'Text-days' are for delving into the words and theory of Advaita Vedanta.
On Wings and Wheels is the publication we are delving into currently. It takes the form of a series of Q&As from devotees to HH Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda. There are many sections and subsections to this book - not all will be given, but it is hoped that the general thought-flow will not be broken for those omissions. To obtain the full picture and essence of the discussions, do consider attempting to purchase the text from the link above; it is currently only available from India.
Q - what has to be present in an individual to make them morally sensitive?
A - saatvika.
Q - please explain…
A - the three gunas (qualities of personality) are sattva, rajas and tamas. The psychological being of everyone comes under the influence of these three 'climatic conditions' of the mind and intellect. Sattva is perfect purity and luminosity and under its influence the mind/intellect are steady, reflecting the Universal Consciousness, the Self. In sattvika, the mind is creative, intelligent and capable of taking long flights into the realms of wisdom. On all such occasions of vast knowing and deep understanding and right choice, the inner equipment is under the influence of sattva.
Q - and rajas?
A - where rajoguna dominates, the mind is wrecked with a hundred passions, desires for things not yet acquired, attachment to those which have been, and there is a constant need to earn, spend, save, procure, procreate, protect… and never be satisfied. Action is the prompt of rajas and always there is the idea that "I am the doer" - it is an egocentric guna.
Q - what then of tamas?
A - it is born out of ignorance. The intellectual capacity under tamas is hampered and the capacity to discriminate between right and wrong gets blurred; there is indolence, heedlessness as to there being anything higher in life to work for. It is an existence but not a full life which prevails under the influence of tamas-dominant personality.
Q - are all three present in us?
A - oh yes, to varying degrees. The more often and more completely we go beyond rajas and tamas and make our bosom full of sattva, the more grows our capacity to observe, analyse, understand and to become aware of the world outside and judge it correctly.
Q - would it be sattva that would have to be present to make an individual morally sensitive?
A - yes. If one is rajasic or tamasic, one will not feel the full, or any, impact of one's actions. The looter, plunderer or murderer are unable to fully cognise the effects of their actions - only by building on saatva can any remorse be present. The greater the sattvika in one, the more sensitive to results of actions there will be, the ability to sense disharmony in society and the world.
Q - training and experience can bring about morality?
A - yes. At any given moment you take that which is morally good for you; it depends upon the grossness or the sensitivity of your mind. That is why the dharma (life course) of, say, a garbage collector [NB this would be classified as 'shudra' in Sanskrit terms] will be different from that of a university professor [NB this would be classified as braahmin]; at each level the scriptures have tried to prescribe that which is right and which is not. To a shudra, drinking alchohol and non-vegeterianism is fine; but for the braahmin, these would be forbidden, as they dull the mind and block the body. Each level has its own morality, but it is possible to breach the barriers and raise oneself. It is important to note that one ought not to prescribe for the other, but each has the potential to rise or fall into another's category of personality type and way of life. Be responsible for your own level of morality and assess whether it needs to be bettered. That is all that is required.
STATION AND DUTY
Q - would it then, be advisable to follow a standpoint of lesser values as advised in the Bhagavad Gita, doing one's duty according to the station in life?
A - yes. The varnas and ashramas (castes and stages of life) are psychological evaluations. For whatever you are fit, depending on your temperament and your constitution, likewise will be your duties. By following one's station in life one can serve society more efficiently and without inner conflicts. One may have rajoguna but also tamas well intermingled - therefore he is 'vaishya' and it is likely that agriculture or trade will suit the temperament best. If such a temperament was forced into, say, doing academic work, both that personality - and the work - would suffer! Equally, if one is of an age for vanaprastha (retirement and retreat), to be placed in a situation where one must work would take a great toll.
Q - suppose there is choice involved; should you choose according to your station or the larger viewpoint?
A - Station… the war may be coming, but the braahmin who takes up arms will only confuse matters. Let him stay where he is stationed in life and proceed according to the duties there allotted according to qualification. Doing his dharma, that person will be supporting the war efforts and not hindering them by incompetence as a soldier!
Q - even if the choice is between that and the highest goal?
A - to serve your dharma is to serve the highest goal. The dharma of a judge is to assess dispassionately - even if his own son is in the dock. The dharma of a street sweeper is to ensure that all may walk with cleanest feet possible. An engineer, no matter how compassionate, cannot enter an area of a pandemic and 'fix' things, it must be left to the doctors and nurses, who can. If each seeks to cross into another's area of expertise, there will be no proper effect. If we bring it down that each is only earning a living, the higher and more social goal of each is lost and morality is affected.
Q - is one dharma better than another?
A - NO! at any given level each one is right. By being loyal to our own level of feelings, ideas, development of consciousness, we can evolve into higher states of unfoldment.
Q - which level is higher?
A - the highest level is wherein you are nearer to the Aatman - the Self. To recognise yourself with the One, in harmony with All - living then becomes effortless and creative. When one goes beyond the action-reaction stage then life becomes again creative and joyful.
Q - so ethics is evolutionary? One has to work towards creating sattva in order to reach the ultimate goal of finding one's Self? The goal of all, regardless of dharma, is to work towards that one final goal?
A - YES!