The June online satsang with Swami Nirmalananda Giri (Abbot George Burke) will be on Saturday, June 8th, at 12 Noon, EST.
Home - Read Our Books - About Sanatana Dharma: The Eternal Religion - Sanatana Dharma, Part Three: Ethical Teachings

Sanatana Dharma, Part Three: Ethical Teachings

Sanatana Dharma cover
Sanatana Dharma is available for reading online, or as a free PDF download from our eLibrary, or as a paperback or ebook from Amazon.


Ethical Science–What It Is

Morality, or Ethics, is the Science of Conduct, the systematized principles on which a man should act. The conduct of man has reference to his surroundings as well as to himself. We have to ascertain what is good in relation to those who form our surroundings, as well as in relation to the time and place of the actor; and we may take a wider and wider view of our surroundings, according to the knowledge we possess. We have also to ascertain what is good for ourselves and in relation to ourselves. What is good for one man may not be good for another man. What is good at one time and at one place may not be good at another time, and at another place.

Ethical Science is therefore a relative Science–it is relative to the man himself and to his surroundings.

The object of morality is to bring about happiness by establishing:

  1. Harmonious relations between all the jivatmans that belong to any special area;
  2. Harmonious relations between the members of a family;
  3. Harmonious relations between the families that make up a community;
  4. Harmonious relations between the communities that make up a nation;
  5. Harmonious relations between the nations that make up humanity;
  6. Harmonious relations between humanity and the other inhabitants of the earth;
  7. Harmonious relations between the inhabitants of the earth and those of other worlds of the system.

The great circle goes on spreading outwards indefinitely and including larger and larger areas within its circumference. But still, whether the area be large or small, Ethics is “the principles of harmonious relations.” Thus we have family morality, social morality, national morality, international morality, human morality, inter-world morality, and all these concern us. With the yet wider sweeps of the Science of Conduct we are not yet concerned, but the basic principle is the same throughout.

It is obvious that the establishment of harmonious relations between a man and his surroundings, near and remote, means happiness. We are always suffering from the want of harmony, from jarring wishes, from friction between ourselves and others, from the lack of mutual support, mutual assistance, mutual sympathy. Where there is harmony there is happiness; where there is disharmony there is unhappiness. Morality, then, in establishing harmony establishes happiness, makes families and communities and nations and humanity and all dwellers in this and other worlds happy. The ultimate object of Morality, of Ethics, of the Science of Conduct, is to bring about Universal Happiness, Universal Welfare, by uniting the separated selves with each other and with the Supreme Self. All the Six Darshanas are agreed as to this summum bonum of man.

The student must grasp this thought and realize it very clearly. Morality brings about Universal Happiness at last. Let us pause for a moment on this word, “Happiness.” Happiness does not mean the transitory pleasures of the senses nor even the more durable pleasures of the mind. It does not mean the satisfaction of the cravings of the upadhis, nor the joys which are tasted in the possession of external objects. Happiness means the deep, inner, enduring bliss which is the satisfaction in the Self. It means perfect harmony, lasting peace.

Happiness is: “When the mind comes to rest, restrained by the practice of yoga, beholding the Self by the Self, he is content in the Self. He knows that endless joy which is apprehended by the buddhi beyond the senses; and established in that he does not deviate from the truth (tattwatah: thatness). Having attained this, he regards no other gain better than that, and established therein he is not moved by heaviest sorrow” (Bhagavad Gita 6:20-22).

Nothing less than this is Happiness, and this is the happiness which Morality brings about. The student must not allow his clear vision of this truth to be clouded by superficial appearances, which seem to be at variance with it. However difficult and painful it may sometimes be to do right; however tiresome and burdensome obedience to moral precepts may sometimes be; none the less, in the long run, doing right means to be happy, and doing wrong means to be miserable. “As the wheels of the cart follow the ox,” said the great Indian teacher, the Buddha, “so misery follows sin.” Thus also speak all the shastras.

All this is inevitable, as we shall see later on.

We have spoken of harmony, of happiness, of right, of wrong, and of the inhabitants of the earth and those of other worlds of the system.

But if we are to go to the root of things, to first principles, we cannot but seek the help of religion. For religion gives us the ultimate data upon which Ethical Science may be built. Morality has only one basis on which it is built up, as a house is built on its foundation. And just as a house will become crooked and fall if it be built on a shaky foundation, so will any morality fall which is not built on that sound basis.


The Foundation of Ethics, As Given by Religion

The first thing we learn from religion is the Unity of all Selves, and this is the foundation of Ethics. Ethics is built upon:

The Recognition of the Unity of the

Self Amid the Diversity of the Not-Self.

There is but One Self, and all the separate selves are amsha, parts or reflections of the One–are the One. “As the sun alone illumines this entire world, so the Lord of the field illumines the entire field” (Bhagavad Gita 13:33). “One God is hidden in all beings, all-pervading, the inmost Self of all” (Swetashwatara Upanishad 6.11). 

One sun is shining, and it shines into every separate place, every separate enclosure. There may be a thousand gardens, separated from each other by high walls, but the one sun shines into all, and the light and heat in each are from the one sun, are parts of himself. So the jivatmans in all creatures, separated from each other by the walls of prakriti, the walls of their bodies, are rays from the one sun, sparks from the one fire, portions of the one Atman, the one Self.

We cannot fully realize this, be conscious of it and live in it always, until we have become perfectly pure; but we can recognize it as a fact, as the one all-important fact, and in proportion as we try to make our conduct accord with this fact, we shall become moral. We shall see, as we study morality, that all its precepts are founded on this recognition of the unity of the Self. If there is only one Self, any act by which I injure my neighbor must injure me. A man will not deliberately cut his hand, or his foot, or his face, because all these are parts of his own body, and though a cut on his hand does not directly make his foot ache, he feels the pain from any part of his body. The foot, being ignorant and limited, is not conscious at once of the wound made in the hand, but the man is conscious of it, and will not let the foot carry his body into a place where the hand will be injured. Of course the foot ultimately suffers from the general fever of the whole body caused by a severe injury to any part of it, as ignorance of the unity of the body does not alter the fact of unity. And so the man who believes that the Self is one, in him and in all others, also necessarily believes that in injuring any part he is injuring himself, though, being limited and ignorant, he may not then feel it; and he learns to look on all as parts of one body, and on his innermost Self as the One who uses that one body, and lives and moves in all.

If we could realize this, feel it always, there would be no need of any Science of Conduct, for we should always act for the highest good of all; but as we do not realize it, and feel it very seldom, we need rules of conduct which are all based on this principle, to prevent us from injuring others and ourselves and to help us to do good to others and ourselves.

The great rishis, knowing the supreme fact that the Self of all beings is one, based on this all their precepts, and on this rock they built the morality they taught. The authoritative declarations of the Shruti on general morality are final because based on this fact, and they can be defended by reason and shown to be of binding and universal obligation.

All the laws of nature are expressions of the Divine Nature, and, as one of the aspects of that Nature is chit, the reason can grasp and verify them. They are supremely rational, nay reason itself, and reason in man is fitly concerned with their study. Now “the reason” must not be confused with the process of reasoning–the passing from one link of an argument to another by logical sequence. This process is only one of the functions of the reason, and is called the ratiocinative faculty, and belongs to the concrete reason, the lower mind. “The reason” is chit and includes all mental processes, concrete and abstract, the perception in the higher as well as in the lower worlds, direct clear vision of truths as of objects. As knowledge is the rightful source of authority, and as the knowledge of the rishis was the product of their reason, working in assonance with the Divine Reason, the Shruti, given to the Hindus through the rishis, are authoritative. Their authority is thus based on reason, on the Divine Wisdom primarily, and on the illuminated human reason secondarily. The rishis, as we saw in the Introduction, have modified the Shruti to meet the needs of special ages, for precepts useful at one time are not useful at another. It is further possible by the use of the reason to distinguish between precepts of universal and those of local and temporary obligation.

The system of morality inculcated in the Sanatana Dharma may therefore be said to be authoritative; for being founded on the recognition of the unity of the Self, and drawing its precepts and its sanctions from that supreme fact, it is capable of appealing to and being verified by the reason, and a perfect harmony can be established between the commands of the Shruti and the dictates of the reason.

This harmony has prevented the arising in India of independent ethical schools such as have arisen in the West, the doctrines of which become familiar to students in their studies in Western moral philosophy.

The scriptures of other nations, which have not stated clearly the unity of the Self, have necessarily been unable to state clearly the highest sanction for morality, and have directed reliance mainly to a divine authority, the source of which is not universally seen as identical in nature with the spirit (jivatman) in man. Hence a certain divorce between authority and reason, injurious to both, and this divorce has led to the growth of two ethical schools that stand in opposition to authoritative, i.e., scriptural morality, and also in opposition to each other.

One of these schools, the intuitional, finds its basis for morality in intuition, in the dictates of the conscience, but fails to escape from the difficulties involved in the variations of conscience with racial and national traditions, social customs and individual development.

The second, the utilitarian, has its ethical basis in “the greatest good of the greatest number,” but fails to justify the exclusion of the minority from its canon, and to supply a sanction of sufficiently binding force. Besides, what constitutes “the greatest good of the greatest number” is always a debatable point; hence the “canon” is useless as a practical guide.

The student can study these systems in the works of their exponents, and he will do well to understand that the reconciliation of these schools lies in the recognition of the unity of the Self, and the consequent completion of the partial truths on which these are based. He will then see that this principle affords to the teachings of the scriptural school their proper support in reason; that this supplies the intuitionalist with the explanation of the variations of conscience, which is the voice of the jivatman, and depends on the stage of evolution reached and the experiences assimilated; that this shows to the utilitarian that there is no ultimate good for any which is not also good for all, that there is no question of majority and minority, but of unity, and that the sanction of morality lies in this very unity of interests, this identity of nature.

We have, then, as the basis of morality in the Sanatana Dharma, the recognition of the unity of the Self, and therefore the establishment of mutually helpful relations between all separated selves. Every moral precept finds its sanction in this unity, and we shall presently see that the universal love, which is the expression of the unity, is the root of all virtues, as its opposite is the root of all vices.

Universal brotherhood has its basis in the unity; men are divided by their upadhis, both dense and subtle, but they are all rooted in the one Self. Only this teaching, when generally realized, can put an end to wars and serve as a foundation for peace. This alone can eradicate racial and national hatreds, put an end to mutual contempt and suspicion, and draw all men into one human family, in which there are elders and youngers, indeed, but no aliens.

Nor, indeed, can the brotherhood based on the unity of the Self be limited to the human family. It must include all things within its circle, for all, without exception, are rooted in the Self. In the tenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita Sri Krishna declares: “I am the Self abiding in the heart of all beings; I am the beginning, the middle and the end of all beings as well” (10:20).

He then names himself as many objects, as sun and moon, as mountain and tree, as horse and cow, as bird and serpent, and many others, and sums up in one all-embracing declaration: “Also I am that which is the seed of all beings. There is nothing that could exist without existing through me–neither animate nor inanimate” (Bhagavad Gita10:39).

Over and over again He insists on the all-importance of this recognition of the unity of the Self and of the presence of the Self in each and all. “He who sees the Supreme Lord existing in all beings equally, not dying when they die–he sees truly. Truly seeing the same Lord existing everywhere, he injures not the Self by the [lower] self. Then he goes to the Supreme Goal. When he perceives the various states of being as resting in the One, and their expansion from that One alone–he then attains Brahman” (Bhagavad Gita 13:27-28, 30).

All human relations exist because of this unity, as Yajnavalkya explained to his wife Maitreyi when she asked of him the secret of immortality: “Behold! not indeed for the love of the husband is the husband dear: for the love of the Self is the husband dear” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.6.1).

And so with wife, sons, property, friends, worlds and even the devas themselves. All are dear because the One Self is in all. “Behold! not for the love of the all the all is dear, but for the love of the Self verily the all is dear” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.5.6).

“Having known the Auspicious, the exceedingly subtle, hidden in all beings, like butter in cream, having known the Supreme God, the one Pervader of the universe, he is freed from bonds” (Sveshavatara Upanishad Upanishad 4.16).

But it is useless to multiply texts, when the Shruti at every step proclaims the truth. In this and in this alone is the sure basis of morality, for this unity of the Self is the real cause and explanation of love. One Self, embodied in many forms, is ever seeking to draw the forms together in order to again realize Its own unity. This is why the recognition of the unity of the Self by the reason, which is wisdom, shows itself in a world of separate forms as love. So also the manyness of the Not-Self is the cause and explanation of hate, each separate form setting itself up against others. The full significance of this will be seen by the student on maturer study; but he should grasp the fact–which will become clearer as we proceed–that all virtue, all that is good, is the immediate result of the pure love which springs from recognizing the unity of the Self, and that all vice, all that is evil, similarly arises from disregard of this truth, and from the feeling that the Self is not one, but many, as the bodies are many.


Right and Wrong

The student will remember the description of the triloki in Part One. At the beginning of a new triloki, life-evolution begins. This evolution takes place in all the three worlds, but we may confine ourselves to our earth.

First the life-forms appear. The Puranas speak in veiled words as to how sheath after sheath encloses the life; under the influence of the five forms of avidya (avidya, asmita, raga, dwesha and abhinivesha) we have the process of manifestation, till we find all the forms of creation manifested on our earth. During this process, the idea of multiplying governs all beings. This idea breaks through the innate inertia, the remnant of pralayic tendency with which all beings start. This idea becomes refined and is then called pravritti, or inclination, the desire for objects; the world is then on the pravritti marga, the path of “going forth.”

Beings become materialized, and as they become consciously separate their self-seeking tendencies become very strong. Every such being forms a world in himself, and tries to exclude others. Men live for enjoyment, and they care for the present only. The idea of separateness develops intellect, which works from the standpoint of individuality. This element is necessary in man in order to bring out his individual faculties, and to cultivate them in such a way as will make the intellectual development fairly complete.

But the idea of separateness becomes after a while a drawback to further progress. Man has gradually to transcend it. He has to recognize the unity of all selves and, in practice, to do everything that helps to strengthen the recognition of that unity, and at last makes that recognition a part of his life. This may be called the process of spiritual evolution, and man is then on the nivritti marga, the path of return.

Lastly, pralaya comes and the end of the Brahmanda.

During all but the latest stages of the pravritti marga that which favors separateness is Right, and that which goes against it is Wrong.

Then follows a transition stage, preparing man to enter on the nivritti marga; during that, and on the nivritti marga, that which favors the tendency towards unity is Right, and that which goes against it is Wrong.

When the time of pralaya comes all that helps it will be Right, all that opposes it Wrong.

Practical definition of Right and Wrong

Speaking generally, that which is suitable to the stage of evolution which the world has reached, that which helps it onwards, is Right; that which obstructs and hinders evolution is Wrong. For the will of Ishwara points steadfastly to the highest good, and guides His universe towards good. To work with this will is to be in harmony with the great movement of the world-system, and thus to be carried on with the stream of evolution; while to go against it is like beating against an overwhelming current, which dashes us against the rocks, bruises and wounds us. To do right is to be at peace with ourselves and with God, and is therefore happiness; to do wrong is to be at war with ourselves and with God, and is therefore misery. Hence bad people tend to become, after a time, discontented, irritable, unsatisfied, however outwardly favorable may be their circumstances; while the good are inwardly at peace and contented, even when their outer circumstances are very unfavorable. Here again the essential fact is the same, for the will of Ishwara, being guided by the highest wisdom and love, ever necessarily and constantly points to the highest good–the more and more perfect realization of the unity of the Self amid the endless diversity of forms.

