(Spoken on July 12, 1983 to the National Academy of Administration.)
On behalf of this holy ashram I have the joy of extending a cordial welcome to you all, and particularly respected Shastriji, the Director, who has taken a little time to come to this place and be amidst us as our honoured guest today.
It is well known that this reputed National Academy of Administration has the sublime ideal of mustering in forces to enable to construct or reconstruct the very pattern of Indian society, the Indian nation, in all its aspects. As we all know, an administrator or a person who participates in the capacity of administration of this country is a veritable participant in the welfare of the nation. This raises the question, “What is welfare?”
Perhaps this question is similar to the question “What is the culture of India?” that was raised just now by revered Shastriji, because the welfare of the country cannot be other than what is rooted in its culture. We cannot expect one kind of welfare while having another kind of culture which is not in harmony with it. The welfare of the country is vitally affiliated to its cultural background. That is the holy aura that the National Academy of Administration has shed ever since its inception, its founding, by the leaders of our nation. The Divine Life Society, the ashram established by Revered Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, is an ashram, and in its organisational pattern it is called a Society.
Now, if we are intending to consider this essential aspect – the relationship that is there, or that ought to be there, between institutions like the Academy of Administration and institutions like The Divine Life Society – it would also be that vital relation that obtains and has to obtain between life in its empirical expanse and life in its essential rootedness.
Inasmuch as the vital life of ours, our inward positioning in this world, cannot in any way be regarded as unrelated to our outer life, our inner private life cannot be dissociated from the public life that we are living. If it is true that the outer is in a way an expression of the inner or, rather, the inner is the guiding light of our outer life, if it is true that we cannot be something inside and something else outside, if life is a harmony between the inside and the outside of what we call existence, then there is a vital, significant and permanent relationship between institutions such as The Divine Life Society and institutions such as and similar to the National Academy of Administration.
“What does The Divine Life Society teach?” is a question which was raised by our Director Sahib. What is the message of The Divine Life Society? The Divine Life Society was founded by the great saint and sage Swami Sivananda to act as a representation of ways and means to implement human aspiration. I am deliberately using the phrase ‘human aspirations’, not necessarily ‘Indian aspirations’, and our Director Sahib asked why there should be this so-called bifurcation of the East and the West. The world has no such distinctions. This is perfectly true. Perhaps this planet Earth, this world, does not even know there is such a thing called the West or the East.
Yesterday in a leisurely mood I was thinking within my own self, “What is this east and west, what is this north and south?” Lakshmanjhula is to the east of Muni-ki-reti, but it is to the west of Devaprayag. It is to the south of Narendranagar, which is to the north of the mountain over there on which there is Neelkanth, the Siva temple. Now, which is to the east, which is to the west, which is to the north, and which is to the south? Is there such a thing called direction? This was a humorous idea that came to me yesterday. What do we mean when we say that this is east and that is west? India is west of Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, so to them we are Westerners. And we are Easterners to Europeans.
Well, this is a convenient jargon that people use for various practical purposes. Basically mankind, humanity, has a uniform aspiration. This was realised by stalwarts such as Swami Sivananda, and he was not the only stalwart that modern India produced. There were equally great giants that our recent century has produced: Sri Ramakrishna Parmahamsa, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Ramatirtha, Sri Aurobindo, Ramana Maharishi, and Mahatma Gandhi, to mention only a few.
The revival of the spirit of India, to which our Director Sahib referred, is the awakening of the Indian nation to its own heritage, which need not be called an ancient heritage. Just as we need not call ourselves Westerners or Easterners, there is no necessity to use the words ‘ancient’ and ‘modern’. Even that is a misnomer. It is an anachronism, really speaking, because what is modern now will be ancient after some centuries, and what we call ancient was recent for those who lived at the time. So there is no West and East, and there is also no ancient and modern. It is good in a way to free ourselves from these obsessional jargons of because they really do not exist. They are only convenient instruments we have created for the purpose of analysis historically, socially, politically, etc.
What does The Divine Life Society teach? What is its message? To repeat what I said, it is the message which was conveyed to mankind by these geniuses like Swami Sivananda. His message is similar to the message of Sri Aurobindo, of Ramana Maharishi, of the great seers who had insight into the very basic structural pattern, not merely of humanity but of all living beings.
