What does it mean to be a good person in the context of our daily actions? I have been thinking about this a lot recently. I turn to some of the core Hindu philosophical principles to try to wrap my head around this question.
I feel like many of my actions are guided by my concept of dharma. Right now I feel like that much of my life is structured around my duty to be a good student. As a senior at Penn, I look back at my three years and realize that I was extremely busy trying to fulfill this goal. That is the culture of this school, and nearly every Penn student I meet has a strong internal motivation to succeed as a student. Some will say that fulfilling our duties by working hard makes us good people. I might somewhat agree, but I think morality is much more than just fulfilling our duties.
I think a large part of what goes into being moral is the effect of one’s actions on others. Fulfilling my dharma can have a positive effect on others. Part of my dharma at this stage in life is to be a good son and brother. By doing so, I have a beneficial effect on my family members. The concept of karma can also be used to explain how the consequences of one’s actions govern morality. I feel that we have opportunities every day to help others and better ourselves by doing so.
At the same time I wonder if doing good deeds can be selfish. I was watching an episode of Friends the other day in which two of the main characters argue over the existence of selfless good deeds. They come to the conclusion that no matter what, if you do something good for another person, you feel good in the process, which can be thought of as selfish. In some views of Hinduism, the “karmic math” dictates that if we do good deeds then our souls accumulate positivity and this brings us closer to moksha (salvation). But if we are doing good deeds with this intention, is that morally right? I have not yet found a sufficient answer to this question. In my opinion, it is probably better to do a good deed simply for the sake of doing so, but at the same time the effect of one’s actions are more important than the intentions.
Morality is a difficult concept to grasp, and it is relative. In my opinion, if I can balance fulfilling my dharma while doing my best to help others on a daily basis, I will have accomplished my goal.
Composed by Govind Mattay | Engineering Class of 2016