“You have the right to perform your actions, but you are not entitled to the fruits of the actions/ Do not let the fruit be the purpose of your actions, and therefore you won’t be attached to not doing your duty//” –The Shrimadbhagavad-Gita [2:47]
India’s contribution to the treasures of philosophy of life is the utmost, unprecedented and the highest. It is unique and incomparable in almost all branches of philosophy –socio-religious and cultural in particular, and it is accepted by all around the world.
Indian philosophy [Bharatiya Darshan] as a whole relies on a direct vision through the search of truth [Satya] with reasoning. It is, in fact, self-evident from the meaning of Sanskrit word Darshan. Darshan signifies for direct vision. Direct vision and reasoning are, thus, the two fundamentals of Indian philosophy.
Further, these are the foremost principles of Indian philosophy:
The Vedic-Hindu view and thinking are the spirits on which Indian philosophy is founded. The Vedic-Hindu way of life has affected it the most, while Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism etc. also branch from Indian philosophy. Moreover, due to its universal appeal the Vedic-Hindu view has influenced in one way or the other, more or less, all philosophies emerged or developed for thousands of years all over the world.
The Vedas are undoubtedly the chief sources of the Vedic-Hindu view. In them Brahman –Paramatman [Absolute Atman], Parameshwara, Ishwara or Bhagawan is the Supreme Authority. He is the all pervading [Sarvavyapaka], the symbolic of Universal Unity [Sarvabhaumik Ekata]. Everything –movable and immovable is within His control. He is the Creator, the Keeper and the Liberator.
Besides the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas, the Smrities, and the Shrimadbhagavad-Gita are the other chief treatises or the text of the Vedic-Hindu view, or the Hinduism. The Upanishads are known as the Vedanta –the end of the Veda.
Thus, they are an indivisible part of the Vedas; also, the prime basis of the Vedic metaphysics. As the fundamental source of the Vedic-Hindu view, the Upanishads also guide man for acquiring knowledge of the Ultimate Reality [Brahman-Jnana] and lead him to the pathway to salvation. The Upanishads deal with knowledge to make the life worthy and meaningful.
In this process of making the life meaningful, morality [Naitikta] emerges as a vital element in the Vedic treatises, like the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Smritis, and the Gita in particular. For leading life aptly, for its development in right direction and making it worthy, morality surfaces in them exclusively. How can it be achieved? Prior to discuss and analyze this, it will not be less important to know the meaning of morality and the basic spirit in its root.
An adjective of the word moral, Naitik in Indian terms, could be generally defined first by viewing difference between the two, right and wrong, and then in selecting the right. Further, morality is not just imaginary, theoretical, or merely a subject of thought; it is, rather, an active state and essentially connected to human behaviour. Therefore, after selecting the right, it is necessary to step forward making the right an axis of our daily life. Human behaviour, which, undoubtedly, plays the vital role in the making of one’s individual character, in developing man’s personality, is necessarily attached to morality. It is for this reason, i.e., due to the association of righteous act with morality, ethics become synonymous with morality. Both, morality and ethics appear together to pave the way in developing values, which accord identity and worth to individuals as well as the society concerned.
The Indian viewpoint has developed entirely according to the above-mentioned brief explanation of morality. And, as has been said already, the Vedic-Hindu view has played the vital role in its development. In this regard, the Vedic treatises have contributed significantly and unprecedentedly by making it exclusive.
Intense longing for unity among all, and purity and prosperity of all as manifested in the Ninth Mantra of the First Sukta and the Seventh Mantra of the Second Sukta of the First Mandala of the Rigveda respectively reveal the unique presence of morality there [in the Rigveda] and its significance in man’s life. It is just an example. The role and contribution of morality in man’s life become apparent time and again in the Rigveda itself.
Truth is the first principle of morality. Therefore, in the Rigveda [10:85.1] it appears:
“Satyenottabhitaa Bhoomih –Truth is the base that bears the Earth.”
