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What is Righteousness? – Yajnavalkya Smriti

Righteousness in the context of the Yajnavalkya Smriti encompasses a comprehensive array of virtues that collectively define moral and ethical conduct. Yajnavalkya Smriti, an ancient Hindu text, outlines these qualities as integral to the concept of righteousness:

Truth (Satya): Truth is the foundation of righteousness. It entails being honest and truthful in one’s speech and actions. Upholding the truth is considered a fundamental duty, as it fosters trust and integrity in society.

Honesty (Arjava): Honesty involves straightforwardness and sincerity. It is about being genuine and transparent in dealings with others, avoiding deceit and fraud. This virtue ensures fairness and justice in personal and professional relationships.

Mildness (Mardava): Mildness or gentleness reflects a compassionate and kind approach towards others. It is the quality of being considerate and not causing harm or distress through harsh words or actions. Mildness promotes harmony and peaceful coexistence.

Modesty (Dama): Modesty is characterized by humility and a sense of propriety. It involves recognizing one’s limitations and avoiding arrogance and pride. Modesty helps in maintaining a balanced perspective and fosters respect for others.

Purity (Shaucha): Purity signifies cleanliness and purity of mind, body, and soul. It encompasses physical cleanliness as well as moral purity, involving righteous thoughts and actions. Purity is essential for spiritual growth and moral clarity.

Wisdom (Prajna): Wisdom is the ability to discern right from wrong and make sound judgments. It involves knowledge, insight, and the application of experience in making ethical decisions. Wisdom guides individuals towards righteous living.

Firmness (Dhriti): Firmness refers to perseverance and steadfastness in one’s principles and duties. It is the strength to remain committed to righteousness even in the face of challenges and temptations. Firmness ensures consistency and reliability in ethical conduct.

Self-control (Dama): Self-control is the ability to regulate one’s desires, emotions, and impulses. It involves discipline and restraint, preventing actions that could lead to moral compromise. Self-control is crucial for maintaining ethical behavior.

The Restraint of the Senses (Indriya Nigraha): Restraint of the senses means controlling the sensory organs to avoid indulgence in harmful pleasures. It is about managing desires that can lead to moral degradation. This restraint helps in achieving mental and spiritual purity.

Learning (Vidya): Learning, in this context, is not just the acquisition of knowledge but also the understanding and internalization of moral and ethical principles. It is the continuous pursuit of wisdom and truth through study and reflection. Learning broadens one’s perspective and enhances moral insight.

These virtues, as detailed in the Yajnavalkya Smriti, form a holistic framework for righteous living. They emphasize the importance of moral integrity, ethical behavior, and spiritual purity. By embodying these qualities, individuals can contribute to a just and harmonious society.