Bhagavad-gita-rahasya (or Karma-yoga Shastra)

by Bhalchandra Sitaram Sukthankar | 1935 | 327,828 words

The English translation of the Bhagavad-Gita Rahasya, also known as the Karma-yoga Shastra or “Science of Right Action”, composed in Marathi by Bal Gangadhar Tilak in 1915. This first volume represents an esoteric exposition of the Bhagavadgita and interprets the verses from a Mimamsa philosophical standpoint. The work contains 15 chapters, Sanskri...

Chapter 4 - The Materialistic Theory of Happiness (ādhibhautika sukhavāda)

duḥkhād uddvijate sarvaḥ sarvasya sukham īpsitam |
  —Mahābhārata. Śānti. (139.61).

"Everyone is unwilling to suffer pain and everyone wants happiness".

As we have seen that stock precepts like:–'mahājano yena gataḥ sa panthāḥ', i.e. 'follow the path which has been followed by venerable persons', or, 'ati sarvatra varjayet', i.e., 'do too much of nothing', do not satisfactorily explain:–(i) why Manu and the other legislators laid down the rules of 'ahiṃsā satyamasteya' (Non-Violence, Veracity, Not-stealing) etc., (ii) whether those rules are mutable or immutable, (iii) what their extent or the fundamental principle underlying them is, and (iv) which precept should be followed when two or more of them are equally in point and yet conflict with each other, it is now necessary for us to see whether or not there are any definite means for properly determining these questions, and deciding which is the most beneficial or meritorious path of duty, as also, in what way and from what point of view we can determine the relative importance or the greater or less worth of mutually conflicting principles of morality. I have in the last chapter explained that there are three ways of considering the questions involved in the exposition of Action and Non-Action, namely, the Positive, (ādhibhautika), the Theological (ādhidaivika), and the Metaphysical (ādhyātmika), just as in the case of the scientific exposition of other matters. According to our philosophers the most excellent of these ways is the Metaphysical way. But, as it is necessary to carefully consider the other two methods in order to fully understand the importance of the Metaphysical method, I have in this chapter first considered the fundamental Materialistic principles underlying the examination of the question of Action and NonAction. The positive physical sciences, which have had an immense growth in modern times have to deal principally with the external or visible properties of tangile objects.

Therefore, those persons who have spent their lives in studying the physical sciences, or who attach much importance to the critical methods particular to these sciences, get into the habit of always considering only the external effects of things; and their philosophical vision being thereby to a certain extent narrowed, they do not, in discussing any particular thing, attach much importance to causes which are Metaphysical, or intangible, or invisible, or which have reference to the next world. But, although on that account, they leave out of consideration the Metaphysical or the nextworld point of view, yet, as codes of morality are necessary for the satisfactory regulation of the mutual relations of human beings and for public welfare, even these philosophers, who are indifferent about life after death or who have no faith in intangible or Metaphysical knowledge, (and also necessarily no faith in God), look upon the science of Proper Action (KarmaYoga) as a most important science; and, therefore, there has been in the past and there is still going on, a considerable amount of discussion in the West, as to whether the science of Proper and Improper Action can be satisfactorily dealt with in the same way as the physical sciences, that is to say, by means of arguments based on purely worldly and visible effects. As a result of this discussion, modern Western philosophers have made up their minds that the science of Metaphysics is of no use whatsoever for the consideration of Ethics, that the goodness or badness of any particular Action must be determined by considering only those of its external effects which are actually visible to us, and that we can do so. Any act which a man performs, is performed by him either for obtaining happiness, or for warding off unhappiness. One may even say that 'the happiness of all human beings' is the highest worldly goal, and if the ultimate visible resultant of all Action is thus definite, the correct method of deciding Ethical problems, is to determine the moral value of all Actions by weighing the greater or lesser possibilities of each Action producing happiness or preventing unhappiness. If one judges the goodness or badness of any particular object in ordinary life by considering its external usefulness, e. g., if we decide that that cow which has short horns and which is docile, and at the same time gives a large quantity of milk is the best flow, then on the same principle, we must also consider that Action as the most meritorious one, from the ethical point of view, of which the external result of producing happiness or preventing unhappiness is the highest.

If it is possible to decade the ethical value of any particular act in such an easy and scientific way, namely, by considering the greater or less value of its purely external and visible effects, one should not trouble about entering into the discussion of the Self and Non-Self (ātmānātma);

arke cen madhu vindeta kimarthaṃ parvataṃ vrayet [1]

I.e., "if one can get honey near at hand where he sits, then where is the sense of going into the hills to look for honey-combs?"

I call this method of determining the morality of any particular Action by considering merely its external results the 'ādhibhautika sukhavāda' (the Materialistic Theory of Happiness), because, the happiness to be considered for determining the morality of any Action is, according to this theory, actually visible and is external–that is, is such as arises from the contact of the organs with external objects, and subsequently Materialistic (ādhibhautika)–and this school has likewise been brought into existence by those philosophers who consider the world from the purely positive or Materialistic point of view. But, it is not possible to fully discuss this theory in this book. It would be necessary to write an independent book to even merely summarise the opinions of the different writers. I have, therefore, in this chapter collected together and given as precisely as possible as much general information about this Materialistic school of Ethics as is absolutely necessary for fully understanding the nature and importance of the science of Proper Action expounded in the Bhagavadgītā. If any one wants to go deeper into the matter, he must study the original works of the Western philosophers.

From my statement above, that Materialistic philosophers are apathetic about the science of the Ātman or about the next world, one must not draw the conclusion that all the learned persons who subscribe to this path, are selfish, self-centred or immoral. There belong to this school high-minded philosophers like Comte, Spencer, Mill, and others, who most earnestly and enthusiastically preached that striving for the benefit of the whole world by making at least one's worldly outlook as comprehensive as possible (if one does not believe in the next world), is the highest duty of every man; and as their works are replete with the most noble and deep thoughts, they ought to be read by everyone. Although the paths of the science of Proper Action are many, yet, so long as one has not given the go-bye to the external ideal of 'the benefit of the world', one must not ridicule a philosopher on the ground that his method of dealing with the philosophy of Ethics is different from one's own. I shall now precisely and in their proper order, consider the various divisions into which the modern or ancient Materialistic philosophers fall, as a result of differences of opinion between them as to whether the external material happiness which has to be considered for determining the ethical propriety or impropriety of an action is one's own happiness or the happiness of another, and whether of one person or of several persons; and I shall also consider to what extent these opinions are proper or faultless.

