[NOTE: This discourse will be in the book "India Coming Back Home", which has not been published, as of August 1992.
Interview by India Today
Q: WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE, COMING BACK TO INDIA AFTER FOUR YEARS?
It has been a trip to hell. Coming back feels like being back home, the place and the people where I belong.
HAS YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE PEOPLE OF AMERICA BEEN SOURED BY THE HARDSHIP THAT YOU HAVE HAD TO GO THROUGH FOR THE PAST MONTH?
No. The people are beautiful, the land is beautiful, but the politicians are ugly.
ARE POLITICIANS UGLY ALL OVER THE WORLD?
They are ugly all over the world, but perhaps nowhere can beat America.
IN THE FOUR AND A HALF YEARS OF YOUR ABSENCE FROM INDIA, LOTS OF THINGS HAVE CHANGED IN THIS COUNTRY. WHAT ARE YOUR COMMENTS ON THE CHANGES THAT HAVE TAKEN PLACE DURING YOUR ABSENCE?
They are for the good. The change should just be a little faster, because the population goes on growing; so whatever changes you may make are destroyed by your population growth. Unless we stop the growth of population, nothing can help us. That should be our main target.
IN ORDER TO DO THAT, WHAT METHODS DO YOU TEACH?
In my commune we had five thousand people. In four years not a single child was born.
All methods of birth control should be used, and the pill, to me, is the greatest revolution that has happened in the whole history of man. It is such a simple method.
THE PILL HAS OFTEN BEEN FOUND TO BE CANCER-PRODUCING.
No. This is just the idea spread by popes, priests, Mother Teresa. These are the criminals who are teaching people to go on producing children, without any conception of what will happen by the end of this century. Already in Ethiopia, one thousand people are dying per day. By the end of this century, India will have a population of one billion. Fifty percent of India will be dying, starving. It will be a nightmare to see, and we will be absolutely helpless to do anything.
ARE YOU CALLING FOR LEGISLATIVE CHANGES?
Certainly, because a country which is poor, which has been in slavery for two thousand years, has to take some very drastic steps to get out of all this mess.
I don't see that the pill has any bad effects. But cancer is better than population growth. Cancer can be cured, but population growth cannot be cured - that is the incurable disease. But there are other methods.
ONE OF THE METHODS WAS FORCIBLE STERILIZATION, WHICH WAS TRIED IN INDIA IN 1975, AND THAT GAVE RISE TO A POLITICAL UPHEAVAL.
Any kind of method that goes against people's traditions and conventions is going to create some upheaval, but we have to be prepared for it. And that method was tried without making people understand the whole situation.
I don't think India is unintelligent. People may be poor, but they have very intelligent minds. If we approach them through schools, through colleges, through universities, spread the idea, give them the whole picture: "If we don't do this then the whole country will be starving and dying." A basic background of information has to be given. The attempt that was made before was made without any education, and people had no understanding of what was being done.
And now they have found a pill for man also, so there is no need for that kind of experiment again. Swallowing a pill is not much of a problem.
NOW THAT YOU'RE BACK IN INDIA, DO YOU THINK IT'S IN THE AREA OF POPULATION CONTROL THAT YOU'RE GOING TO APPLY MOST OF YOUR TIME AND ENERGY?
No. My time and energy is applied to the people who are working for spiritual growth.
But I am not one-dimensional; I look around at the whole situation. These are my suggestions. I am not going to do anything about it. Those people who are in power, if they understand it, they may do it. That is not my work. My concern is with people who want to grow spiritually.
That became the problem in America with me. People don't have any sense of spiritual growth. All they know is material accumulation - more money, more comfort, more luxury. I am not against these things, but they should not be at the cost of man's spiritual growth.
When they saw my commune, it became a thorn in their hearts - because we were materially self-sufficient, comfortable, healthy. You could not find another place so full of joy, dance, song. People were working, producing everything for themselves, and still they were meditating, working for their inner growth.
DO YOU SAY THAT THE PARADISE YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT, YOUR COMMUNE IN AMERICA, WAS SHATTERED, NOT FOR INTERNAL REASONS, BUT FOR EXTERNAL REASONS?
