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Conscience
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TOP        =======UNDERSTANDING HINDUISM========
            

Conscience
By Swami Shivananda
Divine Life Society, Rishikesh

Conscience is the light of the Soul that burns within the chambers of your heart. It is the little spark of celestial fire that makes known to you the presence of the Indweller, the author of the divine laws of truth and holiness. It raises the voice in protest whenever anything is thought of or done contrary to the interest of its Master.

Conscience is the voice of the Self which says ‘yes’ or ‘no’ when you are involved in a moral struggle. It is a call from within to do an act or to avoid it. Conscience is the internal monitor. Conscience is a form of truth which is the knowledge of our own acts and feelings as right or wrong. It is a sensitive balance (scales) to weigh actions. It is a guiding voice from within, the faculty or principle by which we distinguish right from wrong. This sense of duty is conscience. Scrupulousness is conscience. Conscience is a silent teacher.

Conscience is a moral faculty. It is a delicate instrument or sense that tells you then and there what is right and what is wrong. It is the soundless inner voice that shows you the path of virtue and godliness. It is indeed very, very delicate. It is very easy to stifle it, but it is so very clear that it is impossible to mistake it.

Conscience is above reason and discussion. It is a sudden, dictatory command to plunge deep into the depths of virtue, or to rise high above the level of vice. The positive elements that adorn conscience are truth, courage and justice.

Conscience is a needle that points steadily to the Pole Star :"Do this action, it is right." It warns you also: "That is wrong, do not do that."

Conscience is a great ledger. All your offences are written and registered in this ledger. It is a terrible witness.

Conscience is the best Minister of Justice. It threatens, promises, rewards and punishes, keeping all under its control. If conscience stings you once, it is an admonition; if twice, it a condemnation. To act against the conscience is to act against reason and Divine Law.

How Conscience Operates

When you do a wrong action, the conscience pricks you. It says to you in a clear small shrill voice, "Do not do this wrong action, my friend. It will bring misery to you." A wise man at once ceases to act further.

Conscience warns you like a teacher or a friend, before it punishes you as a judge. It tells you to behave in the right manner.

Cowardice asks, "Is it safe?" Avarice asks, "Is there any gain in it?" Vanity asks, "Can I become great?" Lust asks. "Is there pleasure in it?" But conscience asks, "Is it right?" Conscience prompts you to choose the right way instead of the wrong, and informs you that you ought to do the right thing.

The first impulse of conscience is apt to be right. If there are pin-pricks and twists in the conscience, if there is a sense of shame and depression in the heart, know that you have done a wrong action. If there is exhilaration and cheerfulness, feel that you have done a virtuous action.

When Conscience Can Be Relied Upon

Conscience is obscured by human sin and weakness.
The faint inner voice of the Spirit is stifled by the rumbling of emotional conflicts, base impulses and dictates of the flesh. It is awakened and sharpened to new clearness through purity of conduct and practice of ethical virtues.

Conscience becomes blunt through misuse. It is even destroyed through abuse and misuse. It becomes perverted through wickedness. Uttering falsehood and taking bribes destroy the conscience altogether.

In the world people think of one thing, say another thing, and do a third thing. This is horrible, and nothing but crookedness. You must carefully watch your thought, speech and action. The little you gain by telling lies is no gain at all. You pollute your conscience and infect your subconscious mind.

The habit of telling lies will be carried over to your next birth also, and you will undergo suffering from birth to birth.

You have become insincere on account of intoxication, through selfishness and greed. You do not know exactly what you are doing. You have a clouded understanding. Your conscience will prick you severely and your heart will bleed when you come to your senses. Your heart should bleed through repentance. Only then can you purify yourself.

The habit of taking bribes is very common. If you ask anybody working in an office, "What is your salary?" he will say, "Well, my salary is only Rupees 50 but my income is about Rupees 75." This income is nothing but bribes. People are ignorant. Even the so-called educated people have no idea of the law of action and reaction, of impressions of the subconscious mind and their force. If you take bribes, you will be punished for such wrong actions. The impression of taking bribes will force you to repeat this habit even in the next birth, and you will become a dishonest man again. Your thoughts and actions are registered in the subconscious mind. You will carry your dishonesty from birth to birth and undergo great suffering.