The first of these classes is of those who maintain the theory of pure selfish happiness. This school of thought says that there is no such thing as life after death or as philanthropy; that all Metaphysical sciences have been written by dishonest people to serve their own ends; that the only thing which is real in this world is one's own interest; and that, that act by which this self-interest can be achieved or whereby one can promote one's own material happiness is the most just, the most proper, and the most meritorious act. This opinion was, at a very early date, vociforously proclaimed in India by Cārvāka. and the mischievous advice given by Jābāli to Śrī Rāma at the end of the Ayodhyākāṇḍa of the Rāmāyaṇa, as also the Kaṇikanīti in the Mahābhārata (Ma, Bhā. Ā. 143), pertains to this school of thought. The opinion of the illustrious Cārvāka was that when the five primordial elements are fused together, they acquire the quality of an Ātman, and when the body is burnt, the Ātman is burnt with it; therefore, a wise man should not bother about the Ātman, but should enjoy himself so long as life lasts, even borrowing money for the purpose, if necessary; one should "ṛṇaṃ kṛtvā ghṛtaṃ pibet", i.e., "borrow money and drink clarified butter", because there is nothing after death. As Cārvāka was born in India, he satisfied himself with prescribing the drinking of clarified butter (ghṛtaṃ pibet) otherwise, this canon would have been transformed into ' "ṛṇaṃ kṛtvā surāṃ pibet ', i.e., 'borrow money and drink wine'. This school says: "What is this dharma and this charity? All the objects which have been created in this world by the Parameśvara,–what did I say? I have made a mistake! Of course, there is no Parameśvara–all the things which I see in this world have come into existence only for my enjoyment, and as I can see no other purpose for them, there is, of course, no such purpose. When I am dead, the world is over; and therefore, so long as I am alive, I shall acquire all the various things which can, be acquired, acquiring this to-day and that to-morrow, and thereby I shall satisfy all my desires. If at all I go in for any religious austerity or charity, that will be only to increase my reputation and worth; and if I make a rājasūya yajña or an Aśvamedha yajña, that too will be for the sole purpose of establishing that my power is unchallenged in all directions. In short, the EGO, the 'I' is the only focus of this world, and this 'I' is the sum and substance of all morality; all the rest is false ". The description of godless endowment (āsurī saṃpatti) given in the 16th chapter of the Gītā in the words: "īsvaro 'ham ahaṃ bhogī siddho 'haṃ balavān sukhī" (Bhagavadgītā 16.14), i.e., "I am the Īśvara, I am the one who enjoys, and I am the siddha (perfect), the all-powerful, and the happy", applies quite appropriately to the opinions of persons who follow this philosophy. If instead of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, there had been some person like Jābāli belonging to this sect for advising Arjuna, he would, in the first place, have slapped Arjuna on the face, and then said to him: "What a fool are you! When you have without effort got this golden opportunity of fighting and conquering everybody and enjoying all kinds of royal enjoyment and happiness, you are uttering the most foolish things, being lost in the futile confusion of 'shall I do this, or shall I do that'! You will not get such a chance again. What a fool are you to think of the Ātman and of relatives! Strike! and enjoy the empire of Hastināpura after having removed all the thorns from your path! In this lies your truest happiness. Is there anything in this world except one's visible material happiness?"

But, Arjuna was not anxious to hear such a disgustingly selfish, purely self-centred, and ungodlike advice; and he had, already in advance, said to Śrī Kṛṣṇa:

etān na hantum icchhāmi ghnatopi madhusūdana |
api trailokyarājyasya hetoḥ kiṃ nu mahīkṛte ||
  (Bhagavadgītā 1.36).

That is, "If I had to acquire for myself (by this war), the kingdom even of the three worlds–to say nothing of the kingdom of this world–(that is, such physical pleasures), I do not desire for that purpose to kill the Kauravas. I do not mind if they slit open my throat".

Even a mere reference to this ungodlike self-centred and entirely selfish doctrine of material happiness, which Arjuna had, in this way, denounced in advance, would amount to a refutation of it. This extremely low stage reached by the school of Material Happiness, which looks upon one's own physical pleasures as the highest ideal of man, and throws religion and morality to the winds, and totally disregards what happens to other people, has been treated by all writers on the science of Proper Action, and even by ordinary people, as extremely immoral, objectionable and disdainable. Nay!, this theory does not even deserve the name of Ethics or of an ex- position of morality; and therefore, instead of wasting more time in considering this subject, we will now turn to the next class of Materialistic philosophers.

