The poison of ambition and the order of life
CHAPTER 3 : SUTRA 1
ACTION WITHOUT DEEDS
NOT TO RULE AND EMPLOY MEN OF SUPERIOR ABILITY, IS THE WAY TO KEEP THE PEOPLE FROM RIVALRY AMONG THEMSELVES; NOT TO PRIZE ARTICLES WHICH ARE DIFFICULT TO PROCURE IS THE WAY TO KEEP THEM FROM BECOMING THIEVES; NOT TO SHOW THEM WHAT IS LIKELY TO EXCITE THEIR DESIRES IS THE WAY TO KEEP THEIR MINDS FROM DISORDER.
What is the worry of man? What is his trouble? What is his distress?
If there is one man who is worried or a few men, one could understand that they may be at fault. But the opposite is the case. Once in a while we come across a calm and composed person or a person really filled with well-being. The rest of us are restless, unhealthy and suffering. Illness seems to be the order of the day and well-being and good health seem to be exceptions. Ignorance seems to be the soul of life and knowledge, an accidental happening - a coincidence. It seems that to be a human being is to be ill, worried, distressed.
We never know how sometimes, someone becomes carefree, relaxed! Either it is a mistake of Nature or a boon from the Gods! The rule seems to be: As we are, we are diseased, ailing harassed.
This sutra of Lao Tzu is unique. He says the cause of restlessness in so many people, is the make- up of the human mind, the fundaments of his culture, the mode of thinking of his civilisation, the very structure of his society. Each man is so placed that he is bound to be ill.
The latest research in the West shows that each man is born a genius but we have created such a state of affairs around us that the genius is maimed and almost destroyed.
Swami Ram writes in his memoirs that while in Japan, he saw pine trees the size of just one span.
He was surprised! The trees were not saplings. They were 100-150 years old but their growth was stunted. When he inquired of the gardener, he was shown the bottom of the pots. They were broken and the roots were regularly cut by the gardener. The roots could not grow, so the trees also could not shoot up. It is very necessary for roots to go deep down into the earth, if the tree has to grow taller. Now it the gardener does not want the tree to grow taller. He will keep on clipping the roots with the result that the tree will grow old but remain small.
Our method for human beings is also somewhat similar. Therefore all the people we see, have grown only a span in height whereas they could have touched the skies.
We have been feeding poison to the roots of mankind.
This poisoning has gone on for ages with the result we have forgotten it is poison. Then each generation puts in its own share of poison. Your elders pour poison into your roots and you pour poison into your children's roots. Naturally every father does to his son what his father did to him and so the vicious circle goes on.
Lao Tzu has said a few things in connection with this poison.
To understand this we have first and foremost to understand that what has been fed to the human mind in largest quantity, is the poison of ambition. The whole structure of our society is based on ambition. We make it a point to make the littlest child ambitious. He is goaded on and on to stand first in whatever he does - whether at school or at play, while learning behaviour or wearing clothes; whatever he does, or whatever we make him do, we see that he is well caught in the spirit of competition.
Ambition means: We make his ego stand in competition with the ego of others. We tell him that others should not overtake him. His legging behind will leave no place for his ego. So wherever he is, he should always try to be at the top. This being the first, is our poison. Whether in clothes or in business or in education or whether in worship and prayer or in renunciation or in penance we are taught constantly to remember that 'I am being judged vis-a-vis others'. I have forever to see where I stand with regard to others. What is my place in the line? Am I lagging behind? If so, I shall be pained.
And if there is a long line behind me, I shall be delighted. Those who are happy are only so when they know they are giving pain to others behind them. Or else there is no delight.
But the world is so big, that no one person can be absolutely in the fore-front; and life so complicated that there does not arise the question of being in the forefront. This complexity of life is multi-faceted.
If a man succeeds in amassing a lot of wealth, he finds someone else has beaten him in health then be he a beggar begging on the streets. whose clothes are in tatters. One person may be rich in health but he finds himself most lacking in looks. If a man is a successful businessman, he finds many others who are intellectually much above him. And more often than not a very intellectual person finds it hard to obtain two square meals a day, while others with much lesser intelligence build palaces for themselves.
Life is many-faced - multi-dimensional. Then if in every direction a man tries to be at the top, he is bound to go mad. It is a miracle if he does not! The whole structure is insane. Therefore, wherever we stand there is pain and anguish for we find some standing before us and some behind!
To be ambitious is never to think in terms of 'who I am' but to think in terms of myself as related to others. Never to see myself straight in the face but always in comparison with others. Never to see whether, where I stand gives pleasure or not but to see that others do not gain more happiness than me. Also not to worry if I am in pain, if others are undergoing greater pain. Then I can be content.
It is said that once, there were floods in a village. An old farmer was looking sad and worried for all his fields and cattle were carried away by the flood waters. His young neighbour asked him "Grandpa, you look very worried? Have you lost all your goats in the floods?" "Have you lost yours too?" The old man asked, "Yes" replied the young man, "And did all your cattle die too?" He asked again "Yes," said the young man. "And are all your fields washed away?" "Yes," said the young man again. "In that case," says the old man, "I have no reason to be so worried." The question was not whether he had lost all but whether others lost equally or more!
Whether in joy or in sorrow, we have always to be aware where we are in the line. Our thinking is arranged in lines. We never think of ourselves as free individuals, we always see and worry about our place in the line - where we stand in the queue. And this is a circular queue. We overtake one, then another, then another, always hoping to be first but we find always that there are always some in front of us!
The queue is round. There is no straight line. And usually the one who runs a great deal suddenly discovers that he lags far behind others! He finds that those he left way back, stand in front of him! Therefore invariably, those who reach the peak of success, fall into calamity. They are always frustrated and what is this frustration? They find that inspite of all their toil and labour they have not reached the peak and those they left far behind, suddenly appear right in front of them!
Understand Lao Tzu's sutra in this context.
Lao Tzu says that if there are no quality-grades of talent and aptitude, there would be no struggle and no envy or rivalry. "Why should we make talent a grade to judge people?" asks Lao Tzu. Why should we not take it as the nature of the person? Understand the difference for many things depend upon it: Why should we not consider the capability of a person as his characteristic and why should we make it a quality-measure?
A man is proficient in mathematics. This proficiency is his nature. One man is proficient in music; this is his nature. Now one man is weak in mathematics - that is his disposition. There is nothing great about a mathematical genius for he has attained this quality from nature. And it is no disqualification for a man to be weak in mathematics for that again is what he has attained from nature in the same way.
The Zen Fakir Rinzai was telling a man as he stood outside his hut. "Do you see those trees reaching the skies and do you see these shrubs yonder?" "It is years," he says, "Since I live near these trees and never have I once heard the shrubs wondering why the trees are so tall! Nor have I ever seen the tall trees looking down haughtily at the tiny shrubs!" "What is the secret?" His companion asked him. "The secret is only this," said Rinzai "that the trees are trees because nature made them so and the shrubs are shrubs for the same reason." No status is achieved by being big and there is no loss of face in being small. The same nature that makes the trees tall, makes the grass weeds small. It is also not always necessary that those that are big are big in all respects. When the storm comes, the big trees are uprooted whereas the lowly weed is left unharmed.
