No going back to the past
A friend has a question, and there are a few more questions to the same effect. The friend has asked, HOW IS IT THAT YOU SUPPORT CAPITALISM WHICH IS BASED ON SELFISHNESS?
A few things have to be understood in this connection. Firstly, down the ages we have been taught many wrong things, and among them, one is that it is wrong to live for oneself. In fact, man is born to live for himself, but he is taught to live for others, and not for himself. The father should live for his son, and the son, in his turn, should live for his son. This means that neither the father nor the son can really live. They say, "Live for the society, live for the nation, live for humanity, live for God, live for salvation, but please, never commit the mistake of living for yourself."
This thing has been so incessantly preached that it has sunk deep into our consciousness, and we really believe that it is a sin to live for oneself. But the truth is that if a person has to live, he can only live for himself, and for no one else. And if living for others happens, it is just the consequence of living very deeply for oneself; it iS Just Its fragrance.
No one in the world can live for the other; it is just impossible. A mother does not live for her son; she lives for the joy of being a mother. And if she dies for her son, it is really her own joy. The son is an excuse. If you see a man drowning and you jump into the river to save him, you might say to others that you risked your life to save another man's life, but it would be a wrong statement on your part. The truth is that you could not bear to see the man dying, which was your own pain. And to rid yourself of this pain you jumped into the river and saved him. You had nothing to do with the other really. Would you have saved him if you had not suffered pain? There were many others on the bank of the river too; they felt no pain and they did not do a thing. Whenever a man saves another man from drowning, he really does so to save himself from pain, because he cannot bear to see him dying. Deep down he is saving himself from pain and sorrow.
A man serves the poor because he cannot hear to .see them suffer. So, he is wrong if he says that he serves the poor. The poverty of another man hecomes his own sorrow and he does something to alleviate it. He just cannot live with this sorrow, and so he serves the poor. Till now no man has lived for another man; each man lives for himself.
But you can live for yourself in two ways. You can live in a way that harms others; you can live by injuring and killing others. And you can live in a way that helps others to live and grow too. But the talk of altruism, of the service of others, is dangerous. When we ask someone to live for others, we really ask him to live a life that is unnatural and unhealthy.
I have heard that a father was once teaching his son the purpose of life. Many times teachings like this have proven to be dangerous. He said to his son, "God has made you for the service of others." The son, if he was like the sons of olden times, would have taken to serving others as asked by his father -- but he belonged to the new age, and he said, "I take it that God made me for the service of others, but why do you think he made the others? Just to be served by me? Then God has been unjust to me. And if he made me to serve others and made the others to serve me, then God seems to be very confused.
Instead of this complex arrangement he could have laid a very simple rule: 'Let each live for himself.'" And remember, when somebody serves others he always does so with a motive. Service is a bait with which he dominates others. Really, he begins with service and ends with lordship. Beware of one who professes to serve you. He is certainly going to ask the price. He will say, "I served you; I sacrificed everything for you." A mother who tells her child that she sacrificed everything for him is going to cripple the child, even ruin him.
And a father who says so to his son will possess and dominate him all his life. It is just natural. It is natural that he will ask for the price of his services.
But I say that a mother is not a mother who tells her child that she suffered and sacrificed for him. She may have been a nurse, but not a mother. Really, she has not known what motherhood is. Caring for the child is the joy of motherhood; it is its own reward. It has nothing to do with the child. If she had no child, she would have shed tears for the rest of her life; she would have thought her life to be a waste.
It is in the very nature of man, in his innate nature, to live for himself. But this simple and clean truth could not be accepted -- we condemned it; we called it selfishness. But selfishness is natural and therefore right; it is not unnatural. It is unnatural only if I live at the cost of others, if I injure others for my sake. So a society should not be so organized that we ask everyone to live for the society, to sacrifice for the society. It should be such as allows every member to live for his sake, and the law or the state should intervene only when one hurts the interests of others.
But the so-called socialist or communist ideology believes that the individual has to be sacrificed at the altar of the collective, the society. For them, society is the end, and the individual has to live for the society. Whenever such goals are set, the individual is disarmed, he becomes helpless. He says, "What can I do? The society is so big that I have to submit to it, to sacrifice for it." So much bloodshed and killing in human history were the results of this thinking. Someone is dying for Islam, and someone else is killing for Islam. They say, "If you die for Islam, your heaven is guaranteed. Don't live for yourself, live for Islam." Someone else says that you have to live for Hinduism, and not for yourself. You have to live for the temple, for the idol in the temple -- you have to die for the sake of the idols. Again, someone says that you have to live for the sake of India, or for the sake of Pakistan or China, or for the sake of socialism.
But no one says that everybody should live for himself, which is so natural and simple.
We let go of natural and simple truths; we forget them altogether. The truth is that every man can live only for himself. And if we force him to do otherwise, he will turn into a hypocrite. That is why people who take to the service of others, necessarily, unavoidably become hypocrites. Because while they live for themselves, they have to show that they are living for others. Thus they live a double life; they are one thing inwardly, and quite another outwardly. That is inevitable The politician claims that he is dying for the nation, when in reality he is dying for his chair, for his position. The chair has become synonymous with the nation. If his chair is lost he would not care a bit for the nation; he would let it go to hell. Similarly the priest proclaims that he is dying for God and religion, when in reality he is dying for his position in the church; he is dying for his ego.