No, not for internal reasons. The reason was that the politicians became aware that we were creating a model city. This left the politicians without any power; they felt put down, that they could not do anything to improve on what we were doing.
People think America is very rich - but it is rich in an unhealthy way. Thirty million people are dying of overeating - this is not richness; this is sheer stupidity. Thirty million people - exactly the same number - are just beggars on the street: stealing, murdering, committing suicide, drinking themselves to death, having no food, no clothes, no shelter.
We managed that in our commune there was not a single person who was a beggar; everybody was treated equally. There was no hierarchy, there was nobody superior. The professor in the university and the cleaner of the toilets had the same respect from the community, because both were absolutely needed.
And it was not rare that people were changing back and forth: if the professor was tired of professing, he became a plumber or a cleaner. Doctors were farming.
I HOPE FARMERS WERE NOT PRESCRIBING DRUGS!
There were a few doctors who had been farming and we put them back in the medical center. Farmers were not allowed to prescribe drugs - that is a different matter - but a doctor can farm, a doctor can become a plumber. A plumber cannot become a doctor unless he gets the education. But the whole commune was fully educated; not a single person there was uneducated.
To the American politicians this became a danger because we were creating, in the real sense, a far more authentic communism than the Soviet Union has been able to produce. The Soviet Union has only distributed poverty, it has not made people rich. It has taken their freedom; it has taken their freedom of expression, it has made the whole country a concentration camp.
We were not imposing any "ism" on our people. My effort was totally from the other side. I want people to be so affluent and so rich that poverty disappears on its own accord.
And I don't believe that people should be literally equal - psychologically that is nonsense. A Picasso is a Picasso, a Rabindranath is a Rabindranath. You cannot make people equal in that way. But society should give equal opportunity to everybody to be unequal. We managed equal opportunity for everybody to be unequal in these four and a half years, and it was going so beautifully. That became difficult for the politicians to tolerate, and the only way to destroy it was to somehow torture me.
IF YOU CREATED SUCH AN IDEAL SITUATION IN YOUR COMMUNE, HOW COULD PEOPLE LEAVE? HOW COULD PEOPLE BE DISLOYAL TO YOU OR TO THE COMMUNE?
Only a few were disloyal. I was silent, in isolation, for three and a half years and I had given all the powers to the president of the commune and the people who were running and taking care of the commune. This can give any human mind an opportunity, it is nothing special. Everybody has a will-to-power. I was completely inactive, I was not even meeting sannyasins. So in these three and a half years they tried to harass people who were more intelligent than themselves and might sometime become competitors. So the people who left, left because they were harassed by this small group of twenty people who were holding power, and who had not the intelligence or the competence to do so.
They harassed the vice chancellor and the chancellor of the university, psychologists, professors, doctors - people who had achieved more growth.
They did not tell them to leave, but in an indirect way they harassed them. Some left. They never left me, they never left the commune, but they left this group.
Once I was out of silence I wanted everything to be done by the best person. The moment I started speaking again, and reports started coming to me that these twenty people had been doing things which were not according to my ideas, those twenty people simply escaped. And all the people who had gone came back immediately. So it was a simple human weakness - when you have power you want more power, and you don't want anybody to be a competitor in any situation.
But this was not a big problem. Once I was speaking I thought, those twenty people have left, that does not matter. I have one million sannyasins around the world; what do twenty people mean among one million sannyasins? And those who had left previously immediately returned, so this was not a problem at all. I immediately put the right people in their places, and the commune was running perfectly well. There was no problem; the real problem came from the politicians outside.
WHEN YOU TALK OF POLITICIANS, WHO ARE THE POLITICIANS YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT?
In Oregon the Attorney General and the Governor were the ones who most wanted me to move from America, or at least from Oregon. We invited them many times to come and see the commune. We had one hundred and twenty six square miles of land, which had lain dead for fifty years - it was a desert.
Nobody was prepared to buy it. We purchased it. We changed it into an oasis. It was such a beautiful place that we asked them just to come and see, to be our guests. They had not even the guts to come to see, because they knew that what was happening was something that they could not deny.
They did not want it to happen there because the whole of Oregon was becoming interested, curious. "What kind of people are these? And if they can live in a desert in such comfort, can make the desert produce sufficient food, vegetables, fruits, milk products, then why can't the rest of Oregon, which has better land, do it?" These questions were becoming more and more important. "How can these people live in a desert in such a comfortable way?"