Let us look further into this matter, as the question is all-important.

For this purpose we have to refer back again to the nature of evolution described before. This evolution of the jiva gives rise to that variety of relations and situations between jiva and jiva, out of which the actions arise to which the epithets “right” and “wrong” become applicable; and therefore the nature of “right” and “wrong” depends upon the nature of the scheme of evolution to which the jivas concerned belong, and cannot be described independently of that scheme.

Evolution in a world-system

We have gathered from the first part of this work what evolution means. Generally speaking, a world-system has a life in the same way as a single human being; and as a single human being grows in physical life for the first half of his life-time and decreases in respect thereof during the second half, so too a world-system, a Brahmanda, grows more and more material during the first half of its life, the purvardha or prathama-parardha of the kalpa, and more and more spiritual during the second half or dwitiya parardha thereof. This process from birth to death, from death to a higher birth, from that to a deeper death and thence again to a still higher birth–repeated endlessly–is the general plan of life and evolution.

In our own world-system, the process takes the shape of a gradual descent of spirit into the dense matter of the mineral kingdom and a reascent therefrom through the arvaksrotas or the vegetable kingdom, the tiryaksrotas or the animal kingdom, the urdhvasrotas or men, and higher forms, into the realized union of mukti. Coming into still minuter detail we find that amongst men the process reappears as the descent of the primeval and simple-minded childlike human races, governed and guided by divine beings, through growth of materialism and the sense of separateness, and consequent selfishness and exclusiveness in the appropriation of the stores of nature and the gifts of Providence, into the condition of ever-warring tribes. Then a slow re-ascent therefrom, through despotic and military government, to constitutional monarchy and organized society, to reach at last those distant and happy times of universal brotherhood when unselfishness and altruism shall reign supreme, and men will see their common unity far more than their separateness from each other.

Finally, in the individual jiva, we see that evolution, or the life-process, appears as the gathering of experience and information in the first years after birth, then the utilization of that experience for the founding of a family, then the instruction of the new generation and the helping of them to take up the life of the householder themselves, and ultimately retirement from life into sannyasa and the peace of renunciation and of a happy death.

Such being the general order of evolution, that course of conduct which helps it on is Right; all else is Wrong. If we have to go to a certain place, then all elements that make the journey easier and help us to move forward in that direction are good; all obstacles that make it more difficult and retard our progress are evil. If we had a different goal, if we were desirous of going to a place in the exactly opposite direction, then the first-mentioned elements, which would be taking us away from our new goal, would become evil. So long then as we are on the line of our present evolution, the actions that help us forward on it are good and right, and the opposite ones evil and wrong. And in order to find out what is right conduct and what is wrong in any particular situation, we must judge it according to its conduciveness or otherwise to the particular end in view, and judge the particular end again with reference to its congruity with the general goal of human evolution. Without such reference, it is impossible to say what is right and what is wrong. With such reference, on the other hand, we may map out easily the details of our path in life and through evolution and then we shall have at every step a standard of right and wrong by which to guide our actions.

The teachings of the rishis

These details have been supplied to us, out of their knowledge and compassion, by the ancient sages and seers–the rishis. They have left to us a complete outline of the scheme of evolution of our world-system, and have also left to us general rules for so dealing with our own life and the lives of others, not only of the human but also of the lower kingdoms, that the advance of all jivas through the various stages of evolution, mineral, vegetable, animal, human, celestial, etc., shall be made as easy as possible. These general facts and rules are outlined in the various parts of this work.

For instance, the rules of the four ashramas are dictated by the facts and laws of individual evolution; and the rules of the four castes by the facts and laws of human evolution at large, in the middle stage of law-governed state and social organization and division of labor.

The conditions of the four castes and the four ashramas consist of all the possible situations in the whole life of the present-day humanity, and the Sanatana Dharma therefore provides general rules for all such situations, grouping them into general classes.

Varnashram Dharma necessary and natural to all

The casual observer might think that because there are no expressly recognized castes and ashramas amongst many nations of modern humanity, therefore general conditions are radically different for different nations; but this is not so. Though not expressly recognized, the divisions themselves are to be found everywhere, under other names and forms it may be, but still in all the races of the present day; and that they are not expressly recognized is in some respects productive of inconvenience and waste of time and trouble, economically speaking, to those nations, even as over-recognition and exaggeration are productive of inconvenience and mischief here in India.

The natural conditions of the present evolution unavoidably force upon humanity the relations of teacher and student, ruler and ruled, producer and consumer, master and servant, parent and son, husband and wife, brother and sister, worker and pensioner, employer and employed, soldier and civilian, agriculturist and tradesman, layman and priest, householder and recluse. The Sanatana Dharma, instead of leaving these relations to vague and groping experiments, rationally orders and systematizes them, and teaches generally the duties and virtues proper to each relation and situation, with the injunction that the duties and virtues of two different relations and situations should never be mixed up together indiscriminately, for thus great danger and confusion result: “Better is one’s swadharma, though deficient, than the swadharma of another well performed. Better is death in one’s own swadharma. The swadharma of another brings danger” (Bhagavad Gita 3:35).

If a king, in the exercise of his office, come to behave as a merchant, and instead of exercising the king’s virtues exhibit those of the tradesman; if a judge, in the decision of a case, instead of being guided by the virtue of justice, show active physical fighting as a soldier, or compassion as a priest; if a priest, in his ministrations, behave as an executioner; if one who should be a Brahmachari or a Grihastha in the ordinary course, should without good special reason, become a Vanaprastha or a Sannyasi, or vice-versa; if one who is fitted by nature to be a soldier should become a merchant, or one fitted for study only should take up the work of agriculture–then the whole economy of the state and the nation would be more or less disturbed.

What is right then in one situation is not right in another; and the most general definition that can be given of right and wrong is, that right conduct is that which helps on a known scheme of evolution, to its recognized goal, and wrong conduct is the opposite.

An example

For an instance of how the epithets right and wrong may be applied to the very same action looked at from different points of view, take this case. Two men come together: one confines the other in a closed house by force, takes away all liberty of movement from him, and also all moveable property he may have about him, and places it in the possession of others who help and obey him. This act taken by itself, without any reference to previous facts, is wrong; it hinders the life and evolution of the man confined and that of his family and dependants; in fact it amounts to robbery with wrongful confinement of an aggravated character. But suppose that the man confined had forcibly deprived a third person of some property, and the man who ordered his confinement was a judge, and the closed house a public jail, then the same act becomes the rightful imprisonment of a thief, and the removal of property from his person a necessary act of prison-discipline, all of which is perfectly right and even necessary, for thereby the evolution of society and of the thief himself is generally helped. But yet again, if the imprisoned man had forcibly deprived the other of property not belonging to that other, but to himself, property which that other had stolen, then the action of the judge becomes wrong again, and his order reversible on appeal to a higher judge.

For all everywhere

It is the same on a larger scale in the larger life of the world. The Puranas say that in the beginning of the world, when the immediate object was to multiply the human population and engage it in the life of the household, Daksha Prajpati created certain classes of children, the Haryashvas, etc. The rishi Narada, whose duty it is to bring about certain adjustments of good and evil forces and generally to promote the life of renunciation in our world, commenced his work too soon, and persuaded the Haryashvas to avoid the life of the household and take up the life of the recluse. His action, because of its inopportuneness, was found to be wrong, and he was punished by a curse under which he himself had to be born in the animal and human kingdoms and lead the life of the household with other jivas. So, again, in the earliest days of the race, the worship of Brahma, the embodiment of rajas and action, the cause of sarga, creation, was enjoined. Later on, the worship of Vishnu, the embodiment of sattwa, knowledge and love, the cause of sthiti, maintenance, becomes appropriate. In the last days of a cycle, the worship of Shiva, the embodiment of tamas, vairagya or self-sacrifice and renunciation, the cause of the pralaya, the dissolution of the material world, finds place.

Thus we see that right and wrong are always relative to the surrounding circumstances. If it were necessary to define them generally, without such reference, then the nearest approach to accuracy is to be found in the Sanskrit verse which is on the lips of all Sanskrit-knowing Indians: “Vyasa has said but two things in the whole of the eighteen Puranas: Doing good to another is punya, (right); causing injury to another is papa (wrong).”

As a general rule, when one jiva helps another, makes him happy, then, whether he wish it consciously or not, that happiness comes back to him by the law of action and reaction; this is expressed by the rule that punya brings happiness. Exactly similar is the case as regards misery and papa.

The three gunas in the evolutionary process

The three processes of creation, preservation and dissolution which have just been described are based upon the three fundamental attributes of the matter side of nature, or prakriti: sattwa, rajas and tamas. To begin with, we have pralayic inertia due to tamas influencing the matter, or prakritic, side of jivas. Then we have kamic and manasic activity, developing the emotions and the intellect. This is due to the prevalence of rajas, acting on the prakritic basis of jivas. Lastly we have a tendency to free ourselves from distraction, from desires for objects, from selfish pursuits, and to attain calm, peace and bliss, whatever be the outer surroundings at any time. This spiritual evolution is brought about by the prevalence of sattwa in us. Then, on the eve of pralaya tamas overtakes us once again. 

Every man has in him a predominance of sattwa, or rajas, or tamas, and his development depends upon the relative proportions of each of these attributes. When a man is predominantly tamasic, he is indolent, inactive, dull and ignorant.

He requires at first a rajasic development. Anything that draws him out, attracts curiosity, and makes him active, is good and right for him. The constant rebuffs and touches of joy that he gets in his active life, the accumulation of painful and pleasurable experiences, develop his intellect.

Under rajasic predominance, a man is eager in material pursuits, his intellect soars high and spreads wide, he goes backwards and forwards, his cravings ever increasing, and his efforts to satisfy them take him through different intellectual channels. Action becomes the rule of his nature. Self–the personal self–becomes the center of all his actions. Like (raga) and dislike (dwesha) are the motive powers which drive him in his actions.

When sattwa asserts itself, man begins to realize the littleness of efforts directed towards the personal self, the transitoriness of worldly aspirations, the unrest and disquietude attending all actions. He takes a calm and broad view of all things. He discriminates between the real and the unreal, the lasting and the fleeting, the bliss eternal and the pleasures of the moment. He loves peace, calm, and quietude.

Universal application

Every man has thus his own evolutionary stage, which is generally indicated by the circumstances attending his birth, but more precisely by the attributes which characterize him. Though particular rules may be laid down for the particular stages of development of a man, such as the varna and ashrama rules of old, yet for the average civilized man in general, some rules of conduct may also be laid down, and these form the general rules of Ethics.

We have now to see how on the basis above sketched a Science of Conduct is built up, a Science which cannot be overrated as to its importance.

For this Science of Conduct is, in truth, considering its relations to human happiness, the most important study in many ways that can engage human attention; and it is one which to the youth is all-important in its bearing on his own future. For character is that which tells most in human life, and on it chiefly depend both inner happiness and outer success. We have already seen that virtue and happiness are bound up together, and in the life of the world, character is that on which lasting success depends. A man of a brilliant intellect may carry all before him for a time, but if he be found to be a man of bad character, his fellows cease to trust him and he falls into discredit. In every walk of life, character is the thing most sought after and most trusted, and a man of good character is respected and admired everywhere.

The time of youth is the time for improving character, the time when the germs of vices can most easily be eradicated, and the germs of virtues can most easily be cultivated.

Each comes into the world with a character made by his past, and he must work upon this character, his self-created friend or foe. He can work on it at the greatest advantage if he understands clearly what he should aim at and by what means his aim can be reached. He needs to understand the roots of virtues and vices, to learn how to distinguish one from the other, to learn how to cultivate virtues and how to eradicate vices, as a gardener cultivates flowers and eradicates weeds. For each man has a garden in himself, and should learn to be a skillful gardener.


The Standard of Ethics

We have already seen that the measure used in Ethics at the present stage of evolution, by which the rightness or wrongness of an action is decided, is the tendency of the action to promote or to hinder Union. The whole tendency of evolution at the present stage is towards the assertion of the unity of all selves, to seek the one Life amidst the diverse forms of life, and thus to follow the path that leads to Union, i.e., the path of Truth. The standard of Ethics is in other words to unite and not to divide. We can unite by the establishment of harmonious relations between all the jivatmans.

It may now be seen why it is said in the first chapter that the object of morality is to bring about happiness by establishing harmonious relations. The “establishment of harmonious relations” which is said above to be the work of Ethics, is now seen to be the leading of the different parts of the great human body to work in harmony with each other. It is no mere figure of speech that all races of men, all nations, make up one great Man; it is a fact. “Purusha,” the Inner Man, the Self, is indeed Purushottama, the Lord, Ishwara Himself. But there is also the Purusha which is His body, and this is Humanity as a whole, and each separate being is a cell in that vast body. All the troubles which make us unhappy, the wars between nations and the quarrels between individuals, the poverty and starvation, the competition and the crushing of the weak, and the countless evils round us, are all diseases of this great body, due to the parts of it getting out of order, and working separately and competitively without a common object, instead of working together as a unity for the good of the whole.

The moral tendencies of man were classified by Sri Krishna under two broad divisions: divine qualities (daivi sampad) and demonic qualities (asuri sampad). Under daivi sampad, Sri Krishna placed the virtues that go towards bringing about harmonious feelings amongst all beings, towards accentuating a feeling of unity and friendliness, towards securing peace and calm, in fact towards carrying out the law of evolution in its entirety.

“Fearlessness, purity of being, steadfastness in knowledge and yoga [jnana yoga], almsgiving, self-control, sacrifice, self-study (swadhyaya), tapasya, and straightforwardness, non-violence, truthfulness, absence of anger, renunciation, tranquility, without calumny (slander), compassion for beings, uncovetousness, gentleness, modesty, absence of fickleness, vigor, patience (forbearance), fortitude (courage), purity, absence of hatred (malice), absence of pride–they are the endowment of those born to a divine state” (Bhagavad Gita 16:1-3).

Under asurisampad he placed all the opposite vices–all that tends to divide the jivatmans, and to accentuate the feeling of egotism, of the separated self. He described as asuric those qualities which have their root in and grow out of the delusion of separateness. “Self-conceited, stubborn, filled with the intoxication of wealth, they sacrifice in name only, with hypocrisy (for show), not according to the prescribed forms. Clinging to egotism, power, haughtiness, desire and anger, these malignant people hate me in their own and in others’ bodies. Triple is the gate of this hell, destructive of the Self: desire, anger and greed. Therefore one should abandon (renounce) these three” (16:17-18, 21).

The whole of chapter sixteen of the Bhagavad Gita should be carefully pondered by the student in this connection.


Virtues and Their Foundation

The Law of Yajna

The establishment of harmonious relations means mutual sacrifice of the personal selves. It means that all beings should realize that they form component parts of one Being, and that they must all subordinate themselves to the life of that One Being. Just as there are innumerable cells in the body, but each cell-life subordinates itself to the one life that pervades the whole body, so the life of every being is to be subordinated to the life of the Ishwara of the universe. Different cells have different functions to perform, but each function is a part of the general function of the whole body. As each cell has its fixed place in the body, so each being has a definite place in the universe. There is one general life-current that pervades all beings, and the life of each individual has to conform to the One Life, the life of the One Self, Ishwara. This is the limitation under which we all work, and this limitation is the law of our very being; all beings are mutually linked to one another, and the links impose mutual relations and mutual sacrifices. All beings are dependent on one another, and they are all dependent on the one great Life. This law of interdependence, of mutual sacrifice, is known as Yajna, and has already been explained in Parts One and Two.

