The Art Of Positive Thinking ► [1] The Art Of Thinking ► How I Look At Myself (2)

Posted: 23.12.2009

Without utility, without need, an individual would stand isolated. Each man is bound by need to another, thus giving birth to society. Without union with another, without relationship, an individual would stand alone. But one individual unites with another; he is capable of relating himself to another and this capacity for relationship creates society. Utility and capacity for union become factors of mutual cooperation. The third factor is influence. If one individual were not influenced by another, there would be no society. Society has thus come into being on the basis of utility, mutual dependence and cooperation. The individual is no more isolated; he lives in society, in relationship with others. Utilities are various since needs are many. One requires food, drink, shelter, clothing and what not. There are many needs. Alone, in isolation, an individual would never be able to provide for these. But utility and need are linked together.

The other day we were talking about self-reliance, which is characteristic of an individual. However, if probed in some depth, self-reliance also turns out to be a relative term. Man's need makes him self-reliant. But in the context of the totality of needs, no man can be completely self-reliant. What holds greater validity here is the principle of interdependence, which means that men are mutually dependent upon one another; they rely on each other. It is mutual dependence that forms the basis of society. One man. ploughs the fields, the other is engaged in business, a third moulds implements, a fourth provides other farm equipment. Through cooperation of them all, wheat flows into the market. The farmer farms the land, but he cannot do it without implements - he uses tractors to plough the fields; without tractors he would be idle. The farmer also needs other equipment. Where docs he procure them from? The craftsman makes ploughs. But" if there is no iron or wood available, how will he create them? For iron you need the ore, and labourers who would extract the ore from the mine. Everything is connected with everything else. All are interdependent. A particular individual strolls alone by himself. It seems as if he lives alone. But he is not alone. There are others who are walking along with him. Shades of a thousand individuals are accompanying him. His belly is full, and so he walks. If his wife had not. served him food, he would find it difficult to walk. His feet would grow cold, his knees would sink; deprived of food, he would not have the requisite energy to stand and walk. When he walks, his stomach along with the food in it moves with him. And also moves with him the provision merchant from whom he procured the wheat flour; and the farmer who produced the wheat, and the craftsman who moulded implements for the farmer. Numberless shadows move with him. Alone he would not be able to take a step forward, would become immobile. Every movement of ours implies the collabora­tion of a thousand men. The belief that one can live alone, in total isolation, disregards the fact of interdependence; it is a purely subjective illusion. But the moment we perceive that without mutual cooperation, no man can achieve much, the whole picture of our society presents itself before us, clearly showing the inevitable link between the efforts of different individuals. A man by himself can achieve nothing. All work gets done through mutual cooperation.

This cooperative relationship is so subtle that a gross mind is likely to miss it, but to a subtle mind it is apparent at every step. A man is going to a friend's house. He is moving in a particular direction because of his relationship with his friend. He is attached to him and that is why he is going there. It is the need pf being related that takes him there.

Relationship, utility and influence - the three together impel mutual cooperation. Without mutual cooperation, no man can live in this world; he cannot even maintain his existence without it. All things are interdependent. The second storey rests on the firsthand the first storey on the foundation; the foundation itself rests on the earth. There can be no foundation without the earth. Everything has a base. That which has no material base, belongs to the subtle world. It is not to be found in the material world. In the world of matter, everything rests upon something else. That is why we seek a basis for everything.

A logician was carrying a basin brimful of ghee. A question arose in his mind: Does the basin hold the ghee or is it the ghee that holds the basin? Naturally, nothing can rest without a foundation. It was apparent that the basin held the ghee. And yet could it not be otherwise? May it not be the ghee that holds the basin? He would make an experiment, he thought. He turned the basin upside down. All the ghee was spilt. The basin was empty. Now all his doubts were cleared. It was conclusively proved that it was the basin that held the ghee and not otherwise.

The very basis of society is in question. Society runs on a basis - that of mutual cooperation. Where this is ignored, many difficulties arise. If we analyse today's problems, we shall find that poverty is riot so terrific a problem as that posed' by lack of mutual cooperation. Man lives in society, yet he is disregarding the principle of interdependence.

