Wednesday, February 27, 2008


The highest Good

The intoxication of self-feeling is the most intense, and the height of this intoxication is most admired
-- Soren Kiekergaard

A: Can you tell me, what is the highest 'good'?

B: Yes, actions that are 'selfless' are of highest good.

A: Are just saying philanthropic actions are good.
B: By selfless actions I don't mean just the so called 'philanthropic' actions. I consider, any action performed for its own sake, as good.

A: What you are saying seems to resemble Aristotle?? What do you exactly mean?
B: I think those actions that let one person forget about himself/herself are inherently good. When a musician performs passionately; when a tennis player gets ready to return a serve; when a scientist discusses the veracity of a theory with his colleague; possibly even when the cashier is in the midst of counting cash -- there is a possibility of the doer of the above actions losing track of themselves.It is possible that they forget their identity and in that instant, whatever they are doing is not for themselves. If that possibility manifests, then I think the action is of highest good.

A: What about "inaction"?
B: Inaction means that the person is not even thinking. When a person does not even think, then by definition he forgets about himself/herself and so inaction would be of highest good. As Ramana maharishi would say, "Of all thoughts that arise in the mind the "I" thought is the first".

A: Then would "suicide" would be of highest good?
B: No it would not. You are probably saying that since it leads to "inaction" and I had earlier considered "inaction" a part of highest good. But note that this is an action done to yourself because you think it will lead to "good". So it is an action where the doer is aware of himself and will not be a part of the "highest good".

A: Any practical significance??
B: One may have different kinds of acquaintances with different people. With some interactions, it seems the focus is more on the self, than others. I would say those kind of interactions, will not lead to "progress".

A: Are you saying that one should limit such kinds of interactions? At a more general level, are you saying one should limit actions that are not part of the "highest good"?
B: I am not sure.

A: Your theory doesn't seem to be very useful. OK, what about this conversation, is this a part of "highest good"?
B: I have been aware of myself in this discussion -- in other words, there seems to be slight pride when I am proposing this theory -- this is like "MY" theory. No, this would not be a part of highest good.

so inaction would be of highest good.

Is mechanical action a part of the Highest Good?
It depends on what your consider to be 'mechanical'.

Let me give you examples. Consider software debugging or testing. A lot of people consider them to be mechanical tasks. Suppose a person is performing debugging and his mind is fully immersed in the task at hand; I would consider it a part of highest good.

On the contrary, let us imagine that a person is driving back from work and he is so well versed with it that he can let his mind drift on to other things. In that case, what he is thinking would determine the goodness of the action. If his mind wanders off randomly into things that are concerned with the self, then it is not a part of the highest good.

Interesting read, have u read this book "power of now". It has a similar Q and A form on related topics.
I haven't read that book, although I have heard of the author;

I just saw some pages (of the book)in google pages; yes, the Q and A form is similar. Coming to think of it, it is actually surprising that (Q and A style) is not very common. It seems quite suitable for works of non-fiction.
You just re-defined 'Karma Yogi' through your questions.

good point -- I wanted to talk abt this in the post also.

Karma yoga basically asks you to "do your duty dispassionately". An important part of this is the definition of what is one's duty. It then goes to define what different people's duties are.

It is worth noting that this post does not going into things like "duty".
A: "I think those actions that let one person forget about himself/herself are inherently good." this is obviously wrong
B: why?
A: think about it.
What have you been smoking dude :-) Do you realize you cannot describe your theory on highest good (what kind of a term is highest good ??) without the action of describing it being of, yes, highest good?
Of what good is such highest good then, if I may ask ?
what good is such highest good then, if I may ask ?

you sure may.
good reply. but anyway to answer his question:
highest good is something which is higher than the lower good and higher than the higher good.
Karmi Yogi pursues his or her duty(action) PASSIONATELY without thinking about the end result - success or failure.

Passion is the crux and it means unconditional love.
i think this highest good concept is non-sense. especially when the author considers even inaction as one.

trying to attach meanings to our mundane actions and vilifying the pursuit of happiness is a typical pessimistic hindu philosophy.

and I don't think karma yoga is about actions which are purportedly of the highest good. karma yoga is a kind of self-defense against disappointments and hence inherently selfish (nothing wrong with that though).

if at all, we need to define actions, I can suggest these,

bad actions - which harm others.

good actions - which brings us happiness without harming or even reducing other's chances of pursuing happiness.

better actions - those which help others pursue happiness.

do you realise some obvious conclusions from your suggestions of what is "good", "bad" and "better"?...For example, most of the actions will be "bad" -- for there will be somebody harmed by that action.

Let me give you a rather simplistic example -- Let us suppose New Zealand (pop: 4 million) is playing India (pop: 1 billion) in a cricket final. If NZ wins, close to 0.5 billion people are going to be unhappy. So does it mean the actions of NZ players, striving to win the match, are bad?

Clearly, what brings pleasure to one may not bring the same pleasure to another.
A lot of times what brings pleasure to a person, may cause inconveniences to even his/her "well-wishers".

Finally, this post only talks about the "highest good". It does not vilify things such as "pursuit of happiness".
>> For example, most of the actions will be "bad" -- for there will be somebody harmed by that action.

really?! we should discount jealousy.

in sport, at least theoretically there should be no unhappiness. only varying degrees of happiness. if one is going to be unhappy because the opponent won, he/she should probably stop playing! the unhappiness comes not from the opponents good action of playing and winning but from the bad action of begrudgement on this side.

anyway lets leave it here. i would call the "highest good theory" as some arbitrary observation by that author.
i am thoroughly enjoying the liberal usage of the following punctuation marks:

' and ".

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Interesting post.
What is selfless? Even passionately playing a musical instrument is to feel happy - is feeling happy or good with oneself part of your highest good?

good point. Every action is typically motivated by benefits to the self. As you say, a musician may start playing because he/she wants to feel happy. At this point, the action does not constitute a part of highest good.

But in the middle, if he/she gets so much involved, so as to forget the self, for even brief moments; those brief moments will be a part of 'highest good'.

In other words, this is a 'bottom-up' approach to classifying things as good, if you understant what I mean.
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