What lessons in ethical decision making can we learn from each of the crises faced by Draupadi, Rama, and Arjuna?
In Hindu thought, what is the relationship between ethics and living a balanced life? How can Hindu ethical teachings help us to live better lives?
Ethical Lessons From Hindu Epics
In present times, a lot of emphasis is placed on the importance of ethics and ethical decision making in everyday life, both in the social and business context. Often, scholars try to draw lessons from Hindu epics such as Mahabharata and Ramayana and characters such as Rama, and Arjuna to enlighten individuals on ethical decision making and the outcomes of such practices. Despite being Indian epic stories, there are several lessons on ethical decision making people of different religions can learn from the crisis faced by Draupadi, Rama, and Arjuna, including integrity, moral duty, and respectfulness.
Among the vital lessons in ethical decision making that we can learn from the crises faced by Rama is the need for individuals to choose integrity in their everyday life. Notably, Rama was forced to exile following Kaikeyi’s wish to King Dasaratha (Brannigan, 2010). On the one hand, Rama had a choice to defy his promise and refuse to go to exile or keep his word and fulfill Kaikeyi’s request. Rama chose integrity over the throne and went to exile for years. This crisis teaches us to choose integrity over personal gains, as Rama decided to keep his word over taking over his father’s throne.
The crises faced by Draupadi and Arjuna also teach us the importance of moral duty and respect in ethical decision making. Notably, Arjuna chose moral responsibility when he faced conflict on whether to indulge in a ‘just war’ (Chandramouli, 2012). Also, the scenario where Krishna defended Draupadi’s dignity during her enslavement teaches us the need to choose what is right, such as respect, despite the majority being against it.
According to Hindu thought, there exists a connection between ethics and living a balanced life. The relationship is manifested in the interconnection of people’s actions and how attached people are to the outcomes of such acts (Brannigan, 2010). In other words, a balanced life is only achieved if a person detaches themselves from inflated self-importance. Such Hindu teachings can help us live better lives by enlightening us that a balanced life only exists when we undertake our duties in an egoless manner.
Brannigan, M. (2010). Striking a balance: a primer in traditional Asian values. Rowman & Littlefield Publisher. ISBN: 0739138464, 9780739138465.
Chandramouli, A. (2012). Arjuna: Sage of a Pandava warrior-prince. Leadstart Publishing Pvt Ltd. ISBN: 9381576394, 9789381576397.