Tuesday, 11 August 2009

From Darkness lead us to Light

The following excerpt is from a very interesting article written by Jason Overdorf, an American living in Delhi in a very interesting blog called DelhiBelly.

“You can disagree with Godse very deeply and find what he did reprehensible,” says Bhanu Mehta. “But I think as even some of the Gandhians have argued — like Ashis Nandy — there was a kind of internal integrity to what he was doing. If you read his speech at his trial, it's hard not to be in some senses fascinated by the internal integrity of the argument.”

While the article itself is very interesting, I am drawn to the idea of internal integrity of the argument referred in it.

As far as my own take goes, I think it does not make sense to condemn the ones who do wrong for the right reason, or even the ones who do wrong for the wrong reasons - for what good would that do? (For more on how our current system of justice/punishment is really quite ineffective in preventing crime, Clarence Darrow's autobiography called The Story of My Life is an interesting read.) And unless you are God, how on earth will you know whether that person is doing the wrong thing for the right reason or whether you are doing the wrong thing for the right reason?

And then that brings us to another interesting question, does an 'act' constitute a right or a wrong; or does an 'intent' constitute a right or a wrong? I think I remember correctly that Gandhiji while considering this question says it is the 'act'. He gives an example of a mother accidentally poisoning her sick child by unknowingly administering poison instead of the medicine, and then he holds the mother guilty, even though she had no intent to kill, but only to save. My own personal idea always was (and perhaps still is) that the mother is not guilty. However, looking at the 'internal integrity of the argument' above, I am suddenly questioning how far can you take the act to be as right or wrong based on what the 'intent' of the act is?

This reminds me of what Swami Vivekananda says, when once discussing the Law of Karma, No action (whatever be its intent) can be wholly good or wholly bad; and therefore no result can also be wholly good or wholly bad*. I must note here that in this article I am only considering the question that, 'if I have the will to do the right thing, how am I to do the right thing?' How can I know that what I am doing is the right thing for the right reason? How can I know that what I am doing is not coming up with some funny argument with merely internal integrity.

Which, is interestingly, how the Bhagvad Geeta starts (I must warn you, that I have only read the first chapter), but that is how it starts - with Arjuna coming up with an argument which he believes supports his decision of not fighting. Except that he too, like most of us, most of the time, is doubting his decision. And when Bhagvan Krishna tells him that no, his arguments, tho they sound wise, are actually, most unwise; at that point He is telling all of us, that there is something that is a Right and something that is a Wrong. That an argument for the action with internal integrity is not good enough.

But what if an internally consistent argument is the best we can come up with? Perhaps by the time I finish the Bhagvad Geeta, I would have answers to these two questions -
a) What makes a Right action, and what makes a Wrong action?
b) What if the best we can come up with at this point in time is an internally consistent argument for our action?

*perhaps what I mean is "wholly pleasant or wholly unpleasant"

PS: In this article I do not explain my belief in the Law of Karma, in the words of the Bhagvad Geeta as explained by Swami Chinmayanada, and in the words of Swami Vivekananda. In this article I am mostly speaking to myself.

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