Napoleon was a short man. He was not tall. But it invariably happens that men of short stature aspire to great heights. One day he was trying to remove a book from a shelf in his library. His hand could not reach so his attendant who was 7 feet tall said, "Sir, if it is does not seem improper may I step ahead and bring the book out for you? I am the highest man in your army. There is no one higher than me," Napoleon was red with fury. "You are not higher, you are only taller. There may be no one taller than you but I alone am the highest."
It was but natural that Napoleon was hurt. The fault was not only of the language - it was avery big mistake. Napoleon corrected him immediately - tallest not highest. What is the difference? To be tall is a natural phenomena. With height there is valuation, quality, grade. There is no valuation with tallness for that is a gift of nature but with the question of height, of stature, valuation comes in Lao Tzu says, "If there is no quality-grade with talent, there would be no strifes and no struggles."
Would that we would begin to see that things have their own specific nature and act accordingly; and they are not responsible for their natural characteristics! We never hold a blind man responsible for his blindness? Even if he is blind from birth we sympathise with him.
About two years ago, a blind boy came to see me in Jabalpur, all the way from Srinagar. There was a Shivir held there on Mahavira. He came to know of it much later and so missed, so he came all the way to Jabalpur. "You must have found it very difficult to travel the long distance from Srinagar to Jabalpur?" I asked him. "Not at all!" He replied "Blindness is a great asset to me. Everybody is ready to help. One person catches hold of my hand, another buys a ticket for me. Why, the rickshaw-man brought me all the way from station, free of charge and is waiting outside to drop me back to the station. If I had eyes, I could not have been better off."
If some one is blind we are all sympathy for him. We feel it is not his fault but if someone is dull, we do not sympathise with him. On the contrary, we call him an idiot! We never ever wait and ponder how he is at fault if he is dull? The poor man is criticised and looked down upon. Everywhere he will be ill-treated and pushed back. No one will ever be kind to him. Why? Because we have made the intellect our sutra for ambition. Without intellect we cannot progress in ambition. Therefore the measure of intellect, the I.Q. Has become very important.
But what is behind all this? One man is born an Einstein, what is Einstein's qualification in that? He has not brought about his genius. One man is born an idiot - what is his fault in that?
Lao Tzu says, "Nature makes one person in one way and another in another. It is because we do not accept nature and attribute quality-status to one and quality-deficiency to the other that we give birth to all struggle and rivalry." This means we are unable to see what is natural, what is the characteristic qualities of a person. We pile our expectations on to nature and think accordingly.
Lao Tzu believes in 'Nature-ism'. He believes in the natural characteristics. Tao means the natural disposition. "I am such", he says, "not only this but also that the other is such." "Then this would mean, we must accept the thief, as a thief, a cheat as a cheat for nature has made them so?" We might argue, "If nature has made them so, what can be done? Should we accept fraud and let it work its way in life?"
This is the fight between Lao Tzu and the moralist. The moralist would undoubtedly say that this sutra is dangerous. Suppose we go even so far as to accept that one man is an idiot, one man is a genius and nature has made them so; but if a man is a fraud, if he is a thief, a murderer, what are we to do? Should we accept them as being created such by nature? If you ask Lao Tzu, he will say, "When you did not accept them for what they are, how many murderers did you reform? How many cheats did you convert into honest men? You punished the male-factor by whipping him, putting him in jail and even executing him. Were you able to reform people this way?"
"The truth is," says Lao Tzu, "When you punish a person, you make him stronger in his short- comings." You never rid him of his fault, you only make him more competent. The person who visits the jail once, becomes a jail-bird by and by, for there he gets just the company he wants. He finds enough education on his craft. He comes across master-criminals and others with greater experience than him. So his knowledge of his art improves. Also, if once a man is branded a criminal, you stamp a seal on him. Then be has no way also, of improving his ways. Even if he means to be honest, no one will accept him. Lao Tzu says, "You cannot make a saint out of a sinner."
In England, about 150 years ago, thieves were punished by being flogged in the market-square.
Large crowds would gather to witness the flogging. This was done with a view to discourage others from stealing. Soon it was discovered that as the crowd was engaged in watching the spectacle, many pockets were picked!
This was discussed in the British Parliament. When an example was being set to dissuade people from stealing, at that very time pockets were being picked! In spite of all the punishments, we have not been able to change man in the least. He is getting worse and worse everyday. According to Lao Tzu: as the laws increase, the law-breakers increase also. Every new law becomes a sutra to create new criminals. Every sentence creates a new crime. Lao Tzu says, "You may keep saying 'What will happen to man if he does not change!' The fact remains you have not changed a single man." The number of courts and jails and the numerous law-books have failed miserably. But it seems some people's self-interest is hidden behind this.
I have heard that a thief was convicted for the third time. This is the last, for he has been sentenced for life. After he read out the sentence, the judge asked him, "You took birth in this world and what has been your contribution towards it?" "Don't you know?" The thief replied, "Because of me how many judges and lawyers and detectives and police earn their living? They would be out of job but for me. You too would be begging on the streets had it not been for me!"
This is not merely a joke. This is a truth - a deep truth. If there is no thief on the face of this earth, how would the magistrate be? All this elaborate arrangement carrying so much status and dignity about it, depends entirely on thieves, cheats and men of the underworld. If we look deep with in these people, we shall find that all this class of law-givers would not be happy to hear Lao Tzu. They will argue, "Then it means accept a thief as a thief. Do nothing about it. Then what will happen to the law-givers?" And the most interesting thing that the psychologists have discovered is that only those people become law-givers, who would be the first to break all laws if these were removed. In fact, only the thief takes pleasure in flogging a thief.
Nasruddin was working in a shop but he did not behave well with the customers. So he was turned out. The owner of the shop told him, "You are being thrown out because your behaviour towards the customers is bad. Remember, the law says, 'the customer is always right'. So it will not do here if you are always trying to prove yourself right and the customer wrong." Fifteen days after, the shop-owner found Nasruddin standing on the cross-roads dressed as a police-man. He asked him, "Nasruddin you have become a police-man?" "Yes" said Nasruddin. "This is the only job I found where the customer is always wrong."
Lao Tzu's statements are difficult to understand and follow. Not only the judiciary but also the sadhu find it ungratifying for the Sadhu considers his piety to be a cultivated quality and not a part of his nature. He says, "With great penance and sadhana and with arduous practice, I have attained piety.
You are not a sadhu for you have done nothing." But Lao Tzu's piety and goodness are supreme.
He says, "If I am a good man, it is no attainment on my part, I deserve no credit for it. If you are not a good man you deserve no contempt. My being good is my nature, you not being good is your nature." What can we do where there is a question of nature? So no one is high and no one is low.
Our sadhu's endeavour however is, on being at the top. If he is not above us, all his efforts are in vain. If we stop reverence of our sadhus and giving them pride of place,99 out of 100 sadhus. will immediately disappear; for respect and reverence is their only mainstay. Their piety is nourishment for their ambition, their ego and their pride. It is very gratifying to be a sadhu and when the society is particularly sinful, saintliness pays great dividends, for then your ego, your ambition and your pride get the best nourishment.
