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Ethics and Morality
10th June 2010, Chennai, India
What I said this morning covered perhaps one aspect, or two or three aspects, of the subject of character formation. It is of course understood that every human being has the two sides: the good and the bad, the wise and the foolish, the wicked and the not so wicked, and without these two there would be no human life. But human evolution, human development requires that we suppress the bad and develop or enhance the good to the maximum limit possible, especially when we are in a spiritual pursuit like Sahaj Marg where we hope to develop into super humans, and then later on to be able to be divinized to the extent that we permit, by our sadhana and our behaviour, our ethical and moral life. This pursuit becomes vital to our spiritual evolution. Life is nothing more than this.
In medical terms, in scientific terms, the evolution they speak of is, to my understanding, merely morphological evolution (change of form), you know, seaborne life, amoeba, and et cetera, becoming land-based, then becoming vertebrates, then becoming mammals, things like that. Spiritual evolution is not subject, like morphological evolution, to vast eons of time. It can be done as Babuji Maharaj, my guruji, used to say, here and now, whereas morphological evolution takes geological time, geological spans of time, millennia. And also we find where evolution has eluded many life forms and they remain as they were, there too, there was some inner urge pushing them out of the sea on to the land, making them stand erect, and things like that. That was one part of perhaps the need to hunt, the need to have food. But in our spiritual evolution, it is the question of our inner understanding that as Babuji Maharaj said, while a man may be born as an animal but should die as a man or a human being we should recognize that we are born with limitations brought here by our samskaras which we have acquired by our past lives, of thought, of action. Our present life should precisely be targeted at wiping out those samskaric influences that we have brought with us, the drags on our evolutionary possibilities, the anchors that keep us fixed in one situation, with the absolute necessity not to add more samskaras as we go on.
The normal human evolution or human life of the modern human being is nothing but naturally working off some samskaras and, knowingly or unknowingly, consciously or unconsciously, willingly or unwillingly adding huge amounts of samskaras as we pass through life — so that, suppose we come into this life with one unit of samskara, we exit (I am now talking of the average human being), we exit with possibly a million units of samskara. This can be very definitely avoided once we become conscious of the fact that we cooperate in having past samskaras removed, but the greater cooperation is in not adding more samskaras ourselves by wantonly disregarding the requirements of personal behaviour, interpersonal behaviour, ethical life and moral life.
Now in an earlier talk I have spoken about interpersonal behaviour as part of our, shall we say, character because I find that we still retain most of the animal qualities that we are supposed to have come from, the base from which, according to western evolutionary theory, we have evolved, although I don't subscribe to it. I am just mentioning it by the way. We are still avaricious, we are still, what should I say, antagonistic, violent, willing to kill (what I spoke of earlier in veiled terms, like acquisitive powers, acquisition, wanting to acquire everything — ‘me' and ‘mine' as I think Ramakrishna Paramhamsa, the great saint, said), not knowing that while I am acquiring my wealth, my power, my ability to dominate, I am building within myself a samskaric burden which can only guarantee a future life, which if we could see what it is or what it could be, we would shudder, we would have nightmares. I am not only talking of the present as a human being in this life before it comes to an end, [but] the possibilities of what we may have to undergo as bhog for all that we have done, to others especially — because we are very careful not to hurt ourselves, harm ourselves, though we don't know, we don't take cognizance of the fact, we are ignorant of the fact, that anything you do to others will be visited upon you in a very real sense.
You harm somebody, you are going to harm yourself. You lie to somebody, you are lying to yourself. You cheat somebody, you are cheating yourself. You cannot equate this to material losses and material gains. It does not mean, like in some religions they say, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," that if you cheat somebody of a lakh of rupees, he is going to cheat you for a lakh of rupees. It's not like that. But in some way you are going to lose much, much more than you have brought loss upon somebody else — absolutely verifiable fact.
But to verify it you must be aware, you know. You must be willing to take the responsibility of conducting a, shall we say, experiment on yourself. Now here comes the problem — that these things act not over a period of days or weeks or months but over decades sometimes, and over several lifetimes. Had it been God's design that we should pay for our mistakes immediately, we would all have been much wiser. But unfortunately you know, we do something today for which the bhog may be twenty years later, fifty years later or in the next lives — next life or lives, we don't know. This is the greatest problem facing human beings, that we are unable to find proof within our own selves of the results of our thoughts and our actions immediately. Therefore, we enjoy the bliss of ignorance and go on living as we have been living, doing what we think we can do, what we can do whether we should or not, and saying everything will be nice; going to the extreme of saying, "Who knows, yaar, when we are going to live, when we are going to die? Let us enjoy today," enjoyment being what you can enjoy at other people's benefit and personal risk to yourself.
So you see, we don't understand that to harm another person is a sin. And, as Babuji Maharaj said, no man should ever bring harm or hurt to his mother more than anybody else. [In] modern life, this is not a principle that is known, not accepted perhaps and not generally thought of as something pertaining to our spiritual life. But, according to Babuji's philosophy, Sahaj Marg philosophy, the mother is sacred. If you hurt her, if her heart is hurt, beware.
Now you know, we have to think of what is ethics. Most of us understand that ethics is to try to bring the best benefit to myself in this life. "Let me take the best of everything that I can, rightfully or not, wrongfully I don't know, wilfully or unwilfully but it must be mine — grasp, acquire." And in consumption we have the right to throw away what we don't want. Not to give away — throw away.
