Gandhiism capitalism and socialism
SOURCE: Osho Beware of Socialism
Hundreds of questions — all in the context of what I said in the course of the last four discourses — have been received. I will try to answer in brief as many of them as is possible.
A friend has asked if in my view socialism call come through Vinobe Bhave’s sarvodaya — his concept of “the good of all”.
Sarvodaya, whether it is Vinoba’s or Gandhi’s, cannot bring socialism, because the whole concept of sarvodaya is concerned with taking man back to the jungle — the primitive way of life. The ideal of sarvodaya is opposed to capitalism — not in the sense of going beyond it, but in the sense of going behind it.
There are two ways of getting rid of capitalism — either you go beyond it or you go behind. And for some people going back is always easy, and alluring too. But going back to the past is neither possible nor desirable.
We have to go forward willingly or compulsively. Those who go forward compulsively do so listlessly like animals. And those who go voluntarily do so with a song in their hearts and with a rhythm in their walk. They go with a hope and a dream and a thrill to find their future.
The thought of going back to the past has gripped India so firmly that whenever we are faced with difficulties we immediately think of turning back. And the reason is psychological, which we would do well to understand. It would be very useful to investigate the psychological meaning of Vinoba’s sarvodaya and of the whole Gandhian thought and outlook.
Firstly, everybody thinks that everything was so good in the past. The village was good and the city is bad just because the village is of the old and the city is new. But it is the people living in the city who think that the countryside is so good. The villagers themselves don’t think so. It is one thing to take a day off and go round a village, and quite another to spend a lifetime in the countryside. It is funny that people who lay so much stress on the importance of sarvodaya and the village life and the old system of village government, don’t live in the villages themselves, they all live in cities. Living in cities they write books on the beauty and grandeur of the natural life in the village.
These illusions that we nurse are, of course, very beautiful to look at, but they are dangerous nonetheless.
The village has no future; the future belongs to the city. In the coming world there will be no villages; there will be cities and such big cities that we cannot think of. A village in relation to the city is like a straw hut in relation to the skyscraper. Neither the straw hut nor the village is going to exist in the coming world. In fact, the future world will be the world of the cities and their citizens.
The truth is that as man progresses, he will gradually be freed from his dependence on the land. And unless man is fully freed from the land he will not be a fully cultured man.
Man has been constantly freeing himself from his dependence on many things, but he is yet dependent on the land for his food. But it is possible that he will soon be free in this respect too. In my view, the growth of technology will end his dependence on land. The day is not far off when he will not depend on the land for his food. Food will be produced as any other industrial goods are produced — in workshops and factories. Food will be produced chemically and synthetically.
And it is not possible to remain tied to the land forever. The area of cultivable land is small and the population is already too large. And agriculture, as we know it, is much too old and archaic, and it cannot have any deep relationship with the highly developed technology of today. New kinds of food and new ways of food production will have to be found. Food can be obtained from the seas. Really, sea food is already in the market. And efforts are on to extract food from the air and sunrays. And sooner or later food can be had directly from the cosmic rays.
Until man frees himself from this dependence on the land, his poverty and degradation are not going to disappear completely, because the amount of land available is small and the population is increasingly large. We have reduced our death rate, but it seems as if it is impossible to reduce the birthrate.
Sarvodaya is a movement tied to the land. And it is a past-oriented movement, believing that man’s salvation lies in his return to the caves. It is not a future-oriented movement.
And there is no future for a land-bound movement and a movement that is past-oriented.
Secondly, the entire philosophy of sarvodaya is based on renunciation, austerity and simplicity. For thousands of years man has been taught the virtues of renunciation and austerity. But nobody follows it in practice and nobody is ever going to follow it. Once in a long while somebody comes along who is austere and simple, but he too is not really simple. He can wear simple clothes and eat simple food, but his mind is more complex than the mind of an ordinary man. Simplicity is not a way of life; expansion and complexity is the way of life.
Remember that life evolves from the simple to the complex. the amoeba is the first tiny living being from whom man came into being. In the course of time, it is the amoeba that developed into man. And the amoeba has only one cell; it lives with a single cell. It is the simplest creature on this earth. It has no intelligence; it has nothing. It can just breathe; it exists and dies. But as life evolves and grows, it begins to be complex. Man is more complex than the monkey. The man of Bombay is more complex than the primitive man.
The more complex the brain, the more developed one is.
Gandhi and Vinoba are too much obsessed with the old idea of simplicity. They believe that man’s life should be simple and his needs few. It would be great if he produces his clothes with the spinning wheel and operates his farms manually without the help of tools. Tools and implements, according to Gandhian ideology, are not necessary.