But we are not prepared to accept this simple truth. And that is why hypocrisy enters our life and corrodes it. And because of hypocrisy and its thousand and one tentacles, life moves onto wrong tracks and becomes hellish.
I say to you that to be selfish is to be healthy. There is nothing sinful about it. In my vision, men like Mahavira, Buddha and Christ are the most selfish men on this earth.
Why? -- because they live purely for themselves, seeking their self, their soul, their bliss, their freedom, their God. And, curiously enough, they happen to be the most altruistic people who walked this planet. The reason is that when a man discovers himself and finds his enlightenment and bliss, he immediately begins to share it with others. He is now on a new journey -- a journey of sharing his joy, his benediction. What else can he do? When clouds are full they rain; when bliss is full it overflows, it shares itself with others.
And this too, is selfishness.
The same is true with misery. When a man is full of misery, he shares it by hurting others. These are the martyr-like people abounding all over in the form of parents, teachers, politicians, saints, gurus and mahatmas. They are trying to live for others, and they are very dangerous people. In the first place, they themselves fail to grow and bloom; they remain stunted and they are increasingly miserable. And the more miserable they are, the more they serve you. And then they ask for their return, for the price of their services. So by way of serving you they dominate you, they strangle you. That is the price you pay for their services.
The people who served this country until 1947 are now out collecting their rewards. They have been in jails and now they are asking for the presidency of the country as their price.
Nobody tells them that it was their pleasure that they courted imprisonment and that they enjoyed it. Nobody had promised the presidency in return for going to jail. They fought for the country's freedom; it was their own choosing. Nobody had forced them to do it.
But now they are trying to dominate us, to rule over us forever. They say that we have to honor them for their services, that we have to pay them back.
Every servant demands his price. And nobody knows when a servant will turn into a boss. The servant is already preparing to be a boss; service is only a means to this end.
He alone truly serves others who is supremely selfish. And to be so selfish means that he is seeking his own highest good, his own benediction. And the day he attains it, its fragrance, its joy begins irresistibly to reach others. He is fulfilled, he is overflowing with bliss, and he cannot but share it. But then this man knows that whatever he is doing is again for his own joy. He does not even expect a "thank you" in return.
Buddha visited a village. The people of the village said, "We are grateful to you for coming to us and sharing your wisdom with us. It is your compassion that you traveled such a long distance for our sake." Buddha said, "Please don't say so. In fact, I am grateful to you for kindly coming to listen to me. I am fulfilled, I am overflowing with bliss, and I want to share it with you. If you had not come, I would have gone calling you from house to house. I am like a cloud in search of parched land where it can rain; I am like a river in search of the sea to pour itself into; I am like the flower in full bloom scattering its fragrance in all directions. I am thankful to you for having come to me so I can give of myself to you."
Those who know, know well that service of others is also an act of deep, profound selfishness. Service is the joy of the servant himself, and this joy can be possible only if we accept selfishness, not condemn it.
The capitalist system is the most natural system where nobody is called upon to sacrifice himself for another. Everybody lives for himself, in search of life. And through this search he will certainly live for others too, because nobody can live alone and by himself.
To live means living in relationship. Life is relationship. If all of us seek our happiness and bliss, if a thousand persons sitting here find their happiness, then we are going to have happiness a thousandfold. And we will have to share it; it will go on spreading.
There is no other way. On the other hand, if each of us lives for others, if each is made to sacrifice himself for others, then all of us will be left with nothing but piles of misery; there will be not one iota of happiness to share.
To the friend who says that the world is in a mess on account of selfishness, I would like to say that he is mistaken to think so. It is not because of selfishness but because of the unnatural and unscientific teaching of altruism, of service to others, that the world is in a mess. It is enough if you find your own happiness, which is natural and easy. If you do this much in one lifetime -- between birth and death, you find your own bliss -- the world will be grateful to you. Because the man who finds his happiness ceases to hurt others, to cause unhappiness to others. Why?
The man who knows that he wants to be happy also knows that it is impossible to be happy by hurting others. The man who knows that if he hurts others he will lose his own happiness, also knows that if he makes others happy his own happiness will multiply.
This is the simple arithmetic of life. And the day a man sees the truth of it, a revolution happens in his life: he is transformed.
But the religions of the world teach renunciation. They ask you to renounce, to sacrifice, and not to be selfish. The Sanskrit word for selfishness is swartha and it is beautiful.
Swartha means "that which is meaningful for the self". Swa means the self, the soul, and artha means meaning.
How is it necessary that what is in my interests should go against your interests? If you go deeper and deeper you will find that what is good for you cannot go against the good of others. Because deep down, at the level of being, we are all united and one. It is impossible that what is good for me should be basically bad for you. And the contrary is also true -- what is harmful for you would be the same for me.
I had been to a mountain which had an echo point. Whatever sound one makes there, the whole mountain echoes it. One of the friends with me knew how to imitate the sounds of different animals. He barked like a dog and soon the mountain was resounding with the bark of a dog. And it seemed that a thousand dogs were barking, and that they were all over the place. I said to the friend, "Do you see it? You produced the sound of a single dog, and it was magnified into that of a thousand dogs -- as if we are surrounded by dogs and only dogs. On account of your own small dog's voice you are now surrounded by the uproar of a thousand dogs. How beautiful it would be if you now speak in the voice of a cuckoo."