A sadhu never approves of Lao Tzu. Therefore, the words of Lao Tzu proved very revolutionary for China. Even now after 2,500 years, they are revolutionary and 2,500 years hence also, they will be revolutionary. There is no greater revolution than the Lao Tzu philosophy. Lao Tzu says, "I am like the bitter leaf of the neem tree. It is no fault of the neem tree that its leaves are bitter! The mango bears sweet fruit, what is the greatness of the mango tree in that? Why should the neem be rated low and the mango rated high? Even if one is more useful to you than the other, it is no criterion to judge."
We should understand the opposition of the judiciary, the politician and the moralists. Their argument is, that society will fall still lower but they do not realise that society has already fallen low and can go no lower. The society is degenerated - not will be.
Lao Tzu however says, "It is you who have caused the society to be degenerated. You revile a thief and destroy the possibility of his changing." You shut all doors of reform. In fact, whenever you praise or condemn, you create boundaries. Then as we create these boundaries of praise and condemnation, we force the evil-doer to remain an evil-doer and constrain a good man to develop hypocrisy in order to maintain an appearance of continued goodness. We leave no place for him to be evil for no man is so good that there is no trace of evil in him and no man so bad that there is no good in him.
We tend to break everything into two. We say, "This man is good, there is no evil in him, and no man so bad that there is no good in him."
We tend to break everything into two. We say, "This man is good, there is no evil in him." Then when some part of evil begins to manifest itself in his life, he will have to practise some deceit. He will try to hide and suppress what is within him and begins to exhibit what is not within him. This our endeavour to praise goodness, turns it into hypocrisy. That is why 99 In the same manner, when we call a person bad, we close all doors of improvement for him. Constant condemnation kills all his possible expectation to improve. He feels himself in capable of taking any step in that direction. He looks upon himself as a person fated for damnation. Then slowly the thought gets strengthened within him. "Then why should I not be an expert in my badness?" This then becomes his life-adventure.
Lao Tzu says, "Do not call the bad, wicked, nor the good, good. Put no labels. Just know this, that each man lives according to his nature." What is the meaning of this?
This means, there should be no category no hierarchy in Society. There should be no high and no low. Does this mean there should be communism? This needs to be understood a little. The type of society Lao Tzu talks about, if it is accepted that way, then all people will be uncommon and each person will be according to his nature. Therefore, there will be no feeling of inequality.
Lao Tzu says, "If a man is capable of earning, he will earn and if a man is capable of losing, he will lose and if a man is capable of begging only, he will beg." But in no way will the beggar be lesser than the rich man, for we give the latter no grade of status. We say, it is the nature of this man that he cannot stay without constructing a palace. Another man's nature is, he cannot keep the money he has. He cannot help squandering it. This is his nature. But we make no differentiation. We accept the disposition of each person and respect it. In truth, the chief mark of a sadhu is, that he accepts all - all kinds of dispositions and characteristics.
If such a possibility happens that we accept all types of dispositions, there will no longer be strifes and struggles.
I was talking to a friend yesterday. There is a conflict between him and his wife. As is natural, he thought if he had married another woman there would not have been this state of affairs. Now this man has no experience of another woman. She exists only in imagination. The wife also feels the same way. She feels she has made a wrong choice. Another man would have made a better husband. In this case also, there is no experience of the other man. He is purely imaginary. Now we cannot have the experience of all the women in the world or all the men in the world, therefore, the illusion persists.
I told my friend, "It is not a question of this woman or that woman. It is a question of your different natures. There is conflict in your dispositions. And it is the arrangement between a man and a woman that society has prescribed that is to be blamed for this, for it is an arrangement of ownership.
Wherever we make permanent relationships, strife is bound to be, for the mind is most impermanent and relationships very permanent.
Today I may tell a person, "No one is more beautiful than you," but it is not necessary that I should say the same thing tomorrow. Perhaps I do not feel that way tomorrow? This does not mean that what I said was false. It was absolutely true and that belonged to the moment when I felt it as such.
But this moment cannot put my whole future in bondage. Tomorrow I may feel that was a mistake:
that could also be the truth for that moment. Then what shall I do that moment?
Will I betray the truth of the initial moment or will I conjure up a fraud? If I put up an act, there will be conflict. I will fall in my own esteem for the hypocrisy I create! Wherever we fix relationships, the unstable mind causes trouble. Wherever there is demand, there is bound to be conflict. If a person finds himself on the highest rung, he will strive his hardest to remain there and so always be in the midst of a struggle. One who is low, will always try to reach high and so there will be struggle All our thinking is conflict-oriented.
We can only be rid of conflict if we accept the nature of things. Now what is meant by the nature of things?
The nature of things is such that if I love someone and derive happiness therefrom, I shall also derive unhappiness from the same person. This is inevitable. If you derive happiness from a person, you must also suffer unhappiness from him. We derive happiness from that person alone from whom we can also derive unhappiness. The door to unhappiness opens along with the door to happiness.
Happiness an unhappiness both come from the same door. When I accept happiness and deny unhappiness, I am not accepting the nature of things. Then I say, happiness is alright but I do not accept unhappiness. Now I shall be angry also with the person I love. Conversely, one who loves me can also be angry with me. But we think, one can never be angry with the person one loves.
Where there is love, anger is also born. It is bound to be and if it is not, the quality of that love will be different. The very element of that love changes. Then it is not love but Compassion. But compassion does not satisfy you for compassion is serene love, non-insisting. You are gratified only by passionate and aggressive love. Then you feel, someone is out to win you. Now this is an interesting thing that you feel very happy when someone is out of to win you but when that someone wins you, you feel intense pain. When someone is out to win you, you get pleasure out of the thought that you are worth striving for but when you are won over. you feel the intense pain of the fact that now you are subservient to somebody. Both these are conjoined.
If we keep the nature of things in mind, there can be no struggle or conflict. What is conflict?
Conflict means I am trying every minute to be against my nature. I am busy trying to be what I cannot be. With others also our effort is the same - we want them to be what they cannot be.
I can love a woman only if the woman appeals to me. The woman might think I love her for herself.
She does not know that it is the woman in her I love. I can love another woman the same way I love her. Therefore you find that as soon as you fall in love with a woman, she at once begins to keep an eye over you for she knows the weakness of man's mind. The mind does not acknowledge a person, it only acknowledges energies. It knows no particular A man or B woman. It only knows in terms of man and woman.
Now this woman you have won, will always try to see that you do not fall for another woman. But the day this love for a woman departs from your mind, even this one you love will have to depart. And then the conflict is terrible. Now her effort will be that you should love woman but only the woman within her, which is impossible. Only pain and anguish results from this.
Everywhere this happens.
Voltaire has written in his memoirs that he used to wish that when he went along the road, someone should wish him, recognise him. But nobody did for no one knew him. This used to pain him. So he worked hard and at last reached the place he aspired to. But now it became impossible for him to walk along the road! Then Voltaire writes, "Now these people do not allow me to sleep also! I cannot go out alone for a walk. Someone or the other turns up and starts talking."
