[NOTE: This discourse will be in the book "India Coming Back Home", which has not been published, as of August 1992.
Interview by freelance reporter, Venkatram
DO YOU AND YOUR SANNYASINS PROPOSE TO SET UP A MODEL CITY IN THE FOOTHILLS OF THE HIMALAYAS?
No. If the government of Himachal Pradesh wants, then I can persuade my sannyasins to build a model city.
They did it in America, and the result was that they created great antagonism in the politicians, for the simple reason that what they could not do with all their power, we managed to do, without any power. And everybody was so happy, so comfortable.
They could not tolerate that paradise, and that paradise was such a contrast to their hell that the only way to save their faces was to destroy it. And that's what they have been doing for four and a half years - continuously harassing, trying illegal methods, illegal lawsuits, just making it impossible for us to make it even more beautiful. Our whole energy was involved with them.
Still, in spite of it, we made something which has never happened in history.
BUT ISN'T IT TRUE THAT THE KIND OF PEOPLE YOU ATTRACT ARE RATHER CLASSY PEOPLE, DIFFERENT FROM THE AVERAGE HUMAN BEING? I SPOKE WITH A LOT OF THEM, AND GOT THE IMPRESSION THAT THEY'RE ABOVE AVERAGE, SUCCESSFUL PROFESSIONALS.
They are. Almost all of them are, because my way of thinking can be understood only by the very intelligent, by the people who are already fed up with old kinds of traditions, orthodoxies, conventions - who are completely fed up with the whole history of man. Those people were interested in me.
But those people were talented geniuses in their own fields. They dropped everything to create this paradise. You might have found a surgeon doing the work of a plumber - a surgeon who was the best heart surgeon in America. You might have found a professor making the roads. This was the first authentic communist commune in the whole world. Soviet Russia or other communist countries are under a dictatorial rule, forced. If the force is removed, the society will again become capitalist.
My whole effort was that no force should be used. Rather we should make everything so affluent that there was no need for anybody to be poor. There was not a single beggar, there was not a single thief. No crime was committed, no rape, no murder, no suicide; and particularly in America where rape and murder and suicide are happening every moment....
But since I've seen that creating something so beautiful creates so much antagonism, I am not going to create it again on my own unless the government invites me.
Certainly, if the government invites me and they don't create hindrances.... On the contrary, they should help, because we would be creating a city which could become a model for the whole of India. And if we can manage, everybody can manage - just the know-how has to be spread.
So it would be a great contribution on the part of the Himachal government to the whole country, and the country needs it. But I will do it only on their invitation and with their support.
YOU ARE INDIGNANT ABOUT MANY INDIAN THINGS, JUST AS SO MANY OTHER EDUCATED INDIANS ARE, BUT THEY DON'T HAVE THE GUTS TO SPEAK LIKE YOU DO. IF YOU HAD THE POWER TO CHANGE THINGS IN THIS COUNTRY, WHAT ARE THE FIVE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS YOU WOULD DO?
It is very simple. The first thing I would like to do is divert all the energies from war efforts, nuclear weapons, atomic plants - a poor country cannot afford that idiotic luxury.
I want this country to become absolutely nonviolent. It would be perhaps the greatest historical event in humanity's history.
ARE WE NOT NONVIOLENT ALREADY?
No, we are not because we have armies, we are trying to have nuclear weapons, we are making atomic plants. All this energy should go to serve the people.
IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY WORLD IS IT POSSIBLE OR ADVISABLE FOR ONE-FIFTH OF THE HUMAN RACE TO STAY DEFENCELESS? WE HAVE ALREADY HAD FIGHTS WITH THE CHINESE AND PAKISTANIS AND OTHERS.
Are you, with your defences, not defenceless? You had all your armies, and China attacked. What could you do? You had your armies, and China is still holding your land. What have you done? I am saying one thing: even with your armies you are defenceless.
BUT IT WILL BECOME WORSE IF YOU DON'T HAVE AN ARMY.