Sin, in any form, breaches the principle of morality. Therefore, it also emerges in the form of a prayer in the Rigveda [6:74.3] that life be completely free from sins:
“Somarudraa Yuvametaanyasme Vishwaa Tanooshu Bheshajaani Dhattam/
Ava Syatam Munchatam Yanno Asti Tanooshu Baddham Kritameno Asmat//”
[“Provide, O Soma-Rudra, for our bodies all needful medicines to heal and cure us. Set free and draw away the sin committed which we still have inherent in our persons.”]
Likewise, in the Yajurveda and the Samaveda, morality repeatedly emerged as the concrete basis of human development and large scaled welfare, also as the best means of making life meaningful.
The Atharvaveda –the fourth and the last of the Vedas is one of the best treatises imparting knowledge of morality. All those who have understanding of the Vedic-Hindu view of life [Hindu Jeevandrishti], they know it well how it dominates in the Atharvaveda. Like the Rigveda, truth [Satya], along with kindness and peace emerges as the basis of morality in the Atharvaveda [4:29.1]:
“Manve Vaam Mitraavarunaavritaavridhau Sachetasau Druhvano yau Nudethe/
Pra Satyaavaanamavatho Bhareshu Tau No Munchatamamhasah//”
[“I reverence you, O Mitra and Varuna, increasers of right; who, accordant, thrust away the malicious; who favour the truthful one in conflicts; do ye free us from distress.”]
A burning desire for complete freedom from ill will, or pollution and sin as appears in the Atharvaveda [7:65: 1-3] also categorically reveals the best principle of morality and its importance in man’s life:
“Prateecheenaphalo Hi Tvamapaamaarga Rurohitha/
Sarvaan Machchhapathaam Adhi Vareeyo Yaavayaa Itah//
Yad Dushkritam Yachchhamalam Yad Vaa Cherima Paapayaa/
Tvayaa Tad Vishwatomukhaapaamaargaapa Mrijmahe//
Shyaavadataa Kunakhinaa Vandena Yat Sahaasima/
Apaamaarga Tvayaa Vayam Sarvam Tadapa Mrijmahe//”
[“What is ill done, what pollution, or what we have practiced evilly —by thee, O always-facing off-wiper, we wipe that off;
“If we have been together with one dark-toothed, ill-nailed, mutilated, by thee, O off wiper, we wipe off all that.”]
Further, morality, along with its significance in life, continuously surfaces in the Smritis –scriptures codified component of Vedic-Hindu Law, and the Puranas –Vedic-Hindu texts eulogizing various deities, also notably consisting of narratives of the history of the universe from creation to destruction.
The Upanishads, and the Shrimadbhagavad-Gita, however, present the best and a wonderful concept of morality, which, in fact, makes the entire Indian view of morality distinct, exclusive and coveted.
The Upanishads are, besides being the most important Vedic-Hindu treatises, the best illuminators of the Vedas. As mentioned already, they guide man for carrying out practices as per the direction of the Vedas. For this, they have left deep impression on other Indian schools of thoughts including Buddhism, and many philosophies around the world. Most particularly, the manner in which morality emerges in the Upanishads makes it exceptional.
This exception pertaining to morality could be well viewed particularly in two ways. The first of these two relates to the association of morality with duty, along with accepting truth as its fundamental source, and the second one is its connectivity to values [Mulya]. Duty is taken as the human Dharma [Manav-Dharma] here, which has still not an appropriate word in the Western languages elucidating its proper meaning, while in the Indian viewpoint it is to adopt, “Dharmo Dhaarayate Prajah.”
Those who study the Upanishads, or have familiarity with them, they are aware that many characters emerge during the debate between the two –teachers and students. They may also know it well that characters like Nachiketa and Somyapriya particularly in the Kathopanishad and the Mundakopanishad respectively appear there, and they are seen sitting near their teachers. What do they get as knowledge from their respective teacher? If to mention in brief, it is to indulge in righteous acts, taking this course as one’s prime duty. Never to be indifferent to values as they play a vital role in making the acts as righteous. This is the pathway to follow morality, also making life meaningful.
