Right and Wrong - the Myth of Duality

From our childhood we have been told to discriminate between right and wrong. However, the question of what is right and what is wrong has troubled me quite often. There are numerous ethical dilemmas and I don't quite want to mull over them now. But the fascinating concept of right vs wrong and how right is sometimes wrong or vice versa has intrigued me for a long time.
To make things clearer, let me talk about a story that was narrated by Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba Varu in an interview with a few of us when we were studying at Prashanti Nilayam. The story dates back to the days of Adi Sankara (788-820 AD). It seems one day Adi Sankaracharya was walking with a few of his disciples and as they walked by a toddy vendor (someone who sells country liquor), the toddy vendor felt great devotion for Adi Sankara and ran to him with a jug full of toddy and offered it to him. Adi Sankara was pleased by this gesture, took the jug and drank the jug full of toddy in a jiffy. The disciples were totally flabbergasted. As the retinue marched ahead, some of them started talking to each other in whispers, trying to judge the propriety of what their Master had just done. One of them said that if the Master can drink liquor, so can we. Another said, perhaps we are following the wrong person. He is not fit to be our Master- we must look for another one. 
As they were discussing these things, Adi Sankaracharya walked ahead, as if unmindful of what was going on behind him. After they crossed a few more villages and towns, they came across a blacksmith who was pouring molten iron from one container to another. As soon as he saw Adi Sankaracharya, he prostrated to the saint and said with tears in his eyes, 'O Master, I am a poor man. I do not have anything to offer Thee.' Adi Sankaracharya pointed at the jug full of molten iron. The blacksmith brought it to the saint and then - wonder of wonders - Adi Sankaracharya drank the molten iron contained in that jug. He then looked behind, at his disciples, smiled and said..'If you can do this, you can do that', evidently meaning to say that if you have reached the state where you can treat molten iron and country liquor just the same, then you can pretty much do anything you want to without being affected by it.
Coming back to the moot point of what is right and what is wrong, it is evident that what seemed wrong for the disciples or any onlooker was right for Adi Sankaracharya. And, what was right for them on other occasions could be wrong for him. How wise is it then, for anyone to judge anyone else? This dichotomy is more a creation of the duality we seem to delude ourselves with, than the unity of all creation that we need to see and experience.
Sometimes, we tend to color the whole world in our own definition of right and wrong. And often, we find ourselves fighting and arguing with others, causing much disturbance to ourselves and to others. We fail to see unity because we don't want to. 
There were many occasions when we saw this with our Divine Master as well. Swami would often seem to come down very harshly on a seemingly insignificant mistake and often not seem to care much about what we thought were greater errors. But, the fault lies in trying to judge a Divine Personality by worldly standards. As Sri Raja Reddy, the famous servitor of Bhagawan said in an interview, 'Our tools are too crude to analyse His majesty. We should only sit back and enjoy.' 
On one such occasion which was an eye opener for me, there was a group interview in which a few other brothers were with me and Swami was very beautifully explaining the great Truths of life. As Swami was speaking, one of the brothers asked, "Swami, you say that one must always adhere to Truth. But, many a time, you have said that you will call the next day and you have not called. Why have you been untruthful?" I was quite shocked at this seemingly audacious question from this brother. But, I was also happy to see Swami smile. I thought that at least He did not seem unhappy with this display of audacity.
Swami patiently replied, "What is next day for you is not next day for me" He went on to explain that, "The Truth that I talk about is the absolute unchanging Truth. Where tomorrow does not become today just because the time has changed. Where Truth is the same in all three periods of time." Then Swami said something which struck a chord, "Have you ever seen traffic signals? What happens when the Prime Minister is passing by? All traffic is halted and irrespective of what the signal is, His convoy passes by. If these rules do not bind the Prime Minister who governs the country, just think of God!! How can any rule bind Him? He follows rules and discipline only to set an example. Swami is not bound by Time. But remember that His word will be kept at the appropriate 'next day'. You must not lose hope. You must wait and pray. One day you will all rise to the status where your convoy will also pass without having to stop at any signal". All of us had a hearty laugh. But nevertheless, that was quite a revelation for me. Often, we quote Swami out of context and try to interpret His words by coloring it the way they make sense to us. But, we must not forget that He is not bound.
Can we drink molten iron? If we cannot, we should not judge anyone else. As Jesus once said, "Judge not lest you be judged".
Finally, between what is right and what is wrong there is a very thin line. We must definitely follow what we believe is Right. But, that doesn't mean that we should condemn anyone who does not align to our sense of being 'right'. One's conscience is the true guide!
Then the question arises - what is it that we are supposed to discriminate if there is no absolute right or absolute wrong? The answer lies in what Swami used to often say to us - 'Bhaja Nityam Anityataam'. The discrimination is to be done between the Permanent and the Temporary, the everlasting and the transient. 'Viveka' or discrimination means that faculty which differentiates between these two, gives up the temporary and hangs on to the Permanent. Lets pray that we don't fight and bicker, but rather hold on to the everlasting bliss of unity and oneness and establish ourselves in Unity with our Lord.

