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The Ultimate Character
Address at the Seminar for Character Development for Functionaries in India, 9th October 2010, Chennai, India
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
You know, I was battling during the satsangh, during the sitting just concluded, trying to convey through the transmission whatever I had to say, hoping that it would reach all of you in some mysterious but effective way. I am sure it has, because in keeping with the Sahaj Marg tradition, the Sahaj Marg teaching of my Masters that silence is the language of God, anything other than silence becomes something of a profane nature. And I think the spoken words are what divide human beings — not just language but the thoughts of the various cultures, of religions, of traditions. They are all divisive. I believe, even in what you call japa [repetition of a mantra], the silent one is the most effective. The one in which the lips move without sound coming out is a little less effective, and the one spoken out loud like in temples and other institutions of prayer is really to be considered vulgar — vulgar, not in the sense of what we understand today as sexual vulgarity or that sort of thing, but vulgar means from the high to the lowest.
So the less we indulge in speech, understanding that . . . you know, this is what I learnt from my exposure to other cultures, other countries, where they have what is called spiritual music; there is no such thing as spiritual music. Excuse me, but that is my view, that is my opinion. Like Pandit Nehru said in his Discovery of India, that everything in Sanskrit is not holy just because it is in Sanskrit, which is supposed to be a deva bhaashaa (the language of the Gods), which is in contradiction to Sahaj Marg teaching, incidentally, you see. Deva bhaashaa is only silence (maunam), and that is the solution to all problems, [silence is] the way of getting all things (maunam sarvaartha saadhakam). It helps in gaining all.
If you read Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, that fellow is sitting outside the courtesan’s garden patiently, twenty-four into seven, as you say in modern language of computers, and one day Kamala says, “How long? What can you do?” He says, “I can fast. I can wait. How long? Indefinitely.” Fasting, waiting. Fasting does not only imply not eating food. It means, to me, denying all sensory input. I hear nothing. I see nothing. I say nothing. I drink nothing. I taste nothing. So what? I am. In such a condition, which is what rishis try to emulate I suppose, in their tapasya [penance], closing all senses which is what we try to do in our meditation; to close our eyes, because the eyes are the most potent vehicles of, shall we say, interaction with the rest of the world. And we have this funny statement that seeing is believing. Seeing is not believing. Not seeing is believing. We don’t see God.
Incidentally, I am not talking about character formation and all that, but I am laying the foundation for you all to use so many things which, shall we say, conduce to development of character, formation, re-formation, because if you look at the definition for character in a dictionary, I mean it doesn’t say much! It is a broad spectrum definition, starting from a character, meaning one letter of the alphabet, something etched upon stone, something written on paper, something or someone who does something in a drama or a play (a character). So you see, we don’t go by definitions.
And what is character? I really do not know because when you go to the Gita, for instance, does the Lord teach you character? If anybody says yes, with all my profound ignorance I beg to differ. He only teaches duty. Of course, I am not a scholar, I have never learnt Sanskrit. I have never studied the Gita. I have had no exposure to the Vedas. Yet, starting from the age of thirteen or fourteen, I read one adhyaaya [chapter] of the Gita every day with English translation because I knew no Sanskrit — for many years. And my understanding is, where there is duty, that is paramount. Otherwise, Arjuna was a fool to obey Krishna under any circumstance. To kill Drona and Bhishma? And Arjuna protests, he says, “Lord, how? How can I do this?” He says, “Well, if you want to win the war, you do it.” “Should I?” And of course, like Babuji Maharaj, Lord Krishna too — or on the other way around, like Krishna, Babuji Maharaj too put the onus, the responsibility of the decision on you. “If you want to win the war, Arjuna . . .”
Now I ask one question: Was Arjuna working or acting according to the Lord’s advice, or was it his svaartha (his desire to win the war) which guided his action, and led him to kill Drona and Bhishma, and Karna in that most un-godly, unholy, un-kshatriya like way? You decide. If you say he obeyed Krishna, I don’t know, maybe you are right, according to your reckoning! If you say he was selfish and he wanted to win the war being a kshatriya — like Babuji said, the Spartans, their famous slogan was, ‘Come back with the shield or on the shield.’ No third way of returning from the war field.
So, you see, after all this peregrination, ignorant wandering through the woods, the dark woods of so-called knowledge — they are dark, there is no illumination. There is no guidance. If/then; if/then — just like road signs. If you want to go to Kolkata, go north; if you want to go to Trivandrum, go south. “But which way shall I go?” You decide.
