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Live in the Present

 A talk given by Shri Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari
on 17th January, 2006 in Singapore

I am happy wherever I am. But there is a happiness, you know, like the mother, where there are a lot of children. One day she is with one child, stays with her for three months, then goes away to another girl or boy. Sadness in leaving here, happiness in going there, you know—sadness, happiness, sadness, happiness, sadness, happiness, like that. Life is like that. Now to iron out these crests and depressions of the wave, to make it a straight line, meditation helps. So we are always happy—happy to come, happy to go. Because if you are happy when coming and sorrowful when going, you are conscious of the fact that you are coming and going. And there is no coming and going. We are eternally where we are, and to realise that is our purpose in spirituality.

Now, Brother Rajesh said that we are—what?—ninety to a hundred abhyasis. We have been at that level ever since Bala started the Mission here—I think way back in ’73 or ’72 (something like that), when Babuji and I first came here. So you see, we have been working without a real sense of purpose, and that purpose should have been, long ago, to find a place which we can call our own. Abhyasis do not like to go to other people’s houses. There is always a reserve, a shyness, a nervousness about how we will be received; so many factors. I have seen this happening time and again in India where, as new centres flag up, it remained static—five people, ten people, thirty people, and there it sort of congealed, you know. It became petrified. And then when we had a meditation hall, it jumped to a hundred, two hundred, three hundred. Because a meditation place is a neutral place which all of us can say is ours. A meditation hall which belongs to the Mission is mine, is yours, is everybody’s. So people are not shy of going there. In fact, they like to go there. Long ago we should have thought of it when costs were less, things were cheaper. But you know, with twenty, thirty abhyasis, what can you do? So we need a good base—as we say in computer language—you need a good base from which to start, and that means around two hundred to three hundred abhyasis at least, before we can even think of a meditation hall.

So our first purpose should be to increase the numbers, because with one cow you cannot even feed yourself; with ten you can sell two litres a day; with a hundred you are a farmer or a dairy man. Same thing, you see—you cannot give one drop of blood to a patient. It’s no use. If somebody is hungry, you cannot give him one grain of rice. We need a little bulk in everything. That bulk we have to strive to achieve and basically we have to get local people involved. I don’t mean Singaporeans, but I mean Chinese, Malays. Largely, we are an Indian population. Of course, our people from Europe keep following me around and that adds a little lustre to these gatherings, but nothing more. So we have to work. That’s why on one of my previous visits I said that our young people should learn Mandarin Chinese at least, because if you cannot communicate in the way people would like you to communicate… You know, every time I go to North India (I know them for thirty years), but eventually they will come and say, “Saheb, Hindi mein kuchch boliye. Hum sunna chahtey hain. [Sir, say something in Hindi. We would like to listen.]

‘The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach’—it’s a wrong statement. It is through his tongue, and by tongue I mean his language. So as many of you as you can, get on with the job. Please do learn at least a smattering of Chinese. It will help you in your careers. It will help you in opening your mind to other cultures, other philosophies, other ways of life. And every expansion of knowledge is something good for us. It prepares us for the future, where in a different dimension we may need all that. Let us not be narrow-minded Indians: Punjabi sticking to Punjabi, Hindi sticking to Hindi, Tamil to Tamil, Telugu to Telugu and all speaking English because we have to work on computers and earn our money (granted that we are here to earn money). It is like butter, you know; you don’t eat only bread, you need a little butter or a little jam. That is the cultural advantage that you can gain by living in a foreign country, learning so many things.

I cannot understand why people are living here for twenty years, thirty years, and don’t speak the local language. Because we don’t care; we manage to earn our money without knowing. ‘Where ignorance is bliss, it is folly to be wise’—I want you to get rid of all these stupid sayings from the past. ‘A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.’ Bill Gates says, “Fifty-eight billion is fifty-eight billion. You can stick to your ‘early bird catches the worm’.” The American says, “That’s all the early bird catches—the worm, nothing else.” So you see, proverb is useless. Proverbs are worse than useless. We have to live a new life every day. Meditation must help us to bring that new life into existence with every sunrise—new, not in the sense of forgetting the old, but building on the old. Like you know, Singapore is now permitting thirty floors. Once upon a time it was only six floors or seven floors, a very humdrum sort of city. Now it’s a beautiful city. New prime minister, new government—changes for the better.

