Foundations and Facets of Ethics

Vedic principles of ethics, empathy – Self-awareness practice in management (Mandatory for all)

Course Designer – Prof. Dr. Nagaraj Paturi
Objective – To enable the learner to understand the foundations of contemporary and Vedic perspectives regarding ethics in light of Dāsabodha

Prerequisite – None

  1. Analytical Ethics – an introduction:
    • Ethics as a branch of philosophy
    • Ethics and aesthetics as a pair in classical Greek philosophy
    • Areas of -or- approaches to ethics: Ethical norms /Ethical codes Vs Analytical Ethics (Theory of Ethics or Philosophy of Ethics)
      • Analytical Ethics: Pure and Applied Ethics
      • Branches of Pure or General Ethics:
        • Meta-Ethics (Perspectives of Ethics)
        • Normative Ethics (Ethical standards)
    • Normative Ethics Vs Ethical norms
  2. Contemporary Language of Analytical Ethics:
    • Ethics compared and contrasted with morals, customs, values, folkways, etiquette etc
    • Actions: moral-immoral, ethical-unethical, legal-illegal, legal but immoral, moral but unethical etc.


  • Virtue Ethics (classical and modern)
  •  Stoicism
  • Hedonism (Cyrenaic, Epicurean etc.)
  • Consequentialism: State consequentialism, Teleology or General Consequentialism (including various kinds of Utilitarianism)
  • Deontology
  • Pragmatic Ethics
  • Ethics of Care
  • Role Ethics
  • Anarchist Ethics
  • Post-modern Ethics etc.
  • Ethical realism
  • Ethical cognitivism
  • Ethical naturalism etc.
  1. Dāsabodha Ethics as a Vedic view of Ethics:
    • Dāsabodha on Vedas, dharma etc.
  • Hedonism, ethical nihilism – Vedic version: Lokāyata /Cārvāka: comparison
  • Dharma as the common axis between Vaidika and Avaidika traditions
  • Comparison of notions of ethics in the Vaidika and Avaidika (Bauddha, Jaina etc.) dharma traditions
  • Distinct features of ethical ideas of Vedic tradition

Vedic idea of Dharma: Ritam, Dharmah, Satyam

  • Natural Law in the west and India
  • Connection of Ethics to cosmic order
  • Truth in Science and Natural Law
  • Sṛṣṭidharma, prakṛtidharma = laws of nature – subject matter of natural sciences
    • as independent of human presence
    • human actions right or wrong
    • ethical or unethical
    • as the laws governing the ‘actions’/behaviour of non-human beings
    • as the laws governing the physical, biological aspects of human body
  • Ṛtam, the cosmic order, law underlying all laws – How Ṛtam relates to Dharma and Satyam (the Truth); (Ṛtam as non-relative (absolute) (deśakālābādhita)) Dharma and non-relative (absolute) (deśakālābādhita) Satyam at the same time
  • Śṛuti (the eternal spirit) and smṛti (the time-suited code)
  • Relative (deśakālabaddha) and non-relative (absolute) (deśakālābādhita) Dharma
  • Natural law – manmade law; Dharma – rājājňa (modern constitutions etc.)

Facets of Dāsabodha (Vedic) understanding of Ethics:

Ethics as do’s and don’ts:

  • Dharma as vihita, vidhi and niṣedha
  • Mīmāṁsā view of Dharma: Vidhi and niṣedha
  • puṇya and pāpa ; svarga and naraka; how are they connected to karma: Nitya, naimittika and kāmya (jyotiṣṭomena svargakāmo yajeta)
  • Normative ethics or standards underlying vidhis and niṣedhas: Dāsabodha (Vedic) view Dharma as duty, the deontological aspect of ethics
  • Dharma as guṇa /lakṣaṇa/svabhāva = characteristic/property
  • Dharma as law
  • Dharma as justice
  • Dharma as charity (paropakāraḥ puṇyāya; pāpāya parapīḍanam)
  • Rewards and punishments as the consequence of cosmic order’s sustenance of itself
  • Individual small in front of the system, organization to cosmos
  • Link between Dharma as guṇa and Dharma as duty; ‘acting as per svabhāva is duty’ presupposes svabhāvas being created as per the requirement of sustenance of universe
  • Svadharma (svaguṇakarmānuguṇa-karma) is ethical and paradharma (karma different from or contrary to svaguṇakarma) is unethical

