A person is usually known by his/her persona i.e. by his/her outward expressions and actions. The turmoil that goes within a person often remains concealed before the receptive organs of others. Conscience or, for that matter, values is essentially an instinctive and intuitive faculty developed and nurtured over years by a person. Cultural, social and more importantly familial ambience shape a person’s psyche. Even a person with strong values falters at times when his base propensities try to overpower his conscience and is confronted with dilemma. Indian Ethics mentions of six such fundamental base propensities viz kama (undue cravings), krodha (undue anger), lobha (greed), moha (delusion), mada (vain pride) and matsarya (jealousy). Viveka (conscience) restrains these plebeian orientations. In fact, there is always a tussle within between good and bad, between beneficent propensities and malefic urges that coexist in a person’s psyche. A. person with a strong value-base can suppress lowly propensities.
An individual’s value perceptions may not be in congruence with those held or accepted by others in a society although admittedly prevalent social values help shape a person’s psyche and to a large extent one’s persona. The point to note is that social values change or get modified with passage of time in view of mutating human orientations mainly as a result of changes in social outlook with time. However, there are values which are perennial and remain immune to time. Social balance and harmony depend mostly on these perennial values.
Philosophy of Vedanta (Upanishad) classifies action into two categories- shreyah (beneficial) and preyah (pleasurable). We find elaboration of these two types of activities in an anecdote in Kathopanishad (Yama-Nachiketa Samvad). Man in general wants to do pleasurable acts. Only men with unshakable conscience think of good of others and pursue beneficial activities. Values likewise may be classified into two categories. Thoughts, expressions and actions beneficial to others are termed as positive values while pleasurable self-centered malicious thinking and actions are negative values. In traditional Indian ethics, positive values are synonymous with ”ishta” while “dwishta' stands for negative values.
Human character is extremely complicated and seldom follows a defined course of thought. Circumstances, instantaneous emotion and previous experience influence a person’s thoughts leading him/her to perpetrate actions that give apparent pleasure. Decisions related to values sometimes have to stand the test of social admissibility. It is pertinent to point out that it is extremely difficult to stick to positive values all the time because of complexity of human character shaped by emotions, passions, social ambience and other factors. It is quite possible that a person may respond and behave differently in similar situations in sharp contrast to his dominant intrinsic orientations. R L Stevenson’s famous novel “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” may be cited as an instance in which the protagonist who used to behave as a benevolent physician during day-time used to turn into a wicked criminal at night.
Salman Rushdie in his recent novel “The Golden House” has coined a new term ‘synderesis’ which in essence the moral consciousness latent in every individual guiding him to the path of justice. This is in fact a discriminatory faculty of discerning right from wrong, positive values from negative ones. However there may still remain a hiatus between a decision and its execution bringing about incongruence between our innate attitude and expressed behavior. Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa used to tell about congruence of mind and mouth which is rare. Dichotomy has become a part of life for the majority. Positive value demands avoidance of this propensity.