dkspost_2021 Posts 121 to 140

12/31/2021 Post 121

Hitopadesa is considered to be the best way to teach and learn morals and ethics  by anyone. It embeds them in stories . It is translated in many languages. Sir Edwin Arnold translated it  in 1861 with the title “The Book of Good Counsels” .The Hitopadeśa contains quotations from the political treatise ” Nītisāra of Kāmandaki” , and the play Verṇīsamhāra of Bhattanārāyaṇa, which date back to the eighth century CE.

Nīti ,a  Sanskrit word, derived from a root which means to lead or to guide, carries the connotations of worldly wisdom, prudence and propriety, as well as appropriate policy and conduct or, by extension, politics and statesmanship. It goes beyond the current meaning of law. The Nītisāra of Kamandaki is based on a celebrated earlier treatise on politics, the Arthaśāstra of  Kautilya, also known as Ćhaṇakya.

  Hitopadesa is told by Narayana to the sons of a king  . A few from it are given below.


“All forms of violence who abjure,      (65)

Every temptation endure,

To none deny a refuge sure—

For them is open heaven’s door.”

“One friend alone will follow you      (66)

When you pass to death’s dominion:

It is the merit of your virtue—

All else will perish with your person.”


“When one’s flesh is another’s feast:

Here a pleasure momentary,

There loss of life at very least.


The thought of certain death, in man      (68)

Engenders such agony—

By merely guessing no one can

Tell of its intensity.”

“And listen again,

Sins tremendous why commit      (69)

For reasons of this wretched belly?

Fill it to the very limit

With herbs in forests growing freely.”

This is mine, and this is not”—      (71)

Thus do the small-minded see.

The large-hearted have always thought

The world itself a family.”( Vasudeiva Kutumbakam.)

“Friendships with the base remain      (93)

As pots made out of clay:

Easily shattered any day,

But hard to join again.

With good men, on the other hand,

They are like cups of gold:

Hard to spoil or splinter, and

Quick to mend or mould.”


“Courage, devotion, courtesy,      (97)

Constancy in joy and grief,

Truth, sacrifice, integrity,

Are of friends the virtues chief”

Ramana Maharishi  says

70. He (the true aspirant) should not pull out tender roots (of fragrant plants, which is often done for worship); he should not even pluck the leaves; he should not harm any living thing out of anger; he should not heartlessly pluck even flowers

He says many more moral words in devikalottara agama.

Purananuru has a poem by Paridhi Ilamvazhudhi on an ideal man .

There are people  …

Who don’t partake anything alone – even Ambrosia from the Gods,

Who feel neither feel anger nor resentment

Who fear evils that the other men fear but never mull over them or sleep over them

Who embrace martyrdom for honour

Who do not accept the choicest gifts of the world- if tarnished

Who are tireless in working for the welfare of others without a care for personal glory

And – it is because of people like this that this world lives and flourishes.

We have seen a small sample.

There is an important treatise Arthasastra by Chanakya. It is comprehensive and covers many disciplines .  It contains not just the conduct of ruler and business but also moral aspects by ministers, merchants, Brahmins and others. It also contains chanakya niti . All his writings are relevant even now. Kamandaka gave another treatise on niti and governance.

These show clearly that ethics was pervasive not only in scriptures but also in Itihasas and stories.

 Let us conclude by drawing a few observations  So we see ethics everywhere .

1.We find moral values everywhere in most writings in India, not only in scriptures but also in puranas and stories and sastras and not only in Sanskrit but in many  local languages also.  Telugu literature emphasizes Bharatadharma.  We did not discuss the values enshrined in vedas and Upanishads and smritis .

2.Western experts look at western ideas through the study of philosophers starting from Aristotle to many others through centuries and millennia not from Bible alone.  But they look at ethics in India through only religious scriptures. They ignore all other work by hundreds of scholars on moral structures. They ignore ethical concepts in vedas ,Upanishads, smritis , sutras and stories.That is the tragedy.

3.A strong moral sense was a dominant factor for millennia in our conduct and thinking. We ran our life on good ethical grounds and principles.Laws and rulers enforced it well. But all these changed when money became essential for life from 18 th century onwards . Values were reduced to only one factor – money like in the west. But charity didn’t die. We saw people building choultries, schools and hospitals across the country. Common people are involved in these. We have lakhs of NGOs and self help groups helping people, animals and nature. Our governments have welfare as the primary concern and focus. Examples are mid-day meals, primary health centres, asha employees, construction of roads, ration shops , rural employment programs, skills generation, massive vaccination programs etc . Informally ethics is in the hearts of people. But we need to make it formal through education.

4. It has been accepted by our forefathers that customs and practices change with regions, people and time. Also ethical principles are not absolute like our confused laws. Consider the example – a man starving takes bread from a place. Is it theft? Is the punishment severe? Does humanism/ charity play a part? So subjective clarity is needed. That is why the sutras by Gautama and Apasthamba state that get clarity from learned senior gurus( even qualifications of such a guru is defined) if you don’t find an answer from srutis and smritis.

Welcome comments.

1/01/2022 Post 122

Let us look at some views on ethics. We will compare our concepts with western concept of ethics .

Aristotle first proposed ethics as a separate discipline.  Plato talked about moral principles.

Aristotle conceives of ethical theory as a field distinct from the theoretical sciences. Its methodology must match its subject matter—good action—and must respect the fact that in this field many generalizations hold only for the most part. We study ethics in order to improve our lives, and therefore its principal concern is the nature of human well-being.  ( This is contrary to vedic belief of universal wellness of all moving and non moving – Lokas samastha sukhino bhavanthu-. Secondly Vedas talk about harmonious living . The goal is to become satchitananda- get eternal bliss . All may not reach the goal but we should aim for it by avoiding desire, transient pleasures, harms and violence as well as practicing truth, charity, devotion,control of senses and emotions,  etc niyamas.) .

Aristotle follows Socrates and Plato in taking the virtues to be central to a well-lived life. Like Plato, he regards the ethical virtues (justice, courage, temperance and so on) as complex rational, emotional and social skills. But he rejects Plato’s idea that to be completely virtuous one must acquire, through a training in the sciences, mathematics, and philosophy, an understanding of what goodness is.

 ( Sankaracharya also proposes a theory that science cannot teach values. Inner learning and realization as well as advice from a dispassionate knowledgeable guru will lead us to an ethical way of life. ).

 What we need, in order to live well, is a proper appreciation of the way in which such goods as friendship, pleasure, virtue, honor and wealth fit together as a whole. In order to apply that general understanding to particular cases, we must acquire, through proper upbringing and habits, the ability to see, on each occasion, which course of action is best supported by reasons.

( These are the same as propounded by vedas.  Vedas talked about this centuries earlier to Aristotle.).

Therefore practical wisdom, as he conceives it, cannot be acquired solely by learning general rules.

 (  Upanishads separate knowledge as para and apara . Para is learnt and apara is to be realised. So ethics needs a lot of thinking.).

 We must also acquire, through practice, those deliberative, emotional, and social skills that enable us to put our general understanding of well-being into practice in ways that are suitable to each occasion.

We saw a sample of extensive work on ethics in India. It deals with virtue ethics of Aristotle as shown above , and means and end result aspects – both should be good and righteous. It didn’t accept the results oriented approach – end justifies means. Nishkama karma is important. Do a task without expecting a result or a gain.Means have to be righteous . Righteousness is more important and srutis and smritis are more important . Gandhi accepted this view.

Most western ethics tried to look at one goal – do good to maximum people. Do not harm people. Act righteously. etc.

Whereas Indian ethics is holistic. It defines many niyamas and yamas under various circumstances.

Western ethics ignored animal rights and the environment. Indian ethics respected both animals, birds and insects as well as nature. Frugalism was an important doctrine. Nature was respected and worshipped.  Forests were considered divine and we see that from the fact that vanaprastha ashrama is to be conducted in a forest – one is expected to go and live in a forest after completing grhasthasrama.

We will continue this in the next post

1/04/2022 Post 123

The next aspect is that  Western views looked at ethics as a binary – right or wrong. Indian ethics with its deep dive into practices in sutras gives gray levels and fuzziness. It allowed some freedom to the saints and scholars to define the correct means. One good example is intercaste marriage. It is not allowed but when it happens,ways and prayaschitta are suggested.  ( Unfortunately this was shown as a contradiction by some Western scholars.) . This is useful when there is fuzziness with an activity. Recent example is -people going outside to other countries which was prohibited in early days and is acceptable today by religious leaders like kanchi periyava.

