Category Archives: Morality

Morality and Social Progress

Republished with permission of ProutWomen.org

We believe that transforming ourselves and becoming examples of our ideals are an integral part of the task of transforming our planet. We seek to return the concept of morality to its proper place as a guide for truly benevolent and uplifting behavior. We believe that there is a widespread desire for ethical standards in social life and a special yearning for moral leadership.

At the present time many political and religious leaders are attempting to channel this desire into narrow and dogmatic ideas of morality. Our moral guidelines seek to expand our minds and hearts while providing a foundation upon which a truly progressive human society can be built:

Non-injury in thought, word and deed. Respect for all living beings is basic to our conduct. We demonstrate this respect by acting without the intention of causing harm through our thoughts, words or deeds. This is not to rule out the use of force if one’s intent is defensive or genuinely corrective of immoral behavior.

Benevolent truthfulness. The essence of truthfulness is found in the spirit of welfare we give to our thoughts and speech. Remaining close to objective truth is important, but the extent to which we use words for others’ welfare is the best yardstick of truthfulness.

Non-stealing. This principle means not taking, either physically or mentally, what rightfully belongs to others. This includes the thought of stealing as well as any action which deprives others of what is rightfully theirs.

Oneness of all creation. Oneness is the underlying reality of all creation. By striving for that state of mind in which we are fully aware of this unity, we can overcome our negative attitudes and base our actions on a profound love for all.

Non-indulgence in non-essential luxuries. By limiting our consumption of luxuries we can have more to share with others who are in greater need. Respect for the common ecological heritage of our planet and sympathy for the poverty and suffering of others reminds us that accumulation of excess wealth deprives others of the basic necessities of life.

Cleanliness. Cleanliness is both physical and mental. Maintaining mental purity and trying to remove selfish tendencies are as important as a clean body and environment.

Contentment. By striving to maintain inner calmness, we develop a feeling of contentment. This does not imply laziness or passive acceptance of unethical behavior. Instead, our inner reserve of contentment should be used for maintaining mental equilibrium and broadminded perspective while dealing with the anxieties of daily life.

Selfless service. Serving others with the true spirit of selflessness is a key to overcoming barriers which separate the human race. By transcending our individual needs we experience the greater joy of sharing ourselves with others.

Understanding universal truths. Developing a clear understanding of the universal truths which underlie the world’s greatest scriptures and literature uplifts our consciousness. Deep penetration into the true meaning of any and all words is an important way to increase mental clarity and broaden the scope of our mind.

Attainment of our highest human potential. The goal of life is the fulfillment of our highest human potential. This fulfillment comes through sincere effort to become loving human beings and to realize our connectedness with the consciousness that pervades the entire universe.

Copyright 2015 ProutWomen.org

Love In Action: Neo-Ethics for a Cosmic Family

By T N Das

The funeral pyre of humanity and all living species on this planet has been lit. Each report on Climate change shows increased disruptions of the climate which will lead to widespread extinction of animals and human being in Pacific Islands and in tropical regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa. Each report on the mass slaughter of animal and plant species show that we are facing the 6th largest extinction of life in the history of this planet – except that this extinction is a man-made one unlike the previous ones. We cannot simply accept this burgeoning catastrophe, nor can simple panic appeals or simple reforms achieve anything substantial. Neither can attempts to reject industrial and agricultural lifestyles go back to the age of nomadic tribes living in the forest be of lasting use to humanity. What the Earth is crying out for is a new humanity — a dramatic elevation and enlightenment of the entire human species as a whole and its manifestation in action in the form of a new form of moral lifestyle.

The most simple truth is that we all are linked together in one Cosmic Family that includes not just all species on all planets but all so-called inanimate objects as well. This vision of the Cosmic Family is found in spiritual traditions all over this planet. To make this vision into a reality is the task of our time.

While individually some of us may have enlightened ideas and a few of us may even put them into practice – collectively we are not just unenlightened but in fact, sheer savages. The collective mind evolves slower than the individual mind and hence is mainly governed by the Crude Level of Mind which is called the Id in psychology and the Kamamaya Kosa (layer of selfish, crude desires) in Yoga. This crude psychology is behind our destruction of the natural world. Humanity as a whole must evolve higher levels of Consciousness and at the same time attempt to control and sublimate lower forms of Consciousness. Thus far yoga has evolved only to aid the individual mind to gain self-control and self-realization. Many religions even reject social life, since they preach the renunciation of the world as an illusion or as an abode of sorrows. This negative attitude to the natural world is at the root of the modern desire to conquer, exploit and then exterminate — both on this planet and now on others.

The Preceptor of Neohumanism, Shrii Prabhat Ranjan Sakar has revealed a new science of yogic bio-psychology to help control the individual and collective minds, and in addition has revealed the dynamics of the collective psychology. Based on this has evolved the mission of Neohumanism to love, cherish and protect each and every entity of this universe. Our organization for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Plants (PCAP) is one manifestation of this mission.

The cardinal human values which then must guide our collective life as a species are the same as those that govern individual life. They are known as Yama and Niyama. These are universal ideals found in many traditions all over the world. Yama are the psycho-physical practices that start from the realm of Consciousness and ideals in the mind or psyche and help maintain control over one’s actions. They were first known to be propounded in the Jain scriptures as the 5 Mahavratas or Great vows. Later they were incorporated by Yogi Patanjali into the Yoga Sutras which was a universal text not bound to any religious scripture or rituals. Patanjali added five more principles called Niyama which described ways of physico-psychic movement or of moving in such a way in the external world that it takes the mind in an internal or introversial direction towards Consciousness. Both balance each other, the introversion of oneself towards Consciousness leads to deeper realization of Consciousness and this leads to greater ability to experience Consciousness in external life and to live a life as per moral practices that serve and cherish all beings. It is this path upon which we must persevere collectively as a species – on this planet and on other planets.

The Yoga of Bliss (Ananda) does not give dogmatic principles to be rigidly followed, nor does it give abstract intellectual ideas. Rather it initiates us into different forms of spiritual practices to be realized in daily life. We have seen that in our collective life we are dominated by the crude mind (Kamamaya Kosa) pursuing the life of selfish pleasure without thinking about the consequences. The science of Yama and Niyama was created to regulate and purify the Kamamaya Kosa. Hence while other spiritual practices are important for the collective mind of humanity, this is the most rudimental foundation of all spiritual practices of the collective mind. As Shrii Sarkar states,

Spiritual practice in its very start requires mental equilibrium. This sort of mental harmony may also be termed as morality .(“Introduction”, A Guide to Human Conduct)

So morality is in fact, a state of dynamic mental balance and harmony. This is called prama’ rddhi in Sanskrit.

Now the question arises, how can we perform the yoga of the collective mind? In reality this cannot be done unless we exercise control and stop the crimes of others in the society. As individuals we may in a good mood, be loving to a dog and in a bad mood beat the dog. So individual morality implies using one’s good mental states to control and sublimate one’s bad mental tendencies with the power that comes from merging one’s mind in pure Consciousness. Similarly in collective morality one man may build sanctuaries for animals and plants but other men with more money and power may destroy 100 times more in a short time. So, collective morality demands that good people stop the crimes of anti-social actions and actions that harm other species and the environment. Other yogas seek to escape from this inescapable conclusion.

However the Tantra Yoga created by Lord Shiva from the beginning embraced the social responsibility of the yogi to fight for equality and justice for all beings rather than merely preaching it. In individual Tantra Yoga the spiritual aspirant has to fight against all inner vices and narrow states of Consciousness as well as to fight their manifestation in the society. In collective Tantra Yoga, a group of devotees (aspirants of mystical love) must create a powerful flow of love in the collective mind that will foster benevolent actions and at the same time fight against the crimes of powerful individuals who are destroying our planet. To refuse to fight is to refuse to live – it means to simply wait to die. To wait for ourselves to die is a vice but to watch others die and wait for our planet to die is a crime.

And this leads us to the first principle of Yama which is Ahimsa. In reality so much of human life is based on himsa. In our social life, in our personal life we see people engaged in destructive actions. The root of this destructiveness lies in the fact that people are enslaved economically and thus express their rage and resentment in the form of violence against other innocent humans and animals. The relationship between violence against animals and violence against human beings has been documented. Shrii Sarkar pointed out that unless the legacy of human violence against animals is ended, this violence is bound to take the form of violence against other human beings as well. Collectively even good people live in a society based on violence. Our money comes from society’s crimes against innocent human beings, innocent plants and animals and innocent rivers, mountains and air.

There is a famous story that Guru Nanak once refused to take food at a wealthy man’s house and when asked why, he squeezed the tasty food of the rich man in his hand and from that food, blood came – which was the blood of the exploited people who created that food. Guru Nanak then squeezed the humble roti of a simple peasant (Bhai Lehna) who lived in harmony with Nature and from that roti milk came. Today all of us have abandoned the honorable lifestyle of Bhai Lehna out of greed. So our food is drenched with the blood or himsa of the exploited victims of our capitalist society. So we may be vegetarian but our food is drenched with the blood of innocent animals and plants murdered by our corporate capitalist society. To take the collective responsibility to end this himsa, to have the courage to create a new society based on economic democracy and on animal, plant and Earth rights is the path of Ahimsa. This is the foundation of our ecological ethics or principles and practices for our human species to have a benevolent, loving relationship with other species on this planet. It furthermore is the foundation of our environmental ethics or principles-cum-practices for having a loving, cooperative relationship with rivers, mountains, the air and other entities of our natural world.

