Category Archives: ethics

East meets West: Krishna and Seneca and Comparative Ethics

Ashwini Mokashi”s Sapiens and Sthitaprajna: A Comparative Study in Seneca’s Stoicism and the Bhagavadgita (hereafter Gita), is an important addition to the growing list of publications of comparative ethics based on ancient wisdom texts. In contrasting Seneca’s writings with the text of the Gita, Mokashi makes an important contribution to the field of developing ethics in a global context. Such a dialogue can elucidate overlapping virtues despite great cultural and geographic variation showing that people from dissimilar cultures, follow a different ordering of values rather than hold differing values (1). In the Gita section of the Hindu epic, Mahabharata, two factions of the same family facing off with one another on the battlefield is put on “pause,” while the epic’s protagonist the warrior and great archer Arjuna, has an existential crisis. He confides his fears to his charioteer, Krishna, that he knows by day’s end all the casualties will be that of his own kin. Unbeknownst to Arjuna, Krishna, is actually the avatar of the Hindu God Vishnu, who walks Arjuna through the nature of life and its disciplines of knowledge, action and devotion that are not always fixed entities, but require, at times, expanding and re-ordering. The Sthitaprajna is the practitioner who has succeeded in conquering the “inner battlefield” of the warring self to reach a selfhood of moral clarity that is reflected in his actions conducted with equanimity and non-attachment. Sapere (v.), although negatively inserted into the Enlightenment war cry, to this day remains anchored in Greek, Jewish, Christian thought as the thread linking successive sources of Europe’s spiritual tradition of being “wise” or “knowing.” Morality was preserved in the lives of a Sapiens who singularly could make a great difference to the world by exercising his moral power so much so that the wise person becomes unconquerable in the world through understanding the laws of nature and following the Stoic ethical principles [p. 57]. Sapiens and Sthitaprajna advances the conversation with the classics at a time of waning general humanities curriculum. As, W. T. De Bary, author of The Great Civilized Conversation wrote, no other approach than studying the classics and the perennial questions will give us a clearer sense of direction for value judgments that have been informed by the experience of the best minds of the past and the best way to do this is to have engaged them in conversation (2).
(1) Rosemont Jr., Henry. (2015). Against Individualism: A Confucian Rethinking of the Foundations of Morality, Politics, Family, and Religion. Lexington Books. London. Pg. 21
(2) http://www.neh.gov/about/awards/national-humanities-medals/william-theodore-de-bary
Purchase at: https://www.amazon.com/Sapiens-Sthitaprajna-Ashwini-Mokashi/dp/8124609632/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=ashwini+mokashi&qid=1572275341&s=books&sr=1-1

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