Black, White or Grey
Most disciples agree that the principles of vegetarianism and abstinence from alcohol and drugs are as definite and unambiguous as black or white. This means that, by choosing what we consume, we can easily ensure we are pure vegetarians and do not take any alcohol and drugs. If there is doubt about anything it is best left out.
However, when it comes to the principle of moral living, somehow what was previously black or white has merged into a shade of grey. It may have become grey as far as countries’ laws and religions are concerned, but as far as universal laws are concerned, what was black remains black and what was white remains white. The so-called grey areas have been created by man, but universal laws cannot accommodate man’s modifications.
For example, marijuana used to be outlawed in most countries, but today it is legal on medical grounds in certain places. However, the Master has prohibited marijuana in all forms on this spiritual path of Sant Mat.
Abortion has been legalized in many countries, but categorizing it as ‘grey’ and potentially acceptable doesn’t negate its karmic consequences. Every action moves us either closer to spirituality or further away from it. Regardless of our ignorance of the workings of the law of karma, it will continue to keep us enmeshed.
Maharaj Charan Singh writes in Quest for Light:
Regarding legal abortion, anything that becomes legal does not necessarily become free of sin. Worldly laws are made by men according to their convenience, and these continue to change from time to time and country to country. Criteria of a good moral and virtuous life from a spiritual point of view are quite different from the civil and criminal laws of governments. There are certain fundamental truths and codes which never change and are universal.
Another example is euthanasia, which has become legal in some countries. Can this negate the karmic consequences of deliberately ending the life of a “terminally” ill patient? Baba Ji reminds us that we do not have the power to give life, so we do not have the power to take life.
Man is ingenious in blurring black and white and creating huge areas of grey. Although a country’s laws and religions may debate these issues and accommodate the grey areas, the universal laws are unalterable and the karmic consequences remain. Euthanasia may be legal, but it is still murder, no matter what the extenuating circumstances.
Similarly, veterinarians often recommend killing a pet when it is very ill, using the euphemism of “putting down” the animal. But our duty is to look after these animals and provide whatever help we can – it is not for us to decide to kill them because we can’t bear to see them suffering. Hazur asked us to imagine applying the same principle to human beings: millions if not billions would be killed if they did not meet our criteria for living.
The mystic Dariya recommends that we think carefully about killing. We should examine ourselves and “kill” our own negative tendencies, and get intoxicated on Nam, not alcohol! He writes:
If your mind is truly fond of killing,
Then do kill and I shall show you how.
Hold the sword of wisdom firmly in your hand
And kill the warriors such as lust and the other passions.…
If you wish intoxicating drinks
In order to remain oblivious to worldly sorrows,
Then be addicted to Nam, discarding pride and hypocrisy,
And remain intoxicated forever.
Dariya Sahib, Saint of Bihar
Maintaining the highest standard of moral living for the most part requires clear-cut decisions. We cannot justify our actions by applying the shades of grey created by man and the laws of any particular country. The principles of vegetarianism, abstaining from alcohol and drugs, and moral living are all essential for spiritual practice, and should be diligently practised by all initiates.