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The Land with Potential
A talk given by Shri Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari
Dear brothers and sisters: From the beginning, my beginning in 1964, Andhra Pradesh has always had the maximum number of abhyasis and the maximum number of ashrams in India. I have seen this, I have heard it, and I am happy to see that it is growing. When I joined the Mission, I think two-thirds of the number of abhyasis in India were all in Andhra Pradesh. [Applause] Of course it is good that other areas are developing, like Tamilnadu, Kerala, Punjab, where significant growth is being recorded, but still Andhra Pradesh leads. In what is going to be a marathon race over the next few centuries, we will see how it goes.
There have been, of course, problems in Andhra Pradesh, one being the problem of moodha bhakti - blind faith, which Babuji used to quite silently, in his own way, deplore. We have all seen him visit Hyderabad, Vijayawada, where hundreds of people would come and touch his feet and go away - hundreds. Of course, he was physically tired, he was upset, but most of all he was sad that people of this land, Andhra Pradesh, still had not learned to discriminate between what is good and what appears to be good. They have not understood the distinction between what is effective and what has only, shall we say, the permission of usage, long usage, tradition, culture, religion. They have not understood that something which was practised over the last several centuries need not be good just because it is old. All that is old is not gold.
See, most of these proverbs have to be taken with a great deal of salt, not just a pinch of salt. 'Old is gold', 'a bird in hand is worth two in the bush'. Americans would laugh and say, "I would rather go for the two in the bush, rather than hold on to the one in my hand." That is how America develops, you see. America is the land where they build a new chemical plant for, say, hundred million dollars. By the time they build it, it is obsolete. They just throw it away and start building the next one. They don't fear to lose what they have, because they are sure of getting something better in exchange. We hold on to what we have: our traditions, our culture, our old practices, prachin paddhati [ancient rituals], we call it, prachin sanskriti [ancient culture]. But at the same time you have this funny, shall we say, modern development, that human beings must not be old; old people are not required anymore. Old people are not respected, old people are not even listened to; they are put away in what they call politely, holiday homes, homes for the aged et cetera.
So you see there is a dichotomy in our nature, human nature, where we are afraid to give up when we know that without giving up, we cannot receive what is new. India is the great land where marriage demands that a bride walk out of her house. Yesterday, she was still the loved daughter in the house, safe, protected. This morning a total stranger comes and a few hours later, she has to go home, go away to his home. At least our women should be sensible and know that to acquire a new status, the old status has to be given up, that something which is valuable if it is outside, you have to give up something which is valuable or you thought was valuable here.
We should have the courage to examine what we have been doing with our bell ringing and our chanting and our shouting to the high heavens, which Babuji said was spoiling the peace of God. This is all we still hear in India: clanging of bells, loud chanting, Har Har Mahadev, things like that. And we think this is holiness, this is culture, this is what is going to take us to the higher world. Far from it! We still cling to the songs and traditions of so-called saints. I do not want to name them. Just because a man sings about God does not mean he is a saint. Just because a man writes about sex does not mean he is a bad man. Doctors write about sex. The great Vatsyayana was a sage who wrote about sex, the Kama Sutra which is famous throughout the world, but certainly he was not a womaniser. And if you say "Fire", it will not burn your mouth. Similarly if you say "Shiva", it is not going to take you to Shiva. Or if you say "Narayana", it is not going to take you to Narayana. As Kabir says, "If you say 'sugar', will you taste the sweetness in your mouth?" You have to eat sugar to taste the sweetness in your mouth.
Our land is a land of belief, not backed by doing anything to express that belief. "No, no, sir. I believe in God." Which God? Does He accept that you believe in Him? "No, no, sir. He knows everything." Then He surely knows that you are not believing in God. That you are only expressing like a crow what your father expressed, what your grandfather expressed, what your great-grandfather expressed - thalamurai [generation] after thalamurai, in Tamil we say. You go on crowing the same nonsense from the same rooftops, housetops and expect to be trusted as holy, God-fearing - which is an abhorrent term. We should not fear God; we should love God.
