In this week’s spotlight I want to discuss the idea of right action. For the Buddha, right action was a series of restrain injunctions, from Moses we have ten prohibition commandments, from the Sikhs we are admonished against five evils, and so it goes from all religions. Right action defined as negative admonishments.
Happiness or Ethics
Now there are political theories regarding right action that instruct us that: “According to the theory of right action, the happiness or pleasure of a greatest number of people in the society is considered as the greatest good. According to this philosophy, an action is morally right if its consequences lead to happiness of people and wrong if they lead to their unhappiness.” Of course, one can easily imagine a situation where the action pleases the majority but is criminal with regard to others, such as with genocide.
Ethics teaches us that right action means taking the right action, and this involves considering the rules that define our duty and the rights of others. Ask yourself: “What rules express my moral duty?” and “What rights must be protected for everyone to enjoy freedom and human dignity?”
With that in mine, allow me to share a story with you. Years ago, during a workshop in California, I shared a personal experience. I was discussing the idea of giving back, of helping others, of service, as I see it, to our fellow human beings. Now the experience I shared was one of a motorcycle accident—actually it was more a scooter than a cycle, but whatever. When I came on to the scene there were all sorts of people standing around gawking, some even talking to each other, but no one helping the man on the ground with the scooter. I promptly parked and went to the man. He was conscious but not fully so—confused and unsure of what happened. It was at this point in my attempt to share the story, that a member of the workshop spoke up, stating something like, “You should never do that. You could be sued.”
Think about that for a moment. What would you do? Sure, there may be some sharp angler who takes advantage of any situation, but how about you? Are you going to let an injured person lay in the street alone, without aid of any sort, not even a kind supporting word—just wait and watch, perhaps hoping someone else will arrive and care for this fellow? Is this what our culture now promotes?
“It’s none of my business,” is something I’ve often heard in situations where one person could have made a difference, and yet no one did. Indeed, research has demonstrated the Genovese (Bystander) effect, which essentially asserts that it occurs when the presence of others discourages an individual from intervening in an emergency situation, against a bully, or during an assault or other crime. The greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is for any one of them to provide help to a person in distress.
I ask all of you to think about the ramifications to a culture that encourages this effect. Is that what we want? If not, what should each of us do to ensure that at least with ourselves, it is never a hindsight regret with thoughts of, “If only I had,” or “I wish I had it to do over.” For me, right action requires that I lend aid to all who need it whenever possible. How about you?
Thanks for the read,
Provocative Enlightenment Radio
NY Time Bestselling Author of Choices and Illusion