Quotations of Gautam Buddha, Jeremy Bentham & Plato, bring out what it means to you in the present context.

Civil Services Main Examination

General Studies (Paper - 4) : Model Question & Answers


Question: Quotations of Gautam Buddha, Jeremy Bentham & Plato, bring out what it means to you in the present context.

Answer: (a) “You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger”. – Gautama Buddha.


Gautam BuddhaThrough this statement Buddha has reminded us that we aggravate our pain and misery by becoming angry. Buddha has emphasized that the life is full of suffering and thus we ought to do our utmost to minimize pain and suffering from our own life as well as from the lives of every other. The root cause of this pain is our ignorance, we fail to understand the impermanent and momentary character of the reality and thereby end up in misery. Buddha’s teaching ‘Be a light unto yourself‘ (atmadipo bhavah) suggests that we ought to take a resolve to have a life of self-reliance by conquering our greed, envy and anger. We ought to inculcate love and compassion within and that can help us make a difference to our sorrowful existence. A life of ahimsa and karuna can help us attain peace and tranquility but anger and violence would make the situation all the more worse.

One may intend to harm others through anger and violent acts not knowing that this is going to affect one’s own mental peace severely. In present times, where violence is regarded as the solution of every problem of life- social, economic and political, it is high time that we invoke Buddha’s teaching to make amend within and outside before it gets too late.

(b) “Dream not that men will move their little finger to serve you, unless their own advantage in so doing be obvious to them”. – Jeremy Bentham


http://www.iasplanner.com/civilservices/images/Jeremy-Bentham.jpgBentham has argued that every action of human being is motivated by self interest. However, despite being selfish, according to him, we are motivated to work for ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number’ since we are governed by two sovereign masters- pleasure and pain. His democratic principle of justice- “each is to count for one and no one for more than one” and utility principle has introduced many reforms in social and legal spheres of human life. Moreover, his own student J.S. Mill has countered his view by emphasizing on the progressive outlook of human being. Mill has acknowledged intrinsic nobility of human being whereby they are motivated from within to serve the interests of others.

In present times, I believe utilitarianism is not a very tenable idea for us to refer to. As Rawls has argued, such a theory may result into violating the rights of minorities for the sake of greatest number. We must recognize that basic human rights are inviolable. Similarly, Gandhi, in his conception of sarvodaya samaj, has emphasized that we should strive to empower and uplift each and every member of society rather than the greatest number, since that is the only way to attain happiness in true sense of the term. Thus, we need to understand that even if we are selfish we need to contemplate to ascertain what constitute our self interest. And it is a tenable idea to maintain that selfishness, self- nterestedness and selflessness can supplement and complement each other.

(c) “The morality of the individual and the morality of the state are one and the same”. – Plato


http://www.iasplanner.com/civilservices/images/Plato.jpgPlato’s view that morality in every sphere of human life must have the same nature and character can help us resolve moral dilemmas of various kinds very effectively. It is often argued that there can be different guidelines for private sphere of human life as well as social, professional, economic, political and religious spheres, but in the light of this statement we can see that ethical life is the most fundamental sphere of human existence and every other spheres of human life shall be designed in accordance with fundamental moral insights. Plato’s view also strengthens feminist’s argument that ‘private is also political’.

Plato, like his teacher Socrates, has a very positive idea about human being. In his text Republic, Plato has argued that justice can be realized at the level of individual as well as at the level of State by establishing the rule of reason. Reason must prevail upon unjust bodily desires and vested interests. Thus, it can be argued that first and foremost an individual has to fight against one’s own inner forces and once one is able to conquer oneself thereby one has the competence to deal with the challenges of every other spheres of life in most just manner. The Socratic dictum, “The unexamined life is not worth living” reiterates that life and morality are integral and that we cease to exist in true sense of the term the moment we start to undermine moral ideals of life.


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