Today, with rapid developments and adoption of new technology, and consequent change in life style, direct social interaction is gradually diminishing. Learning that takes place through observation and imitation of behavior of role models too gets minimized. The entire behavior exhibited by a person is the result of learning and experience right from the birth, even though hereditary has a role in shaping the personality. While hereditary and associated genetic code, which predisposes a person to a certain set of behaviors cannot be altered, it has been proved that learning and experience can shape behavior, which is nothing but a response to a stimulus or situation. Response is also influenced by the entire endocrine glands, which is nothing but inbuilt system in living beings to help in its survival and continuation of species. To lead the generation of people to the desired direction, where their behavior should be in the expected lines of good social norms, respect for rule of law and constitution, having a great sense of nationalism and patriotism, etc., and in order to have the desirable social order, it is necessary to inculcate such values through dedicated efforts at all points of learning–home, school and college, community and media.
We are hearing and reading about crimes in Manipur. While the range of crimes is very large, it may be a good idea to focus on illegal drug trade in Manipur, which is rising very fast in spite of seizures by the security forces. All those in the drug trade–courier or drug lord–have been motivated by greed of money. The risk return ratio in illegal drug trade appears to be low when a trafficker engages in continuous trade, where seizure and loss are easily offset by gains. Those involved in supply chain of contraband drugs have little consideration of the evil effects of consumption of such drugs by the youths–both physical and mental health of drug addicts. Greed has made them blind to the evils of misuse of drug by the youths. Why are people so greedy and unconcerned about the life of others? The answer to such questions can be found in the culture and tradition of the community.
Human beings, by nature, seek freedom in any sphere of life. A child likes to play freely without any restriction and boundary. Parents and elders, who try to prevent the child from some undesirable actions, are not liked by the children. Perhaps, it is in the genes that freedom is coded for happiness. However, freedom may sometimes be at odds with chances of survival. Old wisdoms of experienced elders, even in animal kingdom, living by certain rules and norms are required for existence and survival.
Religion and religious scriptures are good sources of moral lesson. Missionary schools especially those set up in India by the Catholics Societies have compulsory classes on moral education. Aesop’s fables have underlying messages of honesty, truthfulness and other qualities, which get rewarded at the end. Young minds exposed to stories in fables or folklores get benefitted from the moral lessons of the story. For instance, the story of a cowherd, who used to shout to the villagers of the appearance of a wolf to eat his cows as a prank, lost his life when the actual wolf came and villagers lost faith in him and did not pay heed to his call for help.
Two Hindu epics of Mahabharat and Ramayan served as good source of moral lessons among the people in the valley. There were traditions of storytelling of Mahabharat and Ramayan on several occasions like birth of a child, for delight of listening to contents and moral lessons. There used to be month long story telling of Mahabharat and Ramyan in the month of October/November in every locality. It will not be an exaggeration to say that the earlier generation got benefited with moral lessons from these two epics. These epics are full of examples of righteous(dharma) behavior by several characters in the course of their lives. Hanuman’s unconditional devotion to the services of Ram and Sita in Ramayan since they came in contact teaches the moral lessons of humbleness, devotion, obedience, risking own life in the service of Ram and Sita, etc. Hanuman himself was very powerful, being the son of Sun God and Anjani. Right from birth, he was blessed with powers to fly and grow large to perform such miracles, which can be done by superman. However, he remained humble throughout his life. Lakshman, brother of Ram was loyal and dedicated to the services of his brother, Ram and sister-in-law, Sita. He left his own wife behind to accompany Ram and Sita during the journey to Forest(Ban) for fourteen years to serve them whole heartedly. He stood by his brother in all odds and difficulties during the exile.
Mahabharat is full of teachings to guide everyone to lead a life of righteousness(dharma). Bhagavat Gita, a part of Mahabharat, is full of lessons, which are the essence of Upanishads. The advice of Lord Krishna to Arjun, when the latter refused to fight with his relatives and gurus at Kurukshetra, to perform his duty without thinking about the result, hold good for everyone on this planet. The refusal of Duryodhana to give the rightful share of land to the Pandavs had a disastrous effect at the end. He, in spite of knowing Dharma, refused to follow the path of Dharma.
The present neglect of moral education in schools and colleges have much larger cost in terms of crimes, drug addiction, and damaging effect on social order. One of the objectives of every religion is to lay down certain code of conduct, which when followed strictly will ensure harmony in society. Discipline is necessary in all organizations and institutions including corporate world. It has to be inculcated as a way of life right from childhood. With lesser and lesser social interaction between elders and younger generation, the space for the children being guided by the parents is shrinking. In many families, children have little regard for the parents. This has to be stopped through concerted efforts at home and schools. As the direction and destination of a ship is determined by the captain, parents and teachers have to own the responsibilities to teach the children of moral values. We were told in our childhood that a child is like a wet clay, which may be molded by those in charge in the desired way. Napoleon Bonaparte is attributed with the quote, “Give Me Good Mothers…I Shall Give You A Great Nation!”. Good mothers and parents have a great role to play in shaping the personality of children and future of the nation. So are the responsibility of policy makers to take note of importance of moral education if they care for a better future.
The author is a retired IAS officer and former Chief Secretary, Manipur