Delhi is a magnificent city. The place where the meditation camp is being conducted is situated between two hotels. Yesterday a friend said, "I don't feel like living between two hotels. The mind is invariably diverted from the purpose in hand. That is why I did not attend this camp." Those magnificent hotels, so very commo­dious! And the rich people residing therein!. These wealthy people living in splendid apartments present a fascinating picture. Yet, when the creators of those great buildings are quite forgotten, the whole thing becomes problematical. The principle of mutual cooperation implies mutual support, give-and-take and interdepen­dence. If we could keep it in view, no problem would ever arise. The problem arises because of lack of mutual consideration and reciprocity. Society is based upon mutual support. When the very nature of society is denied, when the principle of mutual interde­pendence and mutual consideration is violated, problems are bound to arise. It is surprising that the people who raised those buildings, whose contribution was the greatest, stand totally ignored.

Two things are necessary for any creation - intelligence or craft and labour. Whether intelligence or craft commanded greater recognition cannot be said with certainty, but the value of labour has never been adequately appreciated. This imbalance between intelligence and labour has posed a great problem, which can never be resolved as long as the imbalance continues. A man of intelligence can earn one lakh in a day, even a crore of rupees or more, without putting in any effort. And yet the labourer who executes what intelligence dictates, is denied the bare necessities of life. This great imbalance has vitiated the nature of society that we have created. When the essential nature stands corrupted, problems are bound to arise.

A man was passing through the forest. He felt thirsty. He could not find any water in the vicinity. His thirst meanwhile was becoming more and more intense. Imagine the heat of mid-day in June! But presently he espied a well. On reaching there he saw there was water in the well. There was also lying a bucket, with a piece of rope attached to it. But there was no one who could draw water from the well. At first he thought he should draw the water himself and slake his thirst. But instantly he dismissed the thought as unwor­thy of him, he being an amirzada (the son of a wealthy man). What will people say if they saw him drawing water from the well? It would be perfectly disgraceful! For a man in his position to be found engaged in a mean task like that! He must wait till some servant or other lowly man should come to draw water from the well.

In a little while, another traveller arrived. He too seemed to be in a pitiable condition because of extreme thirst. He saw the bucket with the rope attached to it and a man sitting beside the well. So he said, "Brother, I am very thirsty. Will you please draw some water and give it to me?" But the man replied, "I can't do it! I am an amirzada. But why don't you do it, and let me too have some water." The traveller said, "I can't do it, because I am a nawabzada (the son of anawab)? The two of them sat idle, waiting for someone to come and draw water for them.

After a short while, still another man came. He called for water from afar, but his precursors bade no reply. He came nearer and said, " I'm dying of thirst. Why don't you give me some water?” Then one of them explained the situation. "I am an amirzada" he said, "I can't draw water. It would be beneath my dignity to do so. My companion here is a nawabzada; his position too forbids his engagement in a lowly task. We are as thirsty as you. Why don't you draw water and let us all have a drink." The newcomer replied, "I'm sorry I can't do it - I'm a shahzada, the son of a king."

After some time a fourth traveller arrived. He too was thirsty. He immediately took up the bucket with the rope attached to it, and lowered it into the well. At this, the three of them burst out, "Brother, we too are thirsty; get water for us as well." The new­comer said, "Here are the means ready to hand - the bucket and the rope. Why don't you draw water for yourself?" The first man said, "I am an amirzada; it will be beneath my dignity to draw water from the well." The second man said, "I'm a nawabzada". The third said, "I'm a shahzada, the son of a king. I was born for greater things than merely drawing water from a well." The fourth man said, "Well, sirs, please yourselves!" And he immediately proceeded to slake his own thirst. The other three looked up to him and said, "We too are thirsty. Give us some water!" But the man ignored them quite and while departing said, "I'm a haramzada, a bastard. It's not my way to offer water to anyone." "How is that?" they all cried.

The bastard made a parting thrust "These bloody amirzadas, nawabzadas and shahzadas can produce nothing but haramzadas!"

