The Awakening Of the Moral Sense of Right and Wrong

Sri Aurobindo, having first determined that material events in and of themselves do not imply a moral content of “good” or “evil”, asks where this moral sense arises, and how it is constituted. It is the vital mind of life which first gives rise to the categorization of events and actions as being good or evil, right or wrong. This begins as an evaluation of the individual response to an event: if it appears to be beneficial or positive to me, then i treat it as “good” and if not, then it is “bad” or “wrong”. This may be based on material welfare, or a vital sense of welfare. It can expand to the level of the society and again lead to judgments of good or evil based on the values of the society, and whether it appears to lead to positive or negative results in terms of the needs of that society.

The thinking mind, as it develops, can create more subtle and powerful distinctions of right and wrong, good and evil, and thus, develops the entire viewpoint of the law of karma, or ethical/moral results from various actions or ideas. The thinking mind always attempts to discover some law or rule of order that can be followed to achieve positive results and avoid negative results. This may also take place in any field of endeavor, for instance, artistic or scientific, not just emotional or action oriented. Philosophy and religion attempt to codify laws into codes of conduct and rules of action to bring the entire life of the individual and society within this framework of action for “good” and to avoid ‘evil’.

Each of these standards or methods is limited and framed within a narrow set of parameters; but underlying them all is the deeper sense that Sri Aurobindo calls “a deeper spiritual sense, the soul’s discernment, an inborn light within our nature.” In the end, the moral sense has as its basis this spiritual truth of our existence, and it is to find and act from that standpoint that the moral sense arises and starts us on this journey of discovery.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 14, The Origin and Remedy of Falsehood, Error, Wrong and Evil

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