From a young age, we are not only taught ethics, but we are expected to maintain ethical behavior at all times and under all circumstances.
We must not deceive others, we must not envy, we must share our possessions with friends and family, etc. These teachings are etched in our minds as children.
Ethics in education is important because it contributes to the proper functioning of the system. Ethics sets the standards of what is acceptable and what is not, thereby protecting the interest of oneself and society at large.
It’s great if we stick to the all code of ethics. But are the roots of ethics, which gave rise to this code of ethics, true?
What if I say that most of us, even if we follow every good code of ethical conduct, are following most of the time with a false foundation? Well, I was dumbfounded when I realized personally that all these moral science lessons that had been taught to me had been understood with false roots/foundations.
First of all, one need to understand, what are the foundation of these ethics. How did ethics become an integral part of the lives of all?
Ironically, much of our ethics are based on fear and selfishness. Let’s understand this from example.
“I should Share”. However in this morality we have been taught, if I expect other people to share with me, then I should also share. There is therefore self-interest.
“I should not injure someone”. What if this person harms me in return. If I hurt someone today, I’ll be hurt tomorrow, too. There is thus fear.
The law of karma has taken the ethical terrain, we sow, we reap. If I deceive others, others also deceive me, so that there is both fear and selfishness. I observe that the ethical code that is most often followed unconsciously, is either from fear and selfishness.
From a global perspective, if we fully understand the fundamental basis of bilateral relations between countries, human relations with the environment, even human relations with the Almighty, are mainly due to fear or selfishness.
The entire code of ethical conduct is part of humanity’s ongoing evolution. It changes from time to time (Sometimes for good reasons and sometimes false).
However, this ethical code is short term and changes with change of fear and selfishness.
Eg:- America had some selfish interest with Pakistan, so it had better relation with Pakistan in past, now it needs India to check China Dominance (Out of fear), so they are having better relation with India.
One may ask, even if this is based on fear or selfishness, what is the problem ? To the extent that it helps the world survive in a better manner, there is no problem. I agree that this code of ethical conduct has assisted this land to survive. Otherwise, there will be nothing but a war or an act to injure someone. However, can we continue to act on ethical principles based on fear and selfishness?
I only realized the flip side of the coin when I found another avenue in the Code of Ethics that is not rooted in fear and selfishness. The basis of love and equality within our ethical mores.
A verse in the Bhagvad Gita gave the answer where the roots of the Code of Ethics can be transformed into Love rather from fear or selfishness.
15.15 Verse: – सर्वस्य चाहं हृदि सन्निविष्टोमत्तः
“Super Soul is seated in Hearts of all living beings”. (Super soul is popularly known by the name of God, Lord, etc.). It is without regard to any caste, religion, race or nature.
I should like to share a small portion of Swami Vivekananda’s explanation of this verse.
“Since seeing the Lord equally existent everywhere, he injures not self by self, and so goes to the highest goal. This one saying contains in a few words, the Universal way to Salvation. This is the ban of human nature, the curse upon mankind, the root of all the misery is this inequality. This is the source of all bondage, physical, mental and spiritual”
– Swami Vivekananda
Our true Self and other true Self are same and integrated. If we regard this fact in our ethical philosophy, then the foundation of our ethics can be modified. One who does not injures Self by Self, does not cheat self by self, one who look at an individual with equal eyes are the required roots of the ethical code. It neither contains selfishness nor fear. It is out of love for this Super Soul which dwells within each of us. Stealing from other people, that’s stealing from me. This foundation of the ethical code is permanent and derives from a profound knowledge of spirituality.
Today, with individuals, countries are also in the rat race to be the most powerful and demonstrate their superiority, however this kind of attitude can loosen an ethical code in the long run because here it is also based on fear and selfishness. Fear because one would be beaten if someone else became powerful, and selfishness to be better than others.
By the very nature of our manifestation, we can only take from this universe and to help others, is just to return back what we already got from this universe. Gita Philosophy is contrary to Socialist Philosophy. Socialists believe that we need to help the poor as one is deficient. But according to Gita’s Philosophy, nobody is deficient in this world. One is just ignorant to not recognize the inner self sufficiency already existed within oneself. If one work with the wrong ethical codes and see other as deficient then one will never see the Self Sufficiency of other in terms of super soul that already resided in him.
In ethical code of Gita, two thought exist.
- To remove the ignorance of deficiency of a person and
- To not steal him.
Remove ignorance with importing knowledge of self-sufficiency. The concept of self-sufficiency can remove one’s deficiency, permanently. Concept of Self-Sufficiency can be imparted with the knowledge of seeing the real self (Super Soul) in oneself and others. Now here roots of ethics is Devotion.
We all would have heard this quote “to love others we need to first love, our own self”. When this love for the true self, see itself in the heart of all living beings, then the foundation of ethics is realised.
Today in schools there is subject of moral science, where all topic of Western ethical codes are explained. However, if the first knowledge, that we communicate to children, that the true self (Lord, God, etc) resides in all living beings, when this knowledge get imprinted in one’s mind, then base of ethical code can be transformed into love. This process of integrating love and empathy for all living being, when achieved, can lead us to the strong roots of ethics, which is permanent. If we delve deeply into the life of great souls as Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda and others alike, as socially committed as they are, and analyze their ethical base, we would realize it’s out of love and empathy for all.
Ethics has taken a new ground in this world era, however I feel that ground of ethics when backed by fear and selfishness can never be the ethical base itself. This wrong ethical base is deeply rooted in our system (which includes me), however this knowledge of Gita Verse can start the Journey towards for the better world tomorrow, where we can actually see the world as a family in truest Sense.