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Live in the Present
Talk given by Shri P. Rajagopalachari at Manapakkam, India on January 1, 2003 (New Year)
I don't have much to say. Brother Prakash has just reminded me that today is my 76th New Year. If a man's achievement was to be measured in terms of the number of years he has lived, then of course it's a different story altogether. But, you know, when we are young, we have this enthusiasm of youth. Not only health and vitality but the enthusiasm. When you are young, there is a future to look forward to, whatever may be that future. It may be an education, it may be just sports, it may be career, it may be marriage, but as we grow out of it, say, 12 years, 13 years, 14 years, life tends to become progressively more and more of a burden. I see it all around us. I see it in the big burdens that children have to bear. I remember a time, in my grandfather's days - my maternal grandfather - when children ran around free. They didn't have much to bother about, much to bother about education, or anything for that matter. It was a life of freedom, not in some transcendental sense, but freedom from worry, from fear, and essentially, freedom from the fear of the future. Children never thought of the future. They were in the present, playing in the present, happy in the present.
Today we are only talking of the future. It's a very unfortunate change that seems to have occurred, that today we are doing nothing but talking of the future, saving money for the future, postponing our enjoyment to the future, buying books to read the day after tomorrow or next year, nothing to be done in the present. Then what are we doing in the present? It's all right to talk of meditating from 2002 into 2003, but what does it mean? This is all just words, you know.
I was just thinking of 76th New Year and, just after meditation, I was just trying to compute how many real hours of meditation I would have done. You know, like pilots when they fly a plane, they have a logbook that they have flown 10,000 hours, 11,000 hours, 12,000 hours, over a span of even, say, 15 years. How many hours of meditation have we really done? We have kept our eyes closed (chuckles), but have we been meditating? In my own case, I would not hazard even a guess that I have meditated perhaps 5000 hours in my whole life. And that is a drop in the ocean. And with this meagre record of meditation, of dhyana, we expect to go into something we call the brighter world. We don't know where it is. We don't know what is meant by brighter world. All that we can think of is a world of darkness in which we are living, and imagine that it is illuminated so that it is very bright. Even the literature of the Hindus speaks only of such a world, you know, illuminated by a thousand suns or one crore suns, kotisurya samaprabha. Our imagination is not able to go beyond, and rightly, because you cannot imagine something which is transcendental.
Even if you read fantasy, we can only extrapolate from what we are, to something imagined that can be possible - science fiction, space travel, time travel. I used to be fascinated by time travel, I don't know why. You just push a lever, wheeee it goes and from 2003 suddenly you are in 21764 AD. I don't know what I would do there. Again, in another world in which you are unfamiliar, you don't know the language, you don't know the people, but you are still where you were, because in time travel there is no space travel, only time travel. Today we are doing a lot of space travel and we have no time for anything else. Whizzing around in aeroplanes, faster and faster. The same grind, you know, round and round, monotonous, soul-killing.
So what is this future that we are thinking of, when we don't even have the present in our grip? If I'm not alive in my present, what am I going to do in the future? I'm dead. Our children have no time to live in the present. They have no time to play football, no time for table tennis. They have to prepare for a future!
You know, I've been reading a lot of this I won't say rubbish (chuckles) because it is a good subject, about, for instance, Babuji's favourite Nasadiya Sukta, there where neither the sun shines nor the moon shines nor the wind blows, where it is neither dark nor light. Now where can it really be? We are always thinking of something, you know, in heaven, wherever it may be, we don't know where it is, but we are always thinking of There, or There, or There. But what about Here? (points to the Heart) Because this is really where the wind does not blow, the sun does not shine, the moon does not shine, there is no time, and that is where the Divine says He exists. Even religion does not point in the right direction. At least, we imagine that it is pointing somewhere far away like the Christian heaven, the nirvana of Buddhists, the heaven of Islam, it is all There. If it is There, what am I doing Here? So spirituality seeks to prove to you, by experience, that this wonderful abode of the Divine, where neither the sun shines nor the moon nor the wind blows, where there is neither light nor darkness, where there is no day, no night, there He exists, that must only be this place inside me, my heart. But we are meditating and we're meditating and we're meditating, and trying to compute how many hours of meditation we did and we despair, that after 76 years I have a meagre, supposed, figure of say 2000 hours of meditation. What is it worth?
So you see, all that enthusiasm of youth, that spirit of youth, that freshness of youth, is lost progressively as we become older, because as we grow older and older we find we have done less and less. If unfortunately, I say deliberately unfortunately, you are somebody like my Master Babuji Maharaj who has done something with his life, who is in the present, not somewhere in the future I mean if my Master was in the future, I would never have contacted him, never have made friends with him, never have lived with him, never have loved him, never have made any use of him. Can I use somebody who is in the future? It is like a man saying, "My girlfriend is in the future 20 years away." Anything we want, we want here and now. I want air to breathe, it must be here now. I want food, I want it now. I want happiness, I want it now. Spirituality, we want it tomorrow, day after tomorrow, next year, when I'm old enough, when I've made enough money, enough mistakes, enough miseries, killed enough wives!
