Wednesday, December 28, 2011

But What Exactly Is That “Something” We Should Be Good For?

(This is a companion post to "Be Not Simply Good, Be Good for Something" 12/27/2011)

“To observe morality is to attain mastery over our mind and our passions. So doing, we know ourselves.” – Gandhi. 

For Gandhi, the bedrock of morality resides within truth—satya; but make no mistake, it is not the form of truth you and I are accustomed to. It is subjective, self-reflecting, and defined by introspection; yet it carries a certain common force, and pervades all social, political, economic, and egoistic conventions. In a way, Gandhi rests his morality in a sense of subjective norm, established by introspection and willingly consented by an individual through actualization of its irrevocable nature as satya—truth—the mastery over mind and passions. So morality comes from the understanding that such truth exist and is shared by a common human experience, but it is not manifested outside of one’s own actualization of freedom of the soul.

For Gandhi, one’s look at life’s freedom forms the truth one seeks thus giving rise to a morality we can share. One’s freedom is beyond the forces of politics, while wars serves as a natural extension of politics by violent means, freedom transcends politics and thus war is not an extension of its existence—freedom is nonviolent by nature, and its movement is naturally nonviolent.

Gandhi is firmly grounded in this sense of self-rule: swaraj. To him, such thing is independent of alien control and economic influences; greed and special interests stand below.

“Let there be no mistake about my conception of Swaraj. It is complete independence of alien control and complete economic independence. So, at one end you have political independence; at the other, economic. It has two other ends. One of them is moral and social, the corresponding end is dharma, i.e., religion in the highest sense of the term. It includes Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, etc., but is superior to them all. You may recognize it be the name of Truth, not the honesty of experience, but the living Truth that pervades everything and will survive all destruction and all transformation. Moral and social uplift may be recognized by the term we are used to, i.e., non-violence. Let us call this the square of swaraj, which will be out of shape if any of its angles is untrue. We cannot achieve this political and economic freedom without truth and non-violence, in concrete terms without a living faith in God, and hence moral and social elevation.” 

If we become free, our society becomes free; the freedom of an individual comes from each person establishing self-rule. If freedom is removed from an individual, he becomes an “automaton and society is ruined.” Civil disobedience is one thing in anarchy, but entirely another in a self-ruled anarchy: in anarchy, there is not end but a final destruction—it discovers the truth in death; in a self-rule anarchy, the end is cohesion and the means are by way of self-reflection in attaining the Truth.

“The only tyrant I accept in this world is the ‘still small voice’ within.”

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