A set of values, normally made up of standards that serve as guides in recognizing what is right or wrong, right or wrong, virtuous or sinful, generally governs the conduct of people belonging to a race, creed, faith or organization. like-minded people. Such standards generally relate to ethical conduct or moral behavior.
They are functions of time and space, the perceptions on which they are based vary greatly, from place to place and from time to time. A more detailed discussion of this phenomenon has already taken place in these columns, in particular in the article published on 20-01-2021, entitled “Looking at Crime and Punishment”!
Probably the oldest fountain of true wisdom in human history, the Upanishads, even after thousands of years, serve to provide a deep insight into the nature and underlying reality of the universe and of creation. The logo of Central Hyderabad University in Hyderabad says “education is what liberates, all others are skills for a living”, is one of them.
The essence of the philosophy of all major world religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism emanates from a sacred source, usually in the form of a book such as the Old and New Testaments, the Holy Quran, or the Guru Granth Sahib. Of a similar kind are the Japanese “holy books of Shintoism”, which are compilations of ancient myths and traditional teachings, passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth.
The Analects of Confucius, a Chinese philosopher from the 6th century BC. leadership to common people.
Humanity has also, for several centuries, been guided, in its thoughts and actions, by the works of the philosophers. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosophers, laid the foundation for the growth and development of disciplines such as philosophy, science, astronomy and logic. Socrates believed in the virtues of clarity, logic and intellectual integrity.
He taught that reason, analysis and logic can lead to the discovery of the ultimate truth about life and existence. Plato was deeply influenced by the philosophy of Socrates and, in the 4th century BCE, was the founder of an academy in Athens. Most of his work involved dialogue which he believed could lead to deeper understanding. The Republic was his best work. The salient features of this book were that a good start is most important to accomplishing a task, that nothing good can be achieved without struggle, that the soul is immortal, that the goal of education is to learn to love beautiful things, and that men and women should be educated equally, because they are expected to do the same work.
Plato also extolled the virtue of humility in thought and believed that confessing ignorance was the beginning of learning. Aristotle, the pupil of Plato and the guru of Alexander the Great, was essentially an empiricist, in the sense that he believed that knowledge arose from experience derived from the senses. On a somewhat lower level, the lessons of desirable conduct and expected behavior under difficult circumstances can be learned indirectly by reading collections of stories and fables such as Saadi’s Gulistan, Aesop’s Fables, the “Panchatantra” by Vishnu Sharma, etc.
There are, also in various Indian languages, collections of poems written by holy people, intended to provide advice on moral and ethical values. ‘Kabir Ke Dohe’ in Hindi and ‘Sumati Satakam’ in Telugu are good examples of such collections.
Composed in the 14th century, the collection of poems ‘Sumati Satakam’ by ‘Bhadra Bhupala’, is a popular reference source for parents and teachers to teach children good behavior and social values addressed the characteristics of social structure contemporary, but continues to remain of considerable importance even to this day. Teachers find the poems particularly useful in encouraging children to imbue themselves with moral values and good behavior.
‘Kabir Ke Dohe’, written by 15th century mystic saint Kabir is, in many ways, a unique and priceless collection of couplets. Although set in the context of medieval times, Kabir’s philosophy was secular, and he had the courage to boldly condemn evils such as superstitions and rituals.
The tales told in the ‘Amar Chitra Katha’ are a real treasure trove of information and knowledge about the heritage and culture of our country. Likewise, some periodicals are exclusively devoted to the field of children’s stories, and serve to enlighten and broaden their vision, while providing healthy entertainment. “Chandamama” and “Bala Mitra”, mainly in Telugu, and “Amar Chitra Katha” in Hindi and English, are well-known examples of this category.
The evergreen “Subhashitas” of the great 5th century CE Bhartruhari philosopher-poet include a trilogy of “Satakas” containing valuable advice to readers from his own experiences as king, lover and ascetic.
“Panchatantra” covers a wide range of topics such as philosophy, psychology, politics, music and human relations, etc., told in an easy to understand and compact style. The messages are of great value, especially in times like these we live in, conveying, as they do, the importance of peace and harmony while being surrounded by hypocrisy and wickedness. It is therefore not surprising that the stories have been carried far, to countries such as Arab countries, Greece and Europe. They continue to captivate children and adults, even to this day.
The “Pedda Bala Siksha” in Telugu covers a vast web that spans from fine arts to science to mythology and was, until the 1960s, part of the academic program for students in the Telugu language.
The fables of Saadi, who is believed to have lived in ancient Greece in the 6th and 7th centuries BCE, which covered social and political themes, were initially seen as an ethical guide for adults. Post Renaissance in Europe, they were used in the education of children. Written by him, the “Gulistan”, widely recognized as a fountain of wisdom, conveys, through a series of stories and anecdotes, the author’s awareness of the absurdity of human existence, while praising virtues such as justice, liberality and contentment.
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, the philosopher-poet of Persia from the 10th to the 11th century AD, hides, under a deceptive exterior apparently recommending a life devoted to hedonistic pleasure and luxury, a deep and profound fundamental message which, like Karl Marx was to say it in later, “religion is the opiate of the masses”. Blind faith, according to him, could divert someone from the path of true enlightenment.
There are, as we have seen, a great number of sources of experience and wise advice from which humanity can draw useful lessons. And as we will see in the following, there are many other sources of wisdom such as guides, instruction books, codes and manuals to guide someone in various fields, games, sports and from fine arts to government officials such as law, medicine, banking, or engineering. As Plato rightly observed, it suffices to have the humility to accept the need to learn!
(The author is the former chief secretary of the government of Andhra Pradesh)
(The opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of The Hans India)