Adv. Avani
India and Indians Need To Find A Moral Compass
Adv. Avani Bansal 7 Dec 2019

India and Indians Need To Find A Moral Compass

In today’s political and social climate in India, where there is a systematic attempt to pitch religions against each other, where does the youth of the country, those who are in crucial times of designing and determining their inner core, find out for themselves some sort of ‘transcendental morality’ which can guide them through life’s difficult times/phases. 


Having a moral code means having a set of core values, that one can truly apply, without being hypocritical and changing it to suit one’s needs. One of the question in this regard is can one find one’s morality in complete isolation from religion? This is important because what we see is a growing talk on the religion but completely devoid of any discourse on morality.


A lot of Indians identify themselves as believing in one religion but does this belief also lead them to believe in a stringent set of moral values that they can safely apply in all situations? 


Morality simply put, concerns itself with one thing – what is the right thing to do. Religion condensed in one line is about – what is your relationship with the maker. One can sense how these two questions overlap but are not the same. What we see is a growing talk on the religion but completely devoid of any discourse on morality. 


For e.g. if you are an Atheist – someone who does not believe in the existence of God/maker/some divine force, then your definition of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ may not flow from your religion but may still have a bearing on it. Once you deny the existence of one/more Gods, your answers to ‘what is the purpose of life’, ‘what is the end-goal of life or is there one’, ‘can murdering someone ever be justified and if yes, under what circumstances’ etc. are questions on which you may have a range of answers, depending on how you have reflected on them and the position you have taken. These in turn will tie-in to concepts that all religions touch upon in one way or the other – for e.g. – existence of a heaven and a hell; intrinsic value of life; karma and its effects; concept of several lives – rebirth etc. 


On the other hand, if you are a believer – someone who follows any religion, then without being hypocritical, you will have to agree to the answers given to these questions as per your religion. 


But you can also like me, belong to a third category. You may be born in any one religion, agree with parts of it and disagree with other parts of it. You may similarly like somethings about other religions and dislike/disagree with other parts of that religion. You may just want to pick the best from every religion where-ever you find it. In this case, you neither have any one religion, nor any one set of moral values that you can abide by. This could either be because your secularism is shallow, which satisfies itself in the belief that all religions teach the same thing at the core, without actually subjecting your intellect to the rigour of studying all the religions deeply. 


Or in some rare case, your secularism is indeed the deep type where you arrive at this conclusion after having studied all the religions. In the latter case, hypothetical as it is, logical coherence would still escape you. For e.g., Quran does say that Allah is the only God and requires believers (Muslims) not to believe in different Gods (or multiple gods). Hinduism, on the other hand is polytheistic and deeply comfortable with the idea of several Gods. So, even on the face of it, a secular who believes that she takes only the best of different religions is still being hypocritical in some sense as she cannot believe in two contradictory things. 


So for someone who wants to know – what is the right thing to do, how does one develop one’s morality code – which may or may not overlap with religion. 


Here is an attempt :


You shall not kill anyone, without there being a higher cause. This will be apply as per one’s own subjective determination of what that higher cause is and whether it permits one to deviate from the general rule that you shall not kill.


You shall treat all human beings alike, irrespective of any differences in caste, colour, creed, language, religion or gender. 


You shall always be mindful of my actions and its direct, as well as indirect consequences on all things, environment and people around you. 


You shall always strive to be humble in your association with other people, and strive to be a simple and honest person.


You shall not say words that may hurt someone. 


You shall not steal.


You shall not harm any living or non-living creature.


And the list can go on. But one can think of exceptions to all of these. 


For e.g. if you are hungry and have nothing to eat – is stealing still immoral? 


If you are building a house, can you really practically ensure the non-killing of several insects that will die underneath it? 


Can you let others take your simplicity, honesty or humbleness as your weakness? 


You will treat everyone equally and try not to apply stereotypes, yet can you completely avoid those stereotypes?  


You may not want to identify with a nation, religion, caste or gender at the cost of being equal, yet you continue to use your surname, identify as a man or woman, carry an Indian passport and continue to live as belonging to any one religion.  


If there are exceptions to every rule, what then, if anything is your morality? Unless we ask ourselves this question seriously and find an answer either in our religion or independently of it, we are keeping ourselves from living our very best life. Imagine just sleepwalking through life, instead of setting a high benchmark of conscious living, where we as individuals and as a nation make it our obsession to do the right thing! 


Who Am I and what do I believe in? Isn’t that the fundamental question that we as individuals and as a nation need to find? We seem to have stopped exploring this question beyond our school moral science lessons. Is it any wonder then we seem lost – as individuals, as society, as a nation and perhaps as a civilization. We seem alien to the pain of the others, to inequality everywhere in society, living in our own bubbles, willing to do anything for narrow selfish gains. This not knowing of our morality afflicts us all alike – politicians, lawyers, doctors, industrialists etc. resulting in a world, where all of us feel like islands, than one  truly integrated whole. This lack of inner morality and spiritual revolution seems to be the biggest tragedy of our times – more tragic then perhaps poverty, hunger, lynchings, climate change, Babri and Kashmir. 


Perhaps, as a suggestion, our TV channels should debate about – what is our moral compass as individuals, as a society and as a nation. This could help steer our ships back in the right direction in the stormy weathers we are in. A discussion on this will also truly bring out the best in religions, then the ugly shape that religious discourses seem to be taking, only to suit narrow political interests. 


If this resonates with you, pls leave your comments or write to me at advocateavanibansal@gmail.com or WhatsApp me on 9165054322.

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