The friend knew how, and he called like a cuckoo. And now the mountain was filled with the sweet melody of a thousand cuckoos, resounding beautifully all over the place.
This incident made the friend silent and pensive, and he retired to a secluded place. He came back to me after a while and said. "It seems to me that you had devised a message for me through this incident." Agreeing with him, I asked. "Can you tell me what the message was?"
He then said. "It appears that this mountain with an echo point is symbolic of man's life.
What we say or do here returns to us a thousandfold. If we bark like a dog we will be surrounded by a thousand barking dogs. If we hurt others the hurt will return to us multiplied by a thousand. If we treat the world with anger, hate and violence, the same hate and violence will come back to us, magnified greatly. The old dictum is true that if we sow the seeds of the thorn, we will have to reap a whole harvest of thorns alone. In the same way, if we share our love and bliss with others it will return to us a thousandfold. Life is really an echo point."
That is why I say that I am not against selfishness. If you can find your swartha -- the meaning of your self -- you will do so much good to the world, good you cannot do in any other way.
For this very reason I am not opposed to the system of capitalism -- which is based on selfishness. Rather. I support it fully. It is this selfish system which will gradually develop into a socialist system. My vision is that if everybody pursues his self interests, we will, sooner or later, come to realize that we unnecessarily come in the way of the interests of others, and then we will cease to do so. If all of you can multiply your selfishness -- your self interest, your happiness -- a thousand times, then humanity is destined to achieve socialism. It will come, not through the conflict of self-interests. but through cooperation of self-interests.
Another friend has asked, CAPITALISM IS FULL OF CORRUPTION AND BLACK MARKETING. WHAT HAVE YOU TO SAY ABOUT IT?
Capitalism is not the cause of black markets and corruption. Scarcity of capital is the cause. When there is a shortage of wealth we cannot prevent corruption. Where the population is large and wealth scarce, people find ways and means to own wealth; they care little for the right ways and means. If you want to do away with corruption, then stop worrying about corruption, because corruption is a byproduct. We have nothing to do with it. But all the politicians, all the saints, are busy fighting corruption. They say, "We are determined to end corruption." But the real problem is different -- it is lack of wealth.
Corruption is the natural consequence of poverty. If there are a thousand persons here and there is food enough only for ten, do you think there will be no attempts at procuring food through stealing?
Dr. Frankel has written a small book of his memoirs. Dr. Frankel was a psychologist who was thrown into one of Hitler's concentration camps. Mind you, Hitler was a socialist. Dr.
Frankel says in his memoirs that it was in that prison camp that he came to see the real face of man. The prisoners were given only one meal in twenty-four hours, and that too was very meager. They were almost being starved. Dr. Frankel says that he saw people known as great poets, writers, physicians and engineers, stealing pieces of bread from the bags of their fellow prisoners during the nighttime. Among them were men highly respected for their character and moral values, men who held high offices like that of the mayor of a city, and they were seen begging for a cigarette on bended knees -- and unashamedly. And none of them thought that he was doing anything wrong.
Writing about himself, the famous psychologist says that the bread he was given was so little that it never satiated his hunger; he was always in a state a semi-starvation. So he broke the bread into a number of small pieces to be eaten at small intervals of time so they would last for twenty-four hours. And he found that day in and day out he only thought of bread and nothing else. He forgot all about God and soul, consciousness and unconsciousness, analysis and psychology, and the rest of it -- which had been the most significant things of his life. In Hitler's concentration camp he realized that bread was everything and nothing else mattered. Frankel also admits that he was not sure that if given the opportunity he would not have stolen another's bread.
Bribery, corruption and black marketing only prove the fact that there are too many people and too little goods. We refuse to understand this simple fact. Corruption is not a disease, it is just a symptom of a disease which is deep-rooted. When a man has a fever, it is said that he is "down with fever". Fever itself is taken for the disease. But in reality fever is a symptom, an indication of some deep disorder in the physiology of the man who is running a temperature. Similarly, corruption is a symptom of a social disease -- poverty. But the politician and the priest believe that corruption can be ended without caring for production and population control. They say that God is sending more and more men to this earth. If God is responsible for our increasing population, then he is the most corrupting factor today, because corruption grows with the growing population. We have to restrict, even to stop this ever-flowing gift of God. We have to tell him, "Enough is enough; we don't need more men. And if you send more, then give to each one of them ten acres of land and a factory to work with."
People are not immoral, as the priests and politicians would have us believe. It is the situation that is immoral. No man is immoral. Really, man is neither moral nor immoral, but the situation is immoral. And a person can be moral in an immoral situation if he strives hard, but then his whole life will be wasted in the very effort. He will not be able to do anything else. He will somehow save himself from being immoral. He will, with tremendous effort, suppress the temptation to steal; that is all he will achieve. So it is a question of changing the situation, because really the situation is immoral. No amount of anti-corruption campaigns are going to succeed if the situation is not changed. But if production grows and wealth is plentiful, corruption will go by itself. Nobody will steal if there is an abundance of wealth in the society.
Another friend has asked,
BUDDHA, MAHAVIRA, KRISHNA AND RAMA -- THEY ALL TALKED OF RENUNCIATION, BUT YOU SAY THAT WEALTH HAS TO BE INCREASED.
WHY THIS CONTRADICTION?