So it is our fault, you see, that what should be in the present we are postponing into the future, and then we are living in a present which is not the present at all because there is nothing in it other than bricks and stone and mortar and gold and silver and unhappiness. Spirituality says, "Dear friend, live in the present. Forget heaven, forget hell, neither exists. If it exists, it is right where you are. You don't have to go to it. It is there in you right now. So what are you looking for, what are you searching for? Realize this, turn inside, see that divine abode of God, again to repeat, no sun, no moon, no wind, no tides, no light, no darkness, no day, no night. What can it be? Experience it."
So we experience, but we don't see because we are trying to see something with these eyes with which we cannot see.
I have a question. Do we really see darkness or do we experience darkness? Do we ever see light? Emphatically not, because we only see objects illuminated by light. Light we never see. Similarly darkness we never see. God we never see. Then what are we talking about seeing, seeing is believing?
So you see, we have to train ourselves and the next generations into believing and accepting and realizing that all they have to live for is now here, in the present. If it is not here, it is never going to be. I cannot conceive of a moon a hundred years away. "It will come into existence a hundred years later." I can only see the moon that is here today. So this tendency to look out, to read religious literature and say, "It is there", "That you are" - Tat tvam asi -, you know, all this rubbish, has corrupted the most supposedly favorite spiritual land which is India and supposedly the most spiritual people, the wonderful Indians. I sometimes think that the Christian and the Jew and the Muslim have something to hold to, but we have lost that also. They have at least one God and one heaven you see, and we have so many Gods and so many heavens. To my mind the Hindu is the most blighted human being on earth today. They have lost direction, they have lost sense of purpose. They go around like ants scurrying around, you know, picking up pieces of sugar to store in some hole in the ground which they will never enjoy.
We have heard of beggars who are dead and they have thousands of rupees sewn into their clothes. Today's millionaire is nothing more, except that his clothes are not enough to put his wealth in, so they are in bank lockers and elsewhere, you see. So what is the difference between the beggar who is dead, with 10,000 rupees in notes sewn into his dirty clothes or the multi-millionaire who is dead, and who has a lot of gold and silver and jewels and diamonds in his bank lockers? Nothing. Then what are we doing? Beggar did not enjoy the money that he got from begging, and the rich man has no time to enjoy the money that he has probably stolen, cheated, some of it made by, let us say, honest means, which was the original capital that he had.
And yet we are talking of the future, we are talking of spirituality, we are talking of God's grace, God's immense love, God's mercy. I am sick of hearing this term mercy and compassion. Really sick, you see, because it is a sick person and a sick society which wants a merciful God and a compassionate God, because it shows our total impotence, that I cannot come out of the morass of ignorance and criminality and sin into which I have plunged myself. So I need a merciful God to pull me out. I'm not questioning God's mercy or God's compassion. I'm questioning this fact that why should we have to be so dependent on God being merciful and compassionate, had we but, for the lack of a better term, the spunk to get up and walk in the right direction.
The other day I made a suggestion in one of the centers in Andhra Pradesh that a human being, from the moment he or she is born, if they would live without interfering with the operation of their samskaras, without interfering or without allowing desire to interfere and create more samskaras, that one life would be enough. You know, philosophy speaks, religion speaks, that animals, insects, birds, plants, minerals they all evolve naturally and they pass from level to level. They never get stuck at one level. We are stuck. Why? Because they have no desire.
If you but study the difference in why human beings are stuck and we have this wonderful story of repeated rebirth. Hinduism talks of 7 million births before being born a human being. Imagine, 7 million births! And then after being born a human being, how many? Maybe 70 million, because now we are willful, saturated with desires, obsessed with desires. It doesn't matter whether you desire a woman or gold or anything like that. It is desire. What does it matter which desire kills you? I don't see any difference. I cannot imagine a society, where to love a woman is more sinful than to love gold, or to love silver, or to love something else, or to love a cow or love a dog. I cannot imagine, what is the difference. So you see, we have corrupted our souls, now we are begging on our knees, "Have compassion on me, O Lord. Have mercy on my soul. Forgive me. At the moment of death, at least, come and pull me up." Pull me up where? God will say, "Where? Where is this up that you want me to pull you into?" "Is it not right here? If I'm here", God will ask, "where on earth do you want me to pull you up? I'm not going anywhere. I've been here, around you, all the time. I've been inside you all the time. And yet you are saying Pull me up, Pull me up, Pull me up." God will go back confused. All that we have to give up is this obsession with our desires, whether it is for fame or name or possessions or wealth or whatever, or even to do good to others.
I think the biggest curse is the desire to do good to others, because there is rarely a person who wants to do good to others for the sake of the one to whom he is doing the good. They always do good for themselves. "Why are you charitable?" "No, no, sir. I was told that if you are charitable you will go to heaven." So, suppose I tell you that if you are charitable you will go to hell, would you stop being charitable, or would you not stop being charitable? I mean, you would run away from charity. So as Yagnavalkya says in that famous Upanishad, "Not for the sake of others am I good, but for the sake of myself", you see. And that is the cheapest and worst way of doing good. The so-called do-gooders, you know. It is a wonderful term in English, do-gooders. They imagine they are doing good to others in the desperate hope of doing some good to themselves, because they don't know any other way of doing good to themselves. I would prefer that we stop doing good to others and try to do some good to ourselves, by making ourselves into what we should become. And the only way we can do that is to realize what true values we have to incorporate in our being, through living.
