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Ethics is a Part of Life

Aug 29, 1994 04:01 PM
by Eldon B. Tucker

This is by Eldon Tucker


                  Ethics is A Part of Life

    Ethics, like other aspects of life, is inter-woven with
the rest of the Philosophy. It cannot be considered apart from
the other grand ideas and ideals, anymore than reincarnation
and karma could be. We can learn more about it when examining
it in conjunction with the other Teachings.
    Consider the doctrine of karma. We have our individual
karma, made by our personal choices in life. We are self-made
and control our individual destinies. Yet there is also group
karma. There is, for instance, national karma, in which we
share because of our birth into a particular country, and our
long-standing relationships with the others incarnating in
that nation at the present time.
    In a similar way, we could say that there is individual
ethics, and national ethics. There is the sense of right and
wrong, the knowledge of good and evil, the awareness of the
benefit or harm, to ourselves and others, by our actions. We
make for ourselves certain rules of behavior, certain stan-
dards of conduct that we try to live by. These rules are based
upon the type of person that we want to be (or see ourselves
as), and upon our experience of other people and the society
that we live in. We know when we've done something good or
wrong. The term for that awareness is "conscience," and we all
have it, to some degree.
    Taking a look at the larger picture, we are each in-
dividuals in a particular society. We are taught to obey the
laws of the land that we live in, to live in harmony with
others, to peacefully coexist with others. We are further told
to not just coexist, but to live for their benefit, to think
of their benefit on an equal basis with our own, to truly care
about their needs to. The Golden Rule, to do unto others what
we'd have them do unto us is taken literally: we accept their
needs and lives as equally important with our own.
    Now considering the *needs* of others does not mean
working to satisfy their desires, which may be self-destruc-
tive. We consider the *needs* of others on an equal basis with
our own, and the balance is never tipped in our direction if
the greater good would have otherwise. And it is the same with
our society. We may, at great cost to ourselves, seek to
fulfill the needs of society, by opposing its current struc-
ture, by refusing to satisfy its current desires.
    When we truly care for others, we want the best for them.
We do not use them as tools to achieve our own end. We
consider each situation on its own merits, looking at the
overall good. There is no self-conscious awareness of oursel-
ves as individuals, apart from the rest, fighting for our own
benefit at the cost of others. This forgetting of self, this
transcending of the personal sense of separateness, we find as
called "self-forgetfulness" in our literature, and it  is an
important quality of spiritual consciousness that is a special
    In Zen, we are trained to lose ourselves in the situat-
ion, to become so completely absorbed in what we are doing
that we momentarily forget the sense of self and do things in
perfect enjoyment. This enjoyment comes from the momentary
liberation from the sense of personal self. This sense of
personal self is a painful burden. Carrying it with us, it is
like going through life wearing a pair of too-small shoes,
shoes that hurt our feet to put on, and hurt even more when we
walk on them. It is indeed a blissful sensation to take them
    The personality does not go away, as we progress, but it
becomes responsive to the spiritual will. As we progress, our
awareness shifts deeper within, and the personality, rather
than being the central focus of our awareness, instead becomes
another means to give expression to ourselves. It does not go
away; it does not even necessarily become a thing of beauty or
a model of psychological health. Rather, the personality loses
its function at that part of our inner nature which we pay
attention to and identify with, replaced by something deeper
    When we define ethics in terms of a system of moral
conduct, considering it at the level of society, imposing
rules of interaction upon its citizens, we are considering
Group Ethics (analogous to Group Karma). Considering our
individual choice to belong to that society, our individual
choice as to how to interact with other individuals, and our
individual choice as to how to live our own life, we are con-
sidering Personal Ethics (analogous to Personal Karma).
    With ethics itself, what do we have? There are certain
rules of conduct, certain general principles, like "do not
kill others," or "do not cheat on college tests." Each rule
has valid reasons for its formulation, based upon wanting to
balance individual freedom with the rights of others to remain
free from harm. The balance attempts to achieve the greatest
common good for all.
    Looking at any particular rule, giving it our closest
scrutiny, we find that it needs qualification when applied to
any particular situation. When we say, for instance, "do not
kill others," we might qualify it to say "unless they are
about to kill your family and there is no other possibly way
to stop them."
    There is a difference, then, between the general rule and
its particular application to any situation. This difference
can be found with any type of analysis, any time of awareness,
any time of consciousness. There is the general formulation,
based upon the cumulative experience of the past, the essence
of previous experiences. And there is the specific ap-
