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Always Think of Others
Address to Xth standard students of Lalaji Memorial Omega International School, 25th May 2010, Chennai, India
I am very proud of all of you, because when we are young, we are ambitious for ourselves: I want to do this. I want to do that. I want to pass. I want a gold medal. I want IIT. I want IAS. It goes on and on. Then if you are a girl, you want a tall handsome black man, and if you are a boy you want everything in one, you know. Men are very selfish. They want everything rolled into one! Must be Urvashi, Menaka, Tilottama, Rambha, and also must be amiable and accept whatever they get as a husband! Then when you become parents, you are now ambitious for yourself and for your children also. Mother will tell the children, “Your daddy is the Collector. Don’t let him down.” And the daddy will say, “Your mother is the princess of Bidar. Her family are traditionally so powerful and rich. You must come first.”
The biggest curse in life is to come first in class — the biggest curse! Because after that, if you come second, everybody thinks you will commit suicide or something like that. The safest place is number three!
You know, I was in a school called Christ Church Boys’ High School, Jabalpur, in Madhya Pradesh. There were three boys — we three took the first three places always. One of us was first, one of us was second, one of us was third, and all the others followed. But in those days, there was not this pressure of rank and all this nonsense. For instance, thank heavens, there were no IITs. There were no IIMs. There was no IAS. Life was peaceful, pleasant, happy. Everybody lived — there was contentment. There was joy. Now I see children, even when they are playing they have puckered eyebrows like Satbir, you know. Have you seen Satbir? Even when he eats a samosa! “What are you thinking of?” “Saheb, will I get a samosa tomorrow evening? I am worried.”
So we are not ever able to enjoy what we are now, what we are having now, what we are living now; always thinking of what is next. Now, already my principals must be thinking, “Wonderful! Wonderful! First tenth Board, hundred percent [pass], second tenth Board, hundred percent. Next year, first twelfth board... And they must be looking at each other — “What shall we do?” And Ramakrishnan: “No, no, we have done very well.” So he will try to tell everybody, looking very calm, you know, “Nahin, nahin, you see we have already done two years. Third year will automatically follow.”
So we are beguiled into more and more, more and more, more and more. Of course, it is a fact of life in today’s world said to be competitive. I don’t know why it should be competitive. A race is competitive only for those who are in the race. Why should I worry about the race? Now in my days we did not have all this nonsense. We had ranks, we had teachers, we had prizes. You know, we had boxing, we had 100 yards, 440 yards, 880 yards, miles — everything.
You know, we had an adversary — Christ Church Boys’ High School; there was another English medium school called St. Aloysius. We called them Saintoos. Every year we had matches with them: football, cricket, hockey, boxing, and it was tamasha [fun], you know. Sometimes it went on up to midnight - boxing. And all this bantam weight and featherweight and lightweight, all this. We had pucca [authentic] gloves, and then we used to curse roundly in English, just to show off. “Tell that fellow I am coming!” That sort of thing, you know. But it was still very gentle, very fun — a lot of fun. We had fistfights. Our toilet was at the end of the football ground, and when we had problems with other boys, we said, “See you there!” And even somebody who wanted to go to the toilet very much, if he didn’t want to fight, he would slink away home!
What I am trying to say is, we can still have all those things provided you know that there is a destiny for each one of us, and that is fixed. You know? You cannot, by any means, change that. You can be better educated, you can be more healthy, but by the time you are thirty-five, you know what you are going to be, and you have to reconcile: “Yes, this is my profession. This is what I can do. This is as far as I can go.” You can’t climb up Palani Hills and say, “I am an Everest man.” You go up Palani Hills, you climb a hundred and twenty feet, and be happy; say, “I am a mountaineer.” You have the right to say it. You cannot say, “I’ve climbed Everest.” Now if you want to climb Everest, it is ambition. All that they do is to put a flag there. They are wearing masks and goggles; nobody can see the face. And you have to read, “Oh, Tenzing Norgay,” or “Sir Edmund Hillary,” you know? I don’t know what they get out of it.
