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Aspiration — not Ambition
A talk given by Shri Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari on 22nd June, 2005 at the inauguration of Lalaji Memorial Omega School, Chennai, India
I must congratulate the trustees of the Baal Vatika Educational Society and Trust, and I must thank them for their co-operation. I would also like to remind them: a trustee is not a position of honour or distinction; it is one of trust, where somebody who makes him a trustee trusts him, and he in turn holds in trust what has been entrusted to him. So please, all of you trustees of these two institutions, remember that your job never ends. Your responsibilities in the Trust will grow and, to the extent that we are faithful and honest and handle our Trust with integrity, we shall remain successful trustees.
It is not true to say that we are entering the field of education for the first time. Overtly yes, but over the last ten or fifteen years Shri Ram Chandra Mission has given a syllabus for what is called the Value Based Education. In our own quiet, unobtrusive, somewhat sub-surface way, we have been training teachers in Madras, and all over the country, to handle such syllabi in schools spread out everywhere in India. And there are already results that I can see in students who come out of institutions where they have been able to accept what we call a value based education syllabus. Schools are no exception to change, because no establishment welcomes change. "Let us not rock the boat"—that is the standard objection to introducing any new method, any new philosophy, any new procedure or even new, shall we say, persons. People in management have always this feeling that they know everything—they don't need to know anything more. I have spent many decades in a corporate sector myself and I have seen, to my regret, their so-called management courses (one tier, two tier, three tier) where, in my days, the companies paid enormous fees—sixty thousand, hundred thousand. They were more or less holiday jaunts in Goa, in Kashmir in those days you know, where people had a jolly time and came back with a nicely engraved degree to display.
Value based system has been, of course, a bugbear because first of all there is the implication that we don't have a value based education system. I have no intention of criticising existing institutions or establishments except to say that our educational system in India is fuelled by ambition—what Krishna gave an elaborate talk about. In a very simple way you can say that it is ambition that sends children to school: the ambition of the parents for their children, the ambition of the children as they grow up, first to emulate their parents in the material acquisitions and the material sphere of achievement and later, if possible, to go beyond. And of course, in today's society all the so-called motivators are financial.
Marriage, unfortunately, shamefully, in an Indian society which is supposed to go by the Vedic culture of an ancient, centuries-old tradition, is itself a marketplace where hearts are not united (bodies—definitely yes), and wealth is what is sought to be united. That is why we have this curse of consanguineous marriages—to keep the wealth within the family. It is like a mango using its mangoes to fertilise itself. It's a shame, it's a curse on India. And of course, religion is one of the greatest forces of disunity, disharmony, separatism, and even violence. Nobody needs to be told all this. I am not trying to educate you. I'm only trying to open your eyes. Beware of religion, because religion separates, religion divides. Religion makes enemies. It is responsible for the India-Pakistan continuation trouble. It is responsible for the Ram-Janmabhoomi of Ayodhya. It is responsible for Iyers not marrying Iyengars—I don't know what the difference is!
I remember, one day, an abhyasi came to me about twenty years ago. He was a Nadar from Virudhunagar. After the meditation he was weeping copiously. I said, "Brother, what is wrong?" And in very chaste but vulgar Tamil, he told me that an Iyengar boy had taken away his daughter. I don't want to use the words he used, but people who know Tamil can imagine what it must have been. Then he suddenly remembered that I am an Iyengar. Saying, "Ayyo, saami! [Oh, sir!]," he fell at my feet. I said, "Don't bother. I am no longer an Iyengar or anything. I'm only a human being. But just imagine what they must be talking about your daughter. Isn't it?"
So you see, the grass is always different on the other side of the fence. I had a driver who was a thevar [a caste in India]. One day I proposed a marriage for him with one of the girls who was working in one of the factories I was handling. He said, "Mudiyaathu saami. [It is not possible, sir.] She is [of a] very low caste." I said, "You are a thevar. What are you talking about caste?" He said, "Saami, naan pulavar. [Sir, I am a pulavar.]" It seems there are sixteen branches of thevar, and of that, the top is the pulavar!
So you see to what extent this disgraceful caste system has taken us? But of course, educated Brahmins will quote the Purusha Sukta as justification. Unfortunately, the Purusha Sukta is misunderstood. It does not propagate caste-ism. It only says that each organ of the body, each anga [part] has its duty. But we give it a caste connotation and imagine that we are either being proudly treated or derogatorily treated—and we use religion to fuel the violence that is India today. Our political parties trade on it, our governments use it, our police connive at it. There is a nexus of criminals, police and government, as everybody knows, and we suffer.