No, it will not be worse; it will be better, because with your armies you are creating a vicious circle. With your armies, Pakistan thinks you are going to attack. With Pakistan having armies you think they are going to attack. This is a vicious circle which has to be broken somewhere. Who has to break it? I think a land of buddhas can break it, and make a point.
For example, for one hundred and fifty years Switzerland has had no war. They don't have any army. They just have goodwill for everybody; loving people.
Rather than an army, their goodwill and their lovingness has protected them for one hundred and fifty years.
And right now the position is, even if you have the biggest army in the world you cannot compete with America or Russia or China. So in fact even having the biggest army is pointless.
You can have nuclear weapons - which Soviet Russia and America have already - nuclear weapons which can destroy humanity seven hundred times. To come to their level, it will take three hundred years for you, and in three hundred years there will be not be a single Indian alive. They will simply die of poverty. And you will be making nuclear weapons to protect whom?
And secondly, in these three hundred years America and Russia are not going to wait for you to come to their level. In three hundred years they will be three thousand years ahead of you. So this is absolutely foolish.
Right now is the point not to miss. Drop all war ideology, drop the defence department - we wouldn't be the only country with no defence department. Use your whole army for production, for cultivation. And there are trained people in factories - put them all into production. Make it clear to the world, "We are willing to die, but we don't want to kill anybody." And my feeling is that if we can do it, the whole world's sympathy will be with us - more than with your armies. It is a risk, but even with armies the risk is there. So it makes no difference.
This way you can have goodwill from all over the world, and you may start a chain - so that other countries that are small and cannot compete may start thinking of dropping the whole lot because it is taking too much energy and too many men and unnecessarily wasting resources.
And another thing: in this dropping all arms and armies, dissolving them, opening yourself, becoming vulnerable, whatever happens you will not kill. It will be better to be killed and destroyed, but you will not kill. This declaration will make a great impact on the whole world. And my feeling is that most nations will be in deep sympathy with you. Nobody can touch you.
Secondly, India has to be taught that children are no more needed. For at least twenty years we have to be very disciplined about it, otherwise we will be committing suicide.
Rather than enforcing it, we have to educate people, and I don't think that India is so unintelligent. People may not be educated, but they are intelligent and they can understand simple things - that by the end of the century the population will be one billion. So the control of population is the second thing. And it is very easy; methods are available which are simple.
And the third thing: we have to make people aware that whatever past they are carrying in their mind, it is no more applicable to the present. There is a discrepancy.
That's what Mahatma Gandhi took advantage of. He praised India's past and befooled the whole country. According to him, all progress stopped with the spinning wheel. We cannot stop with the spinning wheel. We have to become more technological, more scientific; otherwise, the earth cannot support us.
HOW DO YOU DO THAT IN A COUNTRY WHERE SIXTY PERCENT OF THE PEOPLE ARE UNEDUCATED?
No problem, there is no problem. I have been touring the country for thirty years. Our people may be illiterate - but it was an extraordinary experience for me to find that even the best educated American is inferior to the average uneducated Indian, at least as far as philosophy and religious understanding is concerned.
So we can make them understand philosophically that what came as a heritage to them was good for that time. Now the times have changed. If you want to save the culture, the country, then you have to sacrifice. And it is not much of a sacrifice either. Just taking the pill is not much of a sacrifice.
And technology should be spread all over the country on a wider basis. It should not be in the hands of the chosen few; otherwise they will become rich, but the poor will get poorer.
BUT HOW DO YOU DO IT?
Very easily, because the way I was doing things in my commune was that nobody was paid. We gave them sufficient for their food, for their clothing, shelter.... And everybody was working.
BUT ISN'T IT A BAD COMPARISON? WHERE INDIA IS STUCK WITH THE DOWNTRODDEN, YOU CAN COMMUNICATE WITH THE WELL- EDUCATED. THEY KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT, WHEREAS HERE THERE IS IGNORANCE, ILLITERACY, POVERTY, HUNGER. ISN'T IT MORE DIFFICULT?
