Mahabharata and the Bhagavad Gita (September 2000, Super School Auroville) - Track 7

So till yesterday our passage was easy, mainly story and understanding the text. Now we shall make a little climbing. We now try to understand the argument, not only State's argument but understand the argument. So let us start with a few words I want to give you. First word I want to give you:


We shall see what it means. The second word, a longer word:


a still longer word:

Categorical Imperative

These three words. We should restrain ourselves to three words. Now to understand the argument of Arjuna, I will give you a ladder. So these three words you'll be able to climb the ladder of understanding. These three words were not known to Arjuna. But the ideas that are covered under these three words are to be seen in this argument. What is Hedonism? Hedonism, I am not defining so you understand we have to have genus and differentiate. Hedonism is a theory that is a genus of Hedonism. It's a theory, T H E O R Y, theory. There are many theories in the world. Like theory of gravitation is also theory. A theory is a general proposition. A theory is a general proposition, universal proposition. A statement which is true of all − that's the meaning of a theory. 

So Hedonism is a theory. Now comes the differentiate. It is different from all other theories. A theory concerning what is good. Now even with regard to such theories, there are many, there are many theories of the Good. What is good? What is bad? There are many theories. 

Among these theories, Hedonism maintains that pleasure is good. Hedonism is a theory according to which pleasure is good and therefore one must seek pleasure, one must try to seek pleasure and enjoyment. So this is first theory − Hedonism theory according to which pleasure is good and seeking of pleasure is good; and therefore one must seek pleasure and enjoyment. 

Now, we come to the next word: Utilitarianism. 

So basic word there is utility. Utility means usefulness. So according to this theory, again, it's a theory of the good but which says that which is useful is good. According to this Theory that which is useful is good. If pleasure is useful, then pleasure is good. If pleasure is not useful then that is good, whatever is useful. Very often we say, oh, he's a good man. Why? He's very useful. That is utilitarianism. Education is good, why? Because education gives you certificate and certificate gives you employment. This argument is a utilitarian argument. It is utilitarian view of education. It doesn't tell you why education is really good. Supposing education does not give you certificate then, is education bad? That argument doesn't apply to utilitarianism. If education is useful for whatever it may be it should be useful. That is good. Now there's a deeper question: useful to whom, useful to me, useful to my group, useful to my country, useful to the world, useful to some, useful to all? These questions are also asked. So the answer of Utilitarianism is: it's a theory of the good according to which that which is useful to the maximum number of people is good, that which is useful to the maximum number of people is good. There is also a view that therefore one should seek. If you combine Hedonism and Utilitarianism, then you get a special variety of Utilitarianism. If pleasure is good then it says that one must seek the maximum pleasure of the maximum number of people. This is one view of utilitarianism: one must seek the maximum pleasure of the maximum number of people. There is a further deeper question. What is pleasure? If maximum pleasure of maximum number of people is to be sought after then a deeper question arises. What is pleasure? If you eat ice cream which is pleasant and if you fall ill thereafter, which is painful, then is eating ice cream good. Does it give you pleasure? It gives you pleasure now but gives you sickness afterwards, but not in every case. If maximum number of people get maximum pleasure in eating ice cream without falling ill then ice cream is good for the whole society. Or you should prescribe that you should have ice cream in your society. That is called Utilitarianism. But you can easily see now that this question is quite deep; a superficial answer won't do. There are many, many things which are present now which ultimately turn out to be very bad. Then there are pleasures which are short duration, pleasures which have long duration. There are pleasures which are intense, there are pleasures which are not intense, they give you a slight pleasure but not intense pleasure. But sometimes intense pressures are having short duration and less intense pleasures may last long. That also is a fact. 

Again, the question is what is pleasure? There are three kinds of pleasures: the pleasure of the senses, there are pleasures of knowledge, there are pleasures of character. Character is a stable state of virtue or virtues. Stable state a virtue or virtues is called character. You take a number of virtues like sincerity, aspiration, faithfulness, loyalty, goodwill, number of them, generosity, steadfastness, persistence, perseverance, so many virtues. So there are pleasures of character. So there are three kinds of pleasures. Now these three kinds of pleasures may also have conflict among themselves. If I say sexual pleasure, I have to forego the pleasure of knowledge. I can't read a lot of books. I can't study. I can't dialogue with people. That kind of pleasure is gone. I may spend a lot of time or knowledge, but I don't develop virtues. In the time of difficulties you find virtues help you more than knowledge and vice versa; you develop only character but neglect knowledge and that are also is not correct. So Utilitarianism is a theory which discusses all these questions. It's a theory as to what is good and prescribes that which is useful, that which is pleasant, that which tends to knowledge, that tends to character is good and then enlarge it, that which gives you maximum pleasure of maximum number of people, that which promotes maximum knowledge of maximum number of people, that which promotes maximum character of maximum number of people that is good. 

Now comes the third word: Categorical Imperative.

