Case Study: The Parable of the Sadhu

Ethical Analysis of the Parable of the Sadhu The Parable of the Sadhu is a story of men climbing the Himalayas that run into a moral dilemma.
Case Study: The Parable of the Sadhu
These are not just any men. These are groups of men from many different cultural backgrounds. As they are climbing the mountain they run into a nearly naked Indian holy man that is near death. The moral dilemma comes into play when they are forced to make the decision to backtrack down the mountain to save the man and probably never reach their ultimate goal, or ignore the needs of the desperate man in order to fulfill their personal desires. By looking at the situation and what the men did it is clear that they acted through the ethical thought process of egoism and social contract. They acted.

Through the ethical thought of social contract, there are rules that are necessary to maintain stable and harmonious social relations among people. The Sherpas, the New Zealanders, and the Japanese all did the bare minimum for the Sadhu. They did this because they believed they were bound by a social contract to their fellow man to benefit from the formation of social structures. The hikers were there for the experience of the Himalayas. This was also their sole purpose on the trip and had a social responsibility to the men in the group over the Sadhu, and by that belief they had to respect the purpose of the trip. This meant not getting in the way of the others. With the social contract theory, in life, should we sacrifice doing the right thing because it puts others around us in a discomforting situation? These were the two beliefs that the mountaineers went by. Through Kantanian thought there would be one rule that everyone is required to follow. This rule in the authors mind would be to do the right thing. In this situation through Kantanian thought the man should have been saved because that is the right thing to do. Weather it was because you wanted to or because they had a duty to it, it still should have been done. Since the men clearly didn’t want to do the right thing these men should have acted out of duty, which in Kantanian thought is a greater.

Ethical Issue

The ethical issue came into play when we belonging from various cultural backgrounds were required to decide to back down the mountain to save the sadhu and perhaps never reach our ultimate goal. Our priority was to climb the mountain rather than helping the Sadhu by carrying him to the village where his fellow mates could have helped him. Every person did their bit for the person, but nobody ensured the final well-being of the person (McCoy, 1983).


The facts that are known are that a pilgrim was found by one of the New Zealanders was lying in the ice, suffering and shivering from hypothermia. Though the New Zealander was annoyed, still I grabbed a carotid pulse and discovered that he was alive. The four Swiss and Stephen stripped off their outer clothing and provided clothes to the naked Sadhu from head to toe (Sójka, 2016). Though the Sadhu could not walk he was alive. In a desire to get over the pass I left the sadhu in the hands of Pasang and Stephen I moved ahead. The Japanese refused to transport the sadhu to the hut. Pasang resisted the idea of carrying the Sadhu 1000 feet down and again climb the slope (Lategan, 2016). Everyone was concerned about their own safety and health. The facts that are not known are why the sadhu had chosen the high route and instead of the safe route and why was he barefoot and naked. Another unknown fact is whether he is alive.


Though no person was harmed in this case and the Sadhu was benefitted from our actions, but the ultimate result is still unsatisfactory as it is not known whether he is dead or alive. Moral virtues are the qualities that enable us to live well (Goodpaster, 2017). They are not rules but the habits that we cultivate. The action that my fellow mates and I could have taken is to take the sadhu back to his home and ensured his well-being.

I regret that other members of the group including me acted simply permissible. We acted like someone who would be anticipated to act but not as an upright person would be expected to act. Another action we could have taken is at least enquired about the Sadhu’s health before we left the place. Our actions were worthy of being blamed as we were simply justifiable in a situation which actually needed sacrifice and heroism.

Making the Decision

Though at first, I was defensive to the arguments of Stephen and things like one in a lifetime opportunity and stress factors crossed my mind, but later I realized the ethical dilemma. If I could dwell back in the past, I would have helped the sadhu rather than being self-centred. I should have ensured that the Sadhu reaches his home and he gets the needed care. Yes, this would have reflected by values that I as an individual have learned from my childhood.

Testing the decision

If I shared my decision, I expect others to respect my decisions and support me. If they are individuals with true values they must understand before career opportunities and self-love, there always comes values towards mankind.


Goodpaster, K. (2017). Human dignity and the common good: The institutional insight. Business and Society Review122(1), 27-50.

Lategan, L. O. (2016). From awareness to solution: building blocks for business ethics decision-making. Journal for Christian Scholarship= Tydskrif vir Christelike Wetenskap52(4), 239-257.

McCoy, Bowen H. “The parable of the Sadhu.” Harvard Business Review 61.5 (1983): 103-108.

Sójka, J. (2016). THE POWER OF A PARABLE THE RELIGIOUS “ORIGINS” OF BUSINESS ETHICS. Człowiek i Społeczeństwo/Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu. Wydział Nauk Społecznych41, 27-47.


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