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Inauguration of Asia-Pacific Seminar, 29 November 2010, Chennai, India
Thank you for all of you for coming here. I know how difficult it is to travel nowadays; not only for me, an old man, but even for the young ones, because the discomfort of travel is shared by all: the expenses, ditto, you know, and then travel over long distances, jet lag and change of food.
When I was young and began my career and I had to do a lot of travelling — most of the people who are earth-bound are jealous, and of course they were jealous in my time, too! They said, “Look at this fellow, always flying around, always eating excellent cuisine,” because they see in these magazines, a wonderfully made up plate of salad — it looks so enticing. Another plate of something else, even though it is nothing but four slices of carrot put this way, twenty-five peas put here, two baby potatoes boiled and put here. It is more art than cuisine as you realise when you are up there in the plane; and these pretty air hostesses, who are also to add to the charm of the food, they come and serve it to you. You start eating and then you realise how much pre-conditioning has been done to you psychologically to prepare you for that food — the same carrot that you eat at home, the peas, the potatoes, the same brussel sprouts which you probably hate.
So you see, to make travel easier, more acceptable, and to persuade you to indulge in it more and more (so that the airline companies and all the associated paraphernalia of travel can make money), a great deal of psychology is employed. Enticement — make things attractive, or project an eighteen-and-a-half inch seat as if it is a seat in some heavenly chamber! Or you see, “Now this airline is happy to announce that our seats are wider, more comfortable with more leg room.” And even the smallest car, like our Santro in India, somehow they manage to take photographs of the interior which makes it look as if the two front seats are from here to here. From here to eternity! I mean this is the way of the world, you see, to make things more and more attractive, to entice you, to make you long to be there. And now that attack is on children also, through TV — and children are always watching TV.
So you see, in the material world, the physical world which we are all inhabiting — whether we like it or not — enticement, attraction to the extent of outright cheating, offer you things which don’t exist, like calling a food product ‘Nirvana’, probably aimed at the Buddhists, or ‘Heavenly Spices’ — things like that, you see. And unfortunately, we have been so much conditioned by this outer world that we have started believing in them; and then slowly believing within ourselves, that if I don’t enjoy sitting in this chair in the first class seats of an airplane, I am the fool, not the aircraft.
So they bring us to a level where, instead of blaming things outside and demanding change outside, we are willy-nilly forced to blame ourselves: “I am a misfit in this world. Nothing satisfies me, nothing pleases me, nothing is able to do what it has promised to do for me. Even the best cuisine from the best hotels, whether it is Hong Kong or Singapore or Tokyo or a Californian airport, it all tastes like mud in my mouth.” Isn’t it? And I think, looking back over the past say fifty, sixty, hundred years, that this is a force that evolution is putting on us, through all these agencies, lust-provoking agencies, desire-provoking agencies, instinct to be acquisitive. They are squeezing us like the toothpaste in a tube so that, whether we want to or not, we have to focus inside now, and say, “I cannot find peace in the best airline in the world, in the best seat in that plane,” because any point to any point on the globe takes time.
We had the days of the Dakota, as it used to be called. Even today it is said to be the most reliable aircraft ever built — Douglas DC-3. It was serene, it was happy. You went from, say, Bombay to Delhi; it took two hours, two and a half hours. You went from Bombay to Cairo to Napoli, things like that, and serene flights. Big windows, serene flight, you had time to go to the bathroom whether you want to go before or after. The service was not hasty. No air hostesses running around to do in five minutes what they would take half an hour. Those days are gone now. Now, typically, you get into an aircraft, long range, say Dubai to Los Angeles, fifteen hours of misery — in brackets, they don’t tell you — in the most modern aircraft, A380. One of my young boys has been pestering me to go to Singapore — not to go to Singapore, but to take a flight from Singapore to Sydney so that I can enjoy the A380. So I have a subsidiary destination and a final destination.
We start off our education by the promise that we shall become like Dad. All Mummies tell us when we are children, “Don’t you want to be like Daddy?” And, by the time you are ten you wonder what it is in daddy that you should become like. By the time you are twelve or thirteen, you don’t want to be like your dad any more, he has become . . . at its worst he is hateful, a liar, cheating, kicking your mother around, and at best, you don’t see anything in him that you have not in yourself. At eighteen you realise that what you see in yourself, which is in him also, is probably a genetic accident.
So, you see how we start off with aims. We want to make money. By the time we enter university — which is the best profession for becoming rich quickly? Nowadays, of course, information technology. So whether you like it or not, whether you love it or not, whether you have an aptitude for it or not, you go into it. And of course you make good money, if not very good money, if not too much of it. Well, then you realise, like some of our rich people do, what to do with it? So let us enjoy, let us go out and eat, let us eat all the junk food that nowadays is easily available. Instant! You start with instant noodles, pre-cooked pizzas in a fridge. You just put it in the oven — infra-red. So we are now covering ultra-violet to infra-red, super heat to ordinary heat, not too expensive to hyper-expensive.