But these ideals are unnatural. This talk of return to nature is very unnatural. Man has been constantly moving toward complexity and his needs have been constantly multiplying. All the teachers of the world said, “Reduce your needs,” but nobody listened to them. Needs cannot be reduced; it is not in the nature of things. It is not the way of life.
Life is always in favor of increasing its needs. Of course, if you want to die, you can very well reduce them. And if the needs are reduced to the minimum, you will die in the end.
In the process of reducing necessities a masochist personality, a suicidal personality, is born — one who goes on destroying himself.
Life is ever-expanding; it is an expansion of necessities. And the greater the expansion of necessities, the greater the production. The greater the necessities, the more man invents.
The greater the necessities, the more latent parts of man’s mind are activated. The greater the needs, the more man is freed from his animality. An animal is animal because it has very few needs. And if his needs are reduced absolutely, man will have to live again on the level of the animals. His humanity will just wither away. Man means a complex life, full of expanding necessities.
A movement like sarvodaya insists on simplicity and a minimum of needs. Its whole emphasis is this. It means that it lacks a correct understanding of man’s mind and brain.
Yet it has appeal. It appeals because when we feel overwhelmed with complexities, when they become too much and we are at our wits’ end, we tend to return to the past, to our childhood, to the state of simplicity. You will find a fifty year-old man, if his house is on fire, behaving like a child of ten. He will scream and wail in utter helplessness. This is psychological regression. Now he is a ten year-old, not fifty years old. The house being on fire has suddenly made the situation too complex for him to understand and cope with.
Not knowing what to do, he is beating his breast, running here and there aimlessly and crying. It was all right for a child to do what he is doing, but it is wrong for a grown-up man to scream and shout. What has happened to him? How is it that a man of fifty has turned into a ten year-old? Why is he so childish?
The situation is too complex for him to understand, and he does not know what to do — so he has mentally regressed to his childhood days and is behaving like a ten year-old.
Many times, in the course of a day, we become like children. It is because whenever a complex problem arises, the mind calls for rising to the height of the problem, it calls for more intelligence and alertness. And when we fail to rise, we just regress, we retreat.
Somebody gets drunk or finds other ways to become unconscious. Being drunk he forgets the problem, he escapes it. And if the problem is still more complex he takes to bhajan- kirtan — singing sacred songs in prayers to gods and goddesses. Singing sacred songs, he is again like a child trying to forget the problem. Desire for drink or bhajan or going back to the past is always escapist.
Life is a struggle with new problems, new challenges that are ever arising.
Sarvodaya and things like it are all escapist; they just ask you to escape the world of complexities. They say, “Why live in Bombay? Why live in New York? Why live in Moscow? Go back to the old-fashioned ways; return to the forest and live like the people who live there.” If you can live without clothes, the better; you will be free of even plying the spinning wheel. Go back and still further back in time when human beings lived on roots and fruits. If not, then even a little agriculture will do. All emphasis is on return to the past. Why?
It is because some people are overwhelmed by the great and complex problems of life; they are frightened and panicky. It is they who are talking of returning to the past, to the simple.
My vision is quite different. I maintain that whenever great problems arise, it is the time for a leap forward. Human consciousness takes a jump when such great problems surround you; they compel you to think and reflect, to struggle and to stake your very life. Only when it is really a question of life and death does consciousness prepare itself for a great leap.
At the moment mankind is faced with any number of complex problems and great challenges. And there are two kinds of people. One kind is in the great majority — and to us they seem to be right too. This majority says, Why get into trouble? Let us return to the past when we had no problems. Let us go back to the days when there were no railways, no automobiles, no airplanes and no big cities.
There were small villages, and we should return to them.”
There were no big universities then, only small gurukuls — teachers’ family schools, where a handful of students lived with the family of the teacher and studied. Now great problems are arising because a single university has twenty thousand students to manage.
Problems are bound to arise. Never before in the world have twenty thousand young people collected and lived within one campus. A son in the old days lived with his father who always dominated him. Now twenty thousand sons are together, whereas, nowhere can you find twenty thousand fathers living together. The difficulty is really enormous.
Twenty thousand sons are smothering their parents; now the parents feel dominated and suppressed. Now there is one way: You do some real thinking to solve the problems of twenty thousand young people living on one campus. This is difficult because the old cultures have no answers for these problems. You cannot find an answer in any of the old scriptures because the problems are so new. The coming together of such a large number of youth at one place is altogether a new phenomenon.