Reduce your wants and live honestly within your means. You will have a clean conscience. You will always be free from anxiety and all kinds of worries. You will have a peaceful death. I hope you now understand the gravity of this law of action and reaction. Become a virtuous man and be truthful from the very second you read these lines. Never, never join those offices which are amenable to corruption and temptation. If you do so you will also be corrupted.

The Subtle Mechanism of Conscience

A virtuous man alone can use the instrument of conscience. He alone can hear the inner voice of the soul clearly. In a wicked man this faculty is dead. The sensitive nature of his conscience has been destroyed by sin or corruption. Hence he is unable to discriminate right from wrong.

If you do wrong actions and sinful deeds and treat them lightly today, you will not hesitate to perform serious crimes tomorrow. If you allow one sin to enter and dwell in your conscience, you certainly pave the way for the entry of a thousand sins. Your conscience will become blunt and lose its sensitivity. The habit of doing evil deeds will pervade the whole body like the poison of a scorpion.

When an honest man begins to take bribes for the first time, he shudders. His conscience quivers and trembles, and he feels very uneasy. If he repeats the act several times, his conscience becomes blunt. He does not feel any uneasiness at all. If a chaste man begins to visit a house of ill-fame for the first time, his conscience pricks him and he shudders. If he goes there frequently. It becomes blunt and he feels nothing. The inner mechanism of consistence is very subtle. Keep it sensitive by doing virtuous deeds only.

How to Cultivate a Pure Conscience

Always keep the conscience bright and sharp by adhering to truth, righteousness and virtue. It will be your constant, elevating companion.

Virtuous acts, charity, benevolence, nobility, generosity, acts of mercy, and practice of truthfulness, celibacy and non-injury, sharpen the conscience.

Food plays an important role in the development of a pure conscience. Pure food helps a man to have a clean conscience, whereas animal food makes it impure. It produces a hard crust on the surface of the conscience and blunts it totally.

A Clear Conscience and a Guilty Conscience

A man of clear conscience is ever pure, joyful and cheerful. A man of guilty conscience is morose and cheerless.

A man of pure and clean conscience sleeps happily and wakes up happily. He moves about happily in this world. He attains happiness in this world and in the next. A man of guilty conscience is restless and unhappy in this world and in the next also.

A man with a guilty conscience is dead even while living.

Health of the Soul

A clean conscience discerns evil quickly and shuns it. A good conscience bestows on you ease, serenity, joy and happiness. It prevents calamities, troubles, afflictions and miseries.

A good conscience is the temple of God, the paradise of bliss. It helps the aspirant to reach the goal quickly.

What good health is to the body, good conscience is to the soul. There is inward satisfaction of conscience when a good action is done, when virtue is practised, when you lead a virtuous life.

The most natural beauty in the world is honesty and moral truth. Be beautiful within. Have a clean conscience, be virtuous in thought, word and deed. Physical beauty fades ultimately.

Conscience of the voice of wisdom speaks in all the Lord’s creations, but the little, finite, impure human intellect does not comprehend it. Purify your mind, O arrogant, self-willed man! Tune your mind-radio by cleaning it; hear His voice and become wise. The voice of the soul will lead you to safety, truth, peace and immortal bliss.
_____________

From The Mahabharata, Adi Parva
Section LXXIV
(Sambhava Parva)                                        

Vaisampayana said: Thy heart is a witness to the truth or falsehood.  He who being one thing represents himself as another thing to others, is like a thief and a robber of his own self. Of what sin is he not capable? Thou thinkest that thou alone hast knowledge of thy deed. But knowest thou not that the Ancient, Omniscient one (Narayana) liveth in thy heart? He knoweth all thy sins, and thou sinnest in His presence. He that sins thinks that none observes him. But he is observed by the gods and by Him also who is in every heart.
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