Every action has shades of good and bad. What may appear to be a shade of good may actually be a shadow of bad. What may appear to be a shade of bad may actually be vivid colours of good. The discernment of good and bad cannot be based on just observed action but based on the invisible motive behind the action.
Good done with an underlying bad motive is worse than a bad done with an underlying good motive. One can never understand whether another’s actions are good or bad unless one understands the internal motive behind the action. Humans put in a lot of effort in covering their bad motives with bright colours of superficial truth.
How long can you sweep down the dust of bad motives under the carpet of superficial truths? The day the carpet is lifted, your whole existence chokes in the dust of bad motives.
In the Ramayana, when Keikeyi was instigated by Manthara to persuade Dasaratha to fulfil his long-standing promise, she cleverly hid her wicked motive behind a veil of truth. After asking the two boons of sending Rama on a 14-year exile and coronating her son Bharata in his place as the king of Ayodhya, she began sermonizing about the glory of sticking to truth. She cited numerous examples of historic rulers who had literally given up their lives in pursuance of truth.
By hiding her iron fist of bad motives under the silken gloves of truth, Keikeyi was constantly smashing Dasaratha’s discretionary power, thus forcing him to agree to her whims. By trying to fulfil one truth, Dasaratha ended up creating havoc in the lives of millions of people, destroying the stability of his kingdom.
A little later when Rama left Ayodhya on Sumanthara’s chariot, Dasaratha’s fragile frame wobbled behind the chariot commanding Sumanthara to stop driving out of the kingdom. Rama immediately ordered Sumanthara to drive faster. Sumanthara was in a dilemma, unable to decide which command to follow; so, Rama offered an interesting solution. Rama said to follow his command and when the king inquired from him on returning, he could say that in the mayhem he couldn’t hear the royal command.
When Sumanthara first heard Rama instigating him to speak a lie, he couldn’t believe his ears. He was unable to comprehend how maryada purushottam Rama, who himself never spoke a lie, could inspire him to speak a lie. He then realised that by telling him to speak a lie, Rama was attempting to decrease the pain in his father’s heart.
As long as Rama remained in the vision of Dasaratha, his pain would only escalate. Therefore, it was pertinent for Rama to leave Dasaratha’s presence at the earliest. In order to decrease the pain of his father, Rama inspired Sumanthara to speak a blatant lie.
By speaking a lie, Sumanthara was decreasing pain and by following the truth Dasaratha was awarding pain. If the purpose of truth is achieved by a lie then that lie is truth disguised. When truth is roasted in the fire of selfishness, it becomes barren and can never give birth to hope anymore. Dasaratha’s truth destroyed hope in Ayodhya. Sumanthara’s lie destroyed pain in a distressed father’s heart. A lie that diminishes bad is better than a truth that diminishes good.
Good or bad is perceived not on basis of observed action but on the invisible motive behind the action.
Good done with an underlying bad motive is worse than a bad done with an underlying good motive.
(The writer is an author, Tedx speaker, story-teller, corporate trainer and visiting faculty in several premier management schools)