[Advaita-l] Is morality necessary for liberation?

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Tue Jan 28 09:33:47 CST 2014

> In most religions, especially creator-centered religions, morality is most important. Even if faith in god is stressed, it still requires the believer to be moral, or else god won't be pleased. This is the logic, basically. Suffice it to say that for theistic religions, morality is perhaps as important as faith. 
 But this is not necessarily a universal morality, only that which the opinion leaders in
that theistic religion think of as morality. This is a problem with all the theistic religions.
> But advaita is unique in that God is all there is - everything else is a mere appearance. So morality cannot get you out of this samsara any more than morality can get you out of a dream. Only knowledge between real and unreal can. So morality, as far as I can see, has utilitarian value - the same value that 'dream water' has for a dreamer. But does it have any salvific value at all?
> In theory, you are correct. Non-duality puts aside the duality of moral and immoral as well. In practice, there is a clear acknowledgement of things other than jnAna, subordinate to
the quest for jnAna, which help in the rise and sustenance of jnAna. yama-s and niyama-s
taught in standard yoga and dharma sources, the amAnitva-adambhitva etc qualities, as
described in gItA chapter 13, etc, are all seen as necessary for a sAdhaka on the path to
jnAna. These are called jnAna-sahakArI causes behind liberation. 
> Again, I am not attacking morality or moral people - but isn't it silly in the context of advaita to see morality as something mighty important? Knowledge alone is salvific - morality is simply useful for us to carry on at the worldly, vyavaharika level. But to obsess over moral codes, to constantly think in terms of dos and don'ts, rights and wrongs - isn't that unnecessary for an advaitin?
> There is no legislation or religious precept of one universal code of morality and ethics for
all people. dharma is a multi-faceted thing, with different applications for different people.
However, there is a basic expectation of sAmAnya dharma, which could map to general
notions of morality. For a jnAnI, there is no question of obsessing over morality rules. For
a jijnAsu, there is a clear need for codes to comply with. It is, as always, a nuanced situation.  Take a hypothetical example of someone who has a tendency to lie about small things
in mundane life. It is not that the immorality of lying negates the possibility of liberation.
In the context of the road to knowledge, the more fundamental issue is that such a
person has a problem with sticking to mundane truth and can get into a habit of lying,
because one has to come up with more lies to cover up one lie. Eventually, there is a
danger of completely losing the ability to distinguish between truth and falsehood, even
at a mundane level. This becomes a major problem when going deep into philosophical
examinations of sat, asat and mithyA. This compromising of the ability towards viveka
will necessarily create problems for jnAna-prApti. 

Similarly with stealing. It is an immoral act, yes, but the problem doesn't end there. In
the context of jnAna and liberation, it points to the more fundamental problems that
a thief has with ahaM-tA and mama-tA. The road to jnAna and liberation is far away. One can go on with examples about every possible immoral act, but the general idea is
that orienting towards dharma, or morality if you will, is not just about utility in dealing
with the vyavahAra level. It has an important value in preparing for jnAna mArga as well. 
And it is not as if it can be thrown aside along the mArga. It only becomes irrelevant for
a true jnAnI at the end. Not before. Best regards,Vidyasankar                             		 	   		  

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