One who knows both avidya and vidya, having overcome death, will know the immortal. This is a very rare couplet. I told you that the Upanishads are not opposed to avidya. They favor vidya but are not at all opposed to avidya. It is said, "He who knows avidya will overcome death." The whole conflict of avidya is against death. The doctor is fighting against death, the engineer is fighting against death. Science's entire endeavor, all its activities, are directed against death - against sickness, against insecurity, against future dangers. To see that life does not end, to see that it is preserved, is the total effort of avidya - of scientific knowledge. The whole avidya is in a constant fight with death. So he who is proficient in avidya succeeds in holding death at bay. That is, he lives comfortably. In this sense, through avidya he overcomes death - but he cannot reach the immortal.
He simply controls death quite comfortably.
With the help of avidya we can exist, but we cannot taste the substance of life. We can merely exist. This should be called vegetating. We will run the course of life. Everything - food, a house, medicine, and so on - will be available to us. We will get it all, and life will pass nicely, comfortably.
But the immortal will be unavailable to us. And even if avidya succeeds altogether in preventing death, the immortal will still not be available.
Modern science is busily searching for ways and means to conquer death. The entire effort of science is really to save man from death. That is why science is so keen to find out how death can be avoided, how it can be avoided forever. The situation may arise in the distant future when we are able, if we wish, to avoid death forever. If we rightly understand the progress of science during the last three thousand years we will see that this has been its entire activity. Its entire conflict is against death, and it has been successful to a great extent.
A thousand years ago, nine out of ten newborn children used to die, and today, in countries where science has made remarkable progress, not even one out of ten newborn children dies. Among the bones found by scientists of people living ten thousand years ago, not many are seen to have lived beyond twenty-five years of age. No one lived for more than forty-five years. Not one bone found so far on this earth of any human living ten thousand years ago indicates that he was alive for more than forty-five years.
Yet today there are more than one thousand people over one hundred and fifty years of age in Soviet Russia. To live for one hundred years is now becoming an ordinary matter. You may be amazed to read in the newspapers that a ninety-year-old Russian man has married. We think the old man must be a great fool. But remember that the old man is not yet old, and that he is not doing anything uncommon. When a ninety-year-old man marries in Russia, do not compare him with the old of our country. Our old person will die twenty years before reaching that age. That ninety-year-old man belongs to a community where the maximum age is one hundred and fifty years. Till what age is a man still young when his lifespan ranges up to one hundred and fifty? Would you not fix it at a hundred at the least?
Wherever science has been successful, death has been pushed away a little further, and in recent times science has made still more progress. It does not seem unlikely that by the end of this century we will be able to keep man alive indefinitely if we want to. There will be no obstacles left to prevent science accomplishing it. Man can be made to live endlessly. That is why some thinkers of the West, and especially of America, have started to protest very vehemently that before science succeeds in prolonging the life of man we should add this rule to the constitution of the country - that every man is born with the right to die. Otherwise a very difficult situation will arise; because if the government does not allow a person to die, that person will have no right to do so.
Up to now we made rules throughout the world that nobody has a right to kill another person. But nowadays, in the whole world - especially in countries like Switzerland, Sweden and Norway, where science has been successful in prolonging man's life - people have started to agitate for the ending of life. Intelligent people have initiated propaganda campaigns maintaining that no doctor has a right to save the life of a person who wishes to die, and if a doctor saves the life of such a person, it should be considered an abuse against the fundamental right of that person, his fundamental right over his own life.
We are in a dangerous position. Suppose a man is one hundred and fifty years old. Now, he is a fool if he wants to live longer, he should wish to take rest forever, to die. But the doctors have to keep him in hospital for treatment and try to keep him alive, because at present doctors have no right to help a person to die. So they will try their best to save the man. If in spite of the doctors' efforts the patient dies, it is a different matter. So the agitation goes on to give man a right to die if he chooses.
