Contribution of Moral Thinkers and Philosophers from India

Raja ram mohan roy

During the late 18th century (what was known as the Dark Age), the society in Bengal was burdened with a host of evil customs and regulations. Elaborate rituals and strict moral codes were enforced which were largely modified, and badly interpreted ancient traditions. Practices like child marriage (Gouridaan), polygamy and Sati were prevalent that affected women in the society. The most brutal among these customs was the Sati Pratha. The custom involved self-immolation of widows at their husband’s funeral pyre. While the custom in its original form gave choice to the women to do so, it gradually evolved to be a mandatory custom especially for Brahmin and higher caste families. Young girls were married to much older men, in return for dowry, so that these men could have the supposed karmic benefits from their wives’ sacrifice as Sati. More often than not the women did not volunteer for such brutality and had to be forced or even drugged to comply.

Raja Ram Mohan Roy was abhorred by this cruel practice and he raised his voice against it. He spoke freely and took his views to the higher ups in the East India Company. His passionate reasoning and calm perseverance filtered through the ranks and ultimately reached the Governor General Lord William Bentinck. Lord Bentinck sympathised with Roy’s sentiments and intentions and amid much outcry from the orthodox religious community, the Bengal Sati Regulation or Regulation XVII, A. D. 1829 of the Bengal Code was passed. The act prohibited the practice of Sati Daha in Bengal Province, and any individual caught practicing it would face prosecution. Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s name is thus etched forever as a true benefactor of women not just for helping abolish the custom of Sati, but also raising his voice against child marriage and polygamy, while demanding equal inheritance rights for women. He was also a great opponent of the rigid caste divisions of his time.

Ram Mohan Roy vehemently opposed the unnecessary ceremonialism and the idolatry advocate by priests. He had studied religious scriptures of different religions and advocated the fact that Hindu Scriptures like Upanishads upheld the concept of monotheism. This began his quest for a religious revolution to introduce the doctrines of ancient Vedic scriptures true to their essence. He founded the Atmiya Sabha in 1928, and the first meeting of this new-found religion as held on August 20 that year. The Atmiya Sabha reorganised itself into the Brahma Sabha, a precursor organisation of the Brahmo Samaj. The primary facets of this new movement were monotheism, independence from the scriptures and renouncing the caste system. Brahmo religious practices were stripped bare of the Hindu ceremonialism and were set up following the Christian or Islamic prayer practices. With time, the Brahma Samaj became a strong progressive force to drive social reforms in Bengal, especially women education.

Ram Mohan viewed education as a medium to implement social reforms so he came to Calcutta in 1815 and the very next year, started an English College by putting his own savings. He wanted the students to learn the English language and scientific subjects and criticized the government’s policy of opening only Sanskrit schools. According to him, Indians would lag behind if they do not get to study modern subjects like Mathematics, Geography and Latin. Government accepted this idea of Ram Mohan and also implemented it but not before his death. Ram Mohan was also the first to give importance to the development of the mother tongue. His ‘Gaudiya Byakaran’ in Bengali is the best of his prose works. Rabindranath Tagore and Bankim Chandra also followed the footsteps of Ram Mohan Roy.

Swami vivekanand

The most famous disciple of Ramakrishna was Nerendranath Dutta. Who became renowned as Swami Vivekananda. After the death of Ramakrishna in 1866 Vivekananda came forward to fulfil his mission. Vivekananda was born in Calcutta in 1863 in a Kayasta family. He was well educated in school and college. First he was attracted towards Brahmo Samaj and then drank deeply into the philosophy of John Stuart Mill, Hume and Herbert Spencer. Then he was persuaded to visit Ramakrishna.

Vivekananda realized the value of Western materialism. The scientific achievements and the material happiness of the West impressed him deeply. He desired for the combination of Indian spiritualism and Western materialism for a happier life of a man. He then made it a mission of his life to awaken the Indians from the slumber to a new life. He believed that man had divinity and the spark of spirituality in him.  Every individual therefore should give up fear and rise from degradation and be a noble man. By preaching about spiritual unity he advocated for a sense of national unity which attracted millions of Indians to his side. To organize social service and to infuse a sense of unity among men he founded an order to the Sanyasis or monks called Rammakrishna Mission in 1897.

