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Ethical Culture

by Swami Sivananda

Do you know the reason why I have chosen this subject as the third item? Atman is the basis of everything. So I have placed spiritual culture in the very beginning. There is intimate relation between Atman and 'will'. Will is only Atman or God in motion or manifestation. So I have dealt with will-culture after spiritual culture. No spiritual or will- culture is possible without ethical culture. So I have placed this subject as the third important item. Ethical culture will result in ethical perfection. An ethical man is more powerful than an intellectual man. Ethical culture brings in various sorts of Siddhis or occult powers. If you study Yoga Sutras, you will find a clear description of the powers that manifest by observance of the practices of Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya and Aparigraha. The nine Riddhis roll under the feet of an ethically developed man. They are ready to serve him.

The philosopher need not necessarily be a moral or ethical man; but, a spiritual man must of necessity be moral. Morality goes hand in hand with spirituality. Morality co-exists with spirituality. The three kinds of Tapas, viz., physical, verbal and mental that are prescribed in the seventeenth chapter of the Gita, the practice of Yama in Raja Yoga philosophy, and the Noble Eightfold Path of the Buddhists, viz., right thinking, right endeavour, right action, right living, etc., are all best calculated to develop the moral side of man. Sadachara or right conduct aims at making a man moral, so that he may be fit for the reception of Atma-Jnana or the realisation of the Supreme Tattva.

You should always try your level best to speak the truth at all costs. You may lose your income in the beginning. But, in the long run, you are bound to be victorious. You will realise the truth of the Upanishads: "satyameva jayate nanritam. Truth alone triumphs, but not falsehood." Even a lawyer who speaks the truth in law courts, who does not coach up false witnesses, may lose his practice in the beginning; but later on, he will be honoured by the judge as well as the client. Thousands of clients will flock to him only. He will have to make some sacrifice at the outset. Lawyers generally complain: "What can we do? Our profession is such. We must tell lies. Otherwise we lose our case." These are false excuses. There was an advocate, a mental Sannyasin who was practising in Uttar Pradesh, who was a friend and benefactor of Sannyasins, who never coached false witnesses, who never took up criminal cases, and yet, he was the leader of the bar and was revered by the judges, clients and colleagues. O, my friends, barristers and advocates, who are killing their conscience and who are slayers of Atman! Will you all follow this noble example and ideal? Be truthful. You will have a peaceful death. Do not kill your conscience in order to have comfortable living, and in order to please your wife. Life here is evanescent and like a bubble. Aspire to become divine.

The various formulae-ahimsa paramo dharmah (Non-injuring is the highest of all virtues); satyam vada, dharmam chara (speak the truth and do virtuous actions); do unto others in the same way as you wish others to do unto you; do as you would be done by; love thy neighbour as thyself-are all best calculated to develop the moral aspect of a human being. Morality is the basis for the realisation of Atmic unity or oneness of life or Advaitic feeling of sameness everywhere. Ethical culture prepares you for the Vedantic realisation of sarvam khalvidam brahma (All, indeed, is Brahman; there is no such thing as diversity).

All aspirants commit mistakes in jumping to Samadhi and Dhyana all at once, as soon as they leave their houses, without caring a bit for ethical purification. The mind remains in the same condition although they have practised meditation for fifteen years. They have the same jealousy, hatred, idea of superiority, pride, egoism, etc. No meditation or Samadhi is possible without ethical culture. Meditation and Samadhi come by themselves when one has ethical perfection.

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