A telling satire! It justly depicts the state of our society where there would be no bastards if there were not a sizable class of amirzadas, nawabzadas and shahzadas, living in idleness and luxury, inevitably giving rise to a bastard race. Here is mirrored before us the face of our perverted society, where the principle of mutual cooperation is thrown overboard; and the natural feeling that one is dependent upon and should be grateful to others is non­existent. When this happens in a society, it is already sick. All social life is vitiated at the core, with increasing violence and cruelty and a host of other maladies.

The first and foremost principle of social life is mutual cooperation, people helping one another. Other things come later - discipline, for instance which evolves out of mutual cooperation; without the active feeling of interdependence, there can be no growth of discipline.

The master wants his servant to be disciplined, but if the servant finds the.master lacking in proper appreciation of his services, if he feels degraded as a human being, he will never be inspired by true discipline; on the contrary, a feeling of reaction to injustice would grow. With the active feeling of interdependence, however, discipline comes of itself.

It is very difficult to take work from another, unless there subsists an active feeling of interdependence between men. How­ever, with mutual cooperation, it is the easiest thing in the world to receive or offer assistance. In our religious order there was a learned and highly-celebrated ascetic, Muni Magan Lai, lovingly nick­named as Mantri muni". He was greatly revered, almost second to the Acharya. He had grown old and there were many young monks to look after his needs. At times, the monk assigned to the Mantri muni would forget to fetch drinking water for him - an hour would elapse and the Mantri muni would suffer thirst in silence, without saying a word. Nor would the Mantri muni reproach the young monk on the latter's return. Sometimes, out of his own sense of guilt at neglecting his duty, the monk would ask forgiveness of the Mantri muni and then Mantri muniwould say, "Don't mention it please! You've much to do. You keep so busy, and yet you find time to look after an utterly useless old man like me, who cannot even get up by himself, who cannot even walk. I say this is great!" No amount of reprimand or reproach would have awakened in the young monk the feeling, which the artless words of the old man did. The young monk was filled with an ardent desire to do his utmost in the service of his revered Mantri muni.

How does it come about? - that reverent feeling. Out of mutual consideration, of course. A mere upbraiding of the attendant-monk would have created reaction and unkind thoughts in his mind. But the right appreciation of his services, notwithstanding his omis­sions, served to fill the young monk with reverence.

Mutual cooperation is the one great attribute of social life. The more fully is this truth appreciated, the greater the evolution of discipline in a particular society. Discipline cannot be imposed from without; it is inborn. It is not like the stagnant pond-water, the result of rain from the outer atmosphere. Rather it is like the water of an eternal fountain springing from the earth. There is the water, which rains from the sky, and there is the water emanating from the earth. The water in the well is part of a running stream and wherever water comes out of the earth, it flows from running springs and reservoirs. Water flows in mighty currents from the mountains.

Likewise, discipline is a mighty stream. It is not standing rainwater, which is essentially limited. You can draw from the pond only that water which is collected there; much of it evaporates and is lost. But a running spring sprouting from the earth runs forever; it never dries up. You draw water from a well today, and the next day and the next. Just one well provides for the whole village, because it is an ever-running source. It is not the accumulation of rainwater. Similarly discipline flows in our life like an immortal current, a never-ending stream.

The master told the servant, "Listen! You're not to do anything without my permission." The servant said, "All right, master!" Something happened the very next day. The servant came running to the master and said, "Master! The cat is drinking the milk. 'What am I to do?" The master was exasperated, "Fool!" he said; "Why have you come to me? You should have driven away the animal." The servant said, "Well, Sir, didn't you tell me yesterday not to do anything without permission?"

Here is a case of limited water in the pond! Doing just what you are told! But discipline is a much larger matter. It is vitally connected with intelligence; it cannot be imposed from without; it prospers with the feeling of togetherness, the feeling of mutual cooperation and understanding.

