We have a few legendary stories of individuals who followed a moral code, not as part of a compromise with the life principle or as a seeking for a higher reward, but for its own sake as an independent standard that needed to be carried out, for its own sake. This is an indication of the higher mental development striving to manifest in the world. When we hear the legends, we may reflect on how far distant and unattached to the values of daily living, the striving for survival, for success, for achievement, for recognition, such an ideal response actually is. Sri Aurobindo reminds us of some of these legendary individuals: “Harischandra sacrificing self and wife and child and kingdom and subjects in an unswerving fidelity to the truth of the spoken word, Shivi giving his flesh to the hawk rather than fall from his kingly duty of protection to the fugitive, the Bodhisattwa laying his body before the famished tiger, images in which sacred or epic legend has consecrated this greater kind of virtue, illuminate an elevation of the ethical will and a law of moral energy that asks for no return from man or living thing or from the gods of Karma, lays down no conditions, makes no calculation of consequence, of less or more or of the greatest good of the greatest number, admits neither hedonistic nor the utilitarian measure, but does simply the act as the thing to be done because it is right and virtue and therefore the very law of being of the ethical man, the categorical imperative of his nature.”
Such an approach, if it is based on an external moral code, can become narrow and judgmental, as we have seen through time in events such as the Holy Inquisition, where the pure ethical sense is turned into an unswerving creed used to dominate and control others, in what then becomes a fanatic and one-sided view of life. Even this approach shows the underlying striving for something pure and true, however.
Sri Aurobindo advises us of the need for a true and living response based on our inner being: “No rule imposed on him from outside, whether in the name of a supposed mechanical or impersonal law or of God or prophet, can be, as such, true or right or binding on man: it becomes that only when it answers to some demand or aids some evolution of his inner being. And when that inner being is revealed, evolved, at each moment naturally active, simply and spontaneously imperative, then we get the true, the inner and intuitive Law in its light of self-knowledge, its beauty of self-fulfilment, its intimate life significance. An act of justice, truth, love, compassion, purity, sacrifice becomes then the faultless expression, the natural outflowering of our soul of justice, our soul of truth, our soul of love and compassion, our soul of purity or sacrifice.”
This connects us to the higher realms of the Infinite.
Sri Aurobindo, Rebirth and Karma, Section III, Chapter 16, The Higher Lines of Karma, pp. 146-147, http://www.lotuspress.com/item.php?item=990117