So you see, this state has to progress a long, long way. Unfortunately for this state, there are very great and well-renowned, so-called holy places. Your Chief Minister may be happy because they yield a lot of revenue. But it comes from you people; you are contributing to that revenue. Your moodha bhakti is contributing to that revenue; criminality is contributing to that revenue. Everybody knows that big chunks of money are put into the hundis [collection boxes] of those famous kshetras, divya kshetras [divine places] as you call them, to escape the tax debt. Can religion grow rich on criminality, or vice or corruption? Should not religion be a cleaning factor? Should it not be ennobling; something which gives you a new value of life, enriches your moral views, makes you compassionate, makes you loving? On the contrary, here thieves and daakus get away with the idea that if they make ten crores and they put fifty lakhs in the temple, their book of accounts - their moral account - is balanced. We are still behaving like many of the old, primitive religions where you give God His share and you can walk away with your share, in whatever way you may have acquired it!
Our preceptors have to first give up their own religious bias. Reddys must remove the name Reddy from their name. Naidus must remove the name Naidu from their name. Give up everything to do with caste, creed, religion. If they are wearing caste marks on their forehead, they should immediately wipe it off. They don't set examples - my preceptors, most of them. That is the problem with Sahaj Marg. That is why our abhyasis still say, "What to do, sir? But your preceptor is still doing it. In his house there is a big picture of Sai Baba, or of So-and-so or So-and-so, you know. "Aaina kooda simhachalam vellipoyaru ippudu." ["He has gone to the temple now."] "Why is he not here?" "Simhachalam, sir," or any other achalam [temple], you see.
So, Andhra Pradesh is not the only part of India which is suffering from this great drag that culture, tradition, religion and language impose on a people. It is prevalent in England; it is prevalent in Ireland, in Scotland - everywhere in the world. But that is their problem. What about our problem here? Who is going to solve it if you are not going to solve it yourself? There is no use saying, "No, no sir, these white people, they are the most advanced. But they also go to church immediately after doing satsangh." That is their problem. That they are intelligent does not mean that they cannot be foolish. They can be intelligently foolish, which is much worse than being foolishly foolish. At least the fool has the benefit of being a fool and not knowing. So Christ said, "God, forgive them for they know not what they do." He did not say, "God, forgive them for knowing what they should not do - yet they do it." He never said that. Great guy, Jesus! We have a right to be ignorant, but not to remain ignorant. We have a right to be sick but not to remain sick. We have a right to be miserable occasionally, but not to remain miserable which is what depression is - all the Prozac in the world that is selling. Pharmaceutical industries are burgeoning, blooming, blossoming. People are stupid; they continue to take Prozac by the sack-full. That is the wisdom of the West. But we are willing to copy it.
And unfortunately, when I go to the U.S., I find more and more temples being constructed there by devotees [laughs] who go there only to earn money but export all our so-called virtuous elements of society. Temples in America! Unfortunately, these so-called freedoms you know, freedom of expression, freedom of worship - they are very handy in the hands of useless people who have too much money, and who are also getting rid of their guilty wealth in building temples all over the world. It is better if they build toilets in India, which we need badly. I urge all Telegu millionaires living in America to build good toilets along our highways, in our airports, in our cities; it will clean up our country. Instead of that they build another Venkatachalapathy temple in Houston, another one in Timbuctoo, another one in Toronto. What for? It is not money wisely spent, because anything which is spent uselessly cannot be wise.
So you see, our people, even when they go abroad, remain as stupid as they are here. That they make money out of software and hardware does not prove that they are really intelligent. Isn't it? Where is the wisdom? So I urge all our Indians living abroad - donate for specific purposes: better roads. Most of all, what we need in India is toilets! I mean, you just have to walk into a toilet in India, any toilet, anywhere, to see the shameful condition in which our hygienic needs are met - any toilet, anywhere in India. I feel ashamed as an Indian.
There was a time when people refused to go to Bombay because when they drove from Bombay airport into the city, the first eight miles was all bare bottoms in the morning. It was scandalous, shameful! And an exposition of our public shame. The government of Maharashtra did very little to correct it for the first twenty-five years.
