Hinduism

Ethics of Hinduism

Hindu ethics are drawn from three main texts, namely the Brahma Sutra, Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. These scriptures guide Hindus through their daily life and spiritual journey.

Ethics of Upanishads

The Upanishads inform that salvation should be obtained through realization and knowledge, rather than faith alone. Truth or the higher self is obscured by selfish desires. The seeker of self-realization should practice benevelonce, sacrifice and renunciation to attain true bliss. Sensory stimulation separates us from our true self. These sense perceptions need to be transcended for one to be aware of the immortal self.

Lessons from the Bhagavad Gita

This tome explains that people should perform their given duties, without attachment to failure or success. This is the essence of karma yoga. The action itself and the resultant fruits should be consecrated to God. The Gita explains the karmic law of cause and effect. It emphasizes that human beings have a free will, which when exercised intelligently, can alter the manifestation of karma. Thus, every Hindu should aim to reduce bad karma, which is nothing but baggage taken to the next birth.

Hindu Conduct and Ethics

The Mahabharata explains the four aims of human life, which are righteousness, wealth, enjoyment and finally spiritual liberation. In pursuit of these four main aims, an ideal Hindu should divide his life into four parts, namely student, householder, forest-dweller and wandering ascetic.

Other Texts

Hindu ethics have also been shaped by other texts such as the Manasollasa, authored by the Deccan ruler Someshvara III Chalukya, in the 12th century AD. In this text, honesty, charity and hospitality are extolled. The book of Gautama mentions eight virtues namely freedom from envy and greed, pure thoughts, earnest effort, purity, contentment, patience and compassion. The Tamil texts of Naladiyar and Tirukkural also lay out moral codes for Hindus.

Moral Codes for Hindus

Hindu texts advise one to restrain those emotions that lead to sin. Therefore, emotions such as lust, anger, pride and jealousy should be controlled, as they cause disruptions, hindering harmony in society. Besides, Hindus are taught to value meditation, self-enquiry, good conduct and personal discipline. As all living forms are valuable, one must pursue ‘ahimsa’ or non-violent conduct. Finally, Hindus are taught that there are many paths to salvation, therefore all religions deserve understanding and tolerance.

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