So, you see, this is a very complicated, confused field of, shall we say, not merely intellectual or [some] sort of examination through the intellect, but something you have to decide upon with your own set of values on one side of the balance against those values which seem to be predicated but, are they there? We don’t know, because, if you want this, this is the way.
I have come to the conclusion — of course, I have said this very often that religion is at the root of all evil in India. I make bold to repeat it here too. And especially I cannot stomach a so-called sruti, you know (smritis, forget it, they are human) sruti (divine revelation). And the Karma Kanda is part of that, telling you how to be successful in love, how to win victories, what sort of sacrifices to make for what purpose: victories, wealth. I find it a little difficult to stomach that sort of Vedic, shall we say, instruction, advice, whatever you want to call it. There is some aberration from the very beginning from the Source. Perhaps it is a question of, you know, like breaking the coconut in our ritual in the temples, showing the dvandva [duality] of things, that when the one is broken into two, then you have this problem. Then there is a Karma Kanda and a Jnana Kanda. Then there is the truth and the non-truth. Then there is the duty and the non-duty. Then there is life, there is death.
So I would hazard the suggestion that either we stick to the truth . . . not in the sense of telling the truth, satyam vada [speak the truth], dharmam chara [be righteous] all that I won’t say nonsense, but it is nonsense. Who — satyam vada who? Lord Krishna, as he is portrayed in our Gita, in other literature, he never tells the truth. He says, this is what you have to do if you want this and this and this. That is hardly good advice or meaningful advice or the advice of a friend. Tvameva maata cha pita tvameva, tvameva bandhu cha sakha tvameva [You alone are my mother, my father, my friend and my companion]. Where? Are you my well-wisher? And you know, from that you get the divine precedent or divine law that presidents and governors of states enjoy, of releasing prisoners. God says, let it be, and it was done. Do we have the right to punish, first of all, and then do you have the right to release, saying, “This, only I can do”? Isn’t it?
I mean, this is a field in which there is nothing but dilemma: intellectual dilemma, spiritual dilemma, behavioural dilemma. Rukmini’s abduction — he is supposed to be establishing the right of a woman to marry a person of her choice. The Ramayana is no less bristling with problems of Rama, who was called the uttama purusha (purushottam) [the best among men]. He is supposed to delineate human character at its best: one agnipareeksha [trial by fire] of Sita when he took her away from Lanka. And you know (I mean, I say this with all humility if I am able to do it so) what is so wonderful about chastity that he had to examine his own wife? The Lord incarnate — according to Babuji, not a poorna avatara [perfect incarnation] but nearly so . . . And then, because somebody said something a second time, and where he lost her forever . . . Which would in my thinking (again I would say untutored, unlettered, uneducated thinking, I think purely in the way that my meditation guides me), it perhaps means that if you decide to set the values and the norms of character and behaviour by your own thought and action, you lose one half of your life, the better half of your life. Or, in modern scientific terms, one half of your brain is gone, and you are left with only the left brain, the intellect, and go with that.
Today’s religion is intellect, today’s politics is intellect, and the intellect is all based on selfishness (svaartha). “If you want to be powerful, do this and this and this.” “Should I be corrupt? Should I earn two thousand crores?” “If you want to be the next prime minister of India . . .” “But, Lord, should I?” “It is up to you.”
I mean if you all examine yourselves, without bias of what your parents have taught you, what your religions are supposed to have taught you, what your society is teaching you, you will have to come to some sort of conclusion like this, you see, that the end justifies the means. Whether this is character or not, I don’t know, because in today’s parlance, it is. Character seems to be what I must have to achieve the ends that I need to have, and there if it means climbing on dead men’s shoulders, robbing others of their name and fame by faking my name on research papers, by giving false certificates, land documents — you have heard all these scams. And yet they are men of power, they are men of position; they are men of much more importance, wealth. So, as the Lord in the Gita puts the onus for action on every individual — that incidentally, I don’t agree with that because, what is the svadharma [one’s own dharma] of a kshatriya and the svadharma of a Brahmin? Can our dharma be caste based? If my purva [past] samskara put me into the position of a butcher, what should I do?
