As a culture, India has no sense of morality. We have never focused on morals and ethics in this country. There is a strong sense of morality in Western countries — they do not always adhere to it, but that’s another matter. In India, by contrast, we always saw morality as constricting human consciousness. We did not want to structure our lives — as well as behaviour — around morality; we also did not want morality to govern our relations with the world.
A sense of morality makes a person repetitive in thought and action. Such a person will obviously not get anywhere. So, in India, we took the risk of raising human consciousness. A large segment of the population has invested itself to raise human consciousness — not to teach morality. It is a far riskier path, but it is ultimately the only way to work with humanity. If you impose morality on people, they will find ways to circumvent their guilt. They will make offerings to temples — or other places of worship — but also continue doing things that make them feel guilty. Religion today has largely become like this.
An American Airlines aircraft was once flying over Alabama. The aircraft developed engine trouble. The pilot said, “I will try my best to make sure the plane lands. But actually there is nothing much we can do. All of you just sit tight in your seats, tighten your seat belts and do something religious.” So one passenger immediately got up, took his hat and passed it around the aircraft. Because in most people’s mind, religion means asking for money.
Such behaviour is the outgrowth of a rigid set of morals and ethics. People will invariably break such rigid norms and then feel guilty about that. The feeling of guilt will make their lives miserable and they will look for a way out. What is the way out? Make a contribution to religious place and you will be pardoned. That is what happens in many religious places. At some of these places you may also see notices which specify the amount of contribution for each sin.
Once you set morals and place restrictions, there will be violations. When you stop people from doing certain things, there is a good chance that they will do exactly what they have been told to abjure. That is how human nature is.
There is no “thou shall not” in this country. Nobody ever told you what you should do and what you should not. We only told you how you should be, which is a more difficult lesson to impart. Ten commandments can be written down, but creating consciousness among people does not come easy. It takes a lot of work, and works best only when it is widely imparted — so that it is there in the immediate environment.
If parents, neighbours and the immediate milieu is steeped in a certain kind of consciousness, there is a good likelihood that children will grow up with the same consciousness. Not much effort will be required to raise consciousness in such a society. But we are at a crossroads in this country where not much has been done to raise consciousness. At the same time, we don’t have a shred of morality. We are trying to pick up a few western ethics. These are alien to us, and do not work. They have not worked even for people in the West.
At times, it appears easy to sermonise on morality and ethics. But morality and ethics appear good only when applied to others, never on oneself. But a person is imbued with consciousness, does not have to be told, “Do this or do not do that”. Such a person will act appropriately and according to a given situation.
Everywhere else in the world they try to tell you what is right and what is wrong. In this country, by contrast, you are not told what is right and wrong. You are only told what is appropriate in a given situation. What is appropriate today may not be so tomorrow. All the embodiments of the divine you worship — Rama, Krishna, Shiva — cannot call be called morally correct figures. They are not. Because it never occurred to them to be that way. But they are the peak of human consciousness.
If you want something indigenous — not indigenous to this nation, but germane to to your being — do not impose rules; do not dictate, “thou shall not”. That is because people will bypass morality at the first opportunity they get. Let us make the necessary effort to see that human consciousness operates in a certain way because that is the only insurance — and the ultimate one — that we have.