Dare to Think
by Chariji, September 28, 2009, Kharagpur, India.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am happy to see all of you here on this very long awaited day of inauguration of this facility called CREST [Centre for Research, Education, Sadhana and Training]. We have a CREST already in Bangalore; this is CREST number two, and I think that will be all. Only two CRESTs for the foreseeable future.
These institutions have been created by the Sahaj Marg Spirituality Foundation which, as some of you may know, is hardly six, seven years old, and it has been vested with the purpose of not only carrying on the spiritual work of the spiritual hierarchy represented by Babuji Maharaj, but also to, shall we say, participate in other schemes like education of children, health, and so on and so forth. The CREST institutions have been equipped with, at the moment, rudimentary libraries. It will need much more money and time to equip them to my satisfaction.
We have now so far in CREST-Bangalore, dealt with education of abhyasis in batches of up to forty, fifty, with a faculty drawn from within the Mission itself, lecturing and interacting on subjects like the religions of the world, their relationship to each other, what roles they play in their various societies which can be considered legitimate, and what roles do they play in other societies (which perhaps can be considered an intrusion into the privacy of societies other than in their own); and going a little deeper into the roots of the Sanatana Dharma which we popularly call Hindu religion; a little, shall we say, introductory exposure to our sacred literature called the Vedas and the Upanishads — not so much of the Puranas.
That is the broad outline for CREST, Bangalore. Here the intention is to do all that at a less… shall we say, more subdued level; not giving so much importance to the scholastic or the cultural aspect of religion and the Vedas and all this sort of thing, but more emphasis on the need for ethics, morality, balance between the inner and the outer selves of a human being, until there is only one self. Will it be ever possible to say there is only one self in a human being, or are we to deal again and again with the old Greek mythology of the persona, which we all wear at different occasions as it suits the need of the hour, or the need of our fears to protect ourselves? — because a persona is essentially a mask. Are we covering ourselves all the time with different personae: a father with his son, a husband with his wife, a student with his teacher, and so on and so forth, soldier with his commanders? Are we fooling ourselves? — because once we adopt so many personalities, are we not confusing ourselves into thinking whatever we may think: I am this or I am this or I am this?
You know there are people who have been used to commanding, and you hear frequently their wives saying, “He is a commander on the field and he is also a commander at home. He barks his orders.” “Bring on the soup!” to his wife; things like that, you see. So do we develop one supervening personality, or do we suffer from a multiplicity of personalities and have to be hospitalized?
So will we ever achieve this goal of saying, “I am one person”? — meaning this person is everything that he is to everybody that he sees, from man to plant to animals to God. Why should we be different when behaving or interacting with human beings, grovelling before some, going on our knees before some, booting others? And, of course, before God we are all grovellers, beggars. As Babuji said, prayer is begging. That can be achieved only by delving rather deep into the subject of what makes us adopt, perhaps naturally, perhaps by education, by society, by choice, the various personalities that we manifest in our day-to-day existence. Is it fear? I suspect it is largely fear. Because even the idea to appear as something which you are not, comes out of the fear that you may reveal yourself to be what you are.
It was my intention to begin this inaugural series of lectures with lectures on the Gita, because, for me, it is the most important text. And I have been advising abhyasis: don’t worry about Vedas and Upanishads and all that. That can come later when you have time and inclination and ability. But read the Gita — one chapter every day. Of course like everything else, like a see-saw, it has its own see-saw, inner see-saw, because it seems that Lord Krishna talks of so many things at the same time; and at the same time he gives orders to Arjuna, and he says, “No, no, whether to obey or not is your responsibility.” And when Arjuna says, “Should I do it?” he says, “That’s your problem. You are here to win the war. If you want to win the war, well, you have to do it.”
I believe that some of these ideas which have struck the Western readers have made them criticize the Gita, and especially Lord Krishna, as a warmonger. They say, “Lord Krishna is a warmonger. The Hindus are not pacific; they are a warmongering nation. Their God is egging them on to violence. Just look at the Gita — ‘Kill, kill, kill.’ And he, their God, is preaching!”