And we have the famous story of a man who meditated for twenty years or whatever, and a crow dropped its dropping on him, and he looked up and it was burnt — a crow. And he was begging in the village. The lady came late; he looked at her and she said, “Don’t think I am the crow in the jungle.” He said, “How do you know?” She said, “Go to the next village. There is a butcher who will tell you.” Butchers have their place. They are butchers because of samskara, not by choice, not because they want to kill. What is their svadharma?
So this division of dharma according to the caste, you know — Brahmin dharma and vaishyakarma svabhaavajam, krishi gorakshya vaanijyam [agriculture, cattle breeding, trade are the suggested professions for vaishyas]. Who said so? And the Lord has the right to say it? I don’t think so. Excuse me, wherever you are, but this is my opinion! It is not my knowledge which is speaking, it is my opinion which is speaking.
So, you see, character is not something very easy to talk about. What was the nobility of that poor son of Arjuna who was sacrificed by Lord Krishna, knowingly, wantonly, by design. Now the question is: Oh, can the Lord be selfish? Na maam karmaani limpanti. Wonderful! Wonderful! “I have no karma.” Then why do you do it? What right have you to interfere in human affairs? Let them do it according to their own wishes, their own wills, their own level of intellectual or spiritual elevation. Why do you come on to the battlefield to advise and then put that poor fellow in a quandary — should I or should I not, should I or should I not, should I or should I not? Why do you take him away from the battlefield so that this poor son of his can be sacrificed? If the Divine has the right to interfere, or shall we say, intrude into human existence, should it not do so fully?
I don’t know, you see, I am only voicing my own dilemmas for your consideration. Perhaps Kannan will be able to answer some of them. This is not easy to judge, you know. And the rishi telling his son, “Kill your mother.” Obedience! And the Vedas, very characteristically and very conveniently, have a mantra for that also — Brahmahatya [killing of Brahmins], trisuparna mantra.
This principle of praayashchitta [atonement] is the most corrupt practice that we have inherited from wherever we have inherited it. I don’t think other religions have this; I don’t know. Sahaj Marg says, and rightly so, and rightly there is this book called, A New Darsana, more than the six darshanas of the Vedas [schools of Indian philosophy] — this is a new darshana. There is no praayashchitta possible. Repentance, yes. What is repentance? “I shall not do this thing any more. The past, I am not responsible, it has been done.” And in the Brahmin ritual when they change the sacred thread, as you call it, there is one parrot-like repetition, “I did not do it; my body did it,” something like that.
So there is the beginning of wisdom that the soul says, “I am the Lord of all, I do nothing. This vehicle of mine which I have adopted unfortunately for my journey through this life which must lead to my release from this life — it has done all these things. I disclaim doer-ship.” Which, in a way, is repeating what Lord Krishna says, na maam karmaani limpanti — I have no karma, so I am not doing this. The soul says now I am not the body. The body can under no circumstance deny anything that it has done; nor, unfortunately, can it say, “I shall not do again.” Repentance has to come from the soul. Therefore, only the soul has the right to say, “I shall not do this again.” It makes us understand and accept that only one who has at least put his first step on the first rung or the first ladder of spirituality, can even think of saying, “Lord, my body let me down; my senses let me down. Forgive me, I shall not do it.” And then the soul speaks.
So if at all we have to discuss the question of character, people without a soul, or where the soul has not been recognized or its existence denied, can never repent. So they are left to the mills of God, which grinds slowly but surely. Revenge, internecine killings like you are seeing in many states of India now. And of course, the judiciary, the courts of law, they decide according to man-made laws. All laws are man-made; I don’t think there is any law which God gave. Well, that may have been in another tradition where a great saint came down a hill bearing a tablet with ten commandments; which again the spiritual genius, the wisdom of my Master, converted into ten maxims. No negatives, only positives; no thou shall not, but thou shall. It makes sense.
I remember one young man walking up to Babuji when I was walking with him. You know he was asking about the Ten Commandments: Thou shall not covet thy neighbour’s goods, nor thy neighbour’s wife. He wanted to know who is the neighbour — left side, right side, opposite side, because he wanted to know, very correctly, is the girl in the next street covetable? Or the next city?
So you see, this ‘thou shall not’ is very vague. Thou shall not kill what? Then you have these religions which kill in a religious way and it is called ‘holy’, inspired by the laws of Abraham or whatever. How can a killing be holy? And to come to the root of all things, what about vegetarians? Are they not killing?