Pure and naked selfishness or self-centredness never succeeds in the world; because, although physical and material pleasures may be desirable to everyone, yet, as is a matter of actual experience, if our happiness interferes with the happiness of others, those others will certainly do us harm. Therefore other Materialistic philosophers maintain that although one's happiness or. selfish purposes may be one's goal, yet, in as much as it is not possible for one to acquire such happiness, unless one makes some sacrifices for other people similar to.those one oneself wants from them, one must longsightedly take into account the happiness of others in order to obtain -one's own happiness. I put these Materialistic philosophers in the second class. It may be said that the Materialistic exposition of Ethics truly begins at this point. Because, instead of saying like Cārvāka, that no ethical limitations are necessary for the maintenance of society, persons belonging to this school have made an attempt to explain their own view as to why these limitations must be observed by everybody. These people say that, if one minutely considers how the theory of Harmlessness came into this world, and why people follow that doctrine, there is no other reason at the root of it except the fear based on selfish considerations that, ' if I kill others, others will kill me, and then I will lose my happiness', and that all other moral precepts have come into existence as a result of this selfish fear in the same way as this law of Harmlessness. If we suffer pain, we cry, and if others suffer pain, we feel pity for them. But why? Because the fear that we in our turn may have to suffer the same pain, that is, of course, the thought of our possible future unhappiness comes to our minds. Charity, generosity, pity, love, gratefulness, humbleness, friendship, and other qualities which at first sight appear to be for the benefit of others are, if we trace them to their origin, nothing but means of acquiring our own happiness or warding off our own unhappiness in another form. Everybody whosoever helps others or gives in charity with the internal motive that if he found himself in the same position, other people should help him; and we love others, only in order that others should love us. At any rate, the selfish idea that other people should call us good is at the back of our minds. The expressions 'doing good to others' and 'the welfare of others' are words based on confusion of thought. What is real, is one's own selfish purpose; and one's own selfish purpose means obtaining one's own happiness or warding off one's own unhappiness. This amounts to saying that a mother suckles her baby not on account of love, but she does this selfish act in order to ease herself (as her breasts are full of milk and she feels the inconvenience of the pressure), or in order that the child, after growing up, should love her and give her happiness. The tact that people of this school of thought, admit that it is necessary to long-sightedly observe such moral; principles as will permit of the happiness of others–though that may be for obtaining one's own happiness–is the important difference between this school of thought and the school of Cārvāka. Nevertheless, the idea that a human, being is nothing but a statue cast into the mould of selfish physical desires, which is the opinion of the Cārvāka school, has been left untouched by this school. This opinion has been supported in England by Hobbes and in France by Helvetius. But there are not to be found many followers of this school in' England or anywhere else. After the exposition of Ethics by Hobbes had been published, it was refuted by philosophers like Butler,[2] who proved that human nature as a whole is not absolutely selfish, and that there exist in a human being from birth such other qualities as humanity, love, gratitude etc., to a greater or less extent, side by side with selfishness; and, therefore, in considering any act or any dealing from the ethical point of view, one should instead of considering only the qualities of selfishness or even of long-sighted selfishness, always consider the two inherent distinct tendencies of human beings, namely, 'selfishness', (svārtha) and the 'unselfishness', (parārtha). If even a cruel animal like a tigress is prepared to sacrifice her life for the sake of her cubs, it follows that saying that the emotions of love and philanthropy come into existence in the human mind merely out of selfishness is futile, and that weighing between the duty and the non-duty merely from the point of view of long-sighted selfishness is scientifically incorrect. Out ancient writers had not lost sight of the fact that persons, whose intelligence has remained "unpurified on account of their having remained wholly engrossed in family life, very often do whatever they do in this world for others, only with an eye to their own benefit. The saint Tukārāma has said:–"the daughter-in-law weeps for the mother-in-law, but the motive in her heart is quite different" (Tukārāma's Gāthā 2583.2); and some of our philosophers have gone even beyond Helvetius. For instance, in commenting on the proposition laid down by Śrī Śaṃkarācārya in his BrahmaSūtrabhāṣya (Śāṃkarabhāṣya 2.2.3) on the authority of the Gautama-Nyāyasūtra (1.1, 18) 'pravartanā lakṣaṇā doṣāḥ', i.e., 'all human activity, whether selfish or unselfish, is faulty', Ānandagiri says that: "We practice kindness or benevolence towards others only in order to remove that pain" which results from the emotion of pity awakening in our hearts." This argument of Ānandagiri is to be found in almost all our books on the Path of Renunciation, and all that is principally attempted to be proved from it is, that all Actions are selfish, and, therefore, non-performable. But in the conversation between Yājñavalkya and his wife Maitreyī, which appears twice in the Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣad (Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣad 2.4; 4.5), this very argument has been made use of in another and a strange way. In answering the question of Maitreyī: "How can one acquire immortality?", Yājñavalkya says to her: "O Maitreyī, the husband is loved by the wife, not for the sake of the husband, but or the sake of her own ātman; in the same way, the son is not loved by us for his own sake; we love him for our own sake![3] The same law applies to wealth, animals, and all other objects. 'ātmanastu kāmāya sarvaṃ priyaṃ bhavati', i.e., 'We like all things for the sake of our Self (ātman)', and if all love is in this way based on Self, must we not, in the first place, find out what our Ātman (Self) is? " And, therefore, the concluding advice of Yājñavalkya is; "ātmā vā are draṣṭavyaḥ śrotavyo mantavyo nididhyāsitavyaḥ", i.e., "See (first) what the ātman '(Self) is, hear the ātman, and meditate and contemplate on the atman". When the true form of the Ātman has in this way been realised by following this advice, the whole world becomes Self-ised (ātma-maya), and the distinction between selfishness (svārtha) and unselfishness (parārtha) in the mind ceases to exist. Although this argument of Yājñavalkya is apparently the same as that of Hobbes, yet, as can be easily seen, the inferences drawn by them respectively from that advice are contrary to each other. Hobbes attaches higher importance to selfishness, and, looking upon all philanthropy as long-sighted selfishness, says that there is nothing in this world except selfishness; whereas Yājñavalkya, relying on the word 'sva' (one's own) in the phrase 'svārtha' (selfishness), shows, on the authority of that word, that from the Metaphysical point of view, all created beings are harmoniously comprised in our Ātman and our Ātman is likewise harmoniously comprised in all created beings; and he, in that way, gets rid of the apparently dualistic (dvaita) conflict between the interest of oneself and the interest of others. These opinions of Yājñavalkya and of the school of Renunciation will be considered in greater detail later on. I have referred here to the opinions of Yājñavalkya and others only for the purpose of showing how our ancient writers have more or less praised or accepted as correct the principle that 'the ordinary tendency of human beings is selfish, that' is, is concerned with their own happiness ', and drawn from it inferences which are quite contrary to those drawn by Hobbes.

