Ethics as a branch of philosophy deals with deliberate actions, conducts, characters and ideals of human beings. In the history of human civilization Ethics has played a very important role in controlling, regulating & guiding the human behavior, roles and duties. It is regarded as the code of conduct. It unites man to man in the society and establishes a harmonious relation between man and society. It is possible to imagine a society without a government or religion, but it is impossible to imagine a society without ethical norms, codes and standards. In common sense Ethics or moral philosophy indicates good, right and virtuous action but as a branch of philosophy, it deals with both, good actions and bad actions, right actions and wrong actions, virtues and vices. It analyses and explains both but it hints a person to lead his life from bad to good, from wrong to right and from vices to virtues. Though it is an universal science and global arts, but its postulates, norms and standards differ from society to society, one civilization to other civilization, and culture to culture.
Therefore it seems a very difficult task to make a comparative study of ethical norms and standards. It becomes more difficult when the bases of the comparative study belong to entirely different cultural environment. Professor Dr. Radheshyamadhara Dvivedi has taken this difficult task in his hand to make a comparative study of ethical principles, norms and standards, based o three treatises, belonging to very different socio-cultural environments. The Upanishads present very ancient socio-cultural environment of India, which is generally regarded as Brahmanical Culture. The Sutta-Nipata is an important text of Buddhist culture and Republic, which has very different geographical surrounding, presents Greek socio-cultural environments.
Dr. Dvivedi has made a very deep and thorough study of the above treatises, with the intention to seek a common ground to establish a global and holistic view regarding the ethical principles, norms and standards. According to him without such an ideal, man cannot be uplifted from various limitations and shortcomings for the sake of human progress and world peace. In his investigation he found such a global and holistic view of the authors of the Upanishads, Sutta-Nipata and Republic.
Generally Ethical theories of moral standards are divided in two groups viz. legalistic and teleological theories. Legalistic again is explained as internal law and external laws. Teleological theories are broadly divided into Hedonism & Perfectionism. The author of the presents book has tried to find out the references of these theories in the
Upanishads, Sutta-Nipata and Republic.
According to the Upanishads he has elaborated and explained the ethical theories as External laws, internal laws, Rationalism, Hedonism, perfectionalism and Spiritualism. Here he has very carefully distinguished the theoretical and conceptual principles from practical and utilitarian principles. As the Upanishad assert the practical aspects of ethics. The Hedonism of the Upanishads is drastically different from Egoistic Hedonism and Altruistic Hedonism as the Upanishads clearly differentiate Bliss from happiness & pleasure. The Ethical Hedonism gives its emphasis in pleasure or happiness either for a person or for the largest numbers of the persons, though some of the moral philosophers make distinction between quantitative difference of pleasure and qualitative difference of pleasure, yet they cannot arrive at bliss or spiritual pleasure.
The Sutta-Nipata asserts its ethical principles on the background of asceticism, yet it discusses and considers various theories of ethical standards namely external legalistic theory, internal legalistic and spiritualism of the Upanishads. There is no concept of bliss as the highest goal of human life, but it advocates complete cessation of sufferings and miseries.
The Republic also considers various views and theories of ethical standards but hints towards a spiritual goal, which in not negative like nirvana of Sutta-Nipata, but positive something nearer to the Upanishadic bliss.
In this comparative study the author has tried his best to explain the concepts of Dharma with the concepts of ethical virtues, according to the Upanishad, Sutta-Nipata and Republic. All these three treatises analyse and explain the psychological grounds and stages of mind which are helpful to inculcate moral virtues in the human mind and behavior. In this context, the author has clearly explained the nature and importance of knowledge, control of senses and mind, courage and justice etc.
According to the suggestion made in this study, it is the proper time to review the partiality of normal theories based either on materialistic background or spiritualistic background and to make and attempt to establish a harmony and synthesis between these two. As the guide line of this synthetical approach he has clarified a few points. According to him the universal culture should be divided into eastern cultural tradition and western-cultural tradition. The culture of China, Japan, Tibbet, Burma, India and of other Asian countries may be regarded as eastern culture similarly the culture of Greek, Rome, Egypt and of other European countries may be regarded as western cultural tradition.
The Indian cultural tradition may be divided as Brahmana cultural tradition and sramana cultural tradition. A five point similarity between Brahmana Tradition and western tradition can be established, viz. (a) Existence of personal god (b) singularistic view of individual (c) Universalistic view of the world (d) personal soul and (e) Eternal life. Almost all the schools of Hindu religion and Christianity give emphasis on these five points. But there is a five point difference between Brahmana tradition and Buddhist tradition. Buddhists asserts these five points as (a) No god (b) Puralistic theory of Individual (c) Particularistic view of the world (d) No-soul theory (e) Nibbana or cessation of suffering.
In European tradition, those who are not influenced by Christianity may behave these five points which are advocated by Bddhism.It is very clear from the findings of the author that Indian Religion and philosophical thoughts have established unity in the civilization and culture of Asian countries similarly Christianity and Greek thought have established unity in European countries.
Having elaborately explained the ethical virtues, moral standards and principles according to the Upanishads, Sutta-Nipata and Republic, the author has mentioned some similarities in these three treatises.
(a) Similarity regarding Revolt and Reform : when the ancient Vedic tradition of Karmakanda or sacrifices involved in violence, hypocrasy, exploitations, external rites and rituals, the Upanishads came as a revolt against that and tried to reform the tradition, interpreting the authorities injuncting sacrifices, rites and rituals. The Sutta-Nipata stood as a harse revolts against the Vedic traditions of sacrifices, by rejecting the authority of the Vedas. Similarly the Republic brought revolt against the sophists ideology of norms, standards and justice and tried to make reform according to the teachings of Socrates.
(b) Spiritual similarity: All these three emphasize the importance and superiority of knowledge to rituals and karmakanda and professed to control the natural instincts like violence, anger, desire, enviousness, temptation & delusion etc. and to inculcate purity, truthfulness, non-violence contentment, self-control, benevolence and renunciation etc.
(c) Social similarity: All these three try to examine the social traditions, strong step to discard the blemishes, defects and evils etc. from the society. All these three are the supporters of independent small states, giving full freedom to their citizens, equalities and justice. According to them the classification of society based on natural tendency, ability and function, is essential but no-body could be treated higher or lower, superior or inferior by birth only. For the social necessity and according to individual ability, the division of life like sramas is also acceptable to them. Similarly the definition and prescription of duties, responsibilities of the persons and groups are clearly mentioned there.
(d) Psychological similarity: All these three fully explained the psychological tendencies of human beings and grouped them into vicious and virtuous. Their suggestions and injunctions are to discard vicious tendencies and to develop virtuous tendencies like knowledge, contentment, forgiveness, discriminative knowledge etc.
The present study is a new approach towards comparative Ethics. It may help and guide further research in the study of comparative Ethics. It also may be helpful to frame an ideal for global, holistic view about moral philosophy.
In the end I wish to thank the author of this book for his sincere effort, bold step and impartial outlook in the comparative Ethics. I hope this book will be widely read and appreciated.
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