Dr. Vijai S Shankar MD.PhD.
India Herald
Houston, USA 
18th February 2009

Right and Wrong

“Neti Neti”


In every house, society and nation daily life is viewed as being either right or wrong. If life is right, then daily life appears to be harmonious but, if it is wrong, then all hell breaks loose. Man is convinced that life could be either right or wrong and he wishes to keep things right, or at least tries to. The discord in every house between husbands and wives, between each member of the family, is based purely on concepts of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. The same exists wherever and whenever man meets man, irrespective of the place or time.

Man is upset, disturbed, angry, sad, disappointed, worried, anxious and frightened to come to terms with himself when things go wrong. He is unstable and feels defeated. On the other hand, when things go right, so to speak, he is elated, proud, happy and boastful; he feels victorious too. So, it is no small wonder that man longs to be right and never wrong: it is a matter of harmony. If life is right, then harmony seems to prevail and, if not, life is found to be disharmonious.

Man expects and insists that man, objects and animals should work in a right and never a wrong way. He expects and insists so that he may use them. He expects and insists that everyone’s behaviour should be right and never wrong. This to man is an ideal life. He appears to know what his expectations and insistences mean, but why has it not been possible for him to make life so? Is he sure what life is and whether his expectations and insistences are feasible or not? He believes he knows, and so hopes for the day when his expectations and insistences will be a reality. 

Man prays to the God he believes in to make life always right and never wrong. He follows the religion prevailing in the family he is born into, carrying a hope that his every desire and wish may be right and never wrong. He does not follow his religion for any other reason but this and every religion, irrespective of the God it represents, is very clear about what is right and what is wrong. Every religion proclaims and admits the presence of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. But the paradox is that what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ for one religion is not so for another. So, who or how could man determine what ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ really is? 

Even religion that is true to one man is not so to another. This is very much in evidence, because man is bitter with his fellow man that belongs to a religion that is not his. In every religion, holy men preach and present ways and means of making life ‘right’ and defeating what is considered ‘wrong’. But could religion, the pall-bearer of God’s teachings, make claims of right and wrong? Would the God represented by the religion manifest anything that is wrong in this world? It is hard to imagine that He would, but nevertheless the religion preaches that it is so. This is proof that every religion claims that their God is capable of creating wrong. Could religion be really religious if it accepts that their God is guilty of wrong? Could religion be religious if it labels any other religion as not being the right religion? But this religion preaches too, and it should make man wonder in disbelief if wrong preached by religion could be right.

Man cannot create anything ‘wrong’, let alone ‘right’, for he is not the creator of himself. If he were, then he would have made sure that he creates himself rightly and so could never be wrong on any count. It is believed that God created man and, if so, he would be real in all aspects - real meaning that which does not change and is everywhere and eternal. The fact that man believes that he could be either right or wrong and, at the same time, cannot precisely predict the moment when he would be, proves that he does not create right or wrong. All that he can say is that he finds himself suddenly either right or wrong, and this is every man’s knowledge, ‘that he is caught off guard.’  

Who could it be then who creates right or wrong? Maybe there is nothing absolutely right or wrong. Maybe right and wrong are illusory just as the enlightened have proclaimed. Man needs to understand the illusory as illusory rather than make efforts, which would be illusory too, to escape from the wrong or correct them. 

Man decides for God the almighty and believes that God is almighty, and there is no need to convince him about this. He dies and kills his fellowmen for his religion and rises in arms to protect God’s honour. If God were really almighty, would He not be able to make His own decisions? Man thinks that he can decide for God, and should too, to protect God’s honour, so to speak. He does not, however, wish any man to decide for him, for he says: ‘Do not interfere in my life; I know what to do and decide.’ Would God want anyone to interfere in His life? Would God require man to interfere in His life? This is unthinkable, surely. If it is so, then how sure could man be that God is and will be his saviour? 

Man realises that he sometimes cannot make a decision for himself in everyday life. If he were the doer, there would be no need to decide at any time: he could do whatever he wished. Only if he did not have to decide at all in his life would he have the authority to decide for God, and not otherwise. If it were not so, how could man decide for God? Maybe God is not insulted at all and His honour is never at stake. Would God not be able to decide for Himself as He is almighty? If God required man to decide for Him and protect His honour, would this not make man almighty and not God? Could this ever be right? Man needs to ponder. This happens too so that man may understand how illusory he and his mind are.

Man decides to protect God’s honour because it is proclaimed in some religious texts that he should. Would not such proclamations make religious scriptures wrong? Why would God write such scriptures when all are His creations in every moment? It must be remembered that God has written the religious scriptures as man, so that man may understand the illusory nature of beliefs. God needs to be alive in every moment to keep the moment alive.