The other day we were talking about freedom, which is related to individual life just as dependence or slavery, is related to social living. Both these words - freedom and dependence are used by us pretty often, we cherish them both. There is nothing wrong in being free; nor need 'being dependent' have any adverse connota­tion. We give great importance to freedom - it is considered to be something entirely good, whereas dependence has a pejorative ring since we often use the term as an opposite of freedom. But the meaning of each word is relative. Truth is relative; to be absolute is to falsify. For example, the white colour can be good as well as bad, depending on circumstances. Likewise, the blue colour. And who would say that the black is unconditionally bad? It is the right colour for winter. With the advent of winter, we find everyone clad in black, for it is well known that the black has great capacity for absorption of heat and is therefore a good protector of skin in winter.

In courts of justice, the judges are clad in black. The black is opaque to influence of any kind. In fact, colours are symbols ol feeling, conduct and character, The choice of the right colour is a serious matter, requiring discrimination. The black dress worn by the judges and the lawyers signifies impartiality. A judge must not take sides, nor be influenced by any person or thing; the atmosphere of the courtroom must be free from prejudice. If a judge were clad in red, he would not be disposed to listen to the lawyers; inflamed by his own importance, he would talk much more than listen to the lawyers. So the red is not the right colour for the courts. Neither red, nor yellow. There is a saying in Hindi, "he turned red and yellow", which means he was beside himself with anger. Both 'red' and 'yellow' are provocative. Yes, colours are of two kinds: hot and cold. The blue is cool, whereas the red and the yellow are hot. So no red or yellow for the judge, since they are provocative and in a state of provocation, a judge cannot deliver justice. He must keep cool; hence the choice of black for the judge is a very significant choice.

To say freedom is always good and dependence altogether bad is a one-sided view. In order to arrive at the truth we require a holistic approach, a many-sided view, according to which freedom can be good as well as bad; similarly dependence can be bad as well as good, depending upon circumstances.

When India achieved independence, people interpreted it in strange ways. On being asked to deposit income tax, the business­man tells the income tax officer, "Now that the country is free, why should I pay income tax at all?" The farmer likewise refuses to pay land revenue, "I'm a free man now. Why should I pay anything?" Here is a satirical anecdote: A man sat in the middle of the road. A truck came along. The driver stopped the truck and said to the man, "Why are you sitting in the middle of the road causing needless obstruction?" The man said, "I'm a free man, the citizen of a free country. I'll do as I please." The driver said, "All right, I, too, am then free to drive this truck without stopping."

Freedom is not always good; the word has many connotations. Likewise dependence is not always bad. If a child were not dependent upon his parents, if it continually disobeyed them, it would get spoiled. Again, a man of inferior intellect has little capacity for independent thought or decision; if left free to act by himself, he is liable to go wrong. It is better for him to heed a Wiseman's counsel. All discipline is based on that. It is not right always to have one's own way. Up to a limit, one is free to act on one's own; beyond that one must obey a superior intelligence. There are occasions when one must function independently; there are also occasions when one must depend upon another.

A student recognizes his teacher's superior knowledge. Likewise the pupil his guru's. If the pupil were to occupy his guru's seat, he would not thereby become the guru. To be a guru, one must possess the guru's intelligence. One has to acquire learning and wisdom before one can impart it. True freedom flows from right guidance; he alone can command who has served well.

Here is a leaf out of my own book. When we were studying under Acharya Tulsi, he used to say, "Be disciplined! Do what the guru tells you; no doing as you please. No talking to one another! No wastage of time! If you adhere to strict obedience for five to seven years, you will feel free to do anything for the rest of your lives. Nobody will object to anything you do; nobody will stand in your way. But if you refuse complete surrender to the guru now, you will have no freedom and will always be dependent upon another. Only a good disciple will make a good guru; he who has not lived fully the life of a disciple, will never know the fullness of a guru's life.

So dependence is no unmitigated evil. Discipline is one aspect of social life; the other is dependence that is obedience to another. Dependence need not always mean slavery; it is merely an accep­tance of another's authority on the part of one whose faculties are yet undeveloped, with a view to fuller development of one's own capacity.

