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Learn to Love, Learn to Serve
A talk given by Shri Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari
Thank you for inviting me here, Colonel Peter and members of the faculty and, of course, you students whose invitation at your young age is more necessary than others.
I have been a student for many years, in fact, a student all my life. I had an education in a public school in Jabalpur, in Madhya Pradesh, what is now Madhya Pradesh - The Christ Church Boys' High School, where I had a very wise Principal who told me that education is not confined to schools, nor do schools necessarily educate. Education is a lifelong process. We start off learning in school. You know, I was very frustrated in school because we were learning so many subjects, about fourteen subjects to start with. Then it comes down to about eight. Then at graduation level it comes down to about three. And ultimately you find that you don't use any of them in the conduct of your life. I have a son who did chemical engineering in Madras, an MS in Engineering in USA followed by an MBA in marketing. And he is growing roses for export, very successfully. So what I want to impress upon you is that education almost never has anything to do with what we have to do in life.
Education is like the five senses, you know. It tells us what to do, where to do, when to do, how to do, but rarely, why to do it. For instance, you young ladies and gentlemen are all presumably going to the Army. I too had aspirations to join the Army. I received army training in the old days, when I was in Benaras Hindu University, under the British Army of those days. And my spectacles, you know, they made it impossible. I tried to join the Fire Service in Bombay, and I did very well. And the final passing test, after the written test and the viva voce, was one of these huge fire ladders (forty four feet). You had to wind it up until it went up to that level, climb up, and on top there was no hand rail or anything. There was a two feet square platform. You had to stand there, and below you saw something like half-a-rupee which was a circle of canvas held by eight strong firemen. And the examining officer shouted up, "You won't be able to jump. But when I say 'Left', bring out your left foot. When I say, 'Right', bring out your right foot, and that's all you have to do." And I did literally that. And I mean in a millisecond or microsecond I was down there on the canvas. And to this day I don't know how I got up the courage to do it. The courage came because of obedience.
Order, obey, achieve. You know, in the military they have one of these famous dictums: one who has never learned to obey cannot ever command. Today's life is too full of people who want to command without ever having obeyed. First thing that education should teach us is discipline: how to learn, when to learn, what to learn. This 'when to learn' is a bit intriguing. You will think, well, we should learn all the time. No! Because all work and no play [chuckles] you know that old adage. So we have to give equal attention to the body, the mind, and, the third thing that is never taught in schools, the soul. That is the part I deal with now.
When I started life, I was dealing with the body. I used to play cricket; I was a body builder. I was in the UOTC of those days which was the University Officers Training Corps, and I am very proud of the fact that, at four hundred yards with a Lee Enfield 303 rifle, I stood first, spectacles and all. But you know, that afternoon my shoulder was almost dislocated. I don't know if you have used a rifle. It has a kick like a mule. What I am trying to say is Shakespeare said, "The stages of man." We forget it. In childhood we are too serious. In middle age we are too acquisitive, selfish. In old age when we should be wise, we are too foolish. We have never been taught that we should be our age. And when I hear of a man of sixty-six trying to play cricket in a Senior Citizens Eleven, and breaking a leg or spraining his back or dying of a heart attack, I wonder why they do it. Or when we hear of a McEnroe wanting a seventh chance at the Wimbledon. I mean, once you have done it, you have proved that you can do it. Isn't it? So body, mind, soul - mind includes the intellect.
In India, now coming to the spiritual field, there is often this feeling, because we see sadhus, sannyasis everywhere, you know India has billions of them. Unkempt, uncouth, illiterate, robbers, thieves, dakus [dacoits], most of them, and we are taught to revere them as holy people, touch their feet. And we grow up with the idea that holiness does not mean cleanliness, though cleanliness is next to godliness according to our own proverb. So we say, "Oh, to be holy, to be spiritual, means not to have a bath, to have dirty teeth, to spit everywhere," things like that. So my aim would be to correct all these misconceptions, falsities imposed upon us by a grasping, acquisitive culture filled with priesthood, because the priests are the bane of religion.
In our system of spirituality, we say that God has no religion and religion has no God. I want you young people to remember this because we are the slaves of religion and politics in our country. Our life is guided by these two extremist forces. You gentlemen may be taught that extremists exist in Pakistan. In Pakistan, they will be teaching that all the extremists come from India. So where are the extremists? The hero of India is the terrorist of Pakistan and the hero of Pakistan is the terrorist in India. So our education is biased, our culture is biased, our religions are biased. We are taught to hate. On one side we say, God is love, and our religion says, my God is the only God. "Your God? Well, he may be your God, but he is certainly not my God."
My Guruji used to say that in World War II, you know the fight was raging between Germany and England and France, and all of them were Christians. They were all praying. As I used to say when I was in school, they were praying like hell to their God, Jesus Christ. And when my Guruji asked me, "Who will this God of theirs favour?" because they were all Christians. His answer was, "He could only say, 'My children. You are all brothers and sisters. Make up; don't quarrel.'"