Also ethics is not absolute. This has been brought out by Kant clearly. He divides imperatives into two. One mandatory and another optional- do it or leave it.

Kant made a distinction between categorical and hypothetical imperatives. A hypothetical imperative is one that we must obey if we want to satisfy our desires: ‘go to the doctor’ is a hypothetical imperative because we are only obliged to obey it if we want to get well. A categorical imperative binds us regardless of our desires: everyone has a duty to not lie, regardless of circumstances and even if it is in our interest to do so. These imperatives are morally binding because they are based on reason, rather than contingent facts about an agent. These are the yamas and niyamas in our scriptures.we do  many activities with advice from our guru and this can lead to multiple paths. Some become bhakti oriented, some take to yoga and some to jnana and many spend their time and devotion to karma. Even visiting a temple for worship is in the optional category. Sankaracharya’s shanmatha – six gods-  concept allows one freedom to worship any god and all gods lead to Brahman.

We find contradictions in our life. Loyalty to your boss may lead to trouble as many have experienced particularly if the boss is a crook. Some are duty centric with a single focus and they ignore family and society. This is not a balanced life. We have responsibilities to our family and society in addition to our job. We also have a mentoring role in our life.

Kant began his ethical theory by arguing that the only virtue that can be unqualifiedly good is a good will. No other virtue has this status because every other virtue can be used to achieve immoral ends (for example, the virtue of loyalty is not good if one is loyal to an evil person). The good will is unique in that it is always good and maintains its moral value even when it fails to achieve its moral intentions.Kant regarded the good will as a single moral principle that freely chooses to use the other virtues for moral ends.

The other theory is consequentialism. If the result is good, then it is ethical. This does not bother about means – against our ethics.-

For instance, most people would agree that lying is wrong. But if telling a lie would help save a person’s life, consequentialism says it’s the right thing to do.

Consider another example. There is a conflict between family loyalty and public duty. If your relative is wanted by police, the question arises : should you hand him over or ignore police demand. Confusius feels family is more important than duty  . There are two views here.

But your support to police rests on two premises:

1.police are honest and correct.

2. Laws follow ethical principles. Our laws don’t follow our ethics. Our laws are western and ethics is based on our dharma  .

So a decision by consequentialism does not consider the inherent fault lines. So it may be unjustified. It uses the principle that the end justifies the means. Economists suggest remedies to our problems, but they are not sure of the results. So consequentialism fails.

Two examples of consequentialism are utilitarianism and hedonism. Utilitarianism judges consequences by a “greatest good for the greatest number” standard.

Hedonism, on the other hand, says something is “good” if the consequence produces pleasure or avoids pain.

This means selfishness is good. This is against our dharmic theory of paropakarartham idam sarirum.

There are many subclasses of these theories.

One can go on looking at many meta theories of ethics. There are hundreds of books. We will not be able to get into these as these lead to  complexities . Solutions do not  need  these theories but overall awareness and multidimensional views as well as guess work.   Let us look at some specific aspects of interest to the readers of this post

1/06/2022 Post 124

What are the learnings so far?

Ethics in Indian system is embedded in dharma. Basic principles are found in vedas and Upanishads. Practices are in sutras. There are many niti sastras written and codified from time to time  . There is a lot of literature in Sanskrit and local languages like Tamil, Kannada, Telugu emphasizing ethics. Our ethical practices are flexible and consist of partly inviolate principles and partly practices. We expect scholarly persons to guide us from time to time in addition to scriptures. Harmony, ahimsa, equality , respect, happiness, order and right behaviours are governing aims of our ethics .

We have a few  problems . We have become excuse minded. We need to get rid of it. Secondly we are dependent on the government for many things and complain if a utility job  like waste collections is not done properly. Third, our concern for poor , cleanliness, sanitation, etc are not upto the mark in many instances.  Fourth, our overdependence on caste system needs a serious correction. There are multiple reverse untouchabilities in our system. Tolerance levels are low and there is some level of violence and lawlessness in our society and needs correction. Finally, hypocrisy rules and trust is vanishing. There are thousands and lakhs of very honest, truthful, sincere, and  helpful people in the country. Let us emulate them. As a country, we are highly ethical compared to many others. Values can be found in villages. This means conservatism is better and education does not lead to good ethics.

We see that ethics is not going to provide  a straightforward yes or no solution. It does not help in decision making. For example, we say thieving is wrong. This leads to two situations. Some rich people divert crores of rupees – we have several examples of this- and it is not easy to take action on them. Frauds in companies are known but actions are rare. Second , many get into thieving because of poverty and starvation. It is not to justify theft. But what needs to be done is to have actions to remove poverty. Actions should be remedial and not punishmental. Ponder over the current situation – big offenders escape law; small offenders are punished. Our justice system  is slow and costly.

So we see a difficulty in saying it is wrong when we are not able to allow people to have food. This is a hard problem. But we see a parallel economy , black market thriving without any result oriented action by the  government for a long time. So many companies with benami names have been running with no turnover. Only recently the procedures have been made stringent.

Corruption pervades everywhere. Opportunities were provided by the British . Independent India accepted corruption . This means honesty is punished and dishonesty is rewarded.

Ethics leads to a lot of contradictions. Loyalty itself has many compartments. Loyalty may be to the family, to a job, to a religion, to a caste ,to the governmental agencies or to a society. Which loyalty is important – to family or government or job? People choose their priorities.  Duty can conflict with family loyalty, honesty, and goodness to society. We compromise happiness for growth. What do we do when we see rash driving, violence, fights , unruly behaviours? What do we do when a water pipeline bursts and water is going to waste? What do we do when electric lines are close to buildings? And so on we can cite many examples of conflict. There are also many social problems. Social practices change with time. We accept them like a lavish wedding today in big cities. But some like same sex marriage  lead to differing views . Also there may be a purist view , a conservative view and a liberal view .There are many such situations where ethical policies don’t help. We need prudent and wise mechanisms to handle these kinds of situations. The solution may even vary from place to pplace.

We talk about ethics. But our governance and laws are based on laws of western countries. This is the biggest tragedy of enforcement. Even moral enforcement is subject to conveniences and interpretations. Legal enforcement is non-existent. So we need a unified view.

We have policies for everything .

There are professional ethical policies for doctors, engineers , teachers and IT professionals. We need to build a policy for ethics for all  with constitutional guarantees and strict implementation of justice not laws alone . Our criminal laws should be tailored to the policy.

Just ethics education alone is not enough.

We need to see the greater  importance of ethics today with robots and AI dominating our governance and life. We need to build a new ethical doctrine for survival of all including nature  . Think differently. We will see these in later posts.

1/08/2022 Post 125

Before continuing with our further discussions on ethics, let me post the comments from some persons.

Mr N V Krishna comments on ethics:

“Dear prof DKS, I found your post on ethics very interesting. You mention that dharma subsumes ethics ( as I understood), and that there is no separate elaboration of ethical principles. Also that ethical conduct is mainly prescribed for Brahmins and rulers. I wanted to add that many social reformers and philosophers such as Basava, Sarvajna, and Manku Thimma  (DVG) have elaborated ethical principles through poetry, folklore and epigrams. These are very appealing, powerful and easily accessible to people in general, they prescribe right actions and deeds. The purpose of ethical and moral principles is to help people distinguish between right and wrong, as also good and bad. Neeti Shataka and Thirukuural are other major discussions on ethics. The Western tradition seems to have formally codified ideas of ethics, with Principia Ethica by Moore, an accepted authority. With best regards. NVK”

My response

This was received after my first post on ethics.

The first statement on Dharma and ethics is correct. But if you see my statements on niti satakam and Apastamba / Gautama sutra etc, you will find ethics is pervasive. Both Taitriya upanishad and sutras ask us to learn from learned scholars on correct behaviour.