So you know, this is a question that needs to be asked by each one of us: “What exactly is the Gitacharya [Lord Krishna] trying to say? Am I convinced that what he is telling me is what I should listen to; more importantly, what I should obey?” Because sometimes it is frustrating when Krishna just smiles and says, “Your problem.” We don’t expect that even from our parents. When a boy is going for an examination — “Dad, do you think I will do well?” he says, “Well, son, that is your problem.” We don’t expect it from our fathers and mothers; much less we should expect it from our god, the god of the Sanatana Dharma, the god of this yuga, so called, Kaliyuga [the present eon]. If he is just going to play word games with us on a very real battlefield which is each person’s life…
I mean, should I live a normal human existence and follow my instincts? Or should I try to go a little above these things, become a little more than the animal and the bird and the fish? Or am I going into some sort of, you know, morass from which I will never be able to raise myself up, to be reborn again into this mess of once more having to study the Gita and the Upanishads, the so-called prasthaanatraya [the three fundamental texts of Hinduism], the Brahma Sutra? And to be told again and again, “This thou art, That you must be; in between is your life. I am only your charioteer. You tell me to drive there, I drive there. You [say] drive here; [I] drive here. I am a par excellence charioteer (saarathi). As for the nature of your decisions, their possible effect on morality and ethics, you are the doer.”
Of course there are ways of satisfying yourself that it is not ‘all that bad’, but I will leave it to the scholars to analyze — even the question of whether what I am saying now, I am entitled to say or not. I wish some scholar would say, “Parthasarathi, you are a damn fool. You are an ass. You don’t know the first thing about Lord Krishna and the Gita.” Yes, but I will ask him, you see, two big questions: one which is against the grain of modern education, that all my work, my efforts, my sweat belong to me and the fruit of that labour is His — maa phaleshu kadaachana. Is that right? If my employer said it, “You do your work, I will reward you. To reward you is my job,” I will first say, “How much? How much salary? How much bonus? How much overtime?”
You know, even people who are earning lakhs of rupees a month, like pilots, are fighting for more and more money. Army people, generals, major generals — they are fighting for more and more money. People who wouldn’t earn three hundred rupees twenty years ago, are earning sixty thousand rupees a month now. It’s supposed to be a low level salary, not a high end. Is that valid? Has God a right to say, “You work, [chuckles] don’t think of the fruit.” Of course I have my own answer. But I want you all to think over this, because we have to think. Otherwise we are just animals dumbly following a leader — what is called blind obedience, blind faith; you know, what we call moodha bhakti in Sanskrit — like a herd of sheep following the bellwether. Do we want to be that or do we want to get into a spirit of inquiry? That’s one question: maa phaleshu kadaachana. There are so many like that in the Gita.
So unfortunately, you know, when I went through this in my mind, (because I had expected to speak first, not to talk with any degree of erudition about the Gita but to expose my own problems vis-à-vis Lord Krishna), I wanted fifteen or sixteen others to come and talk about the Gita from various angles, from various perspectives. But I was somewhat intimidated by the dimension, the vastness, the enormity and the possible, shall we say, insolence against Divinity itself, so that I abandoned it, and so today we are here. Though I am speaking about it partly, I hope we will be able to bring this out from the temporary tomb into which I have consigned that subject, and tackle it bravely. Because it has been one of my convictions that unless we dare to think about God, about religion, about its relationship to us in our life, are we leading our life of freedom as religion promises, as yoga promises? Or are we slaves, just changing as slave from a coal mining slave to an iron factory slave to a corporate slave master to the ultimate slave master of all, our god? It may suit the billions and billions of this planet but not the few who have the temerity, like me, to question this idea.