Then he continues to write that on pondering over this, he realised that it was he alone who was responsible for this. These poor people never wished him first and this pained him. Now that crowds gather round him wherever he goes, that also is troublesome.
Oh, the mind of man! We ask for troubles and when they come, we are distressed by them. First man aspires for status, when he gets it he hankers to be alone. Now to aspire for status and fame means aspiring for crowds. Then as soon as the crowds gather, he is suffocated! Hitler used to see that great crowds gathered around him, but when they did he used to try and evade them.
This is a most interesting thing: those who have not gathered crowds are distressed and those who have, they too are distressed, Lao Tzu says, "It is because we do not accept nature that we experience this difficulty." And this also we do not see, that many more things come together with one thing. They cannot be dropped out. I take great precautions to see that no one insult me. But where there is reverence, irreverence is bound to be. But this we do not see. If we can see this part of nature, then Lao Tzu says, "If you do not wish for insult, do not wish for respect either." If you aspire for honour be ready for dishonour also. Then there is no difficulty, then there is no conflict within.
Another fact: If there is conflict within one person, there is bound to be conflict in the whole community. If each person is engaged in a fight within himself for all the 24 hours, then what we know as life cannot be life. What do we do all the 24 hours? We are fighting wars - in the market we fight financial wars, at home we fight domestic wars, there is politics even between friends. If we take into account a single day's life of a person for a period of his waking hours, we will find he has been doing nothing but fight all day long. Only he changes his fronts many times according to where he is; he fights on one front and goes to another. When he has finished with this, he forms a third front and so on. He may feel a little respite in the interval between two fronts - all else is war!
When after a full day he sleeps in the night, then also the wars continue. His dreams are invaded by his day-long strifes. What is the cause of this conflict-ridden state of mind?
Could it be that we are poisoning the very roots of the human race? For this alone can bring about such state of affairs. And this is the reason - that we are poisoning our very roots. This planned scheme is so old that it has become a part of our collective mind. It seems now it is impossible to live in any other way. This is a snare of our own making.
If you were to get a chance to be tranquil for a full day, you will become so restless - more than you normally are when in conflict. People say they want peace because they do not know what peace is. If they are given peace, within 24 hours they will say "Forgive us, we do not want peace."
Restlessness appears a thousand times better than this peace! The reason is that in moments of peace your ego drops.
Ego can remain only in conflict, in struggle, in winning and losing. Even losing is preferred for at least the ego in there. It is better even to lose rather than be nobody, the ego at least remains.
In complete tranquility the ego cannot be, for you yourself cannot be. In perfect tranquility, only tranquility - remains. You are no more. This is very disturbing. You will come quickly out of this and then you will ask for peace no longer! Hell would seem better than this, for at least you were doing something - something was happening! Whether anything was happening or not, is irrelevant - things seemed to happen. You were busy, occupied; and the mind felt very important - you were doing something great!
The greater the conflict, the more you feel you are doing something big. Therefore people discard smaller conflicts and search for bigger ones. They let go small troubles and look for bigger ones.
If there is not enough material for conflict in our own house, we start probing into our neighbour's affairs, or even that of our society, our country, our nation. We look for bigger troubles of the human race.
An American youth of the Peace Corps came to me. He is one of the 400 who have come to India to establish peace. He took sannyas. I asked him, "Is it not to save yourself from your own restlessness that you are trying for peace for others?" He was taken aback. "What do you say? You are absolutely right but how did you know? There is so much conflict in my family! I can't get on with my father, I cannot get on with my mother or my brothers. Things had reached such a peak that there would have been bloodshed. Either I would have killed my father or he would have killed me! Therefore it was necessary to run away from home. I heard there was need for peace in India so I joined the Peace Corps and came here. Ever since then I have plunged whole-heartedly in to my work."
All the organisations that are out to serve society, also all reformers and leaders, are those who are not satisfied with lesser conflicts. They look for bigger spans and amplitudes. And they look for problems that defy solutions. You cannot dwell longer on problems that are easily solved, you have to then move on the fresh problems. So we look for permanent problems that can never be solved.
We are people who have no knowledge of tranquility and whose whole make-up is of restlessness.
We create restlessness with each movement of ours - sitting, standing, walking, talking. Even our silence is filled with restlessness.
Nasruddin is talking to his wife. She has already been talking for half an hour. Nasruddin said, "You have been talking continuously for half an hour. I could not get in a single syllable!" His wife said, "You are silent but your silence is so aggressive, I cannot stand it!"
A man can look aggressive even when he is sitting quietly. Your keeping quiet may be a lot worse than if you had given an abuse. Our very being is one of conflict. Therefore our merely sitting quiet also becomes aggressive. You may say, "I'm sitting silent, not saying a word" but your not speaking also does the trick. You normally do not speak when you have to say something more dangerous than words can express. Then you become silent for you do not have words that weigh so much as to express your feelings. Why is it like this?
According to Lao Tzu, this is because we have not given our acquiescence to nature. We have played games with nature, the game of quality - grades. We say, "So and so is low, so and so is high in standing." This is according to our utility needs. We give higher standards to things which seem more useful to us but when utility changes, this ranking of high and low also changes.
There was a time when the family priest held the pride of place. Why? Because he had his uses.
When the clouds thundered and lightning flashed, no one but the priest knew why it was so - Indra was angry! Now how was he to be appeased? Only he had an answer to this. He knew the mantras to cool Indra's anger. So even the king sat at his feet. This is why the PUROHITS (family priests) tried very hard to protect their knowledge from others. Their knowledge was their monopoly. Even the kings came to ask of them. They also touched the feet of the purohit. So the family priest was at the very top once upon a time.
Today, however, it is not so and in twenty years time, the scientist will take the place that belonged to the purohit 2,000 years ago. Today, the scientist is invaluable for on him depends the destiny of Man. If one scientist is smuggled out of Germany or Russia that would change the history of the world!
Today if America is so prosperous and well-established it is because 90 But how can they stop them? They have no such big institutions, nor such arrangement for work nor such high salaries to pay. Nor do they enjoy such freedom and have such conveniences to work.
Even if he is not allowed to leave his country, the scientist will not give his best and will always try to migrate to America.
Those who know, are watching with open eyes and they know that the future lies in the hands of that country where the scientists are gathering. Today the scientist wields power.
And it may seem that the power is in the hands of the politician but it is not so. Everything is under the scientists' command. The politicians may keep complaining that it is no use going to the moon, people may die of hunger, but the scientist insists of going to the moon and the politicians have to make arrangements for him.
If today the five topmost scientists of America refuse to work, America will be at the feet of Russia.
Five men yield such power! The utility has changed and brought the scientist in the place of the family priest.
In between, it was the warrior who was at the top. The sword was above everything.
Where utility changes, everything, all other arrangements, have to change with it. Today intellect is of great value for it helps you to rise up but if in the near future, we are able to produce machines that can do all the work that man does, than there will be no further use of intellect. Then it is possible that the flute-player or the fisherman or the card-player may come to the top. And you, who are running big stores and markets - no one will even look at you! These people who know the art to relax, will be the people in demand. He who can be blissful in rest will become valuable.
