Realise, first of all, what morality means. I give it the definition that I have given elsewhere: “Morality is the Science of harmonious relations between intelligent beings.” There is no morality for the mineral; there is no morality for the vegetable; there is no morality for the animal. Those are in the group under evolutionary law which compels them to go forward by the tremendous struggle for existence. By that struggle certain qualities are evolved–the qualities which are the bases of the humanity which is to be born into the world. There is a stage where there is no morality; where the creature is not immoral, but, is not-moral, is unmoral–without morality. He has not reached the stage where conscious obedience to law is possible for him; and so, as he is without the knowledge of good and evil, you cannot claim from him obedience to a law of Right and Wrong. Not only so, but taking that as our first point–that there is a stage where morality cannot exist because of the want of self-consciousness–the next point that you must realise, in establishing a Science of Morality, is a clear understanding of the meaning of the word “law”. Now “law” may be a command made by a human legislature, or made arbitrarily by the ruler of a Nation, changeable, therefore, with an arbitrary penalty attached to its transgression. But the moral law, like all laws of Nature, is not a command either to do, or not to do. It is a declaration of conditions which produce certain definite results. Chemical law does not tell you, you _must_ put hydrogen and oxygen together and produce water. You may produce water or not as you like; you are perfectly free to make it or not to make it; but the law is that if you put hydrogen and oxygen together at a certain temperature under a certain pressure, then you must produce water. It is a statement of conditions, followed by unchangeable result. A law of Nature, therefore, is not violable. You cannot change it. Nothing can prevent the formation of water, if only the conditions for its production are present. Nothing can ever produce water unless the conditions for its production are present. You cannot change it; that is a law. But, according to your knowledge of law is your freedom in a realm of law. The ignorant man goes about in Nature buffeted by her laws, crushed by some, helped by others; to him the happenings are matters of chance, for he knows not the laws amid which he lives. Cabined, crippled, rendered helpless, he stands before an inexorable Nature, and knows not how, or whither, he should move. But the man of knowledge, knowing the laws around him, walks with perfect freedom in a realm of law; he balances one law against another, he utilises laws that help, he neutralises laws that oppose him, and in proportion to his knowledge is his freedom; for, as it has well been said: “Nature is conquered by obedience.” Obeying, he is free. Now the moral law is a natural law, not an artificial one. It is an expression, as are all the laws of Nature, of Īshvara, who is the life, the sustenance, of His Universe. The moral law cannot be broken; the moral law cannot be changed; it is the will of God in Evolution; and, by that alone may Right and Wrong be tested. That is Right which helps evolution forward; that is Wrong which opposes the Divine Will in Evolution. There is your standard, or canon, of Right and Wrong. Oh! you say, that is not a rough and ready definition, or standard. No; it requires knowledge. And so the Ṛṣhis, the great Teachers, have given certain commands–morals to be followed by the ignorant, based on the one supreme law of conformity to the Divine Will in Evolution. We are told by Vyāsa: “To do good to another is Right; to do evil to another is Wrong.” We are told by the Christ: “Do unto others as ye would that they should do to you.” But take those two moral commands, and see whether under all circumstances they should be obeyed. As a rough rule of conduct–yes; for the masses of people–yes; but can a King obey Christ’s command, or a Judge “do unto others as” he “would that they should do unto” him? When he has a murderer before him in the dock, and he sits to administer the law of the land, may he say: “I must do to the murderer as I would that he should do to me, and I must not sentence him to punishment because I would not wish to be so sentenced”? All these general commands as to action are limited in their scope, are modified by surrounding conditions, depend on the position of the person. You and I have no right to lock up in a room another person because he has injured us; but the Judge has the duty of locking him up, if he has transgressed the law of the land and prison is the appointed punishment. Another precept was given by a very practical man, Confucius. He was asked: “How shall we behave? What word is there which defines our duty? shall we return good for evil, as the great Sage Lâo-tsze has declared?” And Confucius, being a practical statesman, answered: “Is not ‘Reciprocity’ such a word? If you return good for evil, with what will you recompense good? Recompense good with good, and evil with justice.” Now there you have the law of the State. The law of forgiveness, the law of returning good for evil, is the law for the man aspiring to lead a spiritual life. It is a duty on the Path of Holiness; it is a duty of one aspiring to become a Saint or a Yogī. It is the law for the individual conduct which raises the man from the brute to the God; but for the State, that is not the law. For the Nation, the stage of evolution has not yet been reached which can return good for evil, and allow an enemy to overrun the country and to have his will upon the people.
And so, in dealing with morality, as in dealing with every Science, you must use your brains as well as your emotions, and you must judge the consequence of actions in order to guide your path.