Having thus proved that human nature is not purely selfish and is not governed wholly by the tamas quality, nor totally ungodly (as has been maintained by the English writer Hobbes and the French writer Helvetius), and that a benevolent (sāttvika) mental impulse forms part of human nature from birth along with the selfish impulse, and that doing good to others is not long-sighted selfishness, one has to give equal importance to the two principles of 'svārtha', i.e., one's own happiness and parārtha, i.e., the happiness of others,, in building up the science of the doable and the notdoable (kāryākārya-vyavasthiti). This is the third division of Materialistic philosophers. Nevertheless, the Materialistic view that both svārtha and parārtha deal only with worldly happiness, and that there is nothing beyond worldly happiness, is also held by this school. The only difference is that people' who belong to this school consider it their duty to take into- account both self-interest (svārtha) and other'sinterest (parārtha) in determining questions of morality, because they look upon the impulse of doing good to others as, as much an inherent impulse, as the selfish impulse. As normally there is no conflict between self-interest and other'sinterest, all the Actions which a man performs are primarily also beneficial- to society. If one man accumulates wealth, that ultimately benefits the whole society; because, society being a collection of numerous individuals, if each individual in it benefits himself without harming others, that is bound to benefit the whole society. Therefore, this school of philosophers has laid down that if one can do good to others without neglecting one's own happiness, it is one's duty to do so. But, as this school does not admit the superiority of other's-interest and advises that one should each time, according to one's own lights, consider whether one's own interests or the interests of others- are superior, it is difficult to decide to what extent one should sacrifice one's own happiness for the happiness of others when there is a conflict between self-interest and other's-interest,. and there is very often a chance of a man falling a prey to considerations of his own interests. For instance, if self-interest is considered to be as important as other's-interest, it is difficult to decide by reference to the doctrines of this school of thought, whether or not one should, for the sake of truth,, suffer considerable financial loss–to say nothing of the much more serious question whether or not one should, for the sake- of truth, 'sacrifice one's life or lose one's kingdom. Persons belonging to this school may possibly praise a benevolent man who sacrifices his life for the advantage of another, but if they are themselves faced with a similar situation, these philosophers, who habitually sit on the two stools of self-interest and other's-interest, will certainly be dragged towards self-interest. This school believes that they do not look upon other'sinterest as a long-sighted variety of selfishness (as was done by Hobbes), but that they minutely weigh self-interest and other's-interest in a scale, and very skillfully decide in what self-interest lies; and, on that account, they glorify their doctrine by calling it the path of 'enlightened' (udātta) or 'wise' self-interest (but self- interest in any case!)[4]

But see what Bhartṛhari says:–

ete satpuruṣāḥ parārthaghatakāḥ svārthān parityajya ye |
sāmānyāstu parārtham udyamabhṛtaḥ svārthā'virodhena ye ||
te 'mī mānavarākṣasāḥ parahitaṃ svārthāya nighmnti ye |
ye tu ghnanti nirarthakaṃ parahitaṃ te ke na jānīmahe ||
  (Nī. Śa. 74)

That is, "those who do good to others, sacrificing their own interests are the truly good persons; those who strive for the good of others, without sacrificing self-interest, are ordinary persons; those who harm others, for their self-interest, must be looked upon not as human beings but as godless beings (rākṣasāḥ); but I do not know how to describe those who are worse than these, that is, those who needlessly harm the interests of others".

In the same way in describing the most excellent form of regal morality, Kālidāsa says:–

svasukhanirabhilāṣaḥ khidyase lokahetoḥ |
pratidinam athavā te vṛttir evaṃ vidhaiva ||
  (Śākuntala 5.7).

That is, "you strive every day for the welfare of others without considering your own happiness, or it may be said that such is your natural instinct or vocation".

Neither Bhartṛhari nor Kālidāsa had to see how to discriminate between Eight Action or Wrong Action (karmākarma) or righteousness and unrighteousness (dharmādharma) by adopting both the principles of self-interest and other's-interest into a science of Right Action (Karma-Yoga), and judiciously weighing them. Nevertheless, the highest place which has been given by them to persons who sacrifice self-interest for other's-interest is justifiable even from the point of view of Ethics. Persons belonging to this school of thought say, that although other's-interest may be superior to self-interest from the philosophical point of view, yet, in as much as we have not to consider what ideally pure morality is, but only how 'ordinary' persons should act in the ordinary affairs of the world, the prominence given by us to 'enlightened self-interest' is proper -from the worldly point of view.[5] But in my opinion, there is no sense in this argument. The weights and measures used in commerce are as a rule more or less inaccurate; but if, taking advantage of that fact, the greatest possible accuracy is not maintained in the standard weights and measures kept in public offices, shall we not blame the persons in authority? The same rule applies to the philosophy of Karma-Yoga. Ethics has been formulated only in order to scientifically define the pure, complete, and constant form of morality; and, if any science of Ethics does not do this, it must be said to be useless. Sidgwick is not wrong in saying that 'enlightened self-interest' is the path of ordinary people. Bhartṛhari says the game thing. But if one examines what the opinion of these ordinary people about the highest morality is, it will be seen that, even in their opinion, the importance given by Sidgwick to enlightened self-interest is wrong, and the path of spotless morality or the path followed by saints, is looked upon by them as something much better than the ordinary selfish path; and, that is what is intended to be conveyed by the stanzas of Bhartṛhari quoted above.