I fully agree that there is a lot of literature in local languages. You are correct that DVGs  Manku thimmanna kagga is a great classic. I was tempted to quote from that and his almost last lecture on Advaita , but time restrained me. Even Kuvempu – K V Puttappa – admired his poem. Kuvempu’s vishwamanava is a great concept.  As we know,  Shivarama karanth always fought for righteousness. Most  of the early 20 th century writers had idealism and built their stories and poems on values. Most have seen the  freedom struggle or heard about it and also seen inequalities in our society and wrote with idealism and moral fibre. Money was not dominant even in the early to mid 20 th century.

 Also during Krishnadevaraya’s rule , many scholars and poets have written on ethics and good governance. Allasani Peddanna, a great poet in his time – the king became his palanquin bearer- , in his epic poem Manucharitram comments on ethics and living.

1/10/2022 Post 126

Mr Uday Singh has some comments which deserve attention:

“Nishkama Karma, righteousness, ethics, justice, are all subjective constructs no matter how much enlightened we try to become through Vedic Gyan which you have explained so well. Change is the only constant and with changes, situations around us change. One situation is different than other. What Lord Rama did abandoning Sita can’t be judged by just one lens and in different times.  I have found in my long career and life that Empathy is the key word out Vedas try to highlight. Karma without reference of Dharma can’t be understood. Dharma without empathy ( putting oneself in shoes of others and then looking at issue) is again not perfect. The Rishis watched nature and found absence of empathy in laws of nature. Though not chaotic, it was always built on “ might is right” or Matsya nyay/ Predator and prey. They wrote Vedas describing that when animals evolved as human beings, in social construct, one should move away from might is right to powerful protecting powerless. That is empathy snd foundation of Dharma/ Karma. Well, my understanding is developed based on long experience of life and corporate world. May not be the correct understanding.”

My response


Prof Mahendra Babu comments on comparison:

“Excellent comparison of west and east philosophies.

Perhaps philosophy of China (old civilization) of Confucius and others can be included when time permits.

That will be broader perspective.

When we talk about people and values, the population of India and China is a big proportion of total population of the world.”

 My remarks

Very little unbiased information about China is available in English literature. So I can’t analyze the available information and hence I can’t compare India with China on ethics.

Prof Gopal has a comment:

“@Post 117: Thank you Sir. Niti has a close relation with Dharma. Is Subhashitam just the rightsize ideology for Kaliyuge Pradhama Paade? – Dr. T V Gopal, Anna University”

My response

Subhashita means –

K.A.S. Iyer described the subhāṣita as ‘a pithy saying, embodying worldly wisdom, relating to one or more aspects of life, and often of a didactic character’. Each stanza  gives a complete statement on one aspect.

 There are hundreds of topics covered by many poets. These are words of value and wisdom based on practices and experiences. These are always applicable and not just kaliyug.

1/12/2022 Post 127

Mr Jayashankar has some comments on ethics based on his experience.

“An excellent account of ethics and you have covered almost everything.

To a larger extent ethics are traditional. If parents are good ethic minded ,children follow the same thing.There could be some exceptions. Some of the ethics built in family tradition is as given below.

1) Inviting guests with full heart.

2) Feed poor as when opportunity arises.

3) Feed animals like cows , dogs etc as and when required.

4) Financial help to social requirements through religious body.

5) Help for education of poor

6) When I was a school going student, I came across some poor students fed by well        to do people. They used take their morning meals each day in different houses. They used to call that as வாரச் சாப்பாடு meaning weekly meals scheme. These are some of the points struck to my mind .”

My response


Actually there are a few similar comments. They look at one aspect of ethics based on practices. But that is not all aspects of ethics.  E F Schumacher has written on this . “Nobody is totally good or totally evil. “There are many larger numbers of do gooders than evil doers in the world and so it survives . Again evil means two separate entities – one is called violent crime like killing ,another is legal cheating – evasion of taxes/ cheating banks / cheating people etc. Now there is a third aspect – corruption.  Corruption in public services was anticipated by Plato.

 We need to build a structure for ethics. It consists of a foundation of basic principles –

Speaking truth, non violence, charity, helping the society, frugal living , not cheating etc.  These are based on scriptures. These are not dependent on practices.  Then there are ethical practices  which we learn from our family, friends, neighbours, teachers and many others . We even build some role models for us to follow  .

As told by some , ethics can’t be taught. It has to be learnt through observation and advices and critiques. Society and family, not government, have a major role here. As you said, if society is good then normally good sense dominates over evil and evil actions are controlled by the society. Villages can boycott someone who violates their codes. Generally our laws do not reflect ethics and ethical practices. Ethics has two parts – mandatory and optional.

Now , one decides on mandatory components of ethics and optional items. Family plays a role here. You may eat meat or shun meat. This is tradition and rule based ethics.

The second aspect is practice based. We have business ethics, company ethics , professional ethics etc. Many of these are codified and members are expected to follow them. But unfortunately, there is no compliance mechanism. Since most people are simple, poor and good, we are living with happiness so long as we go beyond law and government.

We will be celebrating Boghi today and  makara Sankranti tomorrow 14 th January 2022.  This festival has two aspects. One is to start harvesting and thank the sun god and bullocks. Second is the change of season from winter to spring. But the important point is the transit of sun from south to north. This festival has several names in many states. In the south, particularly in Tamilnadu,  it is celebrated for four days. The first day is boghi –  discard the old and take new things. Then we have the main festival called Pongal in Tamil or makara sankranti or uttarayan. This is followed by a day for bullocks and lastly a day for visits . This is a social festival.

‘Makar’ means ‘Capricorn’ and the movement of the sun into ‘Makara Raashi’ or the ‘Zodiac of Capricorn’ is called Makar Sankranti.

 Sankranti – means transit – deciphers movement of the Sun from one rashi (constellation of the zodiac) to the next. Hence, there are 12 Sankrantis in a year signally change of orbit of sun  just like the  four navarathras – which mark the change of seasons.Out of these, the Makar Sankranti is considered the most auspicious and it is one of the few Hindu festivals that is aligned with the solar cycle. The festival of Makar Sankranti marks the beginning of the harvest season when new crops are worshipped and shared with delight.

The harvest festival heralds a change in season, as from this day, the Sun begins its movement from Dakshinayana (South) to Uttarayana (North) hemisphere. The festival, therefore, is dedicated to God of Sun.

We eat Pongal or khichdi.

Ayurveda suggests eating Khichdi since it is a light and an easily digestible food. The connotation of eating Khichdi is that it hints the body to prepare for the change in season, from the nourishing yet cold winter season to forthcoming warm, spring season

Sesame seeds have the ability to absorb negativity and improve the Sattva – purity, goodness, and harmony, which in turn facilitates spiritual practice. This is the period to harvest sugarcane and produce jaggery. So we have Ellu Bella – distributed to friends – in Karnataka. The immunity booster -turmeric-  is also remembered at this time.

So let us remember the kisans and agricultural support systems on this day.

 Magha Mela is celebrated at this time in many  rivers in India. Kumbh Mela is celebrated at this time in Prayag sangam but once in 12 years. SHANKARA established this mela, to serve as a meeting place for sadhus, yogis, and ascetics.

Have a great festival.

1/14/2022 Post 128

There was a query from Mr Srinivasan PNB about the difference between spirituality and religiousness.

Spiritual means matters pertaining to soul. Western philosophy discriminates between body and mind. It calls them dual system . Some don’t believe in mind itself. So the soul is beyond this. We call it Atman. We create a different kind of awareness for a spiritual concept. We will discuss this in detail later with two similar views from Abraham Maslow , a psychologist thinking differently from Freud and Deepak Chopra.

Spiritualism looks for  something greater in life than the physical or material world or routineness. This looks like a better definition.

Spirituality is about connecting with something bigger than yourselves.

Being spiritual can mean different things to different people. For some, spirituality can be related to religion and even higher power. For others, it can be a non-religious experience such as connecting with nature, art, yoga, meditation, contemplation  etc. Normally it is beyond the normal beliefs and rituals of a religion. It does not preclude God, puja or prayer etc but done internally with or without rituals.

Getting in touch with yourselves is the core principle of spirituality and there are various paths for a person to achieve that.

1.Intellectual Spirituality

The core belief behind this type of spirituality is knowledge. Intellectually spiritual people are prone to gaining knowledge of spiritual theories and analyzing the information they get  .