Vivekananda condemned blind beliefs. He wanted to see every Indian as a modern man with a modern and rational outlook. He therefore said that I would rather see every one of your rank atheists than superstitious fool, for atheist is alive and you can make something of him. But if superstition enters, the brain is gone, the brain is softening, and degradation has seized upon the life.

Vivekananda told his countrymen to be tolerant towards each other. “We reject none, neither theist, nor pantheist, monist, polytheist, agnostic, nor atheist, the only condition of being a disciple is modelling a character at once the broadest and the most intense”, he said. He further said, “I shall enter to the mosque of the Mohammedan; I shall enter the Christian’s church and kneel before the crucifix; I shall enter the Buddhist temple where I shall take refuse in Buddha and his law, I shall go into the forest land sit down in meditation with the Hindu who is trying to see the light which enlightens the heart of everyone. Not only shall I do these but I shall keep my heart open for all that may come in the future.”

Through these words he could impress upon every Indian a sense of brotherhood that resulted in strengthening the unity of Indians. Vivekananda condemned the Indian orthodox in harsh terms “Our religion is in the kitchen, our God is in the cooking-pot, our religion is: do not touch me, I am holy”. He narrated that superstitions had destroyed much of Hindu spirituality. By reminding those of their spiritual value Vivekananda generated the spark of self-confidence among the Indians which indirectly infused a sense of democratic consciousness as democracy rested on self-respect and individuality of every man.

Vivekananda drew the attention of Indians towards the values of Western ways of life. He opened the link between Indian minds and external things. The West appeared to him as the land of material civilization. The spirit of that civilization to him was essential for Indian progress. Therefore he declared “From the great dynamo of Europe, the electric flow of that tremendous power vivifying the whole world, we want that energy, that love of independence, that spirit of self-reliance, that immovable fortitude, that dexterity in action, that bond of unity of purpose that thirst for improvement”.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel handled effectively the integration of the princely states with his diplomatic skills and foresightedness. The problem of amalgamating 562 independent states with a democratic self-governing India was difficult and delicate. But it was essential to save India from balkanization, once the Paramountcy of British crown would lapse. Sardar Patel took charge of the states department in July 1947. He sensed the urgent and imperative need of the integration of princely states. He followed an iron handed policy. He made it clear that he did not recognize the right of any state to remain independent and in isolation, within India.

Sardar vallabhbhai Patel always raised his voice on several issues against exploitation and criticized the high-handedness of authority, the exploitative revenue policy of the Government and maladministration in the Princely states. He not only criticized the arbitrary policies of confiscation of movable and immovable properties, but also insisted on guarded regulations on land reforms and nationalization of key industries. His efforts to reform the Hindu religion and protect the people of other faiths reflected his longing for the right to religion. He encouraged the duly elected authority to bring restrictions through various legislative measures to freedom for all. Thus, his political value system was a fine synthesis of liberalism, conservatism and welfarism.

His vision of State was in tune with the pattern of his political values. In his concept, the State was founded and held together by a high sense of nationalism and patriotism. Individual liberty was to be in conformity with the provisions of the Constitution, to create a Nation-State, he pressed for the emancipation of backward communities and women and bring about Hindu- Muslim unity through the Gandhian constructive programme and skillfully utilised the higher castes for social integration and political mobilisation. Thus, he strengthened the plural basis of the nation-state by bringing electoral participation as effective political mobilisation. He saw a nation as ‘democratic in structure, nationalistic in foundation and welfarist in spirit and function’.