The truth is that youth itself is a new phenomenon. This youth did not exist in the old world. In old times there was the child and then there was the old man, but there was no youth. Before one attained to youth he was married, married in his very childhood. So the phenomenon of youth and its problems simply did not arise in the past, because youth was bypassed and one entered old age straight from childhood. Being married at the age of ten, one did not have the opportunity to be a youth. He will have been a father of two kids by the time he turns twenty. So he is already saddled with the responsibilities of an old man. A father is never young; he is always an old man. This was the answer that the old days had for the problems of youth — it just did not allow the child to go through the period of youth. And then the children lived with their parents, and so again there was no problem. Now twenty to twenty-five thousand — at places, even a hundred thousand young people — are living together. Evidently an altogether new problem has arisen. So what to do?
The exponents of sarvodaya suggest that the universities be disbanded and youngsters sent back to their villages where they should receive only primary education — what Gandhi calls “basic education.” This much education is enough — that they learn carpentry, shoemaking, weaving and things like these. Nothing more is needed.
This country will be ruined if it accepts Gandhian teachings. Is basic education really education? It is not education at all, it is really an escape from education. But for them the problem is solved; they say that this is how we can get over the trouble.
We have to grapple with the problem; we cannot escape it. Now that a new problem has arisen, it will have to be solved in a new way. But since the exponents of decadent wisdom have no answer they plead for a return to the times when these problems did not exist. I say that not only India, but the whole world is facing this problem of young people. All over the world they are coming together and they have become a class. The old people are not a class. So we have to think it through and find a solution. And we have to think some new thoughts.
My understanding is that going back to the village and resurrecting the gurukuls — teachers’ family schools — and asking the youngsters to sit at the feet of the old gurus will not do. Those times are past, and what the teacher of old taught is of no use now. We have now so much to learn that small gurukuls cannot handle it. Even the existing universities are proving inadequate for the task, which is so vast. We need still bigger universities. We need much bigger libraries. Vast knowledge has been coming into being and with such speed that it has become difficult to communicate it to the new generation.
The gurukul of old cannot do it; a single old teacher cannot do it. It is just out of the question.
So the question remains — the question of educating thousands of tens of thousands of students. What to do? The cry of the obscurantist, the escapist, is: “Just close the universities and go back to the past.” Gandhi was very much against universities. He did not send his own sons to schools and colleges, his sons remained uneducated. He was so much opposed to universities. He thought that the university and modern education were diseases to be shunned.
This whole outlook is the result of lack of new thinking on their part.
But I say: Work hard, grapple with the new questions and find new answers. In my understanding, it is necessary to bring the new and the old generations together.
Wherever there is a university campus, a campus of retired elders should be attached to it.
When elders retire from their active life let them becomes residents of a university campus. If there are ten thousand young people in a university, let there be ten thousand elders too, and let the two classes live face-to-face with each other. Undoubtedly the youngsters will bow down before the understanding, the experience and the knowledge of a lifetime that the elders will bring with them. That is why I say, instead of escaping, let the elders live together with the young. It will yield valuable results.
In a university where ten thousand elders, with the experiences of a lifetime, live with the young, teach them, play with them, mix with them and chit-chat with them, there can be no problems of youth. Let the two generations encounter each other directly.
There is a great difficulty in this matter. We say that there are two generations — the old and the new. But while the new generation is a fact, the old is not. The old generation is not gathered together; it is scattered all over. You can meet the new generation living together in thousands at one place, but where can you meet the old? So bring the old generation together. but then new questions will arise because the problems are new. And they will again call for new thinking and new answers. The difficulty is that we prefer to go back to the past rather than do hard work.
During the bhoodan movement, the voluntary land distribution movement, lots of land was distributed under its auspices without giving a thought to the fact that arable and in this country is already so heavily fragmented that any further fragmentation will only add to the poverty and misery of the country. But Vinoba has a very amusing theory. He says that he places much more value on the land donated by a poor farmer. He does not consider it a great donation if a farmer owning a hundred-acre holding donates five acres to him. But when a poor farmer gives away two and a half acres out of his five-acre holding, it is really a great donation. This is a very dangerous theory, because a five-acre holding is already small and unproductive. It comes in the category of uneconomic holdings. Now Vinoba wants the owner of this holding to donate two and a half acres and so be left with one half his former small holding. Now two holdings of two and a half acres each will yield much less produce than when they were a single five-acre holding.
This is somewhat like something I heard in a story.