2. Artistic spirituality – sculpture views everything in a stone and creates an image. Same is true with other great artists. While at work, they forget the world.

3.Service Spirituality

This is one of the most common types of spirituality. It’s because people experience spiritual peace when they serve others. We have a very large number of people doing service as a mission and they belong to this group even if they are not religious.

The above shows it is above or different from religion.

There are many ways to achieve this spirituality, but the core of it is helping others without expecting anything in return. Doing something that will benefit someone without getting something back is a common way for people to get in touch with their spiritual selves.

But the actual reality is that

there are not many genuine people who are spiritual.

Since a spiritual person devotes his time to higher level of thinking, he is expected to be tolerant. But can he influence others. I don’t see the power of kanchi paramacharya or Ramana maharishi today in many persons professing spirituality. Many of them like Matha Amritanandamayi  really have a good value based influence on their followers. They minimise violence and hatred.

Some characteristics of spirituality  are

studying, meditation and contemplation and introspection.

Deep focus and Concentration

liberation from your ego .

Control of the senses.


Ignore ephemeral and transient pleasures.

Don’t hate, love all, don’t harm anything


Higher thinking – who am I?

Focus on higher knowledge of reaching the ultimate bliss – God.

Simply stated ,one should have habits above that of a  normal person and should not have biases, hatred , desires , violent tendencies, intolerance etc -and should   be above petty and mundane aspects and dealings. Is this possible?


First clarification – our sanatana dharma is religion plus duties plus some spiritualism.

Religion means belief and faith  in Gods,  rituals, puja, worship at temples,  belief in rebirth, papa,punya etc.

It is Belief and faith based.

Accept beliefs without questioning.

Be a grihastha .  Follow four ashramas and yamas and niyamas.

It allows one to be involved in  family,  society , and the welfare of all. There are no other directives.

 It is desirable to have some low to medium  levels of control of senses and to  avoid desire according to our dharma.

Some yoga and meditation is desirable but not in all religious persons.

Again I will state in conclusion that Hindu dharma includes both aspects – one can be mildly religious or deeply religious ; one can be partly religious and spiritual; one can be mildly spiritual like many academics or very deeply spiritual like Ramana Maharshi, Kanchi Paramacharya  , swami sivananda ,Arbindo Ghosh .  Hinduism allows us choices – karma, jnana, bhakti, sanyasa etc. Many present day  religious leaders – I don’t want to use the term guru or saint for them- want power and publicity, need comforts and have many desires. They don’t fit into both categories .

1/16/2022 Post 129

Mr Aravind has commented on ethics and truth:

“Thank you Sir. Wonderful thread. Is ethics contextual based on frameworks laid out? Is it based upon a realisation that the fitness or ‘goodness’ of our actions depends upon dharma or society?  Hence it cannot be adequately specified by static laws or by dogmatic and unchanging systems of morality.

Secondly, Western philosophy has Ethics as a “pursuit of truth for its own sake”. based on reason and intellect in which the wise, the law maker, and few people are involved. Hindu ethics is primarily concerned with the right action as a means to religious fulfilment. It is based upon the Hindu conception of Dharma, or duty, related to a man’s position in society and his stage in life”

My response

This needs answers from two directions. The first one deals with western knowledge and its shallowness, the second one on truth and its effects. Let us see them in detail.

Ethics depends on human behaviours, emotions, motivations and herd behaviours. So understanding human system is the first step to understand ethics and generate/ improve practices.

Western view is not solely based on truth. We saw the concept of integrity and  ethics  started by Plato and Aristotle. Afterwards, the society was, till 17 th century ,dominated by Christian beliefs. Any different opinion expressed by great scientists like Galileo were suppressed. The age of  reasoning started only by 15 th century. 

During the 17th Century,  there was a lively debate between rationalists/empiricists and dualists/monists and it focused on the interrelation between several central metaphysical ideas: God, humans, body, mind and physical objects. The traditional Christian view was that God created two substances, and put the soul in the body. This view was epitomized by Descartes Mind/Body dualism [The metaphysical view that the universe can be divided into two substances, usually called Mind and Body.]. Leibniz and Berkeley in a sense denied body; Hobbes and Hume in a sense denied mind. As modern science developed ,it rested firmly on a solid materialist [ A Materialist is a philosopher who holds that the fundamental substance of the universe is matter or body and that mind/spirit/soul are, at best, functions of matter in motion and, at worst, illusions. Materialists tend to be determinists.] worldview [ A way of understanding the world. A worldview refers to the framework, assumptions, and point of view that one brings to the search for knowledge of the world.], thus implicitly supporting Hobbes (this view is still the dominant view among many scientists). This is in 17th century. If science depended only on materialism, neurology would not have been developed. Fortunately, some believed in mind and intelligence and moved beyond Freud.

But ethics was implemented and followed continuously in india. Reasoning started with Upanishads – about 3500 years ago. The five koshas and their interrelationships were clearly established then itself. We had multiple interpretations in Upanishads and darshanas. We didn’t talk about secondary literature beyond shrutis and smritis. We had a large  amount of secondary literature developed across the country by several scholars over the centuries . A lot of scientific philosophical concepts developed in the ninth to eleventh centuries C E in Kashmir through its saivism .

Saivism has spread  separately with multiple manifestations like Siva, Siva and Shakti, Rudra, Bhyrava, kapalika etc. We have the Saiva Siddhanta dominant in south Tamilnadu and veerasaivas in Karnataka as other examples. These Saiva worshippers produced many theories ,both monist and dualist as well as bheda abedha, ( our concepts of Advaita  Dvaita, and visishtadvaita.)  in the sastras known as tantras in North India and Agamas – 28 thirumurais are known to exist – in south India. Let me consider just one concept that will show us the depth of their understanding and discussions.

It is called Kañcuka (कञ्चुक).—Human souls are subject to mala, māyā and karma. Such souls are equipped with five derivatives from māyā that are called kañcukas:

Basically it looks at limitations of our understanding of humans , animals and  the universe and relationships and dynamics of its components.

kalā-tattva (a limited capacity for agency),

vidyā-tattva (a limited capacity for sensory perception and other intellectual acts),

niyati-tattva (a principle of causal regularity),

rāga-tattva (an interest in the objects of experience),

kāla-tattva (our experience of time and its successiveness)

Source: The Parakhya Tantra

Kañcuka (कञ्चुक).

—Kalā, vidyā, and rāga form a special inner group among the five kañcukas, such that these three alone are sometimes referred to with the term kaṅcuka even where the existence also of kāla and niyati is acknowledged (as here). Jayaratha  following the lead given by Abhinavagupta in his avatārikā in Tantrāloka asserts that the Śivatanuśāstra too knows six kañcukas (including māyā as the sixth), arguing that kāla and niyati are not mentioned not because they are held not to exist but because they are purified (in initiation). when one purifies the other three, and to this effect he quotes a prose statement that he attributes to the Ruruvṛtti, and which therefore may have belonged to a lost section of Sadyojyotis’s commentary on the Rauravasūtrasaṅgraha.

Let us see more in the next post.

1/18/2022 Post  130


What does ethics depend upon?

Emotions :anger , hate, jealousy, worry, love, etc . They are deciding factors for good or bad ethics.

Behaviours  and habits – luxury or frugal living, nutrition, exercise, expensive dresses and foods, entertainment , keeping up with Jones, contented living , savings habits etc

Ambience – family culture, society culture, office culture etc.

Ambitions and aspirations – high or normal




Discerning observations and learnings

Learning from a teacher or guru or parents or neighbours etc.

Ethical practices of a person are influenced by these factors . We see the influence of the body on health, food , shelter etc . But the major influence is by the mind. Ego plays a major role in most decisions . Emotions are governed by senses, enzymes and these are controlled by our mind.

While the west ignored the mind for a long time, we made a great structure of the mind. Mind controls senses at the first level.

Pancha jnanendriya are the five means of perceiving, or the sensory organs. The term comes from the Sanskrit, pancha, meaning “five”; jnana, meaning “awareness” or “higher knowledge”; and indriya, meaning “sense” or “organ.” They are known as the lower sense organs that allow humans to perceive the world around them.