It is true that I ask you to produce more wealth. It is now difficult to ascertain exactly what Buddha, Rama and Krishna had said But if they said that wealth need not be produced, then they were wrong.
Talk of renunciation on the part of those who have no wealth is ridiculous. What would they renounce? Buddha could talk of renunciation because he was born in an affluent family. Buddha could afford to leave Yashodhara, his wife, behind, and move to the forest to live the life of an ascetic, because he knew that Yashodhara had a palace and every other means of security that one needs. But if a Buddha of the present times leaves his Yashodara a for twelve years, then at the end of twelve years he will find Yashodhara in some brothel and not in her home. Buddha could leave his son. Rahul, behind. because on his return he would find him in his own home. But it a present-day Buddha leaves his son and goes to the forest, the son will be found either in some orphanage or begging on the streets of Bombay. It would even be difficult to locate him. Buddha had abundant wealth, and men like him can very well talk of sacrifice because they have plenty to sacrifice.
But the irony is that people who had nothing chose to follow those who had plenty. All the wise men of this country came from affluent families, while the rest of the people lived in poverty and misery. I wonder how the people accepted their teaching and agreed to follow them. But there is a logic behind it, a reason for it. The poor derived some pleasure, some satisfaction from their acceptance of the Buddhas. They now said to themselves, "What is there in wealth? Buddha had so much and he is begging in the streets. We are already Buddhas; we are already beggars." The mind of India, that had suffered so much poverty, felt consoled and gratified. We were pleased to see Buddha and Mahavira begging. He bowed down to them not because of them, but because of the consolation we derived from them. We thought that we were blessed in our misery.
But remember, it is one thing to live in a palace and then leave it and beg, and quite another never to have lived in a palace and be a beggar on the streets. Buddha was not an ordinary beggar; even as a beggar he moved with the dignity and grace of a lord. Even emperors looked small before him, because he had renounced that which they were dying for. He was the emperor of emperors, because empires had become meaningless for him.
On the other hand there are those who have never known riches and whose whole being craves riches, but they don't have the will and energy and intelligence necessary to attain it. And then they say the grapes are sour. Buddha and Mahavira provide them with an alibi, an excuse. This is how they console themselves.
India has long been in that state of self: deception, and because of it she is in a mess. And this is her main difficulty, her real problem. We have to understand clearly that Buddha and Mahavira and men like them had renounced affluence, and not poverty. They had not known poverty and misery. Buddha's father had assembled around him all the beautiful women that were then available in Bihar. He had known women through and through.
And so it is understandable that he transcended sex.
But there are people who have not known a woman in their lives, not even touched one, and they are trying to become Buddhas. They are constantly dreaming about women.
There is a release from sex after you have experienced it thoroughly. But one who practices celibacy by keeping away from women will get mole entangled in sex than a married man gets. Really, the married man wants to run away from women; the husband is constantly trying to escape from his wife, to get rid of her. But the unmarried man cannot know the torments of the married. And if he decides to practice celibacy he is bound to be in trouble. great trouble.
To use contentment as an escape from poverty is one thing, and to give up riches with wisdom is quite another. It was unfortunate that India accepted the leadership of those who had really known riches and then renounced it. That is the basic reason why this country could not be prosperous, why it has remained poor for centuries. We took to a philosophy -- a philosophy of poverty -- and became its prisoners. And, curiously enough. we seem to enjoy it. It is like enjoying an itch!
We have had enough of this nonsense. It is time we said a complete goodbye to it. The mind of the country has to understand very clearly that we have to have wealth. Wealth is a must, because we can go beyond it only after we have it; otherwise it is tremendously difficult.
I don't say that there cannot be any exceptions to this rule, but exceptions only prove the rule. Somebody wrote to me that a particular saint was poor and yet he went beyond . H e may have been an exception. It is just possible, but he is not the rule. Rules cannot be made on the basis of a few exceptions. If there is malaria in a certain village and one of the villagers escapes infection without taking anti-malaria vaccine, does it prove that anti- malarial vaccination is useless? Maybe he escaped just because malaria germs were negligible in his case. But he cannot be the rule. And the whole village will die if he is made the rule; and if the whole village dies, he cannot live. It is also possible that this man survived because all others had been vacillated; their immunity helped him.
Never should an exception be made the basis of a rule. But this is precisely the mistake India has been making. We make rules of exceptions; we do not make rules on the basis of the ordinary people -- the uncommon, the extraordinary, the rare become our basis.
And we try to regiment the common men and women according to them. But to make the uncommon an ideal for the common is like destroying the latter, and this is what has happened up to now.
If Mahavira becomes the ideal because he is naked, and all the people are asked to follow him, there is bound to be trouble. Mahavira had used clothes, he had lived in rich clothes, he had enjoyed clothes. Now those clothes have a definite the joys that nudity brings to Mahavira. Now if you tell a man who was born naked, who did not have clothes, that there is great joy in being nude, he will just laugh. He will say, Mahavira was a god, a teerthankara, an extraordinary man. He might have enjoyed being naked, but as far as I am concerned I enjoy clothes tremendously." Now see the difference. Mahavira enjoyed nudity because of clothes; this man enjoys clothes because of nudity. There is no great difference in the state of their minds. Their logic is the same: happiness comes from the unknown, the unfamiliar. The forbidden fruit tempts. And the known, the familiar, repels, is useless. For Mahavira, clothes, being familiar had become useless; for this man, nakedness had no use for the same reason.
