'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.
The text goes into a second section now in which the matter of religion and it's part in morality is discussed. The question of whether the two can be separated was raised initially, and Gurudev responded that religion cannot exist without ethical 'norms' and that ethics only held value in relation to spiritual values… ethical principles thus arise from our spiritual nature; that is to say that the term 'religion' here is to be used in the context of rising above one's limited ego in dedication to a higher goal… whenever we act from the egocentric standpoint, we are immoral; when we act from the altar of dedication - be it art, literature, politics or faith - whatever it is, it becomes religion when we are focused on furthering its cause above and beyond our personal interest. What has to be warned against is the misuse of the term in order to bring down and denigrate any particular institution. An example of this would be where murders and mayhem are perpetrated in 'the name of God', when all it is, in fact, is men (and sometimes women) who are deranged in their thinking and are totally immoral.
Q - would it be safer to separate religion from morality and make moral sanction independent of divine injunction?
A - if you can do it, go ahead!
Q - does the rightness of an action depend upon divine ordinance, or can an act be right in itself? Christianity and Vedas both admit aapta vaakya (religious testimony) as valid source of knowledge.
A - Aapta vaakya is in reference to the experience of saints and sages who have Realised the Self and the Knowledge they handed down after the Realisation. It does not refer to ethical action, which comes within the purview of rational reflection.
IMPARTING VALUES TO CHILDREN
Q - What kind of moral education should we give our children and should this be at primary age? Also how to best express to our children the idea of genuine values; to be vague may cause confusion, to be overly firm may limit them later in life…
A - The moral part only comes once the activity starts and we classify activities as moral and immoral. Imparting the values must be started from the very beginning. These are subtle things, values; they can only be inculcated when seen in action. That is to say, we must demonstrate by acting morally ourselves. Be the example. Also provide stories to demonstrate the values. In our modern education much emphasis is placed on data and ideals get overlooked. Ideals must be given. We first have to be clear and positive in our own values and only than can we lead by example. The mythological stories of India are perfect and artistic examples of how to take up the values of living. Each society will have their equivalent.
THE VALUES OF LIFE (here, just Gurudev's expression on each will be summarised)
Truth; Truthfulness consists mainly in uttering a thought as it is actually perceived. A liar is one who has not the courage to speak their thoughts. The disparity between thought and speech... impoverishes the individual's mental strength, will-power and dynamism. Truthfulness in its essential meaning is not merely giving a verbal expression of honesty, but in its deeper import it is the attunement of one's mind to the intellectual convictions. Unless we are ready to discipline our thinking to the unquestioning authority of our own reason, we cannot grow to the fuller unfoldment of our true and divine nature.
Charity; Charity must come from one's sense of abundance. It springs from a sense of oneness with the recipient. Unless one is able to identify with another one will not feel this noble urge to share what one has with one who has less. Giving with any motive other than simple empathy is to demean charity. Unless we are convinced of the nobility and unless we have come to a correct and independent judgement of the worthiness of the cause, charity should not be practiced - every benefactor has the right to enquire into the cause he seeks to patronize. Also, how we give is important. Throwing money at a beggar causing them to have to scrabble to find the coins is hardly a truly charitable act! There must be Love present in the giving, preserving the pride of the receiver.
Duty; Civilization based upon 'rights' must necessarily fall into clamour and fighting. On the other hand, that same civilization, if it substitutes duty and places value on performance of each their own duty, will build a strong and dedicated society; performance of duty without moaning and groaning, rather taking delight and satisfaction from tasks well done, develops the spirit of giving, the urge to be charitable.
Non-violence; Ahimsaa in its spiritual import means never having cruel intentions. It begins at the mental level. Ahimsaa ought to dominate all our motives! There should be no taint of hatred, cruelty or any other such essence which will cause hurt to another. Physical hurt is obvious, but the mental emotional hurts are included here. Ahimsaa embraces non-harm at all levels. Actually, to practice ahimsaa at the physical level is virtually impossible, as daily living will inevitably have us causing harm in one form or another; running over an ant, say, inadvertently running into someone… protecting oneself against an attacker may also be necessary... the key thing is that our motives and intentions are not to cause this harm and we can certainly ask forgiveness for it. Purity of intention can arise only out of a deep sense of Oneness with Lord and compassion toward all beings.
...to be continued...