Whatever actions we do, we ought to do them for the sake of Yajna. Thus only can we follow the Great Law. If a man lives for self, and makes an independent center in himself, overlooking the one great center of the universe, he creates bonds for himself and suffers therefrom. “The world is bound by the actions not done for sake of sacrifice. Hence for sacrifice you should act without attachment” (Bhagavad Gita 3:9).

We have seen that the different classes of beings linked together in this universe are five: the devas, the pitris, the rishis, men and animals, and that sacrifices to these classes are a duty, which every man performing actions is bound to discharge. For when sacrifice is imposed by law, there is an obligation to perform it, and hence the performance becomes a duty.

The nature of Duty

In its exact ethical sense duty means an action which is due, which ought to be done, which is owed; it is an obligation to be discharged. Nature is ever restoring disturbed equilibrium, and the universal law of karma, of action and reaction, is the full statement of this fact. She is always balancing her accounts. Duties are the debts a man owes to his fellows, paid to discharge the obligations under which he lies for benefits received. While five duties are mentioned for the purposes of the five daily sacrifices, three of these are called the debts in a specific and larger sense, as permeating the man’s whole life. They are the debt to the rishis; the debt to the ancestors; and the debt to the devas. “Having studied the Vedas according to the rules, having begotten sons according to righteousness, having offered sacrifice according to his power, let him turn his mind to moksha” (Manu Smriti 6.36).

The three twice-born castes were directed to pay these debts by passing through the three ashramas, brahmacharya, grihasthya and vanaprastha, each of which, it will be seen, answers to one of the above three duties. The debt to the rishis was paid by studying the Vedas, serving the teacher in the brahmacharya ashrama and by teaching others; the debt to the ancestors was paid by rearing a family and discharging the duties of grihasthya, including danam, charitable gifts; the debt to the devas was paid by yajanam, sacrifice, chiefly in vanaprastha. Sannyasa, the fourth ashrama, sums up the three others on the highest level. For the youngest caste, the shudra, only shushrusha, service, was prescribed as summing up all duties in a single word. Looked at truly, service of the world includes all duties for the highest sannyasi, for he has nothing left to gain for himself. Thus the duty of the youngest becomes also the duty of the eldest, but in the latter case on a much higher level.

We may illustrate the idea of duty by the relation of father and son. The father received in his childhood protection and care from his own parents, and thus incurred a debt; he pays this as parental duty to his son, to whom he, in turn, has given a physical body, which requires from him the fostering care bestowed on his own in his infancy and childhood. The son, having received his body from the father, has the duty of serving him with that body, and is also incurring a debt during his helpless years to be paid in time to his own children.

Virtue and Vice

Now the quality which dictates the fulfillment of a duty is called a virtue; that which prompts the non-fulfillment, or violation of it, is called a vice. Happiness in any relation depends on the parties to the relation fulfilling their duties to each other; that is, on their practicing the virtues which are the fulfillment of the duties of the relation. Unhappiness in any relation results if one or both of the parties do not fulfill their duties to each other; that is, if they practice the vices which are the non-fulfillment of the duties of the relation. A father and son are happy with each other if the father shows the virtues of tenderness, protection, care for the well-being of the son, and the son shows the virtues of obedience, reverence and serviceableness. A father and son are unhappy if the father shows the vices of harshness, oppression, neglect, and the son shows the vices of disobedience, disrespect and careless disregard. If father and son love each other, the virtues of that relation will be practiced; if they hate each other, the vices of that relation will appear. Virtues grow out of love regularized and controlled by the righteous intelligence that sees more the unity of the Self than the diversity of the Not-Self; vices grow out of hate strengthened and intensified by the unenlightened intelligence, that sees more the separateness of the bodies than the oneness of the Self.

Speaking of virtues and vices, of right and wrong, of good conduct and bad conduct, we must not forget that in whatever way they may find expressions in human conduct they are all based on truth, which embodies the law itself. Sacrifice and duty follow the law; the law itself is an expression of truth. In fact Ishwara Himself is Truth. The devas adoring the Divine Lord when He appeared as Sri Krishna, broke forth: “O True of promise, True of purpose, triply True, the Fount of Truth and dwelling in the True, the Truth of Truth, the Eye of Right and Truth, Spirit of Truth, refuge we seek in Thee” (Vishnu Bhagavata 10.2.26)

Thus virtues have been called forms of Truth. Bhishma describes them as follows: “Truthfulness, equability, self-control, absence of self-display, forgiveness, modesty, endurance, absence of envy, charity, a noble well-wishing towards others, self-possession, compassion, and harmlessness–surely these are the thirteen forms of Truth.” (Mahabharata Shanti-Parvan, 162.8, 9)

Truth is that which IS. As Bhishma says: “Truth is the eternal Brahman…. Everything rests on Truth” (Mahabharata Shanti-Parvan, 162.5). All the laws of nature are expressions of Truth, i.e., they are the methods, the expressions of the nature of That which IS, of the Truth, Reality, Being, the Self or Purusha manifesting amidst the limitations of the Not-Self, Untruth, Non-Being, or Mulaprakriti. They work therefore with undeviating accuracy, with absolute justice and precision. To be true is to be in accord with these laws, and to have nature’s constructive energies on our side and working with us. It is to be working with Ishwara. The intellect has the power of discerning What Is from What Is Not, the power of discrimination, of seeing the Real and the Unreal. Recognizing the Real as stable and permanent, it seeks to grasp it and thus cultivates the virtues which are the forms of Truth.

Untruth is that which is NOT. All vices are forms of Untruth, even as all virtues are forms of Truth. Hence the overwhelming importance of Truth, which is thus the foundation and essential constituent of all virtues, rather than a separate virtue to be taken by itself.

Truthfulness was in ancient days the leading characteristic of the aryan, and is constantly alluded to as a constituent in the heroic character. Thus, when about to revive the dead child of Abhimanyu, Sri Krishna says: “O Uttara! I speak not falsely, and this shall truly come about. Even now do I revive this child; let all beings behold it. As I have never uttered an untruth, even in play, as I have never turned back from battle, so may this infant live. As I have never known dispute with Arjuna, so by that truth may this dead babe revive. As truth and dharma ever dwell in Me, so may the dead child of Abhimanyu live” (Mahabharata, Ashvamedha Parva. 69.18-19, 21-22). Other heroes repeatedly make the same statement: “My lips have never uttered an untruth.” Sri Rama goes into exile for fourteen years in order that his father’s promise may remain unbroken. Yudhishthira refuses to struggle for his kingdom before due time, because he has promised to remain in exile. 

The effect of these continually repeated precepts and examples was to work into the aryan character a profound love of truth, and this has repeatedly been noticed as a predominating feature of Hindu character.

It must never be forgotten that no character can be virtuous which has not truth for its basis, and that no character can be base when truth is preserved unsullied. It is the root of all true manliness, the glory of the hero, the crown of the virtuous, the preserver of the family, the protection of the State. Falsehood undermines alike the home and the nation, poisons the springs of virtue, degrades and pollutes the character. The liar is always weak and always despicable; scorn and contempt follow him. For the building up of character, truth is the only sure foundation.

Here, again, we come back to our basis of morality, and see why Truth is so all-important. For if it be carefully traced back, every untruth uttered will be found to be ultimately connected with the desire for a separate and exclusive existence, and hence to arise from repulsion, separateness and hate, while every truth uttered is ultimately connected with the desire for the common and united life of the one Self, the Real, whence all love proceeds.


Bliss and Emotions

The life of Ishwara permeates all beings and expresses itself as consciousness and bliss through the bodily limitation of these beings. The body becomes more and more complex, the organs become developed, so that the imprisoned life may assert itself more and more. It is the force of life that directs the development of all being. It is that force that breaks through the tamasic inertia of the mineral form, and makes the mineral matter more and more plastic and capable of receiving impressions from the outside. It is that force which eventually makes a center of Self in all beings, and develops faculties that digest the outside impressions and work them out into tendencies that form the character of man. Ideas of virtues and vices thus arise, ideas of right and wrong, of good and bad.

The life force works itself out by impulses seeking bliss, and by the direction of the guiding intelligence. We need not, in this treatise, go further back than the human stage of development The impulses of man lead him indiscriminately to various objects in pursuit of pleasure. But the rebuffs of pain make him stop and think. Over and over this happens in life. Over and over again the impulses propel; over and over again intelligence checks. The impulses are thus restrained, directed and refined. Bliss and intelligence act and react on each other and constantly press man onward. One becomes known as Emotion, the other as Intellect. A man may progress continually: he may no longer require a brain, he may no longer require the help of propelling emotions, he may no longer require some particular forms of intelligence and bliss; but intelligence and bliss themselves form part of his life; they are aspects of the Ishwaric life, which he assimilates and calls his own, and they are inseparable from him.

Emotions and Intellect

Emotions lead a man outwards and make him identify himself with the things he sees around him. But intellect forms a center of I-ness, the center of a small circle of personality, forces all experiences to that center, and judges all things from the standpoint of that center. Intellect forms the barrier of selfishness which separates man from man, till at last by wider and wider knowledge, by knowledge embracing the whole universe, the barrier is swept away, all mankind, nay all beings, form one field, one circle; but the center is then removed, and becomes the great center of the universe, the center of Ishwaric existence; man rises above the ahamkara tattwa, the tattwa that causes the limited sense of I-ness. He plunges into Mahat, or the Great Tattwa, and becomes the possessor of universal knowledge.

The emotions of a man, bound down to the personal self, find expression through the indriyas. The indriyas rush out and bring back their experiences to the intellect of man. The experiences that cause harmonious vibrations are recorded by the intellect as pleasurable, and those that produce opposite vibrations are recorded as painful. The register is made in the memory of man, and intellect proceeds to discriminate between what is pleasurable and what is painful in the long run. Emotions thus become trained. Likes and dislikes become the natural expressions of the emotions, under the guidance of intellect which has developed discrimination. The senses become thus indissolubly wedded to the mind, the emotions to the intellect, the indriyas to Mahat, and man becomes normally emotional-intellectual, or kama-manasic. This is essentially necessary at this stage of his progress.

Thus man likes in the beginning whatever is sweet and dislikes whatever is bitter. But experience tells him that too much of a sweet thing is as bad as a bitter thing, Temperance in time becomes a normal emotion in a developed man. What is sweet in the beginning becomes sometimes bitter in the end; what is apparently sweet is sometimes really bitter. “That happiness which is like poison at first, but like amrita in the end, born of the light of one’s own Self (atmabuddhi), is declared to be sattwic. That happiness arising from the contact of the senses with their objects, which in the beginning is like amrita but changes into that which is like poison, is declared to be rajasic” (Bhagavad Gita 18:37-38).

As these experiences are repeated, man learns prudence, and prudence becomes a normal emotion in man. To rush out to do a thing on the first impulse sometimes brings on disastrous results. To lose the temper brings more disharmonious than harmonious experiences. Forbearance and toleration become thus normal emotions in man.

Emotions, rightly directed by the intelligence, are virtues. In the culture of emotions lies the formation of a man’s character, his ethical development. Emotional culture is the highest culture of man, and the training of likes and dislikes is his best evolution. The man of cultured emotions is propelled by them to do what he thinks right; he becomes patriotic, he becomes philanthropic, he becomes compassionate, he becomes friendly to all beings. His emotions become predominantly those of love, and he takes an ever wider and wider range in the manifestation of that love. And when the barrier of personality is swept away, when the ahamkaric mind becomes manas, or the reflection of the Universal Mind, the emotions also break through the barrier of indriyas and ascend to buddhi, and reflect the life of Ishwara within. Verily then the Trinity of Atman, Buddhi and Manas becomes a unity, and the man a jivanmukta.

We now understand why Ethical Science is particularly concerned with the emotions, and hence with the bliss aspect of Ishwara.

There are many ways of showing why happiness should follow right conduct, and unhappiness wrong conduct, but they are all modifications of the one essential reason, that, as there is but One Self in all, to hurt or help another is virtually to hurt or help oneself.

Knowledge and Bliss

It is written in the Shruti: “Brahman is knowledge and bliss” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 5.9.28). Over and over again the “bliss of Brahman” is spoken of, and bliss is said to be His nature. In fact the threefold nature of Ishwara, of the Saguna Brahman, is expressed in the epithet, Sat-Chit-Ananda. Bliss is thus the very nature of the jivatman, since his nature is that of Brahman; he, too, is bliss. But we learn further that the Saguna Brahman is spotless, and pure (Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.10). Therefore only the pure, the good, is of His nature, and is compatible with His bliss. So then must the essence of the jivatman be purity, and it is written of it: “Let him know it, pure and immortal” (Katha Upanishad 2.6.7). Thus purity and bliss are of the nature of the jivatman and are inseparable, for unity is purity, and the feeling of unity is the feeling of bliss.

Each jivatman being of the nature of the one Self it is ever, when embodied in a separate form, seeking union with the Self in other forms. This search for unity, for the bliss of union, is instinctive, and results, when the union is found, in perfect happiness. In this everyone is alike. Men differ in most things, but in their longing for happiness they are all alike. Every man, woman, boy and girl wants to be happy. They seek happiness in many different ways, but they all seek happiness. The jivatman, blinded by his body, chooses the wrong things very often, but the motive of his choice is always the same, the desire to be happy. It is his nature to be happy, and he is always trying to express that nature. Through the whole of his long pilgrimage he is searching for happiness. This is his root-motive, the object at which he invariably aims. If he does a painful thing, it is in order to gain a greater happiness. If he endures toil and discomfort, it is because the result of the toil and discomfort will be happiness. Happiness is his end; everything else is only the means to that end. A life of austerity and continued self-denial and suffering is embraced in the belief that it will lead to supreme bliss. The whole of evolution may be described in the words: “A search for happiness.” Continually disappointed, with unwearying perseverance man returns again and again to the search, until at last he recognizes that purity, wisdom, bliss, are one and indivisible. Then he goes to Peace. For purity, wisdom and bliss, Sat, Chit and Ananda, are the very nature of Ishwara, His own Self.

Thus Ethics leads us to the highest religion, to the realization of the highest truths, and when Ethics reaches its goal, the barrier between Ethics and Religion vanishes away, Ethics becomes Religion and Religion Ethics. The goal of both is Ishwara and Ishwaric life. This is why the Hindu ethical system is a branch of the Hindu religion, and why one cannot be separated from the other.


“Self-Regarding” Virtues

We have already seen that Ethics has as its object the establishment of harmonious relations. These relations are concerned with the surroundings of a man–his home, city, nation, etc.–and also with his own body. Now the body of a man, according to the scriptural teachings, is, as we have seen, a complex one, consisting of several sheaths, or koshas. It is enough to remember here that we have the physical sheath, in which prana functions, the sheath of the indriyas or senses (the sensuous or kamic sheath), the mental sheath, and the buddhic sheath. Ethics concerns itself at present with the physical, the kamic, and the mental sheaths. For when the buddhic sheath is reached, man becomes divine, and the present limit of ethical teachings is crossed.

Ethical teachings have therefore reference to the lower sheaths of a man’s body, and to the different classes of beings, who form his surroundings, The different classes of beings, as we have already seen, are the devas, the pitris, the rishis, men in general, and the lower animals, i.e. beings both higher and lower than man, as well as the whole of mankind. We have thus, in the first place, duties which we owe to the sheaths of our own body, and in the next place, duties that we owe to devas, pitris, rishis, mankind and the lower animals.

When the body becomes entirely harmonious with the Self within, it becomes a true and subdued vehicle of the life of the atman, which is an aspect of the life of Ishwara. When the surrounding universe becomes harmonious with the Self within, the life of Ishwara flows out to the universe from the center of the Self. Man then becomes fully an expression of the Law, the voice of Ishwara. Towards that goal we should all strive, and to that goal ethics must lead us.