The pancha jnanendriya include the nose (ghrana), eyes (caksu), tongue (rasana), skin (tvak) and ears (srotra). They are related to, but differ from, the five senses, known as the pancha tanmatra: smell, form, taste, touch and sound

Five organs of action are called karmendriyas. pancha karmendriya (five organs of action),  include the feet, hands, rectum, genitals and mouth.

Karmendriyas are the organs that interact with the material world. The feet (pada) move, the hands (pani) grasp and hold, the rectum (payu) eliminates, the genitals (upastha) procreate and the mouth (vak) speaks.

Mind is separated into many layers. Mind and intellect are two different koshas.

According to Swami Vivekananda, the mind apparatus (citta) is a combination of three components namely manas, buddhi, and ahaṃkāra and sensory organs .Manas is an aspect of citta which receives all the impressions from the outside world. Buddhi is the determinative faculty which distinguishes between good and bad and righteous and unrighteous aspects of things and thoughts. Ahaṃkāra is the egoistic aspect of mind and personality, which owns the impressions.

The mind may be viewed to be constituted by five basic components: manas( control of senses),  ahamkara (ego), citta ( memory, experiences, analysis), buddhi ( intelligence, reasoning, deep thinking)and ananda ( happiness). Atman is outside  these components.

So it is clear that our sastras and scriptures provide us with a detailed understanding of the basic structure needed for ethical approaches.

1/20/2022 Post 131

Should we segregate ethics from Dharma like in the west?

West felt that religion is not the custodian of values. Also there were not many writings on ethics available in the religious domain. Religion was more fixed ,rule bound , dogmatic and not subject to reason. With the arrival of the reasoning age in the west by the 15 th century CE , the entire approach changed. Philosophers were looking at reasoning , formalisation and truth as essential to understand various aspects of humans and ethics. Spinoza, a 17 th century philosopher, wrote on ethics. He is a believer in geometry like Descartes and a rationalist. He didn’t believe in the dualism of mind and body like Descartes. He tried to formalise some concepts like God. Let us see his definitions

1.God/Nature: absolutely infinite (infinite attributes, including extension [ The metaphysical property that refers to an objects ability to take up space.]  and thought).

2.Substance: “what is in itself, and conceived through itself.”

3.Attribute: perceived by the mind as an essence of a substance.

4.Mode: this is the way substance is expressed.

He then formalises axioms and propositions and proofs. This is to my knowledge the first formal approach. Later on many great philosophers in Europe developed and enlarged these concepts further. They introduced logic to analyse and get the truth. They concentrated on theory and models ,not implementation. End and means, good and right were used and explained differently by many. This is a very formal ,scholarly and scientific approach but also has a major disadvantage – it is also a constrained and myopic approach , we will explain this in detail in next post.

But the situation is different here. our ancient philosophers three to four thousand years ago felt that life and happiness needs dharmic practices for survival of beings and nature  .  So they integrated nature, living, gods, moksha ,samsara with Dharma. Dharma is beyond religious beliefs and worship. A clarification is in order here. We have many sruthis,smritis,sutras , Itihasas ,puranas, niti sastras, darshanas and many secondary literature. So  activities are  partitioned into religious ones and ethical ones and many times they are integrated like charity is a part of religion. Following rituals,pujas , prayers , visits to temples , pilgrimages are good religious activities , but these by themselves do not inculcate values. I am not saying rituals are not important, but they are one side of Dharma the other side being moral living.  Some like niti sastras and Apasthamba Sutra define good conduct by people. Upanishads discuss the principles – yama and niyama – to be followed. Vedas give many dharmic principles in addition to religious principles. Both Yajnavalkya and Sankara  urge us to go beyond rituals and emphasize on the fact that qualities respect, control of senses and mind, ahimsa, charity,desirelessness, learning from a correct guru, self learning, speaking truth etc as the starting point of a life of realisation.  This viveka of what is a ritualistic approach and what is a moralistic approach is essential. Pure ritualists are harmless, if they practice tolerance and follow the policy to live and let others live. It will be better if the ritualistics consider and follow many moral values. Definitely they should shun violence and tolerate alternate views and other religions. Some may have different views than what is expressed by me. But it is not just my view but taken from many spiritual acharyas.

We have many sampradayas, many agamas and tantras,many rituals. So the question we need to ask is ” what unifies Hinduism? ” . Many have attempted to answer this question.  Maybe there are many answers. My view is – unification  is provided by the dharmic values.  It’s principles ,if followed, will provide unity amidst the diversity. Common people learnt to live from family members and society. Conduct was built into practices and stories like Ramayana, panchatantra , Hitopadesa .

1/22/2022 Post 132

One can write a lot about the seminal work done by western scholars . Philosophy got concepts from science like proofs and science got ideas like skeptical enquiry ,open questioning mind from philosophy. Descartes and Spinoza were geometry researchers. Newton , Heisenberg, Max Planck and later Bertrand Russell employed philosophical methods in their work. Their books have philosophy in the title. But a separation occurred later. Science became focussed, specialised and materialistic. It became more popular. It has been growing by leaps and bounds since 16 th century. But it bound itself with a set of beliefs and structures. This constrained scientific work. Science looked at syntax – a well defined and developed set of rules and methods.

But philosophy used scientific concepts of proof. So it became more constrained and less absolute. It’s importance got reduced. Initially philosophy was open ended and highly semantic without rules and procedures and formal structures. It changed later with the influence of science.  If we applied the principles of proof of science strictly to medicine, medicine would not have been developed. Semmelweiss, Pasteur ,Jenner,  Lister worked on observations and experiments and developed very seminal and highly impactful discoveries. Same is true of many discoveries like radio by Marconi and X rays by Roentgen . Discoveries came first, scientific analysis came later.  Today, we have more tools and methods to even lead us to discoveries in a structured manner.

But the problem was compartmentalisation – disciplines in science.  Health and medicine got separated. The importance of human behaviours got ignored by medicine .  Science didnot consider human behaviours. It is not humanistic. It can not replace religion. Fortunately, a lot of experimental and heuristic work is continuing and providing solutions to many problems faced by us. Despite all these, the acceptance of science came mostly from formal and theoretical approaches. This slowed down innovation.

But in India, mathematics developed along with philosophy. Same is true with geometry , astronomy, Ayurveda, – all these developed with vedas just like human systems . A question to my friends – how much science is there in computers, software, machine learning ? Some amount of science is there definitely in these areas, but these are not only science .

Science fails in defining many common social and behavioral  terms like beauty, excellence, ethics, morality, emotions etc. It’s efforts to define truth which is fundamental to science is also not fully complete.

There are many learnings here which we will discuss after looking at truth.

1/23/2022 Post 133

A user has a query on post 132.

“A bit confusing argument. Is he saying Experimental Science is not Science, does not subscribe to scientific methofologies when he gives examples of radio and x-ray discovery?”

My quick response was

“Science started primarily as an experimental one. Even today, experiments play a role. I was talking about proof . Science is strong in proof. Invention of radio signals is not science. Analysis and discovery of various frequencies and their properties is the first level of science. Developing and building transmitters and receivers and boosters is the next level of science. Then answering the question on what are these waves and what is the relationship to light and electromagnetic waves is the next step. Finding the sources and producing terrahertz waves is the current research.

My argument was

If you waited for theory to precede experiments ,many inventions would not have happened. Many inventions are intuitive and trial and error – remember Edison and electric bulb.

I didn’t say all inventions are unscientific. Scientific approaches to prove concepts come later.

Current Science is more theory oriented and it presupposes that there exist a methodology and proof for any phenomenon.

Whereas 15 th and 16 th century science started with experiments. So I felt that the current focus is constrained and limiting. While medicine is a great science, scientific analysis fails in several cases. Can you discard medicine as meta science ? No. So we need a broader understanding and move away from current focus on theory. There is a caste system in science.

Hope this clarifies. Will be happy to answer any more doubts or criticisms. Greetings. Dks”

My further response is given below:

There is a need for clarification of the statements in the previous post.

