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Retaining the Spirit of Youth
A talk given by Shri Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari
You know, I once had a children’s meeting in Denmark and there were about sixty of them, age one-and-a-half years to about fourteen, fifteen, and they said, “No adults!” I said, “But I am an adult.” So, one young lady of three years said, “No! You are Chari.” You see? That’s what I like. All this differentiation by age and all—this is rubbish. He is a youth who has a youthful heart. And I would like all of you to keep your hearts young, however old the body may become.
You know, I am still young at heart. That’s why I wander around the world; I wink at girls, no? [Laughter] I believe they like it, too, at least the more mischievous, naughty ones! Don’t you? [Abhyasi: Yes.] Aha!
So now how to retain this youthfulness or youth-like spirit? It’s a secret but it’s not a secret at all. It appears very difficult but it is very easy and simple. All that you have to do is to retain your idealism, because as we grow older our idealism disappears; we tend to become cynical. We tend to view the world as something stuck forever in a mire of ignorance, corruption, sickness, et cetera, you see. But we have to learn to look at it always with the eyes of children. That is why in the Bible it is said, “Be ye as little children” (be ye as little children, not be ye little children), because they look at everything with a sense of wonder. To a young child everything is new, everything is fresh, everything is wonderful—whether it is a small beetle on the grass or an elephant or the cake which mamma made yesterday, or just looking out of window at the world and wondering at everything that is passing.
As we grow older, you go to the waterfall and say, “Yeah, I have seen it before.” You see a sunset which everybody is looking at, and you say, “Well, it happens every evening.” That is cynicism, you know. “It happens everyday. What’s so wonderful about it?” But if you retain your innocence and your youth, every sunrise is new, every sunset is new, every day is a wonderful day, and when you go to sleep you’ll sleep the sleep of innocence—no problem sleeping at all from nine to six. Innocence makes for health because as we become more and more corrupt in our minds, our heart becomes rigid and what the doctors call “thickening of the arteries” takes place. And then we suffer. It is not heart attack which kills us. It is cynicism which makes the heart rebel against our cynicism, and say, “Well, if you are going to give up so soon, I give up.” Simple, innocent, youth-loving, youthful hearts will never have a heart attack—everybody will die, of course—but even when they die, they will die with a smile on their lips, a glitter of hope for the future in their eyes, no tears but only a tender farewell to all they leave behind.
So you see, a youthful heart, an innocent heart, is always full of love and therefore full of hope—love guiding their present, love shaping the future, love shaping everyone so that our environment is changing all the time. For the corrupt, cynical people, the world is always the same: always wars, always terrorism, always shortages of food, always watered down milk. They look on the negative side of things. The youthful heart looks at the positive side of things. You know the definition of an optimist and a pessimist—there is a glass half full of water; the optimist says, “Wow! I have half a glass of water to drink; the pessimist says, “There is only half a glass of water. The rest is empty,” and he suffers.
I remember once in the USA I had accompanied Babuji Maharaj, and I had to give lectures everyday. We were there for about twenty-one days on the East Coast. On certain days I had to give three talks and all unprepared, you know, just like this. In one place where they had gone to a great deal of expense and effort in putting up notices in restaurants and things like that, and where they had expected two hundred people to come for the talk, with Babuji sitting there presiding, only five people turned up. So we waited a few extra minutes (I think fifteen minutes), and then decided to begin because, after all, we have to be punctual, you know. I asked Babuji, “Should we go on with the speech or cancel it?” He said, “Why do you ask?” I said, “There are only five people.” He said, “What does it matter whether it is five or five hundred? You are going to say the same thing. Go ahead.”
So you see, we don’t look at numbers and shape our performance accordingly. A good musician must be able to play to an empty hall—not insist that all the chairs should be full. I know there are some musicians who will cheapen their performance if there are few people, but that is neither moral nor good, even for their profession. So when we are looking for numbers, we are looking for quantity not quality. We should always look for quality of life, quality in people, which is again something good for the heart, remembering that it is our duty. Each one of us has a duty to bring beauty into life, to bring health and love into life. And not only ennoble yourself, but ennoble as many as possible around you, and through them, like a pebble dropped into a pond, an ever-widening circle of goodness, happiness, love, simplicity, hope.
So youth must never deteriorate into adulthood. Remember that the spirit, the soul, is eternal. It was, it is, it will ever be—so it cannot have age. It’s not the spirit which ages; it’s not the soul which ages; love has no age. It is the body which has all these problems of age, of decreasing efficiency, strength, health, until it ends in death. If a youthful heart is there, it realises that while the body may grow old, I, the inner Self, am eternal; I have no age. Therefore I am neither young nor old: I am.
So if you ask a soul, “How old are you?” it will not understand the question. “Yes, but you have been here a long time.” It doesn’t know what a long time is. Can the sun tell you how many days it has been there? We measure our day by the sun, but what is a day for the sun? No day, therefore, no month, no year—only eternal, You understand? The sun even cannot say, “I am always here.” Always is also a measure of time. If I am always here, I am not somewhere else always.
So, a presence in one place means an absence from another place, to an entity which measures time and space. But to a spirit which is eternal, it is everywhere at all times and therefore it is said that the soul is but a spark of the Divine itself. And if you are able to retain that spark alive, flaming, brilliant, illuminating, each spark can become a sun in its own time. That is what spiritual progress means—a tiny spark. This is what our youth should aim at. This is what our youth are practicing Sahaj Marg for—to become individual suns (s-u-n-s). And don’t think of light for yourself; think of how you can give light to others.
