[Solved] “A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.” – M.K.Gandhi
( UPSC GS-4 Mains 2019)
This quote explains how one’s thoughts largely determine what one becomes. This is because, borrowing from John Locke, human mind is a clean slate at the time of birth. With socialization, it learns. So, it is what we think develops into our attitude. This attitude reflects in our behaviors also.
If one thinks positively, a sense of hope and optimism will develop. This will push person to take lead, act and affect change. On the contrary, if one thinks negatively, it breeds hopelessness and pessimism.
It chokes initiative.
This can be corroborated with various examples. Hitler, at his cognitive level, was adamant that Jews were responsible for all the problems of Germany. This developed into a feeling of hatred and manifested into behavior of anti-Semitism. On the contrary, Mandela understood that forgiveness is better than revenge and justice is better than reconciliation. This thought converted into an attitude of humility and compassion and manifested into post-apartheid policy of Mandela.
This is so because our thoughts are seeds of our attitude and behaviors. This can be understood through analyzing Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral components of attitude formations. In ancient Indian texts also, it has been advised to keep thoughts high and clean as what we continuously think becomes our Vritti. This becomes our disposition and goes out of conscious control also. In long term, guiding our small actions, without our realizing, it determines our destiny.
Actions of a person are largely determined by her thought process. One’s thoughts are the first engagement points with the society. Thoughts impact behaviour as well as the attitude, while moulding the actions. It therefore, becomes very important for the thoughts to be fixated to a compass of morality and conscience. Ethical behaviour and regulation of actions emerge from ethical thought process.
Thoughts or reflections on experiences open up possibilities for the choices of action to be taken. An understanding and awareness of one’s thoughts and feelings, or emotional intelligence can help in regulating her actions accordingly. For example, while thoughts of kindness and compassion can create more empathetic individuals, thoughts of violence and anger can contribute to the making of criminals in society.
Technological advancements like Artificial Intelligence and Big data invoke new questions around ethics in the present day society. Individuals’ thinking has become more self centred under the impact of increasing individualism and consumerism, this has further led to the individuals’ detachment from the community and society. There has also been an increased desire from the market and the state for the control over people’s thoughts, behaviours and actions. This is not only in violation of a person’s right to speech and expression but also reduces the individual’s tendency to question and to think critically.
It is in these times that people’s ability to think freely in a society should be nurtured. Societies need to emphasise more on the education as inculcation of critical ethical thinking can produce individuals who act ethically, thereby impacting society, nation and the world at large.
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