The process of the integration of the various states and the part played by Sardar in it, we realize the important role that Sardar had in the integration of the country. The states included Saurastra (including Junagadh) Hyderabad, Travancore, Cochin, Kashmir and other small states. Sardar’s role in each of these states was vital. The continuation of a divided and weak central government would in Patel’s mind, result in the wider fragmentation of India by encouraging more than 600 princely states towards independence. Between the months of December 1946 and January 1947, Patel worked with civil servant V.P. Menon on the latter’s suggestion for a separate dominion of Pakistan created out of Muslim-majority provinces. Communal violence in Bengal and Punjab in January and March 1947 further convinced Patel of the soundness of partition. Patel, a fierce critic of Jinnah’s demand that the Hindu-majority areas of Punjab and Bengal be included in a Muslim state, obtained the partition of those provinces, thus blocking any possibility of their inclusion in Pakistan. By August 15, 1947 all except Hyderabad, Junagarh and Kashmir acceded to India. He thereafter carried three fold processes of assimilation, centralization and unification of states. The states were amalgamated to form a union and that union was merged with the Union of India. He handled the Junagarh and Hyderabad crisis as a seasoned statesman. Nawab of Junagarh wanted to accede to Pakistan.The integration of the princely states thus acted as a synchronizing phenomenon and established a State of balance between chaos and segmentation and solidarity of the newly born Indian Union.



Scholars differ about Kabir’s parentage, his family, the place of his birth, the time and place of his death etc. Instead of concentrating on various beliefs about Kabir’s life, the scholar deems it appropriate to side with the beliefs that are widely accepted. Scholars agree with the fact that Kabir belonged to the time of Sikandar Lodi and was a disciple of Swami Ramanand. Apropos this fact, most scholars believe that Kabir was born in 1455 and died in 1575.

At a very early stage, Kabir seems to have realised the fact that any kind of tenets, dogmas, precepts, principles and cult are counterproductive as far as true devotion is concerned as all these things breed dogmatism and fanaticism, which ultimately do not allow humankind to see the truth as it is. That is why, probably, many of his poems appear to urge to discard creeds and beliefs that embrace without any rational thinking.

Besides, Kabir appears to talk of the God that does not live at a holy shrine or a temple but within man. However, Kabir seems to say that ironically that is why people cannot notice God and oblivious of their real self they keep thronging at Kashi and Kaba:

How funny!

In the midst of water,

A fish thirsts for water,

The thing lies at home,

But searching for it,

In the woods, they roam.

Without self knowledge,

The world is false,

Be it Mathura or Kashi.

Here, Kabir seems to believe that as a fish lives in water and is surrounded by water, human beings live in God and are surrounded by God but they are still away from God because in vain they seek Him outside.

Kabir’s devotion looks to be not a blind devotion born of an impulse. Rather it seems to be an application of his belief in logic and evidence. The researcher holds that Kabir scoffs at the prevalent ritual of chanting God’s name on beads, despite the fact that in Hindu and Muslim religions chanting God’s name is believed to liberate one from suffering of this life.

This kind of egalitarianism, seems to be a need of the time when Kabir lived, as society was presumably divided into various strata of hierarchy and those belonging to the lower strata were believed to bear the brunt of inhumane discrimination, ostracism and untouchability. Thus, Kabir might have opposed differentiation made on the basis of castes not because he is a social reformer but because he is a rationalist in his thinking and a humanist at heart.

Kabir seems to believe that a person has to be careful of what he speaks and ensure that his words do not hurt anybody. It is observed that though means of communication have increased, communication between two people has decreased because people unnecessarily indulge in grumbling about and criticising others. Consequently nobody is ready to listen. If a person speaks words imbued with love, other people will love to hear him. On the other hand, if he keeps bitching about others, he will alienate a lot of people and lose his friends. As a result, a person will be left alone and the loneliness will tear him asunder. Thus, being polite in our speech is very much essential for social solidarity.

Swami vivekanand

Swami Vivekananda is one of the greatest thinkers of Indian Renaissance. Vivekananda was moved with pity on seeing the impoverished state of the masses. He says:

“Material civilization, may even luxuries necessary to create work for the poor. Bread, I do not believe in a God who cannot give me bread here, giving me eternal bliss in heaven. Pooh! India is to be raised the poor are to be fed, education is to spread, and the evil of priest craft removed. No Priest craft, no social tyranny: More bread, more opportunity for everybody.”

According to Swami Vivekananda, social, economic and political reconstruction of the country is a pre-requisite for the spiritual uplift of the masses. When the people ask for food, to offer religion to a starving people is to insult them. To teach religious principles to a starving man is an affront to his self-respect. He criticizes strongly the failings and weaknesses of the people, the evil practice of untouchability, the feeling of caste superiority, priest craft and religious tyranny. He prefers to see the people as confirmed atheists rather than as superstitious fools, for the atheists may be of some use. But with regard to superstitions it holds away, the brain is bread, the mind is frozen and decadence engulfs life. So it holds good if the mankind become atheist by relying on reason rather than blindly believing in two hundred millions of Gods on the authority of anybody.