plication, based upon the particular needs of the present, the
complexity of the situation before us.
    The storehouse of our past experiences, the generalized
knowledge of the workings of live and the right way for us to
live it, is found in our Higher Natures. The personality
represents the specific way that we have brought it out in the
present lifetime. The personality suffers for all the choices
that we have made in this life, all the compromises necessary
to get by in life, and it is quite glad to achieve liberation from
the bondage of physical existence by the type we reach
the death of the physical body.
    I would consider the ethical consciousness, the ethical
awareness as arising out of our connectedness with others.
This awareness can only be possible because we are all
interrelated, in our inner natures. We all participate in the
process of cocreating the world. The world would not be the
same were any one of us not to exist! And that interaction
helps define both the world and ourselves. We know and sense
the natures of each and every other being in existence through
that cooperative effort. And that connection is in Buddhi, in
our buddhic principle of consciousness. It is more deeply-
rooted, more fundamental than the separate sense of personal
self, which comes with Manas. And it is but one removed from
a sense of Identity with all life, a sense of the universal
Self which we realize in our highest principle, Atman.
    When we consider past theosophical personages, we have to
take care in our judgments of them. If someone is dead, and no
longer able to help or harm others, it is not necessary to
warn anyone to stay away from him. If that person had both a
good and an evil side to their personalities, we can still
benefit from the good, and downplay the evil.
    (This does not mean the suppression of historical
information about key individuals in the Theosophical Move-
ment. It means keeping things in the right context. I could
joke and suggest a rating system: "EH" for explicit history
and "IP" for idealized philosophy, so that readers may
prescreen materials before actually reading them.)
    Apart from a historic study, the personal problems of
past personages is not important. What is important is their
philosophical differences. Their ideas must stand or  fall on
their own, based upon consistency with the Esoteric Philo-
sophy. Any individual thought and writing stands the risk of
error. Compare the writings of each person to those of
Blavatsky, the Mahatmas, and what grand truths that we can
derive from the great exoteric philosophies and religions of
the world. Does it arise out of the same source?
    This comparison can be difficult, impossible for many.
Until an individual has reached a certain point, comes in
touch with the theosophical thought-current, and is capable of
individual thought along these lines, the selection of ideas
seems arbitrary. Until one has awakened his Inner Thinker, or
rather come into active relationship with it, one is a
follower and believer or non-believer. Until then, there is no
apparent reason for choosing one writer over another, for
choosing one religion, philosophy, system of belief over the
next. After that relationship is established, one can choose,
and knows, to a degree, how to mine the "gold" from the common
    The search for ethics is the same as the search for
knowledge. One set of rules of conduct seems no better than
the rest, until one has come in touch with one's inner Rule
Maker, and starts to see the right and wrong in everything in
a fresh, original way, through direct insight rather than the
recollection of rules imposed from without. This Rule Maker is
Buddhi, and its active participation in life brings a new type
of consciousness to the moment-to-moment situation, as we give
it our complete emotional, mental, and *moral* attention.
    When we speak of highly advanced individuals going from
moral to "amoral" consciousness, it is comparable to in-
dividual and national karma. Until we take self-responsibility
for our lives, we have personal karma, but are also strongly
influenced by the sweep of national events, by external
society, by group karma. Also as to ethics: until we take
self-responsibility for our lives, we have personal ethics,
but are also strongly influenced by the national values, by
external society, by group ethics.
    What are we striving for? To be able to look within and
know, to feel ourselves firmly rooted in a spiritual universe
rooted in compassion, to truly see and understand what is
right and live accordingly. What prevents us from doing so?
The disbelief that it is impossible to achieve, or so far-
removed from life as to be unachievable until some far-distant
future lifetime. But both are not true!
    We are so close to the spiritual, to the higher side of
things, that we have it now. We just do not let ourselves see
it! It is said that the Kingdom of God is on earth already,
but we see it not. Well, the Spiritual Nature is with us, an
integral part of the fabric of our conscious, and *we know it
not.* How do we *not* know it? By not giving it our self-
consciousness, by allowing it to be unselfconscious, by the
denial of our attention and awareness.
    It is true that it takes time, there is a process that
must be undergone to make it an outwardly manifest part of our
lives. We must go from point A to point B, and from B to C,
and so on, following a natural process of self-unfoldment. But
that which is to be unfolded is already there! It is not
waiting to be created, only waiting its turn to be manifest in
the world as an integral part of our lives!

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