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By his work, thoughts, and words, an intelligent man must perform actions which will be beneficial for all living entities in this life and the next.—Sri Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 9.43

How do we know what’s right or wrong? Is there an absolute standard of morality?

The Vedic teaching, like that of other religious traditions, is that God determines what’s right or wrong. His absolute word sets the standards for morality. Without God in the picture, invented morality has no ultimate value.

The Vedic rules governing behavior take into consideration such variables as time, place, and circumstance—and even one’s spiritual standing. For example, a person advanced on the spiritual path is held to a higher standard of compassion, self-control, charity, and similar qualities.

The highest moral principle is to act toward God and all living beings in ways favorable to our spiritual progress. Everything belongs to God and is to be used in His service. As we progress in love for God, we will love all of God’s creatures and respect the rights of others, including animals.

In thanks, a person on the Bhakti path gives back to God and the world, knowing full well that the best way to help others is to elevate them spiritually. Moral behavior includes material welfare work, but it is ultimately fruitless if devoid of spiritual knowledge.