In this short article we have examined this first principle at length because of its importance. The other principles will be simply summarized by require deep reflection and meditation in action (karma yoga). The second principle of Yama is Asteya or non-stealing or not depriving others of what is due to them in our thoughts, words or actions. In reality so-called free enterprise or capitalism is simply nothing but freedom of corporations to steal. Mafias enjoy the same freedom in practice and when they become established then they become a corporation. As Jason Hribal has shown animals are the most exploited sector of the working class right from the rise of capitalism. There is no factory more horrifying than the factories in which animals are raised, crammed in cages to be killed so that other so-called evolved species can feast on their flesh. We are stealing them of their right to live their natural way of life. Capitalism is not simply the theft of a person’s life but the theft of the dignity as living beings. When miners talk about their suffering they described themselves as packed like chickens in a small room. As Alice Walker has shown, there is a very clear link between the enslavement of animals and the enslavement of human beings – both in the way the slaves are treated and in the culture of the enslavers. Enslavement is ultimate form of the theft of a person’s life. It is also a form of himsa. So to follow the path of collective Asteya means to end the system of capitalist corporate exploitation of plants, animals and human beings. This cannot happen without replacing this system of economic tyranny with economic democracy.

But why has this not happened so far in human history? The answer lies in the principle of Satya or benevolent truthfulness. This means speaking and thinking in such a way that does not harm anyone. In reality our society is all based on lies. We lie to ourselves that we care about animals and plants. We lie to ourselves to try to forget all the crimes done against them. This is because we do not want to face the Truth, so that we are not forced to face our responsibilities. To follow the path of collective Satya is to enlightening others to face the Truth about our violent, exploitative lifestyles and about our responsibilities to create a new society based on Truth and Justice. This comes only from inner purity and sublimity. When a person learns meditation (Iishvara Pranidhana), their subtle mental mind or rational mind (Manomaya Kosa) becomes full of the force of Truth. The spiritual power created by merging the mind in pure Consciousness makes one’s mind radiant with morality which is embedded in Truth which transcends the mind itself.

But why is it that we run away from the truth. The answer lies in our selfish grasping after petty pleasures. Capitalist culture seeks to break down communities, families and isolate people from each other to pursue selfish pleasure. This isolation helps to break down the natural types of love people have for other people and animals and trees in their community. The Sanskrit word graha means to grasp or grab. Parigraha means to grab completely like a small boy holding the ball in his arms and not letting anyone touch it and thus not being able to enjoy playing. Aparigraha means to completely renounce all grasping and grabbing. It means to keep only what is needed for basic dignified living. Most traditional societies followed the values of aparigraha and hence they are far less destructive to each other and to the environment than our so-called civilized societies. Hence with the spread of capitalist development, there has been increasing destruction. So the path of collective Aparigraha lies not just in talk about reducing our carbon footprint but in a new state of Consciousness so that we do not feel the urge to grab. In reality psychologists have shown that the addictions of our addictive consumer society arise from inner emptiness that is in fact nothing but spiritual hunger.

This leads us to the final principle of Yama which is Brahmacarya. This means to move while immerse in Absolute Consciousness. What is Absolute Consciousness or Bliss? Where the duality or existence of the external and internal, individual and collective, material and spiritual, selfish and selfless – comes to an end in one flow of infinite happiness, this is the state of Consciousness or Bliss in a nutshell. When we experience and radiate that bliss in all our actions and movements – this is Brahmacarya. In this state we will not just refrain from harming animals, and the Earth, rather we will help the evolution of Consciousness dormant both within all living beings and also in so-called inanimate objects like stones and soil. This then in most simple terms is the path of Yama or control that our species must become establishment if this planet and our species is to survive.

This experience of Consciousness in action will not take place without the drive towards Purification – both external and internal. This Shaoca is the first principle of Niyama. We see some cultures emphasize external purity in the form of clean cities and houses but have a lot of internal impurity due to materialistic nihilism. Similarly we see some cultures emphasize internal purity via meditation but have filthy and violent cities. Both these are distorted, cowardly forms of purity. To purify the mind and to purify society requires courage and commitment that people run away from out of fear of hardship. As a species we need to have the courage to purify our collective mind by evolving higher form of Consciousness and also we need to purify our society by fighting against those who pollute our minds and our planet.

The fear of hardship that causes impurity leads us to the next principle of Niyama of Santosa. This means to maintain cheerfulness and mental balance even during times of hardship. This is the foremost quality of a moralist and the foremost quality that we as a species lack. Collectively we have an adolescent mind running here and there in the quest to escape responsibility and indulge in petty, selfish pleasures. Santosh does not mean accepting exploitation. This is not contentment as it is based on fear and on lying to oneself. True contentment comes from experience of inner Bliss which gives one the capacity to fight against all odds without succumbing to defeat and depression.

And this capacity of Santosha is rooted in the next principle of Niyama of Tapah. This means to voluntarily accept suffering and hardship so as to liberate society from exploitation, suffering and internal degradation. This is the most crucial principle we need to develop as a species. Thus far our species makes other species sacrifice themselves for us. We sacrifice very little and boast to the skies about what little we do. We all know stories of individuals who have silently sacrificed to serve others, now we must have the courage to not just end the violence of our species but to create a new culture of huble service and silent sacrifice in human society.

But how is this possible? Is this not a utopian dream? The answer lies in the final principle of Iishvara Pranidhana. This means literally to run after the Lord. The Lord is not in a church or temple or in a forest or mountain. When we run within our minds, we come in contact with the flow of Bliss and Consciousness within. And the science, the ecstasy of how this happens is called Iishvara Pranidhana. This is a vast subject but it is the most crucial for the survival of our species and our planet. Ultimately, new moral practices and new moral values come from new spiritual practices freed from religious dogma. This alone will enable us to attain ecological and internal harmony that is the essence of morality and divinity and will enable the creation of a Cosmic Society. As Shrii Sarkar has said,

What is Neohumanism? Neohumanism is humanism of the past, humanism of the present and humanism – newly explained – of the future. Explaining humanity and humanism in a new light will widen the path of human progress, will make it easier to tread. Neohumanism will give new inspiration and provide a new interpretation for the very concept of human existence. It will help people understand that human beings, as the most thoughtful and intelligent beings in this created universe, will have to accept the great responsibility of taking care of the entire universe – will have to accept that the responsibility for the entire universe rests on them. (“Neohumanism is the Ultimate Shelter,” Liberation of Intellect: Neohumanism)

We have heard of some saints attempting this but we are bound to ask how is this possible. This brings us to the final principle of Iishvara Pranidhana. This means literally to run after the Lord. The Lord is not in a church or temple or in a forest or mountain. When we run within our minds, we come in contact with the flow of Bliss and Consciousness within. And the science, the ecstasy of how this happens is called Iishvara Pranidhana. This is a vast subject but it is the most crucial for the survival of our species and our planet. Ultimately, new moral practices and new moral values come from new spiritual practices freed from religious dogma. This alone will enable us to attain ecological and internal harmony that is the essence of morality and divinity and will enable the creation of a Cosmic Society. As Shrii Sarkar has said,

Human movement is movement towards ecological equipoise – towards the supreme synthesis. In the inner world, balance must be maintained as this leads to spiritual progress. Ecological order is not only for the earth but for the entire universe, and it must be maintained both within and without. The angular displacement of any celestial body may affect the human mind as well as the physical universe, so balance must be maintained between the internal and external spheres. In all aspects of human life this subtle balance must be maintained. This is ecological balance. (From “Water Conservation”, Ideal Farming)

Can Science Determine Moral Values?

moralvalues

By Ácárya Acyutánanda Avadhúta

Courtesy of Prout: A Journal of Proutistic Views and Neohumanistic Analysis, New Delhi

In 2010 neuroscientist Sam Harris published The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values. He has stated that the central argument of his book is as follows:

Morality and values depend on the existence of conscious minds — and specifically on the fact that such minds can experience various forms of well-being and suffering in this universe. Conscious minds and their states are natural phenomena, fully constrained by the laws of the universe (whatever these turn out to be in the end). Therefore, questions of morality and values must have right and wrong answers that fall within the purview of science (in principle, if not in practice). Consequently, some people and cultures will be right (to a greater or lesser degree), and some will be wrong, with respect to what they deem important in life.

First we should clarify that Harris asks us to start with a small assumption: that the greatest possible well-being for all human and animal life would be good, and the greatest possible misery for all human and animal life would be bad. This is a moral principle which, Harris admits, cannot be determined by science. It is determined by our intuitions. Yet any disagreement with this principle would be purely of a philosophical nature; everyone would agree intuitively. It would be only an arid intellectual exercise to disagree with it.

Let’s find an example of a moral value that a particular culture might hold. Harris himself gives an example of one cultural tradition that he considers to be destructive, which he describes as follows:

The people of Albania have a venerable tradition of vendetta called Kanun: if a man commits a murder, his victim’s family can kill any one of his male relatives in reprisal. If a boy has the misfortune of being the son or brother of a murderer, he must spend his days and nights in hiding, forgoing a proper education, adequate health care, and the pleasures of a normal life. Untold numbers of Albanian men and boys live as prisoners of their homes even now. Can we say that the Albanians are morally wrong to have structured their society in this way? Is their tradition of blood feud a form of evil? Are their values inferior to our own [i.e., Western European values]?

Assuming Harris’s description is accurate, then in this particular Albanian culture, revenge is a moral value – or at least is considered acceptable. And “You should avenge your murdered relative by killing an innocent person” is the related moral principle; or at least there is no moral principle, as in other societies, “You should not kill innocent persons merely for revenge.”

Establish a moral value, such as the value of life or the value of happiness, and it is not hard to derive a moral principle, such as “Do not act with the intention of harming,” or “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Though Harris does not elaborate further about the particular example of Kanun, from the rest of his book we can understand how science would proceed to evaluate it as a moral value: It would employ the technology of neuroimaging, directing that technology specifically at brain centres involved with the senses of well-being and of misery. If by luck scientists could find a culture identical to the Albanian culture Harris has described, but with one exception – the absence of Kanun – then those scientists would simply have to select a representative and statistically-significant sample of the citizens of each culture, study their brain activity to see which sample has a greater sense of well-being, and then declare that Kanun is or is not a worthy moral value.