Sahaj Marg says change is the only permanent thing in life, in the universe. It is the only thing you can expect. You cannot expect better, you cannot expect worse, but surely you can expect change. What that change will bring, we don’t know. You know, I read a newspaper article last time when I was in Perth which said by 2020, Chinese would be the number one language in the world; Hindi, number two; Arabic, number three; and English would have slipped to the number six position in world languages. So we better remember this, you see. At least let us teach our children Chinese, because by 2020 they will be twenty years old and you might have to go around saying, “Shie, shie [thank you],” to everybody, and “Nihau [hello]”.

Let us plan for the future, instead of sticking to the present and looking at the passbook for today’s balance in the bank, looking at today’s sons-in-law, daughters-in-law. Let us think of the future. Who is going to marry my little boy of five years old or three years old? How should he marry? What should he be taught? We are only teaching for the present. We don’t think of the future—even the elder people, even the eldest people. The older we get the more we think of the past. When we are young we think of the future. The very young live in the present, and that is how we should live, you see—in the present, by the present, for the present. The future will come and it will be the present. The future is not in the future. The future when it comes, it is just now, right here. You know. Tsunami is tsunami when it comes—and we should not be like some governments which are trying to build walls in the sea to prevent the next tsunami. It is like putting a straw in front of an ant to stop it from getting into your sugar.

So let us think of big things, noble things, large-hearted things, things which will open our heart to the world. As I said, “The way to a man’s heart, or indeed to a woman’s heart, is through her tongue.” If you say, “I love you,” in English, you can get hold of an English girl. But if you are in Timbuktu, you must know what to say in Arabic or whatever language is there, you see; at least she will smile. So let us get on with the job of learning Chinese, Mandarin, not for the purpose of bringing abhyasis, but because it will help me in my life. It will help me communicate, and communication is what Sahaj Marg is about: how to speak, how to talk, how to exchange, how to share. Sahaj Marg is sharing. We don’t make abhyasis; we make them part of ourselves. We are a sharing society, communicating society, giving society. Much of this is forgotten when we go around like proselytising Christians. We are not converting anybody. A China man remains a China man; a Timbuktu, a Timbuktu; an Arab, Arab; a Hindu, Hindu.

We have here all the people of the West: French, German, what have you. We have a newly married couple. The wife is here, the husband is in France. If they were in France, they would be having an extended honeymoon of three weeks. And here we have a brave young girl who has let her husband go, and they are each enjoying their own honeymoon. Because a honeymoon doesn’t mean you should always be two together, isn’t it? I was reminded of a Punjabi joke which I created last night, about a Sardarji who got married and went on a honeymoon. And he had a nice posh room in a big five-star hotel. It was a full moon day. So he telephoned his friend back at home and said, “Bunti yaar, galsun. [Hey Bunti, listen.]I see the moon but where is the honey?” That is the sort of thing that we are ignorant about—the basics of life. The basics of life say, “Let no colour or religion or language divide me from my brothers and sisters out there in the world.” And these are the very things that divide us: colour, language, tongue, you know.

So let us forget colour. I don’t mean we should be colour blind. We should derive pleasure from so many colours, like that brand you know—Benetton, the United Colours of Benetton. It takes seven colours of the rainbow to make light. You all know that. Imagine a world with only white people or only black people or only yellow people, all of the same height, all with the same visage. You wouldn’t know who is who.

So variety is also useful for recognition. When you describe a friend, how do you describe him?—“Oh, he is rather short, a little plumpy, dark,” or “He is tall, white, blonde hair.” Could you describe if the world were all uniform? In science a uniform world is a cold, dead world—in science. And we as living beings should understand this, you see. We need the vibrancy of difference, the vibrancy of potential, like in electricity. Water falling from a height can create electricity. One level—no life. And if such a world is what we should have, then it is our job to learn all about it, all about why people behave as they do. Basically it is selfishness—selfishness because of fear, because of insecurity. What will happen to Singapore? Will Malaysia take it over?—things like that, you see. Or is America having designs on us? We are always insecure, therefore we are afraid; therefore we react with violence to any approach. Violence is basically a sign of inherent insecurity. Give up all resistance.

I often tell my friends in India, “What does it matter whether Kashmir is part of India or Pakistan? Kashmir is Kashmir.” When a German boy marries a French girl, are they insecure? Why not? Because there is love. Love removes insecurities. Love removes fear. “Perfect love casteth out fear,” says the Bible. And we don’t have even imperfect love. We have only the rituals of love, you know—the physical parts of love, which is ritualistic, like religion is ritualistic, eating is ritualistic. The Frenchman must have his big coffee cup in which he can dip his bread, and the Englishman sneers at him and says, “Barbarians!” I don’t know what is barbarian about dipping a biscuit in tea and eating it. I used to do it. I love it. I don’t know what is wrong with licking an ice cream like children do. They enjoy it. We become too old to enjoy life, you see. We stick to rituals, and rituals mean no more pleasure, no more enjoyment, no more newness, no more experimentation. I remember in Switzerland once, we were waiting for potatoes for a fondue, and they were not coming. So I said, “Order pommes frites [French fries],” and we dipped it in cheese and ate it. Soon fifty people were eating what I was eating—pommes frites dipped in cheese, and it was wonderful.