We had houses for five thousand people, all centrally air-conditioned. Every year we were having a festival with almost twenty thousand people coming from around the world. The politicians were just feeling foolish because Oregon has nothing that twenty thousand people from around the world would want to come and see.
So the trouble was that we were doing things better than they could, and then we became a target for every politician - Republican or Democrat. If he was against us then he could get votes very easily, but anybody who was in favor of us was going to be defeated because he would only get our votes - only five thousand.
And we belonged to no party.
POLITICIANS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN AGAINST YOUR COMMUNES.
They might be, but in India they never tried to harass us and that's what I respect. When the chief minister came to the Poona commune, he left his shoes outside. We said that there was no need, but he said, "No, I cannot enter a place which is devoted to spiritual growth with my shoes on." He may be against us, but he has this much respect.
In Indira Gandhi's emergency period, even Vinoba's ashram was raided and Vinoba is a spiritual leader of the Congress party; but my ashram was not raided.
And criticism I can take very well because I can answer anything that they want to criticize. Criticism is human. We have been arguing about everything for five thousand years, discussing everything, but that was not ugly; it was a sharpening of the intelligence. And everybody was ready to find the truth.
Criticism was not for criticism's sake.
I did not leave Poona for that - and Poona is still there, the commune is still there, and we are expanding the commune.
I left because of my own health: my back was getting worse and worse. In the commune itself we had good bodyworkers; they tried to help me, but every effort made it worse. We had good doctors in Poona: they looked - traction and everything was tried - but whatever they did made it worse. Then we called an expert, the best in the world, from England. For two days he worked, and then he said, "I have never come across such a case - because this is not a sudden slip of a disc; it has been going on for almost your whole life slowly, slowly, so you were never aware of it, and now it has come out. Its natural place is closed, so we cannot push it back, and the place that it has taken has become its natural place.
So you have to live with it, you just have to be careful. If you are careful it won't trouble you; but you have to be careful every moment." He designed a certain chair for me, which has been immensely helpful. But the back problem is there.
I have also been suffering from allergies; any perfume, any dust, woolen clothes, and immediately I will get something like a cold - tears in my eyes, coughing, sneezing. And if this continues for two or three days then I get an asthma attack.
Twenty years ago a doctor found that it is not a disease, it is something that you are born with - and there is no medication for allergies. I should live in a place which is not humid, a place which is dry and cool, and avoid all these things; avoid these people who use perfume.
We tried to find a place in India, and found one in Kutch. Coincidentally, the Maharaja of Kutch had the same problems I had, so he had found a place and made a beautiful palace there. Now he is dead, nobody lives in the palace.
At that time Morarji Desai was in power, and he has been against me because I am against Gandhism, and he thinks he is the most Gandhian person in the country. We have been arguing and fighting for many years. When he was chief minister of Gujarat he tried to ban me from entering Gujarat. The assembly rejected him because this was absolutely absurd; I had not committed any crime.
If I speak against Gandhism, you can speak for it, and I am ready to have an open debate on each and every point. But this is not the way - to prevent a person from coming.
Then he became prime minister of India. Then almost two, three times a day he was phoning the chief minister of Maharashtra, that somehow my commune had to be destroyed. He phoned the maharaja's son, the prince from Kutch, Gujarat, to say that the property should not be sold to me. But the property was lying dead, and the prince needed money, so he was willing - even against Desai's wishes - to sell it to me.
Then he found a way: the air force decided that it was too close to Pakistan. Since thousands of foreigners would be there with me, it would be dangerous for the country. So the air force prevented it ; then there was no way.
We tried in the Himalayas. The same argument - this time, that China was too close.
In a desperate effort we looked around the world to find something like Kutch.
Oregon was exactly like Kutch; otherwise, Oregon had no special reason to be chosen. So we went there, and it was not any problem.
And as far as I am concerned, I don't have any property, I don't own anything. I don't have any position in the commune or in the sannyas movement. So it is impossible for there to be any problem for me. Everything that you see I am wearing is made by my sannyasins - everything, even my watch. And these people are known to me: they can take them anytime they want.