I have so far dealt with the three divisions of the School of Material happiness, namely, the purely selfish, the long- sighted selfish, and the enlightened selfish (which is both the former ones combined), and I have pointed out what the principal short-comings of their respective systems are. But this does not exhaust all the divisions of the Material happiness school. The next division, that is to say, the best division of this school is the one of the benevolent (sāttvika) Materialistic philosophers, who maintain that: one should decide the ethical doability or non-doability of all Actions by judiciously weighing the Material happiness of not only one human being, hut of the entire human race.[6] It is not possible that one and the same act will cause happiness to all persons in the world or in a society at one and the same time. If one person looks upon a particular thing as productive of happiness, it produces unhappiness to another person. But, just as light is not considered objectionable on the ground that the owl does not like it, so also if a particular thing is not profitable to some persons, it cannot be said, even according to the Karma- Yoga science, that it is not beneficial to all; and on that account, the words 'the happiness of all persons (sarvabhūtahita) have to be understood as meaning the 'greatest happiness (good) of the greatest number'. In short, the opinion of this school is that, "we must consider only such acts as ethically just and fit to be performed, as are conducive to the greatest good of the greatest number; and that, acting in that way is the true duty of every human being in this world." This doctrine of the school of Material happiness is acceptable to the Metaphysical school. Nay, I may even say that this principle was propounded by the Metaphysicians in very ancient times, and the Materialistic philosophers have now turned it to use in a particular way. It is a well-known fact, as has been said by the Saint Tukārāma that, " saintly persons come to life only for the benefit of the world; they suffer in body in order to do good to others". Needless to say, there is no dispute about the correctness or the propriety of this principle, Even 'in the Bhagavadgītā, in describing the characteristic features of saints (jñānin) who practice the perfect Yoga–of course, the Karma-Yoga–the words "sarvabhūtahite ratāḥ" i. e., "they are engrossed in doing good to all created beings" have been clearly used twice (Bhagavadgītā 5.25; 12.4); and it becomes–quite clear from the statement from the Mahābhārata quoted in the second chapter above: "yad bhūtahitam atyantam tat satyaṃ iti dhāraṇā". (Vana 208.4), i.e., "that is Truth according to dharma in which the highest benefit of all lives," that our ancient writers used to take into account this principle in deciding what is just (dharma) and what unjust (adharma). But, looking upon the promotion of the welfare of all created beings as the external characteristic feature of the conduct of jñānins, and occasionally making use of that principle in a broad way for determining what is just and what unjust, is something absolutely different from taking, for granted that that is the substance of Ethics, and disregarding everything else, and erecting an immense structure of the science of Ethics on that foundation alone. Materialistic philosophers accept the latter course and maintain that Ethics has nothing to do with Metaphysics. It is, therefore, necessary for us to see now to what extent they are correct. There is a great deal of difference between the meanings of the two words 'happiness' (sukha) and 'benefit' (hita); but, although for the moment that difference is not taken into consideration and the word 'sarvabhūtahita' is taken as meaning 'the greatest happiness of the greatest number', yet it will be seen, that numerous important difficulties arise, if we rely only on this principle for distinguishing the doable from the not-doable. Suppose, a Materialist follower of this principle was advising. Arjuna: what would he have told him? Would he not have said:–If as a result of your becoming victorious in the Bhāratīya war, you bring about the greatest happiness of the greatest number, then it is your duty to fight, even if you might kill Bhīṣma. Apparently, this advice seems very easy But, if we go a little deeper, we realise its insufficiency and the difficulties involved in it. 'Greatest number' means how much? The Pāṇḍava army was of seven akṣauhiṇīs (a unit for measuring the numbers of soldiers). But, the Kaurava army was of eleven akṣauhiṇīs. Can one, therefore argue that the Pāṇḍavas were in the wrong, on the ground that if the Pāṇḍavas had been defeated these eleven Kaurava-akṣauhiṇīs would have become happy? To decide questions of morality merely on the basis of numbers would be wrong on any number of occasions, to say nothing of the Bhāratīya war. Even in ordinary life everyone believes, that that act which pleases even one good man is more truly a good act than the act which gives happiness to a hundred thousand evil-doers. In order to justify this belief, the happiness of one saint has to be given a higher value than the happiness of a hundred thousand evil-doors, and if one does that, the fundamental principle that 'the greatest external happiness of the greatest number is the only test of morality' becomes, to that extent, weak. One has, therefore, to say that numbers have no fixed bearing on morality. It must also be borne in mind that something which is ordinarily considered as productive of happiness by all persons is, by a far-sighted person, seen to be disadvantageous to all. Take for example the cases of Socrates and Jesus Christ. Both of them were preaching to their countrymen what, in their respective opinions, was ultimately beneficial. But their countrymen denounced them as 'enemies of society', and put them to death. The people, as also their leaders, were acting on the principle of the 'greatest good of the greatest number'; but, we do not now say that what the ordinary people then did was just. In short, even if we for a moment admit that 'greatest good of the greatest number' is the only fundamental principle of Ethics, yet, we do not thereby solve to any extent the questions, in what lies the happiness of millions of persons, how that has to be ascertained, and by whom. On ordinary occasions, the task of finding this out may be left to those persons whose happiness or unhappiness is under consideration. But, as it is not necessary to go so deep into the matter on ordinary occasions, and, as ordinary persons do not possess the mental grasp to understand and decide faultlessly in what their happiness lies on extraordinary and difficult occasions, putting into the hands of such uneducated persons the solitary ethical principle of 'the greatest good of the greatest number' is like placing a firebrand into the hands of an evil spirit, as is apparent from the illustrations of the two leaders given above. There is no sense in the repartee: "Our ethical principle is correct; what can we do if ignorant persons have wrongly applied it?" Because, although the principle may be correct, one must at the same time explain who are the proper persons to give effect to it, and when and] how these persons do so, and other similar limitations of the principle. Otherwise, ordinary people will needlessly indulge in the fond belief that they are as capable of determining questions of morality as Socrates, and serious consequences are likely to follow.

