Does Morality and Spirituality come as a package ?

In an amoral universe (is it ?) where does morality stand, and whose morality is it anyway ? Allow me to share a story..

Years ago, a struggling actor, and my first trip to LA. Went with a friend to check out a cheap Motel he had an address for. His aunt and uncle were arriving in LA.
Guess who owned the Motel ? You got it, Mr Patel and his wonderful family.
A charming host, Mr Patel insited on us sharing in some great Gujarati food. The whole family was there sitting on the floor, on beautifully laid out mats in the family kithchen. The walls were surrounded by paintings and idols of every Indian God you could think of, but primarily of beautiful gold inlaid paintings of Krishna and the Gopi’s. There in a corner was a temple devoted to Krishna. The family had obviously just finished an ‘aarti’ before dinner.
At the end of dinner we got down to bussiness, as my friend and Mr Patel began the negotiating of room rates. Patel’s gentleness totally belied his negotiating skills. I wanted to see the rooms, to see if some of the traditional decor had leaked into the rest of the Motel. Mr Patel sent his 14 year old daughter to show me around.
It was an interesting room. Spacious. But a bit overdone.Nothing Indian. Predominently browns, but still, something I could not put my finger on.
Till I sat on the bed. As I almost toppled over I realized this was Water Bed ! Looked around and realized there were too many mirrors in the room. And then on the roof right above the bed was a large roof mirror. This was a room designed for sex ! Quick as a flash I looked at the 14 year old girl standing impassively on. And averted my eyes quickly. She did not blink. She had been asked to show me the room and that was what she was doing, impatient to get back to her dinner.
The mind reeled at the thought of my friend’s old aunt and uncle trying to sleep in a water bed, surfing for for Zee TV and finding only naked copulating couples. I rushed back to warn my friend before he handed in his credit card.
There,a beaming Mr Patel, asked me if everything was ‘appropriate’.
I have had several imaginary conversations with Mr Patel since this incident many years ago. To my many imaginary questions I hear just one imaginary answer.
“My kitchen is who I and my family are, and the Motel is just my bussiness. It’s what I do to take care of my family. Which is my Dharma”.
ps – this is not a moral judgement of Mr Patel. Nor is it about the morality of sex hotels. It is an observation of a contradiction.
Spirituality is about who we are
Morality is about what we do
What happens when the two are on conflict ? As they often are. When I was filming Bandit Queen, I met many active dacoits that were avid devotees of Kali, donating half their earnings to the temples to Kali. and to the villages that looked after them. Yet, the bussiness of Dacoity is that of Kidnapping, looting and even killing.
And this could be taken to much more macro extremes. How about “I hate killing people, but as a President of a country I am forced to take decisions to go to War.”
Dont we all face this dichotomy in out lives to some degree ?

12 thoughts on “Does Morality and Spirituality come as a package ?

  1. I think this is strange but..acceptable..morality for me is something that the imorals have created to disturb this world.

  2. It reminds me of the story of the hunter who justifies his profession by saying that he does what he does so he can feed his family. I don’t buy that. If your Dharma is that of a ‘provider’, then your Dharma is also asks that you choose a profession that fits with your morality. It is not easy to always do that, but the intention should be there. At least a fight should be there to try and achieve that. Choosing the path of easy and least resistance and then justifiing it with ‘Dharma’ is a weak man’s way. I see that a lot in the world around me and find it very painful.

  3. dear shekhar,
    here u speak about the same dichotomy which troubled arjun on the batttlefield of kurukshetra…… i just want to say that we as a human race
    keep on harping about our evolution,however,we fail to see that we probably are faced with the same questions what we were asking centuries ago and yet have not found a collective answer or goal…for to just say that i am following my dharma means to kill your own sense of judgement for certain acts and enliven it for certain others(i fail to see why everybody fails to see this mass schizophrenia),secondly,if life is just about fulfiling one’s duties and then attain heaven or nirvana,the world definitely has been created by some egoistic maniac,which cannot be the case for an all loving god cannot be all loving with an ego….there is something definitely wrong with the perspective society has learnt to view life with….and is continiously generating same problem mindsets with a greater efficiency and ferocity…..