So we must limit our ambition to something which will help us in life to become better human beings. We are only thinking of achievement. “I have achieved.” But what have you become, if in the process you are going to be rude, unmannerly, always aggressive, always acquisitive, grasping, always thinking of yourself and nobody else?
You know, I once saw a movie about a spelling bee, which is very popular in the United States. And in the spelling bee there is a girl who makes it from her village to the local school to the county to the state until she comes to the national level. And in the final, she deliberately lets go so that the other person can win. And the father knows, because the word she is asked to spell, anybody could have spelled. She deliberately makes a mistake. That is life, you know. Such a person, when he is driving on the way, if somebody is horning, you would say, “Go ahead.” Not look around and curse him and say, “You stupid…,” and push your own accelerator. And because you are looking around and cursing him, you don’t see the car which is coming from your right, and you are in an accident. And next day, I get parents... ‘What can we do?’
Always give way. Culture means giving way. Let the weaker go first. Let the ladies go first. Let the children go first. It is a shame, you know, that even in our assemblies in Sahaj Marg, I have to tell people, “First ladies and children.” And it is a bigger shame that women think they should not go first because it is a sign of weakness. Every woman knows that outwardly she is weak, inwardly she is steel. If she doesn’t know it as a girl, she knows it as a wife when she twists her husband around her little finger, like Krishna’s chakra (Sudarshan Chakra). Husbands are women’s chakra!
So, you know, strength is shown in giving way, wisdom is in conceding, power is in giving. Richness is in, as much as you can give, are you giving. And wisdom is in teaching. So, you have to remember these, you know - unfortunately they call them moral values and value based education, and they spoil the whole tamasha. In my days in school, they were taught naturally. We were not told, “Girls go first.”
We had a wonderful man, who had one leg which was a polio leg, Mr Beatson. He was our master, he was also the dorm supervisor. He had a big Labrador — a huge fellow this size. And he said [gestures with fingers]; that was all [that was needed]. And the teaching was so natural. “Can I go to the bathroom, Sir?” “Yes, you can.” And as you neared the door, he would say, “Wait, you can, but you may not. God has given you two legs. Of course, you can.” “Yes, sir, I took your permission.” “No, you asked me whether you can. I said, ‘Of course you can.’ What is the right way to ask for permission? ‘May I go to the bathroom, Sir.’” See, like this we were taught English. Not some computer program or some library books, and which you learn because you have to pass an examination. You don’t enjoy the fun of it. You must learn to see life and love in everything that you do, whether it is chemistry or physics — even mathematics.
You know I hated mathematics while I was in school because it was all taught wrongly. The teachers were stupid. Even today most mathematics — excuse me, our people, they are frightened of the subject themselves, and they don’t know how to teach it properly. You know, after I went through school and college and I was in my thirties or nearly forty, I started reading books on mathematics, and I found them fascinating. They were not shown properly to us.
Suppose some of you girls see this Hindi movie, Saas bhi kabhi bahu thi, you’d say, “What is this marriage? I was thinking of romance, and...” Like the Gujarati girl who wanted the key to the apartment after a night show. She tells her husband, “Give me the keys [mispronounced kees],” and he wants to kiss her. And she says, “Aiyaan nathi, aiyaan nathi. [Not here, not here.]” And he says, “Come on, you asked for it. Give me the kees means what?”
So language is language in its beauty, in its flowering, in the various meanings, nuances that you can convey. When I first went to Gujarat, I went to a place called Nadiyad, where Waghmar was there. And two girls opened the door and said, “Hole maan snakes cche. [There are snakes in the hole.]” I said, “For heaven’s sake, get somebody to kill it.” “Naa, naa, snakes cche. [No, no, there are snakes.]” I said, “Arre snakes? Maarvaanu? [Snakes? Should they be killed?]” It took me some time to understand that there were snacks in the hall! But if you look at it in another way, there is so much romance in it. “Accha, hole mein snakes? [Oh, there are snakes in the hole?] Come let me see where it is?”