If scientists could not find such a similar culture, they would have to find ways to correct their findings for all the different variables, or would have to construct experimental situations. And of course neuroscience is not yet really so far advanced. But “in principle, if not in practice”, which is Harris’s argument, it should be possible for science to do all this.

Note that this all depends on the assumption that that which is moral is that which produces the greatest possible well-being for all human and animal life. (An idea closely expressed by the traditional formulation “the greatest good for the greatest number”. Harris broadly considers himself a consequentialist, and “the greatest good for the greatest number” is known as the maxim of utilitarianism, which can be considered a form of consequentialism.)

We sometimes hear that the customs and moral codes of one culture cannot be judged by the standards of another. But Harris would say that all customs and moral codes will have to be judged by the standard of well-being, as determined by science.

Would Proutists Agree?

How would Proutists say that we should determine that which is moral? Many Proutists take quite a different approach from the one that Harris recommends. While each of us as Proutists has his or her own conscience, developed to one extent or other through spiritual practices, we also think that the propounder of Prout had a far more developed conscience, such that we can rely on the moral principles that he taught and elaborated.

What exactly is the source of the moral principles that the propounder of Prout gave us? Could the basis of his understanding have been simply the deepest form of intuition, or could he actually have been able to foresee the long-term consequences, in terms of the well-being of humans, animals and plants, of adherence to a certain set of moral principles? He often referred to “welfare” as a standard, as Harris refers to “well-being”; might he have agreed with Harris’s consequentialism, and might he have been psychically developed enough to calculate future consequences as well as or better than the ideal future science that Harris theorizes? Proutists may have thought little about this, but if we did think, we would probably not want to think that there would ultimately be much difference between a perfect intuition and a perfect
consequentialist calculation. That is, we would not want to think that adherence to teachings stemming from a perfect intuition would not lead ultimately, as consequences, to the greatest possible well-being of humans, animals and plants.

Another question, of course, that Proutists might ask about Harris’s approach would be: are all human and animal experiences of well-being and misery completely reducible to our physical brains, or is there at least brain activity that correlates with all such experiences? But perhaps this question is not really relevant. Though Harris is a neuroscientist and though all of his examples that seek to demonstrate the feasibility of his approach are examples of brain studies, his “central” argument does not completely depend on the reducibility of experience to the brain. His argument says: Conscious minds and their states are natural phenomena, fully constrained by the laws of the universe (whatever these turn out to be in the end). Proutists theorize that the mind includes more than just physical matter; that the deeper levels of the mind consist of substances more “subtle” than physical matter. But Proutists would not deny that those deeper levels operate “constrained by the laws of the universe”! To my knowledge Proutists might not even deny that, however subtle (immaterial) some levels of the mind may be, everything that we experience at least correlates in some way with brain activity and the crude matter of the brain.

Some future science (even if it remains objective science only and not what Proutists call subjective science) may also be able to detect and measure feelings of well-being and misery even if they have no correlates in the brain.

So personally, I am persuaded to a considerable extent by Harris’s argument. I am ready to think that, if the future development of science were to know no limits, men and women in white coats could make it clear to us, purely by studying the activities of the brain (and of any other possible structures whose activity correlates with our subjective experience), whether Kanun is a valuable custom or not; which wars are just; whether selfless service is a good thing to encourage; whether capital punishment should be practised or not; whether purdah is a socially healthy system; whether parents should spank their children when they misbehave; whether cartoons defaming religious figures should be protected by law; whether abortion should be legal or not; whether Facebook does more harm or good.

The Limitations – “Saint Well-Being”

To use Harris’s landscape metaphor, however (in which correct moral codes take us to the highest “peaks” on “the moral landscape”, while incorrect codes leave us short or even take us into valleys of misery), I would not agree that science can take us quite to the highest peaks.

1. Science is objective in viewpoint; therefore, though it may one day be able to fully measure someone’s subjective experience, it will not be able to share the subjective viewpoint of that experience nor hence any of the experience. In attempting to determine morality and values, this is a limitation that, because it is inherent in science by nature and definition, cannot be overcome by the ongoing development of science.

2. One consequence of said limitation is that science may be able to know everything objectively knowable concerning someone’s correct belief about X (that is, concerning someone’s “feeling of knowing,”[1] or “ring of truth”, which happens to be correct, about X), without knowing whether the belief is correct. The person will know something about X, but science, absent other sources of information, won’t.

3. In the case of any object of human experience, science, with its objective viewpoint, can give us, as scientists’ students or audience, a representation of the object (including a simulation), and the representation may be better for some purposes than the direct experience; but science cannot give us as students or audience the direct experience.

I think that at least the first two of these points limit science in the determination of values.

It is correctly assumed that well-being is good (the highest value) and suffering is bad. Let us accept the assumption also that each is based in brain or other events that are scientifically measurable, and that are evaluable in terms of well-being to an important extent. But is there also an extent to which even after precise measurement, the events, particularly those underlying the highest levels of well-being, will not be scientifically evaluable?

Here the above-mentioned limitations of science begin to limit also the scientific determination of value. Suppose we could identify those few people on earth who experience the greatest life-long well-being, and then bring everyone else up to their level, or close. I think it would not be possible to maximize human well-being more than this. What people experience the greatest life-long well-being? The Moral Landscape describes, under the heading “The Good Life”, a couple who are intelligent, healthy, have psychically and financially rewarding jobs, etc.[2] But that couple do not, apparently, practice meditation. In a 2007 lecture, Harris said:

. . . solitary confinement . . . is considered a punishment even inside a prison. . . . And yet, for thousands of years, contemplatives have claimed to find extraordinary depths of psychological well-being while spending vast stretches of time in total isolation. . . . there is no question in my mind that people have improved their emotional lives . . . through . . . practices like meditation.

. . . our habitual identification with discursive thought, our failure moment to moment to recognize thoughts as thoughts, is a primary source of human suffering. And when a person breaks this spell, an extraordinary kind of relief is available.

. . . Another common mistake is to imagine that such experiences are necessarily equivalent to states of mind with which many of us are already familiar – the feeling of scientific awe, or ordinary states of aesthetic appreciation, artistic inspiration, etc.[3]

Harris doesn’t quite say that meditation experiences are better than The Good Life or scientific awe, etc., but his explanation here of how identification with thought is a primary source of suffering makes that at least a high probability, which any proposed method of maximizing human well-being will have to encompass.

He does not come as close to identifying any other single variable as the source of the greatest well-being, as he does meditation.

Thus it is quite persuasive when Harris says that some people who spend decades on retreat meditating become “true saints,” or “spiritual geniuses.”[4] So let us suppose there is an individual whom we can call Saint Well-Being (W-B) who experiences greater well-being than anyone else on earth. We are all “far more similar than we are different;”[5] we all have potential somewhat similar to that of W-B; so clearly one component of the endeavour to effect the maximum overall well-being must be that science identify W-B and recognize his/her well-being as the highest known human value on the individual level; and then that many, if not all, of the rest of us learn the meditation techniques, lifestyle and code of morality that have worked for W- B.

However, Harris has said: “the sciences of mind are largely predicated on [correlating] first-person reports of subjective experience with third-person states of the brain.”[6] “Third- person states of the brain” means states of the brain of a subject that can be observed and certified by researchers in white coats. Researchers may eventually be able to objectively know everything about W-B’s brain states, but they will know that his/her brain states represent the greatest subjective well-being on the planet only if they believe his/her first-person report to that effect. They can confidently accept similar reports of lower levels of well-being correlating with other brain states in other subjects, because 1) numerous subjects with almost-identical brain states have reported the same levels; and 2) the lower levels may be within the researchers’ own range of experience, and they may have measured their own brain states. But W-B may be one of a kind in terms of potential human well-being achieved.

Having failed to confirm W-B’s spiritual genius by the only direct means science has of “referring to a person’s subjective experience” (the correlation of first-person with third- person),[7] researchers will fall back on an approach suggested by a remark of Harris’s: “if Jesus was a spiritual genius, you know, a palpably non-neurotic and charismatic and wise person, I can well imagine the experience of his disciples. I can well imagine the kind of influence he could have on their lives . . .”[8] Traditionally, W-B’s, along with their moral authority, have been identified by the intuitions of others: “He/she seems to have found something.” And science will try to provide scientific confirmation that W-B’s disciples are correct in identifying W-B as a spiritual genius. However, as we have seen in 2 above regarding correct beliefs, “The person will know something about X, but science, absent other sources of information, won’t.” Suppose I have a particular intuition, I1, about some person. Suppose that that intuition is correct.

Suppose also that I have another intuition, I2, which is the intuition that I1 is correct; and suppose that I2 is also correct. I2 is an experience. I2 is correct, but how can science know that I2 is correct? To science, my I2 is a measurable sense of correctness, but the sense itself remains subjective: I have the experience; science knows I have the experience, but science doesn’t have the experience. So science doesn’t experience, and therefore doesn’t know, the correctness of I1.

So science will not be able to help with this indispensable element of achieving the greatest well-being for all: identifying the W-B’s if few – especially if their well-being continues to evolve.