Our bodies (shariras)

Now let us turn to our body, or bodies, if the term be preferred.

First, the Sthula Sharira. The physical body must be kept clean and healthy. Cleanliness and health mean harmony and order. Man is better able to do work with a clean and healthy body. He remains cheerful and bright. The diseased man cannot give attention to work. He is uneasy in mind. The disharmony and disorder of one sheath also react on the other sheaths of the man.

The body should be kept up by means of sattwic food. For the food retains its essential magnetic properties after its conversion into blood, and produces corresponding effects on the indriyas and the mind. The Bhagavad-Gita says: “Foods increasing life, purity, strength, health, happiness, cheerfulness, flavorful, smooth, firm and substantial (hearty) are liked by the sattwic. Foods that are pungent, sour, salty, excessively hot, harsh, astringent and burning, producing pain, grief, and disease are liked by the rajasic. That which is stale, tasteless, stinking (putrid), leftover [to the next day because there was no refrigeration in ancient India], uchchishta [the remnants of food eaten by others; actual leavings from someone’s plate], impure (foul), is the food the tamasic like” (Bhagavad Gita 17:8-10).

We have already seen that the higher evolution is brought about by the predominance of sattwa, and that sattwa means harmony.

Secondly, the sukshma sharira. The indriyas, through the heredity of our past existence, are largely guided by animal appetites, which are distinctly rajasic. We should therefore subdue our indriyas. We may see, hear, smell, taste and touch, but we should not ascribe our likes and dislikes to the object of the senses. We must sense as a matter of course, but the sensing must not be vitiated by personal likes and dislikes, which form a barrier between ourselves and the external world and make harmonious relations impossible. Every man makes a world to himself, by means of his likes and dislikes. Thus many worlds are formed, each different from the other, and all different from the world as it is, the world of Ishwara. Men are jaundiced by the tint and taint of their personalities and, blinded by the distractions of rajas, they do not see the Law, the word of Ishwara.

Desire and distraction

Therefore our mind should not be guided by the indriyas, but the mind should be guided by its own discriminative faculty, and should then subdue the senses. The indriyas are divided into organs of perception and organs of action (the latter belonging to the sthula sharira). There is no harm done by the perception of objects, if the perception be not followed by likes and dislikes. Raga and dwesha drive us helplessly along, using the karmendriyas for their own satisfaction. “Attraction and aversion are inherent in the contact of the senses with sense-objects. One should not come under the power of these two–they are indeed his enemies” (Bhagavad Gita 3:34).

Affection and aversion, raga and dwesha, form the desire-nature of man. This, emotional in its origin, has to be controlled. The emotional nature has to be purified. Raga is to expand into universal love. Dwesha is to be eliminated entirely in personal relations, in relations between man and man, between one being and another being, and is to be retained only as an abstract dislike for anything that goes against the law, against the will of Ishwara. But this abstract dislike is not at all to interfere with the universal love of all beings. It is only to make a man strong in his purity, in his rejection of all that is evil. He should dislike evil ways, but not evil men.

The mind, when wedded to the indriyas, becomes rajasic. When wedded to buddhi, it becomes sattwic. The mind of an average man is normally rajasic at the present day. He should make efforts to change it to sattwic. We have already said that the mind should give up personal likes and dislikes, raga and dwesha. Raga and dwesha form the impurities of the mind, and when they are given up the mind becomes purified.

There is another dosha, or fault, of the mind. It gets distracted. It applies itself to a number of outside objects. It runs away from this matter to that matter, and it can with very great difficulty be tied down to one. The mind is compared to a chariot, which is constantly being drawn away in ten different directions by ten horses, which are the ten indriyas. This vikshepa, or distraction of the mind, has to be checked. The mind has to be concentrated, to be made one-pointed. When the impurities and distraction of the mind are removed, it becomes sattwic. Then it reflects the Self within, and causes harmony and bliss. This is harmony with the universe, or harmony with the divine law as manifested in the universe.

The first step towards removing distraction is to deal with abstractions more than with concrete objects; we must generalize truths, and come at last to the highest Truth, the one reality, Ishwara, and grasp Him firmly. Then all the universe appears as His manifestation, all works as His action, all laws as His law. Varieties disappear. Diversities fade away. Harmony prevails.

Training the mind

The training of the mind is man’s most important duty, and next to this follows the control of speech and actions. At the same time he must not neglect his physical body. All the vehicles forming his body must be controlled and made harmonious with each other. The tenfold law, as laid down by Manu, gives some of the characteristics needed: “Endurance, patience, self-control, integrity, purity, restraint of the senses, wisdom, learning, truth, absence of anger, are the ten signs of virtue” (Manu Smriti 6.92). In briefer form: “Harmlessness, truth, integrity, purity, control of the senses, says Manu, is the summarized law for the four castes” (Manu Smriti 10.63).

In the Bhagavad Gita an exhaustive list of these general characteristics is given: “Fearlessness, purity of being, steadfastness in knowledge and yoga (jnana yoga), almsgiving, self-control, sacrifice, self-study (swadhyaya), tapasya, and straightforwardness, non-violence, truthfulness, absence of anger, renunciation, tranquility, without calumny (slander), compassion for beings, uncovetousness, gentleness, modesty, absence of fickleness, vigor, patience (forbearance), fortitude (courage), purity, absence of hatred (malice), absence of pride–they are the endowment of those born to a divine state” (Bhagavad Gita 16:1-3). Some of these virtues would fall into one or other of the three classes already spoken of, but for the most part they belong to the jivatman as his general expression of the love emotion, and as the balance of his own nature, the due control of his energies.

The essential importance of Truth has already been dwelt upon. As a general virtue it appears as truthfulness, honesty, integrity and uprightness. Its utter indispensability is concentrated by the wisdom and experience of ages into short sayings, such as: “Honesty is the best policy,” “Truth alone prevails, not falsehood.”

Self-control is mastery

The virtue of Self-control or Self-restraint mentioned in each of the above quotations, is the general reining-in of all the energies of the mind, desire-nature, and physical body, the holding of them all in due submission, so that each is allowed or refused exercise at the will of the man. It implies that the man is conscious of the difference between himself and his lower upadhis, and no more identifies himself with his lower nature than a rider identifies himself with the horse on which he is sitting. The contrast between an uncontrolled man and a self-controlled man is very much like the contrast between a bad rider on an unbroken horse, and a good rider on a well-broken horse. In the first case, the horse rushes about, carrying his helpless rider, plunges violently, and gives his rider a bad fall; in the other case, the man sits easily, guiding the docile steed in any direction, galloping or standing still, leaping or walking, every motion of the rider obeyed by the horse.

So necessary is self-control, that the teachers of morality are continually recurring to it and enforcing it. Manu dwells on its necessity and explains that action has three roots, and that control of each generator of action must be gained. “Action is born of mind, speech and body” (Manu Smriti 12.3). Each of these, mind, speech, and body, must be brought under complete control, and then success is sure. “He is called the holder of the tridanda (three staffs) in whose reason these are fixed–control of speech, control of mind, control of body. The man who lays this triple rule (over himself) amidst all creatures, he verily dominates desire and wrath, and goes to perfection” (Manu Smriti 12.10-11).

Control of the mind and senses

Of these three, control of the mind is the most important, as speech and action alike depend on the mind. Manu says again: “Let the mind be known as the instigator” (Manu Smriti 12.4). Once let the mind be brought under control, and all else follows, but here lies the great difficulty, owing to the extreme restlessness of the mind. Arjuna placed this difficulty before Sri Krishna five thousand years ago: “The mind is truly unstable, troubling, strong and unyielding. I believe it is hard to control–as hard to control as the wind” (Bhagavad Gita 6:34). And no answer can be given to this, save the answer given by the divine teacher: “Without doubt the mind is hard to control and restless; but through practice (abhyasa) and dispassion (vairagya) it is governed” (Bhagavad Gita 6:35).

Only long-continued effort and perseverance can bring under control this restless vigorous mind, and yet without this control man can never be happy. “Whenever the unsteady mind, moving here and there, wanders off, he should subdue and hold it back and direct it to the Self’s control” (Bhagavad Gita 6:26). If this be done, then happiness is secured, so much so that Sri Krishna makes happiness part of the successful austerity of the mind: “Tranquility of mind, kindliness, silence, self-control and purity of the mental state: these are called tapasya of the mind” (Bhagavad Gita 17:16).

But the most disturbing part of man’s nature is his desires, ever-craving, never satisfied. In fact the more they are gratified, the fiercer they grow. “Desire is verily never quenched by the enjoyment of objects of desire; it only increases further as fire with ghee” (Manu Smriti 2.94).

To bring the senses under control the mind must be used, else will a man ever be restless and uneasy. He must learn to use his mind to control his senses, for through the senses come his chief temptations. And every sense must be brought under control; for one uncontrolled sense may play havoc with the mind: “When the mind is led about by the wandering senses, it carries away the understanding like the wind carries away a ship on the waters” (Bhagavad Gita 2:67).

Manu also lays stress on the danger of allowing even one sense to slip away from control, using a very graphic symbol: “If one sense of all the senses leaks, then under- standing leaks through it, as water from the leg of the water-skin” (Manu Smriti 2.99). One open passage is enough to allow all the water to pour out from the water-skin of the water-carrier; and so one uncontrolled sense is opening enough for man’s understanding to flow away from him.

The mind, then, is to be brought under control, and is to be used to control the senses. In the Katha Upanishad the mind is therefore compared to the reins with which a driver pulls in, guides and controls his horses, the horses being compared to the senses, which run away with the body, and the jivatman who dwells in the body. “Know the Self as the occupant of the chariot, the body verily as the chariot. Know indeed the reason as the charioteer, the mind as the reins. The senses are said to be the horses, the objects of the senses the field for them. The Self, joined to the senses and the mind, is the enjoyer–so say the wise. He who is unwise, with the mind ever unapplied, of him the senses are uncontrolled, like the bad horses of the charioteer. He who is wise, with the mind ever applied, of him the senses are controlled, like the good horses of the charioteer. The man whose charioteer is wise, whose mind-reins are used, he only travels to the end of the road, to the highest abode of Vishnu” (Katha Upanishad 3.3-6, 9).

Manu uses the same imagery: “The wise man should make effort to control the senses running amid the alluring objects of sense, as the driver the horses” (Manu Smriti 2.88). Recounting the five organs of sense and the five organs of action, Manu declares that the control of the mind includes the control of these: “Mind is to be known as the eleventh, belonging by its nature to both; in conquering this, the two sets of five become conquered” (Manu Smriti 2.92).

Control of speech

The control of speech consists in making it respectful to superiors, courteous to equals, gentle to inferiors, and we shall return to this in studying the special virtues. For the moment we may leave it with the general description of right speech: “Speech which causes no distress (agitation), truthful, pleasant (agreeable), beneficial, based on self-study (revealing the Self; instruction in the knowledge of the Self): these are called tapasya of speech” (Bhagavad Gita 17:15). And Manu remarks: “All things are governed by speech: speech is the root, from speech they originate; that man verily who is dishonest in speech, he is dishonest in all” (Manu Smriti 4.256). Thus important is speech said to be. 

Control of the body

The control of the body is similarly summed up by Sri Krishna: “Worship [reverence] of the gods, the twice-born (dwijas), teachers and the wise; purity, straightforwardness, brahmacharya and non-injury: these are called tapasya of the body” (Bhagavad Gita 17:14). Control such as this produces a balancing of the mind, calmness, quiet and contentment.

The secret of self-control

The secret of self-control has been said above to be abhyasa and vairagya, “constant practice and dispassion.” The second word is especially significant, and the whole statement should be studied in the light of the slokas quoted from the Katha Upanishad. Buddhi, the pure reason, is there said to be the charioteer, in whose one hand are grasped the many-branching reins of the manas. Buddhi is, as has been said, the faculty which recognizes and realizes the unity of the Self, as the manas is that which cognizes the manyness of sense-objects. The owner of the chariot, the jivatman, should make sure that buddhi drives his chariot, and then the reins and the horses will be well managed.

Now the student who wishes that buddhi should thus drive his chariot, should constantly dwell on the fact of the unity of the Self. “With the buddhi firmly controlled, with the mind fixed on the Self, he should gain quietude by degrees. Let him not think of any [extraneous] thing whatever. Whenever the unsteady mind, moving here and there, wanders off, he should subdue and hold it back and direct it to the Self’s control” (Bhagavad Gita 6:25-26).

This is the abhyasa that he needs. This abhyasa will naturally strengthen vairagya, the absence of desire for personal and selfish ends. Whenever he sees a desire for such personal and selfish ends rising up within himself, he should at once call up before his mental view the injury that he is likely to inflict on others by its indulgence, the evil consequences to himself in increasing selfishness, and the whole series of disturbances which will flow from his selfishness to the common life of the society to which he belongs. By picturing to himself the consequences of selfishness in his own life and in those of others, and by studying the illustrations of them given in the Puranas, he will gradually strengthen his power of self-control, and will establish himself in that constant mood of righteousness and performance of duty so unceasingly inculcated in the sacred books.

Righteousness required

For that such righteousness only should be followed is reiterated again and again: “The man who is unrighteous, or he who (gains) wealth by falsehood, or he who ever delights in injuring, never obtains happiness in this world. Although suffering by righteousness, let him not turn his mind to unrighteousness; he will behold the speedy overthrow of the unrighteous, of the sinners. Unrighteousness, practiced in this world, does not bear fruit at once like a cow; slowly reacting, it cuts off the very roots of the doer” (Manu Smriti 4.170-172).

In a sense, righteousness is truth; its special significance may be said to be the desire to do what is right, the desire to give every one his due, the desire always to find out the truth and act according to it rather than according to anything else. 

To do righteousness is to gain a companion that never fails a man, and when all else deserts him this faithful companion will remain, will cling to him through death, and clothe him with glory in the world beyond the grave. Manu writes hereon as follows: “Giving no pain to any creatures, let him slowly build up righteousness like white ants their hill, that it be to him a companion in the world beyond. Nor father, nor mother, nor son, nor wife, nor kinsfolk remain to accompany him to the next world; righteousness alone remains. Alone each being is born; alone verily he dies; alone he enjoys good deeds; alone also the evil. Leaving the dead body on the ground like a log or a clod of earth, the relatives depart, with averted faces; righteousness alone follows him. Therefore, to gain an unfailing friend let him ever gather righteousness; with righteousness as companion he will cross over the darkness, difficult to cross. It rapidly leads the man who is devoted to righteousness and has destroyed his sins by austerity, to the world beyond, radiant and clad in a celestial body” (Manu Smriti 4.238-243).

This insistence on righteousness as the only way to happiness in this world or in any other is characteristic of the Sanatana Dharma, whose very heart is duty, as justice is its keynote and unalterable law its life-breath. A man obtains every thing that he has duly earned, neither more nor less; every debt must be paid; every cause must be followed by its effect.


The virtue of contentment (santosha) springs from a full recognition of this fact, and it is itself the root of happiness, a virtue which every student should endeavor to work into his character: “Let one who desires happiness be controlled and take refuge in perfect contentment; contentment is verily the root of happiness, the opposite is the root of sorrow” (Manu Smriti 4.12).

The contented man is happy under the most unfavorable circumstances, the root of his happiness being in himself; whereas the discontented man finds food for his discontent, however favorable his circumstances may be. There are always some who are superior in position to, more wealthy, more fortunate than ourselves, and hence reasons for discontent may ever be found by the unwise. To be satisfied with what we have because we have our due is true wisdom, and all dissatisfaction is folly.