This matter is soon going to be very significant, because no mechanism has been found in the human body which can actually precipitate death. The only reason death happens is that up to now it has not been possible to replace physical organs of the body. We are unable to replace certain parts of the body, and that is the difficulty. As we go on making progress in replacing body parts, death will not remain an unavoidable phenomenon for man. It will become an act of one's own will.
Bear in mind, it will happen very soon that no man, except by an accident, will die in the course of time. So there will be fewer natural deaths and more suicides in the world. It will certainly be a suicide if a person asks a doctor to end his life. Then suicide will be a common means of death.
Since very ancient times, man has been proclaiming that death can be overcome by avidya. What the medical science of the West says today is declared in the Upanishads. They say death can be restrained so much that it is effectively overcome by avidya. The eternal within can never die. Death is of the body; then the eternal within us accepts a new body.
However, if we can keep the old body fit and active then there is no need to accept a new one, and to accept a new body seems absolutely uneconomical. It seems that nature does not know what economics is. It seems nature has no experience whatsoever of the science of economics. It gives birth to children and kills the old. Our old people are trained and experienced, and a good deal of effort went into their training, while the children who replace them are totally untrained, totally useless. It ends the lives of those who have labored for seventy years and gives birth to infants devoid of knowledge, so they have to be reared and trained. This is very uneconomical.
Economy would not allow the seventy-year-old, with all his experience, to die. A man of seventy will assume a new life after his death - and will again have to spend twenty to twenty-five years in educating and training himself, just to regain with difficulty the position he was in at the time of his death. This is all worthless. So science is busy in this direction, and makes all efforts to end this wastage. If we can save the life of an Einstein, a great wastage is avoided. If he takes three births, the increase in knowledge caused by them will not be as great as if he lives for three hundred years at a stretch, because this will be continual maturity. There will not be frequent discontinuity in between. There will not be those gaps of twenty-five to thirty years to limit that maturity. So if we keep Einstein alive for three hundred years, we can't imagine how much addition he will make to the total stock of knowledge. And knowledge is endless.
There are countless millions of cells in a small human brain, and scientists say that each cell is so capable of preserving knowledge that the information contained in all the libraries of the world could be stored in one human brain. To have so many million cells is such a tremendous potential that one individual can be the master of all the knowledge existing in the world today. That we have not yet developed that device by which we can pour so much knowledge into a person's brain is another matter. Our ways of imparting knowledge are very elementary. A child surely learns something after having been taught for twenty years - but nothing is really achieved. Having given someone twenty years of education, the most we can say is that he is not uneducated. Only this much is possible. Nothing special is achieved. Even if we were to provide education for seventy years, not much would be achieved. The stock of knowledge is gigantic and we possess neither the devices nor the systems we would need to pour it into the human brain. Hence new ways and methods are being sought after continually to develop more advanced techniques of education.
Great work on sleep-teaching is being done in Russia at present. Children are normally instructed in the daytime, and spend the night in sleep; twelve hours of the night are being wasted. So in Russia they are playing tapes into children's ears while they are sleeping so that they receive instruction during the nighttime too. Thus great efforts are being made to make sleep a medium, an instrument, of imparting instruction, and they have been successful in this to a great extent. Their hope is to be able in the near future to impart as much instruction in seven years as is now given in fifteen years, through utilizing the nighttime also.
There is another convenience to this new experiment. When the teacher is teaching the children in their waking hours, there arises a conflict between the ego of the teacher and that of the children, and this creates a great hindrance to the children's progress. There is no conflict when children are sleeping and instruction is directly absorbed. The teacher is not there and the children are also as good as not there. The pupils are in sleep, the teacher is not present, only the tape is being played.
The tape feeds instruction slowly slowly into the children's brains during the whole night, and they receive it directly.
The proclamation of the Upanishad that death can be overcome by avidya, science, should be sent in writing to all the universities. The sage of the Upanishad says this is so because death is merely a physical tragedy, an accident. If we can develop the appropriate instruments and technologies, death can be pushed a little further away. There is no difficulty about this.
