Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Vedanta Ethics

Indian philosophy - may be characterised as philosophy developed in the geographical limits of the Indian sub-continent.

Classical Systems of Indian Philosophy consists of two schools.

1) Astika(Orthodox) Schools

2) Nastika(Heterodox) Schools

Astika schools accepts the authority of the Vedas, while Nastika Schools protest against the authority of Vedas. Thus all schools of classical philosophies are oriented to the Vedas, positivley or negatively.

The Astika Schools are:

Gautama's Nyaya

Kanada's Vaisesika

Kapila's Samkhya

Patanjali's Yoga

Jaimini's Purva Mimamsa and

Badarayana's Uttara Mimamsa or the Vedanta.

The Nastika Schools are:




Uttara Mimamsa or the Vedanta

The word Vedanta is composed of two words veda and anta which simply means veda-end. The term Veda-end here denotes Vedanta as the summary or appendix of Vedas.

Badarayana was the porpounder of Vedanta Philosophy.

There are various sub-schools of Vedanta.

1) Advaita Vedanta

2) Vishishtadvaita

3) Dvaita

4) Dvaitadvaita

5) Shuddhadvaita

6) Achintya Bhedabheda

7) Purnadvaita or Integral Advaita

8) Modern Vedanta- this is similar to advaita vedanta but the concept of modern vedanta arised after Swami Vivekanandha travelled west with the message of Vedanta.

The key source texts for all schools of Vedanta are the Prasthanatrayi- the canonical texts consisting of the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and the Brahma Sutras.

Among various sub-schools of vedanta today I will deals with Advaita Vedanta and its ethical parts.


Advaita Vedanta was propounded by Adi Sankara/Shankaracharya and his grand-guru Gaudapada. The literal meaning of Advaita is 'not dual'. Thus it is monistic system of thought.

Among the three ways(karma marga, jnana marga, bhakti marga) to attain moksa advaita follows the jyana marga. It is considered as the most influential sub-schools of the Vedanta school of hindu philosophy.

Central Teaching of Advaita Vedanta:

The central teaching of Advaita may be summarised in three propositions.

1) Brahman is real- According to this school of Vedanta, Brahman is the only reality, and the world, as it appears, is illusory. The individuals are only modifications of Brahman. Thus advaita vedanta advocates one single reality.

2) The world which has only a dependent existence is mithya- An illusory power of Brahman called maya causes the world to arise. Since maya is not ultimate real, the world which is a projection of maya is also not ultimately real. (It is however real for practical purposes and so it is empiricaly real.)

3) The jiva in its essential nature is no other than mithya- Ignorance of this (this here means maya as not ultimately real) reality is the cause of all suffering in the world and only upon true knowledge of Brahman can liberation be attained. When a person tries to know Brahman through his mind, due to the influence of Maya, Brahman appears as God (Ishvara), separate from the world and from the individual. In reality, there is no difference between the individual soul (jivatman) and Brahman. Liberation lies in knowing the reality of this non-difference (i.e. a-dvaita, "non-duality"). Thus, the path to liberation is finally only through knowledge (jnana).

All Indian Philosophies including Advaita Vedanta accepted certain beliefs regarding human existence which are not found in any non-Indian Philosophy. These are

a) acceptance of the law of karma as the morally and causally determining principle of the individula's birth, life-span and the quality of life as pleasant or painful;

Law of Karma: Karma is a Sanskrit word meaning simply 'act', 'deed', or 'work'. The theory of karma is that every action must produce its inevitable 'fruit'; good actions produce good fruit, evel actions evel fruit.

b) belief in a cycle of births and deaths of any individual;

c) conception of release or liberation as the premanent state of freedom form the cycle of births and death.

In the Vedantic tradition, ethics are derived from rta, the natural order of the universe, and from the fundamental oneness of all human beings. Some of the basic moral principles of advaita vedanta are: non-injury, truthfulness, non-stealing and non-receiving of gifts.

Non-injury: The principle of non-injury requires that individuals honor the validity of every creature’s position in the cosmic scheme. As Swami Vivekananda says, “Never producing pain by thought, word and deed in any living being is what is called ahimsa, non-injury.”

Truthfulness: Trying to perceive and relate facts as they are, without any prejudice, is to be truthful. Any recognition or assertion of facts is strengthening, and any falsehood is weakening. Sri Ramakrishna stresses that man should make his thoughts, words and actions tally. But sticking

to truth does not mean that one should hurt others by speaking unpleasant truths.

Non-stealing and non-receiving of gifts: These two disciplines are advised in order to control greed, which, according to the Bhagavad Gita, is the gateway to all ruin. Generally, acceptance of gifts—except from good people who will not try to dominate, dictate to or control the receiver— creates a feeling of obligation, which robs a person of independence.

Swami Vivekananda points out:

The mind of the man who receives is acted on by the mind of the giver, so the receiver is likely to become degenerated. Receiving gifts is prone to destroy the independence of the mind and make us slavish.

Non-stealing means not taking anything that is not one’s own at any level, physically or mentally.

What is ethical and unethical according to Advaita Vedanta?

1) Unity of theory and practice is ethical- It holds the view that philosophy is not only a view of life, but also a way of life. Sri Ramakrishna likened the people only of theory to vultures soaring high up in the sky with their eyes fixed at garbage on the ground.

2) Pursuit of wealth and happiness in accordance to dharma is ethical.

3) Posthulating the absolute oneness of all things is ethical- According to Bhagavada Gita, a source book of Vedanta there is no difference in a cow, in an elephant in a dog and a dog eater.

4) Accepting pluralism is ethical- At the religious level, Advaita holds the view that, though there is only one God or Isvara, there are many forms of it. According to Sri Ramakrishna, ''every religion in the world is one of the ways to reach him'.

5) Vedanta teaches us to love truth, respect reason and realise the purpose of life- For example the propounder of Vedanta, Samkara destroyed many an old dogma, not by violently attacking it, but by quietly suggesting something more reasonable, which was at the same time more spiritual too.

Application in Media:

1) Reports of Press Council have shown that nepalese journalists are unware of constitutional porvision and code of conduct regarding press and those who are aware are not following them. This situation clearly is unethical according to Advaita Vedanta which focuses on unity of theory and practice. Thus, the porvision of unity between theory and practice will solve a lot of problem nepalese media are facing.

2) The provision to pursuit of wealth and happiness in accordance to dharma will sort out the unfair practice and relationship between news sorce and journalists.

3) Discrimination and unequal presentation of marginalised people can be solved if a journalist follow Advaita Vedanta because according to it every thing is equal.

4) Accepting pluralism I think will solve the problem of unfair competition between media houses and journalsits in individual.


Thus, accepting only Brahman as real and knowing law of karma is inevitable is enough to be ethical.


Mimamsa- Philosophy and Mass Media Ethics, Adhikary, N.M

Studying Mass Media Ethics, Adhikary, N.M

Indian Philosophy Vol-II, Radhakrishnan,S.

The Indian Philosophical systems: Their Basic Unity and Relevance Today, Bhattacharyya,S.

Advaita Vedanta: Its Unity with Other Systems and its Contemporary Relevance, Balasubramanian, R.


Q) Suppose, you are the news editor of a news channel. One day, you got a video record in which a Deputy PM is caught in extra-marital sexual relationship. What would you do then? Give your answer with special reference to the principle you have choosen.

1 comment:

sfauthor said...

Nice posting. Do you know about this edition of the Gita?