Ethics and Morality
BE GOOD, DO GOOD, SERVE LIFE
Morals and ethics are codes of conduct - thought, speech, and action - that we believe to be right, good, and truthful. We cannot expect to become a healthy and whole human being without a sense of morality and ethics.
Our moral development should be based upon our understanding of the universality of the human experience and a realization of "The Unity of Existence."
This understanding is provided by using the seven center system.
There is no wisdom in enforcing, upon our self or others, extreme idealistic or perfectionist morality.
Once "The Unity of Existence" has been realized, then real ethical behaviour becomes a natural consideration in every part of our life.
Understanding is always the key. If you want to understand and relate to others you will need to take the time to get to know them and find out about their lives. Judgementalism and prejudice is pure ignorance.
In other words, wisdom tells us to "avoid the extremities" and it is the nurturing of wisdom that is the most important part of being human.
Whenever we are involved in decisions then we might find the following guidelines useful.
In The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali we are given some wise counsel concerning developing our morality - the 5 Yamas and the 5 Niyamas.
- Yama means abstinence, which means "not doing" - abstaining from.
- Niyama means observance, which means "doing".
The Yamas and Niyamas are the foundation stones of ethical and humanitarian behavior without which we cannot build authentic civilization.
YAMA - Abstinence.
AHIMSA SATYASTEYA BRAHMACARYAPARIGRAHA YAMAH.
|YAMA - Abstinence||Meaning.|
Not causing pain. Some authors translate it as non-killing, but it is not that. Himsa means to cause pain; ahimsa, not to cause pain. Killing is different from causing pain. Causing pain can be even more harmful than killing. Even by our words, even by our thoughts and our emotions, we can cause pain.
Truthfulness and honesty, not lying. It also involves the consideration of appropriate and diplomatic ways in which to communicate with others. Satya implies subtlety in the way in which we are honest. Sometimes if we are simply basic and blunt then we can hurt other's feelings (ref: Ahimsa). So we must consider how our holistic activities will affect others. Satya also means being straightforward and appropriate to the situation.
Satya also refers to being honest with ourselves. Honestly reviewing and appraising our own life, achievements, beliefs, opinions, values, and holistic behaviour.
Non-stealing. Not just the abstinence from physical theft, but also from envy, jealousy, and egocentric possessiveness (stealing in the mind). There are many things that we can steal from people - not just their material belongings. We can steal peoples health, their inner wealth, their freedom, their beauty, their satisfactions, and their happiness and feelings of well being, their confidence and self respect, their family and friends, and finally their life. We can also steal from others in our mind - by being envious, jealous, manipulative, exploitative, and overly possessive.
Self control and healthy, responsible moderation - especially concerning sexual and sensual enjoyment. Brahmacharya involves consideration of the consequences of our activities (in action, thought, and speech). 'Brahma' means 'Creative energy of Existence' and 'Acharya' means 'Master'. Thus, the real meaning of 'brahmacharya' is conscious self mastery over the energy, expressions, and connections of the seven chakra system - not being ruled by selfish tamasic aversion and rajasic desire (selfish egotism).
The last part of yama - which can be translated in two ways. One is non-hoarding of things, not being greedy and overly possessive, not accumulating beyond our capacity to use things in the proper way. The other translation of aparigraha is not accepting gifts. We can also be greedy by holding back from giving to life, that is another form of hoarding.
These five principles make up yama, the abstentions. These things seem so elementary but are, at the same time, "elephantary." They shouldn't be discarded as being mild. They are not easy to perfect. The mind is often so used to having it's own way that new habits require dedicated and committed practice.
NIYAMA - Observances.
SAUCA SAMTOSA TAPAH SVADHYAYESVARAPRANIDHANANI NIYAMAH
|Niyama - Observances||Meaning.|
The five points of yama, together with the five points of niyama, remind us of the Ten Commandments of the Christian and Jewish faiths, as well as of the ten virtues of Buddhism.
In fact, there is no religion without these moral or ethical codes.