Man reads Holy Scriptures because he believes that they will show him a way to live life rightly. He flocks to a holy man because he believes that the holy man will and can grant him his desires and expectations. This is the only reason why he flocks to a holy man and no other. Man respects and accepts that the word of an enlightened is true and the enlightened have proclaimed that the world is illusory. If this is so, would not man’s expectations and insistences that everything should be right and never wrong be illusory too?

Man is evaluated by judgments of right or wrong; he is never embraced as God has created him. He is convinced that he is either right or wrong in life, but no man is absolutely right or wrong. It is difficult, or next to impossible, to find a man who has been either right or wrong throughout his life. Everyone wishes to be right always and no-one wishes to be wrong, even once in his life. Man believes that being wrong does not make him a good man, while being right does.

If man desires to be ‘right’ always, he can be because he believes he is the doer. God would definitely not stop him from being ‘right’ so that he may be wrong. Man also would definitely not stop himself from being right so that he could be wrong. So, it could only be an observer who either makes or identifies him as wrong. Now, would that not make the observer wrong by either identifying or making man wrong? It certainly would. 

If the observer identifies or makes man wrong, it would mean that the observer is really the one who is wrong and not the one who gets branded as wrong. Man could never do anything wrong, for he would always do everything right, and there is no such man. Only a man, who always does what is ‘right’, has the authority to brand the other as right or wrong. This would make such a man wrong as well for it is wrong to say the other is wrong. So, no man could have the authority to brand man as right or wrong.

Man merely identifies the other as right or wrong. How could such an observation be valid when no man has ever done or could do anything right or wrong, or could have the authority to identify another as either right or wrong? Such is the power of illusion that convinces man that he has done either right or wrong when he has never done anything at all. Man has never been, never is and never could be the doer. This is the meaning of the two words ‘Neti Neti’, which translate as ‘Not this, Not this’, meaning that man could be neither right nor wrong.

Man’s life, however, is filled with rights and wrongs; for example, it is wrong to wake up late in the morning. This is the belief modern man holds in his mind. But is he sure that he wakes up every morning? Yes, it is obvious that he wakes into the waking state but does man do anything to get into the waking state every day? He simply wakes up and precisely too when he is meant to, which appears as the rightful thing to do. 

Man may argue that he wakes up because of the alarm clock. Then it would be the alarm clock that is right and not man. If he could wake up and start the alarm clock to wake him up, then he could claim that he is the one who wakes up every day. In that case where would be the need for an alarm clock? He could wake up any moment he wishes to. Since it is not man who wakes up every morning in order to be right, how could the one who does not be wrong? He wakes up every morning at the precise moment when he is meant to. It is not in man’s hand to wake up, nor is anything else in life.

Now consider waking up early in the morning as the rightful thing to do and waking up late as the wrong thing to do. These are man’s belief, but how could this ever be possible in life? In life there is only one moment and this moment is eternal. There are not many moments in one moment, but just one. If there were many moments in one moment, then it would be possible for man to wake up on time or late, in which case either right or wrong would exist. If this existence were real, right or wrong would never disappear but would be eternal. All men would be right or wrong eternally. It would mean that life would be either absolutely right or absolutely wrong. In that case man could never know whether he is right or wrong, because he needs duality to recognise that and, if existence were real, duality would never exist 

This means that right and wrong co-exist in the same moment and their existence is temporary and not real, for they all disappear. In the singular moment some need to sleep longer so that others may be awake to manifest the duality of right and wrong. To be awake someone needs to be asleep. Be grateful to the one who sleeps longer for he or she has given you an opportunity to admire life and its miraculous manifestation of light and sound. Could man be grateful to life whenever he condemns man for sleeping late and thereby gives the observer the opportunity to admire life?

It is not man who creates the morning; he merely finds himself in the morning. Life is always ahead of the mind; the mind lags behind life as life is light and mind is sound. Life is light and it reflects an optical illusion of colour, form and actions, while the mind is sound, which reflects an auditory illusion of words with meanings suggestive of actions and feelings of right or wrong.  

There is nothing wrong in life as against right, and nothing right in life as against wrong. You are meant to be where you are meant to be. You are not anywhere where you are not meant to be. If the mind thinks that you are not meant to be at some place, understand that it is where life means you to be. The mind cannot understand the singular movement of life because it is not meant to. It knows illusory labels and recalls them to delude man as being real. If the illusory mind were understood, it would have revealed reality.

Right thoughts happen to man and, for these to be recognised as right, wrong thoughts need to happen to some man in the same moment elsewhere. Right words spoken happen to man and, for these to be recognised as right, wrong words need to happen to some man in the same moment elsewhere. Right acts by man happen to man and, for these to be recognised as right, wrong acts need to happen to some man in the same moment elsewhere. Thoughts, words and acts are illusory and not real. 