Personal virtues and society

We have spoken of virtues as bringing about harmonious relations between jivatmans, but it must not be thought that this excludes the above virtues which at the first glance seem chiefly to concern their possessor, and to aid his own general evolution. For when carefully considered, it will be found that these so-called personal virtues react upon the happiness of others, though in a way not immediately apparent. Life, evolution, virtue and vice, duty–all these things would be impossible with only a single jivatman in existence.

The idea of a community is inseparable from the ideas of these. A so-called duty to self, or a personal virtue, is also ultimately a duty to another, a giving of some help or a saving of some inconvenience to others. For instance if we are unclean, we inevitably make our neighbors uncomfortable when we come into contact with them. When a man says to another: “You owe it to yourself to do so and so,” he really and instinctively means: “You owe this to the evolution of humanity generally as connected, by the unity of the Self, with the evolution of your individual self.” For the evolution of one jiva is inseparable from that of other jivas, and helping or hindering our own progress is also directly or indirectly helping or hindering the progress of others. An unclean or slovenly man injures himself primarily and his fellows secondarily, by lowering the general ideal and influencing their lives indirectly if not actively.

Ahimsa: Harmlessness

The duties to devas, pitris, rishis, men and animals were mentioned in Parts One and Two, and we need only add, before turning to our duties to human beings, that our general attitude should be that of Ahimsa, or Harmlessness.

“Harmlessness is the highest duty,” taught Bhishma (Mahabharata, Anushasana Parvan, Chapter 114). Manu also says: “For the twice-born man from whom no fear arises to any living creatures, for him, freed from the body, there will be no fear from any” (Manu Smriti 6:40).

Ishwara is just, and the harmless man is harmed by none. The yogi can wander without danger among wild animals, because his heart is full of love and he is a source of danger to none. Once again says Bhishma: “The slayer is slain,” but the man who slays none will himself be slain of none. For the harmless man, full of love to all creatures, sees the Self in each and regards each as part of his own body, and such a man is the “friend of all creatures,” and is safe wherever he goes.

We have seen that only by sacrifice can we establish harmonious relations amongst all beings, and the establishment of harmonious relations, as we have seen, is the very essence of our evolution. Man cannot be selfish. The world is not for one man alone. He may think in his own way and act in his own way. But if he does not conform himself to the Lord, the word of Ishwara, woe falls on him and misery becomes his lot. Through the repeated teachings of misery his obstinate selfishness is removed, and he becomes harmonized with the whole universe.

Let the student bear this principle in mind firmly and steadfastly, and he will easily understand what is said in the next chapter.

Editor’s Note: Because it is universally understood in India that strict vegetarianism is an essential part of Harmlessness, the authors did not mention it to their Indian readers. But for those outside India–and those in India who have chosen to separate themselves from their ancestral dharma–it must be pointed out that Harmlessness is the basis of all morality and dharma. And its observance absolutely requires adoption of a perpetual and strict vegetarian diet.


Virtues and Vices in Human Relations

We may study the virtues and vices as the outgrowths from love and hate. Love prompts us to make sacrifices, to limit, to restrict ourselves, to subordinate ourselves to the common well-being. This love emanates from the Self within, is an aspect of Bliss, and makes our duty a work of love, our sacrifice a pleasure.

Emotions in their early rushings-forth transgress the law, for the law is not known. But when the law is known and realized, when chit and ananda combine, when the emotion proceeds from a discriminating Self-center, when still later the Self-center becomes a universal center, every emotion becomes a virtue, every emotion becomes a voice of the divine.

As love underlies every virtue, so hate underlies every vice. For union is law, separation is against the law; harmony is evolution, disharmony is the opposite of evolution. If love prompts our mutual relations, we naturally and readily make sacrifices to render those relations harmonious and blissful. Now in considering virtues and vices in human relations, we may classify them as those in relation to superiors, in relation to equals, and in relation to inferiors.

Those in relation to superiors

The natural superiors of a man are: God; the sovereign; parents; teachers; the aged. (There is no order of superiority intended here. The shastras give different orders.) 

There may be what may be called “accidental superiors”–persons who are on a level with a man’s parents and teachers, and persons above him in intelligence and morality, towards whom he would exercise modified forms of the virtues now to be considered. But such adaptations are readily made, and need not change our classification.

Virtues arising from love

The love emotion directed to God will show itself as the virtue of reverence, carried to its highest degree. This will primarily express itself in worship, and secondarily in treating with respect all ideas about God, all things connected with His worship, sacred places and sacred objects. Reverence being due to a sense of His infinite superiority, attracting love by virtue of His supreme wisdom and compassion, it will naturally be accompanied by humility, the willing recognition of comparative littleness, unassociated with pain and coupled with the readiness to submit to guidance; by faith in and therefore submission, to His wisdom; and by devotion and gratitude responding to His compassion leading to complete self-sacrifice in His service. The steady cultivation of these virtues, the fruits of love directed to God, comprise our duty to Him: Reverence, Humility, Faith, Submission, Devotion, Gratitude and Self-Sacrifice.

There are many examples of great devotees in the Hindu books, men who showed these virtues to the fullest extent, and have set examples of love toward God which should be studied in order that they may be imitated. Bhishma’s noble hymn to Sri Krishna, uttered as he lay wounded on the battle-field, and which drew Sri Krishna to his side, should be carefully read and thought over.

Salutations to You, O divine Krishna!
You are the origin and the dissolution of all the worlds.
You are the Creator and the Destroyer.
You, O Hrishikesa, cannot be vanquished by anyone.
The universe is Your handiwork.
You are the soul of the universe and the universe has sprung from You.
Salutations to You! You are the end of all created things.
You are above the five elements.
Salutations to You who are the three worlds and also beyond the three worlds!
O Lord of Yogins, salutations to You who are the refuge of everything!
O Best of beings, what You say about me has enabled me to behold
Your divine attributes as manifest in the three worlds.
Govinda, I also see Your eternal form.
You stand barring the seven paths of the Immeasurable Energy.
The sky is Your head, and the earth Your feet.
The points of the compass are Your two arms.
The sun is Your eye, and Shakra [Indra] constitutes Your prowess.
Attired in yellow robes that resemble the hue of the atasi flower,
You appear to us like a cloud charged with flashes of lightning.
O best of Devas, think of what would be good for this insignificant self which is devoted to You,
Which seeks your protection, and which desires to find a blissful end.

(Mahabharata, Shanti Parvan, Chapter 47)

Prahlada, triumphant by devotion over all attacks, prayed: “In all the thousand births through which I may be doomed to pass, may my faith in Thee, Achyuta [Krishna], never know decay. May passion, as fixed as that which the worldly-minded feel for sensual pleasures, ever animate my heart, always devoted unto Thee” (Vishnu Purana 1.20).

Of such devotees Sri Krishna says: “Those great souls that abide in their divine nature, worship me single-mindedly, knowing me as the eternal Origin of beings. Always glorifying me and striving with firm vows, bowing to me with devotion, always steadfast, they worship me. And others, sacrificing by the sacrifice of knowledge, worship me as One and Manifold, variously manifested, facing in all directions [omnipresent and omniscient]” (Bhagavad Gita 9:15).

And again: “I am the origin of all; from me everything proceeds–thinking thus, the wise, endowed with meditation, worship me. With minds and lives intent on me, enlightening (awakening) one another, and speaking of me constantly, they are content and rejoice [in me]. To them, the constantly steadfast, worshipping me with affection, I bestow the buddhi yoga by which they come to me” (Bhagavad Gita 10:8-10).

The cultivation of devotion is by meditating on the object of devotion, by worshipping Him, by reading about Him, and by listening to, talking to and associating with those who are superior in devotion. In this way devotion increases. “Those who, renouncing all actions in me, intent on me as the highest [goal] worship me, meditating on me with single-minded Yoga–of those whose consciousness has entered into me, I am soon the deliverer from the ocean of mortal samsara” (Bhagavad Gita 12:6-7).

Submission to the divine will grows easily out of devotion, for we always readily desire to yield where we recognize and love the superior. Wisdom and compassion invite submission, for the wisdom will choose the best, and the compassion the least painful path for us. Where wisdom and compassion are perfect as in God, complete submission is the natural answer; and when all the events of life are seen as under His guidance, they can be accepted cheerfully and contentedly. The attitude of man in this respect to God should be that of a loving child to a wise and tender Father, carried to a far higher degree. “I am the Father and Mother of this world, Establisher, Grandfather, the object of knowledge (the to-be-known), the Purifier…, the Goal, the Sustainer, the Lord, the Witness, the Abode, the Refuge, the Friend” (Bhagavad Gita 9:17-18).

Towards such a One gratitude springs up, ever increasing with increasing knowledge; and self-surrender, self-sacrifice, is but the culmination of reverence. By daily offering of all our acts to God, the spirit of self-sacrifice is cultivated, and as it becomes perfect the lower self is conquered and the Supreme Self is seen. “Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer [in sacrifice], whatever you give, whatever tapasya you practice, do that as an offering to Me” (Bhagavad Gita 9:27).

Vices arising from hate

As these virtues are the branches of reverence springing from love, so do corresponding branches of vices grow out of fear, which springs from hate in the presence of a superior. A constant attempt is made to belittle the superior, to pull him down to our own level, so that we may no longer have reason to fear him. For when we are in face of a superior whom we regard as an enemy, we are naturally inclined to dread the exercise of his power, which we feel ourselves unable to resist, and we long to lessen this hostile power or to escape from its reach.

The hate emotion directed to God reveals itself in attempts to lessen the feeling of His greatness, to diminish the recognition of His powers. Irreverence is the commonest vice of this class, flippant careless speech and manner about sacred objects and sacred places, foolish jokes and idle laughter in speaking of the religious beliefs of others. This passes on into the vice of profanity in coarse natures, and both are destructive of the finer emotions and should be sedulously guarded against. This dulling of the finer emotions leads on to complete alienation from religion, for God can only be reached through these finer emotions and by the virtues we have seen to be the offspring of love; and as a man is driven further and further away by the repellent action of hate, he loses all sense of the divine Presence, and often lapses into entire ethical unbelief, which leads to evil living. “‘The world,’ they say, ‘is without truth, without a basis, without God’” (Bhagavad Gita 16:8).

Reverence for the sovereign

Reverence for the sovereign, the head of the State, comes naturally after reverence to God, the representative of whose power, justice, and protection he is on earth, if he be a true king, intent on the welfare of his subjects, always subordinating and sacrificing his own personal comforts and interests to those of his people, as did the ancient divine kings, who give us the ideal of kingship. The virtues spoken of above should be repeated in a lesser degree, in a subject’s relation to his king. The virtues of loyalty, fidelity and obedience are those which make a good subject, and the necessity of these for the prosperity of a nation is strongly insisted on.

Manu says that the king was made by God to protect the world, and was made of particles taken from the Devarajas: Indra, Vayu, Yama, Surya, Agni, Varuna, Soma and Kubera. As Indra, he is to shower benefits on his kingdom; as Vayu, to know all that goes on; as Yama, to control his subjects; as Surya to take taxes; as Agni, to be full of brilliant energy; as Varuna, to punish the wicked; as Soma, to give joy to his subjects; as Kubera, to support his people (Manu Smriti 7.3-4 and 9.303-311).

Bishhma’s discourse on the duties of king and subjects is most instructive; the king is to stand as a god to his people, he being their protector and the guardian of all (Mahabharata, Shanti Parvan, chapters 56-91). The Itihasas are full of statements as to the blessings enjoyed by a loyal people ruled over by a good King.

[Editor’s Note. The reader may think that the references to monarchy and monarchs in this book are outdated and futile, without any merit. But, as I have seen and known genuine and admirable vanaprasthas, so I have seen in modern India rajas, maharajas, ranis and maharanis, that were worthy of their titles, and whose influence was dharmic and beneficial. Firstly, their personal characters were admirable and of a nobility that proved their relevance and benefit even though the evil forces of the socialist Congress Party did all they could to destroy them before and after India gained its independence. The rajas and maharajas had been assured that they would comprise the equivalent of the British House of Lords in the Indian Parliament, therefore they endorsed the struggle for independence only to find that they were not only left without any power, they were actively persecuted and reduced to paupery in many cases. For example, they were not permitted to own more than two hundred and fifty acres of land, and therefore thousands of acres were confiscated by the corrupt government of Jawaharlal Nehru and his henchmen. Nevertheless, dharma is an ingrained virtue, and I encountered it in the various kings, queens and princes I met during my pilgrimages to India.

One of my royal friends lived solely for the welfare of those in his kingdom. When I would walk with him in the main city of his realm, the people would come flocking around him like children to their beloved father. Many came to tell him of their problems and he listened to all and did what was needful. When I went into a local post-office-cum-bank, the workers there told me of all the things he had done for the economic upliftment and eventual prosperity of his kingdom, including the establishment of that post office and bank.

Interestingly, he had not always been a father to the people, but selfish and spoiled. When he visited Mahatma Ghandi, Ghandiji asked him about his involvement in the welfare of his people. The raja replied that he had no interest in “his people” or their welfare. Ghandiji told him that he really did care, but did not realize it–implying that as a raja such caring was in his very blood. When the raja contradicted him, Ghandiji told him to make an experiment. He should have a sumptuous meal prepared for himself, go to a village, have his servants set up a table and put out all the food. Then he should sit there and eat it all in front of the people, giving them none. He said it would be easy. So upon his return he did just that. Or tried to. But when he saw the people standing around, half-starved, as he sat at the laden table, his heart broke and he began to cry. He had the food distributed all around, went back home and dedicated his life to the welfare of everyone in his kingdom. And being a true kshatriya monarch, he succeeded. So when I met him he was happy and beloved by all, living in Ghandhian simplicity and charity–a true king, however much the adharmic government might deny it and call him an “ordinary citizen.” No raja or rani I met was ever ordinary.]

As loyalty is insisted on, so are the corresponding vices of disloyalty, treason and rebellion condemned, and the miseries are described of kingdoms that are a prey to anarchy.


Closely attached to the virtue of loyalty is that of patriotism, in which the country is thought of as a collective whole, a living individual, to whom service is due. The king, in fact, is the embodied majesty of the nation, and loyalty to him grew out of patriotism of the purest kind. Patriotism is a virtue that has its roots in several emotions; it grows out of veneration for the past of the country, admiration of its saints, heroes and warriors, its great men of every kind, of its strength, power and splendor; it identifies itself with the country by sympathy, feeling its joys and sorrows, its successes and reverses, its prosperity and adversity, as its own; it loves its natural beauties, and rejoices in its artistic and mechanical triumphs. The motherland, the country as a whole, is looked up to as an ideal, as an object of reverence, to be served and worked for above and beyond all else.

Though, as a whole, the country is greater than the patriot, the patriot has the power of helping his country by his service; he gladly sacrifices ease, comfort, wealth, life itself, on the altar of his country. As a tender father seeks the good of his family so the patriot seeks the good of his land, and puts its interests before his own. The virtue of public spirit is but another name for patriotism, and the public-spirited man is the man who will exert himself for a public object even more earnestly and diligently than for a private one.

The very expression “public spirit” instinctively embodies the truth that has been referred to so often as the very basis of morality–the unity of all. Public spirit is the common spirit, the spirit of all the public, the spirit which is one in all the public; and the public-spirited man is he who–consciously or unconsciously–realizes the oneness of the Self in all the members of that public to which he belongs; who feels that the good and the evil of each are the good and the evil of all the members of that public, and who acts accordingly, endeavoring to ameliorate the conditions of life for all.