I can do it... because I have been doing it, and I have never found that people do not understand. The people who were against me were the priests, the imams, the bishops, not the ordinary common people; but with the common people I had immediate communication. The antagonism against me was created by the priest; the priest is afraid because whatever I am telling the people is dangerous for his own business. His whole business is cut off.
It happened in Patna.... There was a world Hindu conference - it must have been around 1970 or '69. Almost one hundred thousand people were present, and the Shankaracharya of Puri was presiding. The secretary of the conference was very much interested in me so without the president knowing, he invited me. And the moment the shankaracharya saw me on the stage he immediately freaked out, and said,"We two cannot sit on the same stage!"
BY THEN YOU'D ALREADY BECOME NOTORIOUS IN THE COUNTRY?
I was notorious, because with that shankaracharya I have been in conflict many times. He could not throw me out because I took the mike in my hand and I asked the people, "I have been invited here by the secretary of the conference.
The shankaracharya does not want me to speak. Certainly he is the president; if he does not want me to speak, I will leave. But before I leave I would like to ask all of you: raise both your hands if you want me to speak." There were two hundred thousand hands raised.
And then I said to the shankaracharya, "You are no more president - you can leave if you want, you can sit down if you want. I have no problem with you. But I have a communication with the people - and you think you are the leader of these people?"
He remained. And he had to listen to me. He was turning and tossing and perspiring.
DID YOU SAY ANYTHING ABOUT HIM OR HIS GODS?
No, nothing nasty, just simple things which our people can understand very easily - only they have not been approached. These religious leaders are the people who are approaching them.
For example, the shankaracharya, in his presidential address, said, "You should not use water out of which electricity has been taken because that water is impotent." Now these idiots are spreading ignorance, and the poor people don't understand about electricity. And when the shankaracharya, a man of such great knowledge.... And he does not know anything about electricity either, nor about water - saying that water becomes impotent, that you should not use it because your crops will not grow, that you should not drink it because it will make you impotent. Now these are the things these people are saying.
So my third effort will be that all these people are removed completely from contact with the public. Our people are not ignorant, they are simply innocent.
And their innocence is being exploited by these people. So my third thing is that all these religious leaders should be behind the bars.
The fourth thing is about our education system: it only creates clerks. That was the basic purpose of the British government, and we don't need only clerks - we need clerks, but not only clerks. So our whole education system should be such that each person who comes out of school, college or university, also comes with some skills and craft, something that he can do so that he does not need employment. He can become a creator on his own. So our education system should create creators.
Fifth: We should be very alert about our politicians. Forty years have gone just in wastage. The politicians were promising everything and delivering nothing.
Now we should ask the politicians, "Are you capable of doing anything, of delivering the goods? If you are not going to deliver the goods, then you will have to resign immediately."
Now the people should be more assertive. Up to now they have been just docile, saying, "Whatsoever you say is right." Our people have to be assertive. There should be no education minister who is not at least capable of being a university vice-chancellor. There should be no health minister who is not able to be the best physician in the country. Merit should be given more importance than just speeches, promises.... And even those speeches are not written by the politicians themselves; some clerk, some secretary is writing them, and they are simply repeating them.
Our politicians have proved very poor. So this has to be one of the most important things - to make the people assertive about their rights, and make the politicians know that they are really servants of the people - it is not just a verbal thing.
HOW ARE WE GOING TO DO THAT? ARE YOU GOING TO TAKE THE LEAD IN HELPING PEOPLE BECOME AWARE OF THEIR RIGHTS?
I can do that because I am not a politician, and only non-politicians can do that.
And I have thousands of my sannyasins in the country who can do that, who are not politicians, who do not desire any power, who can do that.
People have to be made very aware that anybody who makes promises should be asked, "How are you going to fulfill this promise, and in how many years - one year, two years? And if it is not fulfilled, then give us in writing your resignation now. We will keep the resignation date. We can take you out after two years."