This theory is open to other objections which are more serious than the two objections: (i) questions of morality cannot be properly decided by reference to numbers alone and (ii) there is no definite external measure for logically proving in what lies the greatest good of the greatest number, which I have mentioned above. For instance, only a little consideration will show that it is very often impossible to fully and satisfactorily decide whether a particular Action is just or unjust by considering merely its external effects. It is true- that we decide whether a particular watch is good or bad, by seeing whether or not it shows correct time; but before applying this rule to human actions, one must bear in mind, that man is not merely a watch or a machine. It is true that all saints strive for the benefit of the world. But we cannot draw the definite converse conclusion that every person who strives for the benefit of the world must be a saint. One must also see what that man's frame of mind is. This is the great difference between a man and a machine; and therefore, if someone commits a crime unintentionally or by mistake, it is legally considered a pardonable offence. In short, we cannot arrive at a correct decision as to whether a particular act is good or bad,, just or unjust, or moral or immoral by considering merely its external result or effect, that is, by considering whether or not that act will produce the greatest good of the greatest number. One has also necessarily to consider at the same time, the reason, the desire, or the motive of the doer of the act. There was once an occasion to construct a tramway for the benefit and happiness of all the citizens of a big city in America. But there were delays in obtaining the requisite sanction from the proper authorities. Thereupon, the directors of the tramway company gave a bribe to the persons in authority, and the necessary sanction was immediately obtained; and, the construction of the tramway being complete soon afterwards,, all the people in the city were in consequence considerably convenienced and benefited. Sometime after that, the bribery was found out, and the manager of the tramway was criminally prosecuted. There was no unanimity in the first jury, so a second, jury was empaneled and the second jury having found the manager guilty, he was convicted. In such a case, the principle of the greatest good of the greatest number is useless by itself. The external effect of the bribery, namely, that, the tramway came to be constructed because the bribe was given, was the greatest good of the greatest number yet, on that account, the fact that the bribe was given does not become legal.[7] Though the external effects of the two several acts of giving in charity desirelessly in the belief, that it is one's duty to do so (dātavyam), and of giving in charity for the sake of reputation or for some other purpose are the same, yet, even the Bhagavadgītā distinguishes between, the two by saying, that the first gift is sāttvika (benevolent) and that the second gift is rājasa (desire-prompted) (Bhagavadgītā 17.20–23); and the same gift, if made to an unworthy person is said to be tāmasa and objectionable. Even ordinary people consider a poor man's giving a few pies for a charitable: purpose as of the same moral value, as the gift of a hundred rupees by a rich man. But, if the matter be considered by an external test like 'the greatest good of the greatest number', we will have to say that these two gifts are not of the same moral value. The great drawback of the Materialistic ethical principle of the 'greatest good of the greatest number' is, that, it does not attach any importance to the motive or the reason, of the doer, and if one says that the inner motive has to be taken into account, then the fundamental condition of the greatest external good of the greatest number being the only test of morality is not satisfied. As the Legislative Council or Assembly is a collection of many individuals, it is not necessary to ascertain what the state of their conscience was, when we consider whether or not the laws made by them are proper; and it is enough if one considers only the external aspect of the laws, namely, whether or not the greatest good of the greatest number will result from them. But, as will be clear from the illustrations given above, the same test does not apply to other oases. I do not say that the principle of 'the greatest good or happiness of the greatest number' is utterly useless. One cannot have a more excellent principle for considering external matters; but in considering whether a particular thing is morally just or unjust, it is very often necessary to consider several other things besides this external principle; and therefore, one cannot safely depend on this principle alone for determining questions of morality; and all that I say is, that it is necessary to ascertain and fix upon some principle, more definite and faultless than this. The same moral is conveyed by the statement: "The Reason (buddhi) is of greater importance than the Action" (Bhagavadgītā 2.49), made in the very beginning of the Gītā. If one considers only the external Action, it is often misleading. It is not impossible for a man to be subject to excessive anger, notwithstanding that he continues to perform his external Actions of religious austerities. But on the other hand, if the heart is pure, the external act becomes immaterial, and the religious or moral value of an insignificant external act like the giving of dried boiled rice by Sudāmā to Śrī Kṛṣṇa is considered by people to be as great as the public distribution of tons of food, which will give great happiness to a great number. Therefore, the wellknown German philosopher Kant[8] has treated the weighing of the external and visible effects of an act as of minor importance and has started his exposition of Ethics with a consideration of the purity of mind of the doer. It is not that this shortcoming of the Materialistic theory of happiness was not noticed by the principal supporters of that theory. Hume has clearly said that in as much as the acts of a person are considered a test of his morality as being the index of his disposition, it is impossible to decide that they are praiseworthy or unworthy merely from their external effects;[9] and even Mill accepts the position that 'the morality of any act depends entirely upon the motive of the doer, that is to say, upon the reasoning on which he bases that act.' But, in order to support his own point of view, Mill has added a rider to this principle that, 'so long as the external act is the same, its moral value remains the same, whatever may have been.the desire which prompted it'.[10] This argument of Mill is only doctrinal. Because, if the Reason (buddhi) is different, then, though two acts may be the same in appearance, yet they can never have the same value essentially. And Green, therefore, objects that the limitation: 'so long as there is no difference in the (external) act' etc. laid down by Mill, itself falls to the ground.[11] The same is the opinion expressed in the Gītā. Because, the Gītā says that even if two persons have given the same amounts for the same charitable purpose–that is, even when their external act is just the same–it is possible that one gift will be sāttvika, and the other one will be rājasa or even tāmasa if the two persons have different reasons for the gift. But I shall deal in greater detail with this question later on, when I compare the Eastern and the Western opinions in the matter. All that I have to prove at the moment is, that even this refined form of the Materialistic theory of happiness,–which depends only on the external results of an Action–falls short on the mark in determining questions of morality; and Mill's admission quoted above is, in my opinion, the best possible proof of that fact.

The greatest drawback of the theory of 'the greatest good of the greatest number' is that it does not take into consideration the Reason (buddhi) of the doer. Because, the writings of Mill himself show that, even if his arguments are accepted, this principle of determining questions of morality merely by external results, is applicable only within specified limits, that is, is one-sided, and cannot be equally applied to all cases. But, there is a further objection to this theory, namely that, as the entire argument of the theory has been developed on the basis that other's-interest is. superior to self-interest, without explaining why or how it is so, the theory of 'enlightened selfinterest' gets a chance of pushing itself forward. If both selfinterest and other's-interest have come into existence with man, why should one look upon the good of the greatest number as more important than one's own interest? The answer, that other's interest should be protected because it involves the greatest good of the greatest number is not satisfactory; because the question itself is why I should bring about the greatest good of the greatest number. It is true that this question does not always arise, since one's interest, as a general rule, lies in promoting the interests of others. But, the difference between this last and fourth stage of the Materialistic theory of happiness and its- third stage is, that the followers of this last school believe that where there is a conflict between self-interest and other 's- interest, the duty of everybody is to sacrifice self-interest and to strive for other'sinterest, instead of following the path of 'enlightened selfinterest.' Is not some explanation due in support of this particular feature of this Materialistic theory of happiness? As one learned Materialistic philosopher belonging to this school realised this difficulty, he has examined the activities of all living beings, from the minutest organisms to the human race, and come to the conclusion that in as much as the quality of maintaining one's own progeny or community just as one maintains oneself, and of helping one's fellows as much as possible without harming any one, is to be seen being gradually mora and more developed from the stage of minute organisms to the human race, we must say that that is the principle feature of the mode of life of the living world.