As in the case of virtues and vices towards God, so in the case of virtues and vices to the state and its ruler, it must be borne in mind that no man can free himself from the duty of incessantly endeavoring to base his mental attitude and his outer actions on the best reason he can reach up to, nor can he free himself from responsibility for acquiesense in flagrant injustice, or for allowing himself to be carried away by any mere public opinion which he knows to be wrong, or has not taken the trouble to test, although feeling that its accuracy is doubtful. There is a false loyalty–the lip-loyalty of the flatterer–which is far more dangerous and sinful than the apparent opposition of the honest counsellor, who gives unpleasant but wholesome advice, and there is a false patriotism that merely yields to the prejudices of the ignorant. “Easy to find, O King! are the men that always speak the words that please. Difficult to find are the men, both those that hear and those that speak, the words that are not pleasant but wholesome” (Ramayana 6.16.21).

These virtues of patriotism and public spirit, directing the mind to ends beyond those of the personal separated self, are enlarging and ennobling to the character, and train the man to see a larger Self, and so to make some progress towards the recognition of the One. The public-spirited patriotic man is nearer to God than the man whose interests are restricted within a narrower area, and gradually he will widen out from love of country to love of humanity. Happy is the land whose sons are patriotic; she is sure to rise high amid the nations of the earth.

Duties to parents and teachers

We have now to consider the duties owed to parents and teachers, who also stand as superiors. These will include those that are shown to God and the king, and we may add to them the virtues of gentleness, trustfulness and teachableness. Perhaps no virtues are more strongly insisted on than those that a child owes to his parents and teachers, and down to the present time none are more characteristic of the true aryan.

“The suffering which the mother and father endure in the birth of children cannot be compensated, even in a hundred years. Let him do always what is pleasant to these two, and also to the acharya; in the satisfaction of these three all (the fruit of) austerity is obtained. The service of these three is called the highest austerity; without the permission of these let him not perform other duties. For verily these are the three worlds and the three ashramas; these also are said to be the three Vedas and the three fires. The householder who neglects not these three will conquer the three worlds, and in a shining body he will rejoice, as a deva, in heaven. All duties are honored by him who honors these three; for him who does not honor these all rites are fruitless. As long as these three live, so long let him not do ought else; let him ever do service to them, intent on what is pleasant and beneficial. In (honoring) these three all is achieved that should be done by man; this is plainly the highest duty; all other is called a lesser duty” (Manu Smriti 2.227-230, 232, 234-235, 237).

Teachableness and obedience to the teacher are insisted on, and many rules were given intended to impress on the student the duty he owned to his preceptor. He was to be ever serviceful and careful not to offend, regarding the guru as his father in the highest sense. “Of the progenitor and the giver of the knowledge of Brahman, the giver of the knowledge of Brahman is the more venerable father; for the birth of the Brahman in the Brahmana is verily eternal, both here and after death” (Manu Smriti 2.146). Only to the dutiful pupil was knowledge given: “As a man by digging with a spade obtains water, so he who does service obtains the wisdom enshrined in his guru” (Manu Smriti 2.218).

The vices which grow out of hate in relation to parents and teachers include, as do the virtues, those named under the relation to God and the king, and we may add to them those of suspiciousness, cowardice, falsehood and insolence. Where there is fear of one stronger than ourselves, suspicion inevitably arises, the expectation that he will use his power for our injury and not for our benefit. There is perhaps no greater poisoner of human relations than constant suspiciousness–the suspicious nature–for it casts a false appearance over everything, distorts and exaggerates actions, and attributes evil motives to the most harmless acts. A suspicious nature sees hidden malevolence everywhere, and is always miserable because always afraid. Cowardice engenders falsehood, the putting on of a false appearance for the sake of protection against a dreaded exercise of hostile power. When we come to study the reaction of the emotions of one person on those of another, we shall see that oppression on the part of the strong leads to the growth of these vices in the weak, and that these are the vices characteristic of the slave and the downtrodden.

Arrogance and superciliousness are attempts of the inferior to diminish the distance between himself and the superior, and are the reverse of the virtues of humility and teachableness. They render impossible any happy and mutually beneficial relation between parents and children, between teachers and pupils. The sweet natural ties which grow out of the love emotion are violently disrupted by these evil growths of the hate emotion, and they destroy the peace and happiness of families, as, when carried to a higher degree, they destroy the prosperity of states and the influence of religion.

The general attitude of the inferior to the superior is summed up by Manu as being that which is shown to the teacher: “Such also constantly is his conduct among teachers of learning, relatives, among those who hold him back from unrighteousness and give him counsel. Among his superiors let him ever follow the same behavior as with his teacher” (Manu Smriti 2.206-207).

In cultivating the virtues and weeding out the vices above mentioned, the young man should not forget one important consideration. His parents are given to him by his prarabdha karma, while this is not completely the case with his teacher, the element of present choice also entering into the latter relation for the most part. While therefore the duty of reverence and trust and submission without reserve, short of what involves the commission of a positive sin, is desirable towards parents, even if they are not as loving and considerate as parents ought to be, that duty is influenced by certain other considerations in the case of the teacher. The teacher is chosen either by the parents for the student in the days of youth, or by himself when he reaches years of discretion. In the first case, the authority of the teacher is the authority of the parents, delegated to him by them. If any doubt arises in the mind of the student as to whether that authority has been duly exercised, the student should at once consult his parents and abide by their decision. In the second case, should such a doubt arise, he must exercise his own judgment, as he did when first he chose the teacher, and if teacher and student duly understand their respective duties then the wisest and most useful course is for the student to say clearly and respectfully to his teacher: “Sir, there is such and such a doubt in my mind; kindly remove it;” and for the teacher to remove the doubt either by convincing the student of the rightness of the course adopted, or by altering that course, if indefensible.

The above is important to bear in mind, as the abuse of authority and the misplacing of trust are unfortunately but too common in the world. In India especially, where the spirit of devotion to teachers is strong, having come down from the time when the teacher was a true teacher, there is exceptional danger of the misplacing of faith, and consequently there is exceptional need for preserving a balance of mind and for rejecting false claims.

Respect for the aged

To the aged respect is the virtue which should ever be shown by the young, and they should ever be regarded and treated as superiors. “He should not take the bed or the seat belonging to a superior; and he who is occupying a bed or seat should rise and salute him. A young man’s pranas rise upwards when an old man approaches; rising, and saluting, he again recovers them. He who ever salutes and shows reverence to the aged, obtains an increase of four things: life, intelligence, fame and strength” (Manu Smriti 2.119-121).

That obeisance to the aged is even physically beneficial to the young man is hinted in these slokas. By one of the laws of nature there is always a tendency towards equilibrium; as heat radiates from the warmer to the cooler, so strength and vitality go out from the stronger to the weaker. It has been proved by ordinary medical science that invalids draw vitality from the vigorous, the feeble draw life from the healthier and stronger, and a large portion of the cures effected by magnetism are due to this fact. In accordance with this law, the pranas of the young move out towards the old and the feeble; but when the young man rises and makes obeisance, he at once creates in the mind of the elder the mood of benevolence and of giving instead of taking, and this mood sends back those pranas to the younger man.

“Let him salute the aged, let him give them his own seat, let him sit by them with folded hands, let him walk behind when they leave” (Manu Smriti 4.154). This reverence shown to the aged is one of the most gracious virtues of youth and manhood, and one who shows it wins love and approval from all. It is naturally accompanied with modesty, a virtue which is a lesser degree of humility.

Final reflections

Good manners to a superior involve respect, modesty, truthfulness, readiness to render service, an absence of fear, suspicion and conceit. A youth who shows those virtues will always meet with favor, and will enjoy many opportunities of improvement in the company of his elders and superiors. Such a youth is always welcome, and his elders will take pleasure in helping and guiding him, and giving him the benefit of their experience.

The vices which show themselves in relation to the aged include those noted in connection with the other classes of superiors, and disrespect and conceit may be added. The latter vice is peculiarly likely to arise, because the strength and vigor of the youthful body give it a physical superiority over the body of the aged, more obvious than the inferiority in experience and ripeness of judgment. Impatience is another vice that shows itself in this connection, the swift activity of youth being apt to chafe against the slowness of the aged.

No virtues need cultivation more in modern life than those dealt with in this chapter, for in the rush and hurry of the present day, and the self-assertiveness that flourishes in a competitive civilization, these are the virtues most likely to disappear.

Religious virtues have decayed with the growth of misunderstood scientific facts, and reverence and faith towards God have been depreciated as weakness and credulity. But religious virtues are the foundation-stones of a strong character, and are found in history in heroes and not in base and degenerate men.

Still more, perhaps, is visible the decay of a high-minded loyalty to the monarch, and a patriotic fidelity to the State. This, as the student will learn from the careful study of history, is due to internal organic reasons, mainly the failure in duty to each other, first of rulers and then of the ruled, after the divine dynasties of kings were withdrawn, in order that humanity might be left to learn by painful experience how to stand on its own feet, with many falls and struggles, like an infant.

The spread of general though superficial knowledge, the growth, through bitter conflicts, of democratic institutions and the passing of authority into the hands of a majority–in the absence of the wise and experienced, or because of their inability to take up their duties–have hidden the true rights and duties of the sovereign from careless eyes and minds. The one-sided exaggeration of the instruments of administration–cabinets, councils, parliaments, republican senates and congresses–has veiled the governor, the king himself.

In the course of these experiments of humanity, there have arisen, in consequence of the mistakes due to inexperience and selfishness, increasing poverty and distress, the strife of labor and capital, the growing disorganization of society. The remedy for these lies in restoring right feeling between king and ministers and governing bodies and people, in restoring right feeling between all the limbs and organs of the State, and in each and all performing their respective duties of protecting and ruling, advising, administering, and helping with loyalty, fidelity and obedience; in restoring, in fact, the ancient system on a higher level, with fuller knowledge, according to the law of cyclic growth. Perhaps it may be for aryan youths, trained up in the ancient virtues, to restore to modern life the ideal of the true citizen, and to set again the example of the true gentleman, pious to his God and loyal to his king and country.

That this may be so, it will be well to begin with the cultivation of these virtues in the family, where the father and the mother represent the superiors. The decay of reverence, obedience, respect and serviceableness to them is only too patent in modern Indian life. Here every youth can at once begin to copy the old ideals, and to restore in his own home the ideal of the perfect son. Eager attention to their wants, prompt and cheerful obedience to their wishes, frank confidence in their good will, trustful reliance on their deliberate judgment–these virtues will lay the foundation of the strong, dutiful, orderly character that will make a good citizen and a patriot.

In his relations to his teachers also, the student should strive to practice the appropriate virtues; and different as are the modern conditions between teacher and pupil from the ancient ones, yet the appropriate virtues might be cultivated, and the relation would then gradually again take on the affectionate intimacy of the older time.

To the aged also, the Indian youth should show unvarying respect, consideration and readiness to serve, utilizing his physical advantages to supply their weaknesses, looking on aged men as his fathers, on aged women as his mothers, and showing ever to them the loving duty of a son.

Let, then, the young man study these virtues, and build them into his own character by repeated effort, earnest, deliberate and well-reasoned thought, and with reliance on the Divine Self. Then shall his own life be useful and honorable, and his motherland the better for his work.


Virtues and Vices in Relation to Equals

We have now to consider how love and hate work out in the relations that arise between equals in the family and in society, binding them together or driving them apart accordingly as love or hate prevails. The relations between husband and wife, brothers and sisters, and between relatives of the same generation, those between friends, acquaintances and members of a society of similar age and standing, give rise to emotions which are rendered permanent as virtues and vices, constantly active in the family and in the community.

The family

The virtues belonging to the family among those of the same generation are those which gradually lead the jivatman to recognize his unity with others, and so prepare him for the recognition of the One Self in all. He finds himself surrounded by a small band of jivatmans whose conditions, interests, hopes and fears are much the same as his own, with whom he enjoys and suffers, rises and falls, is prosperous and unsuccessful, from whom his own interests cannot be disjoined. As he practices the family virtues and sees the happiness ensured by the practice, or as he falls into the family vices and sees the sorrow and discomfort arising from them, he gradually learns that to bring about general happiness he must treat all men as his brothers, as members of one family, and that the miseries that afflict humanity all have their root in the neglect of the practice of brotherliness.

Affection, or love between equals, is the form of the love emotion here to be cultivated. It will show itself in kindness of thought, speech and action. Kindness of thought is at the root of kindness of speech and of action, and one who guards himself against all harshness of thought will not err in speech or in act. We have already seen what great stress Manu lays on control of speech and sweetness. Gentleness of speech should be cultivated in all family relations as well as in those of the outer world: “He whose speech and mind are pure and ever carefully guarded, he obtains all the fruit that is obtained by means of the Vedanta. Let him not, even though distressed, cut another to the quick (by his speech), nor meditate acts of hostility to others; let him never utter the malignant word that disturbs (the mind of the hearer)” (Manu Smriti 2.160-161).

This injunction, addressed primarily to superiors in their intercourse with inferiors, covers all human intercourse, and is perhaps nowhere more needed than in family relations, where close knowledge of the weakness of each is apt to barb the tongue to cutting speech. Again the right family relations are well sketched in the following: “Let him not be aimlessly restless with his hands and feet, nor with his eyes, nor crooked (in his conduct), nor aimlessly restless with his tongue, nor meditate acts of hostility to others. With the priests, acharya, maternal uncle, guest, dependent, children, the aged sick, physician, kinsfolk, connections by marriage, relatives; mother, father, female relative, brother, son, wife, daughter, servant-folk, let him not enter into altercation” (Manu Smriti 6.177, 179-180).

And, after recounting the different worlds with which the persons above-named are connected, as representing in the organization of human society the position of the worlds in the organization of the Brahmanda, so that if a man be at peace with them he is at peace with these worlds, Manu concludes: “The elder brother is the same as the father, the wife and the son are one’s own body. The servant-folk are one’s shadow, the daughter is most deserving of compassion; therefore, though slighted by these, let a man bear it ever undisturbed” (Manu Smriti 4.184-185).

Husband and wife; fathers and sons; brothers

The right relation between husband and wife, between father and sons, and between brothers, is beautifully shown in the Ramayana. Dasharatha shows us the ideal father; his four divine sons Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna show the ideal brothers; and Sri Rama and Sita portray the ideal husband and wife. These are the models a youth should set before himself, and he should shape his conduct on these.

Of the good wife, Manu says: “There is no difference whatsoever between Sri (Lakshmi, the Goddess of Prosperity) and the wife in the house, who is the mother of the children, who brings good fortune, who is worthy of worship, the light of the home. Of the bearing of children, the protection of those born, the continuance of the world-process, woman is evidently the only source. Children, religious ceremonies, service, marital happiness, heaven for one’s ancestors and oneself, depend on the wife. She who, ruling her mind, speech and body, wrongs not her husband, she obtains the (heavenly) world with her husband and is called by the virtuous a sadhvi [a female sadhu]” (Manu Smriti 9.26-29). “This is the extent of the man, his wife, himself and his children; Brahmanas thus declare that the husband and wife are known as the same” (Manu Smriti 9.45).

This view of a family as a unit, as really one life, is the view which alone gives a sure foundation for the family virtues, and the indissolubility of the marriage tie among aryans grows out of this idea. Father, mother and children are one, and each should love the other as himself; what pleases one should please all: what saddens one should sadden all. All the virtues can be practiced in the family, which is a little world in itself; the parents represent the superiors, the children among each other the equals, the children to the parents the inferiors. A youth who cultivates the virtues in his home will be ready to show them in the wider field of the world, and will be equipped for the duties of a good citizen. He can practice there all that he will require in his manhood, and develop all the qualities which will make him a faithful friend, an honorable, courteous and upright gentleman, a brave and unselfish patriot.