I think that science will be able to determine values well enough to vastly improve on the average of humanity’s present mish-mash of moral codes – it will be able to expose the bankruptcy of Kanun, for instance – and I think that therefore Harris’s thesis will play a big role in humanity’s future evolution. But science alone will not be able to guide us to the very highest of those peaks in the landscape “which remain to be discovered.”[9]

Notes

1 A term used by neurologist Robert Burton, quoted in The Moral Landscape hardcover, p. 127. Burton has said that a feeling of truth is simply a neurological event that may have little relation to the actual truth. An example might be that most of us have a feeling of truth that red means stop and green means go; but if any of us were to be bumped on the head, we might develop an identical feeling of truth about the opposite idea.
2 The Moral Landscape hardcover, p. 15.
3 http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/the-problem-with-atheism
4 Harris in http://www.mandm.org.nz/2011/05/transcript-sam-harris-v-william-lane-craig-debate-%E2%80%9Cis- good-from-god%E2%80%9D.html
5 The Moral Landscape hardcover, p. 190.
6 Ibid., p. 30.
7 Ibid.
8 Harris in http://www.mandm.org.nz/2011/05/transcript-sam-harris-v-william-lane-craig-debate-%E2%80%9Cis- good-from-god%E2%80%9D.html
9 The Moral Landscape hardcover, p.183. 

The Yoga of Economics

Dr. Sohail Inayatullah takes a look at the ancient system of Yoga, and in particular some of its ethical principles, through socioeconomic lenses. Republished with the kind permission of PROUT Journal, New Delhi.

By Sohail Inayatullah

Yoga, defined alternatively, to unite with the infinite or as series of poses to regulate the body's glandular system is usually not linked to the economy. However, there is much we can learn from the practice of Yoga in creating more effective business strategy and a more balanced world economy.

"As with economics, this means that there are natural cycles in the life of a person or organization. Pauses need not be considered negative growth but as chances to evaluate what part of the business or organization are worth maintaining, what parts need to be jettisoned and what aspects transformed. This is true at the personal level as well."

As a physical exercise or commonly known as “innercise,” Yoga is linked to enhanced wellbeing. In a study using Magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging, regular Yoga practitioners exhibited higher levels of the amino acid, GABA, which is linked to a reduction in anxiety. GABA helps fight of depression and is essential for a healthy and relaxed mind. Yoga has also become a big business in the West valued at 42 billion dollar (courses, clothes, mats, for example). Indeed, business strategist and futurist Sudhir Desai of Boston, Massachusetts humorously comments that perhaps it is time to outsource Yoga to India.

However, what I wish to explore is how the principles of Yoga can be used to transform our current world economy as well as to strategically help organizations manoeuvre and create alternative futures.

1 Flexibility

First, Yoga is about flexibility. Enhanced flexibility is gained through holding postures. Done daily and slowly, harmonized with breathing, Yoga over time increases flexibility. Those who don't practice Yoga find themselves becoming rigid. Metaphorically, they are unable to adapt to changing conditions. They cannot bend to the changing wind. Thus, when there are changes in the world economy or in one's personal economy, they remain rigid. The Yogic principle of flexibility suggests that we always need to be able to bend and bow. This does not mean, however, letting the wind carry us wherever, as Yoga postures are held with inner strength.

One strategy to negotiate dramatic changes is to develop scenarios so as to reduce risk. A deeper approach is individual and organizational flexibility, so irrespective of which scenario occurs, the person/organization does not break. Fexibility in organizations is about enhancing capacity and to some extent can be operationalized as policies that ensure that employees do not experience conflict between work and family. This leads to cost savings and higher productivity as family life is not sacrificed for work. Other measures could include how employees respond to stressful situations.

2 Breathe in, Breath out

Second, Yoga is about breath, prana. Breathe in, breathe out. Yoga is about slowing the heart rate down, slowing the mind down. Yoga is about being present. As economic or social crises result, the lesson from Yoga is to breathe, to slow down, to reflect and not be carried away by the challenge at hand. By being present, relaxed, often an answer to the problem can emerge from the intuitive part of the mind, from another self. By slowing down, we can see the problem anew as panic and fear either disappear or are decreased. The “fight or flight” reaction does not dominate.

3 Pause

Third, yoga is based on pauses fits and starts. It is not a continuous linear pattern of endless growth. Rather, like the breath, there are pauses. The stopping allows for reflection, for gathering energy, before the next speeding up. Mystic Shrii P.R.Sarkar suggests that life is like a series of rolling hills. There are pauses between climbs what he calls systaltic pauses. We rest, regain focus, and then move forward. Even if one believes life is like climbing a ladder or a race, it is important to rest between rungs or after a race, to gather energy and momentum.

As with economics, this means that that there are natural cycles in the life of a person or organization. Pauses need not be considered negative growth but as chances to evaluate what part of the business or organization are worth maintaining, what parts need to be jettisoned and what aspects transformed. This is true at the personal level as well. On can ask: what aspects of my life behaviours, attitudes and assumptions – need to be pruned and what aspects need to grow and what parts need to transform?

4 Concentration and Meditation

While yoga may begin with external exercises it tends to conclude with innercises- the most powerful is concentration and meditation. The benefits are overwhelming. Meditation can increase the thickness of regions that control attention and process sensory signals from the outside world. In a program that neuroscientist Amishi Jha of the University of Miami calls mindfulness-based mind-fitness training, participants build concentration by focusing on one object, such as a particular body sensation. The training, she says, has shown success in enhancing mental agility and attention “by changing brain structure and function so that brain processes are more efficient,” the quality associated with higher intelligence.

Meditation, as well, can switch genes on and off. In a recent study on the impact of meditation on the body, researchers concluded: “…meditators showed a range of genetic and molecular differences, including altered levels of gene-regulating machinery and reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes, which in turn correlated with faster physical recovery from a stressful situation”.

Specifically: “The results show a down-regulation of genes that have been implicated in inflammation. The affected genes include the pro-inflammatory genes RIPK2 and COX2 as well as several histone deacetylase (HDAC) genes, which regulate the activity of other genes epigenetically by removing a type of chemical tag. What's more, the extent to which some of those genes were down-regulated was associated with faster cortisol recovery to a social stress test involving an impromptu speech and tasks requiring mental calculations performed in front of an audience and video camera”.

This is important as there is a direct correlation, argue the authors, between chronic low-grade inflammation and the most common problems of the modern world including cardiovascular and metabolic disease, cancer and neuropsychiatric disorders. Meditation can make the person and the nation healthier. By reducing national health care costs, debt can be reduced and capital reinvested in prevention. And by increasing well-being and purpose, meditation can enhance productivity, increasing the quality of life.

5 Tandava, creative destruction

Fifth, associated with Yoga is a dance called tandava. This is the dance of Shiva, wherein Shiva dances between life and death, the infinite and finite, the eternal and the temporal. The narrative is Shiva is not just the creator and the maintainer but also the destroyer. Without overdoing the link to Joseph Schumpeter's notion of creative destructive as one of the hallmarks of capitalism's strengths, it is important to note that Yoga is not just about stretching and feeling good. Yoga also highlights the needs for destruction of behaviours, attitudes and assumptions about self, economy and planet. Certainly the Occupy wall street movement has made it clear that the inequity built into capitalism needs to end. The delinking of the financial system from the real economy needs to end. Others, more radically, assert that Shiva needs to engage in the dance of tandava on capitalism itself. Five hundred years of one system is more than enough. Time for a change? Time for Shiva's tandava?

6 The Ethical context

Sixth, whether exercise or spiritual unification, Yoga also has a critical ethical context. This context is called Yama and Niyama. Yama, writes Yogi Dada Vedaprajinananda, means that which controls and the practice of Yama means to control actions related to the external world. Niyama, in contrast, is focused on self-regulation. Both are crucial for creating a context for the expansion of goods, services, ideas and purpose. In this section, I explore five aspects of Yama and Niyama, in specific, the implications of ahimsa, aparigraha, tapah, asteya, and santosh on economics.

The first Yama is ahimsa or least violence, even non-violence. For the Yoga practitioner, the simple question is: Am I partaking in aspects of the economy that lead directly to violence (person to person, person to nature, person to animal) or indirectly through structural violence, where the system creates violence, as in the Indian caste system. Applied to the economy, this would mean moving away from Big M or the Big meat industry. In the USA, estimates vary but generally a conservative number is 10 billion land animals are slaughtered annually. Globally the number is 58 billion.

In a switch to a vegetarian economy, certainly there would be many losers and winners. And it is only fair that Big Meat gets a decade or so to start to switch over to vegetarian options. Structurally, this means the end of subsidies for the meat industry and the support of education and policies that moves toward a vegetarian society. Overtime the goal would be an economy rooted in ahimsa.

Big Tobacco would also be directly impacted. The World Health Organization estimated that one billion people will die this century from tobacco related illnesses and over 165,000 children die annually from complications of second hand smoke.

An ahimsa-based economy would also support anti-bullying legislation in workplaces and create legislation where there was none. Programs that reduce bullying such as meditation programs would as well be encouraged. Essentially, instead of a focus on social Darwinism, ahimsa would create, as Riane Eisler argues, a caring economics. The question asked by regulatory authorities would be: does this economic activity create violence or peace. Where there are conflicts, is there harm reduction policies? That we spend globally 1.62 trillion dollars on military expenditures tells us that our world economy does not follow ahimsa.

As relevant as ahimsa is aparigraha which is essentially about voluntary simplicity. It is the ecological principle of asking before accumulation of a physical object, as well as a mental object, do I need this in my life? Am I purchasing it because I can use it or because I wish to demonstrate to my neighbours and others that I am important? What am I truly purchasing is the yogic question. Am I purchasing the object or is at issue the lack of inferiority I feel?