So there is some indication of the fact in the Veda, that everything is ultimately consumed by something else in the cycle of life. What goes forward is eating something. Therefore comes the situation of fasting. Therefore comes the religion which sweeps the street as it goes because there are krimis [germs] under our feet. What about the krimis in our breath; inside our intestinal jungles; the flora and the fauna, as doctors would call it, without which you cannot digest, without which you cannot live?
So, you see, this question of ahimsa, where does it lead us? Is it possible? All that we can say is, it should not be wanton, it should not be planned; you should not kill without sense. Because here I remember what Babuji Maharaj said when we were discussing one night, pestilences; somebody wanting to know whether you can give antibiotics, somebody wanting to know if you can kill a snake. He quoted to us Lalaji’s saying, that the higher form of life must be protected from the lower form of life. Therefore, if a human life is in danger, really threatened, there is permission to kill the lesser form which is threatening it; not wantonly for shikaar or as a hunt.
So I would suggest that we forget religion, abandon the Vedas, because Babuji Maharaj himself asked, “What was there before the Vedas? Was there not God before the Vedas?” Vedas are much later, millions of years — billions, if you take into consideration the fact of science that the universe is perhaps fifteen billion years old, and if God is supposed to have created it, where is the question of the Vedas bringing God to us?
So don’t quote the Vedas. I refuse to listen any more to the Vedas or to the prasthaanatraya [the three fundamental scriptures] of the so-called Sanatana Dharma, which have come at a much later level of development. Even the smritis, I love them but I don’t respect — which is what should be in marriage. Husband and wife should love each other. The moment the husband demands respect, there is trouble in the marriage. We are asked to love God.
There is no concept of worship in Sahaj Marg. Please understand Sahaj Marg carefully, faithfully, with all your focus on the truth of what Sahaj Marg has revealed to us: impeccable truths, truths beyond what the Vedas have given us, beyond what religion can ever give us, because religions don’t give us the truth. Religion is concerned only with, if at all, the Karma Kanda — what to do — the purushaarthaas [goals of human life]. What are the purushaarthaas of life? In Tamil you have the Tirukkural, again the purushaarthaas: Kaamattuppaal, Arattuppaal, [Porutpaal] things like that — path of love, the path of duty, the path of wealth.
Is anything necessary for existence? What is the ultimate character for which we are heading? Because we must know that character — when we talk of character formation and transformation, we must accept the changeability of character. We must accept that it is in our power to change our own character.
We are born with samskaras which constitute, shall we say, the basic template of our existence. We have to change it as we go on. And the change, if we are wise, if our families are wise, if our religion is wise, if our society is wise, will teach us in an evolutionary way if you want to evolve. You are born whatever you are — kshatriya, Brahmin, sudra; whatever you are, it does not matter. You have to be evolved out of this caste, out of the religion which has this caste, out of this society which has this religion, and out of this world which has these societies. That is liberation. That is the aim of spiritual life the first aim is liberation. Babuji said it is the lowest; don’t ennoble it to such an extent just because it was difficult or almost impossible in the past. It is the least.
Like in worship, you have the ritualistic worship in so many ways — you have the mantra, the tantra, the Vedic rituals; you have the teertha yatras [pilgrimages]; and there are distinct guidances available which state what extent this can give you. Putra kaameshti yajna [sacrifice performed to beget a son] by nature is only meant to give you a putra [son]. You can’t become wealthy by doing the putra kaameshti. Mrityunjaya homam [a ritual for a person’s long life] — well, if the Lord wishes to save your life, not to make you a wealthy man immediately, your life is saved.
So there is no all–encompassing mantra which will give you everything at one stroke: that I must be rich, I must be long lived, I must be healthy, I must be wise; all the purushaarthaas in me. Remember that by definition in Sahaj Marg, God is nothingness. It is not correct to say there is nothing, it is of the nature of nothingness: no wisdom, no intellect, no knowledge, no wealth, no power; yet, it can give all these things in the shape of this universe where there is power, there is material, there is wealth, there is everything. And the moment you say everything, there is the duality of everything. Where there is health, there is sickness; where there is light, there is shadow. And if your focus is on that, your, shall we say, aspiration, your yearning will mould your character itself; [then] we have no control over our character. As Jesus proclaimed from the cross, “Lord, forgive them for they know not what they do.” If they knew what they are doing, they would not do it. How can you punish a man for ignorance? It is all right to say, ignorance of the law is no excuse. So we have to be cognizant of the fact that without external help, my character is what I am born with; in a sense, it has been impressed on my soul, stamped on my soul by the nature of the samskaras that I have brought with me. Therefore, men are born, men die, men are born, men die.