So I hope I have conveyed enough of what my own aspirations for youth are. I hope I have conveyed to you what I try to retain in myself as the most sacred gift of life, which is that life is never old, it is never young—it is, and because it is, it always is. There is no need to despair; there is no need to hope; because when something is eternal, it cannot ask a question about what tomorrow is going to be. Only those who are bound by space and time can ask such a question: what is going to be tomorrow? “Oh, my past was so bad. Will my future be the same? Will I lose my capacities? Will I lose my brain power?” These are for the body, you know.
So people who have a youthful heart are never worried about themselves. Selflessness is the first sign of an innocent heart. It does not need sleep, it does not need rest; it only gives rest and repose to others. It helps others; it gives to others. It never takes, it offers; it never asks for. Its life is dedicated to ennoble, enliven and make holy what other souls perhaps are lacking today because they are bound in the body. They are limited by a body consciousness which bogs us down to this earth. It makes us think that, “I am the body and not my soul,” and these are the problems of spirituality. Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning—yes, it is necessary.
I know some babies or children—when they are bathed, they look at the soap suds and say, “How black it is!” because they had been playing in the mud. But adults don’t look at themselves to see how much dirt has been washed off. It’s going. We don’t look at the dirt. We look at the cleanliness and say, “Oh, I am so clean!” It is not the same thing; one is negative, one is positive; one is critical, the other is hopeful. One looks for and finds dirt; the other finds and keeps health, cleanliness, happiness. See, these are our, what shall we say, treasures in life: health, wisdom, contentment, (not satisfaction, contentment).Satisfaction is with something; contentment is a state of the soul. I am where I am. I am what I am. I am who I am. And I am content to be all this.
So I can only pray that you will all retain your steam power of the soul, which is what hope means, you see. When we go on a train journey, we are really hoping that we will get to our destination, especially in countries like India where a train can break down. You saw just now in that play how the train broke down, how the car in which the Master was going broke down, et cetera. But when there is hope, even if the train breaks down it becomes a very acceptable part of our adventure of life. So we don’t sit and brood, and curse railways, and curse India, and curse yourself. You go out, knowing that there are three hours before the train can go, look into a new city, meet new people, help them, with a smile and a whistle on your lips, and the train will not leave until you go back. So this is what we should do, you see.
As Babuji Maharaj said, in nature there are no accidents. The unplanned is what we call an accident. What we don’t plan is God’s planning; and what we plan is our plan, which very often fails. Our plans fail because God says, “It is my plan which must work because it is for your good.” “No, no, but I want to go to Kuala Lumpur.” You would catch a car and it will stop somewhere. You will change your car; it will burst a tyre. The third car will take you five kilometres more, and a policeman will stop you and say, “Where is your licence? This is not your car,” and take out two hours of your time. Eventually you wonder why you left Hawana to go to Kher. So, at the sign of obstruction the wise man stops, the fool persists, the intelligent thinks he can solve the problem, and so on and so forth, you see. But in my experience of life, when there is an obstruction it means stop, meditate, and then decide what you have to do—even a temporal obstruction like a delayed flight.
You know, one of the most powerful, most elevating and yet the shortest sittings I got was from my Master in Copenhagen airport, the sitting lasting hardly half a minute. Great things are done in small lengths of time. You may take two days to manufacture a car in an assembly process; it may take six months for rice to grow in a field, isn’t it? But nature’s work is always short; man’s work is always long. Because ours is artificial; that is natural. So when we allow things to take a natural shape, we wait. If you are cooking rice, you know it will take eight, nine minutes to cook. You can’t speed up the progress. Pressure cooker, yes—still it will take time, and if you are not careful you will end up with kanji [rice porridge] and not rice. It goes for spaghetti, for pasta, anything you see—al dente, shorter time; good cooking, a little longer time. So time is a measure of how long an event will take. We are as youth, with hearts of youth, with hearts full of love and hope. We don’t measure our progress by time. Only a man who has no time measures everything by time. “Oh, I have only ten minutes more,”—for what? But if I know that my soul is eternal, and by the grace of the Creator the soul has no progress (it is, it was, it will always be), then what are we talking about? So the wise abhyasi says, “I have always been what I am and that is what I should have been always.”
So even spirituality becomes some sort of a game, a pleasurable game, a game of obedience—a game of obedience where the obedience is happy, joyful, knowing that I am obeying somebody who is caring for me, who is holding my hand wherever He goes. And like those footsteps on sand, you know—you all know that when the abhyasi asks, “Where are your footsteps? Why am I alone?” God answers, “My son, those are my footsteps. Those were the difficult places where I literally carried you in my arms.”
So, you see, when we have such a person who looks after us always, everywhere, at all times, all that we do is like what a child does in its home: it runs around, it splashes in the water, it spills coffee. And the mother is always happy, knowing that it is an expression of the baby’s yet evolving life. But if her husband does it, she will be very angry, because he doesn’t do it from a youthful or childish heart. He does it from carelessness, from inattention, perhaps even deliberately to make his wife angry, you see.
But if you are there, if you are where you should have been all your life, in your inner Self, what the body does is of no consequence. It does what it has to, like a preset machine. It goes through the movements of life—getting up, bathing, eating, going to bed, sleeping, then getting up again. It becomes a routine of life. The soul presides, presets everything, and relaxes, because the soul’s life is one of non-activity. It is the body which has to act. And if the soul is careful, alert, it knows how to guide the body. And that is what is real alertness. It is not mental alertness, it is not intellectual alertness; it is a divine alertness which is always alert—no time when the switch is off. And that soul which has the soul of the Almighty itself within it (that is what pranasya prana [life of life] means), you have His alertness added to your alertness, and such a life is blessed.
I pray that all of you may have such a life. You will have to work for it, but if you are conscious that it is always there, available, you will progress very speedily, and that is my hope.