While the implication of aparigraha is to some extent an economics of austerity, this does not mean a reduction in standard of living. There are billions of objects, the basic needs of education, health, clothes, housing, food, communication and connectivity that need purchasing. Aparigraha is about intent. It is also about full information. Who made the product, how much did the worker make, how much did the middle man, the trader? Was anyone or nature harmed its production? Aparigraha leads to questioning of consumption. Aparigraha is also contextual. Each epoch and each region has different levels of appropriate technologies and consumption. And one can reduce material items but still collect unnecessary thoughts or reduce material items but secretly desire them. Aparigraha is an economics of wise consumption not repressed asceticism. Yoga teacher, Dada Vedaprajinanda writes that aparigraha means to “not hoard wealth which is superfluous to our actual needs,” what Shrii Sarkar has called, “keep the money rolling.”

Applied to the world economy, aparigraha suggests that if one person or nation hoards wealth, it may lead to others having less. It certainly slows down the movement of goods and services. Fluidity and flexibility disappear as trust and legitimacy decrease in the overall system. The results of hoarding are obvious throughout the global economy. At the external level, hoarding decreases when there are regulations that create a maximum income. At the inner level, hoarding decreases when individuals trust their own capacity to earn wealth, and they trust the rules of the game when there is transparency, a fair judiciary and accountability. And when the maximum and minimum are linked to each other, as the maximum goes up so does the minimum, then wealth and equity can increase.

Tapah, a yogic principle, suggests that one must undergo some physical hardship to attain the goal, counters much of New Age thinking, which often asserts that hard work is not necessary. In Yoga, there is great value to persistence and perspiration. Every successful individual, organization or nation knows this. Short term desires are sacrificed for the long term. Children who say no to the doughnut in front of them for two doughnuts later do much better in life. Delayed gratification, putting in the hours, and “no short cuts” are all crucial for success (within our contemporary worldview). And the hard work may be simply thinking different examining one's narratives and seeing if they are sabotaging one's goal orientation, sacrificing neural pathways that are not productive.

Asteya, as a well, the yogic principle of not stealing or renouncing the desire to acquire or retain the wealth of others is crucial if we wish to ensure the economy has legitimacy and trust. If there is theft at the top senior government ministers, corporate CEOs or civil social society leaders then the system loses legitimacy. Those closer to the bottom feel that if the elite can get away with it, why can't they take short cuts or engage in micro-corruption. Good governance is essentially about ensuring that the political-economy is transparent, that at every level of society, there is no theft. Laws thus must be fair and there must be equality before the law. With asteya as an operating principle, trust increases, legitimacy expands and wealth can grow and circulate. It is not siphoned off at every step of the way, rather, it moves and moves, allowing all to benefit. Thus: higher ethics leads to stronger economies.

While there are other important ethical guidelines in Yoga, I conclude with santosh or contentment for things received. This is principle of acceptance, of “enoughness.” In spiritual traditions, this is similar to allowing, of appreciation of what is. While seemingly in contradiction with other principles of expansion of the mind, in Yoga there is a both-and approach, of being present to the dialectics of the present, of both tandava (destroying or deconstructing what-is) and santosh (accepting and appreciating what-is). Behind this is the notion that happiness is a virus. The happier I am, the happier others will be, as contentment radiates from person to person. Like money, which needs to keep rolling, happiness needs to keep moving, from person to person, economic system to ecosystem, and flower to planet.

In conclusion, Yoga leads to prama or dynamic equilibrium, appreciating what-is and creating more wealth and equity for all – local and global, self and planet, inner and outer.

Yama and Niyama

Principles of spiritual morality

The principles of yama and niyama are very old and have always been a part of systematized tantrik practices. The five principles of yama (control) are intro-extroversial in character as they deal with external behavior and conduct. The principles of niyama are fundamentally internal as they deal with the inner world of the individual.

Yama

The principles of yama are: proper action (ahimsa), truthfulness (satya), non-stealing (asteya), modesty (aparigraha) and spiritual consciousness (brahmacarya).
Ahimsa means not causing suffering to any harmless creature through thought, word or deed.
Satya denotes action of mind or use of words with the object of helping others in the real sense. It has no relative application.
Asteya means non-stealth and this should not be confined to the physical action but to the action of mind as well. All actions have their origin in the mind and hence the correct sense of asteya is to give up the desire of acquiring what is not rightly one's own.
Aparigraha involves the non-acceptance of such amenities and comforts of life as are superfluous for the preservation of the physical existence.
The spirit of Brahmacarya is to experience His presence and authority in each and every physical and psychic objectivity. This occurs when the unit mind resonates with cosmic will.

Niyama

The five rules of niyama are: purity (shaoca), contentment (santosa), endurance (tapah), understanding (svadhyaya) and spiritual practice (iishvarapranidhana).
Shaoca means purity both of physical and mental body. Mental purity is attained by benevolent deeds, charity, or other dutiful acts.
Santosa means contentment. It implies accepting ungrudgingly and without a complaint the out-turn of the services rendered by one's own physical or mental labor.
Tapah means efforts to reach the goal despite such efforts being associated with physical discomforts.
Svadhyaya means study of the scriptures or other books of learning and to assimilate their spirit.
The whole universe is guided by the Supreme Entity and nothing that one does or can do is without His specific command. Iishvarapranidhana is an auto-suggestion of the idea that each and every unit is an instrument in the hands of the Almighty and is a mere spark of that Supreme fire. Iishvarapranidhana also implies implicit faith in Him irrespective of whether one lives in momentary happiness or sorrow, in prosperity or adversity.
Only those who by their nature adhere to the above ten commands in their normal and spiritual conduct are sadvipras.

4 June 1959
Idea and Ideology 

Note: The yamas sand niyamas are ancient principles that go back to the teachings of the spiritual master Sadashiva who lived in North India some 7000 years ago. Much later these principles were incorporated by Maharsi Patainjali as part of his system of Rajayoga, the classical system of Astaunga Yoga. In this way, the moral-spiritual code of Yama and Niyama has been part of a genuine system of self-development and self-realization since old times.

Your Mission

By Shrii Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar

[December 1966] – Human beings cannot propagate a great ideology by their knowledge, intellect or social status alone. They can only do it through their conduct. Human conduct gets purified by intuitional practices. It is not necessary that one should come from a so-called high family, or that one should have completed university studies. Rather, these factors may create false vanity in one’s mind which may ultimately stand in the way of reforming one’s conduct.

"Remember – you have to serve humanity."

In this universe of ours, two forces are working side by side – the sentient and the static. Sometimes the sentient force and at other times the static force dominates. There is no scope for a pact between these forces. Human beings will have to march ahead amidst the ceaseless struggle of these opposite forces. In the society, on the one hand we see the hoards of antisocial elements, and on the other hand we feel a sense of frustration among the moralists. These moralists have therefore developed a tendency to go out of the society. With more wealth and strength, the antisocial elements are in an advantageous position, and the moralists appear to be the culprits. This state of affairs is neither desirable nor behooving, and it should not be allowed to continue.

Your duty will be to unite the moralists. Let there be two camps. Let there be an open fight. The moralists have been scattered for so long that they could not fight. The united strength of five moralists is much more than the united strength of a hundred immoralists because there is an unholy alliance amongst the latter. Meditation behind closed doors will not do. Gather strength by intuitional practices and unite yourselves against the immoralists.

So your duty is three-fold. Your first duty is to observe morality and to do intuitional practices. Without this you cannot have mental determination. Your next duty is to unite the moralists of the world, otherwise Dharma will not endure. The exploited mass who do not observe Yama and Niyama – the cardinal moral principles – cannot fight against their own sense of frustration. It is therefore necessary to unite the moralists. This will be your real Dharma. You will become great by doing this, because ideation of the Great makes a person great. At the third stage, you will have to mercilessly fight against sin wherever it has taken root in this world.

You will have to propagate this mission from door to door. No political party or so-called religious institution can bring salvation. Praising God in concerts with drums and cymbals will not bring salvation either, because this will not bring the sinner to submission. To curb the onslaughts of the immoralists today, arms are more necessary than drums and cymbals.

It is not possible to fight against sin as long as there is some weakness in your mind. In this fight, your goal is not the sin or the sinner, your goal is the Supreme Consciousness. Anything that comes in the way of this has to be removed mercilessly. When clouds collect around the pole-star and cover it, your duty will be to remove the clouds and follow the pole-star without caring to see where the clouds have gone. If you always think of your enemy, your mind will adopt the bad qualities of your object of ideation, but if the Supreme Being is your goal, your mind will be metamorphosed into the Supreme Being itself.

Remember – you have to serve humanity. You have to dedicate yourself to the cause of humanity as a whole. Your life is valuable; your time is all the more valuable. You should not waste a single moment. The task is glorious. The task is novel. Lead the life of a warrior and constantly fight against evils. You will be victorious. So march ahead!

From PROUT in a Nutshell Part 18
Copyright Ananda Marga Publications 2012

Ethics for Personal and Social Transformation

By Dada Maheshvarananda

PROUT founder P.R. Sarkar believed that morality is the foundation upon which a better society and economic democracy must be built. He pointed out that traditional rules-based morality, expressed in terms of absolutes, is inadequate to the task of solving most moral questions in the relative world. If a deranged gunman is shooting innocent people, the Biblical commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” is inappropriate to the immediate need to stop him as fast as possible at any cost, in order to save other lives.

It is natural that people may react if morality is imposed on them. When people are coerced to obey dogmatic rules, some respond by rejecting all morality whatsoever.

Sarkar appealed for a moral framework based on “practical wisdom.” He drew a subtle distinction between what he termed “simple morality” and “spiritual morality.” He pointed out that throughout history, most moral values have reflected the interests of the rich and powerful. Each ruling class has exploited other classes through force and cunning, creating rules and justifications for those rules to suit their interest. Human history is a chronicle of exclusion and power.