When I was with Babuji in Europe and U.S.A. long ago in 1972, he was shocked — seven dollars for a haircut! The Indian tendency is to immediately convert it into rupees. Those days the dollar was about hirty rupees. “Arre, baapre [Oh dear],” he said, “two hundred and ten rupees for a haircut?” when that was the income and the expenditure of an average family. An average family could live on two hundred and ten rupees. There were families where the monthly income was probably thirty-two rupees, and they lived. Living is the fact of life. Not living comfortably, luxuriously, et cetera, et cetera. I’ve known people being enticed by these travel posters: Welcome to Tahiti. A beautiful girl leaning lazily against a palm, clad in her native dress, chewing a bit of grass with a lazy look in her eyes, and it implies that she is waiting for you! And this fellow goes and immediately buys a ticket to Tahiti. He says, “Wow!” and it is like the fool’s gold at the end of the rainbow; go and dig and dig and dig, you don’t find anything.
Why I am telling you all this which you all know very well — because you have experienced it, you are experiencing it, and some of you, if you are not careful enough with your spiritual life, will do nothing but experience this stupidity, this corruption of the soul. You will continue to go after girls of Tahiti or Honolulu or Miami. You will continue to be enticed by these beautiful pictures of food on wonderful plates, beautiful porcelain with the bamboo of China, and if I would name it I would say ‘harakiri potteries’. That is what it is! Well, even if it is gold, you are only going to eat the stupid thing that is on it. You are not given the plate to take away with you, isn’t it?
So, brothers and sisters, this world — our ancient people have told us, and you from the East must be knowing what I am talking about. Although none of you can say ‘Buddha’ as it should be said. “Booda! May Booda bless you,” you see. But you know what Buddha has said, what Bodhidharma has said, what Zen is: this world is maya. Maya means? Illusion. And from where comes the illusion? From yourself. Because if you are able to see the plate in the magazines — two sprigs of something, two pieces of something beautifully arranged by artists who are paid to do the job, they are called dieticians, and that fact is also mentioned below: “Carefully created for you by trained dieticians.” “Oh, so much interest they are taking in me. I am important.” And then you get on the plane, and say I am an important passenger, the hostess looks through you and you feel as if you have been given a clout in your solar plexus.
You are thirsty after walking from where you entered the airport, you have to walk, walk, walk; present your ticket; get your boarding pass; walk another half a kilometre; something else; then immigration; then customs; then waiting. Then out onto the plane — whether it is midnight in snowy weather or midday in the desert, it does not matter. By the time you get in, you are exhausted. Then you sit down and strap: “Fasten seat belts.” “Okay. Can I have a glass of water, please?” The air hostesses are walking up and down, but they are so perfectly trained, they cannot give you water until the plane has taken off, until it has reached cruising height, until fasten seat belt sign have been removed, and they have served drinks. All of this takes about sixty minutes. You are like that [panting], you know, and then eventually you call the girl you asked first, “I wanted some water.” She looks at you, “Water?” This is the modern day luxury — luxury not available in buses and trains.
So this maya business has to be tackled vigorously. And therefore the Vedas have evolved another two-letter mantra, Neti, neti. Is this the truth? No. The food on the plate? No, no (neti, neti). Its effect on my palate? No, no. Eat it and you will see. On my stomach? No, no. Because, if it is a long enough journey, four hours, just when you want to go to the bathroom: “Fasten seat belts, ladies and gentlemen, we are about to descend. We expect to be in such and such a place in twenty-two minutes. You are requested to stay in your seats.” And then of course once you get down there is no toilet because you are rushing to get through customs, through immigration.
So, neti, neti (not this, not this). Is this comfort? Not at all. Is it luxury? Don’t be a fool. Isn’t it? But this is a lesson very hard to learn. Because in spite of all our travels, all the money we have spent, all our foolish holidays . . . You know, I have seen in Europe, every year they go for their holidays. It is a ritual, religious ritual almost, these holidays — July and August. They start off in their cars, let us say in Paris, and they have to reach Antibes or Nice or whatever, and they drive like crazy, four-ane highways, four lanes each side. You cannot stop: auto-route, no-stop. I have known of embarrassing occasions when people had to use a bottle into which they empty the bladder. And when you get there? I have seen beaches with people from almost naked, to wearing something reasonably sensible, body to body to body; you can hardly step over them, there is not so much space. That is a holiday! The children are crying, they want water, they want this, and the dad is angry, the mother is frustrated, even on the first day of the holiday!
