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Balance—the Crux of Life
A talk given by Shri Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am always happy to be wherever I am, with whoever I am; and that goes for today, too. The scene keeps changing, the subject is eternally the same: mutual brotherhood, love for each other. And with that goes the need for tolerance, sympathy, compassion, caring and sharing—all the values about which we have been speaking for ages now. I mean, at least I have been speaking about it for more than thirty years. Of course there is some impact from all these talks. Nowadays we increasingly see more and more people from more and more countries, nationalities, languages, congregating at these seminars. But you know, I want to tell you one thing.
I was once in Shahjahanpur, and as I entered the gate, Babuji looked at me, shook his head and turned away. I was shocked because I had been used to being received with a lovely blazing smile of welcome, joy, happiness, and on this occasion he shivered as if he saw something obnoxious, something unacceptable. So I was really shocked to the core of my being. I said, “What has happened between Madras and here that my Guru, who used to receive me as if I am the lost son returning, like the little fellow in the Bible who was received with the coat of seven colours and the fatted calf…” So when we were alone, I asked him, “What happened? I did not like what I saw this morning.” He said, “To tell you frankly, neither did I.”—which was not a surprising reply at all. [Chuckles] I said, “Well, what did you see?” He said, “You know, I saw a speck of impurity in you.” I said, “Just a speck?” He said, “Yes, but when you wear a white shirt and there is a spot of ink on it, it stands out glaringly. Whereas if you are wearing a black shirt and you pour a bottle of ink over yourself, it doesn’t matter. So in you I don’t like to see even the tiniest spot of grossness.” I said, “Okay, that’s better, you know, sounds better.” And of course, he gave me a sitting and presumably removed that speck.
Why I am referring to this small episode is: I see here—also I am [seeing] in so many other places which I keep visiting, increasingly unnoticeable but to me—perceptible instances of annoyance, intolerance, racial remarks, some minor vulgarities in speech. You know, I had the privilege of studying in a British school, Public School as it is called, and we knew all the four letter words before we were twelve. But we never used them—rarely if at all—and that was to keep up with the Joneses. Because among the white boys, if you didn’t flaunt your knowledge of four letter words, you are looked down upon, you are condemned, you are ostracized. You are like one of those tired old lions pushed out of the pride; not only out of the pride, but with no pride in itself any longer.
So you see, we try to flaunt our knowledge of the unknowable, or what should be unknowable to us in our original state of human innocence, just to show that we know what we are doing, where we are, with whom we are. So when you are in France, you say [makes a gesture], (I hope only the French understand that—not a very polite gesture) but sometimes [it’s] necessary to tell the Frenchman, “Okay, okay, cool down, you see. I know your language as well as you do.”—that sort of thing. But when we meet as a Sahaj Marg brotherhood, there are no more Indians, Malays, Chinese, French, Japanese, what have you. There are only human beings. But thanks to God’s either loving kindness or miserable ignorance, we still have to retain the two sexes, and that by and large is a problem for us today. What was meant as an instrument of nature for its own purpose has been converted into, perhaps, the most important, most wanted, most hunted after pleasure system (if I may call it that), much to the detriment of our societies and of course to spirituality. I am just mentioning this in passing. It’s not very important, because it too seems to be losing its significance in our lives, which is a worthy and worthwhile development in our character, in our outlook on life, and which promotes harmony. Because where suspicion exists that one is after the other for their own purposes, there is bound to be intolerance, fear, repulsion. But where men and women can mix freely without the fear of being exploited, either one by the other, there is harmony, there is true brotherhood, there are real brothers and sisters and not just words which are mouthed as expressions of conformity with the Sahaj Marg system of linguistics.
So, we do see a lot of improvement, and for that I congratulate all the prefects who are obviously working, doing their jobs at cleaning. And of course, I have to congratulate the abhyasis who are developing because obviously they are working, if not as hard, even harder than the prefects. Sahaj Marg, it is said, is a simple system. But I told Babuji Maharaj long ago, much to his amusement, “It may be simple, but it is not easy.” It has its own requirements of discipline, of conformity, of acceptance, because discipline and conformity don’t come without acceptance. So we have to increasingly be at this job of shaping ourselves up to more and more—lose our identities, our individualities. And for that we have to begin with our nationalities, our languages, and—most importantly—our religion.