So you see, we are wasteful, we are violent, we are aggressive, we are acquisitive, we are selfish, we are taking; and we are wasteful, arrogant, proud, unwilling to accept the laws of nature, which Babuji sort of symbolized in one short sentence, summarized in one sentence: When you leave this world, leave it a better place than you found it when you came in. If you cannot do that, at least leave it as good as you found it when you came. That is, to my mind, the most concise form of defining either ethics or morality.
What is morality? Unfortunately in India, I have said this before, in our conception in India, morality is confined only to sex. So long as you don't rape or abducted rape or all these things, there is no immorality. But Babuji Maharaj told me, explained to me carefully, that misuse of any faculty whether it is physical, mental, intellectual, moral is immorality. He gave me as an example (perhaps in those days when we met fifty years ago), that in the Middle East desert countries, to waste water is considered immoral and punishable. To waste food should be considered immoral. So sexual morality is only a question of wasting a potent creative energy given to you, given to human beings, for the purpose of creation, and it has been changed or misused to become an instrument of pleasure. Now most people will not agree to this.
I have had talks with doctors about erotic self-gratification and they have said, "No, no, physiologically it does no harm. On the contrary, it releases psychic pressures, psychological pressures and it's not to be condemned at all." Doctors — I have spoken to many of them. And if our youth is trained in this thought that there is nothing wrong with this, the next step, that you involve a partner in gratification, doesn't seem to be so awful, especially if the partner is willing. In today's society, it is not difficult to find willing partners. In fact, if you go to certain parts of the world today, it seems that partners are waiting, you know. It is like lionesses waiting to grab hold of animals on which they jump and kill and prey (p-r-e-y). It is as easy as that. You can say at the fall of a hat, you can pick up somebody to have fun with.
So, in a society which is dominated, as I see it — please excuse me if I am wrong, as I see it — by greed, avarice and lust, where is the chance of the finer sentiments of human life which distinguish a human being from being merely a two-legged animal, as we are often described? Where is it to be found? How is it to be created? How is it to be cultivated? How is it to be allowed to flourish and distinguish a human being as a human being full of love, compassion, mercy, tendency to share, tendency to give, tendency not to think of yourself but to think of other persons first. How you can better their lives? How you can bring satisfaction into their lives? How you can bring happiness into their lives? How is it going to be possible?
Because today's human being is surrounded by factors, forms of, shall we say, grasping and avarice, and from babyhood we are trained to be, you know, "Go up, go up, go up. If you don't go up you will go down. Look at Daddy." You know, this is a standard formula in Indian houses. "Look at Daddy." So children are brought up in a tradition of power grabbing, dishonesty, lustful behaviour in the idea that they are becoming like daddy. That is why very often when children grow up, they lose respect for their parents, they lose respect for elders. They say, "So what? If this is society, who is better than whom? How can business be done without cheating? How can we progress in life without climbing on dead men's shoulders? Kill! Kill the opposition".
So all problems arise because we think, especially in the Indian context, that morality is merely related to the bed — sex. We don't consider adulteration of rice an immoral thing, adulteration of oil an immoral thing, colouring of red chillies artificially an immoral thing. Adding a certain quantity of broken sand or rock to rice and selling it — in every field! And, of course, the ultimate sign of degradation in a society: adulterating medicines, manufacturing spurious medicines, selling medicines which are date-expired and should not be used. I would echo the feelings of some people whom I don't want to name, great people in this world, who have said that today's human being is worse than a carnivorous animal. At least carnivorous animals kill because they are created like that. They kill only to eat. But we kill because we find satisfaction in killing; we acquire because we find satisfaction in acquiring. Self-aggrandizement — "I don't need but I acquire."
No animal stores dead bodies of cows so that its future is safe. Tigers, animals, hyenas — [you] name them. They kill when they want, finish it off and that's it. And that kill is shared. A lion kills, a lioness kills, they eat, their cubs eat, hyenas eat, vultures eat.
So you see, where is this tendency of taking what you want and leaving the rest for somebody else? Where is it? Human beings don't have it. We are proud when we are told that, "You have six houses." Your auditor may tell you because you may not know, you see. "You own six houses. Your property is worth twenty-seven crores," et cetera, et cetera. We are not affected by the fact that ninety percent of India's population are below the basic needs fulfilment level.
Now, I am not asking people to immediately surrender and volunteer and put on a langoti [loin cloth] and go out as a sannyasi [ascetic]. But we have to understand these principles: that human life will be safe to continue into the future and to evolve only if we develop love for others, share with others, think of others first, never think of yourself, whether it is for food or self-gratification or for anything. If all of us develop that tendency, these ideas of living, human living, which we are calling moral and ethical and all that sort of thing . . . I don't think I should call it ethical or moral, it is a way of living in which I come last, everybody else comes before me. I eat last after I have fed others. It is like a river. I take two pots of water because I need it; I don't dam the river so that nobody else can use it.
So you see this core idea of what morality is, what sharing is, what love is. Love, unlike the modern connotation, does not translate into sex. Frequently I hear the word love is a four-letter word, but nowadays I have started saying in fun that love has become a three-letter word. Sex is a bodily function, like breathing, eating, drinking, defecating, procreating. According to our ancient Shastras, it is the instrument for procreation. It was not ever meant for pleasure. Somehow the procreation part of it has been thrown aside when contraception came into the picture, and now it is only for pleasure.
So you see how things have been twisted and turned. When pleasure becomes dominant, we don't want the pain of childbirth, we don't have to bring up children. "Why should I bring up children? You know, others have children."
So all these are the things that are bothering, bothersome, to those who are concerned about shall we say the future of civilization, future of human beings, which concerns every one of us, since we are human beings.