Those who work, will lose their value, for machines will prove better workers. Now a great scientist has to do complicated mathematics, but where he takes six months to solve a problem, the computer takes six seconds. So a computer will be as good as a scientist and he will no longer be important.
Then the whole situation will change. A very different class of people will now be at the top - The entertainer's.
In today's world you see that the film star enjoys a position he never did before, though dramas and plays always existed. He was not only unrecognised but looked down upon. It was not supposed to be respectful work but suddenly we find he has risen high in esteem and day by day he will rise higher! As people find themselves idle, without any work, they will need more and more of entertainment. They will need something to keep their minds engaged - some dance, some song, some drama, which will fill up their empty hours. So the actor will rise higher and higher. He has already relegated the politician to a lower position in public appeal. But why is this so?
This again is a problem of utility. There was a time when the actor was scarce. One or two funsters, existed in each village. They were not heeded much, but who could have said then that this lonely funster will one day become Charlie Chaplin and even Gandhiji would be eager to meet him? These men were supposed to be the worthless types. Each village had them and made use of them on occasions like marriage or for some important occasion in the village to add a lighter side to the function. Nobody respected them. Then how is it that they have risen in esteem? As the value for work decreases, the value of relaxation rises. It is the utility that decides who should be at the top and who should not be.
By nature, no one is high or low. Lao Tzu says, "By nature, you are as you are." If we once accept this fact then there is no strife, no struggle, either within or without.
If no importance is given to things that are hard to attain, people will be rid of thieving and pilfering.
We always condemn the thief, the bandit, the cheat, the trickster but do we ever think what it is they are after? The things they desire are getting more and more expensive each day so the lure for them increases - and we condemn them! It is a strange play, a foul deception!
On the one hand we give a place of prestige to the Kohinoor diamond and on the other, condemn the efforts that go on to attain it. Now this Kohinoor is one and people are in millions! And they all hanker after Kohinoor. Everybody cannot have it, so it is impossible to attain it lawfully. Now everyday we see that those who break the law, they alone attain the thing which is otherwise unattainable. The Kohinoor is open to view; people stand in queues. The law-breaker scoffs at them for according to him they are fools who do not know that he who wants to break the queue and get the diamond, exhorts others to respect the queue.
I have heard that a magistrate once reprimanded a thief saying "Are you not ashamed to deceive such a good man?" The thief replied, "Your honour, it is impossible to cheat a cheat." To them, honesty is their mainstay. So the trickster always wishes that there is a publicity of honesty or else their business will suffer. If honesty prevails then alone dishonesty can work or else it cannot.
Machiavelli or Chanakya are the absolute opposite of Lao Tzu. They are the opposite pole of Lao Tzu. Machiavelli says "Preach honesty, then only dishonesty will prosper. Tell people to be simple to be plain and undeceitful, then only will you succeed."
In his book "THE PRINCE", Machiavelli has advised the kings that a king should be such who encourages morality in his subjects but does not practise it himself. Otherwise he says, what is the gain? He advises them never to be moral, for if they are, some one else will take advantage of the situation. They should be promoters of ethics and keep all outside appearances. But be alert and never practise morality for it is immorality that always prospers in life.
This man is just the opposite of Lao Tzu. He is a great intellectual and presents one face of man as it really is - this much we must allow him. Machiavelli has a deep insight within man and what he says about man is true to a great extent - 99 On the one-hand we are increasing our infatuations and allurements of rare objects. Now on the other hand, can we visualize an Adivasi (backward tribe) settlement, where the Kohinoor would lie on the streets and the children would play games with it? Nobody would care to pick it up for there is no intrinsic value as such of the Kohinoor. The value it enjoys is endowed on it. It is of no use; it cannot be eaten or drunk or put to any use. It is a thoroughly useless object. Its only quality is, it is one of its kind. There is only one Kohinoor.
If we give a value to a rare thing, the world goes mad after it. It can happen that a man might gamble away his lie just to attain the Kohinoor! Now this diamond in itself is completely useless but the dignity and glory conferred on its being a rare thing gives rise to robbery, deceit and competition in the world. Now for instance, gold - what is the intrinsic value of gold? It fulfils no requirement of life.
If you place a piece of bread and a piece of gold before an animal, the animal will pick up the bread and go his way; he is wise. But if the same alternative is placed before a man, he invariably will pick up the piece of gold and run.
And the most interesting fact is, no one - no creature - is prepared to choose the gold except Man!
The reason is simple. It has no intrinsic value; the value it enjoys has been given to it and we have accepted its value. If today we do not accept it as valuable it will become valueless!
Values are established in a thousand ways in the world; sometimes such values, you would not dream of! Now an African woman fills her arms with bangles of bones. She sees your hands and says, "What nakedness - nothing in the hands?" Now for instance you see a Western woman and wonder at their bare hands and bare ears and nose. These are all values that have been given - and there are strange values attached to things!
If a society feels long hair is the criterion of beauty, then long hair become beautiful; if it considers short hair or even shaven heads as a sign of beauty then that becomes the order of the day. There are places yet on the surface of the earth, where shaven heads are a sign of beauty. You may be shocked but it is so. They believe that unless the hair is not removed, the actual beauty of the face cannot be gauged. According to them hair deceives. It hides a beautiful face and covers an ugly one. This is their criterion, that only without hair can you gauge the intrinsic beauty of a woman. The beauty that appears by the hair-styles is not genuine, it is deceitful. These are given valuations.
It is difficult for us to understand how a shaven head could lend beauty to a face because the valuation that we have decided for ourselves is different. There is a tribe in Africa where big hanging lips are considered beautiful and every effort is made to increase the size of the lips. The more the lip hangs, the more beautiful it is considered to be. Women born with hanging lips are considered beautiful from birth! If anyone is born in such a way in our country, he would be considered downright ugly.
What is ugliness, what is beauty? These are all our given valuations. Which things do we value? We give value to a stone and it becomes precious. We give value to a mettle and it becomes precious.
Verily we give value to things that are rare. If a thing is not rare, then no matter how valuable it is, the very fact that it is easily available reduces its value. Rarity creates the value.
Lao Tzu says, "If rare commodities are not given importance the element of theft can be eradicated."
Then no one will be a thief or a dishonest person. Remember, no dishonesty is required to live life but if you aspire to rise above others, dishonesty becomes necessary. Honesty is enough, just to live and if everyone makes an effort just to live, there is no need of dishonesty. But if you want to rise above mere living, if you aspire not bread alone but also Kohinoor, then honesty is not enough.
Honesty cannot get you the Kohinoor; you will have to be dishonest. It is also an interesting fact, that the rarer the thing, the more dishonest you will have to be. Now for instance, we are all here. If everyone sits in his own place, there is no quarrel but if all of you try to occupy my chair there will be chaos. Also the rowdiest one will succeed in capturing the chair.
Now if we decide that to sit on this chair is the goal of life, then there will be nothing but struggle, rowdyism and dishonesty in this room. The one who manages to capture the seat will also not be able to sit in peace for there will be others pulling at his legs always, trying to bring him down. So he will only appear as sitting. Actually, he will also be always in a constant state of strain and stress for he fears he might be brought down any moment by others who will keep trying to get at the chair in the same way.
