The Principles of Applied Ethics in Daily Life

The application of ethics and values in daily life is called “applied ethics.” The modern term for this can be “life education,” which offers a solution to the dual challenge of both individual frustration and social unrest. At an individual level, it helps one to comprehend one's life, while at a social level it helps one to learn how to form the positive relations with others essential for progress and development. Universal ethics play a key role.

Where do we get such ethics? We can get them from secular sources, such as Aristotle or leaders such as John F. Kennedy, who said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” We can also get them from religions. While some may argue that religions only divide people, we should note that religion has two aspects: the theological that differs from religion to religion, and the ethical systems that are common to all religions. Since we get our principles of life from all of them, I would add that religions also play a role in formulating universal applied ethics.

At the Center for Peace and Spirituality, founded by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, we have developed a practical paradigm for applied ethics that the Maulana has been running classes on for the last seventeen years on weekends. We’ve prepared thousands of life educators who first applied the principles to themselves, and then went out to tell others about them. That is what teachers need to do. They need to first apply the principles to themselves, and keep on doing it, which is a lifelong process. We start and then as we go along, we also help students to apply the same principles.

What we developed is a solution. I’ve done research on how to establish peace in the contemporary world, and I realized that individuals need to be transformed toward a culture of peace. When this happens, they become intellectually developed, peaceful themselves, and contributors toward peace, progress and development in society. This develops nations internationally.

To this end, we’ve developed a personality development program, from which I would like to share three main principles. These principles are drawn from both secular and religious ethics:

1. A Positive Attitude

The first is a positive attitude or a positive mindset. There is a story of two men in prison looking out of their window behind bars. One sees only mud, while the other sees the stars. This means that while different people can be in the same situation, we ourselves can choose to be negative and only see mud, or we can choose to see the opportunity that the situation presents.  The more views that we develop help us to see the opportunities.

2. Positive Behavior

The second is positive behavior. In all religions there is the golden rule of ethics. In Christianity, there is, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That means we know exactly what kind of behavior we expect from others. We don’t need to be taught too many ethical rules, but just to behave in the same way we want others to behave toward us. We start giving to others and we know that in giving, we also receive. We receive our rights, our humanity – everything.

3. Peace and Non-Violence

The essence of all ethics, according to my research, can be enclosed in peace. This is an umbrella dome of all positive life principles, such as well-wishing, respect, forgiveness. In this way, all of them can come under the umbrella of peace and non-violence. When we use these principles and apply them in our daily life, we not only progress and develop ourselves, we also help to become contributors of progress in society.

I feel that it’s beneficial if teachers, along with students, take such programs. Ramanujan College has already given us an opportunity to take these modules to their teachers and students, which has been very successful. To take this further, the Center for Peace and Spirituality has developed courses for schools, such as our “We, the Living” course, which has course books, research material and teachers’ material for grades 1–12. For colleges and campuses, we have developed the “Culture of Peace” course, which we hope to introduce to Ramanujan College. For off-campus individuals and corporations, we are developing the “Good Life Program.”  Through these programs, we want to take these to the world. We have established centers all over India. Internationally we are putting them online so our centers and life educators there can take these further. I hope that it is a small step toward developing life educators or ethicists. In this way, we can become intellectually developed ourselves and become contributors of progress and development.