Am I going to be, or should I be, like what they say in the Latin aude sapere (dare to think)? — even about God. Because when you see the scheme of the dashaavatara (the ten avataras), we see how there has been an evolution even in the presentation of Divinity in this world. And rishis [seers] were there at all times. Rishis were there; chakravartis [emperors] were there when the Lord appeared as Matsya, a fish. They were there when he was Kurma. They were still there when he was Varaha, Narasimha, all that you see. But now in the age of Krishna himself (Kaliyuga), I don’t see rishis and munis [saints]. Where are they, if they are there? Are they deliberately hiding themselves? Or are they kept covered for people to find?
Knock and it shall be opened unto thee. Ask and it shall be given to thee. So what is this religion that puts — I mean I am talking about Christianity there you know, (very much the same) — what is it that insists that I should ask before I am given, or I should look before I am shown? Or I should seek before I can find? There are, you know, contradictory stories (may be Puranic [pertaining to the Puranas or mythological], may be grandmother’s tales), about a rishi and his patni [wife] who did tapasya [penance], and whose food dropped from heaven every afternoon on their laps. They did not ask, they did not find, they did not seek. So what is this that we are all talking about here: about religion, about morality, about ethics, about God, about bhakta [devotee]?
So I would like all of you to get involved in this examination of your own belief system vis-à-vis the reality of whatever it should be or is or has been, and come prepared to discuss this, speak about it bravely, openly, and that way make this institution deserve its existence. This is what it was built for, and this is how it must be used. It is no use coming and talking here and saying, “Lord Krishna is great; shankha-chakra-gadaa-dhaari [the one who holds the conch-wheel-mace],” and all this nonsense. Mere mythology. I mean I am being deliberately profane to incite you into thought. You understand?
So that is what I want the future to be something here, audacious. Audacious only means brave. Aude sapere — dare to think. And because we are able to think, we are called Homo sapiens sapiens, the thinking animal. No other animal in creation thinks. We think, but are we thinking in the right way? Is there a moral way of thinking, because thought is the root of action? Can you say immoral thought, immoral action, immoral result? Or is it enough if I think of God and claim that my thinking is moral because I am only thinking of God, reading about God, bhajans [devotional songs], seva mandals [service organizations]?
It’s a very wide spectrum of subjects. And of course I expect our scholarly people who are well read, who are also professors, who are also inquirers into the truth (jijnaasus) — I expect them to show their bravery, boldness in how they deal with us here. And not whitewash. India has been whitewashed for too many centuries, eons of time. You know I don’t want any more whitewashing, because if our society is to rise out of its slavery to God and religion, into the bhakt, bhakta [devotee] — instead of beggars from God we should become lovers of God — this approach is a must, according to me.
So I pray that all of you will take up this subject seriously. It’s not a question of you becoming students or professors, just [like that]. Like suppose you want to go to Calcutta, you require the road map, telephone and find out if the road map is current, if any of the road is blocked, et cetera, et cetera, you see.
And the biggest question of all, of course, that also seems to have an answer: Can God be partisan? It’s very much apparent in the Mahabharata, as it is in the religion of the Jews, where God seems to think that He is there only for the Jews; the Jews are His chosen people, and yet He keeps persecuting them, has been persecuting them throughout the ages, unto even today. It is like a very devoted, loving husband who boots his wife around everyday. “You are my chosen wife. I love you.” “But Lord, why do you deal with me like this? Why do you send me out of Egypt into Canaan, and wherever else? Why even today I am persecuted?” “And the Lord God said…” (We don’t hear the rest).
So you see this aspect also: Can God have favourites, be partisan? Can He favour one against the other, and just take the excuse that they are in the right and they are in the wrong, so I have to side with the right? And there is this implied… or I don’t know whether it’s a mere tale… when he himself [Lord Krishna] takes up a shastra [weapon] and Arjuna says, “Please, you have vowed not to touch a weapon in this war [and be] only my saarathi.” Can God lose his temper?
I don’t want to continue further. I will leave it at that, and I hope I will be here to hear the first series of lectures. And I hope they will delight me for their boldness, for their inquiry into the truth, which shows that the soul is a real aspiring soul.