We must remember the ancient statement of the British that ‘people get the government they deserve.' If you ask yourself, is this all you deserve—yes! Until you deserve any better, you will not get any better government. It doesn't depend on democracy, or ballots of voting; it depends on the heart of each one of you: how soon you are willing to give up caste prejudices, religious prejudices, stop separating yourself from your neighbour because he is something else, prevent marriages borne out of love, and go in for the so-called ancient tradition of matchmaking, dowry.
Today's educational system only promotes selfishness and self-centredness. It is a sad society in which twenty-year-old and thirty-year-old executives can strut about talking of forty lakhs a year and fifty lakhs a year. I wonder how they deserve it! Are they more intelligent? Are they better human beings? Prouder—yes. But they are even more ambitious—"When will I get a crore of rupees a year!"
So you see, today's society stinks. We are using the wrong fuel. Suppose you use petrol from a car to fuel an aeroplane, it will crash. Our society is crashing because this human heart which is supposed to house Divinity itself—that is what the Purusha Sukta says: In this heart I reside. It is repeated by the Gita: I am in the heart of every created thing in this universe, says Lord Krishna. But this heart is forsaken, not only in love affairs but also in every affair that you can possibly imagine: food adulteration, spurious medicines—name it, you have it.
Sahaj Marg, the yogic system which Shri Ram Chandra Mission has been propagating from 1945, when this Mission was founded by my Guru, Shri Ram Chandraji Maharaj of Shahjahanpur, aims at changing the heart of the human being. You know you can change the face of agriculture, agricultural produce, quantity and quality, by making proper seeds. You don't treat a corn cob, you treat the seed. Therefore we deal with seeds. And the human heart has to be seeded afresh if it has to produce human beings who have good hearts, who can think of situations with a heart and not only with the head, who will love with their heart, not with their head or with their religious prejudices. You understand?
Everybody knows that the Vedas have two sections: the Karma Kanda and the Gyaana Kanda. Karma Kanda is only for desire fulfilment, up to and including saving somebody who is dying, by a wonderful homa [sacrificial ritual] called the Mrityunjaya Homa, where Lord Yama is supposed to have mercy on you and restore your soul. Ask, ask, ask! When are you going to give something, to yourself, to society, to the world? That is Sahaj Marg.
So to come back to this business of education, we will not fuel our children here with ambition; we will fuel them with aspiration. I am sure all of you know enough English to know the difference. It is a vast difference. One is for acquisition; ambition means more houses, better cars, walk-in refrigerators, things like that. Aspiration is for excellence, without thinking of reward—"Maa phaleshu kadaachana [Never in the result thereof]," Lord Krishna says. "Do your duty, don't think of the reward. Reward—your work doesn't give you; reward I give you!" says the Lord. You have in the Bible the parable of the good husbandman, I think, who recruited workers at ten o'clock, at twelve o'clock, at two o'clock, and at four o'clock in the afternoon, and at five-thirty when they were disbanded, he gave them all the same salary. That is one example in the Bible. When he was asked, "How can you pay him and me the same?" he says, "That's not for you to question. When I employed you I told you what you will get. Have I not given what you wanted? Basta! [That's all!]" So let us not make contracts with the Lord, you know. He knows whom to reward, whom not to reward, how much, when, why, where, et cetera.
So here it will be aspiration. After all, how much do you require to lead a good existence? I recommend that all of you should read a book, a small novel, called How Much Land Does a Man Require? by Leo Tolstoy. It's a beautiful story. It's a dream of a man, a Russian. He dreams that he is on the vast plains of Russia, and when he is taking a walk he sees somebody there, sitting with a hat.
Now we all talk of inflation, evils of taxation. We all pretend that the government is just bleeding us to death. And the less tax we pay, the more we talk about it—the offenders, the most. How much do you really require? Simple basic living—ten thousand rupees a month? Today. In my days it was probably eight hundred rupees a month. It doesn't take too much to earn that money and to live happily, with a free conscience. What makes you move from these twenty lakhs a year jobs and fourteen bedroom houses? What makes you do that? It is only ambition. Cut off ambition and you have happiness; add aspiration and you have happiness with faith and glory.
I don't want to make any tall claims about what this school will achieve, because I don't know what it will achieve. When we build a house we hope to be happy in it. Whether we will be happy or not doesn't depend on the house, it depends on this [points to forehead]—my destiny. But if I conduct my life properly, my destiny will be suitably modified. And as my Guruji said, "What should have been a stroke of the sword which would take away your head will be a mere pinprick."
