Acharya Tulsi - A Peacemaker Par Excellence: 3 ►Social Problems: Spiritual Solutions

Published: 20.04.2013
Updated: 02.07.2015

Economic inequality is a glaring problem of our society. Acharyashree put forward a spiritual solution of this problem at a press conference in New Delhi. Its importance lies in its potentiality to bring about a change in the outlook of an individual. Some of the extracts of his speech are reproduced here:

We cannot lose sight of the worsening situation rendered by economic inequality. I think it to be the main cause of the advent of communism... Some people ask me whether communism will come to India. How can I make any prediction about it? I am compelled to say that it will come provided you invite it. If you do not it won't come. The people who really care for religion and are so concerned about its existence should refrain from accumulating wealth. This will naturally lead to the fulfilment of their desire.

Do not let your desire for amassing wealth grow even for the sake of charity. People do not need your charity. They are indignant at your tendency to accumulate wealth. If the capitalists still turn a blind eye to this stark reality the tide of people's anger will sweep them all. Neither an atom bomb nor other nuclear weapons will be able to stem it...

...Do not think that I am a protagonist of communism. I see that, like capitalism, it too has its own weaknesses. Concentration of wealth in the hands of the State is as bad as it is in those of an individual. Socialization of the resources of basic needs will prove superficial so long as people are not made to realize that it is imperative for them to curb their desire to hoard. An individual wil take the place of a nation. One country will tend to exploit another. The principle of economic equality irks only capitalists but the principle of restraining desires sounds irksome to all. Even if it displeases people, it cannot be helped since it is the only way to remedy the malady. Hence the question whether one likes or dislikes is irrelevant.

Acharyashree once asked the people of Uttar Pradesh how their crops were. The only answer was that they were extremely good.

Acharyashree: Then, how is it that your clothes are torn and houses are dilapidated?

The People: Maharaj, the fact is that mosar (a feast that follows someone's death as an obligatory social ceremony) consumes us all. It costs each of us about three to four thousand rupees.

Acharyashree: Is it essential for you to perform it?

One of them: Yes, Maharaj. One has to carry it out. It is a social obligation. No one can escape it. If someonw fails to do so the people of the village comment sarcastically that here he is enjoying his meals while his grandfather is rotting and starving at the crematorium there. They look down upon him and say many unpleasant things about him. So a man is obliged to do it whether circumstances permit him or not.

On the one hand I was listening to his conversation and on the other hand I was thinking, "Poverty is a misery and it is man's own creation. Some people are unhappy because they are landless and have no means to subsist. This is one kind of problem. Then there are those who have both land and means to support their lives but are nevertheless unhappy. This is another kind of problem. Marx considered the former vitally important and studied society. He chose a library as the field of his practical study. Acharyashree regards the latter as the primary one. He approaches the problem from his angle and his field of practical study is his direct contact with villages and village people. Marx discovered that the root of a change in society lay in the change of its economic system. Acharyashree is trying to discover the root of a social change in the transformation of man's nature. He does not consider a system eternal, nor does he oppose any change in it. But of these two he has chosen the change in man's nature as the area of his study. The Anuvrat Movement is a concrete shape of this conviction.

Acharyashree saw verdant fields dotted with heaps of crops and overflowing greenaries on either side of the G.T. Road. Then in the vicinity he saw people in tatters sitting before their dilapidated huts. It was not a paradox but a direct contradiction. When he made inquiries about this miserable plight of the people, he found three additional reasons responsible for it - tobacco, alcoholism and frenzied revelry. The use of drugs gives rise to a state of frenzy and a man who has been worked up into a frenzy is easily led into a brawl. It took us by surprise when we came to know that there were hundreds of lawyers dealing with criminal cases. The profession of practising law does not come into being on its own. It thrives mainly on the mental imbalance of people. As long there is mental equilibrium (self-control), there can be no occasion for a man to commit a crime. The presence of such a large number of lawyers practising criminal law gave us enough hint that the rate of crime was extremely high in that area. Frenzy caused by the use of intoxicants is at the root of a crime. We thought that the root of this undesirable situation lay in ignorance and illiteracy. With the development of knowledge they might refrain from being led into a frenzy. But to our great chagrin we did not find even the field of knowledge free from this menace. What we saw in the cities and towns was an unusual spectacle. Examinations were being conducted in colleges and schools in the presence of police. Acharyashree said, 'An examinee ought to feel ashamed if the appointment of an invigilator becomes necessary for him. It is the height of humiliation and indignity for students if the situation demands the presence of police for holding examinations." But who is to blame for this humiliation? Does the Government design it deliberately? It sounds incredible that a sensible man will ever think of subjecting his future generation to this dismal state. It results from one's own activities.