According to him freedom is the precondition for the human growth but freedom does not mean absence of obstacles in the way of social aggrendisement or economic exploitation. Commenting on the meaning of freedom he says:

“Our natural right to be allowed to use your own body, intelligence and wealth according to our will, without doing any harm to others, and all the members of a society ought to have the same opportunity for obtaining wealth, education or knowledge.”

He has expounded progressive ideas and vehemently opposed escapist doctrines like mysticism. He maintains that occultism and mysticism have destroyed the people. The need of the present is man making religion. Any-thing that weakens has to be rejected as poison. He stands for reason. He says that no genuine inspiration ever contradicts reason when such contradiction is found, it is to inspiration. Vivekananda’s outlook is essentially idealistic although it contains elements of materialism. Man’s objective is to identify with Brahman through self-purification and service of the people. Man is the centre of religion conceived by him. He, who has set out in search of God, ultimately recognizes man as the centre of this world. He calls upon the people to find God in man.

The only hope for India he lays in the common people, for the upper classes were exhausted physically and morally. He urges a radical transformation of the social order because all the members of a society ought to have the same opportunity for obtaining wealth, education or knowledge and declares that these rules governing the society which stand the way of the unfolding of the freedom are injurious and steps should be taken to destroy them speedily. To uplift the masses spiritual and secular education is necessary. He says:

“We have to give them secular education. We have to follow the plan laid down by our ancestors that is to bring all the ideals slowly down among the masses. Raise them slowly up. Raise them to equality. Impart . . . Secular knowledge through religion.”

n the whole idea of education, we find Swami Vivekananda summing up as the manifestation of divinity in man. He realizes the caste consciousness as a barrier to India’s progress. Casteism narrows restricts and separates the noble bond of humanity. For him the true measure of man is worth but not birth. The ultimate end of Swami Vivekananda is the good of all. He advocates the idea that man must strive for this end even to the point of sacrificing himself. The means to be adopted for realization of this ultimate end must also be worthy of that end.

Emancipation of women and uplift of the masses are the two important items in Swami Vivekananda’s programme of social regeneration of India. He could notice the downfall of Indian Society because of the continued neglect of women and masses. In India there are two great evils: he writes:

“Uplift of the women, the awakening of the masses must come first and then only can any real good come about for the country.”

That country and that nation, he says, which do not respect the women has never become great, nor will ever be in future. The state with the assistance of society can foster and promote the common interests of people, which can bring justice, honesty, peace etc. The state cannot have interests than the interests of the individual who form the society. The state is composed of individuals. Without virtuous individuals it is futile to expect the state becoming prosperous. He states:

“The basis of all systems social or political rests upon the goodness of man. No nation is great or good because parliament enacts this or that, but because its men are great and good.”


John locke

The major writings of John Locke (1632–1704) are among the most important texts for understanding some of the central currents in epistemology, metaphysics, politics, religion, and pedagogy in the late 17th and early 18th century in Western Europe.

Pleasure and Pain

The thread of moral discussion that weaves most consistently throughout the Essay is the subject of happiness. True happiness, on Locke’s account, is associated with the good, which in turn is associated with pleasure. Pleasure, in its turn, is taken by Locke to be the sole motive for human action. This means that the moral theory that is most directly endorsed in the Essay is hedonism.

On Locke’s view, ideas come to us by two means: sensation and reflection. This view is the cornerstone of his empiricism. According to this theory, there is no such thing as innate ideas or ideas that are inborn in the human mind. All ideas come to us by experience. Locke describes sensation as the “great source” of all our ideas and as wholly dependent on the contact between our sensory organs and the external world. The other source of ideas, reflection or “internal sense,” is dependent on the mind’s reflecting on its own operations, in particular the “satisfaction or uneasiness arising from any thought”. What’s more, Locke states that pleasure and pain are joined to almost all of our ideas both of sensation and of reflection This means that our mental content is organized, at least in one way, by ideas that are associated with pleasure and ideas that are associated with pain. That our ideas are associated with pains and pleasures seems compatible with our phenomenal experience: the contact between the sense organ of touch and a hot stove will result in an idea of the hot stove annexed by the idea of pain, or the act of remembering a romantic first kiss brings with it the idea of pleasure. And, Locke adds, it makes sense to join our ideas to the ideas of pleasure and pain because if our ideas were not joined with either pleasure of pain, we would have no reason to prefer the doing of one action over another, or the consideration of one idea over another. If this were our situation, we would have no reason to act—either physically or mentally. That pleasure and pain are given this motivational role in action entails that Locke endorses hedonism: the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain are the sole motives for action.


