Ethics and Sustainability –
Once, a tailor was at work. He took a piece of cloth and with a pair of shining, costly, scissors; he cut the cloth into various bits. Then he put the pair of scissors at his feet. Then he took a small needle and thread and started to sew the bits of cloth, into a fine shirt. When the spell of sewing was over, he stuck the needle on to his turban.
The tailor’s son who was watching it, asked him: “Father, the scissors are costly and look so beautiful. But you throw them down at your feet. This needle is worth almost nothing; you can get a dozen for ten paise. Yet, you place it carefully on your head itself. Is there any reason for this illogical behaviour?”
“Yes, my son. The scissors have their function, no doubt; but they only cut the cloth into bits. The needle, on the contrary, unites the bits and enhances the value of the cloth. Therefore, the needle to me is more precious and valuable.” exclaimed the tailor.
The value of anything depends on its character and utility, not on its cost-price or appearance. It is said that ‘while building a house, every brick counts and while building a character, every thought, word and action counts’. And what related to one’s thoughts- words- actions counts exactly is the quality of it. If we go by the definition of ‘ethics’, we understand that one’s behavior is governed by one’s ethics.
Let us ask ourselves: By pursuing what I am doing, will I be violating any civil or organizational law? Or are my actions fair to all concerned in the short term as well as the long term? Will it make me feel proud? All religions talk about ethics in life. Nobody can be ethical at one place and unethical at another. Just like a drop of poison in a glass of water, turns the whole water into poison, a trace of unethical behavior can ruin the ethical side of an individual. Thus authenticity as a whole needs to be established and practiced.
When a child is born to a family, all family members and relatives gather to celebrate the auspicious day and shower their blessings onto the child. The parents wish to bring up their child in the best possible manner and aim to bestow the best upon him/ her. As the child grows, he is sent to a school for formal education where teachers also wish the same for the child and try to give him the best of knowledge and skills so as to succeed ahead in life in a just manner. Education is thus believed to develop this wisdom of what is good and bad and the sense of judging our actions to each situation accordingly. Thus at every step conscious effort is being made to influence the minds of an individual such that goodness builds up and prevails in his life. But then, the burning question is- why are we still, upto this age and century, struggling to set things and matter straight? Why are we talking about mis-conducts happening all around? Why is ethical behavior an urgent need of the society? What is this buzz about ethics all about and even after each one’s conscious effort to develop goodness and ethics as a normal practice, where are things going wrong?
In the present scenario, the pressures, uncertainties and upheavals are increasing day by day in magnitude and wearing us out. People and their minds are tired. There is a dire need of some power that can enable the mind to remain stable in all situations. Where would one find such power? Since childhood, we have been trained so well to get things from people or outside world, to fulfill our requirements, so the habit or inclination to go within is under developed. On one hand man has succeeded in going beyond several light years to explore other planets and stars in the universe. While, on the other hand, man is still struggling to go a step within to explore and experience this real power. In such a situation, when we are unaware of our true self, how can we be fully conscious of our ethics and follow them all the time?
Thus the root of unethical behavior at various levels of society or in any system or organization is mere lack of self awareness which has locked up the key to the imperishable treasures of peace, love, humanity, integrity, respect, contentment and power. As a result of this lack of self awareness, when we are unable to locate this key to all the treasures within, we start looking outside to accumulate enough triggers that can simulate similar responses to these feelings, in order to make one experience them, even though for a short while. This increases our dependency on external factors and we tend to get influenced with materialism. Since the effect of peace, love, contentment, power and other such feelings derived out of materialism is short termed, we are compelled to re-initiate the hunt for the next roller-coaster of emotions and feeling. And soon this dependency takes a toll over us and transforms into addiction of materialism. After that, it doesn’t take much time for our human values to get corrupted & material values to become dominant. The first influence of materialism impacts our identity. We as Human Beings are the most intellectual beings on earth. And it is this power of our intellect that allows us to establish new connections and play with them. Our intellect justifies the meaning perceived by our mind and makes us experience the fruits of this connection with things that we own or roles that we play. Hence, losing the sight of our inner conscience over time, we attach ourselves to the materials we possess or the roles that we play. When we forget the ‘being’ part of ‘human’, we get entangled in the ‘doing’ part to derive a meaning out of our existence. This transforms our consciousness from ‘Human Being’ to ‘Human Doing’ as we start shift our identity from our innate ethical self to the quality of our possessions and the quality of our work. Ethical system of the self thus crashes and we are left at the mercy of situations and external environment which enforces the unethical behavior sparked with the feeling of identity crisis (thus individuals start struggling for survival of the fittest), aggravated by attachment, insecurity and fear.
