A moral, if you like, on Morality

There is a big public outcry in India demanding the resignation/ouster of BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) chief N.Srinivasan, following the revelations and ongoing investigations into the IPL spot-fixing scandal, in which his own son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan has been arrested. While I don’t wish to comment on the politics of the specific episode, I do wish to share some thoughts on the whole aspect of “moral” responsibility that has been thrust into focus.  

How do we decide whether we are accountable or not in cases where we make mistakes, errors in judgment or take ruinous decisions or allow the unacceptable to happen in our circles of influence? What then is the significance of “moral” responsibility in everyday Life?

The whole idea of morality is over-dramatized, often skewed and is tailored to our convenience each time. We allow our children, at least in India, to watch pirated movies or used pirated software because it is convenient, free and because ‘nobody will ever know’. In effect we are encouraging and allowing the next generation to thieve because pirated content is nothing but stolen Intellectual Property. Yet we spank our children, when as young teenagers, they do transgress and lie or cheat, out of a spirit of adventure and nothing else. The whole debate of right and wrong, good or bad, is futile. Because all these are evolving and depend on who’s doing what, at what time and where. It is unlikely that we will find an Indian who has not bribed a cop to avoid a traffic ticket or a train ticket checker to confirm a reservation out of turn. Yet each Indian will vociferously complain and champion against corruption in high places. So, morality, is different to different people, as it has come to be! A Rs.200/- (USD 4 approx) bribe is fine but a Rs.1 crore (USD 200,000 approx) one is not!

The simple way forward is not to kill ourselves with self-imposed definitions of what’s moral or amoral. Let us be continuously, totally aware. Let our awareness lead us onward. To stay aware, let us ask ourselves the following questions before we act each time:

  • Is what I am going to do useful to me?
  • Is what I am going to do useful to, and will it create value for, all other parties connected with my action?
  • Is it at the cost or expense of anyone concerned?
  • Is it in violation of a law or even the spirit of the law?

Obviously, you must answer ‘Yes’ to the first two questions and ‘No’ to the last two to proceed with your decision. Finally, of course, examine whether your action will make you feel good or feel miserable. And be guided by what will make you feel good obviously. These are not the only questions and this may not be the only way to make more aware choices in Life. There could be many different ways. But this one is among the simplest. The idea is not to vex yourself with a dilemma that cripples you each time. The idea is to be aware, be conscious, be alert to living and doing things happily. Endless debates on what’s right, what’s wrong, only lead us to more confusion, stress and take us farther away from living fully. And it’s never worth it if you can’t live feeling peaceful, wholesome, and aware, within you, in every single moment that you are alive!

Being Guilty is Being Foolish

To be completely free, and live freely, free yourself of all guilt!
Guilt cripples. It comes between you and your joy! It is a wasteful emotion that debilitates a person completely. To free yourself of guilt, you must treat every effort you make as a learning. As yet another small experiment in this larger experiment called Life.
You feel guilty in the first place because you are so attached to the process of doing something that when it doesn’t get done the way you want it to, you feel morally accountable. But have you considered that Life doesn’t insist on anything from us? It doesn’t have definitions of success or failure. There are no SOPs – standard operating procedures, in Life! Then why do you insist that an outcome must be only the way you have envisioned it! It is only from that insistence that guilt is born. So, wouldn’t it be simpler if you had no attachment to what comes from your actions, choosing only to learn from each experience?
Sometimes things just happen to us. Or we may simply end up being at a place at a time, contributing unwittingly to an activity that will come to haunt us later. Or sometimes we may have just done or said something which may create a sense of pain in us when we pause to reflect. Every which way, feeling guilty after saying or doing something that you ought not to have said or done is completely in vain. Grieving over what you have done or could have done is the most futile of all emotions.
In the new Hindi movie ‘Talaash’, the main protagonist Inspector Surjan Singh Shekawat (played so brilliantly by Aamir Khan) carries the burden of his guilt, suffering immensely as he does that! He agonizes over it, in each of his waking moments and does not even get sleep! It is only when he realizes that he didn’t choose this Life, which he is currently experiencing, but that Life chose him, does his grief subside, his guilt evaporates and he awakens.
Ideally, you must not do anything that makes you feel guilty. But when you get caught in the throes of everyday living and your actions do cause you to feel guilty later, treat the event as simply an event. Learn from it. Don’t lean on it! What are the few things that we often feel guilty about? We get angry with someone and regret it later. We cheat and feel miserable when we reflect on our action __ especially when we are not caught cheating. We overindulge in loose conversation or alcohol or food in a social setting and say and do more than we must have. These occurrences are common place and all of us are prone to feeling guilty after we conduct ourselves in the manner in which we did. The mind will insist that you have lost your self-esteem and that you must redeem yourself. This is when brooding begins and you start descending down a negative, depressive spiral. Cut out the self-pity and focus on what caused you to behave in the way you did in the first place.
Or sometimes you could feel guilty over what you could have done in a situation that once existed. You could have been more responsible or loyal or compassionate or sensible. But ‘could have done’ is a review of the past. Some place in time that you cannot go back to anymore! What is the point in feeling guilty over an event that you cannot contribute to anymore?
In a way, truly, being guilty is being foolish. Life is not a six sigma process. There are no minimum error rate thresholds that anyone is demanding. Then why are you inflicting one on yourself? Life is about living, enthusiastically, trying out new things, being adventurous and learning from what outcomes you get and from what situations that you are given. Only when you live your Life with this simple understanding in mind, will you be happy. Guilt then subtracts from your happiness. Do you really want to not be happier than you are? As ‘Talaash’s’ tagline says __ the answer lies within!