Pricks of conscience

— Sumit Paul

A few days ago I was waiting for a friend of mine at the bus stop in Poona, a street urchin approached me and begged for alms. I just brushed him aside abrasively. But when I returned home, I felt bad from within for shooing away a poor child. This is prick of conscience that keeps gnawing at a person when he/she does something against the grain and intrinsic nature. At times, we all behave in a manner that is not in sync with our basic nature. But afterwards, we feel bad and repent. This happens to all. The fighter pilot who dropped atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945 respectively decimating both the cities, went mad once he realised the gravity of his (ruthless) military actions during the Second World War.

Emperor Ashoka became Ashoka The Great following the decisive battle of Kalinga that caused so much bloodshed that he cried and turned a pacifist. He later embraced Buddhism and sent his daughter Sanghmitra and son Mahendra to spread Buddha's universal message of non violence. Pricks of conscience or pangs of morality make us all human beings.

The voice from within is the voice of god. It's the celestial message, decoded by a sensitively evolved mind. When a disciple of Jiddu Krishnamurthy asked him, how to differentiate between a moral and immoral act, Jiddu said, 'What pains you after an action and makes you restless and sleepless is immoral.' So very true. The conscience of every person is as clean and clear as a lake of Switzerland. It gets ripples and becomes turbid when we do something we are not used to.

According to the US Medical Psychology and Behavioural Gestalts, ' Even those seemingly heartless criminals and incorrigible flirts, feel intrinsically disturbed that they have done or they are doing something which's not morally desirable' (Human Gestalts by Richmer and Clenns, 1999, July issue, New York). This moral dilemma or prick of conscience makes us all human beings and puts us notches above other creatures.

Man is basically a moral being. Immorality is foreign to him. We may all do wrongs at different stages of our lives, but none of us can remain unaffected by even a single episode of wrongdoing, however insignificant it may seem when we look back.

When Dr Nelson Mandela was imprisoned at Robben island for 27 long years, one Dutch white jail guard called him Nelson on the very first day the great man was put behind the bars by the notorious apartheid regime of South Africa. The great Mandela smiled as he knew that he was just a prisoner. The very next day, that white Dutch guard came to Mandela and addressed him Mr Mandela. He said when he told his mother that he was Dr Mandela's jail guard and he called him, 'Hey, Nelson', his mother calmly asked him, 'Ask your conscience how it felt by calling that gentleman so flippantly.' The young guard cried and admitted that he couldn't sleep as the pricks and pangs of his conscience didn't let him sleep. He decided that he would never address Mandela by his name. For 27 years, that man gave Mandela the respect he deserved.

We are all conscientious creatures and our conscience is not dead, though it could be temporarily dormant. This is the sign that the world still exists and there's still a modicum of human decency left and felt despite the widespread erosion of human values. To quote Urdu poet and critic Mazhar Imam, 'Rooh abhi tak zinda hai/Isliye toh insaaniyat rakhshanda hai ' (The conscience is still alive and that's why the humanity is still bright with hope).


About the Author
Sumit Paul is a Poona-based advanced research student of Semitic languages and civilizations. He contributes to world's premier publications and portals in several languages, viz, Persian, Arabic, Turkish, Urdu, French, Spanish, Dutch, Hindi, English among others.

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