But the population of the country should not be dominated. Otherwise, look at what has happened: the British went - they had made the country a slave - the Indians came in their place. The country remained in the same slave mentality, and these people started doing the same - just the white color of the people changed to black, but the whole system continued to work the same way.
So I want people to be assertive, and if in the cabinet people are not chosen according to merit then the whole country should be in an uproar. It should not be left so that any idiot becomes a health minister.
These are the five things I would like.
YOU HAVE SAID THAT, SINCE BUDDHA, INDIA HAS NOT PRODUCED A SINGLE MAN COMPARABLE TO HIM. WHY IS THIS? WOULD YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF COMPARABLE TO THE BUDDHA?
The first thing: India has not been able to create a man like Buddha because India, after Buddha, went on declining, went on becoming poor.
My understanding is that religion is the ultimate luxury. You have to feed your body first; if your body is hungry, it is impossible to become a buddha. You have to train your mind first, bring it to its highest peak of intelligence. If that is not possible, you cannot become buddha.
These are the steps. The body has to be completely satisfied. The mind has to be sharpened, alert, aware, able to enjoy Mozart, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Picasso, Rabindranath. Only then is there a possibility of a new flight, because all these things give you a little joy but very momentary.
Reading Gitanjali the second time gives nothing. The first time it is a great experience, but the second time it is nothing. So once you become frustrated with all the great art and music, poetry, literature, then only the question arises, "Is there something else or not? Is there some meaning, or is this all?" And that question comes and erases everything. At that point a person starts searching for his inner being, his soul.
And realizing one's own inner being is what I mean by buddhahood.
Buddha could not happen in these twenty-five centuries for the simple reason that the basic necessities were not fulfilled.
I can say without any pride that I have fulfilled everything. I do not compare myself with Buddha because two peaks of the Himalayas, even if they may be of the same height, are still incomparable. They have their beauties, they have their own glory, they have their own world. So I am not comparing myself with Buddha.
I don't want to compare anybody with anybody else. I believe in the uniqueness of the individual. And the more you become inward, the more unique you become. When you reach to your innermost being you are the most unique being in the world; nobody can be compared with you. But that noncomparability is the essential part of being a buddha.
WHAT IS YOUR GOAL IN LIFE - YOUR ULTIMATE AMBITION?
It is fulfilled.
YOUR DISCIPLES APPEAR SO DEVOTED TO YOU. WHAT IS THE SECRET OF THIS TREMENDOUS LOYALTY? WHY DO YOU THINK THESE BRIGHT PEOPLE CAME TO YOU AND MOSTLY STAY ON?
There is no secret in it. It is simply that I love unconditionally.
I don't enslave them. On the contrary, I make them absolutely free - free from traditions, free from religions, free from nations, free from me. I give them their individuality, integrity, self-respect; and because I give them all that, which really belongs to them but they have forgotten it or have been forced to forget it...
YOU MAKE THEM AWARE?
I make them aware.
And that awareness, and my love for them.... I love unconditionally. I don't put any condition, such as, "You have to be like this, only then will I love you." I love you as you are. This creates a tremendous love from their side towards me. It is not loyalty, it is not devotion; it is pure human love. I hate those words - devotion and loyalty; they are ugly. Somehow they put the other person down, they are humiliating. And I respect everyone just the way I respect myself.
You cannot do anything else than love me. I take away all those things which have been imposed on you, and I give you all those things which really have always been within you - I don't give them to you. You had them already, covered by garbage. I remove the garbage. And I don't ask anything in return.
My joy is to clean you. My joy is just like a gardener - when the roses come to blossom, something in his heart also blossoms.
Whenever one of my friends comes to realize himself, it feels as if I have realized myself again.
WHAT IS THIS RELIGION THAT WAS FOUNDED IN YOUR NAME BY MA ANAND SHEELA? DO YOU DISASSOCIATE YOURSELF COMPLETELY FROM IT? AND HOW COULD SHE DO THIS WITHOUT YOUR AUTHORITY?