You know I have aspirations, not ambitions. My ambition was left behind long ago. Even in my childhood, my ambition was three hundred rupees a month and to live thirty years. And I once told my father about this when I was eighteen, and he said, "You are a damn fool and a fool you will remain!" Perhaps what he said was true because I still have no money and I still don't have much education, though I have lived far beyond the thirty years that I wanted—not to my happiness, not to my sorrow either because my Guruji said, "We should neither desire life nor death." We live knowing that even when we are dead there is existence. Therefore our Vedic knowledge does not speak of death and life. Sat-Chit-Ananda means existence-consciousness-bliss. It is existence that is eternal, not life. Life eternal nobody shall have. Life means a soul embodied in a body. This shall begin and anything that begins must end. That is why we say anaadi, anantham, beginning-less, endless—if it has a beginning, it must end. The avatars came and had their end. So you see, eternal is existence, eternal is bliss—not happiness. Happiness is of the body, bliss is of the soul. It is eternally in that state of bliss. Therefore, the soul is described as Sat-Chit-Anandam.
My Master always told us that we must be practical, but first we must dream. I said "Dream?—sapna dekhna?" He said, "No, no. Not the type of dreams human beings have. You have dreams of two types: you have dreams of happiness, you have dreams of sorrow. You dream of God or you dream of the devil. You dream of good, you dream of bad. I am talking of dreams for this world, what we call visionary dreams." And he said, "If you have the ability after the dream, you must be able to make it a practical reality." It applies to spiritual life, it applies to personal life, it applies to social life. Now our governments are always talking of social change, sea change. I don't know what a sea change means. If it is tsunami, I am sure we don't want it. Sea change! But social change, like mass feeding, has no meaning. Even when you feed ten thousand people, you feed each individual. Otherwise there is no mass feeding.
So the individual is important, not society. Change the individual and society changes. Put one lamp in a dirty, dark corner and there is a sphere of light. Put one candle in a dark room, and the whole room is illuminated. There are simple means to achieving great aims, noble aims, desirable aims, necessary aims. We are taking the simple means. Our approach is to create aspiration in the hearts of children: "I want to be excellent." Not, "I want to stand first." What is the meaning of standing first? One standing first in one school getting, let us say, eighty per cent—another standing first in another school getting hundred per cent. It is like the political scene of the world: the President of Mauritius claiming that he is the same as the President of United States of America. Both are presidents, of course. In that lies their equality—nowhere else and in nothing else. Aspiration!
That is why it is said saints have no religion, saints have no nationality. A Buddha, a Christ, a Krishna, a Vivekananda, they have gone beyond. Where religion ends, spirituality begins, is the clarion call of Sahaj Marg and my Master. Religion must be left behind if you are going to be spiritual. My Master said: "Religions divide, spirituality unites." That is why we have a medley of people here—people from Europe, people from USA, Hindus, Bengalis, Tamilians, Keralites. Name it, we have them here—Christians, Jews, we have centres in Islamic countries, we have a centre in Israel. We have centres in about ninety nations in this world, including the former Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics—most of them. Because what we give unites people, unites the hearts of people, brings love into the picture.
Where there is love there cannot be hatred. Where there is love, there is harmony. I am not talking of the so-called love of our Indian society which ultimately boils down to love for money, love for position, love for power. I am talking of true human love where the hearts beat synchronously. There are no more differences. Can you differentiate between the flame of one candle and the flame of another candle? You cannot, because there is no difference. The Vedas says that the divine human being is divine because he has divinity within himself—there is a tiny flame and in the heart of that flame resides the Paramatman [the Ultimate]. If the Paramatman is in the heart of you and him and her, how can we be different? If you have milk in a copper pot, in a mud pot, in a gold pot, what is the difference? The container is different. The man who has a gold pot is terribly afraid of losing it. If he loses it, he may die of a heart attack. The man with a mud pot says, "I can buy another one. It is the milk that is important."
So you see, a simple life lived on the verge of poverty gives us happiness, harmony, and a true realisation of the value of things, that is, the milk is important, not the container, whereas to the rich man, it is the container which is important, not the milk. He says. "Milk, I can buy a tonne!" You see the difference? Therefore, Sahaj Marg says: Live a simple, plain life in tune with nature. Don't separate yourself too much from nature. Learn to walk barefoot, learn to live among trees, sit down in the darkness under a tree and whisper to it. Get back into nature and see what it is doing to you—how it has given you life, how it is restoring you every day and how it will eventually take you in her lap to put you to sleep.
So you see, this is what Sahaj Marg teaches. These are the teachings that we hope to inculcate in the curriculum of our students' education here. As I said, it is aspirations, not ambitions. What will happen in the future? As Lord Krishna said: Karmanyeva adhikaaraste maa phaleshu kadaachana. [Your right is to perform only your duty and not in the results thereof.]