We have to get rid of teachings that support poverty. These teachings create a non- dynamic society, a static society. It is because of them that the Indian society is so stagnant and dead. It has lost all dynamism of life.
If we have to create a dynamic society, a live society, we will have to lay its foundation on discontent, not on contentment. We always ask why we are poor. We are poor for the simple reason that we are contented with poverty. And as long as we are content, we will remain poor. Wealth will have to be created, and it can be created only by those who are discontented with poverty. There is no other way but discontent. Wealth has to be produced; it does not rain from the skies. It is a human product, and a discontented mind.
a searching mind, an adventurous mind is its first requirement.
But all our teachings applaud contentment. And it is these teachings that make for a static and dead society. And we have to get rid of them.
A friend has asked,
YESTERDAY YOU TALKED ABOUT GANDHI AND CRITICIZED HIM. BUT GANDHI ALWAYS WANTED THE COUNTRY TO BE PROSPEROUS, HAPPY AND ITS PEOPLE TO BE GOOD. WHAT DO YOU SAY?
Certainly he wanted all this. But remember, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Just desiring is not enough. I may very much want your cancer to go, but if I give you plain water for medication, your cancer will not disappear. It is not going to be cured by good intentions alone. I fervently desire you to be free of your T. B., and I tie a talisman on your arm -- your T.B. will remain. To cure it the science of tuberculosis will need to be understood.
Gandhi always wanted this country to be prosperous and happy and its people to be good.
But the ways he advocated were ways that lead to poverty and degradation. If Gandhi succeeds. India will be doomed to live in poverty forever. If what he said is accepted fully by this country, 250 million people out of its 500 millions will have to be ready to die and to die soon. And if the whole world accepts him, two billion out of its three and a half billion will have to perish right now. Gandhi's thoughts alone can kill more people than all the murderers of history -- Genghis, Hitler Stalin and Mao put together. Why?
Because what Gandhi says -- I mean his thinking -- is antediluvian; it belongs to the pre- industrial age, the feudal age. He is essentially a revivalist. The instruments of production that he advocates, like the spinning wheel and the spindle, belong to medieval times and are not at all useful and adequate for the huge human population of today. With such primitive tools of production we cannot keep alive so large a population; they will simply starve and die. Please don't accept his teachings and implement them; otherwise the future history will say that Gandhi was the greatest killer the world has ever known, because he killed the largest number of men ever.
We need a mode of production that can maintain the huge population that we have now.
The mode of production that Gandhi advocated might have been adequate for the age of Rama the ancient age, when the population of the world was very small. The slow-going spinning wheel could do. But now very speedy tools of production are needed. because there are so many mouths to be fed. so many bodies to be clothed, so many men and women to be kept alive. Gandhian methods cannot keep them alive. If you accept and follow Gandhiism, poverty will become permanent; we can never remove it.
The questioner has further said that I criticize a person like Gandhi, who practiced what he professed. and that there was such unity in his word and deed.
There cannot be a greater lie than this. There was such a wide chasm between Gandhi's professions and his practice as can hardly be found in any other man's life. It has had no parallel. What I say may surprise you, but it iS true.
Gandhi always opposed the railways, and he spent the major part of his life on the railways, traveling all over India. He opposed the railways throughout his life and he traveled by railways throughout his life. He opposed allopathy, the modern medicine, all his life, and he said that chanting the name of Rama was the best medicine. But whenever, when seriously sick, he came near death, he always took to allopathy -- which saved his life. Neither the name of Rama nor naturopathy could save him -- though he used them until the disease became very serious. When everything else failed, he always took shelter in allopathy and survived. It is strange that all his life he opposed this system and it saved him throughout his life. Gandhi opposed the modern system of post and telegraph, and he made maximum use of them. He was one of those who wrote the largest number of letters to be carried by the postal system.
Here is a man who is fighting the railways system -- always sitting in a railway carriage. I am the only person who can compare with Gandhi as a user of the railways, and that only if I continue, at the present rate, to travel for the rest of my life. And remember, he was an enemy of the railways; he said that railways w ere a sin and they should disappear from the world. He opposed every modern instrument and yet made the fullest use of them. And you say that there was unity in his professions and his practice. How is this unity?
I say there was no unity between Gandhi's word and action. What he said he would not translate into action. If you look at his whole life vou will find that it was very different from his philosophy. But our difficulty is that when we accept someone as a mahatma, a great soul, we close our eyes, we become blind to him.
I saw Gandhi only once and I never felt like seeing him again. I was quite young then, just in my teens. His train was passing through my town and lots of people went to have a glimpse of him at the railway station. So did I. As I was leaving my home, my mother put three rupees into my pocket for small expenses, because the railway station was a good three miles away.