You know, there is a proverb that says, 'The only way of getting rid of an enemy is by making him your friend.' But we like to keep an enemy an enemy and make samjhautas with him - treaties, barters, border adjustments. We must take a lesson out of the history books, very recent history, where East and West Germany reunited after seventy years of separation and is now one Germany. There is no way in which a war can settle a dispute. America has been preaching the doctrine of a war to end all wars. That has never happened in life. We have read of the Ramayana. We have read of the Mahabharata. If a war was to end a war, all wars, Lord Rama would have been successful. Lord Krishna would have been successful. And yet we are waiting for the next avatar, and the next avatar, because according to the Gita, "Yada yada hi dharmasya, glanir bhavati" - whenever there is danger to dharma, and where dharma is to be rescued, the divine Lord says, "I take form again and come to destroy the evil-doer and to re-establish dharma and to protect the dharmic people." Even God has to destroy.
So you see, if you look at it in a particular way, our Gods have been failures too because there has never been lasting peace. Of course I am talking in a military school where I hope all of you will join the National Defence Academy, become officers of whom our country can be proud, not because you fought wars, not because you got the VC or the PVC posthumously. I mean, whom are we honouring when we grant a Veer Chakra or Paramveer Chakra posthumously? It is like saying, "My body should be buried on holy ground." I mean, who cares what happens to my body when I'm dead? So what I would like to be proud of in you, young ladies and gentlemen, if you get into the army is that this army will provide 'peace on earth and goodwill among men', as the Bible says - lasting peace. Om shanti shanti, the Hindus say, the Brahmins say. Is it a dream? Is it a pipe-dream? I believe not.
Our one-sided education, our westernised education concentrates on external achievement sacrificing the internal achievement, the conquest of the spirit. My Mission, Shri Ram Chandra Mission, is setting out to correct this imbalance which has been in India since time immemorial. The great rishis of the past spent their lives avoiding marriage, being celibates, leaving their homes, going into the jungles, meditating, for their own individual good. Our moneyed people went on making money, acquiring properties, let the devil take the rest. On one side the spiritual people abandoned our people. On the other side, our rich people abandoned our people, so that we have remained a poor country through centuries, if not millennia.
Now why is this internal education necessary - the education of the spirit through meditation? Our five senses only help us to look outside. They are like sensors, you know, electronic sensors, like you have radar, thermal sensors, noise sensors, smoke sensors - to help you navigate through life in the physical world. The brain is like a computer: you feed information, it gives you an answer provided the brain has been trained properly (there comes education). Education is nothing but the feeding of well-regulated programs into the mind, which program you can access and use to interpret information to arrive at necessary desirable decisions. Is there a morality to such a decision? No! Not necessarily. Because the brain is as amoral as a computer. If you feed in the proper program to a computer and ask it how best to rob a bank, it will give you a wonderful result. It will not tell you, "No, you should not rob a bank." There comes the role of spirituality.
Everybody has a brain, but few of us have hearts. And I am not talking about the physical heart, without which we wouldn't be here. I am talking about the moral heart because, according to spiritual law, it is the heart which gives a moral judgement on whether I should do this or not. You know, when you ask a question of a computer, it gives a result. There is a Y/N (yes or no). This is the computer [points to the head], this is the yes or no instrument [points to the heart]. Fundamentally, this is what we do with the heart, because we meditate on the heart in our system.
My Guruji always said, "When in doubt, refer to the heart." Not the head. "Should I take a bribe?" "Sir, in today's world everybody does it." And this is the standard answer. "Should I ask for a dowry?" "No, no Guruji. How is it possible to get a girl married without dowry?" I would advise you girls not to marry anybody who wants a dowry, whatever he may be: the Maharaja of Patiala, the President of the United States, don't bother. I mean he should pay you to get married to him. Not you pay and go to him to be abused, misused, minimalised in life. You have only to read the newspapers to see the horrors that are perpetrated on the females of our world. Every day's newspaper, not just the odd one. Every day in every newspaper in India: abduction, rape, murder, gang-rape. And we say our women are all mothers. Mathrudevobhava, says Sanskrit. You know the first item of, shall we say, honour, reverence, even worshipful thinking is the mother. The Veda says, mathrudevobhava, pithrudevobhava, acharyadevobhava, atithidevobhava - mother always first. India is the maathrubhoomi, our motherland. And what do we do with our mothers, our prospective mothers? We cheat them, we exploit them, we abuse them. This [points to the heart] again is lacking, because our marriages of today are marriages of convenience, of acquisition, of possible promotion in industry, of mergers of two industries. In fact, marriage is a political system and no more matrimony.
