Principles for Ethical Decision-making

Varnasharamdharma means how to translate religious teachings into practice. It means that the age and aptitude of the individual must be taken into account to decide what role he or she can play in society. Children and youngsters have different roles to play; adults and the elderly have their own roles. They all make different contributions towards family life and society in general.

Hinduism does not claim monopoly in dealing with global issues like human rights, fairness, social justice and environment. It appreciates other religious as well as non-religious world-views on these issues. What it offers is an interesting insight on why these ideas are important. The esoteric terms Brahman and Atman promote the idea that the underpinning to the universe is essentially the same Spirit. This spirit manifests as the universe and becomes more visible as living things and becomes most transparent as men and women. The underpinning to everything and everyone is the same Spirit. This gives greater impetus to the idea of why it is necessary to be fair to others or to seek justice or human rights for others. The Hindu response claims that it is because it is the same spirit that underpins everything and everyone, equality arises very naturally – it is just reinforcing this underlying deeper spiritual unity.

Theistic Hinduism will offer the same reasons for why we have to be fair to others or seek justice or look after the environment. It will bring God into the equation and say that because everything and everyone has been created by the same God, we are obliged to look after his creation. In contrast the non-theistic Hinduism offers a more direct reason for why we should insist on justice and fairness. It is because at a deeper level we are linked to everything and everyone. Hinduism would insist that this linkage is not at the material level (as the materialistic Humanist suggests) but at the deeper spiritual level.

A question has not been properly answered: all human beings are clearly quite different from each other at the physical as well as mental levels, so why insist on equality? The satisfactory answer cannot simply be: because we are all human — because we are so different from each other. The satisfactory answer comes with the declaration that even though we look different, we are the manifestation of the same spirit, hence we insist on equality. This approach promotes spiritual humanism in contrast to materialistic humanism.

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