IN YOUR THIRTY YEARS OF CONSTANT TOURING AND TALKING TO PEOPLE, WHAT IS IT YOU HAVE ACHIEVED? WHAT IS YOUR LEGACY?
I am leaving behind millions of people who are meditative.
IN THEIR TERMS, WHAT DID THEY ACHIEVE?
That is the greatest achievement possible. If their meditation grows they will know who they are - and that is the greatest ecstasy you can have. I have given them a sense of individuality, integrity. I have not made them slaves to any god, to any religion. I have not made them slaves to any holy book, to any priesthood.
I have made them completely independent, a religious consciousness on their own.
ARE THEY SO INDEPENDENT THAT THEY DON'T EVEN NEED YOU?
Certainly. Those who have gone ahead, they don't need me. Those who are just beginners, they certainly need me. Those who have gone ahead don't need me, but they have tremendous gratitude towards me - that is a totally different thing.
I am not their need, but they feel a gratefulness because I have helped them to become what they are. And I have not taken anything in return, it has not been a business deal. I am not their god, so that they have to worship me; I am just a friend, and they are my fellow travelers. And if they have found something that makes them immortal....
YOU ARE NOW SAYING THAT YOU DIDN'T WANT TO PLAY GOD, BUT WHEN YOU TOOK THE NAME BHAGWAN, WHAT WAS THE UNDERLYING IDEA?
It simply means the blessed one; it does not mean God.
And I am the blessed one, even though in those twelve days they tortured me in all those jails in America. Even the jailers were surprised. They said, "Anybody else would have gone mad, but you simply sit silently, and whenever we ask how you are you say, 'Just great.'" I told them, "Even if you can destroy my body - and you are making every effort - you cannot destroy me. Nothing can destroy me. I know it. And when I say I am absolutely fine, that does not mean that my body is fine, that simply means I am fine. So don't misinterpret it to the newspapers. You have tortured my body in every possible way, but you cannot torture me. I am just a witness. I am seeing you and I am seeing the torture. I am seeing my body being tortured, but I am just a seer - far away, a watcher on the hill. I am seeing what goes on in the valley."
And that is my whole teaching to my people: that you have to become a witness , because that is your authentic reality. Everything will be taken away; someday you will die and everything will be taken away, and only your witness will remain with you. But if you don't find it before your death, you will die unconsciously.
So that is my heritage: that I have made people free from organized religions which have been exploiting humanity for centuries and giving them nothing except consolation, talking about paradise after death. Making them afraid of hell, making them greedy for paradise and keeping them in slavery... Hindus, Mohammedans, Christians, all the religions have been doing the same. I talk about paradise here now.
So my people are religious but they don't belong to any religion. And I don't have any religion, any organization that they can become members of. They have to search and find their own selves; that will be their own religion. Each individual has to find his own shrine within himself.
And I can say with absolute certainty that thousands have come to that point.
They don't need me, but they love me and their gratitude is natural.
AT THE COMMUNE IN AMERICA YOU DEMONSTRATED THAT PARADISE IS POSSIBLE HERE AND NOW. DO YOU THINK IT'S POSSIBLE TO DEMONSTRATE THAT IT'S POSSIBLE HERE, EVEN IN INDIA, EVEN IN A POOR COUNTRY?
It is possible. There is no problem.
WHAT WAS THE PROBLEM WITH INDIRA GANDHI?
Indira was very much interested in me, but she was a politician. She planned to come to Poona at least four or five times, but every time she canceled and told me, "My colleagues don't want me to go to Poona because they say that it will damage my image - because both Hindus and Mohammedans will be against it and I will lose votes."
INDIRA GANDHI WAS THE PRIME MINISTER OF THIS COUNTRY FOR SIXTEEN YEARS. DOES THIS IN ANY WAY INDICATE A CHANGE IN THE STATUS OF WOMEN IN INDIA?
No. Because Indira became the prime minister not as a woman but as a politician.
It was not the victory of women. And she did not do anything for women; women remained the same. Physically she was a woman, but she was playing the same game as all male chauvinists have been doing; just one person makes no difference. And she also became prime minister because of Jawaharlal Nehru.
So it is just a family dynasty that is going on.