Instead of simple do’s and don’ts, Sarkar insisted that in choosing the correct way to act in different situations, the intention behind each deed is of great importance. Spiritual morality is based on Neohumanism and cardinal human values, which include kindness, honesty, courage, mercy, humility, self-restraint and compassion. These qualities are considered virtues in every society and religious tradition because they give meaning and enhance the beauty of life, transforming people and society. Cardinal human values challenge us to protect the weak, avoid harming others, overcome selfishness and denounce the lies of those who abuse their power.

PROUT recognizes the existential value of every being; this value supersedes the social value or utilitarian value of a being. Hence every life has spiritual potential and should be preserved and encouraged as far as possible.

Throughout history, a gradual trend has emerged to establish a more permanent set of moral values based on the intrinsic value of human life. The struggles against slavery, tyranny, injustice and poverty reflect this. Ultimately, all cardinal human values arise from the evolution of consciousness and the spiritual urge to discover oneself.

One important contribution Sarkar has made to the ethical debate is his emphasis on balancing individual and collective interests. He proposed ethics and the sense of justice as the basis of idealism and inspiration in spiritual life, and that they are indispensable for the creation of a better society. Sarkar emphasized that while morality is the beginning of both the individual and collective movement, in itself it is not worthy of being the goal of life:

The morality of a moralist may disappear at any moment. It cannot be said with any certainty that the moralist who has resisted the temptation of a bribe of two rupees would also be able to resist the temptation of an offer of two hundred thousand rupees… It cannot be said that the ultimate aim of human life is not to commit theft; what is desirable is that the tendency to commit theft should be eliminated.[1]

To restore pramá (dynamic equipoise) in our communities and in our personal lives, we need a clear code of moral conduct. We need to broaden our sense of right and wrong to include “right living” in the world.

Ten Universal Principles

Sarkar adopted ten ancient ethical principles of yoga. The first five are called Yama, which means, “controlled contact with others”–they show us how to live in peace with others. The second five principles are called Niyama, which means “controlled conduct for self purification”–guidelines for how to be at peace with oneself.

These two sets [ext. link] are complementary, and they are both constructive and positive. Because Sarkar viewed ethics as tools for liberation and not for suppression, he re-interpreted these principles, discarding old dogmatic interpretations. Universal in nature, they can be an effective guide to choose wisely one’s actions in any time, in any place, and with any group of people.

The first five principles of Yama, or social values, are:

Ahim’sá: Not to intentionally harm others with one’s actions, words or thoughts.

Daily life involves struggle and the use of force–the mere acts of breathing and walking result in the unintentional deaths of thousands of microorganisms. Sarkar differs with some fundamentalist religious interpretations of ahim’sá by teaching that this principle does not preclude the use of force for survival, for self-defense or to defend others.

PROUT insists that ahim’sá includes a people’s right to resist foreign invasion as well as structural or institutional violence. It does not mean literal nonviolence at all times (as some, including Mahatma Gandhi, have interpreted it) because that is both impossible and impractical.[2]

The most important part of ahim’sá is one’s intention. Individually, it means striving to avoid hurtful thoughts, words and actions. In fact, every violent act begins with a thought, so if thoughts of anger or hatred arise, one should intentionally substitute positive thoughts until the angry ones fade away.

Ahim’sá recognizes certain actions as so inimical they must be stopped at any cost. Individuals or organizations that threaten murder with a weapon, kidnap someone, steal or burn another’s property, or poison someone are “human enemies.” So in the example mentioned above of a deranged gunman killing innocent people, in order to save lives the killer must be stopped as quickly as possible. Ahim’sá would not preclude killing the gunman in this case if it was the only way to save others.

A nation needs an armed police force and military for its security. Appropriate training and discipline are important to instill this principle of ahim’sá in protectors of the peace. They must resist the temptation to use their authority or their weapons to punish or kill someone out of anger, hatred or a lust for power; rather, their intent should be to protect everyone.

Satya: To use one’s words and one’s mind for the welfare of others; benevolent truthfulness.

PROUT is based on this spirit of benevolence; encouraging the physical, mental and spiritual development of everyone. This collective outlook is considered the most important of all the ten principles, because it directs one’s life for the goal of others. Satya directly opposes the lies of convenience and hypocrisy of those in power.

However, situations do arise when the truth can hurt others: for example, if a fugitive from a violent mob seeks your help, benevolent truthfulness would probably indicate hiding the victim and lying to the mob when they come hunting for that person. In other words, instead of simple truth, this principle aspires to a higher sense of morality based on benevolence.

One who continually thinks for the welfare of others will develop great inner strength and mental clarity that will enable that person to inspire others and realize his or her hopes and dreams. In interpersonal relations, the truth should be communicated with gentle and loving words.

Asteya: Not to take what rightfully belongs to others, and not to deprive others of what is their due.

In all societies, human beings have created systems of ownership and laws to avoid conflicts. Prout recognizes the need to question and col- lectively struggle to redesign unjust laws for the welfare of everyone. Yet when one breaks the law or steals for self-interest, the mind becomes crude–greed, lust and habitual lying bring about one’s downfall.

This principle rejects corruption and cheating, which are especially destructive in economically undeveloped countries. From the very inception of the Ananda Marga and PROUT movements in India, their members have maintained strict honesty in their personal lives. Sadly, this has often resulted in persecution. For example, when a member who was an employee of the police, customs or tax department informed fellow officers that he or she would not accept bribe money, this moral stand was commonly viewed as a threat to the rest of the department, and punitive recourses against the moralist were often taken.

The mental desire to steal must also be overcome, otherwise greed, jealousy and anger can poison the mind and cause constant frustration and disappointment.

Personal integrity and trustworthiness are essential qualities of an activist. One with ideal character is respected by all good people.

Brahmacarya: To respect and treat everyone and everything as an expression of the Supreme Consciousness.

Our welfare is entwined together. This is an attitude that is both spiritual and ecological, accepting that every being has profound physical, mental and spiritual potential. We are each a part of the whole. We are each consciousness. Thus we have the right to object to one’s actions, but we do not have the right to hate that person.

At the end of a yoga class in a prison in Great Britain, the instructor announced a homework assignment: “To everyone you see this week, think, ‘I love you’.” One prisoner thought it ridiculous, but decided to try it anyway, as no one would know, it was all in his head. It was hard for him not to laugh when he thought ‘I love you’ as the meanest prisoners and toughest guards passed by. Within hours people were asking him why he was grinning all the time. By the end of the week, both convicts and guards asked him what had happened, because he wasn’t getting into arguments or fights anymore, and he always seemed cheerful and friendly. He wisely decided to continue the exercise. What worked for him can work for anyone.

Aparigraha: Not to accumulate wealth or indulge in comforts which are unnecessary for the preservation of life.

This is a principle of ecology, living simply with only as many material belongings as is necessary. It is a mistake to run after worldly objects in one’s search for happiness. A materialistic lifestyle restricts one’s love and concern to a very limited circle of friends and family, and causes feelings of jealousy, envy, and vanity to increase. Everyone longs for inner peace and love; no physical object can provide that.

This tenet echoes the words of British economist E.F. Schumacher, author of Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered: “An attitude of life which seeks fulfillment in the single-minded pursuit of wealth–in short, in materialism–doesn’t fit into this world, because it contains within itself no limiting principle, while the environment in which it is placed is strictly limited.”[3]

Aparigraha is based on the idea of Cosmic inheritance, that we do not own the wealth of this planet. Instead we are its caretakers, and only have the right to use and share resources for the welfare of all. Unfortunately, in North America 5 percent of the world’s population is consuming 30 percent of the world’s resources and creating 30 percent of the world’s waste; if everyone in the world copied this lifestyle, we would need five planets![4] Ecologists prescribe personal recycling, home energy conservation, reducing automobile use and changing one’s diet to consume organisms lower on the food chain.

Each of these steps requires some amount of personal sacrifice, inconvenience and time. Education is the best way to awaken consciousness about the need to reduce our consumption to help restore ecological balance.

The five principles of Niyama are about positive self-control, which lead to personal strength:

Shaoca: To maintain the cleanliness of one’s body and the environment, as well as mental purity.

The cleanliness of our body and our environment is critical to our physical and mental health. Likewise, our social environment–family and society–also has a positive or negative effect on us. Unfortunately, modern society bombards us with messages about violence and sex that have a very disturbing effect on our minds. Pornography pollutes our thoughts and corrupts our behavior.

This principle also refers to internal cleanliness. For example, eating excessively leads to indigestion, mental dullness, obesity, and, in most cases, unhappiness. Self-restraint is important for mental purity and peace of mind.

Santosa: To maintain a state of mental contentment and peace.

The dominant modern lifestyle in developed countries is extremely hectic, stressful and often superficial. Materialism and consumerism stimulate greed, causing even wealthy people to feel frustrated and unhappy. People often shop to escape boredom or loneliness. Investigative journalist Duncan Campbell observed, “Americans have more time- saving devices and less time than any other group of people in the world.”[5]

It is profoundly important to stop and spend time with children, family and friends. Despite all the problems we encounter each day, we should keep our patience and sense of humor. This is the attitude of an optimist, who always sees the bright side of everything, without closing one’s eyes to the pains and sufferings of others. This principle instills a profound sense of gratitude for all the blessings of life, and instills hope in others.

Mental peace also comes from the deeper understanding that, spiritually, everything has a purpose. This is articulated by Reinhold Niebuhr’s famous prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

Tapah: To alleviate the suffering of the needy through personal service and sacrifice.

Giving one’s personal time to help those who are less fortunate, perceiving them as members of our human family, profoundly enriches one’s own life. Volunteering in this way is only considered tapah when it is done without the thought of reward or publicity. This type of true service develops mutual respect and instills humility.

