How Many Words Do You Need To Know Forum.Language-Learners Dharma – The Universal Law of Morality

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Dharma – The Universal Law of Morality

Morality is one of the most important characteristics of man. Morality is like self-governing codes of conduct for humanity. No animal, except man, follows any morality as all are governed by their instincts. The greatest achievements of the human race have been to rise above the instinct and to make some principles that give priority to the collective good of humanity rather than individual benefits to the individual. These principles are often called Morality.

Morality is often defined as the ability of a person to distinguish between good and bad or right and wrong. A moral man follows the path of goodness and justice. The system of determining right and wrong can be established by a certain authority, such as a Church, an organization, a society, a government or by the individual himself. So logically the moral codes must be different for every society, religion or even individual. So many people consider morality as individualistic which is based on time and society. It is often argued that there are no universal principles of morality.

Recently in a forum hosted by evangelical pastor Rick Warren, Barack Obama cited his youthful experimentation with drugs and John McCain noted his failed first marriage as his greatest moral failures. Obama also said that one of the country’s biggest moral failings involved the treatment of the poor. McCain said the nation’s greatest moral flaw is its failure to “dedicate itself to causes greater than our own interests.”

The moral failings of the individual and the nation as declared by the presidential candidates of the most powerful and modern nation in the world are not local but truly universal. No society can define these actions as moral.

So there may be some differences in the body of morality that is often codified in the law books, but the essence or soul of morality is the same in all societies and individuals.

Morality and Legality

People often confuse morality with legality. I believe that observing the laws of society is enough to be moral. This may not always be true. For example, if a society allows divorce or polygamy, or makes extramarital affairs legal, it is perfectly legal to leave a spouse or have a relationship with multiple partners. However, the same action cannot be said to be moral as McCain accepted his failed marriage as his greatest moral failure.

In the same way, although national laws allow the accumulation of private wealth without any limit, but it can really be a sin to accumulate huge wealth when a large number of people continue to be poor. It can be perfectly legal to promote self-interest through the following legal paths that are not necessarily in the interest of the country, but the same action is seen by society as immoral if it benefits individuals it is not shared by society.

Thus morality and legality are often confronted. In every era, people challenged the laws on the moral ground and changed the society. Christ challenged many principles of the Old Testament as “politics of an eye for an eye” which even cost his life. Christ’s action was illegal as judged by the State and the State was perfectly legal in hanging him. Yet, in reality, it was Christ who was morally right to speak the universal principle of love and the state was morally wrong to execute it.

All great people in history have violated the laws of the land for the sake of higher moral principles. These moral principles are not different, but the same in all societies at all times. They were discovered several thousand years ago and will continue to lead humanity on the right path in all times to come. What are these eternal moral principles?

Dharma: The Universal Principles of Morality

Wikipedia defines Dharma as an Indian spiritual and religious term meaning the right way, or any virtuous path in the common sense of the term. Throughout Indian philosophy, Dharma is present as a central concept that is used to explain the “higher truth” or the ultimate reality of the universe. Dharma (Dhama) is also the guiding principle of Buddhism.

The word dharma literally translates as “that which upholds or upholds” (from the root, Dhr, to maintain), and is usually translated into English as “law”. He ruled ideas about the proper conduct of life – ideas that are supported by the laws of the universe. Yet these laws are such that they can never be reproduced in words in the law books. They have to be understood intuitively.

Hinduism is one of the rarest religions that is not based on any “book” or “scripture” but on Dharma. Although there are numerous books that form the basis of Hinduism, but in reality, Hinduism is nothing more than the observance of these universal principles of morality. A devout Hindu can despise any scriptures if they are contrary to dharma.

The benefit of making a society based on dharma, the unwritten principles of morality, is that whoever follows dharma is truly religious in any religion. Thus a devout Hindu like Gandhi was more Christian than most Christians, since he followed the Dharma that was always in accordance with what is revealed by Jesus Christ. He said,

“I like your Christ, I don’t like your Christians. Your Christians are so different from your Christ.”

Thus Gandhi was a Christian not by birth, but by deeds as he followed the eternal principles of Dharma. All spiritual people in fact follow the life of Dharma even if they do not know what Dharma is. What are these principles of Dharma.

10 Principles of Universal Morality

Dharma must be understood intuitively by listening to the voice of those who are aware. It is difficult to reproduce these principles in words. No Hindu scripture has defined these universal principles except Patanjali’s Yogashastra (The Book of Yoga). Yoga defines 10 principles called yam (do’s) and niyam (don’t) which summarizes these moral principles. These ten principles are often called the ten commandments of Hinduism. However, unlike other scriptures, they are neither religious nor belong to any specific God or religion. These 10 principles are

1. Ahimsa: Nonviolence, i.e. not giving pain to anyone through word, deed and mind

2. Satya: Always speak the Truth

3. Asteya: altruism i..e. not to be attracted by the wealth of others

4. Aparigraha: Avoid unnecessary collection of luxuries or attachment to collections

5. Brahmacharya: Follow the natural discipline of the body, mind and senses

6. Sauch – purity of body, mind and soul

7. Santosh: Contentment in every aspect of life

8. Tap: To bear all pains and injuries bravely and not be affected by them,

9. Swadhayay: Self-learning or self-realization

10. Samarpan: Surrender to the Supreme or Creator

Hinduism which is also called Sanatan (Eternal) Religion considers these 10 principles as universal. Yoga which means Union of Self with the Supreme is now universally accepted by people to live a healthy and happy life by people of all religions. It is also evident that prayer to any specific God is not covered as one of the principles of Yoga even if it is not prohibited. Most of these principles are also mentioned in other religions in different forms.

Let Morality Prevail over Artificial Laws

Dharma is the supreme law of the universe. It has been codified in various religions, but must be understood only through intuition and experience. For example, the killing of animals is allowed in many religions and even made as an essential part of the religion. But the dharma can never allow that it does nonviolence as the first principles of universal morality. Jesus’ sermon to turn the other cheek is the best example of observance of such a principle in Christianity.

The accumulation of wealth is also against these principles of morality that are considered legal and proper in most societies. Yet we know from experience that the accumulation of wealth always creates contempt and hatred in others, as it contradicts dharma. That is why deprived humanity again and again punishes the hoarder of wealth and brings equality and justice in the society.

A careful study of these ten universal principles of morality clearly reveals that one leads a happy life by following these principles. If one lives life against these principles, he may have instant pleasure for some time, but suffer disproportionate pain in the later part of his life. Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States and the main author of the Declaration of Independence explained the universality of these moral principles are explained by Thomas Jefferson.

I have never done, or contented myself, in public life, a single act inconsistent with the strictest good faith; never having believed that there was one code of morality for a public, and another for a private man”

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