So you see, experimentation is an expression of the boldness of the heart. Why should I put rice first and sambar [spicy soup] next? Why not sambar and then add rice to it?—a simple thing. “No, no, no, no, but that is not how it is done.” Well, who should dictate to me what should be done and what not? I am a free spirit, an indomitable individual. What does it matter if I add sambar to rice or rice to sambar? How should it matter if I start with dahi bhaath [curd rice] first and end up with sambar and rice last? How should it matter? Within a period of seven minutes, everything is in my stomach and getting churned.

So you see we are all hidebound traditionalists, however free we might think we are. The French say—freedom, liberty, egalité [equality], fraternity, and they have none of them. The German says—brüderschaft [brotherhood], and they don’t have it. Who has it? Nobody has it. Because we are afraid. Friends are easier to get on with than others. Brothers are potential enemies. That is why in many cultures they kill off the brother who is a potential rival to the throne. They get rid of all potential rivals. Easy way!

What is an easier way? The easier way is to love everybody, and say, “You take the throne. I am happy. I don’t have it now; why should I have it in the future?” You see the difference? “Oh, but I must sit on the throne.” And then I am the object of another assassination attempt. Six people are waiting to kill me and take it over from me. And so it goes on, generation after generation.

So let us try to love. Let us try to love freely, openly, without bias of caste, creed, race, anything. Because love is an expression of the heart, like the light and heat are the expression of the sun. The sun does not hide itself and blush—“Oh, should I love Venus?” “Why not?” “Oh, but Venus is a female planet.” Does the sun behave like that? I hope not! So you see, all these prejudices are created by our own mind by cultural implantation, religious implantation, and we suffer a hell of a lot because of all these things. Suffering is because we have been implanted with ideas which don’t belong in a human mind, in a human heart. Culture is a big damaging entity; even more is religion which says, “He is Muslim, you are Hindu, he is Tao,” things like that.

Swami Vivekananda said, “It is a sad thing that Hinduism has descended into the kitchen.”—purity of food, but no purity of the mind, no purity at all of the heart. What is pure food worth if I cannot be pure in my heart? “No, no, he is untouchable. I cannot touch him. I will have to bathe,”—this is an Indian scene you see. And of course other religions are no better. So who is who, what is what, where is where? We don’t know, you see.

There is very big reason to change now because if you don’t change, what every culture, every religion every prophet, every seer, has been talking about—the next holocaust—will come. It will come not because it has to come; it will come because we invite it with our prejudices, with our hatreds, with our avarice. Everybody wanting somebody else’s things, like territories. Everybody afraid of everybody else because you don’t want to lose your territory to somebody else. [We are building] fences, fences beyond the fences and third level of fences and therefore we get smaller and smaller in our heart, in our mind, in our self. Sahaj Marg says, “Break all these fences. Start with religion, go to culture, go to language.” Animals live very happily without language. Birds live very happily without language. Why do you need a language which divides you? So learn the basics you see, and what is the basic-est of the basics?—love. So Sahaj Marg says, “Love.”

So I pray that as an expression of your love … not for something or towards something, but as an expression of the love in my heart which is for everybody who comes in my presence, and eventually for everybody who is in this world, and eventually for everybody who is in this universe. Remember that our sun shines only in the solar system; outside that, it is only a tiny star, lost in the immensities of space. For us it is very important, like a father is very important for a family. The sun is very important for us in the solar system. In a larger system, there may be some other sun which is important for the whole system. In our galaxy, that is the centre of the galaxy.

So as we widen our minds and our hearts, open our hearts to reality, what was important becomes useless, becomes unimportant, becomes trivial and becomes nothing. So in our lives we must show this progress—from important to unimportant to trivial to nothing. If you go out in space, you see the earth as a tiny ball; go further, you see it as a speck; go a little further, it vanishes—and we are worried about Singapore or Malaysia or Timbuktu. So the farther we are away from things, the less important they become to us. And how can you be farther away? By forgetting yourself. You don’t exist. You exist for others, but for yourself, you don’t exist—I am free, I am liberated. I pray that such a state will become all of yours soon.

Thank you.