protect morality when it is being disregarded is himself a trespasser against morality. The Kauravas were trespassers against morality. They have, with their followers, been slain by thee. Thou hast been observant of the duties of thy own order. Why then, O son of Pandu, dost thou indulge in such grief? The king should slay those that deserve death, make gifts to persons deserving of charity, and protect his subjects according to the ordinance.'

Mahabharata Santi Parva Section XXXII

A tyranical King should be overthrown

For fear of anarchy, Vena was made king, though he was not fit for it. Now that king himself has become the source of fear for the people. How can we secure the good of all beings?

Srimad Bhagavata Purana IV.14.9

A King will attain to joy in this world and the next, if he protects his subjects from oppressive officers and thieves, and collects taxes in accordance with the scriptural law.

Srimad Bhagavata Purana IV.14.17

Vena said: In the king is present all the Devas like Vishnu, Siva, Brahma, Indra, Soma, Agni, Varuna and all others who are supposed to bless and punish mortals. In fact, the king is the embodiment of all the Devas. Therefore, O Brahmanas, without further ado, offer your worship to me, the King. Pay my taxes without stinginess. Who is there to be adored other than myself?

Srimad Bhagavata Purana IV.14.26-28

When the Rishis were moreover insulted by the pretentious scholarship of Vena, and when they found that their noble prayer for the welfare of the world as a whole was rejected, their anger was aroused, and they said: Let him be destroyed, let him perish. He is by nature a perverted monster. To let him live is to allow the worlds to be reduced to ashes. An evil person like him deserves not to sit on the throne.

Srimad Bhagavata Purana IV.14.30-32

King gets merits or demerits

The King derives his highest good by protecting his people. A King who protects his people well, will derive one-sixth of the merits of his subjects in the life hereafter. But a King who collects taxes from people without administering their affairs properly, will lose all the merits to his credit and will inherit the sins of his people to boot.

Srimad Bhagavata Purana iV.20.14

Finally there is the issue of how people not belonging to the King's spiritual community should be treated.

The answer to that is given by the shloka given below.

If a holy act is against the interest of other members of the society, it should not be practiced. It is Dharma which is the source of Artha and even of Kama.

Kurma Purana I.2.54

The King should not favor his own spiritual system and not do anything that harms the interest of people belonging to other spiritual systems.

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  • This is probably the best and closest answer. But is there no verse anywhere which says King should treat people of all Mathas alike, like Buddhist, Vaishmavas, Shiavas and Jains should all be treated same. Jun 26 at 11:14
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No.

In Hinduism the King rules by the Divine Right. So, the State & the Religion are intrinsically interconnected in Hinduism.

Manu-Smriti says the following in this regard.

Verse 7.3-4

अराजके हि लोकेऽस्मिन् सर्वतो विद्रुतो भयात् । रक्षार्थमस्य सर्वस्य राजानमसृजत् प्रभुः ॥ ३ ॥
इन्द्रानिलयमार्काणामग्नेश्च वरुणस्य च । चन्द्रवित्तेशयोश्चैव मात्रा निर्हृत्य शाश्वतीः ॥ ४ ॥

  • 3, 4. At a time when the people were without a King and were utterly perturbed through fear, the Lord created the King for the protection of all this; taking out the essential constituents of Indra, Vāyu, Yama, Sūrya, Varuṇa, Chandra, and Kubera.



Verse 7.5

यस्मादेषां सुरेन्द्राणां मात्राभ्यो निर्मितो नृपः । तस्मादभिभवत्येष सर्वभूतानि तेजसा ॥ ५ ॥

  1. In as much as the King was created with the constituent elements of these principal Gods, he surpasses all living beings by his glory.

....

Verse 7.8

बालोऽपि नावमान्तव्यो मनुष्य इति भूमिपः । महती देवता ह्येषा नररूपेण तिष्ठति ॥ ८ ॥

  1. Even though an infant, the King shall not be despised as if he were merely human; because he is a great divinity in human form.

Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya) on 7.8:

Even on infant King shall not be regarded as merely a human being, and as such despised. In fact he is a great divinity, appearing in the shape of man. For this reason it is not right to show disrespect towards the King, even on account of defects that may be perceived in him.




Further, the Brahmanda Purana goes a step further in the divine representation, bestowing the highest sanctity to the "divine character" of an Emperor King.

Verse 1.2.29.78, Brahmanda Purana

विष्णोरंशेन जायंते पृथिव्यां चक्रवर्त्तिनः ।। मन्वन्तरेषु सर्वेषु अतीतानागतेष्विह ।। २९.७८ ।।

  1. In all the Manvantaras of the past and future, emperors are born on the Earth from a part of Viṣṇu.



So Hinduism supports the idea of a 'Divine Monarchy' since the King is a direct representation of the Supreme's will & judgment.

So, there exists no separation between the State (King/Emperor) and the Religion (Dharma), since both are intrinsically connected and are supposed to reinforce each other.

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  • 1
    You are confusing theological justification of a king with separation of Church and State. Jun 25 at 13:40
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    There's No Church in Hinduism. Hinduism doesn't have a "centralized one rules all authority". Multiple Schools and Multiple School of Thought persists, and so do the sects. So, State apriori implies the Ruling Monarch, who's the administrative and judicial authority for his Kingdom, and thus roughly equal to the State.
    – Vivikta
    Jun 25 at 13:55
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    Yes, so is it mentioned anywhere that tue King should treat all subjects equally irrespective of their faith. Jun 25 at 14:18
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    @DanielChase - what does 'equally' and 'faith' mean ? in olden days there was no abrahamic religions. there were different schools of thought within Vedas. and if you didn't believe in Vedas, that's like today's equivalent of not believing in constitution (i.e. separatist/militia/naxal/terrorist) - why would/should they be treated equally ?
    – mar
    Jun 25 at 15:18
  • @mar so you are telling Buddhists and Jains and Charuvakas were punished?? Jun 25 at 17:06
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In Valmiki Ramayana, Lord Rama said that a King should serve all his subjects without any discrimination.

तेषाम् गुप्ति परीहारैः कच्चित् ते भरणम् कृतम् | रक्ष्या हि राज्ना धर्मेण सर्वे विषय वासिनः || २-१००-४८

"I hope their maintenance is being looked after by you, in providing what they need and eschewing what they fear. All the citizens are indeed to be protected by a king through his righteousness."

Mahabharata also says the same thing.

Men conversant with the scriptures say that the duties of the other three orders afford small relief or protection, and produce small rewards. The learned have said that the duties of the Kshatriya afford great relief and produce great rewards. All duties have kingly duties for their foremost. All the orders are protected by them. Every kind of renunciation occurs in kingly duties, O monarch, and renunciation has been said to be in eternal virtue and the foremost of all.

5-13. A wealthy man gets righteousness and enjoys the desires. All actions without (being supported by) wealth would be ephemeral just as the river in the summer. There is no difference between the fallen and the poor in the world. No one would take from the fallen. A poor man would not give. Even the wife of the poor would not lend him support. A king oppressing the country would dwell in hell for a long time. A king should do in the same way as a pregnant woman who would abandon her comforts and would attend to the welfare of the child in the womb. What (use) of the sacrifices or of the penance (for a king) whose subjects have not been protected. One whose subjects have been well protected, his house would be equal to heaven. One whose subjects have not been protected, his house would be the hell. The king collects one-sixth (of the income) of both the good and bad subjects. (The king) would acquire virtue by protecting (the subjects) and sin by not protecting them. The subjects should be protected (by the king) from the oppressions by thieves (in the guise of) the officers of the state, especially the writer-caste, just as a virtuous woman afraid of a villain (is protected). The subjects being protected from their fear (by the king) would be the subjects of the king. If not protected they become an easy prey for them. The wicked should be put down and the tax laid down in the codes should be taken.

Agni Purana

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