  4. I agree with Anu that choosing an easy path and then justifying it with ‘Dharma’ is a weak man’s approach. Arjuna was the best archer & warrior of his time and Lord Krishna preached Arjuna with the knowledge of the Bhagwad Geeta, Thereby ending all his attachments and affections for the rivals when he is fighting a battle. Before entering in the battlefield he knew that he has to fight with his own brothers ( kaurva’s) and Pitamah. So getting into a sudden affection in between the war was nor appropriate and neither in his favor.
    I think Patel’s story and Arujna’s example of dichotomy are totally with different situations & background; and thus in my view if Patel’s culture and values are different then his profession then he can always opt out from his current profession or slowly and gradually can plan an exit from his current business with a route to something else as per his culture. Doing the same thing inspite of possibility of other options and then blaming it on DHARMA is not appropriate in my view. In more harsh way it is like ” Muan mein Ram Ram aur bagal mein churi”
    Ajai Gambhir

  5. Morality and Spirituality are not the two sides of same coin. Morality is bound by the limits of conditioning, and it varies from culture to culture. An immoral appearing act can be purely spititual, if done with detachment and a totally moral appearing act can be non-spiritual if done with attachment.

  6. Arjun’s and Mr.patel’s situation and circumstances
    surely r different,however both choose an action based upon their moral sense,the difference is that Arjun stops from doing his own chosen action
    because of love for his brothers/guru/pitamah/friends while Mr.Patel or say most of the living human beings carry on in life without ever stopping to question their acts of morality.Arjun had god,Krishna to turn to,however,he too realized that Krishna is God only when Krishna revealed Himself to Arjun and delivered him from self-doubt and attachment,which according to Arjun was love.So once Arjun does become enlightened he is ready to do the same acts equipped with a different perspective.So now his actions are following a morality which stems out of an unconditioned or a free mind.He now becomes simply
    a medium of God’s will,for Krishna wants him to carry out this action.So to me morality and spirituality become one when a human attunes himself to that godstate and acts out of that awareness.The question is how should one lead life
    till such awareness is achieved?One thing that is clear that to attune oneself to the unconditioned stae of beibg one has to stop doing action from the condtioned state of being or at least try i.e. if there is a natural willingness to do so.

  7. Dear sir,
    In my opinion morality is one important station with which the spiritual journey starts. Spirituality can’t be exclusive of morality. The transition story of Angulimar cleary says that Your Dharma and Karma should be one then only Moksha is possible.

  8. Shekhar,
    Most of us are like Mr.Patel.We create our own rules and justify our actions.I tried to analyze my actions and realized that greed is the root cause.Most of us want to make it big and we use all the loopholes in this world to exploit it.We always do what we like and don’t do what we don’t like(RAGA AND DVESHA).All will be good if all of us do what’s right(Dharmic) and not do what’s wrong(Adharmic).
    The next question that comes to everyone’s mind is “Who decides what’s dharmic and adharmic”.All of us have our own beliefs.What’s right for me may be wrong(Dvesha/Adharmic) for the other person.What’s wrong for the other person may be right for me.All of us have our own justification for all our actions.We have to dwell beyond the mind to go to the next level.

  9. Morality is, well deciding/knowing what is right and what’s wrong.Your Moral values affect the society and people around you. Spirituality is for the upliftment of your own. No they r not mutually exclusive nor are they interdependent. A human being may have moral values in life but may not be spiritual at all. Morality will give a clear conscious which in turn may help you attain spirituality.
    I will not agree with Ajai Gambhir. In case of Arjuna , he had come to fight the enemies to the battle field but only on seeing his relatives, gurus and brothers he got the dilemma. Well what krishna did was give him a Psychotherapy. In the process he made him realise his mistake and cleared his doubts. Story of “Dharmavyaada” will clear all the doubts about morality.

  10. Thanks Mr. Shekhar for your experiential observations that clearly operationalize spirituality and morality.

  11. Shekhar,I didnt know much abt u but I have seen you for the first time on TV that too judging a reality show.
    I observed that you are very honest and a kind hearted man.You are spritually blessed !!!!
    If at all you read this msg – also tell sonali that she is very genuine in guessing participants.I think I should not shy in saying -She is really really HOT !!!!!
    Sometime people doesn’t understand your thoughts -I really regrett on them. – Nobody can change anybody level of thinking.
    You guys are grt!!!!God bless.
    I await your reply.

  12. Primary post if lovely shekhar….
    for a while felt dizzy…
    what you said is true,
    Spirituality is about who we are
    Morality is about what we do
    Do not know how far it is true!
    But Spirituality is what we wish to attain and is (low)morality an excuse we take? is it something we lean on to justify our mistakes? Our take to simply support our irrational stupid actions?
    too confusing, its like I feel a sex worker at high on the scale of morality compared to a person cheating on ones own beloved partner.
    at least, the sex woker is doing her job, to take up that as a job is again a question of morality, but not every one enters that job by choice, some are forced into it, some think that they are not left with any option. But ya the situation you were in…. will put one to think sensible and act sensible for the rest of life….

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