Up to now science has lacked the means to restore a dead person to life, but scientists hope to be able to give new life to a dead person by the end of this century. One person who died fifteen years ago has made a will of ten million dollars for the purpose of preserving his dead body in the safest way possible at least until then, or until he can be revived. A sum of a hundred thousand rupees per day is being spent to preserve his dead body in the best possible way so that there may not be even an iota of decomposition in it. The intention is to preserve his dead body in the same condition as it was in when he died, so that if we can discover the scientific key to this problem we may be able to revive his dead body and give him a renewed life.
Spiritualists are much afraid of these researches. They say, "If those experiments are successful, what will be the position of the soul?" This man's dead body can be brought to life only on one condition - that science has been able to preserve his body in good condition. This is a necessary part of the experiment, but it is not all. If his soul is wandering and has not yet entered another body, then it will enter his dead body; and I feel that this man's soul will remain wandering and waiting.
He has departed after making a very valuable will. Ten million dollars is not a small amount. He will certainly wait. He will wait for another ten years, and if his body can be revived he will reenter it. It will be like reentering a house which has been reconstructed after it had fallen down.
Death can be overcome by avidya - by science - but the immortal cannot be experienced through it. The second part of the sutra is more important, and a necessary condition. It is possible that science may defeat death, and may make man almost immortal, but then, how is man going to be benefited by this change? Even after becoming almost immortal he cannot have the experience of the immortal. Even then we will not know that which is immortal in us. We may have seventy years of knowledge, or seven hundred years; we may even live for seven thousand years. But we have no experience at all of that which was there before our life, which existed before our birth and also exists after our death. If we wish to know - to experience - the immortal, only vidya, true knowledge, can help.
The Upanishads pay a great tribute to avidya, to science. It is the way to fight against death, although it is powerless to attain to the immortal. Conflict with death is a negative effort; experiencing the immortal is a positive achievement. To try to experience the immortal is the effort to know that which existed before our birth and will also exist after our death; which is at present, which was in the past and which will also be in the future. It was before this body existed, and it will still exist when this body has perished.
To know this is to attain the immortal. To go on prolonging this body's life is merely to be in conflict with death. It is a struggle about extending the distance between birth and death, whereas to go deep into the experience of that which is beyond birth and death is to discover the immortal. The Upanishads declare that immortality will be experienced through vidya. So we need to understand two or three sutras about vidya - true knowledge. What teachings about vidya can guide us now towards the immortal?
The first point is that the person who thinks he is the body is unable to move towards the immortal.
So the first sutra is to strip away identification with one's body. Know it always, remember it every day. Be aware of it often, think of it often - that "I am not the body." As deeply as you understand and establish this sutra within you, that much will you move towards the immortal. Conversely, as firmly as the belief that "I am the body" is rooted in you, that much will you move towards avidya, towards the conflict with death. And life is such that we are reminded twenty-four hours a day that "I am the body."
If our leg is injured a little, we at once remember, "I am the body." If we are hungry we remember, "I am the body." If there is a little headache we remember, "I am the body." If there is fever we remember, "I am the body." As youth approaches we remember, "I am the body." As old age approaches we remember, "I am the body." Life constantly reminds us from all sides that, "I am the body," whereas we receive no indications from anywhere that, "I am not the body." And it is a point worth noting that it is the truth whose indications are not available, while it is the untruth whose indications are available every day.
But we commit a fundamental mistake in our interpretation of the indications that are present. When one thing is indicated, we take it in quite another light, and a great misunderstanding happens. The whole of life thus becomes a great misunderstanding. Indications mean one thing, but we see them in another light. When the stomach wants food, we say, "I am hungry." This is incorrect. We mistook the suggestion. The suggestion was this much only - that I have come to know that the stomach is hungry. But we say, "I am hungry." Nobody has yet shown how we arrived at this conclusion. How does that middle link - that I have come to know that the stomach is hungry - disappear? 'I' can never feel hungry, and yet we say, "I am hungry."
