What Is Good Conduct?

Path to Siva Commentary, Lesson 55

Good conduct is right thought, right speech and right action." Apply T-H-I-N-K: true, helpful, inspirational, necessary, kind in our thoughts, words and deeds. "Conduct ourself properly within ourself." Encourage rather than discourage. Praise rather than criticize. Speak an abundance of sincere inspirational words.

Path to Siva, Lesson 55

Tirukural, Verse 138.

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning everyone.

This morning we're reading from Path to Siva, Lesson 55:

"What Is Good Conduct?

"Good conduct is right thought, right speech and right action. Being right means it agrees with dharma and our refined soul nature. Our religion gives us the great knowledge that all people are divine souls on a wonderful journey, learning many lessons along the way. While they may not be outwardly perfect, we learn to see the beautiful, radiant soul in everyone we meet. We look for the best in others and overlook their faults. We try to help others in any way we can to always be uplifting and not critical or hurtful. We work with ourself to be a good example and a joy to be around, not a person to be avoided. It is our sadhana to express the beautiful qualities of love, patience and kindness. We protect, guide and encourage those who are younger. We look up to those who are older and eagerly seek to learn from them. We use terms of respect for those close to us, such as 'auntie,' 'uncle' or 'elder brother. We greet others with 'Namaste,' Vanakkam' or 'Aum Sivaya.' Two important customs we follow are to never argue and never interrupt others, especially our elders. The four keys to good conduct are purity, devotion, humility and charity. We cultivate purity by thinking, speaking and doing only that which is conceived in compassion for all. We cultivate devotion through worship and selfless service, and by being loyal and trustworthy. We cultivate humility through showing patience with circumstances and forbearance with people. We cultivate charity through giving to the hungry, the sick, the homeless, the elderly and the unfortunate. The first teacher in matters of good conduct is our conscience. It is the voice of our soul. To know what is right and what is wrong we can also turn to God, to our satguru and swamis, to scripture and to our elders, family and trusted friends."

Then we have Gurudeva's quote:

"The Hindu fosters humility and shuns arrogance, seeks to assist, never to hinder, finds good in others and forgets their faults. There is no other way to be called a true devotee, but to conduct ourself properly within ourself and among our fellow men."

The Tamil word for good conduct is 'olukkam' which is defined as: "Good conduct, morality, virtue, decorum, behaving in conformity with the canons of right conduct laid down for observance, acting according to established rules or customs." So a whole chapter on possessing virtuous conduct, 'Olukkam [adamai...??] in the Tirukural. I thought I'd just read one verse.

Verse 138:

"Good conduct is the seed in virtue's field; wicked conduct's harvest is never-ending sorrow."

So that's showing the benefits right? Remember there's three different ways of the Tirukural explains something. One is: It's the right thing to do. The high-minded follow virtuous conduct. That's the right thing to do. The other is you scare someone which he doesn't do too often. If you don't follow virtuous conduct you're really going to suffer a lot. This one is just showing the benefit, very reasonable. "Good conduct is the seed in virtue's field..." So it's going to produce a crop. "...wicked conduct's harvest is never-ending sorrow."

In terms of good conduct as the lesson starts out: "Good conduct is right thought, right speech and right action..." So that's always the three-fold. Thought, word and deed is the other way of saying that. We need to do something not only in our actions, which is the grossest form, but also for what we say and even in what we think. So thought, word and deed is the three areas of applying something. In this case it's just doing the right thing verses doing the wrong thing. Very simple.

When I first read the lesson I said: What can I say about it? So straight forward. Well you can say a few things. Clearly when you think of doing the right thing the simplest form of that is not doing the wrong thing. Refraining from doing the wrong thing. What we call a yama, a restraint or refraining from doing. So, the first restraint is non-violence. We need to restrain violence. Not do anything that's violent. We don't want to hurt someone.

But that's just the first aspect of it. More refined aspect of it which the lesson also brings out is: Don't stop there, you know. Take it the next step. Well, what's the opposite of harming someone? Yeah, helping someone, right. It's clear, so taking it the next step. Taking good conduct to the next step; we don't just stop. So I didn't harm anyone today; I really score high on good conduct. That's kind of the given. We need the niyama, the observance. What should we do. We know what we're not supposed to do, harm. We're supposed to help. What did we help people today? Did we go out of our way to do something for others that we really didn't need to do. That's a better measure.

The one that's kind of obvious in the yamas and niyamas. The yama is: Don't steal. So, what would be the opposite of stealing? It would be giving, right? Where we would have the practice of, instead of taking from someone we'd give something to someone. Be charitable. Well that would be the opposite or the higher aspect of the practice. That's why at the end here and it starts out very simply, do the right thing in thought, word and deed. And then when it comes to the end it talks about charity at the end. Practicing charity.

As I often mention, in my group of religious people, we don't have, usually the challenges aren't in the actions. We're not going around hitting other people. You know, we're not harming people physically. But we may be harming people with our words. It tends to go into the level of speech if we're helping people or we're harming people. Are we being critical of people or are we praising people? So, that it gets, it effects our speech and Gurudeva gives us the easy one to remember: "Speak only that which is true, kind, helpful and necessary" right? That's the word 'think' without the "i". True, kind, helpful and necessary. And then, a few years ago I said: Well why not stick in the "i"? So I added an "i" which is the inspirational. In other words it's not good enough, simply not to criticize someone, we should praise them and we should try and inspire them. Should be helpful in our speech. How do you help someone in your speech? Well you try and inspire them. That's why I wrote something on that a few years ago.

"The "i" stands for inspirational which when applied to speech refers to speaking something valuable and uplifting which motivates the listener to bring out the best in himself or herself."

Isn't that a simple idea? Trying to inspire someone to bring out the best and of course, the greatest example of that was Gurudeva. You know he was a master at saying things that would inspire those he was talking to to bring out the best in themselves. You know, that's what I just say in the next sentence. I'm consistent.

"Gurudeva was certainly an expert in this practice. Always speaking words to encourage rather than discourage. Words to praise rather than criticize. And words that emphasize that we can succeed rather than we will fail."

Summary of this idea: "You are encouraged to speak to family members and friends an abundance of inspirational words. Sincere words that encourage, praise and foster success."

Thank you very much. Wonderful day.

Photo of  Gurudeva
Hope for a future life makes this life worthwhile, joyous, contented and happy, because the Hindu can live and deal with current problems, knowing that they are transitory problems, that they will not last forever; nor will they affect us forever.