This is what happens everywhere. Thousands of students go to America or Germany for specialized studies. Students from those countries come here. The exchange of students goes on because some arts are more developed in a particular country, and students from all over the world repair there, which means they depend on another country for acquiring mastery in a particular field. Not all disciplines are fully developed in each country, nor all faculties in each man. To acquire what you don't possess, you have to go to another.

In olden times, a tradition was prevalent among various religious orders. A student-monk belonging to one order would go to the head of his order and say, "Master! I'm interested in studying this subject, but there is none in our organisation who can teach it. With you kind permission, I should like to migrate to another religious order where a teacher of this particular discipline is available. On completing my studies, I shall come back to you." The guru would give permission and the monk, after relinquishing his own order, would go to enrol himself as a disciple of the other order, accepting their authority and discipline. After completing his studies, the monk would return to his former guru.

The third plank of social life is synthesis or harmony. One man living alone cannot come into clash with another. But wherever there live more than one, a conflict of interests is inevitable; there are bound to be differences of opinion and thought., With these differences, there can be no harmonious living. The husband insists that they must shift to another house; the wife wants to continue where she is; the conflict begins. Struggle, conflict arid dissensions prevalent in society disrupt life altogether. It is in this context that a synthesis of different points-of-view becomes important. Indeed it becomes the one great principle of humanistic, many-sided approach. Find a coordinating factor between two opposites to ensure harmony. Consider the pros and cons of each move to arrive at a balanced view. And this coordination is possible on the basis of mutual toleration. Without toleration, there can never be any coming together. We have to consider others. Sometimes the father has to accommodate the son; at other times the son has to accom­modate the father.

The son said to his father, "Daddy! All this time I have been taking my meals with you, but I'll dine with you no more.” The father was a sensible man. He said, "O, sonny, it's all right. All these years you have been taking your meals with me, but from today, it is I who will take my meals with you." Nothing was changed; things continued as before. The father's humorous approach to the prob­lem sidetracked the conflict and brought about harmony.

Acharya Shri Tulsi often says, "Look, a teacher must know when to speak and when to keep silent. It is not necessary that a teacher should always speak. At times it is good to speak, at other times it is good to keep still, to suffer in silence."

When you consider others, others consider you. But often one does not tolerate anyone. The father knows no toleration nor the mother! But they want the son and the daughter-in-law to show them utmost consideration! It's impossible! To be endured, you have to endure.

Toleration is the fourth principle of social living.

The fifth is co-existence - to live together. Co-existence is possible only with the development of coordination, toleration, mutual cooperation and interdependence.

We are discussing the art of thinking. How to look? How to think? What is the right approach to oneself? Our life has two aspects - individual and social. Both these aspects must be kept in view. A partial, one-sided view, whether wholly individual or wholly social, can prove misleading. Consider both aspects to­gether, without any equivocation.

The modern man is a great equivocator. Actuated by self-interest, he would adopt an individual or socialistic stance to suit the occasion. A man said to another, "O brother! beware of wrong doing! Never be dishonest! Your conduct must be unexception­able!"

His colleague replied; "Well, It's not me alone; the whole society is corrupt. I can't live in isolation!" Here is an example of an egoist adopting a social stance to serve his own ends.

On another occasion, a man said to his friend, "You've wealth in abundance. People are suffering grievously on account of floods. Why don't you do something?"

The friend said, "Well, each man must endure his fate! What can I, a mere individual, do except take care of myself?"

Here is an example of self-centred individualistic thinking. While committing a heinous crime, a man justifies his conduct on social principles; and where there is some good to be done, he avoids doing it on an individualistic score, saying, " It behoves each man to take care of himself. For as you sow, so shall you reap. I did good in my past life, and am therefore prosperous; the other man did evil, and he must suffer for it now. I can't be made responsible for him!"

Thinking is thus often vitiated by a wrong approach.

For one practising meditation, right thinking is essential. Right thinking means adopting the right approach that is an individualistic, subjective response where such a response is called for and a socialistic and collective response where society as a whole is concerned. One must have the wisdom to adopt the right course at the right time.