Fear and ignorance prevent many people from serving others. By confronting our fears and reaching out to others in need, we overcome artificial barriers that divide people and learn to listen and identify with the problems of others. Service is essential for activists who want to change the world, because it creates a bond of friendship with the common people we want to help.

Albert Schweitzer, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said, “You must give some time to your fellow men. Even if it’s a little thing, do something for others–something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it.”

Svádhyáya: To read and endeavor to gain a clear understanding of spiritual books and scriptures, and listen to wise teachings.

To gain such a clear understanding, it is imperative that we use our rational, questioning minds. This practice gives the reader contact with great personalities and daily inspiration to begin and continue the per- sonal path to self-realization.

While it is important to respect the spiritual traditions and paths of others, it is also important to oppose irrational and superstitious practices which cause harm to others. Blind obedience to religious dogmas results in fanaticism, a socio-sentiment. An example of this is the outlook: “Only the followers of my religion are the chosen children of God. Only we will go to heaven when we die, while everyone else will be condemned to eternal hell.” This type of intolerant attitude has led to the Crusades, the Inquisition, the justification of slavery and untold religious wars and persecution throughout history. The principle of svádhyáya asks us to question internally what we read and hear as we search for truth and wisdom.

Iishvara Pran’idhána: To accept the Cosmic Consciousness as one’s shelter and goal.

This principle offers an answer to the ancient mystical question, “Who am I?” We are more than our physical body, more than our mind, we are pure consciousness, a drop in the infinite ocean of the Cosmic Mind.

This is also an attitude of surrender to a higher purpose. The famous Prayer of Saint Francis, which begins, “O Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace,” is an example of this spiritual tenet.

The late Jennifer Fitzgerald, in her extensive analysis of Sarkar’s ethics, wrote:

Sarkar straddles the absolute and the relative with a powerful combination of love and wisdom. He builds his ethical discourse on the simple, homegrown and sustainable base of wisdom. He has a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of all things in the world, of the essential forces which drive all those things, of basic needs, of essential nature, and of aspirations.[6]

Notes

1 P.R. Sarkar, “Introduction”, A Guide to Human Conduct (Calcutta: Ananda Marga Publications, 1977).
2 P.R. Sarkar, “Social Defects in Gandhism”, PROUT in a Nutshell Part 21 (Calcutta: Ananda Marga Publications, 1992). For a most interesting comparison, see Sohail Inayatullah’s “interview” with the two beyond the bondages of time and space, “Gandhi and Sarkar: On Non-violence, Rural Economy and the Indian Independence Movement,” Global Times, No. 3, May/Jun., 1998, http://www.proutglobe.org/2012/02/gandhi-and-sarkar-the-interview/.
3 E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful (London: Abacus, 1973) p. 23.
4 “USA is the country with the largest per capita footprint in the world — a footprint of 9.57 hectares. If everyone on the planet was to live like an average American, we would need 5 planets.” from “Much Ado About Nothing”, October 11, 2006. See also John L Seitz, Global Issues: An Introduction (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2001) and Frances Harris, Global Environmental Issues (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2004).
5 Quoted in Bo Lozoff, Deep and Simple (Durham, NC: Human Kindness Foundation, 1999) p. 65.
6 Sohail Inayatullah and Jennifer Fitzgerald, Transcending Boundaries: Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar’s Theories of Individual and Social Transformation (Maleny, Australia: Gurukula Press, 1999).

Excerpted from After Capitalism: Economic Democracy in Action by Dada Maheshvarananda (Puerto Rico: Innerworld Publications, 2012): www.aftercapitalism.org

Ideological Foundations of Progressive Socialism – 2

Morality and Spirituality

By P.R. Sarkar

Human longings are infinite. If these infinite human longings are allowed to run after objects of worldly enjoyment, conflict among human beings is bound to take place. As material wealth is limited, over-abundance for one leads to crippling scarcity for others. These infinite human longings can be fulfilled only through psychic and spiritual wealth. The Supreme Entity has generously arranged infinite psychic and spiritual wealth for human beings; humanity will have to properly utilize that wealth.

Unity and benevolent intellect lead human beings towards supreme fulfilment. Reading voluminous treatises on philosophy will be of no use in awakening this benevolent intellect. For this, one will have to sincerely follow moral principles (Yama and Niyama) in individual life. To establish unity, the society will have to select an ideology which remains unassailed by any spatial, temporal or personal differences. That is why only Cosmic ideology will have to be adopted as the polestar of life.

From Problems of the Day (1958)

Copyright Ananda Marga Publications 2012

Ideological Foundations of Progressive Socialism:
1) One family
2) Morality and spirituality
3) Socialization
4) World habitat
5) Universalism
6) World government

A Guide to Human Conduct

The following is the opening paragraphs of P.R. Sarkar's book A Guide to Human Conduct where he goes on to discuss the ten essential principles of morality (Yama and Niyama).

By P.R. Sarkar

Morality is the foundation of spiritual practice. It must, however, be remembered that morality or good conduct is not the culminating point of the spiritual march. As a moralist one may set an ideal for other moralists, but to do this is not something worth mentioning for a spiritual aspirant. Spiritual practice, in its very start, requires mental equilibrium. This sort of mental harmony may also be termed as morality.

People often say, “I follow neither a religion nor rituals; I abide by truth; I harm nobody and I tell no lies. This is all that is necessary; nothing more need be done or learnt.” It should be clearly understood that morality is only an effort to lead a well-knit life. It will be more correct to define morality as a dynamic force rather than a static one, because balance in the extroversial spheres of life is maintained by waging a pauseless war against all opposite ideas. It is not an intro-external equilibrium. If the unbalanced state of mind takes a serious turn by pressure of external allurement, and if the mental disturbance is found to be intense, it is likely that the power for internal struggle may yield and consequently the external equilibrium, the show of morality, may at any moment break down.

That is why morality is, no doubt, not the goal, not even a static force. The morality of a moralist may disappear at any moment. It cannot be said with any certainty that the moralist who has resisted the temptation of a bribe of two rupees would also be able to resist the temptation of an offer of two hundred thousand rupees. Nevertheless, morality is not absolutely valueless in human life. Morality is an attribute of a good citizen and it is the starting point on the path of spiritual practice.

Moral ideals must be able to furnish human beings with the ability as well as the inspiration to proceed on the path of spiritual practice. Morality depends on one’s efforts to maintain a balance regarding time, place and person and therefore there may be differences in moral code. But the ultimate end of moralism is the attainment of Supreme bliss and therefore there should not be any possibility of any imperfections of relativity. It cannot be said that the ultimate aim of human life is not to commit theft; what is desirable is that the tendency to commit theft should be eliminated. Not to indulge in falsehood is not the aim of life; what is important is that the tendency of telling lies should be dispelled from one’s mind. The spiritual aspirant starts spiritual practices with the principles of morality, of not indulging in theft or falsehood. The aim of such morality is attainment of such a state of Oneness with Brahma where no desire is left for theft; and all tendencies of falsehood disappear.

In the spiritual practice of Ananda Marga, moral education is imparted with this ideal of oneness with Brahma, because spiritual practice is not possible without such a moral ideation. Spiritual practice devoid of morality will divert people again towards material enjoyments and at any moment they may use their mental power, acquired with much hardship, to quench their thirst for meagre physical objects. There are many who have fallen from the path of Yoga or Tantra Sádhaná and are spending their days in disrepute and infamy. Whatever little progress they achieved through forcible control of their instincts, was lost in a moment’s error in pursuit of mundane pleasures.

It must, therefore, be emphasized that even before beginning spiritual practice, one must follow moral principles strictly. Those who do not follow these principles should not follow the path of spiritual practice; otherwise they will bring about their own harm and that of others. Ácáryas must have noticed that people of over-selfish nature fear Ananda Marga itself for fear of following its strict moral principles. They are concerned that the spread of Ananda Marga may inconvenience the fulfilment of their mean, selfish desires and therefore, they malign the Márga in an effort to conceal their own weakness and dishonesty. But remember that those who are lacking in moral spirit do not deserve to be called human beings. However hard they may try, their tall talk alone cannot camouflage the meanness of their minds for a long time.

Copyright Ananda Marga Publications 2012

Moralism

By P.R. Sarkar

The inner spirit of the word society (Sanskrit: samája) is “to move together”. That is, the vitality of society depends on two factors: its existence – a collective creation – and its inherent dynamism. The characteristic of an activating force is that it does not move in a perfectly straight line, rather its movement is rhythmic or undulating; and this rhythm or wave is not monomorphic but systaltic. The force that moves society forward is also systaltic. When the nature of movement of individual life does not hinder the rhythm of collective movement of society, there remains the possibility of forming a society from the collective movement of numerous individuals – there lies the possibility of creating a universal intellectual structure inspired by the brilliance of sublime ideas.

If we try to judge the nature of something by analysing the inner spirit of the word used to describe it, we will have to say without hesitation that humanity has not yet learned how to build a “society” worthy of the name. Even to this day, people have only a very vague notion of the reasons for needing society, let alone of how to build a true society.

Movement means the active effort to destroy an existing structure and construct another. The very effort to destroy old, worn-out systems gives rise to the possibility of creating newer systems and codes. It is wrong to infer that because a force is temporarily static after being attacked it is inert; it still possesses the potential to strike back. Of course the force under attack tends to absorb the striking force in an effort to survive, but it cannot do this successfully. I have already explained why. To retard the systalticity of the movement of the striking force is contrary to the characteristics of force. That is why vested interests cannot hold back the progress of society.

