Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Serenity Ineractive - Dharma: Ethical Dilemma:

"Avalue is a value when the value of the value is valuable to you." - Swami Dayananda

Universal Laws

Universal principles (or Dharmas in Sanskrit) that govern our lives, health, learning, relationships, and happiness are illustrated by the law of the farm. In a farm, we need to understand how nature works in order to work with it. We prepare the soil, sow the seeds, water the fields, and protect the plants. The rest is taken care of by nature. 

The laws of ‘cause-and-effect’ determine what type of results we get for the efforts we put in. We cannot cheat in the farm, ignore the rules of farming and then expect to get the fruits without efforts. Stephen Covey speaks about aligning our lives by these universal natural principles.

Just as the compass always points out north, we have an inner guide or conscience and a rich collection of wisdom literature to guide us for sustainable and lasting results. Going against these principles is like ignoring the compass. If we miss our direction on the high seas by just one degree, we can end up in the Andaman Islands instead of Goa.

These principles apply to success and fulfilment in work and in relationships. As long as we lack self mastery, we cannot expect to get success in the external world. Personal victory is a prelude to the public victory. According to Swami Chinmayananda, you “master the mind to master the world.” This self mastery includes adherence to an ethical code that tells you to ‘do unto others as you would have others do unto you.’

The Relative Nature Of Values

While many of the values are a matter of personal choice or social structuring, ethical values are universal and apply uniformly to all human beings. No person wants to be hurt, robbed, lied to, or abused by others. Everyone expects affection, assistance in need, and inclusion from others. Ethics is the cement that binds relationships and society. Spirituality and Religions adds the element of after-life to makes ethics apply beyond our lifetime.

Though ethics are universal, they have to be relevant to the context and to the situation. Stress arises when we are confused about their interpretation. Value systems can range from the fanatical to the cynical. In fanatical ethics there are no exceptions to rules, while in cynical ethics, there are no rules!

An enlightened value system involves testing which are the relevant values to be applied in a situation, and to what degree they apply. Examples extend to a spy lying for his country, a person saying an untruth to save an innocent person's life, euthanasia in extreme cases, and the like. There are no absolute rules here, and there can be no one rule for all situations. Life is unpredictable and there can be no rigid way to deal with the ever changing nature of life.

The Taittiréya Upaniçad has guidelines regarding values. Whenever there is a confusion regarding right and the wrong responses in a situation, consult the person who is impartial and well versed in ethics. In the absence of such a person, consult your conscience and act accordingly.

Ethical values can be confused with cultural and social values. Care should be taken to distinguish between ethical and cultural values, failing which unnecessary conflict may be the result. Western ethics cannot differ from Indian ethics, but there can be difference in social and cultural values. An arranged marriage is the traditional in India but it does not make love marriage unethical.

Ethical values can differ in times of war. War time ethics can different from general ethics. Killing the enemy in war is considered honourable, spreading rumours and disinformation to the enemy camp is good strategy. To what extent war is necessary is, however, another question. Even in war, it is honourable to strike an enemy while fighting, but not when he is unarmed and dying.

Ethical values similarly differ in life and death situations. Stealing is wrong, but if a person dying of hunger steals a piece of bread, it is not considered a crime. Bribing the executioner to save your life could similarly be condoned.

Values And Compromise

That said and done, we as humans are not perfect and may not be able to act with integrity at all times. The spirit may be willing but the flesh may be weak. People make mistakes and mistakes are human. Most mistakes can be corrected or compensated for.
That said and done, we as humans are not perfect and may not be able to act with integrity at all times. The spirit may be willing but the flesh may be weak. People make mistakes and mistakes are human. Most mistakes can be corrected or compensated for.

As long as a person genuinely regrets the mistake and makes amends, he or she can be forgiven. The Vedic Rishi identifies weaknesses as being the source of sin and prays for forgiveness (kaamo-kaarsheet manyur-akaarsheet namo namah).

The problem of compromise is that of temptation. One compromise leads to another, and the original weakness is not addressed. The value of integrity is that it helps strengthen our weaknesses. The practice of integrity builds strength, and for the person of strength, it is easier to practice integrity.

Practicing Integrity

Practicing integrity sends others a message not to put pressure on us to compromise. They may use force for some time, but when they see its futility, the pressure is diverted elsewhere. The pressure is greatest on the weakest link. It is easier to force a weaker person to submit!  If we give in to the pressure, we become the weak link It makes sense to test and build up our strengths in advance of the test rather than be caught unprepared.

We start practicing integrity in small things. The more we practice, the more we build strength to resist temptation. It is easy to compromise and enjoy easy gains, but it pays to stay invested for the long term. Possessing and practicing the enlightened value system helps us value and respect ourselves. Ethical values become invaluable to us to reclaim our self respect and confidence, and to enhance our skills and wisdom.

(extracts from Yahoo Stressfree - ebook)


 Ethics and Conflicts

Anantakrishnan :

Since Scriptures are made before 1000 years, it can not predict all sitautions which we come across in day to day life.In that case, one can follow a Dharmic person though he alters Sastram to suit the situation.Eg. Lord Krishna in Maha Bharata 
With above examples we understand that, nothing is absolute in the world including Dharma and there are lot of Grey areas and a clear line is not visible to follow what in a given situation.

Uday :

You are very correct in your conclusions.

Nothing is absolute other than Brahman.

As for Dharma, it follows the cycle of changes according to the Yugas. Even though there are universal dharmas like truth and non-violence, the same are related to the situation and social structures. Hence what is proper for one culture may not be acceptable in another culture.

Shastra gives the thumb rule for dharmas. The wise ones interpret these rules and apply them to the present situation. There can be differences of opinion regarding the interpretations, but as long as there is no hidden motive or agenda, most interpretations may be taken as accceptable. The decision has to be made so as to be compatible with both shastra and conscience. 

The difficulty comes when the two are in conflict and both have equal weightage. At such times, it is time to consult someone more informed and experienced with such matters. In the event of no such help being available, we surrender to Ishwara and make the decision. Such decisions are may turn out right or wrong, but then we are ready to accept the consequences as learning experiences.

In extreme situations, there is no way to be sure that our decision is the right one. That is the price of living in a relative universe. We need to accept that we are human beings and not omniscient or omnipotent. Accepting our place in the universe gracefully, functioning through our best capabilities, and learning from consequences is the true spirit of Karma Yoga. We then pray for forgiveness for all our sins of commission and omission done deliberately or unwittingly, and try to compensate for the damage to the best of our abilities.



As I was reading about Dharma just thought will share my thoughts. As you say Dharma changes with time, because we cant stick to old paradigms, they keep shifting and hence the change. 

But when you are raised with very clear or should i say water tight compartments on what is right and what is wrong, it becomes little tough. Because the sense of right and wrong you have inherited is someone else's percieved Dharma, and when your own conscience develops you acquire your "percieved" sense of righteouseness!!!! 

Guess beauty of life lies in doing what we feel is right today according to our level of understanding and move on.What i found beautiful was "Such decisions are may turn out right  or wrong, but then we are ready to accept the consequences as learning experiences". Because i feel half our lives we end up fretting about "what if" and "then what"....Once you begin to see experiences as learning curves there is no stress of the consequence.


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