Locke is very clear—we all constantly desire happiness. All of our actions, on his view, are oriented towards securing happiness. Uneasiness, Locke’s technical term for being in a state of pain and desirous of some absent good, is the motive that moves us to act in the way that is expected to relieve the pain of desire and secure the state of happiness. But, while Locke equates pleasure with good, he is careful to distinguish the happiness that is acquired as a result of the satisfaction of any particular desire and the true happiness that is the result of the satisfaction of a particular kind of desire. Drawing this distinction allows Locke to hold that the pursuit of a certain sets of pleasures or goods is more worthy than the pursuit of others.

The pursuit of true happiness, according to Locke, is equated with “the highest perfection of intellectual nature”. And, indeed, Locke takes our pursuit of this true happiness to be the thing to which the vast majority of our efforts should be oriented. To do this, he says that we need to try to match our desires to “the true instrinsick good” that is really within things. Notice here that Locke is implying that there is distinction to be drawn between the “true intrinsic good” of a thing and, it seems, the good that we unreflectively take to be within a certain thing. The idea here is that attentively considering a particular thing will allow us to see its true value as opposed to the superficial value we assign to a thing based on our immediate reaction to it. We can think, for example, of a bitter tasting medicine. A face-value assessment of the medicine will lead us to evaluate that the thing is to be avoided. However, more information and contemplation of it will lead us to see that the true worth of the medicine is, in fact, high and so it should be evaluated as a good to be pursued. And, Locke states, if we contemplate a thing long enough, and see clearly the measure of its true worth; we can change our desire and uneasiness for it in proportion to that worth. But how are we to understand Locke’s suggestion that there is a true, intrinsic good in things? So far, all he has said about the good is that it is tracked by pleasure. We begin to get an answer to this question when Locke acknowledges the obvious fact that different people derive pleasure and pain from different things.

Living the Moral Life

In order to behave in a way that will lead us to the greatest and truest happiness, we must come to judge the remote and future good, the “unspeakable,” “infinite,” and “eternal” joys of heaven to be our greatest and thus most pleasurable good . But, on Locke’s view, our actions are always determined by the thing we are most uneasy about at any given moment. So, it seems, we need to cultivate the uneasiness for the infinite joys of heaven. But if, as Locke suggests, the human condition is such that our minds, in their weak and narrow states, judge immediate pleasures to be representative of the greatest good, it is difficult to see how, exactly, we can circumvent this weakened state in order to suspend our more terrestrial desires and thus have the space to correctly judge which things will lead to our true happiness. While in the Essay Locke does not say as much as we might like on this topic, elsewhere in his writings we can get a sense for how he might respond to this question.

Locke states that we must recognize the difference between “natural wants” and “wants of fancy.” The former are the kinds of desires that must be obeyed and that no amount of reasoning will allow us to give up. The latter, however, are created. Locke states that parents and teachers must ensure that children develop the habit of resisting any kind of created fancy, thus keeping the mind free from desires for things that do not lead to true happiness . If parents and teachers are successful in blocking the development of “wants of fancy,” Locke thinks that the children who benefit from this success will become adults who will be “allowed greater liberty” because they will be more closely connected to the dictates of reason and not the dictates of passion. So, in order to live the moral life and listen to reason over passions, it seems that we need to have had the benefit of conscientious care-givers in our infancy and youth. This raises the difficulty of how to connect an individual’s moral successes or failures with the individual herself. For, if she had the bad moral luck of unthinking or careless parents and teachers, it seems difficult to see how she could be blamed for failing to follow a virtuous path.


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