A careful study of the social history of the world will reveal that until now every attempt at counter-revolution has not only caused enormous psychic and financial suffering and plunged humanity into the mire of gloom and despair, but has also lengthened the period of social contraction. This in turn, in the next phase, has helped to accelerate the speed of the period of social expansion – has inspired the chariot of revolution to advance towards victory with greater momentum.(1)

Does this forceful, dynamic movement manifest as a senseless whim, devoid of wisdom? No. In individual life the propensities of an underdeveloped mind appear whimsical to the external world, but in collective life, that is, in social life, there is no scope for whimsical movement. Nor would I say that dynamic movement is always inspired by wisdom. But I will say this: without wisdom, it is impossible to express dynamic movement.

The internal clash of forces provides the dynamic movement with constructive guidance. However, the amount of wisdom that is required to stop the erosion of the internal vitality of the dynamic movement is not manifest in all individuals. There are some people who manifest a great deal of wisdom, but, reasonably speaking, no matter how much that manifestation of wisdom is criticized as being a relative thing, it has some special value of its own. The easiest way to determine this special value is to ascertain its efficacy in the field of application.

Now the word “efficacy” often raises a storm in the philosophers’ teacups, because both materialists and idealists argue in more or less the same way. Here I do not want to say much about the idealists, but I must say that the arguments of the materialists are to some extent contradictory, because the efficacy of something in the field of application can only be judged by a sound mind, and at the time of passing judgement the mind has to be kept above matter. Let me elaborate this point.

Matter is the be-all and end-all of materialism. To a materialist, mind has been created out of matter by a process of chemical transformation, and so it does not have any independent or special significance beyond its materialistic value. Who, then, is to pass judgement on the efficacy of something? Can we justifiably accept the mind as a judge when its very existence is in principle denied? And conversely, if the mind is elevated to the status of a judge, does materialism retain its validity? No, it capitulates to idealism.

There are many other contradictory arguments in the philosophy of materialism, but they are not relevant to the present discussion. However, I do not want to dismiss the world as illusory either, as do the flighty idealists. In my opinion, mind must be given the special importance it deserves.

Although the physical body appears to imbibe ideas, psychologists will surely agree that the mind is the receiver or perceiver of ideas. They will also have to accept that the appraisal of any object in the absolute sense is not possible unless we can find a yardstick – for all times, all places and all people – to evaluate the mind. In the vast multitude of relativities, how is it possible to determine an acceptable absolute measurement for all times, all places and all people? From a little analytical study of the functional differences between the subjective and objective parts of the mind, whether underdeveloped or developed, it is clear that the mind cannot maintain its unit identity without an object. Mind must have an object to contemplate. If that object transcends time, place and person, it will then be possible for the mind to perceive the temporal, spatial and personal factors from a broad angle of vision.

Only a magnanimous and pervasive mind deserves to be called the Macrocosm. The ideological component of the unit mind which provides the initial inspiration for the individual to attain that Cosmic state, is called “morality”. Every aspect of morality sings the song of the Infinite, even in the midst of the finite. In other words, or put more simply, I wish to say that those magnanimous propensities which help to establish one in the Cosmic state are the virtuous principles of morality.

Social life must take morality as its starting point – it must take inspiration from morality. Only then will society be able to put an end to the erosion caused by divisive internal conflicts and to advance towards victory. But before we can start work, we also have to understand the difference between morality and religion, or so-called dharma.
Dharma means the attainment of bliss or the endeavour to attain bliss through regular sadhana in the subtler spheres of one’s nature. This blissful state is considered by wise people to be the Supreme Entity (Brahma ), and by devotees to be one’s very soul.
The word dharma is often loosely used for so-called religion. The reason for this is that the founders of almost all the world’s religions propagated their respective doctrines among the common people, claiming them to be the messages of God [i.e., to be dharma]. These founders never followed the path of logic. Whatever their intention might have been, the result was that humanity lost its supreme treasure, its rationality.

In the Middle Ages some selfish people proclaimed to the backward masses, “I am the messenger of God. Whatever I say is a revelation from God,” just to inject fear and terror into people’s minds. Was it beneficial for humanity to have such doctrines imposed on them in this way?

Almost every religion has claimed that only its followers are God’s chosen people and that the rest of humanity is cursed and bound by the chains of Satan. One religion has declared, “Our prophet is the only saviour. There is no escape from mundane sufferings except by taking refuge in him.” Another religion has declared, “I am the last prophet. Prayers must be said before God a specific number of times in a certain manner each day. Special animals must be sacrificed on particular days. These are the wishes of merciful God. Those who follow these injunctions will attain heaven on the Day of Judgement.” Yet another religion says, “Know ye, my son, thy God is the only God. All other gods are false gods.” Just imagine, all these religions preach universal fraternity, and yet this universal fraternity is kept within the confines of their own community. Humanity gasps for breath at such preposterous claims of universal fraternity.

Carried away by the grandiose slogans of their respective religions, the followers of these religions have at different times whipped up a frenzy of communal(2) hatred and indulged in orgies of genocide. Had their founders seen such sights, they would have hidden their faces in utter shame. Of all the bloodshed that took place in the Middle Ages, a major part was a natural consequence of this communal “universal fraternity”.

Directly or indirectly, religion encourages communalism. “Communalism” means a group psychology(3) based on religion.

In the distant past, long before the Middle Ages, so-called religions repeatedly tried to “show the light” to the simple, ignorant masses, and are still doing so today; and in the process they have in most cases created disasters. In fact, they do not feel any genuine love for humanity. The standard-bearers of these religions have never hesitated to use force of arms, wily intellect or financial power to gain some petty mundane advantage.

That is why I maintain that throughout history religions have proved to be flagrantly unworthy institutions, incapable of providing even the physical necessities of life, let alone spiritual salvation. By preaching disharmony, they have systematically prevented people from understanding that they are part of one integrated human society. And in support of their interdictions, they have cited many irrational precedents – a load of mouldy, rotten, worm-eaten papyrus.

Religion tries to transform the human mind into a state of staticity, because anything static is easily exploited. However, inertia is the exact opposite of the nature of the mind. A knotty problem! The founders of religion wanted human beings to give up their dynamic nature, and out of fear or delusion, unquestioningly accept certain ideas as the infallible truth. To prevent their shallow knowledge from being exposed, some so-called religious teachers avoided answering people’s questions by pretending to observe silence. This got around all the fuss of answering queries, and even gave the person the opportunity to appear sagacious. In order to stifle the inquisitiveness of the human mind, some of these charlatans even used to claim that an inquisitive nature is extremely bad.

Read any so-called religious book: one will seldom find anything resembling tolerance of the religious beliefs of others. I am not saying that one should accept whatever people say, but surely non-acceptance and intolerance are not the same. Why is there a mania for refuting the views of others anyway? If necessary, different views can be compared and presented in philosophical books. The philosophical and psychological loopholes in an argument may be pointed out without being disrespectful. But is the attempt to insult others indicative of magnanimity? In so-called religious books there is a greater tendency to refute the religious doctrines of others than to propagate one’s own ideas. Observing all these machinations, genuine theologists cannot hold religion in high esteem.

Wise people say:
“If a child says something rational, it should be accepted, and if the Supreme Creator says something irrational, it should be totally rejected.”
Yuktiyuktamupádeyaḿ vacanaḿ bálakádapi;
Anyaḿ trńamiva tyájyamapyuktaḿ Padmajanmanáh:
and:
“It is undesirable to accept something just because it is written in the scriptures, because if irrational sayings are accepted and implemented, the decline of dharma will be the result.”
Kevalaḿ shástramáshrityaḿ na karttavyo vinirńayah;
Yuktihiina vicáre tu dharmahánih prajáyate.

The derivative meaning of the Sanskrit word niiti (morality) is “that which contains the principle of leading”. It is the starting point on the path of spiritual practices. But this is not the only significance of morality. If morality fails to provide human beings with adequate guidance about how to move towards perfection, it does not deserve to be called morality. As morality is distinguished by its capacity to lead and inspire human beings, it cannot afford to lose its dynamic nature by limiting itself to a specific time, place and person. Morality is a living force, the practice of which makes the mind increasingly contemplative, thereby establishing it in supreme subtlety, in supreme cognition. There is a state from which human beings cannot be led to some other state – the question does not arise. Morality is only worthy of the name if it can inspire human beings to reach that state.

Moralism is not the unrealistic dream of the idealist, nor is it the means of fulfilling the mundane needs of the materialist. Rather it is something that provides people with the possibility of merging their mundane objectivity into supramundane Cognition.
The spirit of morality will have to be instilled in human beings from the moment that they first start to learn the lessons of interaction. By interaction I mean social interaction. Viewed from this perspective, the mind of a child is the best receptacle for morality.

But who will impart moral training or education? Parents find fault with teachers, and teachers in turn argue that they cannot give personal attention to an individual child in a crowd of two or three hundred children. Although it is true that most parents are either uneducated or semi-educated, and while it is not unreasonable to expect that teachers will be well-educated, it is not proper to place the sole responsibility for children’s moral education on the shoulders of their teachers. Increasing the number of teachers in educational institutions may partially solve the problem of moral education, but the key to the solution lies with the parents themselves. In cases where the parents are unfit to shoulder this responsibility, the teachers and well-wishers of society will have to come forward and demonstrate their greater sense of responsibility.

Remember, humanity’s very existence is based on morality; when morality leads human beings to the fullest expression of their finer human qualities, then alone is its practical value fully realized. The concerted effort to bridge the gap between the first expression of morality and establishment in universal humanism is called “social progress”. And the collective body of those who are engaged in the concerted effort to conquer this gap, I call “society”.
1959

Footnotes

(1) For an elaboration on how the systaltic force moves society forward through periods of expansion and contraction, see “The Kśatriya Age” in the author’s Human Society Volume 2.
(2) “Community” and “communal” as used here generally refer to religious communities. See the definition of “communalism” a few lines below. Also see The Dangers of Communalism
(3) For further discussion on group psychology, see Service Psychology and Group Psychology