A king wanted to marry off his son. He asked his minister to find a beautiful girl of sixteen for his son. The minister searched and searched, but he could not find a beautiful girl of sixteen. So being a mathematician, he brought two girls of eight years each.
thought that two half-rupee coins are as good as a one-rupee coin. And, if the minister had not found two girls of eight years each, he would have settled for four of four years each. But four girls of four years each do not make for a woman of sixteen. This is no mathematics.
The mathematics of Vinoba led to further fragmentation of agricultural land in the country. But we are so stupid that we fail to understand the reality and live on propaganda.
Recently, Nagpur University did research on the bhoodan movement. I don’t remember the exact statistics of that research, but they are approximately as I am going to reveal.
The research has uncovered very strange things, and I think the report of the research should reach every home in India. It has been found that ninety percent of the entire land collected in donations in the course of the movement is government land. Just note that ninety percent is government land falsely donated by the public. Of the remaining ten, seven percent is barren land which can produce nothing. And of the remaining three percent, one percent is involved in litigation and you cannot be sure of it. How much real land did Vinoba or his movement acquire?
But who cares? They are only concerned with large figures, figures in hundreds of thousands for propaganda purposes. Nobody cares to see if the donations are genuine, if the land is genuinely owned by the donors and if the land really exists. Cases have come to light that people owning not a square inch of land have also donated land. But w hen a crowd is on the move anything is possible.
The irony is that the land of the country is already so much fragmented that you cannot solve any national problem by further fragmenting it through donations and distribution.
The real problem is how to get rid of this fragmentation so that large-scale farming is undertaken. If the entire land of a village is pooled together, farming can become an industry on its own. Agriculture can be turned into industry. And it is urgently necessary.
But we have believed in the virtue of donations since olden times — that problems could be solved through donations. The real problem that we have now is immense and it cannot be solved through charity.
If we really want to solve our problems, we will have to go to their roots, to their very roots.
But we think that if we teach people to live simply, to be contented with a couple of bits of bread and one piece of clothing, the problem will be solved. The matter is not that easy. Man is not ready to be content with one piece of clothing and two slices of bread.
Up to the time he has not even two slices of bread, he may nod yes to your teaching, but the moment he has two slices in his hands, he will ask for more. He will now ask for washing soap. And when the washing soap is in his hand, he will ask for a radio. And after the radio he will demand a car.
And he is right in asking for more and more; he is not wrong. Life is ever-expanding and making new demands. This is how i. should be, because then alone life will have dynamism.
And if a society chooses to be simple and do with less and less, it will cease to grow, it will become stagnant and static, stunted and dead. There are primitive societies — they are non-dynamic societies, dead societies. They don’t move, they don’t grow, they just vegetate. They don’t produce a Tansen or an Einstein or a Kalidas; they produce nothing worthwhile. The aboriginals live like animals; they eat, sleep, produce children and die.
They don’t live on the level of men, but of animals. They just exist.
The philosophy of sarvodaya or Gandhiism is not concerned with man’s growth and expansion; it is not future-oriented. Socialism will never come about through this sort of thinking. In order to bring socialism, we need a philosophy of growth and expansion, a philosophy that believes in the infinite expansion of needs. And its beauty is that as man’s needs grow and multiply and as he works hard to achieve them, his intelligence and his soul expand and crystallize in the same measure. And the ultimate crystallization that happens is unique and extraordinary. As a result of this crystallization, which comes with the expansion of needs and their fulfillment, one comes to realize that there is yet another dimension of life — the dimension of the inner, of the soul. And unless this dimension grows and expands, wealth, affluence and palaces are of no advantage. Only a wealthy man can realize the futility of wealth. The last use of wealth is that it gives you the capacity to free yourself of wealth, to go beyond wealth. He alone becomes aware of the inner needs for the first time, who has gone through the whole gamut of outer needs.
I have heard a story from the UPANISHADS.
A young man returned from his gurukul, the family school of his teacher, after learning the doctrine of ultimate knowledge — knowledge of the brahman. All the way back and at home he talked of nothing else but the ultimate, God, soul, spirit and the rest. From morning to evening people heard him talking incessantly of divine knowledge. Then one day his father said, “Look son, first you undertake a fast for twenty-one days and then we shall discuss the ultimate.”
The young man went on a twenty-one day fast. One day passed and then the next day passed — he stopped talking about the ultimate knowledge; instead he started talking about food. After seven days he was found talking about food from morning till night.
During his sleep too, he dreamed about food. After fifteen days, whenever his father asked him to say something about the ultimate, he kept quiet; but the moment one mentioned the word “food”, his discourse on food came flowing like all irresistible stream. On the twenty-first day his father said. “Let us now sit and discuss the brahman.”
The son said, “To hell with the brahman; tell me something about food, Dad!”