When I arrived, I found the railway platform terribly crowded and it was not possible for a boy like me to have a glimpse of him from there. So I went to the other side of the train where there was no platform. When Gandhi's train arrived I entered his compartment through the window. Gandhi did not notice me; his eyes fell first on the three silver coins showing from the breast pocket of my muslin shirt. He asked what it was, and I hurriedly took the money out, saying that I should donate it to the fund for the welfare of the untouchables. And before I could say yes or no, he dropped the money into the box meant for the fund. And the way I am, I said with perfect ease, "It is okay. You did well that you put the money in the box." And I really felt happy about it, thinking that I had done well not to have spent it already. But then, as my intuition dictated, I picked up the donation box with the money, and said to Gandhi, "Now I'll take the box with me, and I'll use this money in scholarship grants for the poor students of my school." Really, I had no intention to take away the box, which I picked up just to know how Gandhi would react to it. He said, "No, no, don't take the box. It is meant for a great work. This fund is meant for the untouchables. Leave it." To this I said, "Sir, you are not ready to part with this box with the same ease with which I gave you three RUPEES. " He then handed me an orange which I refused to take, saying, "I am not going to take this orange. For three rupees it is too costly. Better keep it with you." Then I looked into his eyes and said to myself, "The man I came to see is not there."
I came out of the train and stood on the side. The train moved and Gandhi was still watching me and not the crowd. He seemed puzzled about what had happened.
Back home my mother asked me if I saw mahatmaji. I said, "Mahatmaji did not turn up."
Mother was now puzzled, and she asked, "What do you mean? Everyone says that he passed through the town." I then said, "The man who passed through the town was Mr.
Mohandas Karanchand Gandhi. He appeared to me to be a seasoned tradesman and not a mahatma, not a great soul."
This incident took place in my early days. Ever since I have tried hard to understand Gandhi, and the more I tried the more my first impression of him was confirmed and strengthened. But our difficulty is that once we believe something, we refuse to think and examine it. I do not say that you agree with me, but I do say please don't have fossil-like opinions about men and things, because it harms the thinking process of the country; it may even prove fatal.
Now everyone thinks that whatever Gandhi said is bound to benefit the country, because he was a mahatma, a saint. But it is not necessary that, being a saint, one only does good to the community.
I visited Rajkot recently. In the open area where I was going to address a meeting, I saw a number of bulls and cows. They were all very sick and skinny, almost dying. Inquiring, I learned that there was a scarcity of water as a result of a drought in the villages around Rajkot, and these animals had been collected from there so they might be saved from dying. I then asked what efforts were being made to save them. The man who was explaining things told me a strange story.
A saint came to Rajkot and fed the emaciated cows with quality sweets that people usually have for feasts, and the same day forty of them died. But the newspapers carried the saint's photograph saying, "What a saint! -- who feeds animals with quality sweets meant for human beings!" It seems that to be a saint it is necessary to part with intelligence altogether. He gives sweets to animals that badly needed water and fodder to save them. It would have been better if they were butchered instead -- they would have died peacefully. But the saint was applauded for being a kindly saint and a devotee of cows.
India's poverty will never go, it will abide, if the remedy that Gandhi suggests is applied.
To end poverty, technology is needed, and Gandhi was the greatest enemy of technology.
He said that technology was the invention of Satan. But, in fact, it is technology that is going to end poverty and bring prosperity to this earth. And it is again technology which iS going to take us to the moon and Mars when this earth will be overpopulated. In fifty years from now this planet of ours will cease to be a tit place for us to live.
I do not know how, with Gandhi's spinning wheel, millions and billions of men can be fed and clothed and housed. And I do not know how, with his spinning wheel, man will reach the moon and other planets and settle there.
Fortunately, however, there is no such danger, because even those who shout "Victory to Gandhi!" do not believe in his teachings, do not follow him. So there is no possibility of any danger. But if his ideas find wide acceptance the danger will be there. And then his ideas will turn back the hands of the clock by two thousand years; we will be back in the medieval times. What he calls his rama-rajya, the legendary kingdom of Rama, is nothing but another name for an extremely backward social system. Rama-rajya was much too backward in contrast to the present times. But Gandhi always aspired for rama-rajya Another friend has said that what I am saying is exactly what the ancient Hindu culture stood for; it is the real socialism that the Hindu culture advocated. But I fail to understand what he means. He also says that socialism had already happened in India.
Socialism did not happen anywhere in the world in the past. And as far as India is concerned there was no possibility whatsoever of its happening here. And the sooner you get rid of what you call your ancient culture the better. A disease does not become good just because it is your disease. And nothing becomes respectable just because it is old and ancient. But the difficulty is that we begin to like even our shackles if they have been on our feet for thousands of years. I don't understand what you are talking about. When did we have socialism in India?
Another friend has said that as all that is good was already there in India in the past, so we should go back to the past.
There was nothing good in the past to which we should go back. In the first place we would not have left it behind us if it was good. No one ever leaves the good behind. And if one leaves it behind, he does so in the search for the better. But we have been laboring under great illusions. We believe that the India of the past was a golden bird. It was never so. Of course, it was a golden bird for a few, and it remains so even today; but it was never a golden bird for all.
We believe that houses in ancient India were without lock and key. People were so good and honest that padlocks were not needed at all. But I don't think this could be true. And if it was true, then the reasons for it were different from those we infer. Buddha had been exhorting people not to steal; Mahavira had been exhorting people not to steal. If people were so good and honest that they did not have to lock up their houses, then who were they whom Buddha and Mahavira asked not to steal? If people were really good and honest then Buddha and Mahavira were crazy.
Theft was always there, but if padlocks were really not seen anywhere, then it only means that they had nothing in their houses that was worth stealing. There could be no other reason. Or maybe. they did not possess the mind that subsequently invented locks. But the absence of locks does not prove that people were honest.