When I heard that the students indulged in arson at one place and in violence at another, I wondered if the educated were gentler than the educated. They also suffer from a deep sense of madness. We discover in them the same mental imbalance as is exhibited by those who are illiterate. Because of their senseless argumentation they have lost even the little amount of reverence we still ñnd in the uneducated. There is no doubt that ignorance is the root of suffering but the question as to why knowledge is becoming the cause of misery is still difficult to answer. These circumstances added to the utility of the Anuvrat Movement. I heard people say in different villages, "Acharyaji, we need this movement badly. It should spread fast. You have done a great service to mankind by launching a movement aimed at cleansing society of moral filth in this age of acedia and moral torpor." Acharyashree would say, "Brothers, the Anuvrat Movement is not hungry for kudos. It only expects you to extend it your active co-operation. Either you should say that you have no need for it or you yourselves should come forward to become anuvratis (submit yourselves to the discipline of Anuvrat vows) and persuade others to do likewise. To say that it is not needed is to reject humanism. Humanism is impossible to achieve unless morality is developed."

In the course of his marches Acharyashree noticed that the modern cities had become the sources of physical comforts despite their internal vaccum, whereas the villages, which are the main source of production, were being reduced to a sad plight on account of a lack of basic amenities. The truth is that movements dedicated to the cause of moral awakening are experiencing a great difficulty in bringing home the meaning of 'arthmanarh bhavaya nityam '(always think that wealth is an evil) to the people. It is so because the main question facing people today is that of getting amenities and one can get them solely by means of money.

What Acharyashree was trying to bring home to the people was not that they should renounce their wealth and the comforts obtained by it. Renunciation concerns asceticism. It is something beyond an ordinary man. Acharyashree only asked them to refrain from resorting to corrupt means in order to acquire wealth and from a tendency to move earth and heaven for physical comforts. The people listened to Acharyashree attentively. They did so because his discourses revealed a true path to them. Being dishonest and corrupt is not something that one can boast of. A person who resorts to dishonesty and immorality in his dealings with other people fears himself more than anyone else. Can he ever experience peace and happiness in the real sense? Acharyashree would elucidate this truth in such a lucid and straightforward language that the people who heard him began to realize that they were far from the real goal of life. We still find predominance of a self-centred attitude in the people of India. They think more of their own interest than of the interest of society. All religions teach us not to come in the way of other people's interest but the number of the religious people who crush others' interests for the sake of their own is not small. Those who heard Acharyashree Tulsi included people from all sections of society i.e., businessmen, government officials, teachers and students. What Acharyashree said on the bank of the Triveni (confluence of the three rivers - the Ganga, the Yamuna and the invisible Saraswati) in the holy city of Prayagraj was undoubtedly a challenge for various religious leaders. In the language of poetry he said:

Oh religious people! Whither do you still go on drifting?

Are you able to preserve the real glory of the religion of truth or are you going to lose it?

When in temples, you seem to surpass even Prahlad's devotion to God.

But when you come home, you become crueller than even Hirnankush.

Then you are playing a hoax on God and are only befooling yourselves.

In devotional songs or in the company of the pious, you show ecstatic joy on a par with Meera and Sur.

But in practice you exhibit the wickedness of Shurpanakha.