Then the old father said, “Listen son, I say to you that food is the first brahman, the first God. So learn it first. What are called the ordinary needs of life is the first God. After this fulfillment begins the expansion of life, the world of expanded needs, and that is the outer God. And when the outer God is realized, one begins to be aware of the inner brahman, the ultimate.”
It is generally thought that a social system founded on the basis of Gandhian principles will be a religious system, but I fail to understand it. No religious society can be born in conditions of poverty and degradation. It is always in conditions of plenty and affluence that the flower of religion blooms. Whenever a society attains to material affluence, its people become interested in religious pursuits. Only they can go in pursuit of spiritual fulfillment who have their bellies full. For empty bellies the question simply does not exist.
According to my understanding, socialism will not come with the coming of sarvodaya; on the contrary, if any day socialism comes, sarvodaya may follow it as a consequence.
Socialism can only come after the full development of capitalism. Socialism will be like a fruit on the tree of capitalism. And if socialism develops rightly, then a social condition may arise in which equality and the good of all will happen. One may call it sarvodaya and another may call it communism — names don’t make a difference. The road does not go from sarvodaya to socialism. but from socialism to sarvodaya; and no socialism is possible without developing capitalism.
But sarvodaya, as we know it, is against the expansion of capitalism. It is opposed to the age of machines and industries. “Return to the times of Rama, the primitive times,” is its war cry. So if you have understood my view fully, it is this: At the moment sarvodaya is the greatest impediment in the way of socialism, because sarvodaya believes in returning to the pre-capitalist stage while socialism is a stage beyond capitalism. If we are going to be sarvodayaist, then we can’t be socialist ever. Then socialism will be impossible.
But we are not going to be sarvodayist. Vinoba has failed miserably, and he is tired and retired. He has failed so badly that it does not seem likely that he can do anything now.
But Vinoba is not to blame, nor are the people to blame. It is the wrong vision and philosophy of sarvodaya, which is responsible for the fiasco. Vinoba is bound to be tired and defeated; his defeat is certain. It is because we have no idea of what human nature is.
The philosophy and vision of life should be in full accord with man’s nature. In my understanding, capitalism is a philosophy of life that is in absolute accord with man and his nature. It is not only an economic system, it is a philosophy of life, a way of life as well.
A friend has asked:
YOU SAY THAT SOCIALISM WILL COME WHEN CAPITALISM IS FULLY DEVELOPED. BUT WHO IS GOING TO BRING ABOUT SOCIALISM?
We think that certain things come only when they are brought about by someone or the other. When I say that as a child grows, youth comes in, you don’t ask as to who brings it about. When I say that as youth grows, old age comes in, you again don’t ask about the agent who brings it. The growth of childhood turns into youth of its own accord. And similarly, the growth of youth turns into old age. It is not a question of being brought about through some agency. As there are natural stages of life, so there are natural stages of social growth. If capitalism develops, it turns into socialism on its own; nobody works as a medium. And when you talk of the medium, it means that capitalism is not ripe enough and so the question of the medium arises. A medium is thought to be necessary only when capitalism has not developed well and therefore socialism has to be brought about. But this will be an imposed socialism and not a natural one. It will, however, come of its own if we just let it come. Socialism can come only if we don’t force it.
In answer to your question I can only say that the transformation of a social system happens by itself — as youth turns into old age. Can you say on which particular day of the calendar the young man turned old? Many of you have grown to youth and old age.
Can you say when the particular events took place? You will say that you don’t know.
The growth of life is so silent, so subtle a phenomenon, that no demarcation lines can be drawn between different stages of its growth.
Yet we are trying to guess as to when capitalism will change itself into socialism. In my view two conditions have to be fulfilled for this change to happen.
First, it will change when there will be an abundance of wealth, not before. All attempts to change it prematurely will fail. In communist countries like Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, capitalism is returning, because they acted in haste by imposing socialism.
Now they are slowing down the process of socialization since they realized their mistake.
They realized that it was a mistake to have forced the pace of collectivization, and now they are relaxing its rigors. Their experiences of thirty or forty years have shown them that this thing does not agree with human nature, and that human nature should be allowed to have its way. You can force a man to work for a day or two, even for three, but you cannot do so forever. Only that can last forever which is in harmony with human nature. Socialism lies in abundance of wealth — excessive wealth. This is one thing. But the question is how this abundance of wealth will happen.
Abundance of wealth cannot be created by man’s labor; labor will have to be replaced by technology to achieve this aim. It is worthwhile, therefore, to give up the mad attempt to replace capitalism with socialism, and engage ourselves instead in replacing man’s labor with technology.