Thoughts, words and acts delude man as being real because he believes that there are many moments in one moment and, therefore, right and wrong do happen. There is only a singular moment in life and so right and wrong thoughts, words or acts cannot possibly happen. Only one feeling can happen in any moment and, if it did, man would not be able to recognise the feeling. Duality is necessary for recognition. Therefore, feelings of right and wrong would be needed in the same moment for recognition to happen, and their presence could happen only if they were illusory and not real. If right or wrong were real, only one of the feelings could happen in any moment and, if it did, recognition could never be possible; life could never exist.  

When thoughts, words or acts happen, which appear as right, man believes that wrong does not happen in the same moment. If he did understand that wrong too happens in the same moment as right, he would understand that right is as wrong as wrong is and wrong as right as right is. Duality is illusory in an illusory world, and never real. 

Understand that devotion happens to man and, for devotion to be recognised as right, disloyalty needs to happen to some man or woman in the same moment elsewhere and vice versa. Praise happens to man and, for praise to be recognised as right, condemnation needs to happen to some man or woman in the same moment elsewhere, and vice versa. Love happens to man and, for love to be recognised as right, hate needs to happen to some man or woman in the same moment elsewhere, and vice versa. Every feeling is just the same as its opposite and the difference is relative but not absolute. Devotion, praise and love are eternal. 

They become eternal the moment man realises that their opposite is just the same as them and the difference is only of degree. The difference in degree is what deludes the mind into thinking that feelings of right and wrong are real. Therefore, the devotion, praise and love that disappear are illusory and never real. They have not disappeared, but remain the same, only in lesser degree than before. If man thinks the other is wrong, it means he just cannot recognise ‘right’, which you nevertheless are, but not to the extent he did when he thought of you as right.

There is not a right way or a wrong way to do things. The right way is the way life flows and the wrong way, too, is the way life should flow so that the right, which may be recognised as right by man, may happen. The wrong is right too, which man does not recognise as being right. Both right and wrong are together and harmonious, while they appear separate in the mind for the drama to go on eternally as disharmonious. 

Harmony means that right and wrong are both together in every moment there is, and cannot be separate from each other. Life is harmonious and so too the right and wrong in the mind are harmonious, all illusory, but never real. Everyday or frequent arguments between husband and wife, based on being right and wrong, though valid and convincing, just cannot be real in the schema of life. They do happen so that man may understand the illusory nature of right and wrong. Similarly, any arguments or conclusions judged right and wrong, though valid and convincing, just cannot be real in the schema of life, because life is timeless and thoughtless. They are valid in the schema of the mind and the mind is not in life and cannot be in life, as life is timeless and thoughtless. They do happen only in the mind so that man may understand the illusory nature of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. 

Religion too can never be only right and never wrong. If religion were only right, it would not exist at all. To exist as a religion, it needs to be dual and is both right and wrong. Religion can be both right and wrong as duality only in the mind and not in life. Spirituality too can never be only right and never wrong. If it were only right, spirituality would not exist at all. For spirituality to exist, it needs to be dual and is both right and wrong. Spirituality can be both right and wrong as duality only in the mind and not in life. Life is free of religion and spirituality as life is timeless and thoughtless. This is what makes life to be freedom and enlightenment. 

Author: Dr. Vijai S. Shankar
© Copyright: V.S. Shankar, 2009

Editors Note:
Religion and morality are probably the two most important issues in the lives of human beings. They bind together those communities whose values are shared, be they global or local. They are opposed by those communities who do not share those values or the interpretation of those values. Opposing belief systems have frequently led to violence or even to warfare. In wisdom, Dr Shankar is presenting in this article a fundamental and lucid insight into these two major issues. It is a remarkable treatise setting out with deep and lucid understanding the essence of these issues in terms of being regarded as right or wrong. Would that this understanding be shared in every human community in order to liberate troubled mankind from perpetual disharmony and discord, if it is meant to be so. In the context of human conflict through the ages, this is a supremely important message of understanding.
Julian Capper. UK

German Translator‘s Note: 
What is right and what is wrong is constantly told to every child from early childhood in different ways: "Don't do this! Don't do that! This is right!" And also at school, often already in kindergarten, the statements and actions of the children are evaluated according to right and wrong. This is what life wants, which conditions the human mind in this way. In the same way, at some point in time, if life wants it that way, that is, if it happens spontaneously, a person gets fed up with seeing right and wrong as the measure of all things. A deeper insight then reveals itself and freedom finally sets in. Dr. Shankar's detailed article can accompany this awakening process. So full of essential details, this text provides a remarkable counterbalance to everyday conditioning, which can be a crushing burden if it is not understood step by step. There is no shortcut to enlightenment! Every corner of the mind must be understood as illusory and the key to this is the wise understanding of right and wrong. 
Marcus Stegmaier, Germany. 

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