For three and a half years I was in isolation and in silence, and she was the only one communicating with me. My whole commune - five thousand people - had to depend on her word. And she did what the ordinary human mind and its frailties tend to do - she found it a great opportunity to be powerful. In my name she could say anything, and there was no check. Whatever she did not want to say, she need not say; whatever she wanted to inform me of, she did; whatever she did not want to inform me of, she did not. She made a small clique, and that clique imposed the whole idea of religion.
I have always been against religion, particularly organized religion. I love religiousness, but I don't love religions. Religiousness is a quality, like fragrance.
It has no boundaries - it is not Hindu, it is not Mohammedan. Two religious persons will be almost the same - silent, peaceful, loving, with a great gratitude towards existence.
My whole literature is against religions, against any kind of priesthood. And what she did was just the opposite of it. She negated the whole thing in those three and a half years. She betrayed completely. And she had to betray, because all priests have been betraying. And because I was silent, and not available, I was not aware what was happening.
THESE YEARS OF SILENCE - WHY DID YOU DO THAT?
I just live moment to moment. One moment I felt that for thirty years I had been speaking; it would be good to be silent for a few days. So for three and a half years I was silent. One day I realized that it was time to speak again, and I started speaking.
I just go with the moment - with no planning, with no idea, with no reasoning. I am very irrational.
SINCE YOU HAVE GIVEN UP READING FOR THE PAST FIVE YEARS WHAT REFRESHES THE INTELLECTUAL INPUT INTO YOUR BRAIN?
Nothing. I don't need anything. I have my vision, and I have my intelligence, and I don't need any reading or any information.
My people ask questions. I am just like a mirror, I reflect. My answer is not information, my answer is my response. For information I need reading, but for response I don't need any reading.
DO YOU EVER FEEL, "OH MY GOD, I DON'T KNOW WHAT IS THE LATEST.....?
Never. I feel completely at ease, far more at ease than people who depend on information - because they are always worried whether it is right or wrong.
Whatever I say is always right because it is coming directly from me. I don't depend on any book, I don't depend on any encyclopedia. I depend only on my intelligence.
THERE ARE REPORTS THAT THE POONA ASHRAM OWES THE GOVERNMENT SOMETHING LIKE 1.5 CRORES OF RUPEES IN UNPAID TAXES. IS THIS TRUE? ARE YOUR TAX HASSLES OVER, OR HAS THERE BEEN SOME KIND OF UNDERSTANDING WITH THE GOVERNMENT?
Two things. One: those taxes have nothing to do with me because I have never been a part of any commune. And I don't have any post in the commune so any income tax or anything has nothing to do with me.
I have always been a guest in every commune. I am not even a member. So there is no question of me being arrested.
Secondly, those 1.5 crore - that is the creation of Morarji Desai. Morarji Desai has been against me for as long as I remember, for the simple reason that I am against Gandhism and he thinks he is the successor of Gandhi. He wants to be Mahatma Morarji Desai.
I have been continuously criticizing Gandhi and Morarji Desai, and challenging him to a public discussion: "Why don't you come out in the open? I can come to Delhi and be in an open public meeting. If you feel that your philosophy is right, then why are you afraid? You know yourself that you are talking nonsense. You think drinking urine is the only medicine, and that is all that the country needs.
So you have to prove it."
When he became prime minister he immediately took away the tax-exempt status of the ashram in Poona. That created the trouble. Once the tax-exempt status was taken away, then income tax started arising.
The Poona commune has been fighting for tax-exempt status, but as time goes on the income tax goes on growing.
It is a legal matter, and it will be solved - it has nothing to do with me.
IF YOU WERE TO DIE TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE THE WORLD TO REMEMBER YOU MOST FOR? WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE YOUR OBITUARY TO BE?
Just a simple man, an innocent man, who was always misunderstood.