Just as the deficiency of any vitamin in the body is treated by intake of ingredients which are rich in that particular vitamin, the deficiency of ethics in the self can be treated by first creating thoughts aligned with the ethics, followed by words which reflect our true and pure intention, free from the sting of duality and finally practicing ethical actions. The more we practise ethical means to lead life, the more the life rewards us with true inner peace, lightness, contentment, sense of self worth and achievement, encompassing us in the loop of ethical behavior. As a single negativity opens the doors to others building a negative character, initiation of ethical behavior builds-up the ethical character.
It is through knowledge of this truth and little practice, that we can resurface these ethics- originally and intrinsically programmed within the soul. At the outset, one needs a conviction to follow or practise their ethics. Going against the odds does create some friction due to resistance from those who are still in the consciousness of ‘Human Doing’. Nevertheless, the strength to flow against the river can be gained when we refine our intellects and use it to make sense of our own actions. Virtues of introvertness and fore-sightedness developed through spirituality help the intellect to be free from the limitations of prejudices of past experiences or influence of negativity, which is considered as ‘normal’ otherwise. A pure or refined and ‘free’ intellect is more intuitive, can ‘catch’ the signals from external environment, exercise better self control and take better decisions. This not only enables us mobilize our inner positivity and strength but also fills the craters on our relationships with others and enhances our working efficiency.
It is established that the future belongs to those organizations which call for good governance. Good governance also implies the one which is sustainable. Sustainability means generating favorable results every time. A sustainable governance or system means the graph of desirable outcome is progressive in nature. Furthermore, it means meeting today’s needs without compromising the needs of future generations; as it is said – child is the father of man. Good Governance and Sustainability are not based on the principle of greater material prosperity for a few, but equitable prosperity for all. It presumes that we are part of an ecosystem which we are obliged to sustain and preserve. It encompasses an element of sacrifice of our seemingly unwanted and unlimited wants and desires and it forces us to question the kind of human being we want to become. However, it is observed that good governance and sustainability often suffer from conflicts between the goals and the means to achieve the goals. For instance, some are dutiful because they want to win laurels, prestige, position or power while others do it because it gives them inner satisfaction. It is needless to mention that the former is like a patient on ventilated life support- as soon as he is put off the ventilator, the very reason of his ‘dutiful’ behavior is ceases to exist. Then the person or even may be a system, when put on next ventilator (which may include another boss, stakeholder, customer or policy), starts ‘living’ again. This violates the definition of sustainability. While for the latter, the dutiful behavior is based on inner satisfaction and thus the behavior is sustained as long the person in the system or the system exists, giving birth and sustenance to a long-lived sustainable system. Therefore, ethical governance or a system which is ethically standardized does not fluctuate with the fluctuations of the external environment and short termed luring, goals or profits. When ethics like- integrity, responsibility, self worth, respect, transparency, good will, dedication, dutifulness, truthfulness, real power and many more become natural tools used by administration or governance which ensure a fulfilled- contented self and happy and satisfied employees, co-workers, stakeholders and customers. The consequence is that human- ties become stronger, credibility increases, trust and compliance rise. Initially we protect or safeguard and sustain our ethics and consequently the same ethics protect or safeguard and sustain us in the system. Ethics and sustainability thus go hand-in-hand and complement each other.
If we extend this concept of sustainability in all spheres of corporate, societal, political and environmental systems, achieving it would require worldwide collaboration, which is not possible without shared values. Action with regard to such capacity-building is required within every sector and level of society as both formal education at school but also at home, in the community and workplace. Spirituality thus comes into picture to add the missing dimension of self awareness, self control and self transformation. When we understand what we need, it is then looking at others through the spectacles of spiritual wisdom and its experience that we automatically can interpret what others might need in the present times. Through this we can establish a world where everyone cares and shares for each other and evils like distrust, ego, jealousy, corruption, violence, non-compliance to human values etc, can be rooted out.