12.03.2008

Interconnectedness as the Foundation of Ethics

Both Wearing Black Masks is now going to quote Radhakrishnan, who, responding to Albert Schweitzer's critique of Hindu ethics, "favorably quotes" Dr. Paul Deussen, who is ultimately quoted in Daniel Zielinkski's 2007 article appearing in Journal of Religious Ethics (35.2: 291-317):
The Gospels quite correctly establish as the highest law of morality, "Love your neighbour as yourselves." But why should I do so since by the order of nature I feel pain and pleasure only in myself, not in my neighbour? The answer is not found in the Bible but in the Veda, in the great formula That art Thou which gives in three words the combined sum of metaphysics and morals. You shall love your neighbour because you are your neighbour [quoted in Kripal 2002, 30-33] (my italics added, for irony).
How's that for interconnecteness?

2 comments:

Monica said...

Ooooohhhh...very interesting, yes. But, isn't this narcissistic??? To say that I must do good to my neighbor only because I am doing good to "myself"? At least in the Christian equation there is the element of empathy--or at least the goal of empathy (love your neighbor in the way you want to be loved; treat others how you want to be treated, etc.).

Casey said...

Monica this is hugely important, and I hadn't thought about it -- and your question makes me think about it in such a nice way:

I think it's about motivation... it seems to me that in the Christian equation, the motivation is ultimately "Fear of G-d." That is, you love your neighbor the way you want to be loved because G-d is telling you to do so, not because you actually believe it'll come back to you threefold or anything.

In the Biblical view (and I think this might be said of OT & NT), ethics rests on authority. In the Vedic view, it rests on metaphysics... In other words, it is "narcissistic" to love others only because they are yourself, but if there is only One Self, "the One," then narcissism takes on an entirely fresh meaning.

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Those who love the way the Gospels tell them to might be understood as those who "love without seeing." The Vedic version is akin to Thomas getting his wish to feel the wound for himself... maybe it's not as "blessed," but it certainly is authentic.