Three adjacent piles of coins forming a simple graph.

Value of Values

One person may tell a lie for the sake of five thousand dollars while another person may tell a lie for a hundred thousand dollars, or for any amount in between, but not for five thousand dollars. There may also be those who would tell a lie for as little as a dollar. Everyone seems to have a price.

The value of a value

We even try to bribe the Lord in order to get to heaven. We are always ready to compromise if we can get something that is valuable enough to us. If a man sees the difference between having five thousand dollars and not having it, he may even deceive a friend who has offered to give him twenty percent over and above the value of the house he bought and renovated. All he has to do is to jack the price up by the amount of money that is so important to him. This man knows that the money can take him to Hawaii. It will definitely give him a good vacation somewhere. Thus, to have this five thousand dollars will definitely make a difference in his life. Therefore he is ready to compromise.

Suppose you tell someone, “You should not tell a lie,” and the person, being very pragmatic, questions you, “What do I lose if I tell a lie?” What will you say? Or, if your child asks, “Dad, if I can get some money so that we can have some more things, why should I not tell a lie?” Generally, you will say that telling a lie is wrong, which is another way of saying, “Don't do it!”

The general message the child gains is that what is ‘wrong’ is what I should not do. But this does not explain anything. Therefore, the child will come back asking “Why is it wrong?” “Well, because it is not right,” you say. “Why is it not right? Everybody else does it,” the child argues, “And those who lie get money. I don't get it because I don't tell a lie, but if I tell a lie, I will get it. Why should I not tell a lie then?” A father who is a little more intelligent will say, “You see, my child, you will be detected.”

Now the whole question becomes, ‘is it alright to tell a lie if I do not get caught?’ Someone might say, “So what? Even if I get caught, so what?” “You will lose your credibility,” the person is told. But, if the person does not care about his or her credibility or anything else, then where is the problem? “You will not be eligible for a credit card” may be your response, to which the person replies, “That is why I steal them. That way I get five cards at the same time!”

This line of argument is, of course, foolish and should not be pursued. What one should appreciate is this: if there is a universal value and I go against that value, I must lose something. But my focus is on the gain that results from such an action. Perhaps I gain money, which makes a difference to me because I see the value of it. But what do I lose? Since I do not care for credibility, I do not see that I lose anything.

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The Value of Values

Swami Dayananda's book is available from Arsha Vidya Research & Publication Trust.