Analyzing Results of Progressive Hindu Ethics in Society
Hindu ethics follows a rather unique system compared to other religions and systems of ethics that allow for progressive thought with a dynamically changing set of ethics called “dharma;” as Crawford states, possessing “catalytic qualities.” The end goal to reach the highest ideal of liberation where one is freed from the cycle of reincarnation and became “One” with the world -- “moksa,” the ways to reach this state is given in the postulation of the “summum bonum.” This idea of “moksa” being the ultimate standard of right conduct, it exists in the metaphysical, but can only be reached through experiencing real and direct experiences as well. However, even within these doctrines, in an increasingly progressive society, there are potential problems in the dealings for bioethical judgements.
Hindu ethics places an extreme importance on rational authority and the role of reason in understanding ethics. As Crawford states, “through reason and intuition, Hinduism finds the source of ethics in the nature of the person, holistically perceived. (28-29). Hinduist thought and the dharma being a dynamic and catalytic law, understands that changing social perception of right and progressive civilization leads to an alienism to absolutism. This comes as a result of Hindu ethics being a “transcendental revelation… removed from an appreciative understanding of human nature and human history” (Crawford 29). However, this leads to Hindu bioethics being a “contextual orientation of moral reasoning in its dealings with moral problems” (Crawford 29). What this essentially means is that certain individuals, through their direct experiences and transcendental thought can come up with different conclusions to reach the same state of “moksa.” While this of course is guided by religious experience as well, it ends by looking at the problem from their own individual perspective and thought. There is a caveat though that the author mentions that contradicts this idea. Crawford states that the innate human nature and thought leads to certain objective moral ideas that can be universally seen as good or bad. For instance, this can even be the idea of doing harm, in which the Hindu thought states its bottom line as “do no harm.” This does in fact not exactly contextualize all situations and be holistically and individually understood by each individual differently. The main idea stands the same though. The founding principles of Hindu ethics leads to an inability to come to a final conclusion as a society on whether something is justified or not. This leads to potential problems in a societal scenario with laws and policies that must be created to draw a fine line and people not being able to come up with a possible consensus based on dharma as a whole.
This similar problem is also faced when looking at the three levels of morality: objective, subjective, and transcendental. Objective morality is when moral actions are taken based on a fulfillment, obligation, or societal responsibility that is left on an individual. The subjective morality that follows after this is when moral actions are taken out of one’s own intention or passion and not by looking at the obligatory or consequences of doing such good action. The final state of transcendental morality goes beyond the subjective morality and is a “post-ethical plane of being” where you both exist and not exist in the physical plane (Crawford 21). Unlike Christianity or other religions, this transcendental life is not given by a God, but is rather attained by oneself because the self is “already perfect.” Crawford states that the three stages lead to differing sets of moral answers for contextualized situations though and once again it becomes difficult to justify a fine line between wrong and right. One example could be a man when he is attacked by his family. The transcendental plane goes beyond the idea of family and connections and tells the man to protect himself and kill his family to protect himself. However, the objective and subjective follow different standards and principles of family and the act of defense. Therefore, drawing a line in society becomes extremely difficult to reach a decision.
While many religions and ethics follow hard line principles, Hindu ethics, especially dharma, is unique in its ability to absorb and progress with society as it changes. In society too, people follow trials and receive different punishments depending on the context of the incident. However, when each incident becomes like such, it becomes extremely inefficient in our society to be able to judge each incident on a different standard of laws depending on one’s level of ethics or context.