I have often referred to a short story by Ouspensky, The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin. A young man, like Pramod, he finds that he is making blunder after blunder after blunder with his poor widowed mother, and at one stage in life, he says, “Lord, if I had the same chance, I would change,” and a wise man says, “Tathaastu [May it be so]” and he finds himself back in the cradle. And then, he does the same things over and over again until he finds himself again in the same spot. He is bewildered, and he says, “I had a chance.” So, quo vadis? Where are you going with your resolutions, with your prayers, with your what all?
So the ultimate answer, which I think Sahaj Marg gives, or to some extent even the Vedas, Tapasa brahma vijijnaasasva [realize the Brahman through meditation]. That is Brahma Vijijnaasaa [realizing Brahman]. Here Babuji says, “If you want to know meditate.” And he gives a very clear instruction about the Delphic Oracle, ‘Know thyself’. He says, no! No use knowing yourself. You know what you are. A crook knows he is a crook, a rapist knows he is a rapist. Even the political leaders behind Ram Janma Bhoomi know what they are in their hearts. They dare not say it even to themselves. “This above all to thine own self be true.” Is it possible? Therefore, we blame others. Kill this, kill that, kill everybody to prove that I am right, because when I kill everybody, now I have no opponents. It is like smashing all mirrors so that a woman cannot see herself.
So you are not asked to examine yourself, or do this or do that. Meditate, remove everything progressively, and then you will find that from a character, with which I was born, if my sadhana is perfect, regular, in accordance with the principles of the Ten Maxims, I will find I am a soul which has no character.
So I think I have run out of steam and that is all I wanted to say now. I wait to hear all of you speak; and speak, not to — I would always like to speak in a way which exposes my ignorance so that others can correct me, rather than the tendency to speak to expose my knowledge of which I may have very little, and which misguides others into thinking I know everything. It is like going to a doctor and saying, “Doc, how are you?” “No, no, I am all right. How are you?” “Oh, I just came to say hello.” And he comes because, pit, pit, pit, pit, pit, this is going, you know. What have I got? What have I got? What have I got? He lacks the courage to say, “Doc, I need . . .” This is the courage that all the great ones, the Ravanas and the Kumbhakarnas and Hiranyakashipus, they lacked: Lord, I need you. They said, “Lord, I don’t need you. I hate you.” No? And what was the barrier? Ego — plain and simple, three letter word: ego. Shiva bhaktas endowed with every wisdom, yet that ego — “I am Ravan.” The Tudors I think, the dynasty which had the slogan, ‘The king can do no wrong’ — what happened? So as Babuji said, “Where are these great people?” Pyramids? Housing mummies. Pitiable! You go to the Egyptian museum in Cairo you will see — pitiable things. It’s like seeing the dead carcass of an animal, which only creates in you revulsion.
So between me and my goal, between my progress of being born with an ego to being a soul without an ego, nothing stands as a hindrance except my ego. So we have to work on that. That is what the cleaning is for. And when that condition is there, all that we call good qualities, character, you know . . . To my understanding, a human response is what we need in our work as prefects, preceptors, kaaryadarshis [functionaries] — love.
So I thank you for your hearing and I shall listen to Kannan with avid interest, hoping that he will correct all my nonsense! And of course all of you, too. Please say what you mean and mean what you say. Follow Babuji’s dictum. Don’t spin spider webs. A spider may be very effective in catching its prey by bringing out of itself its own traps, but we are not supposed to spin. In Tamil we have a beautiful saying, ‘Kayiru tirikkaade.’ Don’t make a rope out of your nonsense and try to ensnare people in it. Leave the creation to Him, expose yourself so that, you know like a wound or an abscess which has to be opened before it can be healed, the confession has the same purpose.
And when Babuji told me, “You must write to me about problems,” I said, “Why? You are all-knower. Don’t you know what I am suffering?” He said, “I may or may not know. That is not your problem.” I said, “Why should I write?” He said, “It is a sign that your ego is gone, and that you are willing to expose yourself, and say, ‘Lord, this I am.’ And then He can correct.”