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Right Behaviour—the True Culture

by Chariji, September 30, 2006, Chennai, India.

 My dear young-folks of Sahaj Marg, and the not-so-young, and myself,

We have to live life in such a way that the physical age of the body should not matter. The spirit, the soul, the heart—it never ages. But if you have not lived life properly, you will find that even before you are forty, you are seventy. The heart has grown old; it has taken the pummelling of the world. You know what is ‘pummelling’? That is why, in English we say, “Don’t take everything to heart.” You know, our languages are very beautiful. They reflect a wisdom which is not just the wisdom of the words. ‘Don’t take it to heart’ means don’t allow it to affect your heart.

You know, I have said so many times that human beings are described by their hearts. “That boy has a golden heart.” “He is cold-hearted.” “She is warm-hearted.” “He has a loving heart.” Nobody describes you, unless you are a cinema star, by your measurements. It is always the heart. And when you come to the modern world of success, whether it is corporate success, or success on the stage or the silver-screen as it used to be called, there is no mention of the heart at all. Today you are described by your bank balance. “He is worth fifty-eight billion dollars. The number-two richest is worth thirty-six billion,” and so on.

Yesterday somebody sent me an attachment by email which says, “So many rupees [earned] per minute.” There are only four or five people who are named there. And then it says, “Don’t start computing your income in this way, because new currency will have to be created to describe your salary per minute.” Why I am saying this is, life is not to be measured by the years we live. A life must be measured by what has been achieved in that life. You know, it is said that Adi Shankara lived only thirty-two years or something like that. And in those thirty-two years, he walked right around India. Some of us don’t even go around our house once in thirty-two years because we are too busy. He did all that. He wrote a lot. He established the four mutts [monasteries]—all before thirty-two.

Vivekananda, another great figure, nearer to our time—he also walked all over India. It is called the life of a parivraajakaa [travelling mendicant]. But we can’t walk from here to the bus-stand—one kilometre! And you see that old fellow in a luxurious cart, called a golf-cart. He can’t even go around the ashram! But if your achievement is only walking, that is not enough because there are marathon walkers who walk, I think, every year, hundreds of kilometres, hundreds of miles. They [Shankara, Vivekananda] also did great things spiritually. Shankara would not have been known only for walking around India. Most of our ancestors, if we are to believe them, have walked from villages all over India to Badrinath—not a mean feat. From Tuticorin, from Kanyakumari, from Thanjavur, from Mumbai, from Kolkata—name it, they have gone from there to Badrinath. Some returned, many did not return. They are not named in history, because that was an achievement of a different sort.

We must be able to, as Babuji said, leave the world at least as good as you found it when you entered it, if you cannot make it a better place when you leave. That applies to your ashram, to your bedroom, to your classroom. Is my classroom at least as clean as when I came in, or have I been throwing chocolate wrappers, peanut packets, kooda [trash], and saying, “Somebody will come and sweep it up”? If, in our lives, every individual has this principle at heart that “where I pass through, I must leave it as clean as I came, if I cannot leave it better,” our world would be a very clean and beautiful place.

Now you see people spitting from buses, through the window. I remember once, a motorcyclist got a chest-full of paan [betel leaf]. He chased the bus, stopped it, caught hold of the man who spat on him, and gave him hell. Others said, “He only spit…” “What do you mean ‘he spit’? Look at my shirt!” And it is not the shirt. When you spit, it is something else. So, are we conscious? Or, in our selfishness, in our own lack of care, for our own comfort, are we doing things which will disturb others? Are we sitting in a chair when an old man is standing? Are we using the bathroom for eighty minutes in the morning, when there is a big queue? Are we, like most people, standing at the wash basin and watching ourselves brush, letting the water run? God has given us two hands—one to open and close the tap, the other to brush our teeth. Do we use the second hand at all? We use second-hand things, but not our second hand? Most important, do you look at the second-hand of your watch?

I believe most Indians only look at the date on a calendar. “I am supposed to be there on the 23rd.” “What time?” “No, no, he is my friend...”—which means, I don’t have to be punctual. I don’t have to look at the watch. I can go when I like. Do we respect our friend by being there at the time that we said we will be there? Punctuality is a sign of respect for others. They are waiting. Am I conscious that in wasting my time, I am also wasting his? If you are a fool, you can waste your time. Nobody bothers. But do you have the right to waste another man’s time? Do you have the right to come to the ashram and load your plate with food and, afterwards, throw it away? Do you have the right to waste water in a scarcity like it is in Madras? You cannot say, “Oh, I am only one. What happens if I don’t waste this? It is not going to give water to the whole of Madras city.” But it will, if everybody recognized that every drop of water that they waste, is a drop of water that is wasted.

So you see, as youth you have enormous responsibilities. The first responsibility is to learn how to conduct life—your life. The second responsibility is to know what is discipline. Discipline means conducting my life without interfering and spoiling other people’s lives. If I’m eating a banana on the third floor of B Block, and throwing the peel out of the window, is it right? Such considerations must apply to your lives. Most importantly, think of others before you think of yourself. “I have already eaten three chappathis. Do I need one more?” “No, no, sir. It is all free here.” That is not the consideration. If you need it, take it. If you don’t, leave it. That is concern for the other person. Leaving the room clean when you leave, leaving the dormitory clean after this party is over, is a concern for the next man who will come here, the next group which will come here. “No, no, sir. When they come they will clean it…” Not allowed! You understand?

So the sum and substance of culture—it is not Hinduism, it is not Christianity, it is not Islam—it is how you behave. That is true culture. And behaviour comes more out of concern for others than concern for yourself. It doesn’t matter that I have to sleep on the ground if others can be comfortable. I am young, I can stand; let the old people sit. Even whether you are in a bus or in a plane, or anywhere, you see. Let another go first before you try to make your way, push your way through.

So I hope you have understood that true culture is a human culture, which says, “Learn all the essentials of life to apply them in your own life.” Don’t preach to others. Don’t tell another man to tell the truth; you tell the truth. Don’t tell your father, “You are cheating in your income tax.” You don’t cheat. Don’t tell your brother who is a paan-chewer, “Don’t spit out of the window.” You stop spitting, anywhere. Spitting is an uncultured, monkey act. After applying these principles, remember that the other is more important than yourself, always, in every walk of life.

So this is my advice to all of you, young and others not-so-young who are here. Because the time for learning is there always. The time to apply the right principles to your own life is always. Because there is always something that we have not done that we should do, and something which we should not do that we have been doing—both. “Sir, I have been smoking for thirty years.” Give it up! “But thirty years I have been smoking…” So what? You have smoked enough. Stop! Cut. Understand?

So, do what should be done, give up what should not be done. That way is the way to harmony, spiritual growth, and what little of material success you have brought with you as your samskara. May Master bless you all.