1.The context: we are discussing ethics in Indian scriptures . We found it starts with vedas ,Upanishads , sutras, niti sastras and stories as well regional literature like  kural in Tamil , Vachanas in Kannada. We started comparing it with western concepts of ethics. While ethics is part of Dharma in Indian systems,Aristotle made it a separate discipline. Then we saw a link between ethics, and philosophy . The Western philosophy started developing at a faster pace after the reasoning age with Spinoza. Science also started developing at that time with geometry taking a lead in the beginning. This brought in the concept of proof and methods and analysis. Initially science was based on experiments mostly. Later, from Newton onwards physical and mathematical sciences started formal modeling and solution techniques. So there are two kinds of activities in science – one theory based like gravitation – experiments were part of analysis- and another intuitive like the radio , X-rays, medical discoveries. As I said these had and have  a high impact on the society.

2.We are looking at the historical evolution of philosophy and science during the 15 th to 17 th centuries. Both influenced each other. Mathematics played a major role in physics. Chemistry and biology were not affected by this formalisation process. Formalisation deals with approximations.  3.Philosophy which was open ended  became constrained with proofs and formalism.  – see Spinoza. This meant that the development slowed down. Science which was experimental started looking at formal methods, modeling, axioms, rules and theoretical framework and solutions. Definitely,as I gave the example of software ,both theory and experimental techniques went together. The outcome is a slowing down of inventions. We are not seeing even known unknowns. We will be seeing more of the impacts in the subsequent posts. This approach reduces our views to what is known and so breakthrough inventions take more time.

4.There is a similar story about engineering. Till early 20 th century , engineering was drawings, designs, construction, practices, tests and quality control. But by mid 20th century, engineering got more theory orientations. The focus was bringing in mathematical techniques into engineering. This is seen more in electrical engineering. Engineering became theoretical.  Some American universities tried a separate practice based engineering program. It did not succeed. Even diploma education is moving in this direction. Late 20 th century saw another shift – engineering became programming based. We expect the 21st century heralding the domination of AI.

1/25/2022 Post 134

To sum up we saw philosophy in the Renaissance age used reasoning to analyse occurrences. It did not consider randomness and uncertainty. It ignored infiniteness and non occurrences by formalising.

Science picked up enquiry and reasoning from philosophy and moved into formal mechanisms to analyse occurrences. It ignored non occurrences ,non materials and humanism . This limited its scope in looking at unknowns even though a few scientists and philosophers looked at and came up with breakthroughs. Indian philosophy looked at infinity, humanism, uncertainty from the vedic times.

Let us look at the next and most important aspect which was at the core of philosophy-  the concept of truth .

Arvind commented that Western philosophy was dependent on truth. Indian philosophy also heavily depends on truth and evolves methods of validation so that we get correct ,precise and rigorous knowledge.

Philosophers were concerned about truth. But the focus between Indian and western philosophers was different about what is truth. Indians were looking for absolute truth  , obtained by holistic means .

As I said earlier, science defined with reasonable precision many physically occurring things ,but it is not able to define precisely human terms like beauty, excellence, emotions, truth, morality  etc. 

The dictionary definition of truth about something is all the facts about it, rather than things that are imagined or invented. This is a restrictive definition.  Descartes did not believe any statements. Later,Logic was used to prove assertions. It was still primitive.

Bertrand Russell gave a paradox. ” I tell lies”. Is this assertion true or false. Not easy.

Yudhishthir in Mahabharata said Ashwathama died. It is true , but which Ashwathama – not the man ,but an elephant. Many people make a statement and later say “they are misunderstood.” So truth depends on language.

If we use the dictionary definition ,then the statement earth is flat. But most scholars ignored this. Astronomy developed through proving hypothesis and conjectures.

The notion of truth (just as the notion of knowledge and justification) is the same in ethics and science. We gain moral knowledge in a way similar to how we gain scientific knowledge: we have evidence for ethical theories when these theories can best explain our data.

truth, in metaphysics and the philosophy of language, deals with the property of sentences, assertions, beliefs, thoughts, or propositions that are said, in ordinary discourse, to agree with the facts or to state what is the case.

Truth has been the concern of our six darshanas – Indian philosophy. Truth allows us to add facts carefully after examination. Truth is used to validate knowledge and eliminate incorrect facts . So they look at vakya,pada and meaning as well as its impact – sabda bodha first. Then they look at  at knowledge  and then at truth.

Truth is a judgment according to Nyaya.

Varadaräja says that truth is anubhava — a presentational judgment —   more clearly  a valid presentational judgment.

Nyaya and samkya have detailed methods for validation.

Udayana underlines the strength of the Nyäya attitude that no empirical judgment is necessarily true, no empirical judgment is necessarily untrue, no descriptions free from possible fallacy. The darshanas have detailed definitions, analysis and arguments. They use semantic logic ,not known in the west.

Let us look at the next and most important aspect which was at the core of philosophy-  the concept of truth .

Arvind commented that Western philosophy was dependent on truth. Indian philosophy also heavily depends on truth and evolves methods of validation so that we get correct ,precise and rigorous knowledge.

Philosophers were concerned about truth. But the focus between Indian and western philosophers was different about what is truth. Indians were looking for absolute truth  , obtained by holistic means .

As I said earlier, science defined with reasonable precision many physically occurring things ,but it is not able to define precisely human terms like beauty, excellence, emotions, truth, morality  etc. 

The dictionary definition of truth about something is all the facts about it, rather than things that are imagined or invented. This is a restrictive definition.  Descartes did not believe any statements. Later,Logic was used to prove assertions. It was still primitive.

Bertrand Russell gave a paradox. ” I tell lies”. Is this assertion true or false. Not easy.

Yudhishthir in Mahabharata said Ashwathama died. It is true , but which Ashwathama – not the man ,but an elephant. Many people make a statement and later say “they are misunderstood.” So truth depends on language.

If we use the dictionary definition ,then the statement earth is flat. But most scholars ignored this. Astronomy developed through proving hypothesis and conjectures.

The notion of truth (just as the notion of knowledge and justification) is the same in ethics and science. We gain moral knowledge in a way similar to how we gain scientific knowledge: we have evidence for ethical theories when these theories can best explain our data.

truth, in metaphysics and the philosophy of language, deals with the property of sentences, assertions, beliefs, thoughts, or propositions that are said, in ordinary discourse, to agree with the facts or to state what is the case.

Truth has been the concern of our six darshanas – Indian philosophy. Truth allows us to add facts carefully after examination. Truth is used to validate knowledge and eliminate incorrect facts . So they look at vakya,pada and meaning as well as its impact – sabda bodha first. Then they look at  at knowledge  and then at truth.

Truth is a judgment according to Nyaya.

Varadaräja says that truth is anubhava — a presentational judgment —   more clearly  a valid presentational judgment.

Nyaya and samkya have detailed methods for validation.

Udayana underlines the strength of the Nyäya attitude that no empirical judgment is necessarily true, no empirical judgment is necessarily untrue, no descriptions free from possible fallacy. The darshanas have detailed definitions, analysis and arguments. They use semantic logic ,not known in the west.

Let us look at one approach – by mimamsa  .Ancient Mīmānsā’s central concern was epistemology (pramana), that is what are the reliable means to knowledge. It debated not only “how does man ever learn or know, whatever he knows”, but also whether the nature of all knowledge is inherently circular, whether those such as foundationalists who critique the validity of any “justified beliefs” and knowledge system make flawed presumptions of the very premises they critique, and how to correctly interpret and avoid incorrectly interpreting dharma texts such as the Vedas.

Several methods are explained to gain valid knowledge

Prabhākara, who is one of the founders of purva mimamsa, described the five epistemically reliable means to gaining knowledge:1. pratyakṣa or perception;2. anumāna or inference;3. upamāṇa, by comparison and analogy; 4.arthāpatti, the use of postulation and derivation from circumstances; and 5.śabda, the word or testimony of past or present reliable experts. Today ,We have references of books , analogies, mathematical and logical analysis  and experimentation to validate facts.

 Bhāṭṭa sub-school, from philosopher Kumārila Bhaṭṭa, added a sixth means to its canon; 6.anupalabdhi meant non-perception, or proof by the absence of cognition (e.g., the lack of gunpowder on a suspect’s hand).

Neti theory is an important addition to defining concepts rigorously and introduced by Yajnavalkya and later by Sankara. Neti is not just false. It means absence due to error or doubt or tarka- reasoning – needs more information.

Buddhists define truth as non deviance or effectiveness in producing successful activity.