If I say that religion is the greatest impediment to unity among human beings, it will not be believed by people of any religion, but you only have to look at the world scene today. It is not only Hindus and Muslims, but it is Muslims amongst themselves, the Shias versus the Sunnis, the Catholics versus the Protestants, things like that you see. There is more disharmony in this world today than perhaps ever before, even during the times of Hitler. That was concentrated, you know; it was like a boil which had gathered pus and with one prick of the needle you could relieve yourself of pain and infection. Today it is widespread. Terrorism was something that was fomented in Europe. But today it is worldwide. Everybody is a possible terrorist. Therefore people look at each other in a plane with suspicion.
There was an insertion in a newspaper, about a month ago, about a Colombian couple I believe who got into the plane in the U.S. and the man was afraid because he was among Americans—and to the others he was apparently behaving in a very funny way, in a dangerous way. So they started pointing at him and telling the crew something. He was afraid that they would catch him and imprison him. So he ran out and two marshals in the plane shot him dead—a poor innocent person. And this can happen to anyone, anywhere, not necessarily in the U.S., but anywhere. So you see, that is the price we have to pay for intolerance of any kind: intolerance of the rich by the poor or vice versa, intolerance of the coloured by the white or vice versa, because intolerance is always mutual. It is like a see-saw: one side goes down, the other goes up. It is inevitably so, that is the law of nature. Retaliation—one man gets killed somewhere and the people of that community react against the other community.
There is a lovely little movie called Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, involving a bus journey from the hills to the plains and a continuing train journey up to Calcutta, where a little young Tamil mother, Mrs. Iyer, with her son Santaanam is taken care of by a Muslim. Their bus is halted on the way because some Hindu has been killed in an accident, and the Hindus are up against the Muslims. They drag out everybody who is suspected of being a Muslim from the bus. A very old, gentle Muslim couple are slaughtered. But Mrs. Iyer saves this Muslim who is with her by saying, “He is my husband.” At the start of the movie, she won’t even touch the water that he gives, and in Tamil curses freely. But later on she asks for the bottle which he has put to his lips and drunk from and drinks it. Then, one particular moment, very tenderly photographed, they are almost about to kiss when somebody says, “Excuse me,” and passes on. That moment of romance was broken. But it shows, you see, what a little love, what a little care can do, because within this scope of a bus journey lasting perhaps ten hours, expanded into three days by much violence on the way, a young married girl with a baby could fall in love with a Muslim bachelor just because he took care of her, looked after the baby, put it to sleep; when she spilled milk, he brushed it off the floor, things like that, you see.
So what wonders can it do if this is on a global scale? That is why Sahaj Marg is performing marriages—no questions asked, except whether you are old enough to get married, and whether you are a man and a woman. Unlike the churches in the world, we don’t perform same-sex marriages. That is unnatural. God did not intend it to be thus. Please excuse me, it is a personal comment, it is not Sahaj Marg. But there are things, as Babuji Maharaj said, “If God did not want two sexes, he could have as well created one and seen that the world propagated by itself.” There are unicellular organisms called amoeba which just split when they want. No problems of sex, no problems of love and hate, no problems of, shall we say, illegitimate babies, no need for Viagra. You know, when it is big enough it just splits and there are two. “Behold, there was one and now there are two,” says the Lord. So God could have done anything he wanted, you see. Why two sexes? Not so that one sex should marry among themselves, isn’t it? So, what the church may allow, I don’t have to condone or accept. To me, it is a very blatant misuse of so-called privileges of the human being, fundamental rights, et cetera. Of course, if you claim it is your fundamental right to go the dogs, so be it! Even God cannot stop it. That is not His weakness; that is His strength that he gives us the liberty to do what we will. It like a boxing father, heavyweight champion, allowing his pugnacious teenagers to pummel away at him. He just laughs, “Yeah, go on, son. Come on, one more.” And the pugnacious son thinks he is going to knock his father out and suddenly, wham, you know. The son is at the corner of the room and the mother is wailing away: “How can you do it to my son?”
Similarly, I have seen lions in Africa—an old male with the shaggy mane on his back with all is four paws up and these little cubs, newly-born nipping away at his tail and at his ears, and he is tolerant for half an hour. Then he just looks like this [growls], and they are scattered. God is like that. And these tsunamis and these natural disasters that we are facing are little expressions of His beginning of annoyance. I wonder what it will be when He is really annoyed. Perhaps, our earth will split, half fall on the moon, half into Venus. You have all seen the movie, Armageddon. You have seen movies of that type, produced in the U.S.A. Of course, there the president of the U.S.A. is always victorious! But here the president of the U.S. is not victorious. Here, there is a president who presides over all the presidents. And that is our Lord God, whatever name you may call Him by. ‘He of no name,’ as the Jews say, or by any other name you wish to call Him. He is all-powerful, and being all-powerful, He cannot use His power to frighten us. Because, you know, like you want your lover to love you willingly. You do want your wife to come to you willingly, no? Or women want their husbands to come willingly—not out of compulsion. “No, no, tomorrow I won’t give you your bus fare, honey.” Not giving me the bus fare and calling me honey is a distinct opposition of terms, of emotion, of feeling. If you don’t mind my use of the word, it is a cheap type of prostitution. Prostitutes are open about what they are doing—give and take. So we should not prostitute ourselves. And God is certainly not wanting us to be prostitutes that He gives and says, “You come to me, dear.”—not God! After all, He created us. And as the saying goes, He is eternal, He is omnipresent, He can wait. If He could speak, He would say, “My son, my daughters, I can wait for ever and ever. You are hardly a flicker of a dying flame.”