This feature is firstly noticed in the living world in the pro- duction of progeny and protecting it. In those minute organisms in which the difference of the sexes has not been developed, the body of one organism is seen to grow until it breaks into two organisms; or, it may even be said, that this minute organism sacrifices its own life for the sake of its progeny, that is to say, for the sake of another. In the same way, animals of both sexes in grades of life higher than that of these organisms, are seen to willingly sacrifice their own interests in the living world for the maintenance of their progeny; and this quality is seen to be always growing; so- that, even in the most aboriginal societies, man is seen willingly helping, not only his own progeny, but also his tribe; and therefore, the highest duty in this world of man, who is the crown jewel of the living world, is to attempt to permanently do away with the present apparent conflict between self-interest and other's-interest by further developing this tendency of created beings of finding happiness in other's-interest as if it was self-interest, which is observed to become stronger and stronger in the rising grades of creation.[12] This argument is correct. There is nothing new in the principle that, as the virtue of philanthropy is to be seen even in the dumb world, in the shape of protection of progeny, it is the highest duty of enlightened man to carry that virtue to its perfection. Only, as the knowledge of the material sciences has now considerably increased, it is now possible to develops more systematically the Materialistic demonstration of this principle.

Although the point of view of our philosophers was Metaphysical, yet, it has been stated in our ancient treatises that:

aṣṭādaśa purāṇānāṃ sāraṃ sāraṃ samuddhṛtam |
paropakāraḥ puṇyāya pāpāya parapīḍanam ||

That is, "doing good to others is meritorious, and doing harm, to others, sinful; this is the sum and substance of the eighteen Purāṇas";

And, even Bhartṛhari says that:

svārtho yasya parārtha eva sa pumān ekaḥ satāṃ agraṇīḥ,

I.e., "that man with whom other's-interest has become self-interest is the best of good men".

But, when we consider the scale of life gradually rising from the minutest organisms to the human race, another question also arises, namely: is the virtue of philanthropy the only virtue which has been fully developed in the human race, or have other benevolent (sāttvika) virtues, such as justice, kindness, wisdom, far-sightedness, logic, courage, perseverance, forgiveness, control of the organs, etc., also been developed in man? When one thinks of this, one has to say that all virtues have been more fully developed in the human race than in any other living being. We will for the present refer to this aggregate of sāttvika qualities as 'humanness'. When in this way 'humanness' is seen to be superior to philanthropy, one has, in determining the propriety or impropriety or the morality of any particular Action, to examine that Action from the point of view of its 'humanness'–that is, from the point of view of all those various qualities which are seen to be more developed in the human race than in other living beings–rather than from the point of view of its philanthropical-ness. We must, therefore, come to the conclusion, that it is better to call that Action alone virtuous, or to say that that alone is morality, which will enhance the state of being human or the 'humanness', of all human beings, or which will be consistent with the dignity of such 'humanness', instead of merely relying on the virtue of philanthropy, and somehow or other getting rid of the matter. And when one accepts this comprehensive view-point, the consideration of 'the greatest good of the greatest number', becomes only an insignificant part of such view-point, and the doctrine that the righteousness or unrighteousness of all Actions has to be tested only by that test falls to the ground, and we see that we have also to take 'humanness' into account. And when one considers minutely in what 'humanness', or 'the state of being human' consists, the question "ātmā va are draṣṭavyaḥ" naturally crops up, as stated by Yājñavalkya. An American writer, who has written an exposition of Ethics, has given this comprehensive quality of 'humanness' the name of 'Ātmā'.

From what has been stated above, one will see how even the upholders of the theory of Material happiness have to rise from the lowest stage of pure selfishness or pure physical happiness of one's self to the higher stage of philanthropy, and ultimately to that of humanness. But, as even in the idea of humanness, the upholders of the Material happiness theory attach importance solely to the external physical happiness of all human beings, even this final stage of Materialism, which disregards internal purity and internal happiness, is not flawless in the eyes of our Metaphysicians. Although we may accept in a general way that the whole struggle of mankind is directed towards obtaining happiness or preventing unhappiness, yet, until one has in the first place satisfactorily solved the question as to whether true and permanent happiness is material, that is, lies in the enjoyment of worldly physical pleasure or in something else, one cannot accept as correct any Materialistic theory. Even Materialistic philosophers admit that mental happiness stands on a higher footing than physical happiness. If one promises to a human being all the happiness which it is possible for a beast to enjoy, and asks him whether he is prepared to become a beast, not a single human being will say yes. In the same way, an intelligent person need not be told that that particular peace of mind which results from deep meditation on philosophical problems is a thousand times better than material wealth, or the enjoyment of external pleasures. And even considering the general opinion on the matter, it will be seen that people do not accept as wholly correct the doctrines that morality depends on numbers, that whatever a human being does is for Material happiness, and that Material happiness is the highest ideal of a human being. We believe that the humanness of a human being lies in possessing such an amount of mental control as to be able to sacrifice external happiness and even one's own life in order to act up to such moral principles as Veracity etc., which are of greater importance than life or external happiness from the Metaphysical point of View; and also- Arjuna had not asked Śrī Kṛṣṇa how much happiness would result to how many persons by his taking part in the war, but he had said:–"Tell me in what lies my highest benefit, that is the highest benefit of my Ātman" (Bhagavadgītā 2.7; 3.2).

This constant benefit or happiness of the Ātman lies in the peace (śānti) of the Ātman; and it is stated in the Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣad (Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣad 2.4.2) that however much of material happiness or wealth one might obtain, there is no hope of obtaining by that alone the happiness or peace of the Ātman–"amṛtatvasya tu nāśasti vittena"; and in the Kaṭhopaniṣad, it is stated that although Death (Mṛtyu) was ready to bestow on Naciketā, sons, grandsons, animals, grain, money and other kinds of material wealth, he gave to Mṛtyu the definite reply: "I want the knowledge of the Ātman, I do not want wealth"; and after differentiating between 'preya', i.e., that worldly happiness which is pleasing to the organs, and 'śreya', i.e., the true benefit of the Ātman, it is stated:–

śreyaś ca preyaś ca manusyam etas tau saṃparītya vivinakti dhīraḥ |
śreyo hi dhīro 'bhipreyaso vṛṇīte preyo mando yogakṣemād vṛṇīte ||
  (Kaṭhopaniṣad 1.2.2)

That is, "when man is faced with 'preya' (transient external pleasure of the organs) and 'śreya' (true and permanent benefit), He elects between the two.