Rich people have lived and died unhappy. Beggars have lived and died miserable. Philosophers have lived and died miserable. According to tradition, even the lesser Gods we call the avatara purushas have lived and died miserable. So who has lived and died happy? I hope some of us here will at least try for it. Because I heard long ago some wise man saying, "It is not how a man lives that matters. It is how he dies that matters."
Sahaj Marg surely promises us a good death in this sense, that having died we don't have to bother about the future, because rebirth is another future. Having been through one life, I have created a future which is another life and in that I will create another future which is yet another life. Whose fault is it? I don't believe God has anything to do with this repeated birth after birth after birth. We are at fault because we still have latent desires, and in the hope of fulfilling them we come again and again. It is like somebody, you know, who is trying to read a book in all this noise, and suddenly he finds he is on page 100 but he has not read anything. So he goes back to page 1 of the book all over again. And this time he comes to 77, and suddenly he realizes he has not read it. So he goes back to page 1. This is rebirth. Rebirth is going back to page 1 every time you open the book, because nothing you have read there has entered here (points to head) or here (points to heart).
"Thou shalt not kill." Wonderful. We are taught in lessons on morality, lessons of religion, "thou shalt not kill", one of the famous ten commandments. "Thou shalt not do this, not do that, not do that." I have known children asking, "Then what should we do?" Today's life is all negative. "You should not drink milk, you should not have coffee with milk, you should not have coffee with sugar, you should not have coffee at all, not in the morning, not in the evening, not in the day, not in the night."
It is like this famous character in one of our Puranas, Prahlada's father, Hiranyakashipu, who did tapasya for 20,000 years, and Lord Shiva came, and he asked for a boon. He said, "I must not be killed by day or by night. I should not die inside a house or outside a house. No stone or metal or water or anything should kill me. I must not be killed by man or beast, by Gods or devas or asuras." How did he die? He was killed by an avatara of the Lord who was neither man nor beast. He was a man-lion, the Narasimha. He was not killed inside or outside but Narasimha seated himself in the doorway, which is neither inside nor outside. He was not killed in the air or on the ground but he was killed on the lap of God Himself. So our life is like that. No coffee, no coffee with milk, no milk without coffee, no sugar, no this, no that. Our life is full of it. And we call this dieting, we call it regimen in French, and we call it I don't know what else in which language, and we count our days with hope, thinking that at least in the blessed future we will be blessed, if there is a blessed future. So we have lost the art of living, because we have lost the present in our trying to grasp a future which is not yet, which will never be. Because the future is always in the future.
So the lesson of Sahaj Marg is "Live in the present. Forget the future." "How many years do I have to live?" Why do you worry? Are you alive now? If you are alive now, you should worry about how long you're going to live. Sahaj Marg, by closing your eyes and meditating, really meditating, teaches you that if you are not alive now, you are not going to be alive the next moment. It says emphatically, "If He is not here, He is nowhere, forget it." It says even more emphatically, "If you do not realize that He is here, you are not going to find Him anywhere."
So sisters and brothers, let us get on with not with faith, I don't believe in faith. What is faith? "Oh, I have faith that God exists." But you don't show it in your way of life. If you had faith that God exists, you would not be a liar and a cheat and a murderer and a criminal and a black-money maker and a do-gooder, would you? We are all liars. Nobody has faith in God. We know that He doesn't exist. Therefore with impunity we are cheating, lying, murdering, robbing, making money from others, evading taxes. Our way of life proves that we are sure there is no God. How on earth are you going to find a God when you know for sure that He doesn't exist? "No, no, how can you say that?" Because you're living in a way which shows that you know God doesn't exist. If you had the least faith that God exists, would you not curb your tendencies to evil and to harm others? Would you not think twice before you harm somebody else or hurt somebody else's feelings? What is the answer?
So, today our way of life is a testament to the fact that nobody really believes that God exists. I've heard people saying, "If God exists, why am I still alive? I should have been killed long ago by a God, you see. No God can have mercy on me for what all I have done. Therefore he doesn't exist. Or, if He existed once upon a time, today's world is too much for Him." He could handle one Ravana in a 100,000 years, one Hiranyakashipu in another 200,000 years, but today, as we hear people saying, everybody is a Ravana, everybody is a Hiranyakashipu, and everybody is a Kamsa. So, which one of us will God come to eradicate? It is like cancer. Today's human population is a cancer on Nature. And like cancer inside our body, we are a cancer outside, and we're destructive and we're destroying everything including ourselves. I don't want to take too much of your time. We're already one hour into the New Year.
So I hope you will make the fullest use of your time in the present, for the present, knowing that "What I am not in the present, what I don't have in the present, I may never have in the future." May Master bless us all. Thank you.