Ethical Religion/Beginning

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
Ethical Religion by Mohandas K. Gandhi
~ Beginning

It is the moral nature of man by which he rises to good and noble thoughts. The different sciences show us the world as it is. Ethics tells us what it ought to be. It enables man to know how he should act. Man has two windows to his mind : through one he can see his own self as it is; through the other, he can see what he ought to be. It is our task to analyse and explore the body, the brain and the mind of man separately; but if we stop here, we derive no benefit despite our scientific knowledge. It is necessary to know about the evil effects of injustice, wickedness, vanity and the like, and the disaster they spell where the three are found together. And mere knowledge is not enough, it should be followed by appropriate action. An ethical idea is like an architect's plan. The plan shows how the building should be constructed; but is becomes useless if the building is not raised accordingly. Similarly, an ethical idea is useless so long as it is not followed by suitable action. There are many who memorize moral precepts and preach sermons, but they neither practise them nor do they mean to do so. There are some who believe that moral principles are not intended to be practiced in this world; they are meant for the other world- the world which lies beyond death. A great thinker has said, " If you wish to attain perfection, you must begin from this very day to live according to the laws of morality at any cost." We need not be scared away by such thoughts; on the contrary we should be glad to live up to them, considering our responsibility in the matter. "Certainly, cousin," said the gallant Earl of Pembroke, on coming up to the Earl of Derby before Aubercoche and finding the battle already won, "you have neither been courteous nor behaved honorably to fight my enemies without waiting for me". Only when there is such readiness to accept moral responsibility will men tread the path of virtue.

God is omnipotent, He is perfect. There are no limits to His mercy, to His goodness and to His justice. If this is so, how can we, His bond salves, stray at all from the moral path? It is no fault of the ethical principles if one following them should fail. However, those committing a breach of morality have only themselves to blame.

In the path of morality there is no such things as reward for moral behaviour. If a man does some good deed, he does not do it to win applause, he does it because he must. For him doing good is but a higher kind of food, if one may compare food and goodness. And if someone should give him an opportunity to do a good deed, he would feel grateful just as a starving man would be grateful to the giver of food and bless him.

This ethical religion, of which we have spoken, does not mean the cultivation of gentlemanliness. It does mean that we should become a little more diligent, a little better educated, a little cleaner and neater, etc. All this is no doubt included in it, but it touches only the fringe of ethical religion. Many more things have to be done by man if he would walk along this path; and he has to do them as a matter of duty, knowing them to be a part of his nature, not for gaining any worldly benefit.