Universal knowledge…

A very interesting passage for your reading pleasure:

What is to be done and what is not to be done, what is proper and not proper – these things you already know, of course, because you have a certain innate sense about them. No one can plead ignorance of what is right and wrong. This knowledge is universal.

What do you mean by universal knowledge? All monkeys, for example, born to live on treetops, need to know something about the law of gravity – and they do. Ifyou were to observe the mother monkey, yo would see that she has no concern about whether there is a baby holding onto her or not as she jumps from tree to tree. The baby monkey, however, holds onto its mother’s bosom for its dear life. It is definitely afraid of falling, whereas the mother is not. She just keeps leaping from one branch to another, while her baby holds on tight.

Suppose, however the baby monkey had to undergo some education to know that there is a law of gravity operating, that it must hold on tightly in order not to fall, and that it if did fall, it would be injured or it would die. If all of these hings had to be taught to monkeys, many of them would die for want of education and the species itself would sooner or later become extinct.

Fortunately, every baby monkey, without being educated, seems to know what is done and what is not to be done. Without going to Harvard or Cornell, without joining the Moral Majority, it knows very well that ‘I will fall if I let go of my mother.’ That ‘I will fall; is one piece of truth and ‘if I fall, I may hurt myself’ is the second piece of truth the monkey seems to know. The third piece of truth is, ‘To fall and get hurt or be killed is not good forme or for my species.’

Instinctively, then, the monkey knows all this. Since monkeys are made to live on treetops, the minimum knowledge every monkey must have in order to survive is to know, ‘I will fall; objects come down; I will be the victim if I don’t hold on to the other branch when I leap.’ This knowledge must be given to monkeys along with the creation. Only then is there any hope of a monkey living its life on the treetops.

Such knowledge is instinctive and is what we call the creation. If that knowledge is not given to a monkey and it has to be educated in order to know how to survive, then I would say that there is a defect in the creation.

Similarly, as a human being, I am born with a faculty of choice. Unlike a monkey, however, I can choose to live on treetops, on the 20th floor of a building in Manhattan, or in a cottage on some riverbank. I can choose to go to Alaska and keep only my nose out or I can live in the tropics. Because I have the faculty of choice, I can choose my course of action. I can choose various ends and various means to achieve those ends.

That human beings seek securities and pleasures is a common fact that we have already analysed. And in seeking these ends, they have to follow certain means to achieve them. More often than not, upon analysis you will find that the problems lie only in the means and not in the ends.

(For example, stealing in order to provide for the family. The end is ‘providing for the family’, which is not wrong. But the means, ‘stealing’, is wrong.)

This passage is interesting because it shows that we have a naturally in-built consensus of what is right and what is wrong.