Lao Tzu's insight is very profound. He says "Give no significance to things that are not easily available." That is, give no importance to things that are rare and there shall be no theft, no dishonesty in the world. By punishing the thief, theft cannot be eradicated, by preaching and sermonizing the robber. you cannot end robbery and by frightening the trickster with the terrors of hell dishonesty will not end. Give no importance to rare things and all these will end. Just think this over.
Whenever you have been dishonest or whenever you have committed a theft or wanted to commit a theft you have never done so purely for the sake of living; rather for something more than living. You may have tried to delude yourself that it was necessary for life but it is always for something more than life. You may have done it to obtain a good shirt; dishonesty is not necessary to cover the body.
He who is interested in only covering his body will never be dishonest. Such a man, if need be, will even be ready to go about naked also someday but will never be ready to be dishonest. But if merely covering the body is not enough and with what it covered is of more importance, then honesty alone will not do. The meaning of Lao Tzu's sutra is that Life, Existence alone, does not accept dishonesty as necessary. It is only our tendency to give significance to things that are rare that spreads the whole web of dishonesty.
Therefore remember, the more backward a community, the less dishonest it is and the reason for it is only this, that whatever that community values is easily available. Now there are these Adivasis.
They value food, a loin-cloth, kerosene and these are all easily available. In some houses there is one lantern burning and in some there are two but this does not make them restless for the amount of work done is the same, whether the lanterns are two or one. Their desires are not more than this.
There is no such thing they desire for which they may have to sell their souls.
Remember we have to sell our souls to attain the rare thing. For it is not available by toil. No one can ever dream that if he works honestly each day for eight hours, some day he will find the Kohinoor in his wife's necklace! This is something that even Mahavira or Buddha cannot think of. The most noble of men can never claim that by living simply and artlessly, he can attain the Kohinoor to adorn his wife's neck. The Kohinoor adorns the neck of the person who is ready to cut a million necks.
When there is only one diamond and millions aspiring for it, the matter cannot be so simple.
But we always give value to the rare objects. Our method of evaluation is such. The lesser a thing is available the more valuable it is supposed to be. The availability of a thing does not add or subtract from the quality of the thing. The criterion should actually be the other way round.
I have heard that Abraham Lincoln had a dream one night. He saw himself passing though a big crowd and people were looking at him and whispering into each other's ears. He could hear them say, "Such an ordinary looking person, where was the need to make him the President of America?"
Lincoln is upset. He did not know what to do. The whisperings went on and he could hear the same thing being repeated again and again. "Could they not find a better-looking person to hold such a high post?" Lincoln became so uneasy that he woke up. He could not sleep the rest of the night.
In the morning he wrote in his diary about this dream and also his answer to it. He says, "I believe there is a reason to select me the President. The faces that god creates in a very small number, I feel He does not like them. Therefore I feel he prefers ordinary faces, for he creates them in such large numbers! An ordinary face is God's choice. The extraordinary faces happen to be created by mistake sometimes or else they would have been in large numbers."
Lincoln has written jokingly but that which is created in large quantities should be the basis of life.
But we do otherwise. The type of features that generally people have are of no value to us. They should be such as not all have - then it becomes valuable. Thus we give rise to strife and struggle and begin a race for the uncommon which makes people mad. And this rat-race then has no end!
This is not in one thing but in everything in life.
If their minds are not attracted towards those things that are desirable, their hearts will become non distressed. If we do not draw the minds of people toward things that awaken desire, their minds will not be distressed and despondent. The storms of restlessness will not rise within them and their hearts will be tranquil and silent. But what we do is to goad them on towards the peak of the Everest.
Nothing on the ground seems worth attaining. So we say, "Go to the peaks of Everest as Tensing and Hillary did. Reach there and plant your flag then you will have done something or else you have lived in vain!"
What fruitful purpose has planting a flag on the Everest served in life, is what puzzles me! Tomorrow, when many people begin to alight on the Gourishankar by plane, what will be the value of your having planted the flag there? Neither Gourishankar is important, nor the planting of flag there. The value is of rarity. Now when a lone man, an Armstrong, steps on the moon, he makes news all over the world. In one moment, a man who performs an unattainable task, reaches the top, where a man who toils honestly for recognition, would reach after 50 years. Then too, it is not certain.
Do not think that the day you land on the moon, you will make history. You will not, for you will reach when it is easy and convenient for people to go there. In Japan, a company is selling tickets to the moon! It promises to take the passengers to the moon on the 1st of January 1975. The advance booking ;s on and people are buying tickets. But if they feel they too will become famous, they are mistaken The significance is always of the rarity of the situation. Armstrong was the first human being to step on the moon that is the only value, nothing else.
Wherever we turn, we find we value things only when its availability is less or almost impossible.
Thus we give rise to strife and conflict for everyone sets out to attain it and in the process they become despondent and filled with distress. And those who do achieve realise after achieving that they have not achieved anything at all! If you go and stand on the moon, what will you get? The soil is not such different from the earth. What will you attain, what inner achievement will you attain?
None whatsoever. Now those who have not reached will die of despondency. They will feel that till they reach the moon, everything else is useless. They will think they were born in vain, for they could not reach the moon.
The seeds that are sown within us from childhood are like this mania for reaching the moon. Now the difficulty is, if you reach there you find you have achieved nothing and if you do not, you die of disappointment, you suffer the agony of non-fulfillment. Those who have reached had to pass through a lot of stress and strain and difficulties. Those who have not reached, also live through a lot of conflict and ultimately die. Nothing is attained by reaching but in the effort of reaching a great deal is lost. You lose the opportunity oS life from where the rays of bliss could have emanated.
All this stress of Lao Tzu is negative, not only so that you may not be despondent, that is not the meaning. What he means is, that if you are not despondent, then the state of non-despondency, will open the gates of positive bliss. The individual who has entered the rat-race of achieving the rare commodity, misses this opportunity that is open to all.
Perhaps we do not seek God because the saints say, God is everywhere. Then He is no longer desirable for they say, he is in every grain, in every particle, all around! Then it seems useless to look for Him. Had He been somewhere far away. where only one in a million can reach, then perhaps all humanity would have set out for Him and even made Him their goal!
So it is the saints who with their very hands make God undesirable. He is everywhere, they say, wherever you see, it is He. Whether you attain Him ar whether you don't, He is always around you.
Whether you know or whether you don't, He is always around you as the ocean surrounds the fish.
Then the mind argues, "Where is the sense in attaining a thing that is so near always?" Such an useless thing is not worth striving for - a thing which is always with you, whether you sleep or wake or even if you run away it is with you. So if it is always with you, there is no point in seeking it.
We will set out to seek that which is not everywhere. We will seek that which is rare and found only sometimes somewhere by a very few. And those who attain, become figures of history. Then where is the sense in wasting your life in the pursuit of God?
Now even if you attain God a person like Buddha will say, "What is so great about it? He is already attained!" Mahavir will say, "So what if you attained? It is your very nature!" So Lao Tzu says also there is no need to give it in the papers. Thousands have attained and thousands will attain him.