In the Hindu mythological tradition, we have the story of Ravana. It is said: Brahma, the creator god, was about to wash his face when one of his servants ran up and said, “Lord, Ravana has just been born on Earth.” He said, “May he live long!”—a blessing, an automatic blessing, you know, which great people always confer. Before he could gargle and spit out, another sevak [servant] came and said, “Lord, Ravana is dead.” He said, “Oh, short-lived creature.” And Ravana was reputed to have been alive for several hundreds and thousands of years.
So what is life that we are so proud about, that we count in terms of years? “He is ninety.” “Oh, my grandfather is ninety-nine!” And the grandfather says, “Nothing will happen to me, you know. I have been living ninety-nine years. Death cannot come to me.” And before that he is dead. We don’t realise that the longer we are here, the sooner we are going to die; not the other way around. If it were the other way around, we would never get to our destination. We start to fly and we are close to the destination and if we fly longer, we are farther and farther away from the destination? Would that ever happen? That I have successfully lived ninety-nine years; therefore, I have a bigger chance of living longer than a boy of eight? But I have heard people tell me this, you see.
There was the American boy who said, “Oh, why are you people so morbid? You are always thinking of liberation, liberation, liberation! What the hell is there that is so wonderful about liberation?” I said, “Well, you know we are fed up with life.” He said, “Why? Because you come from a poor country, illiterate, backward, you know. You don’t even know anything. You are superstitious.” I said, “Yes, I concede all that. But what about you?” He said, “Oh, I would love to live forever.” I said, “Well, let us discuss this for a few minutes. Have you the time?” He said, “Oh yeah, I have all the time in the world.” I said, “How long would you like to live?” “I just told you, Chari—forever.” I said, “Well, suppose you live forever. You get married. What will you have?” “Oh, I guess, children.” “And as you live longer?” “They will grow up.” “And as you touch eighty?” “I will have grandchildren.” “And as you touch a hundred?” “What do you mean?” I said, “Well, maybe some of your sons are dying, daughters are dying.” He said, “Oh!” I said, “When you are a hundred and fifty, all your sons and daughters are dead. Most of your grandchildren are dead.” “Oh, wow!” “And when you are three hundred?” “O God, I didn’t think of it that way, man.” I said, “Well, you better think of it. Now, how long would you like to live?”
So you see, it seems all evergreen like Malaysia, grass on the mountainsides, water pipes down the mountain sides, all lush and green, all the artifice behind it hidden; tourists don’t see it (except when somebody who knows, like me, points it out) tiny holes in the hillside for the water to percolate. Beautifully terraced mountainsides; I have never seen God terracing mountainsides. This is all the enticement to live longer, to spend more and more, because the longer you live the more you are going to spend. Voilà! Industry thrives, commerce thrives, business thrives, everything thrives—except you.
So you see, we have to look at life in a very sensible way, and ask ourselves a fundamental question—what is the purpose of life? Is it to lead a bohemian life? Enjoy myself at the cost of others? Do what I want at the cost of others? Is that the purpose? Or is there something higher. We should be able to see that is higher because, as we grow up, we see from ignorance we come to little knowledge, to more knowledge. From little powers of the body we come to better and better, more and more powers of the body. We get more and more control of our environment. I am not talking of control in the sense of absolute military control [but] personal control over my environment. I can walk, I can sit, I can read, I can talk, I can jump. And then we see a decline, we see a plateau, where progressively we lose control, not over the environment but over ourselves; therefore, over the environment. We have control over the environment apparently, so long as we have control over ourselves. This you see when a man is under the influence of drugs or is drunk and he is tottering around, you know. He has lost his balance, we say.