All the scriptures preached non-stealing. Buddha talked against stealing and dishonesty day in and day out. Socrates said the same things in Greece two thousand, five hundred years ago. He said that youngsters had gone astray. they did not listen to their parents, that teachers were not respected, that people had turned dishonest and corrupt. There is a six-thousand-year-old book in China. If you read its preface you will think that you are going through the editorial of this morning's newspaper. It says that people are dishonest, that they have become materialists, that there has been great moral decline, that corruption is rampant, and that anarchy has set in and that doomsday is at hand. And this six-thousand-year-old book also says that the people who lived before were good and honest.
That the people in the past were good is nothing more than a myth, a fantasy. The truth is that we have forgotten the people of the past, and a handful of them whom we still remember are at the root of the trouble. We remember Mahavira, hut we do not remember the people of his times. Then we think that people of his times must have been good people. But if the people of his times were really good, we would not have cared to remember Mahavira at all. Mahavira is yet alive in our memory because of the people of his day.
The schoolmaster writes on a blackboard with a piece of white chalk. If he wrote on a white board -- and he can -- you could not read it. The writing shows on the blackboard because of the contrast. Mahavira shines as a great man for two thousand five hundred years. It could not have been possible if the social background against which he stood had been white and clean. Really the society of his time must have been corrupt and ugly. A few great men shine for ages because the rest of mankind has been like a blackboard on which white writing shows.
Never was the whole human society good. It was not even as good as it is today. Every day we are progressing towards goodness, but we are victims of a false idea that we are declining, that we are going downhill, that we are getting worse and worse. We say that it was satyug, the age of truth, in the past, we say that we have left our golden age behind, and now it is the kaliyug, the dark age, now it is downhill and downhill all the way ahead.
And the downfall of a community is a certainty if this thought takes hold of its mind that decline is its future, because it is thought that makes us move. But we firmly believe that our golden age, the best times, have already happened, that we left behind us all that was good and that now there is only evil and darkness in store for us. This has become our conditioning. We really believe that it is going to be worse and worse in the future.
Now when someone stabs someone in your neighborhood, you cry kaliyug, you cry "wolf"; you say that the dark age is now here. And when someone runs away with the wife of someone else you scream that the worst of the dark age has happened. But when your saints and seers, your rishis of the past ran away with others' women, then it was satyug, the age of truth and righteousness! And it was satyug when the gods of heaven came down and seduced the wives of others -- your own saints! And now it is the dark age just because the abductor happens to be an ordinary man living in your neighborhood! It is a strange reasoning. It was a good world when the wife of Rama was stolen. And when the wife of some present-day Ramchandra living in your locality is stolen, it becomes evil, dark, abominable.
No, man is becoming better and better each day. And if we have to make our future better, then we had better have our golden age in the future and leave the dark age behind. This should be the order of things: darkness in the past and light in the future; the dark age behind and the golden age ahead. If a bright future has to be created. hope, intense hope is necessary. Without hope you cannot build a beautiful future. In my view, lack of hope is one reason why modern man is stumbling in his onward journey. He is without hope for his future; it seems all is dark ahead. This darkness is of our own making.
Never was man so good as he is today. There was a famine in Bihar recently. Twenty million people would have perished, as the famine was so great, but only forty persons died. How is it that twenty million lives were saved? -- the whole world came to their rescue. School children in far-off countries who had not heard of Bihar before, saved their pocket money and sent it for the succor of the starving people. The whole world rushed to save those in Bihar who were all unknown to them and with whom they had nothing to do. It had never happened before; it happened for the first time. Again, it is for the first time that Bombay feels disturbed when there is a war in Vietnam. The whole world feels hurt for a wrong happening in any corner of the earth. Humanity has attained to this sensitivity, to this awareness for the first time. It is unprecedented. Man has grown -- his understanding has grown; his happiness has grown.
One last word. Two or three friends have asked,
YOU ADMIRE AMERICA SO MUCH, YOU SAY THAT SOCIALISM WILL COME FIRST IN AMERICA, BUT IT IS IN AMERICA WHERE HIPPIES, BEATLES AND BEATNIKS ARE INCREASING IN NUMBER, WHERE PEOPLE ARE TAKING INCREASINGLY TO DRINKS AND DRUGS LIKE LSD AND MESCALINE, WHERE CONSUMPTION OF SLEEPING PILLS AND TRANQUILIZERS IS ASSUMING ALARMING PROPORTIONS AND WHERE PEOPLE ARE DISTURBED AND RESTLESS. CAN YOU SAY SOMETHING ABOUT IT?
You should know that no animal ever gets disturbed. Have you ever heard that a water buffalo lost his peace of mind? Have you ever seen a donkey spending a sleepless nights or getting bored? Have you come across a bull committing suicide, because life became meaningless? No, no animals ever get bored. disturbed or worried; nor do they commit suicide. Why?
The reason is that the mind of animals is very undeveloped. The more the mind develops, the more you become sensitive and understanding. As the mind grows, your vision grows; you begin to see things around you with clarity. As your mind expands, your being expands in the same measure. And with the development of intelligence begins the search for the meaning of life, its significance. If there are hippies and Beatles and beatniks in today's America, if its young men and women are getting rebellious, they are the barometer of the fact that consciousness is touching new heights there, that they see things that are not yet seen by us.
Man's intelligence has developed in a great way, and it iS this developed intelligence that is making him restless. The more intelligence, the more restlessness.
