The Necessity and Development of the Moral-Ethical Ideal Code of Conduct

Both the individual fulfillment and the harmony of the social organization have their value. The inherent opposition between them has to be resolved in some form or fashion. Specific individuals have either rebelled against the social standard, or abandoned it entirely for an ascetic, other-worldly focus. These approaches do not represent a complete solution to the conflicting aims. Sri Aurobindo’s approach, when confronted with two opposing principles or ideas, is to find the higher standpoint from which the two can be seen as complementary aspects and thereby have their apparent differences reconciled.

“A new principle has to be called in, other and higher than the two conflicting instincts and powerful at once to override and to reconcile them. Above the natural individual law which sets up as our one standard of conduct the satisfaction of our individual needs, preferences and desires and the natural communal law which sets up as a superior standard the satisfaction of the needs, preferences and desires of the community as a whole, there had to arise the notion of an ideal moral law which is not the satisfaction of need and desire, but controls and even coerces or annuls them in the interests of an ideal order that is not animal, not vital and physical, but mental, a creation of the mind’s seeking for light and knowledge and right rule and right movement and true order.”

The reconciling principle, therefore, is the development of a mind-based standard of conduct which can overcome the force of the vital-physical principles that have ruled human life and interactions heretofore. “The moment this notion becomes powerful in man, he begins to escape from the engrossing vital and material into the mental life; he climbs from the first to the second degree of the threefold ascent of Nature. His needs and desires themselves are touched with a more elevated light of purpose and the mental need, the aesthetic, intellectual and emotional desire begin to predominate over the dmeand of the physical and vital nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 7, Standards of Conduct and Spiritual Freedom, pp. 185-186

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