So you must always look for happiness, for joy, and for love in every situation. If I was afraid and I said, “Lathi laao [Bring a stick],” what would they think? “Arre, who is this fellow? Hole mein snakes cche, and he wants a laathi! What for — shun karvaanu?” So look at life always with beautiful diamond glasses in your eyes; love in your heart, no fear. Remember what the Bible says, “Perfect love casteth out fear.” I go forth bravely because I have no fear. And why do I have no fear? Because the place fear takes in your heart is now full of love. And where did this love come from? It has come to me from God Himself, through my parents and their parents and their parents, because children are born out of love. And should I not reflect that love which my parents had for themselves, and with which they brought me up, with which they made sacrifices for me, educated me, fed me, saw me through life till the time they were [no longer] alive to look after me? Because, you know, my father, when he passed away in 1987, I was already sixty. He still used to say, “Pachu, be careful.” I used to use a stool when the bulb failed, to change the bulb. He would say, “No, no, you are too old. You get down.” And he would climb up and change the bulb! That was not his ability which was talking; it was his love, you see, that “I can fall, but you must not fall.”
This must be our endeavour throughout life. Always think of the other; you will never be unhappy. You know that old saying: Look at people below you if you want to be happy. If you are always looking above, looking at the Marwaris and the Reliance people who have got twenty-seven thousand crores each, we will always be miserable. Look at people who are suffering, who are sick, who are not well-endowed. Develop compassion, pity for them, and develop the ability to give to them whatever you can give, not necessarily money. Just a smile can change the situation. And even if you pronounce it from North India — ‘ismile’ — it doesn’t matter.
You know I made a joke about a couple who had a baby. For six months they had not given the name, so one day bahurani said, “Arre, suniye. Bacche ka to naam nahin diya hai. [The child has not been named.]” “Ismile kaho. [Call him ‘Ismile.’]” “Arre, Ismile? Yeh kaisa nikala naam aapne? [Ismile? What kind of name is that?]” “Kyonki [Because] he is always ‘ismiling’.” You see?
So let us smile. Let us not criticize. There is nothing wrong in life. As I was telling my son and some of these Americans, who say, “I ain’t done nothing” — double-negative. In the Russian language it is correct grammar. You ask your friend, “You went to the shop yesterday. Did you buy something?” He says, “Yesterday, I went to the shop but I did not buy nothing.” This is the way Russian grammar is, and it is correct. If you look at it from English grammar, it is stupid. But you must think that each language is beautiful in its own way. It has its own grammar, it has its own syntax. It has its own pronunciation. The French kiss everybody on two cheeks. We can’t do it because we are not French, though some of you may wish you could! Do I see any guilty blushes? [Laughs] It is too dark.
Anyway, the sum and substance of what I am trying to tell you is, take everything with a pinch of salt. Prosperity has its problems, riches have their problems, health has its problems. As Babuji said, the ideal life is illat, killat, zillat. You must have little less money than you need, always. You must have a little less health than perfect health. And there must always be people who criticize you. In that way, you don’t use your health wrongly for funny things like mountain climbing and deep-sea diving. You are within your limits. Money, you don’t spend unwisely. He who has fifteen annas when he needs sixteen is a wise man. He will not waste. If you need a hundred and you have a hundred and five, you say, “Oh, I have money extra.” And if you are always criticized by at least one person, the tendency to look at yourself develops. Not in a paranoid way like that queen who looked at the mirror every morning and said, “Who is the fairest of them all?” Not in that way. That was selfish, what we call narcissus complex, you know. And the moment she heard she was no more the fairest, she set out to kill Snow White.
Always think of others; never look at your own face in the mirror. It is not worth looking at. You have done it all your life. You are not going to see anything new. If at all you do see anything afterwards, after your twelfth and fourteenth and fifteenth [birthdays], you will only see wrinkles. Let them be wrinkles of suffering, wisdom, charity, compassion, and then you get that perfect beauty at the age of seventy — an old face, too beautiful with all its wrinkles. Hema Malini [Indian film actress] must blush!