Another friend has asked:
YOU TALK OF DEVELOPING TECHNOLOGY, BUT IS IT CHILD’S PLAY?
Yes, development of technology is child’s play. Go and see Germany, or Japan for that matter. Germany was razed to the ground during the Second World War; it was destroyed as no other country has ever been destroyed. But in twenty years’ time after the war, Germany became much more prosperous than it ever was before. Similarly, Japan was destroyed in the same war, but just in twenty years, Japan attained a prosperity that it never had before.
But there is a glaring difference in the attainment of the two parts of Germany. Some of my friends visited Berlin only recently. They tell me that there is a world of difference between the eastern part of Berlin, which is in the hands of the communists, and its western part, which is in the hands of non-communists. While the communist part of Berlin is still poor and miserable, the affluence achieved by non-communist Berlin is astounding. Berlin stands today as a symbol — where the difference between the two systems is so clear-cut that choice is easy.
Another friend has asked:
YOU HIGHLY PRAISE CAPITALISM, WHILE YOU OVERLOOK THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF RUSSIA. HAS NOT TECHNOLOGY BEEN DEVELOPED IN RUSSIA? HAVE NOT THE RUSSIANS REACHED THE MOON? DON’T THEY HAVE EVERYTHING WHICH CAPITALISM HAS?
Russia has developed; I don’t deny it. There is a skyscraper in Moscow too, but there are hundreds of skyscrapers in New York. And the single skyscraper of Moscow has been built at the cost of the starving people of Russia. People were forced to sacrifice so that things like the skyscraper could be built. And it is built with the sole purpose of show — they want to tell those visiting their country that they are not a poor people, that they have their skyscrapers too. But in America sky-scrapers have come up with the same ease with which the grass grows from the soil. No force was applied and no sacrifices made in America for building skyscrapers; they came by themselves. Moscow too, has an underground railway whose stations are lined with marble, but the subway is also a showpiece achieved at a tremendous cost — paid by the people’s sweat and blood. There are high class hotels in Moscow for visitors, and in the neighborhood of those very hotels, poor people had to stand in line for hours in 1935 for their daily bread. Both things — showpieces and suffering people — are standing side by side, but we don’t see them.
Recently the Russians tried their best to reach the moon, but they had to slow down their efforts because the game proved much too costly. To land one man on the moon was going to cost one hundred and eighty billion rupees, so they retraced their steps under the pressure of the poor millions who said they were being starved to pay for a mad race.
Russia ultimately realized that the stake was costly. But for America it was really child’s play to reach the moon.
Russia has, of course, developed its technology, but it is a forced development. And because it was forced, it is now lagging behind. The toiling people have lost their nerve, and they are no more prepared to work that hard. Gone are the clays of revolutionary zeal; the revolutionary fever has died down.
Life goes by natural laws. And for man, one of those natural laws lies in capitalism.
When I say that technology is a play, I don’t mean that it will appear by magic. But twenty or twenty-five years are nothing in the life of a country. But if you keep thinking that technology is not child’s play, which can be achieved in a short time, you will not achieve it even in a thousand years.
I have heard a story.
A man is sitting on the outskirts of his village with his lamp, and it is dark all over. A passerby comes along and asks him what he is doing there. The man says that he has to go far to visit a temple on the top of the hill, yonder, ten miles distant. The passerby says, “Then come along. Let us go together. Why don’t you start walking?” The man replies, “My lamp is so small that it hardly lights a distance of three feet, and the journey is long.
I have been calculating and wondering how I can cover such a long journey with this small lamp.” The other man says, “You are simply crazy! If you keep sitting here you will die before you can start on your journey. You will never reach that temple; your arithmetic will kill you Get up and get going. When you have covered a distance of three feet the lamp will light up three feet further, and thus you can go on and on. But if you keep calculating you will never reach your destination. And if you give up calculating and start right now, you can complete a journey of even a thousand miles with this lamp.”
The problem with us is that we think that we have been a wise people since time immemorial. But down the ages we have just been calculating and arguing about everything without doing a thing.
That is why you ask how technology can be possible — a big thing like technology will take twenty years at least. I say, it will not happen even in twenty years if you think that it will take a long time. And it can happen in just ten years if you decide to start the work right now. It is a matter of being clear and positive and starting the work immediately.
And the matter is so urgent that if you do not go with a sense of urgency and go fast, you will be nowhere in the world fifty years from now. Maybe the distance between you and the rest of the world will be the same as exists today between the aboriginals of Bastar and the people of Bombay. It is already happening and happening every day. We are not aware of how things are moving on the world scale.