There is no need to be proud, there is no need to be made with joy. There is no need to plant a flag! God has forever been attained and he stands ready by the side of those who have not attained also. As soon as they become aware, they too will attain!" This way no desire is created.
If God does not become our search, it is only because he does not become our desire. The desire does not arise within us as it would if we had to snatch Him from others and attain Him. This is another disadvantage. The satisfaction of attaining something only comes when it is snatched from someone. Otherwise, it does not seems worth it. God is such a thing, that no matter how much of Him you attain, no one is the poorer for it. It is not as if your attainment will put me into difficulty. It is not that if you have attained it prevents me from attaining. No; no matter how much you attain, He is still as much open to me for attainment. Your attainment makes no difference to my attainment. The Saints say: "He is infinite!" No matter how much He is attained, He yet remains much more to be attained. Now, when there is no sense of competition, the guest for God seems useless to us. There is no gratification of snatching from others. Ah, the relish, the joy, of depriving someone! When we snatch a thing, remember it is not the joy of owning the thing but the gratification of having deprived another of it, which is so satisfying. It is the joy of causing pains to others.
If supposing, Kohinoor is scattered like pebbles on the road, found in each and every house, the Queen will at once pull it off her neck and throw it away as useless. The very thought that even a beggar owns it, is enough to make it meaningless. It was the thought that no one had it, that was the joy of owning it. We arouse our longings and desires for even the most insignificant of things.
One more thing needs to be understood in this context. Just as the judiciary are against the first sutra of Lao Tzu, so the economists oppose the second sutra of Lao Tzu. Actually, the economists say that the very law of economics is that there is conflict for the rare, for that which is not available in big quantities.
In fact only that thing has economic value, which is less. Therefore there is no price on air or on water in the villages. Sometimes ago, even land had no value. After some time even air will have a price because now oxygen is getting less day by day. The population has increased so much that within the next 50 years only those who can afford it, will carry their oxygen about in boxes. The poor will have to go a begging for air.
It will not be strange then if people knock at your door and ask for a loan of oxygen. He may ask to take a few puffs from your box!
Oxygen is so much less in the atmosphere of New York, that scientists wonder how people live there.
The proportion of poisonous gases is becoming so alarming that it will be impossible to remain alive for long. Thus you see, that air will become valuable. There never used to be price on water. Fifty years ago milk used to be free. As soon as a thing begins to get deficient in quantity, ib value increases. All science of economics is based on deficit. The correct meaning of value is - the price of a thing depends on the lack of its availability. The price shows how non-available a thing is. A thing is in short supply and its price rises. The greater availability of a thing the lesser is its value.
It is therefore, that America had to throw away millions of bales of cloth into the sea. So much of cloth was produced that the price of cloth would have fallen very low. So that the prices may remain stable, they had to do this or it would have affected the home-market adversely. And millions of people go naked in the world! But the science of economics requires that this should be done or else the economy will fall.
If Lao Tzu had his way, there would be no economics in the world and no science of economics. For Lao Tzu says, "Why do you attach value to the deficient? Set your eyes on that which is in plenty."
Give value and place to that which is easily available to all. Do not heed that which is in short supply.
If one person sports a diamond, do not heed him. Let word go round that there is a mad man in town who wears a stone round his neck. Ingrain this into the minds of children and let them notice the futility and stupidity of this man. Then this world can be made desireless. We can then take man's mind away from restlessness and into a world of peace and tranquility.
Lao Tzu used to say, "I have heard that in the times of my father and grandfather, they could hear the bark of dogs across the river. There was some village there. When the skies were clear, they could see the smoke of the fires burning in the houses of those people. But nobody from his village went across to find out who stayed there. People were so filled with peace that they did not take unnecessary disturbances upon themselves. How did it concern them, who stayed there? They heard their dogs and saw the smoke rising from their fires. That was more than enough to show that there were people across the river. But no one was so inquisitive as to try to know more."
And here we are! We will not rest till we find out everything about all the stars and planets!
Deep within, this matter depends entirely on our state of distress or non-distress. He who is filled with distress will always be on the run. He will run at the slightest excuse. He who is non-distressed, will keep sitting. He will be tranquil and still under circumstances. There is no simmering or agitation within him. He will not invite unnecessary and useless storms or cyclones within himself. So he will not indulge in useless inquiry.
Education should have entirely different foundations, according to Lao Tzu - non-ambitions foundations, desireless. If someone can tackle mathematics, good; if he cannot, then also it is good.
Try to find out what he is good in and do not hammer the fact that he is not good at mathematics.
Do not destroy him, for he is sure to be good in something else.
Mulla Nasruddin was employed in a shop. But the Mulla could not help snoozing off every now and then. His master tried him on all counters; but wherever he sat, he fell asleep. The master ultimately asked him, "Mulla, now you tell me where I should place you." The Mulla said, "Master, put me in charge of your pyjama-counter and place a board beside me, 'Our pyjamas are so cosy and comfortable that even the sales-man falls asleep!' What else can I suggest?"
The problem is not of sleep but of lack of incentive to remain awake. You are not awake without a reason and it is also not without a reason that you cannot sleep in the night. So what Nasruddin is trying to say is that he has no curiosity to know who is passing on the road or who enters the shop or leaves it.
Nasruddin used to say, "A man put his hand in my pocket but I did not extend my hand towards my pocket, even to know what he was doing. I debated with myself that if there was something in my pocket, someone must have already removed it by now. It cannot remain so long with me!
Once a thief entered the Mulla's house. His wife woke him up. The Mulla said, "Let him find his own mistake. Why should I help him?"
Once again a thief entered Mulla's house. Nasruddin hid himself in the almirah. The thief searched the whole house but found nothing - not even the master of the house! The door was locked from within. When he could not find anything he became curious about the master of the house.
Ultimately he found him standing with his back towards him in the almirah. The thief was surprised.
"What are you doing here?" He asked him. The Mulla said, "I was so ashamed you will find my house bare that I hid myself."
So Nasruddin says that he cannot remain awake because there is no cause no incentive, to keep him awake. Then where was the need to remain awake? Now if you cannot sleep at night it is because the reasons that keep you awake in the day time do not subside at night - and so how can you sleep? All images of the day keep returning again and again - the people you met, the conversations you had. The excitement of the day continues in the night and therefore you cannot sleep.
Hence we see why Lao Tzu talks of a non-distressed mind. He is a different man altogether - non- distressed. He hankers after nothing and is happy with what he has. Rather, he feels it is more than enough. He is grateful for what he has received: he is thankful for it. And what he has not received, is not the hankering of his mind. He does not ask, he does not desire nor expect to possess what he has not been given by nature. What he does not have, he does not have. It is not part of his mind at all!
But our minds are made differently. We are blind towards what we have and very much awake and aware of what we do not have. We forget what we have. If you stay with me for seven days and I give you plenty of attention and then if one day I look at you sharply, you will forget all that you had received the last seven days. My angry eyes will remain lifelong in your memory. If a person gives you love for years on end but forgets to give it one day, all the previous years become useless, meaningless. The love-less day becomes very precious to us. We seem to grasp only that which is not. All our attention is rooted into the lack of things.