One example from the Kathopanishad [1:2:10]:
“Jaanaamya Shevadhirityanityam Na Hya Dhruvaih Praapyate Hi Dhruvam Tat/
Tato Mayaa Nachiketashchitogniranityairdrvyaih Praaptavaanasmi Nityam//”
“I know that the process of the Karma-Phala is not eternal; it is indeed diminishing. One cannot attain the eternal by the non-eternal means. That is why; I have taken the other pathway –a pathway that is full of knowledge [and based on values] so that getting myself free from those means which are not eternal, I can achieve the goal only through righteous acts.”
Similarly another from the Mundakopanishad [3:1:5]:
“Satyena Labhyastapasaa Hyesha Aatmaa Samyag-Jnaanena Brahmacharyena Nityam/
Antah Shariire Jyotirmayo Hi Shubhro Yam Pashyanti Yatayah Kshiinadoshaah//”
“Truth, penance, right knowledge and celibacy are the eternal means. Only an evil free pure aptitude can lead one to realize and recognize what is enlightened [in the body].”
The Shrimadbhagavad-Gita, another most important and holiest treatise is also the source of Indian philosophy in general and the basis of the Vedic-Hindu view of life in particular. The Gita conveys the great message of Nishkamakarmayoga [–the Yoga of selfless action –an ideal pathway to realize the truth and stepping forward accordingly].
The Gita elucidates that the Karmayoga is the best means of making life momentous; it is the highest form of morality. Not only this, the Gita calling for sacrifice, and making sacrifice the fundamental of righteous act, or the ally of morality, makes the whole Vedic-Hindu concept of morality unique and distinct. An example from the Gita [3:14-5]:
"All beings are evolved from food, production of food is dependent on rain, rain ensues from Yajna [sacrifice] and sacrifice is rooted in action. Know that good action has its origin in the Vedas and the Vedas proceed from the Indestructible God, hence the All-pervading Infinite is always present in the sacrifice."
Another extraordinary feature of the Vedic-Hindu view of morality could be found in its emerging itself as a predominant value in day-to-day human practices, and in staying within the ambit of the eternal Law of Change. Morality is, without compromising with the basic spirit in its root, a subject of refinement as per the demand of time and space. The basic spirit in the root of morality is, can be repeated, to lead one to the pathway to truth [Satya-सत्य]. Further, it is to pave the way to the rise and welfare of one and all through the righteous acts. To quote from the Shrimadbhagavad-Gita about the eternality and importance of the Law of Change in life:
“Change is the law of the universe. What you think of as death, is indeed life. In one instance you can be a millionaire, and in the other instance you can be steeped in poverty. Yours and mine, big and small - erase these ideas from your mind. Then everything is yours and you belong to everyone.”
The Vedic-Hindu view of morality, thus, due to its having based on truth, emerges as an important one among all the concepts pertaining to it. Further, due to its connectivity with duty and making the spirit of sacrifice as the nucleus in actions, it becomes exclusive and extraordinary.
The development and continuity of Indian Culture in the making of which India’s philosophy, especially the Vedic-Hindu view of life itself has contributed the most could also be seen in this perspective. Accepting unity in diversity, stepping forward to the pathway to development with large scaled co-operation and co-ordination despite the natural presence of differences in views and opinions, ways and methods of working, and for this making harmony the necessary part of day-to-day practices, have for the last approximately five thousand years the chief features of Indian culture reflecting the best tenets of morality. The manner in which Indian culture during its long journey of these five thousand years accorded protection to so many faiths and traditions and equal opportunities to flourish features of other cultures of the world, which came in contact with it from time-to-time that is the only example in the entire history of the world.
This extraordinary example is, to repeat, the evidence of the presence of the highest quality of morality in Indian culture imbued with sacrifice and tolerance. Indian culture is the foremost sign of identity of Indians –Bharatiyas; also, the yardstick of morality of Hindustan, in the development of which without a doubt the contribution of the Vedic-Hindu view or the Hinduism remains the vital.