Mīmāṃsakas considered the purpose and power of language was to clearly prescribe the proper, correct and right. In contrast, Vedāntins extended the scope and value of language as a tool to also describe, develop and derive. So we see innovation, change and research here. Mīmāṁsakās considered orderly, law driven, procedural life as central purpose and noblest necessity of dharma and society, and divine (theistic) sustenance means to that end.

1/27/2022 Post 135

Some feel that the last post needs some explanations.

Truth is the foundation for philosophy , ethics and sciences including social sciences. Our vedas look for absolute truth. Truth implies validation of facts to be sure the facts are not false . Philosophy wants to find new valid facts truefully so that it gets added to the existing knowledge. Science proves facts by mathematical formalism, but not always. Researchers need to show and validate that their discovery and conclusions are correct . Drugs are discovered after it is proven  that the discovered drug provides a good cure for a disease and does not lead to complications, and / or death. This is done by sampling and testing and goes through several stages . All disciplines use different methods to prove their propositions . Ethics defines yamas and niyamas. Before embarking on a task,  One should know whether one is violating ethical principles or practices. So truth plays a major role in ethics . Hence we say –  satyam Vada; satyam vadhishyami ( in vedas and Upanishads);satyameva jayathe.

We speak about truth, but can’t define it though we detect false statements. So I wrote about truth in the previous post – both western concept and Indian.

Since truth is based on philosophical ,logical, grammatical and / or mathematical reasoning as well as based on anubhava – experience, or on observations and experiments, validation is needed to prove that an assertion or a statement is true.

The questions addressed are

1.What is the truth?

2. How do you know a statement is true?

3. How to be unambiguous about statements? How to interpret a statement? This is needed to get a correct interpretation or explication of a statement.

4. There is a fourth question which needs a separate post – what is knowledge and how do you add to existing knowledge? Every fact is not knowledge until tested in fire.

Western scholars looked at known facts as truth and used syntactic logic and formalism to prove it. They didn’t give importance to language till 20 th century.

Indian scholars were concerned with truth. Vedas gave a large framework of life and how to live harmoniously and happily along with nature. Upanishads looked at absolute and  permanent truth – Brahman and knowledge. It is darshanas which analysed truth and gave a very detailed analysis of various aspects. They used language, logic, and speech , integrate these approaches and introduce several concepts on validity, methods of analysis, proof of validity, judgment, absence concepts, grammar etc. This is what we saw yesterday.

In the case of ethics truth varies with persons.

“ethical relativism, is the doctrine that there are no absolute truths in ethics and that what is morally right or wrong varies from person to person or from society to society.”

Moral reasoning applies critical analysis to specific events to determine what is right or wrong, and what people ought to do in a particular situation. … Moral reasoning typically applies logic and moral theories, such as deontology or utilitarianism, to specific situations or dilemmas.

1/29/2022 Post 136

Why ethics?

Dr Mathur has two comments. 1. He wants to discuss about engineering ethics. That is the need for a different approach for ethics for engineers.

2. He wants to know about ethics in other regions and religions.

I am not familiar with ethics elsewhere and in other religions. Normally I discuss something I know and validate through references. I don’t have knowledge on the ethics in other religions. Hence, I am not able to discuss this aspect.

Let us look at the impact of engineering on ethics. Engineering has three parts or stages of development- early energy based thermal and electrical engineering, second is the current digital engineering and it’s impacts and third the impact of AI.  These impacts are becoming more serious and so ethical practices have become life critical. Negligence may lead to death. There are many stakeholders in this. Let us see these in sequence.

Engineering developments – stage one.

1.The engineering developments started with the use of steam for locomotion in 16 th century. Later ,we could get large amount of mechanical power through machines .It was later used to power textile Mills and steel making. Late 18 th and the beginning of 19 th century saw the birth of hydroelectric power and electric lighting. Edison set up a DC power plant in New York. It was Tesla who invented alternating current and set up the Niagara hydro power plant. AC can be transmitted over long distances – thousands of kilometres. The year was 1895. The first major power plant in India was set up in shivasamudram in 1903 ,the initiators of this project being King Nalavadi krishna Raja wodeyar and his Dewan Seshadri Iyer. It supplied power to KGF to run the mining operations and also to Bangalore for providing electric lights to streets and homes. After that, electricity usage grew exponentially leading to the emergence of a major industry age.

2.Life  became complex. It is different from how our ancestors lived. We see changes within a decade now, we don’t have to wait for a longer time – generations. .

3. Now,  We are dependent on technology like electricity, automobiles, etc initially. Our parents haven’t seen automobiles, planes, electricity etc. They don’t know TV and mobiles. Our life style is regularly changing.  Definitely many technologies were useful. Electricity increased our period of useful work by several hours perday. I C engines gave us great mobility. Automobiles took us to many places . We reached many countries by ships and planes. Mobility and job opportunities increased considerably.  Life style was good. Agricultural production also increased with the availability of fertilisers, irrigation and transport; and we are able to meet the food needs of people and famine was rare. Many storage units were set up across the country to store millions of tons of food grains .

4. These electro mechanical technologies spurred innovation. We developed many machines and devices to support our multifold tasks like heating, cooking, lighting, fans,  refrigeration, metallurgy, electrolysis, water pumping etc. These spurred the economic growth and also education. The setting up of the hydropower project at shivasamudram and the proposal forsetting up  a power plant and a steel plant by Tata led swami vivekananda to suggest setting up an advanced University – that is IISc. The technological advances led to the creation of many new jobs.

5.  The other major change was the invention of radio receivers and the setting up of many transmitters-  for news and entertainment ; and telephones and telegraph helped in short and long distance communications. These brought people from several places together, allowed people to be in touch with others living elsewhere.

All these developments at first sight seem to help people with jobs,and to  improve quality and comfort in life.

Let us see the impacts on the downside in the next post.

1/31/2022 Post 137

While we talked about engineering developments, we should also record the fact that medicine also mde rapid strides of progress . Remedies were found for many diseases. Human body was understood better. Diagnostics and hygiene improved.  General and public health did not see much progress  We need to reinvent health using yoga, achaara  and Ayurveda. Now with corona virus pandemic ,we see the importance of personal hygiene. The negative impacts due to medicines are marginal and can be controlled.

In india steel making started long before Europe got into it. It is called ukku – it is a kannada word for steel. The steel pillar in Qutb minar is remaining for thousands of years without rusting. How is this possible? Plow was invented in early  BC times. Roads , sanitation, travel by carts and horses were known and described in vedas. Chanakya seems to have travelled between kanishka in North West to patliputra in East – thousands of miles.


1.But there are downsides to technology use also. Let us look at them.

Social impacts.

2. The desires and  demands increased sometimes leading to greed and consequently  to selfishness . These increased consumption to high and wasteful levels. This is against vedic principles of charity, harmony  and frugal living.

 3.  Due to increased population and consumption, there is a larger demand on land, water, minerals , fuels and other resources. Land was needed for houses, factories, roads and offices. These put a great stress on forests and nature. Deforestation is going at an exponential pace. To give one example, our surveys show that a person consumes on an average half a ton of firewood per year used for cooking and water heating. This means half a billion tons – a huge amount.

The effect was seen in Bengaluru within 20 years. In 1960s we got firewood from neighbourhood forests. But by 1980, firewood was brought to Bengaluru by train loads and trucks from 400 kilometres distance. Most forests were destroyed because of this simple usage. The stoves or choolas had very low – about 5% efficiencies – . This led to a  lot of carbon monoxide poisoning – called indoor pollution  . This indoor pollution affected the health of people and children.

Ecological balance is getting changed. All these are against the principle Isavasyam Idam sarvam – all resources belong to God and use of resources should be done very sparingly. Descartes and Bacon said exploit natural resources. See the contrast. Gandhi also said ” nature can meet our needs but not the greeds.”

Solutions or remedies

1.Afforestation plant more forests not trees. Forest is different from trees. Planting trees is not a good solution.

2.Increase efficiency of use –

This will be an important principle of ethical design. ( Let us call this principle one). Some follow this, but it should be part of any design.

Astra ole developed by IISc gave efficiencies of about 25% and this reduced firewood consumption considerably .

We have many industries using devices inefficient devices and processes. They need to change them.

3. Minimise resource consumption. ( Principle two of ethical design). Avoid wastage. Water is wasted a lot in houses and industries. It can be avoided. We need to go for low water technologies. It is imperative.