Recently I came across a few statistics that are startling. The scientists living today all around the world form ninety percent of the entire number of scientists that the world has produced in the course of the entire history of mankind. That means that ninety percent of all scientists have been born in the last fifty years only, and only ten percent were born in the course of ten thousand years. And, of the existing ninety percent of scientists, fifty percent are gathered in one country alone, and that is America. Again, that means that America has at its disposal fifty percent of all the growth of scientific intelligence and scientific knowledge that the human race has produced in its whole life. This collection of scientific intelligence may soon reach a stage of growth where it may become impossible for us to catch up with it. So we have to start fast and work with a sense of utter urgency.
But our ways are strange. We are not concerned about technology and growth. We have other things to be concerned with. We are concerned about how to bring socialism and distribute wealth equally. We are concerned with strikes and go-slow-strikes, with gharaos, with physically encircling and confining the executive authorities, and things like that. We are concerned with postponement of university examinations. We are concerned whether a certain village should remain with Mysore or go to Maharashtra. We are worried whether Ghandigarh should go to Punjab or Hariyana. There seems to be no end to our madness. Chandigarh will remain where it is, but we are unnecessarily worried.
I have heard that when India was being partitioned, a mental asylum came right on the dividing line, and it had to be divided between India and Pakistan. But the difficulty was that neither India not Pakistan was interested in having the mad people. So the authorities thought of consulting the inmates themselves. They had to explain the whole thing to them again and again, and then they could get it. What is interesting is that while those who were sane agreed to divide their country, the insane ones asked, “Why should we divide it at all?” The authorities said, “Because of the Hindus and Mohammedans.” The madmen said, “Let them be. Here, we have both Hindus and Mohammedans, but we never fight among ourselves. It appears that Hindus and Mohammedans living beyond the walls of this madhouse have surpassed us. We live together amicably; there is no difficulty. We eat and drink together and we never use knives and shotguns against each other. Then why do you way that we are mad?”
The authorities further explained, “We don’t have much to say, we only ask you what side you choose to go with — whether you go to India or Pakistan?” To this the madmen said, “We want to remain where we are.” The officers again said, “Don’t worry. Of course you will remain here, but let us know which country you choose to go with?” The madmen then retorted, “Have you gone really mad? If we have to remain here, why does the question of going anywhere arise?”
Now the authorities found themselves in an intractable situation. It was difficult to argue with mad people, so they came upon a device instead of carrying on the argument with them. They just drew a line with a piece of chalk and divided the asylum into two parts.
Half of it became Pakistan and the other half became India. And a wall was then erected.
Only a little while ago I heard that at times madmen climb the dividing wall and say to each other, “How strange. We are where we are, we are both in the same place, but now we are two peoples — Indians and Pakistanis. And all because of this wall.”
The madness that once existed in the form of India and Pakistan has taken new forms.
Now we are quarreling over whether a particular district should remain with Mysore or it should go to Maharashtra. The mad people of Mysore shout, “We want it to remain with Mysore,” and those of Maharashtra scream, “No, we want it for ourselves!” And no one asks why we are worried about a district which will always remain where it is. But the whole country is involved in any number of such pseudo-problems. The politicians are perverting the mind of the country by raising false issues instead of genuine ones. While the real problems of the country are different, the leaders are agitating for meaningless issues. Some people say that cow-slaughter should stop. When man himself is about to die the politicians are protecting the cow. Some people may come forward and agitate against killing of mosquitoes and bugs, and there is no doubt that they will be acknowledged as leaders.
Now men are on the brink of death and the country is about to be pushed backward forever and ever. The country is facing grave dangers. Those who have a worldwide view say that by 1978 a great famine will visit India in which two hundred million people may die. When I talked about it with a great political leader in Delhi, he said. “1978 is very far. What really matters for us are the 1972 elections. We will see when the famine comes and two hundred million people die, but the immediate question is who is going to occupy the chair of the prime minister of the country.”
Right now there is only one most significant question before the whole country and it is how to produce wealth. It is a momentous question: How to take the country through a technological revolution so that we produce enough food and clothes and other necessities of life?
But the problem is not going to be solved. It is not going to be solved because the politicians are diverting the attention and energy of the people in wrong directions. They have always been entangling the country in meaningless problems. But they can raise only such questions as their small minds are capable of raising. It seems that because of their ideal of simplicity they are practicing abstinence from intelligence too. Maybe renunciation of intelligence is essential for being a leader. Their minds are full of cobwebs — cobwebs of all shapes and sizes. And these cobwebs are so venerable for someone or other that you cannot remove them. They all bear the trademarks of different gods and goddesses, saints and mahatmas. It is so difficult to tear them off because their patrons are always coming in the way.