I mentioned that there is no necessity to believe that there is such a thing called the East and the West. I also felt that there is no need to use words like ancient and modern. Also, in a very profound sense we may say there is no need to use terms like nationality, a type of belonging to a little region of the Earth of which, if the Earth were to be endowed with consciousness, it may not be aware of at all. Perhaps Earth, if we believe it has a consciousness of its own as an individuality, may not be aware that there are countries such as America, India, or those in Europe.
Which part of my body is a region? My body is constituted of little patches of the biological system, and if you choose to call parts of the body as legs, toes, fingers, nose, eyes, ears, well, you are free to do so, but nevertheless, the body as a biological psychic organism is not concerned with these names. So in the same way as East and West, ancient and modern are not essentially related to the basic facts of life, the concept of nationality is also not basic to human nature. We are not Indians or Americans or British; we are human beings, and the commonness of our aspiration is what should decide the way by which we can come together as an international community – not a segregated nationality, but an interconnected, pervasive human organisation. This is something very important to remember. We form an organisation called humanity, and are not merely Indians or Australians or Europeans. This is not the basic truth of human life. When we are born as children, come out from the womb of the mother, we are not Australians or Indians, but human beings. We are not rich, we are not poor, we are not emperors, we are not beggars. These ideas of belonging to a certain category socially, linguistically, etc., are introduced by the circumstances into which we get indoctrinated by people in the midst of whom we are born.
It was necessary, at least in the beginning of this twentieth century, to awaken mankind in two ways. If you know the facts of Indian history and the history of the world as a whole, the beginning of this twentieth century was passing through a sort of crisis. The forces of history seemed to work in a way in which somehow, for reasons not very clear even to investigative minds, the senses and the mind of man were forced in the direction of material comfort. There was the Industrial Revolution and a craving for satisfactions which can be called political, social, physical, or material, and there was a symptom of the stifling and extinguishing of the inner longings of man which somehow appear to be not there at all. There was a seeking for comfort. Materialistic forces – call them scientific, call them the forces of physics, chemistry and biology, and so on – seemed to emphasise an aspect of living which converted man into a kind of tool, a kind of means to an end which was comfort.
Materialism is the name that we give to a philosophy and doctrine which emphasises that life is impossible without dependence on externals. We are always hanging on something outside us. Now, this is contrary to what we call freedom. A total dependence on external factors, even if it is a comfortable gadget, cannot be regarded as anything contributory to the human individual. Freedom was completely lost in every sense – politically, socially, and even in family circles. The soul of humanity was on the brink of almost dying. The soul does not die, of course, but it was clouded. The sun does not become non-existent even when there is an eclipse; even when there is a thunderstorm and dark clouds hover in the sky and it appears the midday sun has gone completely, it has really not gone. The spirit of humanity’s longing was not dead because spirit cannot die. Yet it appears as if it was not there on account of the clouding of this inner light of the spirit of mankind by the desires which were materialistic and externally motivated.
There was a need, therefore, to rouse the spirit of mankind. Swami Sivananda and people of that kind were, no doubt, born in India, but their message was not only for Indians. It was a world consciousness that was surging forth to wake up the sleeping spirit of man and make him conscious of his universal destiny.
We belong to a family; it is true. Each one of us has a family of his own or her own. But notwithstanding the fact you have a family and there is another man’s family with which you are not really connected, you know as a citizen of a nation your family is connected to other families also. So though you are an Indian, a citizen of Bharatavarsha in the same way as you may belong to a family, yet you do not entirely belong to India. No person can entirely belong to a region of the Earth, in the same way as one cannot live a closeted life which is restricted merely to one’s own little family or community, ignoring its relationship with the entire national welfare.
In the same way, being born as an Indian is only a chance occurrence, we may say. Our being different from somebody else is a kind of historical necessity, but it is also an administrative convenience, we may say, as we have in the field of administration various locations or functions of responsibility allotted to various officials. The Collector has a jurisdiction over a single district and he has no connection with another district. Administratively, from the point of view of responsibility, he is concerned only with the welfare of his district. But he has a relationship with the welfare of other districts also in a deeper sense. A District Collector is concerned with the welfare of the whole nation in a deeper sense because he is a servant of the Government of India, and not a little man concerned with only a little patch of the Earth he calls his district, though for administrative convenience he is allotted a limited area.
