Ethical action, as I see it, is action which is good for all (including the environment) both in the short and the long run.
‘Good’ is that which is conducive to health, happiness, peace, abundance, equity and balance for all people and all aspects of the environment.
In acting ethically, there are a few inherent difficulties that do not make it so easy:
All three difficulties stem from a lack of integration… a lack of being ‘in touch’. Incidentally, the word ‘integration’ comes from the Latin root ‘in tangere’, which means ‘to be in touch’. The words ‘integer’ and ‘integrity’ both have the same root.
When we are disconnected from things, and are not ‘seeing’ correctly, truthfully or completely, unethical actions arise.
Swami Vivekananda alluded to this when he wrote:
“Our Upanishads say that the cause of all misery is ignorance; and that is perfectly true when applied to every state of life, either social or spiritual. It is ignorance that makes us hate each other, it is through ignorance that we do not know and do not love each other. As soon as we come to know each other, love comes, must come, for are we not one?”
Is it possible that if we were in touch with the whole situation in time and space, and also in touch with our feelings (and the feelings of others), our actions would be more ethical? To me this appears to be the case.
The above state of being in touch with the whole is ‘wholesomeness’. It is a state of oneness, of being one with the whole.
“Wholeness is the immortal Ground of Being that we all share. We can change moods, from despair, depression, anxiety, and unhappiness, to ecstasy, bliss, joy, and happiness, for instance, knowing that none of these feelings have a permanent existence. The only Reality is Wholeness; it is the container for all our lives.”
“Wholeness is the union of all opposites, Wholeness is all there is; Wholeness is Ultimate Reality. Ramesh S. Balsekar, the Advaita sage and former Chairman of the Bank of India, expresses this fundamental truth in these words: “Consciousness is all there is or all there is, is Consciousness.” In my experience, Consciousness is a formless, seamless continuum, with no borders or divisions within it.
This ‘oneness’ or ‘wholesomeness’ has been given different labels: God, Love, Allah, Brahman, Life, Being, I AM, Buddha Nature and Suchness. It is a mysterious space of silence and action together, of perfect freedom co-existing with all sorts of bondage, of a vast emptiness interspersing vibrant fullness.
Swami Vivekananda, for whom this mystery was love, wrote;
“Love binds, love makes for that oneness. You become one, the mother with the child, families with the city; the whole world becomes one with the animals. For love is Existence, God Himself; and all this is the manifestation of that One Love, more or less expressed. The difference is only the degree, but it is the manifestation of that One Love throughout. Therefore, in all our actions we have to judge whether it is making for diversity or for oneness. If for diversity we have to give it up, but if it makes for oneness we are sure it is good.”
When we look into the deeper roots of ethical and unethical behaviour, it is clear that every form of unethical behaviour comes from a sense of deficiency, limitation, desire, and fear. On the other hand, ethical behaviour always springs out spontaneously from a sense of abundance, infinite possibilities, deep okayness and from love. We also see that in unethical behaviour there is always me and the other. While in ethical behaviour there is only a deep sense of oneness. Unethical behaviour has at its roots boundaries, fragments, separation and a blocking of the natural flow of life’s energies and resources. Ethical behaviour, on the other hand, has at its roots boundarylessness, integration, oneness and a natural flow of life’s energies and resources.
Human beings are intrinsically whole and abundant. They are one with the abundance and wholeness of life. This implies that, in their most natural and pure state, people will automatically act ethically. However, this doesn’t happen. The reason for this is that people have forgotten their Real and Whole Self. While they are the ocean, they imagine falsely, that they are a limited wave. This is an illusory state of limitation and separation leading to unethical behaviour. The antidote to this is to awaken people to their intrinsic wholeness. When one is whole, one will spontaneously be ethical in ones actions. If we recognise our interdependence with others, we see that we are all one, interpenetrating like waves dancing on and as the one ocean. We are not separate, but are all water!
As we become more whole, a natural sense of responsibility born out of compassion and love arises in us.
As His Holiness the Dalai Lama puts it:
To meet the challenges of our times, I believe that humanity must develop a greater sense of universal responsibility.
Each of us must learn to work not just for our own individual self, family or nation, but for the benefit of all mankind.
Today we are so interdependent, so closely interconnected with each other, that without a sense of universal responsibility, a feeling of universal brotherhood and sisterhood, and an understanding and belief that we really are a part of one big human family, we cannot hope to overcome the dangers to our very existence -let alone bring about peace and happiness.
Most people see ethical actions as a painful sacrifice. In reality, ethical actions are full of joy, peace, creativity, service, and excellence. As we dance forward in oneness, the bodymind becomes instrumental in awakening more and more people to the abundance which is intrinsically there.
As more people awaken to this, their thoughts, words and action begin to inspire and integrate others. Life then becomes a joyful experience of fullness moment to moment. Serving each moment with gratitude, and looking for ways in which we can expand wholeness, health, peace, joy in the moment is what happens when we work from a space of wholeness. This is exactly what ethical action is all about.
So what does all this mean for a leader?
It means that if I my thoughts, words and action has to be ethical they must be one with the wholeness of life. This is not so much a question of doing anything, as much as awakening to what is already there. It is about living a life of Joy Peace and Abundance based on being fully present to the underlying truth. It means being one with love and flowing enthusiastically forward in this understanding. Inner transformation is a process of awakening from a partial and limited notion of who I am to my real and whole self.
My own experience shows me that being mindful and present to each and every moment, is a beautiful practice to keep one in touch with the abundance and wholeness of life.
Being present to whatever is happening in the moment has many benefits. Some of these are:
How does one cultivate this mindfulness and presence? Being in the moment is more of a “knack” than a practice. It’s more like something that grows on you and becomes an approach to life. However, it helps to cultivate this “knack” with a few practices.
These are as following:
Finally, be playful about all this. Do not let ‘ethical actions’ imprison you! As St. Augustine said “Love God and do whatever you like.”
As Pema Chodron remarks in her wonderful book; “The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times”:
“We have two alternatives: either we take everything to be sure
and real-or we don’t. Either we accept our fixed versions of reality-or we
begin to question them. To train to stay open and curious-to train in
dissolving the barriers that we erect between ourselves and the world-is
the best use of our human lives. When we train in awakening, we are
nurturing the fundamental flexibility of our being. In the most ordinary
terms, egolessness is a flexible identity. It manifests as
inquisitiveness, as adaptability, as humour, as playfulness. It is our
capacity to relax with not knowing, not figuring everything out, with not
being at all sure about who we are-or who anyone else is either.”
Trust the feelings of your Heart in the now to be your guide to ethical action. If you are experiencing Joy, Energy, Enthusiasm and Peace, you are on track!
It is the universe telling you that you are One. Act on. Play on…… Let your ethical actions bring more love and light into the world.