This is because (it is again our fault) we do the same thing again and again. We indulge in the same illusions again and again. The same money spent, the same holiday, the same place, the same bodies, the same packed conditions everywhere. I am not surprised that there are so many divorces in these countries. That too does not produce any change. Because, after all, the woman is marrying a man, and in doing this, the man is a fool and the woman is a bigger fool. You think just because you are going to change a man you are going to change society, its promises, what you are finding in it? Not at all. So, after all this long preamble, what is the story?
My Master Babuji Maharaj said the universe outside us is of course vast — immensely vast. But he said the universe inside is far, far vaster, bigger, greater, glorious, filled with promises which come from yourself to you, and therefore in your power to satisfy them, achieve them. You look inside and you see a glorious piece of property there. “Can I go there?” Yes, says the Master, just go a little deeper. “Is it the land of plenty, of pure air, pure water, no hatred among people, no political enmities?” Continue walking inside. “Yes, but Master, when I come out of this meditation, my hand again reaches out for my cigarette or my drink or . . .” That, my son, you have to control. What is inside, I can give you. What is outside you, which I don’t want you to take, that is your problem.
So, here comes the question of character formation, where Babuji says, anything inside you I can change, bring you to the Highest, most glorious, most resplendent, harmonious, love-filled. To deal with the outer world that is your problem. You have got will power, you have got intelligence unique to human beings. Use them. “Yes, but I don’t know how.” Yes, you know how. In this case, it is not your intelligence which is failing you. You know how to do it. You know what to do. But you don’t want to do it.
One of my friends gave up smoking. And he said, “What shall I do, Chari, whenever I go out there is a Tabak,” in Germany, for cigarettes and whatever, you see — smokers’ aids — lovely shops. Even a person who does not smoke would like to buy one of those beautiful pipes. So he said, “What should I do?” I said, “Shut your eyes.”
It takes years and years if there is no determination behind your decision. No decision is a decision in itself, unless it is backed by a determination to do it. This determination comes from the will, the will power. If determination was not needed, we would all be world travellers; we would all be in astronautical worlds. Every time you see Captain Kirk, you would be with him in the Enterprise. We could do it just by sitting in our chairs.
How to develop determination? How to strengthen the will? Only by repeated use of the will. You can see it in your own life. You determine to wake up at five in the morning, something in you wakes you up. But immediately you take the pillow, cover your head and go to sleep — will has come down one notch. You repeat the same thing again, another notch. Whereas, if you get up, the will goes up one notch. Next day again, one notch. In no time at all, nothing can stop you from getting up. Not only at five o’clock but at anytime you want to, within two seconds. That is my experience. If I want to get up at 2:00 a.m. in the morning to go to a flight, I get up within two minutes of one o’clock. Because I know I have to leave, I have to get ready.
So the thing that stands between us and our evolution . . . because there is no such thing as outer evolution, there is no evolution in the world. All that you can make is more and more cosmetics, better and better cosmetics, better and better aircraft, better and better missiles, Sputniks, ICBMs, war machines. What else have you made better? People from highly developed nations — what have you made better? Faster trains? More luxurious cars, but which are not comfortable? That is all.
Even books, you don’t know what to write, you know how to make books, but we still turn to the old Masters for wisdom, whether it is in Chinese or Japanese or Sanskrit or Hebrew. Our printing technology is superb, our binding is superb; even we have come to certain standards which we did not have twenty years ago. But who is to write on those wonderful pages that you have? Do you have something here to tell the world: read this? No. More and more novels, more and more what they call romance in Europe. Because, it is the inner which produces the good things of life, the wise things, the things which will guide us all in our evolution — which I call eternal work of the great Masters — books which you can read again and again and always find new things, things which you missed.
We have these very small, short, succinct formulae, two words, three words: satyam vada — tell the truth. “Oh, what is wonderful about it? My mummy has been telling me this from the day I was born.” But have you done it? So you see, hearing is not enough; understanding is not enough; doing is essential. I mean every person in China, Japan, all these Eastern countries, they know about the Tao, they know of the sensei, they know of the great Masters. What are you doing? One of the great books of the East which even Harvard, I am told, has taken as a text and probably other departments concerned with war — The Art of War by Sun Tzu, or somebody like that. So even those texts which are to give you the ultimate peace, guide you on your way of the inner life to the ultimate bliss — people minded in that way are using to promote war!