(Is it unethical to earn power and wealth or pleasure in general and sexual pleasure in particular?
Are ethics an obstruction to earn power and wealth or pleasure in general sexual pleasure in particular? )

  • Dharma as a sustainable path to acquire artha and kāma
  • Dharma cannot stand alone other than as a path to acquire something (Dharma cannot be acquired alone just as dharma; acquiring dharma means acquiring artha, kāma etc. in a dhārmic way)
  • Is dharma innate or acquired? Are desire for artha and kāma innate/fundamental (Marx and Freud) and dharma post-natally acquired i.e., not innate? (Super-ego of Freud; ethics making of ruling class by Marx)
  • Innate dharma view in Vākyapadīyam (All the four puruṣārthas are innate)
  • Antarātmā /antassākṣī /manassākṣī etc. (Conscience) in Vedic texts
  • Conscience, conscious or unconscious? Innate or acquired?
  • Dāsabodha (Vedic) theory is that ethics (dharma) is innate (All the four puruṣārthas are innate) (Evidence from Vākyapadīyam)
  • Conscience or intuitive ethical sensitivity
  • Antarātmā /antassākṣī /manassākṣī etc. (Conscience) in Vedic texts
  • Is conscience conscious or unconscious?
  • Is conscience innate or acquired?
  • Psychological interpretation of puṇya and pāpa, svarga and naraka; lokas and their psychological interpretation; apūrva and pratyavāya; puṇya and pāpa ; svarga and naraka – their connection to conscience
  • Citragupta as antassākṣī; Yama as Dharma
  • Freud’s super ego, his concept of guilt etc. innate-acquired discussion.

Liberation (Mokṣa) (Nirvāṇa in Bauddha and Jaina) and Ethics (Dharma) – their mutual relation

  • Is ‘not seeking’ or ‘being opposed to’ mokṣa unethical?
  • Is ethicality essential for mokṣa?
  • When can mokṣa-centred life be unethical?
  • Empathy as the basis of all ethics (dharma)
  • Confucius quote: Don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you
  • Jňāna: Knowledge of consequences; knowledge of spirit behind the code
  • Āshā: Desire for reward
  • Bhaya: Fear of punishment
  • Code gives consequences – Code given consequences can be real or meant for motivating
  • Conscience based ethical behavior
  • Empathy based ethical behaviour

Multiple dimensions of Ethics (Dharma) and, Ethical Dilemma (Dharma-saṁśaya):

  • Public dimension e.g., rājadharma and private dimension e.g., pitṛdharma, bhartṛdharma etc.
  • Cases (narratives) from epics for dharma-saṁśaya (ethical dilemma) and their pariṣkāra (resolution)
  • Real contemporary life examples for the same
  • Apparent and the real dharma situation
  • Apparently unethical , actually ethical situations – Cases (narratives) from epics
  • Real contemporary life examples

Ethics in Business /Management: Dāsabodha (Vedic ) view

  1. Manager’s internal environment:
    •    Boss, colleague/team member, and subordinate
    •    Empathy (sahānubhūti /parātmānubhūti) as the secret of ethical and effective leadership
    •  New management models
    •  Push towards values, ethics, responsivity etc.
    •  Accountability and Satyam (truthfulness)
    • Bhagavadgītā-management – Ethical aspects dharma-mokṣa combination
    • Sexual harassment : Dharma-kāma relationship
  1. Manager:
    • Direct and indirect relationship with the clients
    • Empathy (sahānubhūti/parātmānubhūti) and accountability (Satyam – truthfulness)
    • Profit (artha) and dharma
    • CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) as dharma
    • Corporate Governance as Satyam
    • Ethics in public and private relationships
    • Nīti (strategy) and dharma (ethics) balance