Do you leave behind what you get in the company of the pious there itself?

This trend of thought agitated the minds of religious people and led them to think again.

Acharyashree was explaining to the people that the very idea of casteism was the antithesis of reality. At the end of his discourse Mahendra Kumar Nyayacharya, a lecturer at the Banara Hindu University, remarked: "To look on all living beings as yourself is an attribute of a saint. In your first discourse you said that extending support to the belief of casteism is something that should fill a man's heart with shame. You accept bhiksha even from the people of low castes. Such words can flow from the lips of a saint only."

In the columns of Jnanoday, a prestigious Hindi monthly, Kanhaiyalal Mishra Prabhakar has written thus:

Saint Acharya Tulsi, sponsor of the Anuvrat Movement, has painted a beautiful picture of the perversion in society i.e., denying oneself the pleasure what one already has and pining incessantly for what one does not have, pithily in two words. Even one thousand voluminous books, each running into a thousand pages, written by one thousand scholars cannot potray this evil better than what Acharyashree has done in just two words, i.e. bhuk (hunger) and vyadhi (malady).

The saint says, "Some people say that modern man is suffereing from hunger for fame, power and self-interest. But in truth it is not so. What he is really suffering from is a malignant disease consisting of these symptoms. It continues to eat into his vitals and does not abate at all. The message of the saint is that we may have this hunger for fame, power and self-interest but we must not allow it to degenerate into a disease."

In Acharyashree's view caste and privileges are insignificant. Unfortunately we find that the values detrimental to social interest are being encouraged and those that are worthy of encouragement are degenerating. The Anuvrat Movement aims at reversing this trend. It is possible only through the development of character.

Addressing an enlightened gathering in the Senate Hall of Patna University, Acharyashree said, "The first and the most important question before us today is how a man can become a man." Dr. Zakir Hussain, the then Governor of Bihar, said, "Today man is striving hard to become everything except a human being in the real sense. But he will not be able to become anything unless he first becomes a human being. The Anuvrat Movement is a project for making a man a man."

The Anuvrat Movement has left an indelible impression on everyone's mind in society. It has won a good deal of verbal support from people so far. But the moment the question of putting it into practice crops up, they slink off. This does not mean that they do not like morality and integrity but the fact is that morality is unable to solve the problem of earning their bread. People attach prime importance to the question of earning their bread. The question of morality comes next. Viewed from the angle of one's needs, it may be true but it is not so when we look at it from the point of its utility. A man's ability to earn his bread is no achievement. His real progress lies in his achievement of morality. The question of bread has always been a subject of politics while that of morality is still connected with the domain of spirituality.

Even in the countries where socialistic and communistic forms of political systems are at the pinnacle of their success and people do not have to struggle for earning their bread, we do find instances of hostility, suspicion and fear in personal relationships. Immorality does not mean only dishonesty in husiness matters and acceptance of bribes. It includes terrorization of a small country by a big one and the manufacturing of destructive weapons in the name of peace and security. Its solution does not lie in the replacement of one political system by another. The only way to deal with it is the development of self-control, sanyamah khalyjeevanam. (nothing but self-restraint is life) When the voice of these words reverberated across the valleys and mountain caves of Rajgrih some years ago it brought back vivid memories of Lord Mahavir.

Editor, Translator, Publisher: S.L.Gandhi Courtesy: Dr. Prem Nath Jain, B Jain Publishers Ltd. 1. Edition: 1987
3. Edition:
2000 HN4U Online Edition: 2013

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharya
  2. Acharya Tulsi
  3. Anger
  4. Anuvrat
  5. Anuvrat Movement
  6. Bhiksha
  7. Bihar
  8. Casteism
  9. Concentration
  10. Delhi
  11. Discipline
  12. Fear
  13. Mahavir
  14. Mishra
  15. New Delhi
  16. Patna
  17. Pradesh
  18. Rajgrih
  19. Saraswati
  20. Tulsi
  21. Uttar Pradesh
  22. Violence
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