So I don’t know, you see I am not too well to continue very long, but even now I have spoken too long. I have not said anything new, nothing profound, nothing wise. I have put before you the world as it is, as you are all doing it, as you are all experiencing it, out of which, I hope, you want to get out, which is why you are here. I mean, I presume that the time you would have spent and the enormous money that you would have wasted on holidays and pleasure-seeking activities of life, if you had been wise enough to spend that to come here, there must be some purpose behind your coming here — not merely to listen to some stupid old lectures by an old man who you know will tell you all these things. I am sure you all expected to hear what I have told you, which means that you know what you are seeing. Isn’t it? You could not say, “I knew he would say this,” without having known it yourself beforehand.
Suppose you look at yourself in a mirror and see a different face, you would say, “That is not me.” Imagine such a mirror which shows you what you could be, and your face changing progressively into that. There is an opposite story in a book, a small novel called The Picture of Dorian Gray — I have referred to it so often, where he remains beautiful and the picture changes into what the man is becoming, until one day he sees, he can’t stand the sight of it. It is barbaric, it is corrupt, it is sick. In a fit of rage he stabs the picture, and he dies. And the picture changes back into what it was. That is the other side of the coin.
So when you come to these seminars, I mean you are not going to find God here unless you are able to look inside yourself again and again until you see It. But are you willing to give it the time, the patience, remembering that patience comes only out of faith? I can be patient only when I know that indisputably this will happen. What is the, as we say, the basis for this faith? If you believe your ancients . . . their statements, their biographical truth, how they did it.
There was supposed to have been a Tibetan saint. One young man like him went to find him because he wanted to learn from him. And the saint was standing waist deep in an icy pond up in Tibet, bitterly cold, and there were leeches all over his body. This fellow shouted Sensei or Guruji or whatever. No answer for six months. After six months, he turned around and says, “What do you want?” This man had come to seek knowledge from him. Instead of that he said, “What are you doing? All these leeches on your body — why are you asking for pain?” He said, “My friend, I have so much samskara in me, karma, that I am trying to take it off like this.”
Do you believe this? “No, no, it is only a story.” Okay, then you are doomed. You are only fit for those stories: the Tahitian girl on the picture, the beautiful pictures in flying magazines, all these funny things. “Can I also do it, Guruji?” if he had asked, he would have said, “Come into the water.” “It is cold.” “Yes, but don’t you see I am standing in it? What I, an old man can do, can you not, a young man, do? Believe me; first necessity.” So when you go to see your so-called guru, or guide, or sensei, your master — believe him. Next step: do what he says and continue doing it until he says stop.
This is much easier to remember than the Ten Commandments of the Bible, the Ten Maxims of Sahaj Marg, or anything else. Arise before dawn. Something I don’t want to do, I will not do, he says do it, and it is maxim number one. So Babuji said, start anywhere with the numbers. Buddha is supposed to have told somebody that the karmic cycle is like a waterwheel going and taking out water from the well. Cut it anywhere and it is finished. So it is not necessary to go from one to two to three to four; cut it anywhere, and your wheel of karma is finished.
So believe him, believe in him, believe everything that he says without exception. Don’t use your intellect and intelligence however big it may be, however wonderful it may be, to decide what he says is acceptable and what is not. Then you have crossed quite a bit into the border of spirituality. Do what he asks you to do. “Yes, but he is asking me to do impossible things.”
This young lady who spoke before I was speaking, referred to the Shaolin Temple. You are not asked to do easy things. Everything they ask you to do could have possibly killed you, because spirituality is do or die. And when you as a rational people question, “Do or die? What do you mean?” I say, yes, do or die. You are going to die in any case. What is the alternative? Do, and see where it goes. It is very simple, very direct. There is no literature, no need to understand, no need for the intellect — only faith. And if with that little belief in your guru, or your master, or your sensei or whatever, you get into the water when he says, “Come in,” your faith increases because you find it is not so cold after all.
So faith grows as experience grows, on the way. You meet somebody on the road and say, “Which road to go to this village?” he says, “Take the third right turn.” You come there and take the third right turn. And next, what? He says, “Second left.” Your belief becomes now faith that my friend always guides me right. But are we allowing our experience on this path to strengthen our faith, or are we just quitting at the first stop? Most people quit with the first leg. So patience means, go back and ask the guru, “Did you mean the first bus stop or second bus stop?” Now he must have patience to tell you, “My son, listen more carefully when I tell you. Don’t think of the pizza and the pasta. Listen to me while I am talking or you’ll miss the message. Listen only to me when I talk to you.”
This is also a definition of chastity. Listen to only what he says. Obey only what he tells you. Follow only him. “No, no, I read Zen masters and I read Hikoku and Bakaku and Lokoku.” Well, you are following twenty masters. Where will they lead you? As chastity in marriage — stick to one wife — chastity with the guru means hear only what he says, see only him, whatever you see; do only what he tells you to do; and never lose sight of him. Follow him. And without knowing, like a baby in the mother’s arms you will be there when she gets there.