Tender affection between brothers and sisters lies at the root of family prosperity, and we may see in the story of the Pandavas how this consoled them in adversity and raised them finally to the height of prosperity.

People in general

Courtesy and consideration for the feelings of others are enjoined as general principles of conduct, and noble bearing and manners have ever been held to be characteristic of the true aryan. Thus speech must be true, but also pleasing: “Let him speak the true, let him speak the pleasing, let him not speak an unpleasing truth, nor speak a pleasing falsehood; this is the ancient law” (Manu Smriti 4.138).

Of course, there are occasions when it is the plain and positive duty of the person concerned to tell the truth even though it be unpleasant, as when a person in authority rebukes or corrects a subordinate. But even in such cases he should speak gently, and such instances of special duty do not justify uncalled-for and rude language or sharpness, which only mar the due effect of the rebuke and prevent its entering into the heart of the reproved.

Good manners

Good manners are very apt to be undervalued in modern times, partly because of the hurry and rush of modern civilization, and partly from ignorance. But this undervaluing is a mistake. Good manners spring from a good heart and a gentle nature, and show kindness and refinement of character. They imply self-control and a sense of self-respect and dignity, and many difficult social situations, which cause quarrels among ill-mannered people, are passed through without any trouble or ruffle by the nobly mannered. Soft words, courteous gestures, pleasant smiles, dignified bearing, make social intercourse refreshing and a source of enjoyment, and the young Hindu should sedulously cultivate the noble manners of the elder generation, and thus sweeten the tone of modern society. Even gold becomes more beautiful by being refined and a noble and strong character is beautified by courtly bearing.


Hospitality is a virtue on which great stress is laid, and the guest must ever be honored as a deva. “Let him offer to the guest who has come a seat, water and food, hospitably according to his power, in accordance with the rule. Grass mat (for seat), room, water and, fourthly, a kind word–these are never wanting in the houses of the good. The guest sent in the evening by the (setting) sun must not be sent away by the householder; whether arrived at a convenient or inconvenient time, he must not remain in the house unentertained” (Manu Smriti 3.99, 101, 105).

That there was as much travel, with its beneficent results, in ancient India as there is now, when the means of locomotion were not so easy and rapid as they are today, was due solely to the general prevalence of this virtue, and the regarding of hospitality as an essential part of religion.

The continuous pilgrimages from shrine to shrine and from city to city–with all their educative effects in broadening men’s minds and experience, and in promoting affection and good will between different and distant communities, by bringing them into familiar intercourse with each other–were only made possible by the generous provision of houses of rest (dharmashalas), and of food and clothing on an immense scale, by the voluntary hospitality and charity of the well-to-do.

Other necessary virtues

Uprightness, fair dealings, trust, honor, straightforwardness, urbanity, fidelity, fortitude, endurance, co-operation–these are virtues which are necessary for a happy and prosperous social life. Where these are found, the life of a community or of a nation is peaceful and contented, and men who exhibit these virtues in their characters make good citizens and lead happy lives.

Readiness to forgive injuries is a virtue necessary for peaceful living, for all at times do some wrong to another, moved by passion, or envy, or some other evil emotion. Readiness to forgive such wrong is a sign of a noble disposition, and magnanimity includes this readiness, as well as the large-heartedness which makes allowance for the weaknesses of others, and takes a generous view of their motives and actions.

Toleration is an allied virtue that may be practiced towards equals or towards inferiors–the recognition that the Self expresses itself in many ways, and that none should seek to force on another his own views or his own methods. Tolerance has always been a characteristic of Hinduism, which has never sought to convert men from their own faith, nor to impose on those within its own pale any special form of intellectual belief. The variety of philosophic views embraced within its circle, as shown in the six Darshanas, testifies to the tolerance and wide-mindedness which have ever marked it. This tolerance is based on the belief in the One Self, and the reverent acceptance of the infinite variety of Its intellectual manifestations. Hence Hinduism has ever been permeated by the large-hearted toleration which is the very spirit of Ishwara. All are His; all paths by which men seek God lead to Him; as men walking from opposite quarters reach the same city, though walking in opposite directions, so men from all quarters, seeking God, meet in Him at last. It is foolish and childish, then, to quarrel about the ways. “In whatever way men resort to me do I thus reward them. It is my path which men follow everywhere” (Bhagavad Gita 4:11).

Even when want of sufficient growth and knowledge keeps men away from the higher and attached to the lower manifestations of Deity, even then it is the One Ishwara who inspires their faith in the lower forms suited to their undeveloped intelligence, and it is He who gives the perishable fruit on which their desires are fixed. “Those whose knowledge has been stolen away by various desires resort to other gods, following various religious forms (rites; disciplines), impelled thus by their own natures (prakritis). Whoever wishes to worship whatever form with faith, on him I bestow immovable faith. He who, endowed with this faith, desires to propitiate that form, receives from it his desires because their fulfillment has been decreed by me. But temporary is the fruit for those of small understanding” (Bhagavad Gita 7:20-23). “Even those who with devotion worship other gods also worship me, though with a mistaken approach. Truly I am the Enjoyer and Lord of all sacrifices; but because they do not know (recognize) me in truth they fall [back into rebirth in this world]” (Bhagavad Gita 9:23-24).

Such is the noble and liberal teaching of Hinduism, and it should shape the thoughts of every true aryan, so that he may never fall into the error of trying to belittle or injure any of the religions of the world. Let him be tolerant even to the intolerant, and thus set a good example.

This tolerance of the religious beliefs, views, and bona fide opinions of others should not be misunderstood to mean toleration of and acquiescence in the active infliction of wrong by the wicked on the righteous and the innocent. A good man, while forgiving as far as possible wrong done to himself, should endeavor to set right–by gentle means at first, and, if these do not succeed, then by stern ones in accordance with the law of the land–all wrong inflicted on others. Such is the duty that Sri Krishna expressly laid upon Arjuna, with the whole weight of the wisdom embodied in the Bhagavad Gita. Nor should any action be mistaken for intolerance which is only of the nature of counseling or education, even though it be the education of public opinion, or constitutional and sober endeavor to wean men from injurious ways, or a thoughtful discussion with the express object of eliciting truth. What is condemned is only the bigoted pride which imagines itself to be in sole possession of Truth, and would visit with punishment the slightest deviation from the course laid down by itself.

Other vices to avoid

The vices which grow out of the hate emotion when it prevails among equals correspond on the side of evil to the virtues we have been studying on the side of good. It may almost shock the student to see very common faults of character classed as the fruits of the hate emotion, and yet if he thinks a little he will see that they have the marks of that emotion, as they drive men apart from each other, separating them and setting them in antagonism to each other, and that is clearly the result of the repellent force, which is hate and not love.

The opposite of kindness is harshness, which shows itself but too often in the family as moroseness, sullenness, irritability and peevishness–very common failings, and the destroyers of family affection and peace. These faults bring dark shadows into the family circle, in strong contrast to the light spread by the kind and sunny temper, and are but forms of anger, one of the root manifestations of the hate emotion. Manu classes anger and harshness among the sins which are to be specially avoided: “Let him avoid unbelief, censure of the Vedas, and slighting of the devas, hatred, obstinacy, pride, anger, and harshness” (Manu Smriti 4.163).

And this is natural, for these are sins which are especially productive of misery, and probably most of the daily troubles of life which cause harassment and worry are due to anger in one form or another. It is classed by Sri Krishna with lust and greed as forming part of the triple gate of hell and as one of the asuric characteristics. “Triple is the gate of this hell, destructive of the Self: desire, anger and greed. Therefore one should abandon (renounce) these three” (Bhagavad Gita 16:21). “Hypocrisy, arrogance, conceit, anger, harshness and ignorance are the endowment of those born to a demonic state” (Bhagavad Gita 16:4).

The mind confused by anger is easily hurried into other sins, and it is one of the chief roots of crime. Impatience is one of its smaller manifestations, and the student who is intent on improving his character should be on his watch against even this comparatively minor form of his great enemy. The steady effort to be patient with and kind to all will gradually eradicate from his character the fault of anger.

Harsh fault-finding, backbiting, slander and abuse are the opposites of magnanimity. They proceed from the same source as irreverence, etc. The way to correct these faults is always to examine whether the defect for which we wish to condemn another is not present in ourselves. As Vidura says to Dhritarashtra: “You see the holes of another, though small as the mustard-grain, O King! Your own that are large as a bel-fruit you ignore even though seeing them!”

Rudeness, churlishness of bearing, a rough manner, are the faults which are the opposites of courtesy and consideration. They are exceedingly common in modern days, and are spreading in modern India. They are signs of a coarse and vulgar nature which–uncertain of its own power and of the respect of others–tries to assert itself by loudness and to force itself on the attention of others, and it is thus always a mark of weakness. The gentle courteous bearing of a man conscious of his own strength and position contrasts with the rough rude manner of a weak man, unfit for the position he is in and trying to cover his unfitness by self-assertion.

Crookedness, unfairness, deceit, infidelity, quarrelsomeness, fickleness, instability, are other common faults which appear in the relations between equals, and cause many troubles alike in family and social life. They all help to disintegrate families and nations, and men who have these vices are bad citizens, and sooner or later fall into well-deserved contempt and distrust.

Vindictiveness and revengefulness are the opposite of the readiness to forgive, which we have seen is a part of magnanimity, and they perpetuate troubles, keeping them alive when they might die by forgetfulness. The wish to return an injury suffered by inflicting an injury in return is a sign of complete ignorance of the working of the law. A man who suffers an injury should think that he has inflicted an injury on another in the past, and that his own fault comes back to him in the injury now inflicted on himself. Thus he closes the account. But if he revenges himself now, he will in the future again suffer the equivalent of the revenge he takes on his enemy. For that enemy will not be likely to think that he has been justly punished, and will nurse revenge again, and so the chain of claim and counter-claim will continue endlessly. The only way to get rid of an enemy is to forgive him; revengefulness stores up trouble for the future, which will inevitably come to the revengeful person, and the injuries we suffer now are only our own revenge coming home to ourselves. No one can wound us unless our own past places a weapon in his hands. Let a student remember this when some one injures him; let him pay his debt like an honest man, and have done with it.

Intolerance is a vice which has caused immense destruction in the world, especially in modern times. Endless wars have been caused by men of one religion wishing to impose their faith on men of another creed, and torrents of human blood have been shed in the name of God. Persecutions stain the page of history with blood and tears.

Sectarianism, when it is bitter and quarrelsome, is a form of intolerance, and in modern India this subtle enemy of religion is undermining the ancient noble toleration of Hinduism. Sectarian bigotry divides Hindu from Hindu, and blinds them, by magnifying unessential differences, to the essential unity in which they are rooted. As men lose the spirit of religion and cling chiefly to its forms, caring only for the external ceremony and not even understanding its meaning and the objects it is intended to bring about, they become more and more bigoted and intolerant, and split up into more and more numerous parties. Thus religion, which should bind men together, is changed by intolerant bigotry into a disintegrating force.

The remarks which apply to religious intolerance in India apply with even greater force to social convention in India as well as elsewhere. In India they have a special application because of the inseparable inter-blending of social customs with religious customs, so that the paltriest and most trifling customs, having their origin in some temporary need on some special occasion, rapidly assume a deeply religious and permanent importance.

The true aryan must avoid intolerance and bigotry as he would avoid poison, and should remember that it is utterly alien from the spirit of his ancestral religion. He must look on all Hindu sects as members of his own family, and refuse to quarrel with or to antagonize any. And he must look outside the pale of Hinduism, and see in the other religions that surround him rays of the same spiritual sun in which he himself is basking, and thus spread peace over India and make possible for her a united national existence. Let his religious watchword be “include, not exclude,” since the Self is One.


Virtues and Vices Towards Inferiors

The virtues

To complete the outline of the virtues and vices evolved in human relations, we must consider those which arise in a man’s relation to his inferiors, accordingly as he is ruled by the love emotion or by the hate emotion. The virtues in this case will come under the general name of benevolence–the will to do good to those who are weaker than ourselves. The vices will come under the general name of pride, the sentiment which causes a man to look down on others, and to do them injury, according to the activity of the hate emotion in him.

Love showing itself to an inferior inevitably takes the form of benevolence, and its commonest form is that of compassion and pity. Weakness, ignorance and folly, arouse in the man ruled by the love emotion the desire to help the person who is at such disadvantage, by bestowing on him strength, knowledge and wisdom. Compassion at once springs up in him, as by sympathy he feels the weakness, ignorance, and folly as though they were his own, and thus becomes anxious to remove them, to raise the sufferer above them. From these virtues springs beneficence, the active carrying out of the will to do good, the performance of actions expressive of the good will felt.

In the conduct of parents to their children we see these virtues brightly show forth. The weakness of the child, its dependence and helplessness, awaken the tenderness of the parent, and he becomes filled with compassion and pity for the little creature that is so unable to protect and support itself. These virtues express themselves in softness of language, caressing gestures, encouraging looks and smiles, so that the child may lose the feeling of its own littleness and feebleness, and may in effect share and direct the strength and skill of its elders, and thus supply its own deficiencies. Compassion and pity seek, as does all love, to lessen the distance between itself and its object, to raise its object towards itself. It allays the apprehension which might arise in the inferior, in presence of strength greater than his own, by the gracious aspect of kindliness, expressing in every way that there is no reason for fear. Where it sees timidity and shrinking in the weak, it increases the outward manifestations of gentleness, softness, and sweetness, becoming the more gentle as the object of compassion is the more fearful and hesitating.

The stronger, the older, those who are in any way superior, should always remember to practice these gentle virtues towards the weaker, the younger, the inferior in any way, and should especially bear in mind that their exercise is the more needed when the inferior shows any of the manifestations of fear, of the idea that the superior is a hostile power, likely to inflict injury on him. Power is so constantly used to oppress and to injure, that the first feeling of the inferior in the presence of his superior is apt to be one of fear, and it is necessary to remove this by a manifestation of love.

Compassion and pity readily give rise to protection of the weak, whenever they are threatened by those stronger than themselves, and in protecting them heroism appears, the cheerful risking of oneself for the sake of someone weaker. The hero is the man who risks his life for the good of another who is in need of help, without grudging the cost. The name is most often given to the warrior who gives his life for his king and his country, or to the martyr who dies for his faith; but it is deserved equally by many an unknown man and woman, who in ordinary human circumstances sacrifices life or health for others–the physician or nurse who dies worn out by strenuous exertions in aid of the plague-stricken; the mother who rescues a child from death by ceaseless attendance, careless of her life and health, caring only to supply everything that the babe needs; the bread-winner, who becomes exhausted by excessive toil, sacrificing leisure, strength and health, that the weaker ones dependent on him may not feel the pinch of starvation. The heroic virtues–courage, valor, endurance, etc.–have for the most part their root in compassion and in a sense of duty to the weak, a sympathy with them in their sufferings and a desire to remove these sufferings; they are most readily evoked in presence of the inferior in need of help. In fact, when they appear in the relations to superiors and equals, it is always in connection with the need of these persons, and the man showing the heroic virtues has something to give of which they are in want. It may be a king who, though occupying the position of a superior to his soldiers individually, needs their help for the protection of his crown; or a brother who, normally equal, has a deficiency which his brother can supply at the moment; and so on. It still remains that the hero is always the giver, and leaves in his debt those for whom he pours out his life or his possessions. Compassion, protection and heroism are virtues that especially befit kings and rulers.

