April , 2019
Morality: a common link among all civilizations
16:15 pm

Padma Shri Professor Dr. Ravindra Kumar

A review of thousands of years of history of human civilization, in which various civilizations raised their flags in different parts of the globe, from time-to-time, confirms the fact that morality always remained an essential part of the code of conduct in human society in both forms, direct as well as indirect. Morality, as one of the strongest supplements of the supreme and natural human value of Ahimsa (non-violence), not only existed, but it also functioned as a guide remaining active and dynamic in daily chores of man ultimately calling for all-round human welfare and inspired man for this purpose.

Since morality is dedicated to human welfare and one’s discharging well one's duties remains its acid test; it has played an important role in the making of various civilizations, it is necessary that we should get introduced to the true meaning and essence of morality.

In India, from very ancient times, consistently and under all circumstances, the message for progress and welfare of all, general and particular, was conveyed by the basic scriptures through great Rishis-Maharishis or sages. They laid down various sets of human behaviour as a pathway in that direction, which called for righteous acts, thoughts and actions.

The all-timely message of the Chandogyopanishad in which it has been said that, “त्रयोधर्मस्कन्धायज्ञोऽध्ययनंदानमितिप्रथम –there are three foremost stems of the Dharma (man’s prime duty): Yajna –sacrifice, Svaadhyaaya –self study (knowledge) and Daana –charity”, is worth considering while elaborating on the concept of morality.

Loksamgraha –the universal good was declared as the ‘highest moral law’ and if “we all adopt this live truth, all laws relating to morality will themselves appear.”

According to the Shrimadbhagavad-Gita morality is a part of duty. But of which duty! Generally, of the same duty, under which actions for prosperity of all are accomplished without any self-interest, without any desire or expectation of reward and by dedicating to that symbol of oneness, God. No doubt, this is the oft quoted message of human welfare, repeated in the Gita.

In Indian philosophy, morality has been treated as the Dharma –law of right behaviour and social order. By doing so, it has been said, “In real terms man can be called moralist, or in other words Dharmic (righteous –duty-bound), if he is above hate and selfishness, whose life is perfectly pure and who is involved in service of all. Only such a person can best perform for humanity; and truthfulness is the basis of all this best and highest.”

All important concepts regarding the Dharma, like “adoption of goodness or the best” or “discharge of one’s duty” are incorporated in the ambit of morality. Not only this, a scholar, while expressing his views regarding relationship of the Dharma and morality, has even said, “If we lose the morality like base in our life, without any doubt we get separated from the Dharma.” According to this very scholar, “There are no religious discourses that are not moral. For example, a person, who talks of torture and repression, and act untruthfully, he cannot claim to follow the path of God.”

Clearly, here good deeds or righteous acts also become the acid test of morality. Such deeds become worth following for others, besides being conducive to the individual welfare of man.

All principles and practices of Mahatma Gandhi, who was a man of the era, were full of morality. The Mahatma as we all know not only contemplated the large-scaled wellbeing of humanity, but also lived what he preached throughout his life. Let us, therefore, comprehend what he says about morality. At one place the Mahatma says, “True morality does not lie in following the path of defeating others, rather to search the path of truth for self and in fearlessly following it.” In this very context, at another place Mahatma Gandhi says, “In fact, the life of a moralist is full of virtues, or in other words, he leads a life full of virtues and that too, not for the reason that by doing so he is benefited, rather because this is the law of his existence; definitely it is the base of breath. In very brief we can say that virtue itself is the reward of man.” In his statements eventually there is wish of one’s dedication in the wellbeing of one and all.   

After all, here we have discussed in brief noble deeds; they are made the basis of morality, and it is dedicated to the welfare of all. The Dharma (whether adopting goodness or discharging duties or in whatever context) is bound by it and the path of truth passes through the domain of morality. In the simplest language, morality is the best manifestation of true virtues, with which duty of man is inseparably linked. Above described meaning, explanation and objective of morality is not confined only to the Indian concept related to it. Scholars, philosophers and thinkers from the West, who have spoken or written about morality, more or less, agree to this account and rationale. In this context, first of all, let us talk of German scholar GF Nikolai. According to him, “There is no logical system behind the concept of moral feeling, rather it is natural disposition inherited from (one’s) ancestors.”

In the explanation of Nikolai, thus, there are three dimensions about morality:

  It is a naturally developed sentiment;

  It is linked to duty and is a subject of
action’ not of ‘logic’; and

  It is in competition with immoral deeds.

According to another German scholar Martin Nimular, all, general and particular, should follow the life style and ideals of Jesus Christ and practise them in their life; life and deeds of Christ were the climax of morality. Simultaneously, many other thinkers of the West have, more or less, expressed the same views, and not only in the philosophy of modern thinkers, but they are found in messages of ancient thinkers like Socrates as well.

Ultimately, views of both, the West and the East, about morality are almost similar. Both resonate with each other. Let us think, if Nikolai treats morality as natural, and by linking it with duties, find it involved in competition with immorality, where is it against the concept of morality defined by Yogeshwara Shrikrishna in the Shrimadbhagavad-Gita, the Vedas or by great man like Mahatma Gandhi? Side by side, if Martin makes Christ, whose life and deeds were dedicated to the welfare of all, as the basis of his principle of morality, where is the difference between his concept and the concept of the East, and especially India? Not only this, in my own view, even social thinkers like Bernard, who suggests two separate concepts of morality for man and woman, are also not out of place here as both have different roles to play in constructing a society, so different codes to follow.

Morality is indeed one of the foremost fundamentals of civilization leading man to become duty-bound and indulge in righteous acts to dedicate for the large-scale welfare of humanity. The evolution of moral codes has given way to different human societies comeing into existence, yet the moral needs of man, in all social stratifications, have remained unchanged.

  Dr. Ravindra Kumar is a Former Vice Chancellor of CCS University of Meerut.

[The view expressed here are personal and don’t reflect those of the government]



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