Right and Wrong, How to Decide?

Perspectives and Viewpoints

by Jayaram V

Our morals are relative. What is right from one perspective may be wrong from another. Sometimes we jump to conclusions about people and situations without having full information, and regret when we come to know all facts.

Leaders in responsible positions face this dilemma when they have to make tough decisions since they know more than what the people know. Since our morals and values are relative,  it is sometimes difficult to know whether you are doing the right thing, especially when such morals are associated with religious beliefs.

For example, during the month of summer many earthworms die due to the heat when they come out of the grass and crawl on to the concrete walkways. It happens mostly after the rains. As they crawl on the cement surface with their frail bodies, the heat from the morning sun desiccates them. Sometimes you see several of them lying curled up and dead on the path as if they had a death wish and committed mass suicide. No doubt, they are a good source of protein for the birds, and Nature may have programmed it to happen to keep balance and recycle the resources.

Whenever I see the earthworms crawling on the foot paths I pick them up and put them back in the grass. I do it instinctually thinking that they need to be rescued from the heat. However, in retrospect I am not sure whether I am doing the right thing. Firstly, my actions may be delaying the rebirth of the souls present in the earthworms.

By rescuing them I may be interfering with their karma, rebirth, and destiny. Secondly, by rescuing the earthworms and interfering with the food chain, I may be depriving the birds from having their regular supply of nourishment, which can have further consequences since it is the mating season and the birds need protein to lay eggs and produce chicks.

Thus, you can see that in our world it is not always easy to know which actions are right and which are not. Your positive actions may have unintended negative consequences, and vice versa. The ascetics and yogis let go of everything and do not interfere with the worldly phenomena or the natural order of things. They withdraw from the world and let events happen on their own, remaining indifferent and equal to all situations. I am not sure whether even that is always justified. Perhaps it is why we are advised to perform actions with detachment and without desires, and expectations.

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