There are four great values which must be the objectives every human individual must strive. The first place goes to the value called ethics or morality. It is called as code of conduct in a civilized society. Whatever you engage in doing should be that which ought to be done, should be that which is proper to be done, should be that which is right, which is pure, which is moral and ethical. You should not do anything that contradicts the law of ethics and morality. Why? Because, in morality only lies your highest good. In that only lies your highest welfare. If your thoughts, words and actions are moral and righteous, there will be happiness. They will secure for you your welfare and good. Otherwise, you will reap the harvest of bitterness because of a law that pervades this universe, a law that is called the Law of Cause and Effect. This law states: “As a man thinketh so he becometh”. This law is also stated in another way, namely: “As you sow, so shall you reap”. This Law of Cause and Effect is also called the Law of Karma.
In other words, we may say: If you engage in righteous action, the result of it is auspiciousness and blessedness; the result of it is your own highest good and your own welfare, your own happiness. If you ignore or neglect this law, discard this law, and your actions are not proper, not right, what happens? You invite upon yourself a reaction that is bitter, a reaction that is not conducive to your own good, to your own welfare, because you have to steadily progress towards divine perfection and here you put and create obstacles. You slow down your progress towards that great goal. You create your own miseries. Therefore, having in mind the highest welfare and good of the human individual, you may please put ethics as of the foremost value, because more than anything else, we need to secure the greatest benefit and good of the individual soul.
So, adhere to the moral and ethical values in life. Never deviate from the ethical standard. Then you will be happy. You may have troubles. People may trouble you and you may have some difficulties; yet you will have happiness. Inside you will have happiness and peace. I say, “Inside”, because physical troubles and mental difficulties and torments there will always be. Those you have to suffer according to your own sins. But, if at the present you engage in righteous activity, it will give you immense strength.
Now we take the second value. You have got the body, you have got hunger and thirst, you feel heat and cold. So you want food, you want shelter, you want clothing. And you want other necessities of life. So, for all this, you want money; and therefore, you must have a job or ply a trade or profession. Yes, this is also an inevitable value arising out of the fact that you are living in this world. This value is money, the economic value. Money is inevitable; it is necessary. For that also you must strive. But you must strive for it on the basis of righteousness. Your efforts to earn your livelihood should not be immoral, unethical or unrighteous. Righteousness should be the basis even of your professional activities or business activities. Anything you do to make a living should be based upon Righteousness.
The third value is control over your greed. Any animal—be it a dog, donkey, cow or buffalo—is satisfied if it has food and a place to rest. But man is not like that; he has got many longings, many desires and ambitions. Man is a vital being with a vital psychological personality within. He has got many longings, many desires, many ambitions and plans and schemes. So, this vital value also was given a place arising out of the desire nature of man. The other animals have no desire. They have only the instinct to go by. They want only food and drink and shelter and rest, and therefore, they are content if these are provided to them. But man is not content. He has the desire nature in him.
The fourth value is attached to righteousness. It has twofold importance. Desire means desire of any kind. But, here also, any desire that goes contrary to morality and ethics should be shunned. It should not be kept; it should not be given any place in your life, because it will stop your evolutionary process, your progress upwards towards God-consciousness. Such desires only are to be harbored in your mind, such desires only are to be fulfilled, as are in accordance with the law of righteousness. So, Righteousness is the overall and continuous foundation and basis for all human striving. Even in your professional activities, in your various social and other activities,
Righteousness must always accompany you. Righteousness must always infill your thoughts, words and actions. Thus, the economic value and the vital value pertaining to your outer worldly life also should be animated and pervaded by righteousness. Then, it will lead you to happiness. If righteousness is abandoned, then it will lead you to sorrow. This is the simple truth.
And another important reason why all these activities and strivings upon the outer plane should be continuously characterized and qualified by righteousness is that only then your life will move in the direction of the highest and supreme value.
What is that highest and supreme value? It is the spiritual value which is God-realization, liberation, divine perfection, highest spiritual consciousness and illumination. That is the supreme value. For that only we have taken birth. That only makes life worth living. No matter how desperate life may be, if you have this one goal that you must attain Divine Consciousness, you will get the strength to overcome and bear all the vicissitudes of life. “I am divine. Temporarily I have forgotten it. And until and unless I attain Divine Consciousness, my life will not be full and I will not remain content.”—If that one goal is there with you, no matter what happens to you, all that will look secondary and less important.
Whereas, your supreme goal will look the most important of all things; it will dominate your life and it will be enough to take you above all the vicissitudes of life. It will give you strength and definite direction in life, a specific aim in life. And from then on, your life will move in a self-chosen direction. That life cannot be assailed by misfortune. It will not be shaken. Having acquired great strength and power, it will ride triumphant over all the ups and downs of life and move towards the self-chosen goal in a very determined manner. So, the highest spiritual goal it is that makes your life worth living, that gives deep meaning to life. Otherwise, what is the meaning of life? What is the meaning of just eating, drinking, sleeping and one day dying? Doing little petty silly things and one day dying? Death puts an end to all. But what is that which makes life meaningful?
Through this life of birth, change, growth, old age, disease, decay and death, you are to attain immortality and deathlessness by making use of this life. You are to attain Divine Consciousness. You must resolve: “I shall become deathless. I shall realize my deathless nature. I shall realize that I am Immortal Soul, Spirit Divine”. And you must exert to the utmost to attain that goal. That supreme value is the most important value which gives life real depth, true meaning and a purposefulness. It makes life significant, important, sacred and purposeful. Therefore, it is the most important value in life. If that value is there, you get the strength to overcome all difficulties, all the stresses and strains of life, and it is in relation to that supreme value that Righteousness acquires an even greater importance, an even deeper significance.
Righteousness is important for two reasons. Firstly, if it is there in your secular life of money and Desire, in your secular life of the economic and the vital values, it leads to happiness. If it is not there, then it leads to sorrow and misery. Therefore you must have righteousness. This is the lesser significance and use of righteousness. The higher purpose and significance of righteousness is that if it fills your life, then it leads your life to the attainment of the highest spiritual value in life. It liberates you once and for all from the wheel of life and death. Then, there is no more want, no more sorrow, no more weeping, no more wailing, no more difficulties and problems. You will become established in a state of absolute peace, absolute contentment and absolute joy. You may attain supreme satisfaction, and become fearless and free. That supreme experience is made possible only if your entire life is filled by righteousness. So, righteousness has a direct connection with liberation of soul. Therefore, it is the basis of your entire life. And in the framework of this religious life, upon the foundation of religious life, spirituality becomes rapidly fruitful. Whatever prayers you say, whatever spiritual study you do, whatever meditation you do, all become like striking a dry match stick on a dry match box…immediately there is fire. Where there is righteousness animating and pervading your entire life, there spirituality becomes dynamic, rapidly fruitful and progressive. This is the great ideal. It is inevitable to strive for the economic value and the vital value, because of your earthly nature. But it is only the spiritual value which makes life successful, which liberates you for ever from all the sorrow and bondage. And it is the ethical value which is the most important of all. It is that which guarantees that your life will lead to happiness and blessedness and not to sorrow and wretchedness.