I have two hands, too feet. My attention is never drawn towards them, I take them for granted. Now suddenly, if I were to lose one finger, my whole life becomes useless. Now my life becomes a torture I keep arguing with God for his gross injustice in depriving me of a finger. When he had given it to me, there was never the feeling of gratitude within but now when He has taken it away, I feel the injustice! And not that I had done something worthwhile with this finger - I had not painted a picture or played the veena or given a helping hand to somebody. I was in fact, totally unconscious of its existence; I had taken it so much for granted. It was only the day that I lost it that I became conscious of it.
Now the fact remains that I never did anything worthwhile with this finger, then why am I so upset, now that I have lost it? Nothing has come to an end, none of my activities have stopped but this is the way of our mind - the loss is always greater and what we have, we hardly are aware of.
Lao Tzu says, "If we create minds that are desireless, if we do not draw the attention of people towards desirous things, their hearts will be calm, unruffled."
But we attract attention.
In the olden days when a person was rich, the society requested him not to make a show of his riches. That he was rich, was enough. His display would only become the cause of torment and distress to the hearts of others. Therefore, the proof of riches was always this, that the rich man did not display his wealth. Only the poor made a show of having and those who did possess went about as if they did not.
I have heard a Sufi story:
There was a beggar who descended from a series of emperors. It was a known fact that his forefathers were great kings and they had great treasures but since a few generations they had turned paupers. Nobody knew where or when they lost their treasures and their Kingdom and how they were reduced to this state. For generation this remained a secret.
Then in one generation, a fakir came to their house. He called the young beggar and said, "You are the one who can be told about the treasures. We are the guardians." "What guardians?" The youth asked. "We know nothing." The fakir said, "Your forefathers left their treasures in the care of our Guru's Guru and he said, when such a person is born in our house who is not eager to flout wealth, you may return the treasures to him. You are the man and I have come to give you back the treasure." The youth said, "At least give me some time to think!" The fakir said, "You are the right man we were looking for!"
If someone brought news of such treasure to you, would you sit quietly? No. You would at once jump to your feet and inquire eagerly, "Where is it? Hurry!" Here was a house-hold, living on alms and yet this man says, "Give me time to think." For this man feels it is a great responsibility. To live in poverty is not as difficult as having wealth and not making a show of it. So the youth begs for time to think over. "You have taken care of my forefathers' treasures so long. Look after them a little longer please!" He begged of him. The fakir urged him to follow him that very moment for now he said the signs were complete. "For," he said, "We have got the title-deed in which it is clearly written, "Whenever a person of our family asks for time to think over, hand over the treasure to him." He said he came in every generation but whomever he asked, he got ready to take possession at once.
The treasure was given to the youth. The news spread like wild-fire in the town but the begging continued. The king sent for the young man and said, "Are you mad or is it only a rumour, that you have received your forefathers' wealth? If you have, then why do you still beg?" The youth replied, "At first begging was a necessity, now it has become a duty. For the treasure has been given to me entirely on condition that I make no show of it. Now if I do not beg and just sit in my house, what could be a greater exhibition of wealth than that?"
When wealth becomes an exhibition, desires are born. But we earn wealth so that we can show it off. If we cannot display, where is the sense in earning it? Then where is the sense in making palaces in which we are never going to stay? And that is the use of keeping that which we cannot exhibit? This is how we think. But Lao Tzu says, "If you do not draw people's attention, they can live in supreme peace."
This exhibitionist is a diseased person, for it is healthy to enjoy what you have but very unhealthy to display it. Try and understand this a little. It is healthy to enjoy what one has in a spirit of gratefulness but to go about exhibiting it is an illness a disease. Actually, only he is eager to show off, who cannot enjoy it. He who enjoys it, has no need to display it. What you cannot enjoy, you display. What you can, you never make a show of. There is this Exhibitionism at all levels in our society.
Nowadays, scientists call only a particular type of people exhibitionists. People who exhibit their sex- organs any time, anywhere are called exhibitionists. There is a big class of people in this category and it works on principles as well as without principles. When it works on some regulations we raise no objections but when it works without any rules, we object.
The scientists were confounded what was the motive that drove a man to exhibit his nakedness in the middle of the road! What does he get out of it? After a lot of research it was discovered that only that person indulges in this kind of exhibitionism, who has had no pleasure of sex. He who has never enjoyed sex, now takes pleasure in exhibiting it. This is of course meaningless. Nothing is gained by this showing of the body by the exhibitor as well as the spectator. Nothing is achieved but something within the exhibitor must be getting satisfied.
You will be shocked to know what all devices the exhibitionists contrive at! In Athens men's clothes were so designed that their genitals were clearly visible. Not satisfied with this, they improvised leather genitals which they wore under their clothes to give the necessary effect! We are shocked to know this today. Today, women all over the world are keen on displaying their breasts but since it is well within the frame-work of our society, we do not object nor do we notice it as unnatural. Just the same was the condition in Athens 2,000 years ago.
Now these leather genitals are displayed in the museum of Athens and people are shocked to think how eccentric the Athenians must have been; for where was the need? Two thousand years hence, all the devices of showing off the breasts that exist today will be displayed in museums and the women of the future times will wonder why all this display!
What was the need?
There is no need but there is something somewhere and that is, whatever we begin to become incapable of enjoying, we begin to exhibit. Whatever we enjoy, we do not display. The man who eats well and also digests his food well, never goes about talking what is cooked in his house! He does not go about throwing parties to show people the umpteen fares he enjoys!
Nasruddin was once invited by the emperor. It was the king's rule that he invited a few special people on his birthday. Nasruddin also, was called - for the first time. There were about 500 guests. Plates were laid out and also the dishes but the dinner was not started yet. Dish upon dish of delectable fare was being laid out. The hall is filled with delicious aromas. It was said that every time the king served entirely new dishes.
Now Nasruddin began to get restless. His hunger was getting out of control. At last he shouted, "What is this happening brothers? Is the food laid out for eating or merely display?" The man next to him whispered to him, "Ssh! You are showing lack of manners. This clearly shows you come from a hungry house-hold. Let all the food be laid out. Till then talk of other things. Do not look there at all!
When you eat also, see that you do not lick your plate clean. Leave something back. You seem to be a poor man who has not enough to eat." Said Nasruddin, "Is it better to show that I have food or that I have hunger?" Only he displays food who has no hunger within him.
When there is no hunger within, it becomes necessary to display food. As long as one has hunger, one eats food and does not display it. So whatever things we exhibit, are those things that we cannot, or are unable to enjoy. This is the sign of a diseased mind. And Lao Tzu says, "If people's attention is not drawn towards the rare and the unattainable (and hence useless for they have no intrinsic value) then people will not be distressed but they will remain cool and calm."
And when people are calm and cool a new dimension opens in life. Distress leads to the mundane world whereas calmness, tranquility leads towards God. Distress is a journey of sorrow, Of samsara, whereas tranquility is a journey towards freedom, liberation, Truth.
Enough for today.