Indian Ethics and Epics

Interfaculty elective:
Introduction to Indian Ethics and Epics
[3 MU credits]
Dvaita Philosophy Resource Centre

The socio-cultural and political scenario of India has always triggered questions and debates on the understanding and the practice of ethics, values and traditions. A revisit to Indian epics, which comment on various aspects of human life, will provide the reader with conceptual tools to deal with moral dilemmas of the contemporary world.

A study of the Indian epics – Ramayana and Mahabharata – reveals interesting and contrasting views on ethical systems that ruled the societies in those times. They both seem to be right in their own right. How did ‘what was right in one context’ prove wrong in another? Was this ethical relativism? Or did the society witness a sea change that the ideas of natural justice varied at different times? A thorough reading of the texts helps us in understanding the ethical frameworks and the changes brought in them by the passage of time.

Learning outcomes

On completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • develop a good understanding of the Indian epics;
  • gain comparative perspectives on historical and contemporary backgrounds to Indian ethics;

Course contents

1) Introduction to Indian epics
2) Narratives of Ramayana, Mahabharata and other Puranas
3) Indian ethics: dharma and niti
4) Smrtis and Dharmashastras
5) Definitions of ethics and morality
6) Ethical and moral theories and practices
7) Ethical absolutism, relativism, pluralism, and contextualism
8) Vedas and Upanishads and their influence on Indian epics
9) Ideas and ideals of Indian lore and characters
10) Concept of gods and divinities in Vedic system
11) Vedic religion and its practices
12) Bhagavad-gita and its principles
13) Prescribed (reference) and preferred (preference) roles and society
14) Theory of equanimity and the principles of nature satva, rajas and tamas
15) Karma-yoga: science of deeds and fruits
16) Jnana-yoga: path of knowledge and wisdom
17) Bhakti-yoga: path of surrender and devotion
18) Ways of living and customs of Indian society