Imperative is command. Even in grammar you must have learned imperative mood. No? I don't know whether you learnt or not. Grammar, when you say, sit down, stand up. These words are called imperative. They make a command. Any word which expresses a command is called imperative. A command is always in the form of "should, must." "You must stand up. You must read." So all imperatives are connected with the word 'should' or 'must' or 'ought to'. Whenever you say "You must seek pleasure" is also command, imperative. You must seek maximum pleasure of maximum number of people is also a command. But it is different from Categorical Imperative. Imperative is command but there is a categorical, that is a somewhat different. Categorical is a word which is opposed to conditional. When you say it is a categorical demand there is no condition in it. It's unconditional. Conditional means that which refers to result. If you want to succeed, then you must work hard. This is a conditional command: if you want to succeed then you must work hard. So you must work hard is conditional upon your desire to succeed. So whenever any command is made to you or whenever you say this is good which you must follow but it is conditional upon something else, it is called conditional Imperative. Now, Hedonism and Utilitarianism give you always conditional imperatives: if you want to be happy, if you want to develop character, if you want such and such a consequence then do this or you must do this. So hedonistic philosophy and utilitarian philosophy gives you commands but these commands are conditional. Now this theory, Categorical Imperative, is different from these theories. It says you must do something not because you want something else, you must do the right thing because it is right. You must do the right thing but simply because it is right. So according to this theory there are certain things which are right in themselves not because they are useful, Education is good. You must be educated. Why? Because it is good. It's a right thing not because it will give you high positions and all that. It is right in itself. It's a different level when we say that education should not be utilitarian, it means that education must be pursued for its own sake because it is good in itself, not because of certain consequences that will bring about. It is right that you are educated in itself. It is right that you exist. Why do you exist? It is right that you exist. Existence itself is right, is good. You must be generous. Why? It is good to be generous in itself. You must be sincere. Why? Because sincerity is good in itself. So when somebody says "be sincere", you ask the question: why should I be sincere? You should be sincere, it's a Categorical Imperative. We should be sincere because it is good in itself. 

Now, these are the three important theories in the world, of the whole world. Whenever people say good, bad, right, wrong, you've now a mastery that nobody can go beyond these three formulas. Whenever people say, this is good, bad, right, wrong, you can ask the question: is it Hedonistic view? Is it Utilitarian view? Or is it view of Categorical Imperative? Right? Very easy! Whenever people discuss right, wrong, you can easily master the arguments if you know these three ideas. You have now got a key as it were in your hands to understand any argument in which good, bad, right, wrong is discussed. You can easily now evaluate If the argument is hedonistic, it is a lower level; if it is utilitarian, it is slightly higher level; if it is Categorical Imperative, it is still at a higher level. So this is the barometer. You can judge an argument at three levels. If something is Hedonistic, Utilitarian or Categorical Imperative. 

Now, the whole argument of Arjuna is connected with this question. What is right and what is wrong? That was his question when he says "I will not fight" when he says, Arjuna says, "I will not fight." This is his basic argument. Is this a conclusion? Isn't it? He said "I will not fight" and he gives reasons as to why he should not fight. Now if you examine his argument, it says "I will not fight." The origin of the argument is the sense of horror, the sense of pity. He had decided to fight he had come to the battlefield for fighting. He decided it is good for him to fight that was his decision, good to fight. He had come because he felt the fighting is good. So this idea of good is the central question when you try to understand the argument of Arjuna.

Now having come to the battlefield he suddenly decides it's not good. So naturally you should ask the question:

What is the hedonistic argument? What is the utilitarian argument? What is the argument of categorical imperative in all the series of arguments that he gives. That is the way in which to understand his argument. Then you are master of his argument. Then you can find an answer. If you want to answer an argument in regard to good or bad, right or wrong, then you should always have this barometer. Whatever is argued about, is it hedonistic? Is it utilitarian? Is it categorical imperative, or something else, If there is something else. 

Now, let us go through the argument. I only give the argument, the key to argument, how you judge an argument. So once again, we study the argument. All right, I read again this argument one by one and tell me what is the argument?

seeing these, my own people O Krishna, thus eager for battle, my limbs fail and my mouth is parched, my body is quivering and my hair stands on end.

Is it hedonistic argument, utilitarian argument, is it an argument at all? He is simply describing his condition but there is implicit argument in it. Although it's a description, not an argument; there is implicit argument in it. "My limbs failed. My mouth is parched. My body is quivering and my hair stands on end" is a condition of being miserable. Isn't it? What he says I am now feeling miserable, I'm unhappy, I have no pleasure in it. So he's describing a state of unhappiness, state of disgust even, not only unhappiness but even more sense of horror, sense of disgust. What is the motive of this disgust? What is behind it? Because of unpleasantness. That means he seeks pleasure and now pleasure is denied therefore I don't want it. Isn't that so? So this argument is basically based upon Hedonism: I must seek pleasure, I must be happy, but this condition makes me unhappy, is unpleasant therefore I reject it. So you will see here it is a based upon Hedonism: I want to seek pleasure, this activity does not give me pleasure therefore I reject it. It's a hedonistic argument.

Then he describes further:


that is my bow,

slips from my hand and my skin seems to be burning. I am not even able to stand and my mind seems to be whirling.

These are all conditions of being miserable, same continuing of the same argument.