'Samastha Lokaah Sukhino Bhavantu'!


Anonymous said…
true...what swami says and things he does is sometimes beyond our comprehension..for example in the case of bhishma and vibishana,swami said bhishma was punished because he did not protest at the mistakes of kauravas,but vibishana did stand against ravana for his inappropriate actions,so he was protected,so swami said always stand up for right but you should definitely discriminate properly,because if you do not discriminate properly and behave you will be tested like saint naamdev,who was initially declared half baked and was confirmed by lord vittala and was sent back by the lord himself to the same potter who pronounced him half backed to pull down ego and pride
Anonymous said…
being judgmental is very harmful in our journey to the lord,to me judging swami and his beyond universal capacities,i get scared,so i believe in acting in line to his words,because that only helps and matters,what swami expects of us is the UNITY with which we proceed in serving him and if that is not the main ingredient than he will be least interested in whatever we do,
Well said bro..Anonymous...but sometimes our interpretation of Swami's words also seem to differ from another...would you agree...
Anonymous said…
very true...our interpretations and thoughts are limited to our capacity to comprehend,but they might not convey the true reality always...for lord this world is like a doll,it is left to his interest,he can play around with thoughts,mind,people at his will,look at krishna & his dwaraka,when he decided to leave the world,he entrusted the job of protecting the kingdom to his dearest,powerful arjuna,but what had prevailed?complete loss,it was thus decided,so it happened.lord knew this,but what might have gone through arjuna's mind when he first heard the lords direction and then after the disaster,he must have gone nuts...
Anonymous said…
generally why should god have special love for dwaraka when the whole of universe is his operational ground,his creation.everything is left at his disposal.so if that is the case,what is the ideal way to survive and please the lord,by not interfering in his business and only doing what was asked to do and remain humble &silent,because when it comes to the lord we can only discuss about what he did and not what he can do.
Anonymous said…
as an example take rukmini devi and sathyabhama devi...one thought they could question,demand,control the lord and the other thought faith,prayer,patience will earn the grace of the lord,at the end rukmini devi was duly respected and honored.rukmini devi or radha they both might have been peaceful and happy always because serving the lord was their only interest and never did other things excite them.
Nice...but the comment on Arjuna is interesting. He did try to do what Krishna told him to...yet was unable to do so. The Lord and His ways are mysterious no doubt, but the point of this blog is about being judgemental. The same Lord may have said the same thing to you as to me. Yet, your interpretation of it may be very different from mine. By the way, what is your name?
Anonymous said…
kumar..im saying arjuna might have thought protecting his kingdom was not a big deal,bcoz they won mahabharat war,fighting great warriors,lord must have laughed to himself...im speaking of one's thought process...arjuna got completely humbled only after the disaster...only at the end he could say to himself lord i cant do it without u..genesis of "U R THE DOER" feeling ... had if arjuna said i cant do it without u...things would have been different......my point is our understanding depends on one's humbleness...our understanding of right & wrong,interpretations of swami's words all this depends on our thought pattern,fundamentally buddhi.
Anonymous said…
that was why i mentioned rukmini,radha & arjuna,sathyabhama,saint naamdev...i believe first 2 devotees were always humble and the rest 3 were devotees too,but their understanding of god had to be improved,so their ego's were crushed to pulp & were brought to ground.
Nice brother...wonderful points
To ask inner concious is the right way, which should make happy swami, and should not be hatmful to others, and should give peace and happyness to you. Then it is truely antharathma voice..or voice of our own god from our heart.( as said by swami in ARMY times)

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