I remember a joke; I don't think it is out of place. When Nehru was visiting the Soviet Union, and when the Soviet leaders had come to India, they had been very critical. Wherever they went, they saw bare bottoms. Morning, bare bottoms; afternoon, bare bottoms; evening, bare bottoms. And they were laughing away. And Nehru was quite upset. He didn't know why they were laughing, but he knew they were laughing at him and at his India, the great land of India. The Secret Service people finally told him in Hindi, "This is the problem, boss. What to do?" He said, "Why don't you stop this?" They said, "How to stop it? There are hundreds of thousands of people exposing their bottoms every morning, afternoon and evening. You can't stop it just like that." So when he was driving from Moscow airport into the city, into the Kremlin part of it, he saw in the distance a man sitting in the field. He said, "Stop! Stop! Stop!" Bulganin and Kruschev were with him. They said, "Mr. Prime Minister, what...?" He said, "Stop!" He was very angry; Nehru was a very peremptory, angry man. The whole cavalcade came to a stop. And he said, "Look there! What is happening?" Bulganin looked, Kruschev looked, and you know the Russian way, [makes a brusque, 'military' gesture] the Secret Service all went scrambling, helter-skelter, to find out what was wrong. After ten minutes, they came back and whispered something into Kruschev's ear. Kruschev smiled and said, "Move." Nehru said, "Stop. This will not move until I get an explanation. You were so critical about India. What is happening there?" Bulganin said, "Mr. Prime Minister, ignore it!" "I refuse!" Nehru said, "I will not move from here. Bring that man!" "No, I don't want to bring him. Mr. Prime Minister, don't get into this too much. It is not good." Finally they had to reveal the fact that it was the Indian ambassador in Moscow! [Laughter] You know, this sort of joke - our people listen to it. But then they say, "Sir, in the fresh air, in the fields, you don't know what relief we get Alaage [just like that]."
We have to start cleaning this country from the bottom up, literally and in every way. It is easy for people to say, "Bottoms up," when they drink. This is what I would urge the Andhra people to spend their money on; stop building temples, start building toilets. Both begin with a 'T'. Give up crude worship, give up crude beliefs; take to meditation, stick to meditation. Preceptors must go in the lead in this matter, otherwise they are not being true to their salt. Namak haraam, they say in Hindi, which is the same thing, you see. We are not true to the salt that we consume if we still preach something and practise something else.
So this Andhra - while it is co-operative, it co-operates in one way but totally opposes all growth, especially spiritual growth, spiritual evolution, by its insistence on the past and its practices. That is one aspect which has to be emphasised again and again, so that this spirit of hope, of revival which Andhra needs, which I see manifested in the increasing numbers in our centres, will continue to flourish in an open way. You know, otherwise it is like a bud which appears - only to be found that it has rotted away without ever opening and flowering. Here the rose plant is there, the thorns are there, very much in evidence, the buds appear but they are just corrupted and eaten away from inside. They shrivel up - no rose! I hope you people will take to heart instead of just feeling angry and saying, "Oh, this fellow always talks like this." He will always talk like this so long as he always has to talk like this, and there is no other way of talking. It is for your good.
Temples are good - let them make them into museums. We don't revile temple worship; we only say it is not effective. We have tried it for centuries, millennia. Where has it led us? Into deeper and deeper corruption, into today's situation in India where religion, politics and criminality are hand in hand and the people of India have no choice except to go back to those same temples and say, "Daya cheyandi Devuda." ["Bless me with your grace, God."]. And that Devuda [God] says, "Where? Whom? When have you approached Me?" And you say, "But I am coming to the temple every morning." God says, "Are you not showing your disbelief in My eternal existence, in My omnipotence, in My omnipresence, by coming here to worship? If you believed I was everywhere, would you not look for me in your own home? Do you need to come here?" "No, no, sir, I go to the post-office to post a letter. I go to the toilet for some functions. I go to the restaurant to eat. So my father said, 'If you want to worship, go to the temple'." He says, "Don't confuse between man-made institutions and divine institutions. The Divine Institution is everywhere. If I am everywhere, I am in your heart, too. Why don't you look for Me inside yourself rather than outside?" But this message we hear everywhere, we hear every day, we hear ad nauseam, but it goes in one ear and comes out the other ear. "What did he say?" "Wonderful things, sir." "What did he say?" "Like money in my pockets, he said you have God in your heart." He never said it. Money in your pocket can be taken away. God in your heart cannot be taken out. He cannot be robbed; you cannot be dispossessed.
