A moral foundation allows people to coexist within communities. The Golden Rule, which exists in some form within all the major religions, reminds individuals of how it feels to be mistreated, and encourages them to act nobly. When we feel or witness the suffering we cause in others, we are much less likely to act in negative ways, but when there is a disconnect between the individual acting and the person harmed, sometimes we cheat.
I recently went to a state park with a $3 self pay station for entrance. I’ve been to these parks enough to know that there is no surveillance and that I won’t be caught, so I start justifying reasons not to pay. “I’m only going to be here for a short visit. I didn’t have singles last time so I overpaid. I shouldn’t need to pay to visit nature. I’m going to get an annual pass at the end of the month.” After leaving, I start feeling guilty for not paying. These parks depend on these funds and I should support them, but since I’m hurting a big agency instead of an individual, I don’t feel guilty enough to right my mistake.
Meditation has taught me that the personal consequences to stealing a visit to the park is not cost-effective. The mental turmoil from justifying, second guessing, and feeling guilty for several days is true suffering, and meditation has helped me identify it as such. A peaceful mind is loving and happy, and when I act immorally, I lose my happiness. I separate myself from my community instead of feeling good about utilizing the opportunity to give back. When I do the right thing, I feel happy.
Before I started meditating I got upset when I was following the rules and other people were cheating them. I felt like they were benefiting from their choices and they were taking advantage of me which made me mad. Now I see that they’re simply hurting themselves. All the major religions are trying to teach this lesson, but if the lessons are only intellectual they might not stick. When we learn to feel our own suffering, in addition to understanding it intellectually, we’re much more likely to act positively. Maybe there’s a way for religious organizations to use meditation to help teach their lessons. Society would benefit tremendously from more citizens striving to live moral lives. Time to meditate.