A manual of Hindu Ethics is a pioneering work based on original Sanskrit sources. It reviews the silent features of ethics in the teachings of the Vedas the Upanishads the Bhagvad Gita and those of Manu Valmiki, Vidura, Chanakya, Shankrachrya, Bhartihari and the Buddha. The Sanskrit selections with their modern English translation are only those with ethical significance and convey moral teachings of universal application. It also reviews the theism of Indian saints such as chanakya Kabir, Ramdas and Tukaram and concludes with a refutation of the western critics of Hinduism.
Late G. A. Chandavarkar served as the headmaster Government residency School Hyderabad (1925). The book originally written at the start of the twentieth century has become a standard work and is referred to worldwide as an authoritative and factually correct text on Hindu Ethics.
In this edition two more chapters have been added one on “The ethical Religion of the Hindus” and the other on ‘The Theism of Indian Saints’. After the publication of the second edition of this booklet, Principle McKenzie issued his volume on Hindu ethics us the Heritage of India Series. As desired by the publishers we have thought it fir to add a more reviewing the book in general terms.
The subject of Hindu ethics is of profound interest to all the lovers of religion and we trust that the crystal stream flowing through the current of Hinduism meandering through sunny pools muddy ponds and clear lakes will satiate the spiritual thirst of man and lead him on to the source of New Light. Forces of evil may be terrific by the ethical religion places before us the ideals of Universal Brotherhood and spiritual fellowship, the pious hopes of religious reformers and the magnanimous dreams of many mystics. If the ethical teachings embodied in this small volume were to broaden the intellectual horizon of the readers and ring through the world a tune of harmony the mighty seers of yore of Hindu India a might as well share the credit of being the harbingers of the great worldwide movement of spiritual reaction against the evil tendencies of materialism. If spiritualized science holds that the energy manifested in the material and the vegetable kingdom moves manwards the rishis of this land of religions preached man’s cry is Godwords.
From untruth lead me to Truth form darkness to light and form mortality to and immortal Life. This was the cry on to God.
We worship thee the source of all light Guide our intellects in the path of righteousness. That is the quintessence of the holy Gayatri which echoes and re-echoes through the chants of every Hindu a prayer which is as sublime as it is soul elevating how does it end? Let there be Peace. Peace and Peace.
My sincere thanks are due to the manager of the Oriental Book Agency, Poona whose assistance has largely facilitated the publication of the book and also to Mr. N.N Kulkarni BA (Hon) of the Bhadarkar Research Institute Poona for correcting the proofs. The manager Everyman’s Press Madras has taken special care in getting this book printed to whom also my thanks are due.
In the 19 the century Hindu ethics came under attack by Christian missionaries and in some ways this was continued by some sociologists. McKenzie’s Hindu ethics represents an unfair Christian presentation of Hindu ethics the writings of Max Weber and Dumont’s Homo Heirarchicus are examples of sociological criticism. The writings of Lokmanya Tilak, Annie Besant Aurobindo and Radhakrishna have adequately established the essential nature Hindu ethics for the modem man. They have reformulated the essential principles of Hindu thought disentangling it from contingent historical modes of expression. This is necessary in any tradition the history of which spans five thousand year. Despite changing Yugadahram Hindudharam continues unchanged as Sanatana Dharma.
Dharma has three aspects. It stands for virtue right action and ideal ends of the will. The first is termed adhytma guna or sheel the second is sadachar or sarkarma the third is the purusartha that follows form niskama karma or upasana. The cultivation of virtue comes form the purification of the hearty and the realization of the essential unity or sameness of the self in all beings. It is the separatist force of egoism an egoistic desires that sully the original purity of the mind. Thus non violence love or compassion represent the fundamental virtue. Its cultivation is binding on all without limitation Ahimsa Satya Astya rahmachrya and Aparigraha these five are called sarvabhaumamhavrat the universally obligatory vows. Although universally obligatory these virtues are ideals to be perfected over a long time maybe many lives.
Right action has been conceived in two principle ways. One way of looking at it is to consider it as an action consequent scriptural injunction. Another way if looking as an action consequent on right motivation i.e. on motivation free form raga dves and moha. In every case an action is right if it follows rightly oriented act of the will. If the will is virtuous and free form sinfulness the action will be right. More practically action is in accordance with the duties described by one’s station or role in life would be right if performed in the right spirit.
An essential aspect of moral life is living in harmony or samvaya and acting for universal welfare or paropkar. In fact it has been said.
Virtue is helping others sin is exploiting them.
The ultimate end of moral life surpasses morality itself. If action is performed in a disinterested manner, it leads to the purification of the mind and thus prepares one for the vision of the self.
It will be seen that dharma is rooted in the nature of the self and express itself as the universal law of action and reaction. The universe is not the result of blind chance; it is governed by the law of karma. Martially has meaning for the self which does not end with death. The immortality of the soul its freedom of action and the law of karma, these are the three postulates of any adequate ethical thought. Doubtless attempts have been made of construct ethics on a materialistic or a naturalistic assumption. But such attempts end up by abolishing ethics and replacing it by convention and sentiments.
The present Manual of Hindu Ethics was written nearly a century ago and has gone through three editions. It follows a sound method by giving ancient textual references in detail so that the reader can have a cleat idea of what the ancient Hindu scriptures say. The work thereby gains in authenticity and since it keeps the author interpretation at a minimum level it is bound to bane long loved its critique of McKenzie’s book is particularly welcome.
