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728. Self-righteousness

To be right is welcome. To be wrong is to be avoided. The world can salute one who desires to be right in his actions. Such a person is known to be a man of character. Often he is pious. That is a religious definition. Ethically, such men are termed as self-righteous. In these days when unethical public behaviour is gaining social currency, the average public not only condones unethical practices, but comes to believe that it is a capacity or a matter of pride. Self-righteousness is a priceless possession. It is commendable, laudable, praiseworthy. On the other hand, there is a hidden spiritual truth, not of immediate use for all.

It is human nature to take any ideal we accept to its acme where it becomes perfect. It is an excellent human character. In the case of self-righteousness, it will not do because beyond a point in our character, we are human, i.e., we are endowed with every human defect. Therefore, self-righteousness can be successfully followed in life, but should not become an ultimate ideal. Scratching below the surface, one is sure to find cruelty, darkness, deceit, etc. in full measure. In our tradition, we have a saying, ‘Don't try to know the origin of a river or a Rishi'. It may be unflattering or even negative. This need not dishearten us because it is part of human nature. All of us are human. The white lotus springs from mud. The sweet water of a tank lies on a bed of muddy slush. Is there a tank without such mud at the bottom? That is not our concern. It is the domain of the Rishi.

Mr. Orry Main fell in love with Madeline. She married Justin against her will. Still, Orry's love was alive. Justin cruelly punished Madeline. She planned to run away with Orry Main. On his deathbed, Madeline's father disclosed that her great-grandmother was a Negress. Orry was a wealthy Southern slave owner fighting the North on the issue of slavery. How could he love a girl with Negro blood? Madeline disclosed this secret to him. He made a superhuman effort in a trice and overcame his revulsion, saying ‘I love you.' Madeline herself was an angel, universally praised. After Justin was killed, she married Orry. Then news came to her that her mother had been a prostitute. She left Orry and lived incognito. When Orry sought her out successfully, she again spoke out her ugly secret. He still loved her and took her home. When they both reached his palatial house, it was on fire. A few weeks later, Orry's arch enemy waylaid him and stabbed him to death. Orry was idealistic enough to accept Madeline at all costs. His subconscious revolted and sought an end to his life. Idealism is great. Self-righteousness is greater still. But, for human life, they all must be within limits. Leave the depths to the yogis and Rishis. The depths are too horrible to be handled, even by the great of soul. Ordinary man can be ordinarily good or self-righteous.

story | by Dr. Radut