He who is wise prefers śreya to preya, and the weak-minded man prefers preya, that is, external happiness to the benefit of the Ātman". It is, therefore, not correct to believe that the highest goal of man in this world is the physical happiness obtainable through the organs in worldly life and that whatever a man does is done by him merely for the sake of obtaining external, that is, Material happiness or for preventing unhappiness.

Not only is the internal happiness obtainable through Reason, or Metaphysical happiness of greater worth than the external happiness obtained through the medium of the organs, but the physical pleasure which exists to-day comes to an end tomorrow, i.e., is transient. The same is not the case with rules of Ethics. Non-violence, Veracity and other moral principles are looked upon by people as independent of external circumstances, that is, of external happiness or unhappiness and as being constant in their application at all times and in all circumstances, that is to say, they are looked upon as permanent by everybody. Materialism cannot satisfactorily explain the reason why moral principles have this permanence which does not depend on external matters, nor how it comes into existence. For, whatever general doctrine is laid down by reference to happiness or unhappiness in the external world, yet, in as much as all happiness or unhappiness is inherently transient, all doctrines of morality founded on such a transient foundation are equally weak, i.e., non-permanent; and, on that account, the ever-lasting permanence of the law of Truth seen in one's being ready to sacrifice one's life in the interests of Truth, irrespective of considerations of happiness or unhappiness, cannot be based on the doctrine of the ' greatest happiness of the greatest number'. Some persons advance the argument, that if in ordinary life even responsible persons are seen taking shelter behind falsehood when faced with the problem of sacrificing their lives, and if we see, that in such circumstances even philosophers are not punctilious, then it is not necessary to look upon the religion of Truth etc., as eternal; but this argument is not correct. Because, even those people who have not got the moral courage or do not find it convenient to sacrifice their lives for the sake of Truth, admit by their own mouths the eternal nature of this principle of morality.

On this account, in the Mahābhārata, after all she rules of ordinary life which lead to the acquisition of wealth (artha), desires (kāma) etc. have been dealt with, Vyāsa ultimately in the Bhārata-Sāvitrī, (and also in the Viduranīti), has given to everybody the following advice namely:–

na jātu kāmān na bhayān na lobhād dharmaṃ tyajed jīvitasyāpi hetoḥ |
dharmo nityaḥ sukhaduḥkhe tv anitye jīvo nityoḥ hetur asya tv anityaḥ ||
  (Śriman Mahābhārata Sva. 5.6; U. 39.13, 13),

That is: "although happiness and unhappiness is transient, yet morality is constant: therefore, one should not abandon moral principles, whether for desire of happiness or out of fear, or avarice, or even if life itself is threatened. Life is fundamentally eternal and its objects, such as, happiness, or un. happiness, etc., are transient."

And that, therefore, instead of wasting time in thinking of transient happiness or unhappiness, one should link eternal life with eternal religion. In order to see how far this advice of Vyāsa is correct, we have now to consider the true nature of happiness and unhappiness and to see what permanent happiness is.


Footnotes and references:


The word 'arka' in this stanza has been interpreted by some as meaning the 'rui' tree (swallow-wart or calotropis gigantea). But, in his commentary on the Śāṃkarabhāṣya on the Brahma-Sūtras 3.4.3, Ānandagiri has defined the word 'arka' as meaning 'near.' The other part of this verse is "siddhasy ārthasya saṃprāptau ko vidvān yatnamācaret", i.e., if the desired object is already achieved, what wise man will make further efforts?


The opinion of Hobbes has been given in the book called Leviathan; and the opinions of Butler are to be found in his Essay called Sermons on Human Nature. Morley bas given the summary of the book of Helvetius in his (Morley's) book on Diderot, (Volume II. Chap V)


"What say you of natural affection? Is that also a species of self-love? Yes; all is self-love. Your children are loved only because they are yours. Your friend, for a like reason. And your country engages you only so far as it has a connection with yourself": this is the way in which Hume has referred to this line of argument in his hook Of the Dignity or Meanness of Human Nature. Hume's own opinion in the matter is different.


This is called in English 'enlightened self-interest'. I have translated the word 'enlightened' into Marathi as 'udātta' or 'śahāṇā'


Sidgwick's Methods of Ethics, Book l, Chap. II, § 2 pp 18–29; also Book IV Chap. IV, § 3 p.474. Sidgwick has not invented this third path; bat ordinary well-educated English people usually follow this path of morality which is also known as 'Common sense morality'.


Bentham, Mill etc. are the protagonists of this School. I have translated, the words 'greatest good of the greatest number' as the 'greatest happiness of the greatest number', in this book.


This illustration is taken from the book, The Ethical Problem of Dr. Paul Carus, (pp. 58 and 69, 2nd Edition).


Kant's Theory of Ethics (Tran, by Abbott) 6th Ed. p.6 )


"For as actions are objects of our moral sentiment, so far only aa they are indications of the internal character passions, and affections, it is impossible that they can give rise either to praise or blame, where they proceed not from these principles but are derived altogether from external objects". Hume's Inquiry concerning Human Understanding. Section VIII Part II (p. 368 of Hume's Essays. The World Library Edition).


'Morality of the action depends entirely upon the intention, that is, upon what the agent mils to do'. But the motive, that is, the feeling which makes him will so to do, when it makes no difference in the act, makes none in the morality. " Mill's Utilitarianism p. 39 (27?).


Green's 'Prolegomena to Ethics' § 292. Note. p. 348 (5th Cheaper Ed.).


This argument is to be found in the Data of Ethics written by Spencer. Spencer has explained the difference between his opinions and the opinions of Mill in his letters to Mill, and this book contains extracts from this correspondence. See pp 57 and 123. Also see Bain's Mental and Moral Science, pp. 721 and 722, (Ed. 1875).

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