We have gone for reduced paper use. Many don’t print receipts. Many read ebooks and e news. Airlines go for digital boarding pass. This is commendable.

4.Recycle and reuse. ( Principle three.). Many like metals, water, plastics etc  can be recycled and used. This saves a lot of resources.

6. Regenerate natural diversity and richness.

7. Avoid high waste activities.

8. Own your activities and be responsible for your actions. (Principle 4.). Responsibility is key . If you are aware about the wastage, you will minimise its use.

9. Look at nature. Nature optilmises in many instances. Fruits are sperical – optimum to store most mass in minimum surface area and volume. Bees build their hive using hexagonal shapes as that gives maximum strength. ( Principle 5 – observe nature and build designs. Use heuristics. )

More in next post

2/02/2022 Post 138

More on social impacts.

What I am writing are not just my opinions but what is seen and happening for the past several decades.

4. Economic disparity increased. Capitalism succeeded today and communism is dead. Even communists look at organised sectors only .

Poverty is increasing and not decreasing. Opportunities for jobs and survival for poor are less due to a high degree of commercialisation and money focus by rich. This is against Hindu principles .

How do we solve this? Not easy.

Solutions are very complex.

5.People were displaced by the acquisition of land for factories ,power plants ,roads etc. This puts them into a crisis state. Some have been displaced multiple times. We have a policy for industrialisation. But include the cost of trauma of displacement of people into it. There are resettlement and rehabilitation schemes for major projects. They are mechanical and not humanistic. We are seeing the situation improving slowly over several decades. In Semi urban areas , displaced have a greater voice but not the poor in remote areas.

We saw social impacts and now let us look at  impacts  due to engineering developments .


 Automobiles usage can not be accident free. So people died or got hurt due to accidents.   These are mostly human errors but sometimes due to engine or mechanical problems or skidding.

There are major and serious accidents in power plants and factories. People last limbs while operating agricultural machines like harvestors. We have heard about the famous Chernobyl nuclear power plant leakages and the three mile island accidents . Bhopal gas tragedy is well known. The probability of accidents increases with complexity of engineering systems. We have heard of electrocutions.  How do we reduce accidents?  Is it possible?

The first step is to go for human centric science and engineering. Both science and engineering concentrated only on materials and energy and ignored humans. We need a science where humans are also an integral part of the system. Quality and safety are important. Similarly usability is an essential attribute in the design of devices and systems  We need to certify devices and systems with a checklist on safety and assign ranks . Simple IS certifications are not enough.

Principle 5 – focus more on quality and safety. Provide grades for these two.

Principle 6 – keep humans in the loop.  Humanise science.

Principle 7 – build a science of operations . Model behaviours of humans and Integrate behaviours with machines.

A good design is to reduce human driving and operating errors through automation. We will have AI supported cars soon. But can a car stop quickly within a feet by applying brakes? Brake design needs a rethink. Similarly road design needs a proper design for drainage.


We are facing serious pollution problems. Most Rivers are polluted with sewerage and industry effluents. There was a rayon factory which polluted Tungabadra river. Lakshmana thirtha river had only sewerage flow in summer thereby spreading cholera every summer. Sugar factory discharge black liquor into river cauvery. Incidentally treatment technologies are available and they have a bye product of energy. It is a win win situation. But most industries and municipalities were reluctant to install and operate treatment plants for decades. Look at the ganga cleaning program, a lot of pushing is needed.

Air pollution is another effect from industry wastes.

Climate change

The large scale increase in the  emission of carbon dioxide to atmosphere is another big concern. The balance between CO2 absorption by plants and emission by people and industries and automobiles is distorted now. A car travelling a distance of 400 miles emits as much CO2 as emitted by a human in a life time. This unbalance is leading to a slow and steady increase in average temperature. This is a very serious sustainability threating crisis. Climate change is happening faster now.

We need huge and several corrective actions. Survival of  Human / plants/ animals and insects  is at a big  risk. Big  Countries don’t want to act.Ethics is now a top priority.

2/04/2022 Post 139

Let us look at the impact of computers and online activities.

Digital age

With the advent of computers with very high speeds and large memory and  at an affordable cost, our life style has  changed. Micro miniaturisation and availability of powerful mobiles have changed the way we live, work, study and communicate  . We are now data driven – totally dependent on digital systems  , sensors etc. We don’t go shopping. We do digital ecommerce. We have online classes.we monitor our health with smart watches.

we need to become digital savvy and cope with day to day changes. This means 90 %of people will be second or third rate and have no access to many services or knowledge to operate them . They are deprived of government services  So a simple life is not possible.

 Banks , hospitals, are dependent on digital devices and sensors and software. Any mistake will result in money losses or even loss of  lifes .

Ecommerce can also lead to substandard products or frauds. We need a proper mechanism for resolving disputes. The support levels are different. But it is becoming the main stay.

The maximum impact of digital age is the fact that more than 80% of the population does not have smart devices and doe not know digital operations. Even those with smart phones find it difficult to perform many operations. Many applications are cryptic and hang without a clue or help to the users on how to complete a task. So a very large population will be deprived of digital usage and their life will be difficult. Many are experiencing thes difficulties now. This needs remedial corrections.

 Chances of bugs in software are not high ,but the possibility is there. There is a significant reduction in bugs due to serious concerns and focus by developers to develop high quality six Sigma software. This shows the importance of commitment, good design, user orientation, explainability, structured development – going beyond mathematical methods and using minds of people- , and strong testing.

AI age

Currently we are witnessing another set of developments making machines more smart. I don’t want to use the term intelligent. We got very powerful computers and very high bandwidth connectivity. We have developed many inexpensive sensors. So whole cities will be automated with most operations taken over by AI. Robots will take over most mechanical activities and operations. Most cars will be driven automatically without a driver. Surgery will be done with precision, and efficiency by robots. AI will help In improving health and Medicare. Most offices , banks etc will be run without human support. Governmental work will be handled by AI. Industries and utilities will be automated.  We will be seeing millions of robots doing most blue collar and white caller jobs .

The changes will be of multiple quantum leaps – totally different from the state of today. What are the impacts.

Job losses in millions. Government has to feed all people and support them.

Food will be synthetic.

Results will not be explainable and rework and corrections are difficult.

Safety and security are going to become lot more serious and important. Are we ,a large population, to become slaves of AI. We are already digital slaves.

We need to generate a new adaptive strategy for living and coexistence. Humanities will dominate and gain it’s due share from science. Science needs to look at humans and their behaviours, not just materials alone. Technology dominance will continue.

2/06/2022 Post 140

The role of ethics in engineering activities

The negative impacts were perceived and addressed by many. Even laws were brought out . Countries are discussing climate change. But we don’t see any massive usage shifts – policy shifts don’t lead to better usage. Business as usual continues. Consumption is encouraged. Trees are cut. Forests get depleted qualitatively. Floods are increasing. Profit is the god .

Protests have marginal effects. It is the story of one step forward three backward – the best examples are cleaning of rivers in the country and lakes in Bengaluru.

There is a professional code of conduct . Let us see the comments by Mr Arvind

“Thank you very much Sir. Are there generally accepted code of conduct like Hippocrates oath for Doctors to other professionals -lawyers, pharmaceutical,  engineers, plumbers etc., In short, high skilled professionals whom people trust for their skill and not greed.”

My response

You are right about code of conduct. The US has a tougher test for professionals. They need to pass an exam . To become a PE, you need a degree plus experience plus pass in a special exam. We get a PE freely from the institution of engineers. That is the seriousness we attach to professionals. Consider the faculty in college and university. They become a professional teacher by virtue of a degree – no other requirements.

This needs a solution.

BCS and IEEE have a code of conduct for programmers. We don’t have it. Well some companies have internal mechanisms like Tata ethics for Tata employees. I feel sad that engineers in electrical substations have no training, no oath , no responsibility. I say this after investigating some cases of failures of transformers, circuit breakers, lifts and cases of dire. Negligence and ignorance are deadly combinations.

So we need to take a moralistic route- the ethical approach.

Look for ethical avoidance strategies, ethical prevention strategies and continuing training strategies. Code of conducts and operating procedures need revision regularly ( but do they exist?)

We don’t have a good regulatory mechanism.