So you see, our Andhra Pradesh, wonderful land that it is I was told originally it was to be called Vishala [Grand] Andhra; now today I was told it is going to be called Bangaru [Golden] Andhra... What is it? [Turning to the people sitting nearby] Swarna [Golden] Andhra. Swarnam [gold] - Okay, but it will not take you there [pointing upward]. It is good for putting on idols, in your pocket, but not in your heart. Kabir has said, "Water getting into a boat and money getting into a house are both extremely dangerous." Water in a boat will sink it; money in a house will destroy it. So he said, "As fast as you bail out water which is coming in through a leak in a boat, just as fast, get rid of your wealth" - otherwise you will destroy yourself. Our modern culture, our modern education is all geared, is all oriented towards more and more wealth, more and more importance, more and more visible signs of our wealth - ostentatious living, bigger cars, bigger flats, two of each if possible - all to the detriment of what is inside us. We lose our humanity, we lose our ability to empathise and sympathise. We have lost our idea of feeling.
Today you can sit near a man who is dying, and you don't know that he is dying. A man can sit in his own home and not see that his wife is sick or his mother is sick, because the capacity for a different type of vision has been lost. We are only seeing with our eyes what is outside. "He is rich, I must be rich." "She is beautiful, I must have a wife like her; if possible, her." This is the way the human mind is working now. "They are white, I must be white" - so more cosmetics. But they are also foolish. Should I also be foolish? "Sir, at least they have the benefit of being beautifully foolish." I have heard this. As if beauty can wipe out all the foolishness of foolishness, all the sickness of sickness, all the corruption of corruption. Sahaj Marg preaches simplicity, not beauty - simplicity, truth and love, knowing that the simple is ever beautiful whereas the beautiful may never remain beautiful; it is beautiful today, it is gone tomorrow. The fresh, lovely face of today is the wrinkled face of tomorrow, the blighted face of day after tomorrow, the dead face of next week. The rich man of today is the poor man of tomorrow.
Some of our abhyasis were so foolish that they went on a spree in the stock market. Some lost even a million dollars, two million dollars, and of course they salve their conscience and try to fool me by saying, "Sir, we did it only so that we could give more money to the Mission." I said, "If you had given me the money you put on the stock-market, I would have built another ashram." A million dollars in India is four and a half crores of rupees. Calcutta ashram cost half that. But they would rather squander away a million dollars of hard-earned money for which they go into exile in a foreign land, rather than do what they can do with it before trying to multiply it and 'doing more good'. It's like a man who says, "I would do more good if I had more." But you haven't even started doing 'good' with what you have!
So you see, moralizing is no use; moralizing is only making bigger fools, bigger corruptors, bigger criminals. What we have to lead is a life of values. This is the land where Lord Krishna is supposed to have fed a multitude from one grain of rice in a vessel. You have the same tradition in Christianity - Jesus feeding the multitude with two loaves and five fishes. They didn't have millions of dollars. They didn't have big kitchens and cooks. They just kept on breaking it and it kept on going, so they couldn't finish the loaf of bread. The heart ensures that. Money ensures that you start with a thousand loaves and in India it is no use; it has hardly scratched the skin of the hungry people.
So which should we depend on? The seed that love will protect and love will make grow and which will make us capable of feeding multitudes? Or the wealth that is never enough, in any country? One disaster like the recent earthquake - you know what it cost in terms of life? They said thirty thousand but estimates put it at nearly seventy thousand dead. What is going to replace those seventy thousand people who died? How are the people who lost their people in the earthquake going to be ever compensated for the loss of their loved ones? Will dollars do it? Will gold do it? Yet, we don't wake up! We have been having disaster after disaster, cataclysm of nature after cataclysm of nature - landslides, typhoons. Every year we have these typhoons, all bearing female names in the U.S. All they report is: "Twenty-seven billion dollars damage." They don't tell you how many people died. Or what was the misery caused. Because insurance does not want those facts revealed, because insurance is a big power in America - like health insurance runs the government of the U.S., more or less.
So you see, if you want the truth you have to find it here [pointing to the heart]. Not in newspapers, not in published reports, not outside - inside. And if you want the truth of your beliefs, look inside. "Am I doing right in following my forefathers in what they were doing?" - look here. You must love your parents, you must respect your parents, but never worship your parents. "No, no, sir, after all, my father he could not have done wrong." That is no argument!
So I come back to this wonderful Andhra Pradesh, a great lovely land full of potential for spiritual growth. Because all this shows an energy which is being improperly diverted, wrongly directed. All that it needs is a little change of direction, and this would be the land of spirituality. That is what we need. That is what you people need here. And I hope you will all, as Vivekananda kept repeating from the Vedas, arise, awake and rest not till the goal is achieved!