JATI DESA KALA SAMAYANAVACCHINNAH SARVABHAUMA MAHAVRATAM
Jati = class; desa = place; kala = time; samaya = circumstance; anavachchhinnah = not limited by; sarvabhaumah = universal; mahavratam = great vows.
These Great Vows are universal, not limited by class, place, time or circumstance.
Patanjali calls these the maha vratam, or great vows, because they can never be broken by any excuse: not time, place, purpose, social or caste rule, not by winter, summer, morning or evening, or by this country or that nationality. These points are for whole-time, dedicated Yogis; and so, for them, Patanjali allows no excuses. For people who aren't that one-pointed toward the Yogic goal, these vows can be modified according to their position in life.
VITARKA BADHANE PRATPAKSA BHAVANAM
Vitarka = negative thoughts; badhane = when disturbed by; pratipaksha = opposite thoughts; bhavanam = should be thought of.
Here, Patanjali gives us a very nice clue on how to control the mind and obstruct those thoughts we don't want. The best way, he says, is to invite opposite thoughts. If the thought of hatred is in the mind, we can try to bring in the thought of love. If we can't do that, we can at least go to the people we love and, in their presence, forget the hatred. So, although the hatred comes to the surface, we can keep it from coming out or staying long by changing the environment.
Sometimes we see this work between married partners. When sparks fly between them, if their little one crawls up to them, what will happen? Those of us who have had this experience will immediately know. The sparks instantly cool down. Either the mother or father picks up the child and hugs him. That's because they both love the baby. In the form of the child, love comes in, and the anger or hatred is immediately banished.
We can create a positive atmosphere by looking at a holy picture, by reading an inspiring book, by meeting with a special person, or simply by leaving the disturbing environment. This is a very practical point. It is very difficult to control negative thoughts while staying in a negative environment unless we have extraordinary strength.
The easiest way is to change the environment. For example: if you begin to fight with your mate, even before your anger comes out, run to your baby's room and look at your sleeping child. You will forget all the anger and avoid many a divorce. At least for that reason, have a youngster at home! Or go into your shrine room, sit in front of the altar, and read a nice book. Or travel to the country, look at the open sea - anything, as long as you change the environment. In that way, we create the opposite thought.
Another way to control negative thoughts even before the thought overpowers us is to think of its after-effect. Stop and consider. "What will happen if I allow this thought to continue? I'll lose my friends. If that other person is strong, she may not even be affected at all. She might just laugh at me and go away. But even before the other person is affected by my anger, I will be affected. I'll shake up my nerves. My blood will boil."
VITARKA HIMSADAYAH KRTA KARITANUMODITA LOBHA KRODHA MOHA PURVAKA MRDU MADHYADHIMATRA DUHKHAJNANANANTA PHALA ITI PRATIPAKSA BHAVANAM
Vitarka = negative thoughts; himsadayah = violence, etc.; krita = done; karita = caused to be done; anumoditah = approved; lobha = greed; krodha = anger; moha = infatuation; purvakah = preceded by; mridu = mild; madhya = medium; adhimatrah = intense; duhkha = pain; ajnana = ignorance; ananta = infinite; phalah = fruit; iti = thus; pratipaksha = opposite thoughts; bhavanam = should be thought of.
When negative thoughts or acts such as violence, etc. are caused to be done or even approved of, whether incited by greed, anger or infatuation, whether indulged in with mild, medium or extreme intensity, they are based on ignorance and bring certain pain. Reflecting thus is also pratipaksha bhavanam.
Here, Patanjali gives a further explanation of pratipaksha bhavanam. Suppose we bring pain to someone or cause harm to be brought to another. The reactions will come and ultimately result in ignorance and misery. We need not even cause the pain directly for the reaction to occur. We can effect this just by approving of another's painbearing actions due to our own avariciousness, anger or ignorance.
- Purification: Heart and Mind
- The three modes of nature and their influence on the holistic human behaviour.
- The Integration of the Seven Centers.
- The lower and higher self.
- Wisdom and Discernment.
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