When there is pain in the head, I come to know that there is pain in the head. But I say that my head is aching. I tell others that I have a headache, and I tell myself that there is pain within me. There is no mistake in the bodily indications, but we make the mistake when we try to decode them. The mistake is in what we do with them.
Swami Ram always said the right thing. He always expressed himself correctly. The result was that people took him for a lunatic. The world is full of madmen - and there is no difficulty in judging a wise man as mad. Ram never said, "I am hungry." Sometimes he would say, "Listen, brother, there is hunger here." On hearing him, people would wonder whether he was in his right mind, and all sorts of difficulties would arise.
Poor Ram was expressing himself correctly, but people used to doubt his sanity. Sometimes, returning home, he would say, "There was great fun today. When Ram was walking along the road people began to insult him." He never said, "They began to insult me"; he did not say, "As I was passing, people began to insult me." He used to say, "There was great fun today: some people on the road were making fun of Ram. Ram could see them too. I said, "Look Ram, they are having some fun with you."
It caused great difficulty when he went to America for the first time and began to address himself in the third person. In India his friends knew him well, they knew that he was a bit crazy. But in America a great difficulty arose because people could not make out what he was saying. But he was perfectly right in his statements.
The stomach becomes hungry, but you are never hungry. That has never happened up to now. It is not possible, because hunger is helpless before the soul, the self. The soul has no mechanism to feel hungry, it has no means to feel the pinch of hunger. Nothing diminishes or is augmented in the soul; nothing leaves the soul; nothing is lost from it to generate pangs of hunger. Something always decreases in the body because it dies every day, and due to this process of dying, you feel hunger.
You may be surprised to know that something within you dies every day; so the portion that dies has to be replaced by food. There is no other reason. Some parts within you die, so you have to replace those dead portions by living ones so that you can remain alive. Hence you lose one pound of weight when you fast for one day. What is the reason? That one pound has died and you have not replaced it. You will again have to replace it. Scientists say a person can remain hungry for ninety days. In the end this will cause great difficulty because he goes on living for those ninety days by consuming the accumulated fat in the body; but day by day, exhausting his reserves of fat, he is dying. He will grow weaker day by day, losing weight and feeling worn out, but he will continue to live.
We replace our dead elements by food; the deficiency is made good. But the soul does not die. No element of it is lessened, so there is no reason for the soul to feel hungry. There is one interesting thing to know about this happening. The soul does not feel hungry; the body does not know hunger.
The body feels hungry but the soul knows hunger. This whole phenomenon is something like that story which you may have heard.
Once a forest caught fire. A blind man and a lame man were crossing the forest. The blind man could not see, but he was able to walk; he had strong legs. It was dangerous to proceed. Fortunately the fire had not spread where they were standing. The lame man was unable to walk but could see the fire approaching. Those two must have been wise people, though ordinarily such people are not. How can you expect the blind to be wise when those with eyes are not? How can the lame be wise when people with legs are not? But those two were and they came to an understanding. The lame man said, "If we wish to save our lives there is only one way. Let me sit on your shoulders. We will use my eyes and your legs. I will guide and you will walk accordingly." Hence they saved their lives.
The life journey is also a kind of deep understanding between the body and the soul. It is a journey of the blind and the lame. The soul has the experience - it experiences - but there is no happening; happenings take place in the body, but it does not experience. All experiences are felt by the soul; and all happenings take place in the body, but the body does not experience them. Hence all this trouble!
That day also some trouble must have arisen, but Aesop, who wrote this story of the blind and the lame, has made no mention of it. It was necessary for the two men to hurry, so when the blind man ran fast and the lame man looked quickly, it is possible that the blind man felt, "I can see," and the lame man felt, "I am running."
This is exactly what happens with us. It is this happening that has to be broken. Both should be clearly distinguished. Both should be separated, otherwise our wires are crossed. All happenings take place in the body, and the soul experiences them. You will begin to grasp the sutra of vidya when you separate these two. Then your journey towards the immortal will begin.
Enough for today. We shall talk again tomorrow morning. Let us now start our journey towards the immortal.