Liberality is a virtue, again, which is called out by the presence of inferiors, and the readiness to give, the virtue of charity, is one which has been placed by Hinduism in the very first rank. Dana, gift, has always been an essential part of every sacrifice, and the feeding and supporting of true and learned Brahmanas has been no less essential. By these rules men were trained to sacrifice part of their wealth for the benefit of others, and thus were led onwards to a true understanding and acceptance of the great law of sacrifice.

Manu says: “Let him diligently offer sacrifices and oblations with faith; these, if performed with faith and with rightly earned wealth, become unperishing. Let him always observe the duty of charity, connected with sacrifices and oblations, with a contented mind, having sought with diligence a worthy recipient. Something verily ought to be given ungrudgingly by him who has been asked, for a worthy recipient will surely arise who will save him from all (sins).” (Manu Smriti 4.226-228)

The way in which charity should be done is very clearly laid down by Sri Krishhna, who divides gifts, according to their nature, into sattwic, rajasic and tamasic. “That gift which is given with the thought: ‘It is to be given,’ to a worthy person, one who has done no prior favor [to the giver], in a proper place at a proper time: that gift is considered sattwic. But that gift which is given with the aim of recompense, or with regard to [the giving’s] fruit, or is given unwillingly (grudgingly; reluctantly), is considered rajasic. The gift which is given at the wrong place or time, to unworthy persons, without respect or with disdain, is declared to be tamasic” (Bhagavad Gita 17:20-22)

That charity should be done with courtesy and gentle kindliness is a rule on which much stress is laid. We often read in the Itihasas directions to show careful respect in the making of gifts; charity should ever be gracious, for even a trace of contempt or disrespect makes it, as above said, tamasic.

The idea of showing to weakness the same courtesy that is extended to rank and superiority, a tender deference and consideration, comes out strongly in the following sloka: “Way should be made for a man in a carriage, for one who is above ninety years old, for a sick person, for one who carries a burden, for a woman, a snataka, a king and a bridegroom” (Manu Smriti 2.138).

Similarly we find, when directions are being laid down as to the giving of food to people in the due order of their position, preference over all is given to the weak: “Let him, without making distinctions, feed newly-married women, young maidens, the sick, and pregnant women, even before his guests” (Manu Smriti 3.114).

Another virtue which should be cultivated in relation to inferiors is what may, for lack of a better term, be called appreciativeness, the full recognition of all that is best in them. This recognition, generously expressed, has a most encouraging effect, and stimulates them to put out all their energies. The sense of weakness, of littleness, of inferiority, tends to paralyze, and many a man fails simply by lack of confidence in his own powers. A word of hearty appreciation gives the encouragement needed, and acts like sunshine on a flower, causing the whole nature to expand and glow.

Patience is also most necessary in all dealings with inferiors; lesser ability generally implies less quickness of understanding, less power to grasp or to perform, and the superior needs to practice patience in order not to confuse and bewilder the inferior. With children and servants this virtue has special opportunity for exercise, and its existence in the elders is peculiarly helpful and peace-making in the family. Strength should be used to help and support weakness, not to crush and terrify it, and “patience sweet that naught can ruffle” is a sign of a truly great and strong nature. Appreciativeness and patience are specially needed in parents and teachers.

The vices

The vices that spring out of the hate emotion to inferiors are of the nature of pride, the sense of superiority in the separated Self, looking down on those below it, and desiring to still further lower them, in order to make its own superiority more marked. The character of a man filled with pride is graphically described by Sri Krishna: “Today this has been acquired by me. This I shall also obtain. This is mine, and this gain also shall be mine. That enemy has been slain by me, and I shall slay others, too, for I am the Lord, I am the enjoyer, I am successful, powerful, and happy. I am wealthy and high-born, who else is equal to me? I shall sacrifice, I shall give, I shall rejoice” (Bhagavad Gita 16:13-15).

Such a man, looking down on his inferiors, seeking only his own gain and his own advantage, will see in them only persons to be used for his own purpose. To them he will show the vices of scorn, contempt, arrogance, disdain, expressing in words and actions his sense of the distance between himself and them. His own bearing will be marked by aggressiveness, self-assertion, overbearingness, implanting dislike and hatred in those with whom he comes into contact, unless they are thoroughly dominated by the love emotion. If his inferiors possess anything which he desires, and he is able to deprive them of it without danger to himself, he may fall into robbery and murder; and he will use his superiority to oppress and enslave. The characters of many such men may be studied in history–tyrants, oppressors, causing widespread destruction and misery, and thus sowing in the breasts of the oppressed the seeds of evil passions which sprang up into a crop of revolt, bloodshed and anarchy. Manu sternly condemns the kings that fail in the duty of protection: “The king that punishes the innocent and punishes not the criminal, he goes into infamy and hell” (Manu Smriti 8.128).

In a smaller fashion these evils are reproduced in the family and in society where the superiors exhibit the fruits of hate instead of love. The tyrannical father or master implants and fosters in his children and servants the vices of the oppressed, and creates the evils which he later endeavors in vain to destroy.

Hauteur, haughtiness, reserve, are subtler forms of this same emotion, and create much mischief when they appear between those between whom cordiality, affection and openness alone should prevail. They should be very carefully guarded against by the student, when he comes to deal with those who are younger than he, or those towards whom nature or circumstances place him in the position of superior to inferior. He should ever remember that the duty of the superior is to bring the inferior up to his own level so far as is possible, and not to keep him inferior and constantly remind him of any distance that there may be between them. If he makes the mistake of following the latter course, the probable, nay the certain, result will be that he will drive the inferior either into a slavish cringing and timidity and nervousness, on the one hand, or rebellion, pride and contempt, on the other. But if he behave otherwise, and treat his inferior as his equal, then the probability, almost the certainty, is that the inferior will readily see his superiority, and treat him with due respect and reverence. It is they who selflessly help others to rise that are honored, not they who desire aggrandizement for themselves.

Let the student then remember in all his relations with his inferiors to cultivate sympathy and compassion and active beneficence. If in the family he shows these virtues to the younger and to the servants, in his later life in society and in the nation these virtues will still mark his character, and he will become a true philanthropist, a benefactor of his community and of his country.


The Reaction Of Virtues And Vices On Each Other

In order that a youth may understand how to improve his own character and meet the difficulties and temptations which surround him, it is important that he should know how the virtues and vices of people react on each other. By understanding this, he will know how to be on his watch against evil reactions, and how to promote the good both in himself and in others.

The general law is that an emotion–and the virtue or the vice that is its permanent mood–when exhibited by one person to another, provokes in that other a similar emotion, virtue or vice. An exhibition of love calls out love in response; an exhibition of hate is answered by hate. Anger produces anger; irritation causes irritation; gentleness brings out gentleness; patience is responded to by patience. If the student will observe himself and his neighbors, he will soon discover for himself the reality of this law, and will see how the moods of people are affected by the moods they meet with in others. One ill-tempered man will set a whole company jangling; one sweet-tempered man will keep everybody at peace.

This is the general law, working among average people who are equals, in whom the love emotion and the hate emotion are both present and are about equally balanced. When the people are not equals, but one is inferior to the other, the emotion, virtue or vice shown by one will also produce in the other one similar in kind, but corresponding to the one first shown, not identical with it. Thus an exhibition of love to an inferior will produce in him love, but the nature of the love will be governed by this inferiority, and will be reverence, trust, serviceableness, and so on. Benevolence will be answered by gratitude, and pity by confidence. An exhibition of hate to an inferior will produce in him hate, but the nature of the hate, again, will be governed by his inferiority, and will be fear, deceit, treacherous revenge, and so on. Oppression will be met with sullenness, and cruelty with silent vindictiveness. The good will produce good, and the evil, evil, according to the general law; but the particular nature of the good or evil shown will be governed by the relative positions of the individuals concerned.

When we come to study exceptional people, another law comes in. If an exceptionally good man is observed, one in whom the love emotion is dominant, then it will be seen that he does not answer anger with anger, but that when anyone shows the vice of anger to him, he meets it with the opposite virtue, kindness; if a man shows him the vice of pride, he meets it with the opposite virtue, humility; if a man shows him the vice of irritation, he meets it with the opposite virtue, patience; and so on. The result is that the vice is checked, and very often the person who showed it is led, by the exhibition of the opposite virtue, to himself imitate that instead.

In the case of an exceptionally bad man, one who is dominated by the hate emotion, there is but too often an exhibition of vice in answer to an exhibition of virtue. A man showing humility to such a one is met by pride; gentleness provokes insult; patience stimulates oppression.

We have thus two laws:

  1. Among ordinary persons, emotions, virtues and vices provoke their own likenesses, or correspondences.
  2. In persons who are definitely dominated by love or hate, emotions, virtues and vices provoke the appropriate subdivision of their own dominant emotion.

Let us consider instances.

Two ordinary men, equals, meet, and one in a bad temper speaks angrily; the other flares up in reply, answering angrily; the first retorts, yet more angrily; and so it goes on, each getting more and more angry, until there is a furious quarrel. How often have friends been parted by a quarrel beginning in the ill-temper of one. 

Two other men meet, and one, in a bad temper, speaks angrily; the other answers softly with a pleasant smile and friendly gesture. The anger of the first, finding no fuel, dies down, and the soft words and smile awaken an answering smile; the anger is gone, and the two walk off arm-in-arm.

A man in whom the hate emotion predominates, superior to another, treats the latter with insolence and threat, trying to force him to yield to his will. The inferior meets this exhibition of evil emotion with fear, distrust and sullen submission, and in his heart springs up the desire for revenge, which he nourishes until an opportunity occurs to injure the superior. The latter, seeing the fear and sullen submission, shows yet more insolence and scorn, the sight of the fear increasing the original contempt for the inferiority of the other. This again leads to increased fear and distrust and more slavish submission, with growing longing for revenge, and thus the vicious cycle is repeated over and over again.

A superior man, in whom the love emotion predominates, comes into contact with an inferior, in whom the very sight of his superiority arouses fear and distrust. The exhibition of these vices moves him to pity and compassion, and he answers the fear and distrust by increased kindness of manner and softness of language. The inferior thus met is soothed and encouraged, and his fear diminishes to slight timidity of approach; this in its turn disappears, and is replaced by trust and confidence in the good-will of the superior. Thus in his heart the love emotion is aroused, and the seeds of virtue are implanted instead of those of vice, and the relation established is one which conduces to the happiness of each of the persons concerned.

The Itihasas and Puranas have many instances of this interplay of emotions, of the effects of the exhibition of virtues and vices reacting on each other. Bhima’s scornful laughter over the blunders of Duryodhana awakens hatred and the desire for revenge in the bosom of the latter, and the hatred grows into one of the causes of the destructive war between the Pandavas and the Kurus. Kaushalya’s angry reproaches as to the treatment of Rama are met by Dasharatha with gentle humility, and she is quickly moved to repentance and shows loving humility in return. Arjuna’s fear at the sight of the Virat-rupa in the eleventh chapter of the Bhagavad Gita is allayed by Sri Krishna’s gentle words and reassumption of His ordinary form. These stories are told for our instruction, that we may learn how we should meet and conquer evil, not by imitating it, but by exhibiting the opposite emotion. A fire is easily put out at the beginning, but when it has fuel thrown into it, it grows and increases, and at last destroys all with which it comes into contact.

The student will now understand the scientific nature of the command addressed to their followers by all the great divine teachers, never to return evil with evil, but always with good. We can understand now why and how it has ever been said: Do unto others as you would they should do unto you. This is the summary of the Science of Conduct, because the “others” are in very truth “you” yourself.

Says Manu: “Let him not be angry again with the angry man; being harshly addressed, let him speak softly” (Manu Smriti 6.48).

The Sama Veda says: “Cross the passes difficult to cross; (conquer) wrath with peace; untruth with truth.”

Says the Buddha: “Hatred ceases not by hatred at any time: hatred ceases by love.” And again: “To the man that causelessly injures me, I will return the protection of my ungrudging love; the more evil comes from him, the more good shall flow from me.” And again: “He who bears ill-will to those who bear ill-will can never become pure; but he who feels no ill-will pacifies those who hate,…. Overcome anger by not being angered; overcome evil by good; overcome avarice by liberality; overcome falsehood by truth.”

Says Lao-tzu: “To those who are good, I am good; and to those who are not good, I am also good; and thus all get to be good. To those who are sincere, I am sincere; and to those who are not sincere, I am also sincere; and thus all get to be sincere.”

Says Jesus Christ: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.”

Evil is only perpetuated when it is returned, the wrong emotion growing ever stronger as it is fed with fuel of its own nature; but as water poured on fire is love poured on hate. Happiness can only be gained as the fires of hatred are quenched, and this can only be done by love, generously and freely outpoured.

This is the general law, and in the strictest sense this is the last method of finally changing an evil nature into a good one. But, in dealing with limited times and spaces, it becomes the duty of those occupying special positions or offices in the community, or finding themselves in special situations created by the exceptionally evil, to apply the law of justice and punishment rather than that of charity. The sovereign and the judge, representing the aspect of nature embodied in the law of equilibrium, find it their special duty to punish the evil-doer and suppress the disturbances caused by crime, restoring the equilibrium of society. Apart from this special modification, the general law holds good.

Further, understanding the nature of virtues and vices, and their relations to and reactions upon each other, the student will now be in a position to cultivate deliberately the love emotion in his own nature, with the virtues which are its permanent moods, and he will learn also to awaken and stimulate these in others by exhibiting them in his own conduct.

In his superiors he will awaken benevolence, compassion, tenderness, by showing to them reverence, service, dutifulness and obedience; and if he meets a superior who shows any harshness or pride, he will check in himself the feeling of fear which springs up, and by showing a frank humility and a confidence in his good will, he will awaken the love emotion, and will thus turn the harshness into kindness and the pride into compassion.

In his equals he will ever seek to arouse affection by showing it himself, to win them to kindness by showing kindness, to courtesy by showing courtesy, to uprightness by showing uprightness. When they show any of the vices of the hate emotion to him, he will restrain the similar emotion that leaps up in himself in answer, and will deliberately show the opposite virtue that belongs to the love emotion, and will oppose kindness to unkindness, courtesy to rudeness, uprightness to deceit. Thus he will not only avoid increasing the mischief caused by others; but in those others themselves, unless they be exceptionally evil, he will arouse right emotion and help them to improve.

In his inferiors he will try to plant the seeds of trust and confidence, encouraging them by his gentleness and patience, and eradicating all suspicion and fear. When he finds an inferior showing these vices, he will not allow himself to give way to scorn and contempt, but will increase his own gentleness and patience, and gradually lead the weaker into the love relation with himself that will make their relations mutually pleasant.

If these principles ruled human relations in the family, the community, the nation, how changed would be the aspect of the world. How quickly would discord change to peace, storm to calm, misery to happiness. To use knowledge to guide action, so that right action may spring from right knowledge, should be the aim of every student of the Science of Ethics. Only thus can character be builded, and India’s sons become worthy of their motherland. The student of today is the citizen of tomorrow. May right instruction lead him to noble life.

“I am giving you complete union of hearts and minds, in which ill-feeling finds no place. Even as the cow is pleased with the new-born calf, so let one be pleased with another. Let the son follow his father and be of one mind with his mother. Let the wife remain in peace with the husband and speak sweet words to him. Let not the brother bear malice towards brother or sister. Let all become harmonious with each other, and let all treat each other well.” [The source of this quotation is not given by the author. Editor’s Note.]

Peace to all Beings.

(Visited 50 time, 1 visit today)

Chapters in Sanatana Dharma: The Eternal Religion

About Sanatana Dharma: The Eternal Religion

(Visited 50 time, 1 visit today)