So you see, when I talk of meditation, I don't talk only of the spiritual life, of going to heaven or whatever there is. We don't care for heaven, because if there is no heaven on earth, there is no heaven. What we have today is hell on earth. I mean, I don't have to convince you about this. So, young ladies, young gentlemen, respected members of the staff, Colonel Peter, I hope all of you will take this seriously and inculcate into your students what you loosely call introspection. Introspection is only at the thinking level, the mental level. Meditation goes deeper into it in that you seek with your eyes closed, comfortable, and look into yourself. What am I? A famous saint said we should ask the question: Who am I? I mean we all know who we are. It doesn't need an answer. What we really need to know is: What am I? I am an Indian, I am a Kayastha, I am a male, I am ambitious, I am acquisitive, I am arrogant, I am proud. All this everybody else knows. Does the man who is thinking of himself know it? Not when he is thinking of himself, but when he meditates and he finds all these horrible things inside which he dare not face in his open conscious state, then begins the process of remaking oneself into what we should be as human beings.
What should a human being be? First and foremost, one who serves others. In India, service concept is sadly lacking. We have no idea of service. We like to be served of course. But we don't know anything of service. You go to the bus-stand, he will make you wait for the ticket. You go to the railway station, the ticket seller will be drinking tea. You say, "I want a ticket to Jabalpur."
"Do you not see that I am drinking tea?" he will ask you.
"No, no, my train is leaving."
"That is all right. Another train will come. Let me drink my tea."
You go to the policeman; he is suspicious why you are going to him. People run away from him in fear. And now in every police station there is a new tendency to pretend to be user-friendly, as they say in computer language. "We are here to serve you. We are here to help you" - helpdesk. Who will dare to go to a policeman? Nobody. So service is zero in India.
Spirituality says, you are born to serve. Service is the highest concept. My Guruji said, "Serve and you will be served." One who serves will be served. It is a divine law. One who gives will be given. "For he who has not shall have, and from him who has, it shall be taken away," says the Bible. So the law of spirituality is: serve, love. Love whom? "No, no, sir. I love my wife." Number one lie. You need your wife, you use your wife, you exploit your wife. I have been to so many deaths, and at my age, you know, it is inevitable. When we are at the young ages of life, we go to birthday parties, twenty-five to fifty we attend marriages, after fifty we are called to funerals for condolence. Invariably you find a husband mourning his wife. You know what he says? "What will I do with the children? Who will cook for me? Who will wash my clothes?" He is not thinking of the dead wife. He is not saying, "Poor dear darling! My wife! What is she doing? Where is she now?" He is saying, "Who will look after me?"
A famous statement in the Upanishad says, Yajnavalkya tells his wife, "Not for the sake of the wife is the wife dear to the husband," he tells his own wife, "she is dear to him for his sake." So love means self-love. Now who are we to love? I ask this question again. Everybody without exception. Humanity is a large brotherhood. Life is an even larger brotherhood. The universe is the largest brotherhood. Divine law says, Thou shalt love. Thou shalt serve. And greater love hath no man than this, that he gives his life to the one he cherishes. Therefore these Veer Chakras, these Paramveer Chakras, these Visishta Seva medals.
You know I often wish I had a VC on my chest. But these are honoured because they gave their life for the country. Now the country is not a concept that I like very much, because we love our country but we don't love our countrymen. You know, there is a famous book by a famous author who was an Oxford Don, The India that was Bharat. I was very angry with that author when I saw the 'was', The India that was Bharat. And he says, "When I first visited India, I was hynotised by its people, its culture, its apparent oneness. But now when I visit it after twenty-five years, I see India but no Indians. I see Maharashtrians, I see Malayalees, I see Tamilians, I see Punjabis, but nowhere have I met an Indian," he says. You know foreigners see us much closer than we see ourselves. That is why spirituality comes into the picture again because I must be able to see myself better than anybody else.
We all resent being corrected by external forces. We don't like criticism. Why? Because, "What does he know?" Who will correct me? The law says, correct yourself. You know, that is the most difficult thing on earth. Because if you know the story of Snow White and that jealous queen who was looking into the mirror everyday: "Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who is the fairest one of all?" And as long as she was the fairest, she was happy, she was preening herself. And one day it said, "Snow White is the fairest one of all," and her peace of mind was destroyed. Now I often ask people who are listening to me, "What is the use of breaking the mirror?" This is what we do when we destroy the enemy, when a person with whom we have been friends for twenty years criticizes us and we break that friendship. And we say, "We were friends for twenty years and today he said this to me. And now I don't see him." It is the inability to look at ourselves as others see us.
So what I am trying to emphasise is, spirituality of course deals with God, with my relationship to God, and how eventually I can become one with Him. But unless I lay the foundation for that union with the Ultimate, eventual union with the Ultimate, here in this life on earth, I am not going to make it. And the way of making that possible is to meditate on the inner self, correct the tendencies, learn to love, learn to serve, because the two go together. You cannot serve what you don't love and you cannot love what you don't serve.
So, that is the sum and substance of spirituality. I have not come here to give you a long lecture but to just introduce the subject. I am very grateful again to Colonel Peter and all of you for your affectionate attention to what I have to say, what I have said, and I do hope and pray that something of what I have said will stay in your hearts and will help you through your life.