Likewise is the case with every other field of thinking and action. We should consider ourselves as citizens of this country in the same way as a Collector thinks he is a person related to his district only. He is so, but he is not merely that. We are Indian, but we are not merely that. We belong to the whole of humanity.
Now comes a masterstroke of these messengers of Truth. We do not belong merely to humanity. The District Magistrate who has a jurisdiction over his district belongs to the whole state. Not merely that, he has a larger jurisdiction of looking to the welfare of the whole country. Perhaps in a wider sense he is connected with the international setup.
Likewise, our concern even with humanity is not a completion of our aspirations. We do not belong to one country. We belong to the whole world, it is true, but this also is a limitation. We belong to a larger administrative area extending beyond the Earth. This Earth is a planet going around the Sun, and so it has a relationship with the whole solar system to which it belongs. We may say there is nothing which is finally not vitally related to the whole of creation.
Our session here at this moment may look like a little gathering in this hall of the Ashram, but we are sitting on the face of the Earth. We are sitting in the solar system. We are sitting in the universe. We are not sitting in Rishikesh. This is not Muni-ki-reti, this is not Uttar Pradesh, this is not India, this is not Earth; this is the solar system. Widen your eyes still. Not merely that, this is the universe in which you are.
These relationships of man, therefore, are to be studied in their essentiality. Culture, to define it broadly and simply, may be said to be that demeanour, that conduct, that behaviour, that way of expression of an individual which is in consonance with the consciousness of one’s belonging to the government of the universe. And once you are aware of this, you become at once aware of what sort of behaviour is expected of you in relation to your neighbour. You know how to behave with another person, with any living being, because you belong to this family of the cosmos.
Now, this large, wide, deep, cosmic message is not merely of Swami Sivananda of The Divine Life Society. It is a message of all the Masters, of all the prophets, of all the founders of these religious faiths, and even of the great geniuses in science, because science has ceased to be ordinary physics. It is no longer the study of electricity, magnetism, sound, light, heat, etc. It is the study of cosmic forces which have turned man into a citizen of that administrative area we call the whole cosmos. Man is a national of the governmental system of the whole of creation.
Now, in this light, if you know where you are placed, you will also know what your obligations are. When truth is known, nothing else need be told to you. Once you know where you are placed, your relationship to other people is automatically known. There is no need to teach you ethics and morality – be good and do good, and so on. I need not tell you that. Once you know where you are stationed, if you know the atmosphere in which you are, if you have got that awakening by which you are aware of the atmosphere and environment around you, ethics automatically follow from this knowledge.
So there is no need of teaching any of these dos and don’ts. As our Director Sahib mentioned, religion today seems to boil down to these mechanical instructions: don’t do, don’t do, don’t do, and do, do, do. There is no need of these instructions. The necessity for these instructions arises because man is still not awakened. He does not know where he is sitting, and therefore, somebody has to tell him: “You are sitting here. This is fire; don’t touch it.” Why should I tell you not to touch the fire? I have only to awaken you to the knowledge that it is fire, and I must instruct you in the knowledge of what fire is capable of doing; then I need not tell you to do something or not to do it.
Thus, ethical and moral instructions are a kind of mandate that seems to be necessitated from outward sources only so long as you yourself are not awakened; but you have to be awakened one day or the other. You need not always be a student of a schoolmaster. This is real freedom. Freedom is the knowledge of the basic fact of life, and freedom is that behaviour, conduct and responsibility which follows as an automatic consequence of this freedom. This is the message of the great founder of this institution. This is the message of The Divine Life Society. This is the message, as I can gather, of all those who have stood for the welfare of not merely this country, but of mankind as a whole. These people were cosmic citizens, and therefore, they expected us also to follow in their footsteps. You are a superman, not merely a human being. The destiny of man is to become a superman, which means to say, to be affiliated with the laws of the universe.
This message can be called cultural, if you like, and, as I mentioned, there is no need to tell you anything more because anything else that you want to know is implied in what is already said. All responsibilities which are political, social, economic or personal, even religious and spiritual, follow naturally as a conclusion from a premise in a syllogism, and no further elaborate commentary on these essentials of human life is called for.
I have placed before you an analysis and a presentation of the basic intentions of the founder of this institution and the intention of The Divine Life Society, which message I offer as my little service in the name of the great saint who founded this ashram and in the name of the Almighty Who sees everyone with His omniscient eyes. May God bless you.