And remember. the greater your restlessness, the greater peace you can attain. Levels of peace and restlessness -- their proportions are always the same. If man's restlessness is say, only two milligrams, the peace he will attain is not going to be more or less than two milligrams. And if his restlessness grows to be a thousand tons, his peace will grow to be the same thousand tons. Our capacities in both directions -- dialectical directions -- grow together. They are coextensive. If I become very sensitive to ugliness, I am bound to be as sensitive to beauty too. The man with a high sense of beauty will have a high sense of ugliness also. Of course, ugliness will hurt him, but beauty will comfort him in the same measure.
As man's consciousness expands, his world of anxieties will equally expand, because now the anxieties of others enter his awareness. Man, today, is much more intelligent than before, and that is why he is so anxious and unhappy too. But because of our mounting anxiety and unhappiness we need not despair and retrace our steps and turn back to the past, our new difficulties and problems are only a challenge and we have to accept the challenge and go onward and forward. We have to find new paths of peace -- peace commensurate with our restlessness. Old paths will not do; new ones have to be found.
Man is, today, on a brink, and his consciousness is nearing a great leap forward, a quantum leap.
For example, when the first monkey came down from the tree and for the first time walked on two legs instead of four, he must have felt very awkward. And then the older monkeys, his elders, who remained sitting in the tree must have jeered at him, saying, "What are you doing, you fool? How stupid it looks. Is it becoming for monkeys to walk on two legs?" And the monkey walking on two legs must have gone through a lot of worry and anxiety, any amount of sufferings. Maybe his backbone had ached, his sleep had been disturbed. But it was from this monkey that humanity came into being and developed to its present state. In the same way man's grown-up consciousness today -- which is undergoing such pains that it is driving him to the point of committing suicide -- is soon going to give birth to a new humanity, a higher humanity.
The emergence of a new consciousness in man is at hand. And remember, the aboriginals still living in the jungles are not going to participate in this quantum leap, nor are the saints and priests sitting and singing in temples and mosques going to take part in this great transformation. They are all seeking comfort and contentment, and they are so afraid of discontent. Only they are going to be partners in the glory of giving birth to the new man who are prepared to walk through the fire of discontent, and who have the courage to go beyond it.
In this respect, we are a very unfortunate people. We cannot produce hippies, we cannot be that anxious, we cannot suffer so intensely, and consequently we cannot attain to that deep peace. America today stands as a vanguard on a forward line from where a leap is possible. It is a very critical situation where many times one may feel like escaping and retreating. That is why men like Mahesh Yogi have influence in America. The people who feel panicky and want to go back are being influenced by Mahesh Yogi and others.
They are telling them, "Why worry? Get out of this mess; close your eyes, chant a mantra and go back to the past." For the same reason Gandhi has influenced America more than he has influenced his own country. The backward-going mind has panicked and it says, "Yonder is an abyss; let us go back! Gandhi is right to say that technology and skyscrapers are useless!"
The cry of "Go back to the past" has always been there, and it has done us no good. We have to go forward, there cannot be any going back. There is no way to do it. And even if there was a way, it would be so dangerous to do so. Nothing can be gained by returning to the past. If a grade four student wants to go back to first grade because the homework was easy, there is no sense in doing it. And even if he actually goes back, he will find it to be meaningless. He has now the maturity that comes with passing three grades; he cannot stay in first grade. So with his highly developed mind, man cannot go back to the times of Rama. He cannot return to the caves. Of course, he may enjoy it for a change if he returns to the forest for a while.
Recently about two dozen of my friends from Bombay had gone to Kashmir with me. In fact, they had escaped from Bombay and they were with me in Pahalgaon, a scenic spot in Kashmir. The man who cooked for me at Pahalgaon told me every day that he would be grateful if I took him with me to see Bombay. I said to him, "You seem to be crazy.
You see the friends here with me, they are all from Bombay and they are here to see Pahalgaon. You are fortunate to be in Pahalgaon itself; better enjoy it." He then said, "Life is so dull here that I wonder why people come here at all. There is nothing here. I crave to see Bombay." He wants to see Bombay, and I want that he should have the opportunity to see that city. Why? -- because then he will be able to enjoy Pahalgaon too.
That will be his gain if he visits Bombay.
Man has to go forward. Once in a while he can go back to the past to have a brief holiday.
That would be pleasant. But a return to the past for good is not possible. It is different if for fun you sit sometimes at Rajghat with a spinning wheel as the leaders do. It is a pleasant hobby and a cheap one at that if you occasionally take to spinning and get photographed and filmed. But it would be utterly wrong if we make the spinning wheel the kingpin of our industries. That way the spinning wheel will be dangerous.
No culture of the past, be it Hindu, Mohammedan or Christian, can make man happy if he returns to it. Man has to go ahead and ahead into the future. In that future no Hindu, no Mohammedan and no Christian will survive; only man will survive. In that future only man will live.
The future belongs to man. And here we have to think together about how much creativity we need to bring that future in. We also have to consider how much wealth and health will be needed to make man happy, so that from his happiness he creates music, he goes on the search for his soul, and ultimately reaches the temple of God.
There are many questions to be answered. I will take them up tomorrow. And if you have any more questions, you can send them in writing.
I am grateful to you for having quietly listened to my talk with so much love. And lastly, I bow down to the God residing in each of you. Please accept my salutations.