That is the crux of life—balance: balance between having and enjoying, knowing and feeling, being and becoming, life and death, and eventually—as my Master put it—to live without desire either for life or for death. Desire for life is as wrong as desire for death. We have no business, we have no right to desire to die, whatever may be our suffering, because it is also our creation. If I created my health when I was sixteen and twenty, I have created my sickness when I am sixty and seventy and eighty by what I have done in my life, what I have thought in my life. Nothing comes without my having created it. There is no God who gives me either happiness or sickness, either health or illness, either good or bad. Unless this is clearly understood by Sahaj Margis, we will continue to pray to gods, to go to temples or mosques or whatever and not do our practice, not knowing that this is what helps. Those are useless: tried for centuries and thrown away, or should have been thrown away.
If I know that I am the creator of my future, that I was the creator of my present and it was I who created my past myself in an earlier past, I would have faith in nothing but in my own endeavours to improve my lot, to go forward without misery and sickness (and also without much happiness) because the state of balance has neither ecstasy, nor the tragedy of the other side—utter despair. We have neither. We have a life of equanimity, of balanced feelings, neither looking to the left nor the right, not under compulsion like horses, but out of choice as wise, goal-seeking, goal-aspiring, goal-approaching individuals, practicing a well-tried system, at least in India, for thousands of years. And if one wants to avoid pain, one has to avoid pleasure. It goes without saying.
There is a saying in the English language you know: ‘The morning after the night before’. One little drop of liquor too much—next morning we have a headache, and the wife says, “Maybe you took a little too much yesterday, darling.” “Oh, come on, honey, nonsense! I could have downed the bottle!” “Then what was wrong?” “Oh, I guess it was the pillow or it must have been the neighbour’s cock crowing away too early in the morning.” We don’t like to blame ourselves. We don’t like to say, “Yes, it was my foolishness that did it. I should have listened to you.”
All Indians would be familiar with a joke by Jagjit Singh, the famous musician, ghazal singer. He was talking about a woman who was talking to her husband early one morning. He was drunk, he had a hangover, he had a headache, he was in a wild temper, and she read out to him from the newspaper of that morning about the evils of drunkenness. And she kept at it for half an hour because it was a long article. And eventually he said, “Okay, okay. It shall be stopped.” She was immensely happy. Next morning, he was in the same state. She said, “My dear, what happened? You said it would be stopped.” He said, “I stopped the newspaper.”
So that is what we are, you see. We stop what is good for us and continue with what is not good for us. The evil that we do lives after us. Shakespeare has said it so many times; other people have said it so many times. There have been Buddhas, Christs, Mohammed the Prophets. They have been there thousands of years in our culture, in our religions, in our traditions. We all belong to some one or the other of these traditions. We are proud of them. We preach them but do we practice them? “No, no, sir. I am only a human being.” “Yes, but Buddha was a human being.” He was born with all the attributes and the assets that could have ruined his life, because he was the son of an emperor. He was a prince married to a pretty woman. He had just become a father. And you know the story—he was taken out one day into the world. He saw a lame man. He saw an old man. He saw a corpse being carried for its cremation, and things like that. He came back. That night he left home, after bidding his wife, who was sleeping, goodbye, and he became the Buddha.
Renunciation is not a sign of weakness that “I cannot cope with this world. Let me flee.” One who renounces life in the true spiritual way is not running away from anything. He is running towards something—giving up all these shackles, these bondages of humanity and seeking, perhaps in isolation, perhaps in a group of similar-minded people, a way out of this world into something beyond, something noble, something transcendental, something divine. That is the purpose which Sahaj Marg is also doing here. This is what we try to do in our assemblies; this is what we talk about; these are the principles, the truths by which we should try to live with all our hearts because just by thinking, we can’t do anything. “Oh, yes, I couldn’t wake up today at six, tomorrow morning I shall.” Tomorrow morning you don’t wake up at six. You say, “Oh, it doesn’t matter.” And then you never wake up at six. And the consequence would be, one day you will not wake up at all.
In the Mahabharata there is a famous scene where one man says, “I have all the time in the world.” And Krishna laughs. He says, “I am the one who has all the time in the world. You know how much time you have?” And he laughs and says, “Krishna, you are stupid, you are a maayaavi—you are a magician. You won’t exist much longer. But I shall, you know.”—thumping his chest. And before those eighteen days are out, he is dead. He laughs best who laughs last. He lives longest who is alive till the end, et cetera, et cetera, you know. We are not children to be told fairy tales. We are adults; we must have the guts to listen to what we are told. We must have the strength of purpose to follow good advice and we must have the eagerness, the passion for our goal, to take us there. I pray to my Master to bless you with all these qualities.