Am important question connected with Dharma is about its source. How do we acquire knowledge of Dharma? What is its pramana? The standard answer mentions four pramanas namely shruti or revelation smriti or tradition sadachar or exemplary conduct of good people and one’s conscience. The standing difficulty here has been the contradistinction between the different pramanas.
The reveled texts are numerous the traditional texts are also divergent.
No two sages have the same opinion.
The sense of Dharma is hidden in the heart.
One should follow the examples of great men.
Hindu social ethics has been the butt of much modern criticism on the score of caste inequality by birth has plugged even modern western society in the firm of race and ethnic prejudice by to critics that western society innocent times treated slaves as chattel and till the 19th century Christian Europe had a hierarchical society where the hierarchy was based on birth and also the violence and exploitation perpetrated by the white races on the non Christian and non white races in many continents including their own. Race and color prejudice are also based on birth and they played a most important part in recent western history. The fact is that social justice is an ideal still to be attained in practice anywhere. At the same time we must remember that the basis of the original Varma system was Guna and Karma. We should not confuse that ideal with the defects that have crept into it with practice in course of time. The stream of social reformers has continued in India along with the conservative ideas form ancient times through Vedic epic, Buddhist Jain and Bhakti reformers till it ahs at last finally succeeded under the leadership of Hindus like Dayananda and a part of this old liberal way of thinking. The western ideas have only been a catalytic agent except fro their distortion of it.
I am sure that all those who are interested in Hindu ethical thought will gain authentic information form this valuable book by G.A Chandavarkar, which therefore deserves to be highly commended.
The ancestors of Hindus belong intensely spiritual in nature fixed their attention on a life beyond death. They regarded the human soul as an eternal entity coexisting with the Supreme Being. Every human soul they held was required to of the round of births And rebirths and reap the fruits of its actions. The eternity and the transmigration of human should and the laws of Karma form the cardinal doctrines of Hindu Philosophy which preaches that when a soul comes to be associated with the gross material body, it is bound reap the fruits thereof. The belief is that if good deeds are performed happiness result and if evil deeds are done misery falls to the lot of the doer. The human should never die exemptions form reaping the fruits of its deeds. It reaps as it sows. Ever and anon man struggles and scrambles to attain happiness and as happiness the fruit of Karma he should necessarily know what is good and what is bad. Every law giver thinker of ancient India felt therefore the supreme necessity of farming certain rules of conduct and of presenting the ultimate end to which all the life of a human being is to be directed. Sanskrit literature either of the Vedic or the Puranic periods bears eloquent to the existence of ethical ideas of a superior type. In the history of Hindu thought it is practically impossible for any one to trace out of divorce between ethics and religion. A calm and dispassionate study of the Hindu scriptures will convince any one that ultimately religion and ethics are one. Many of the Hindu institutions have their superstructures built on the foundation of the fundamental principles of the science of ethics. The Panca-Mahc-Yajmas- the five daily duties the performance of which is obligatory on every Hindu typify philanthropy. These five Yajmas are (1) Braham-Yajna – worship of God, (2) Deva-Yajan – Reverence to men of light and leading (3) Pitri-Yajna – Propitiation of elders by of ministering to their wants (4) Bhuta-Yajna – feeding the cattle and the birds and (5) Atithi-Yajna – Hospitable treatment of deserving guests. The Yoga-Bhyasa the practice of which form the standpoint of a Hindu is essential for Moksha – Freedom from the necessity of going along the ever rolling wheel of births lord Buddha too glorified the same virtue and preached his religion only to re-establish the rig of righteousness. Form the Vedic down to the Puranas hardly is there any Sanskrit work which does not sing the glory of Niti- the ethical religion. Even a treatise on medicine like the Charaka Samhita pays a tribute to this and says that physical happiness depends on the practice of morality. Sanskrit poetry as represented in later dramatic literature too first preaches and then pleases. Kalidas and Bhavabhuti appeal to their readers more as ethicists than as mere versifiers Valmiki, Vyasa Canakya and Bharihari are undoubtedly great Aristotle. Confucius and Laotse. The two Satakas of Bhartrihari they neighbor as thyself is already voiced forth in one of the hymns of the Yajurveda. There can therefore be no denying the fact that Sanskrit writers attach great significance to ethical laws or to what they call Dharma which means right thought right word and right deed. In immoral strains have the bards the saints the prophets and the law givers sung the glory of Dharma. The devotional songs of Chaitanya Kabira and Tukarama are echoing and re-echoing the noblest sentiments of sublimes movements in India have the stamp of this Dharmic revival indelibly marked on them. That moral elevation of the masses is an indispensable necessity for all kinds of advancement is an undisputed tact. In the post ethical elevation it was that preserved fact. In the past ethical elevation it was that preserved the integrity of the Hindu civilization. It is owing to the moral vitality that the Hindu race though often conquered politically, maintained its stability. The history of Hinduism in all the stages of its struggle with the alien system of though presents the curious phenomenon of its moral victory which is mainly the result of the ethical development of its followers. The power of Dharma has always been marvelous. With its rise nations have risen and with its fall they have crumbled to dust. The world is built on moral foundations alone. In the long run truth and justice triumph and injustice and falsehood perish. When the poet sang “Dharam EV Hatto Hanti Dharmo Rakshatah” he meant to say Kill Dharma and you kill yourself save Dharma and you save yourself. Another poet too has the following edifying verse.
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