Morality and Hinduism

by James Stuart

Hinduism teaches that humans are moral agents who have the imperative of applying their understanding of their religion to their daily lives. Hindus believe that the supreme reality, Brahman, exists in all things, including the bodies of all individuals. Hindu morality preaches the importance of understanding and realizing this divine presence.

Specific Dharma

The central principle of Hindu morality is the idea of dharma, which teaches that each person has his own duties and responsibilities in life. Being in different stations of life entails fulfilling the dharma unique to that position. For example, morality for a child is different from that of an adult and both should fulfill their respective roles. This places a moral emphasis on harmony where all individuals conform to their societal roles.

Universal Dharma

Although Hinduism teaches that morality is unique to an individual, this does not negate a universal dharma that applies to all people. This dharma chiefly consists of service to personal Hindu deities. A moral Hindu worships Hindu deities and performs the necessary religious services, such as prayer. Other virtues, such as honesty and magnanimity, are also aspects of universal Hindu morality.

Karma

Hindu morality preaches the importance of action in daily life, and karma is the chief agent of this morality. If an individual acts morally, by helping others, worshiping deities and acting selflessly, she accrues positive karma; but when individuals fail to live up to that standard and perform acts motivated by greed or hatred, they accrue negative karma. Hindus believe that when good things happen to them, it's a result of positive karma, while bad outcomes are a result of negative karma. The Hindu belief in reincarnation means that karma also extends across lifetimes, and a negative event may be the result of bad karma from a person's previous life.

Applications

The Hindu religion teaches a number of ethical applications for Hindu morality. For example, Hindu dharma emphasizes ahimsa, or nonviolence, as any kind of violent act disrupts the moral order. For this reason, when considering the ethics of an act like abortion, Hindus believe in the course that results in the least amount of violence, and generally oppose abortion except in situations where the procedure would save the life of the mother. However, since there is no central Hindu authority or universally recognized text, individual interpretations of Hindu morality sometimes differ. For example, in India, the preference for male children leads some families to practice sex selective abortion.

About the Author

James Stuart began his professional writing career in 2010. He traveled through Asia, Europe, and North America, and has recently returned from Japan, where he worked as a freelance editor for several English language publications. He looks forward to using his travel experience in his writing. Stuart holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and philosophy from the University of Toronto.

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