We must stop thinking in terms of the spinning wheel if we really want to take the country through a technological revolution. We have to think in terms of giant machines and automation. The difficulty is that on the one hand we want to develop technology, and on the other. we cry “Victory to Gandhi!” and swear allegiance to his ideology. This creates all inner contradiction and a split in our minds. Gandhi is against industry and industrialization; he is against centralization of production, and you celebrate his centenary with fanfare. You also want technological revolution, but both Gandhi and technological revolution cannot go together. The country’s mind has to be united as one and we have to be very clear about what we want and what we are going to do. We have to act without any further loss of time.
And we can act. The country has an enormous labor force, and there is plenty of intelligence too. In fact, the country today has an excuse of intelligence. For the first time the youth of India have shown a glimpse of wisdom, but they don’t know how to use it in a creative way. That is the reason they are engaged in destructive activities. Please remember that the energy that is used in destruction is the same energy that creates. It is the same energy that creates and destroys — the difference is only of its direction. If it does not get an opportunity to express itself creatively, it turns to destructive activities.
This country lacks the will to create, although it has enough energy to seize and grab from one another.
That is why I say that socialism is not a creative ambition; it only believes in grabbing and looting and distribution of the booty. The have-nots are out to plunder the haves. But the tragedy is that we don’t have enough wealth to distribute. Very few people have wealth. If many had it, we would then have seized and distributed their wealth.
And we have no idea of creating wealth. We cannot have it unless we inspire the entire youth force, the coming force of the country, with a vision of creativity. This vision, this spirit of creativity, is difficult to achieve when the leaders of the country are busy exhorting the youth that we are poor, not for lack of the spirit of creativity, but because of exploitation. What they say, however. is utterly wrong.
People are also being told that they are poor because of a decline in our moral character. I would like to discuss this issue in some detail, because it is very important to us. We have received a few questions on this matter also.
The whole country is being told that because characterlessness is rampant, character has to be rebuilt first, and unless we do it we cannot be wealthy and prosperous. Wherever the question of corruption and destructiveness arises they immediately come out with the theory that it is so for want of basic character. But I say to you that character is simply impossible in poverty. Character and poverty do not go together. Character, too, is a luxury which is only possible in conditions of prosperity and affluence. I don’t say that character necessarily comes with prosperity. What I mean to say is that with prosperity character becomes possible.
But how can a poor man have character? Life closes in on him from all sides and suffocates him so that he is compelled to say good-bye to character. Nevertheless, the politicians go on saying that poverty cannot be eradicated unless corruption is eradicated.
This is putting the cart before the horse. So I say let us drop the talk of character and characterlessness for the present and put all our energy towards eradicating poverty. And when poverty disappears, corruption will disappear on its own. Poverty has to go first. It will not go with the departure of characterlessness, just because the latter is simply not going to disappear. But with the departure of poverty and degradation, the level of character will begin to rise.
A magistrate visited me the other day. By the way, he told me that he did not accept bribes. I asked him to let me know the limit within which he refused bribes. He was startled and said that he could not understand what I meant. I said, “Would you accept if I offer a bribe of five paise?” He said, “What are you talking about? Five paise? Never!”
“And if I give you five rupees?” I asked again. He again said no. And I asked, “And what about five hundred?” He repeated his no, but this time his no was not that emphatic.
When I raised the assumed figure of a bribe to five thousand rupees, he queried about the purpose of my asking these questions, but he did not say no this time. And finally as I raised the sum to five hundred thousand he said that he would have to think about it.
What does lack of character mean? You are a man of character if you refuse a bribe of five paise and you become characterless on accepting a hundred thousand rupees? No, every man has his limit. If the offer is only a few paise he can say no and retain his character because he has had lots of paise in his possession. But if the offer comes in the form of five hundred rupees, the question arises whether to refuse or not to refuse it.
Someone can afford to refuse five hundred rupees because he has much more than that in his bank accounts. But when an offer of five hundred thousand comes along, he thinks then that character is not worth this sum — it can be given away for the moment; there will be enough time in the future to mend it.
A little while ago a friend informed me that the Jain saint Chitrabhan has gone on a trip to a foreign country. Since he is a Jain saint he is not expected to go overseas, but he went in spite of the opposition of the Jains. The friend wanted to know what I thought of it.
I said that in the first place Chitrabhan was not a saint, not because he went on a foreign trip, but because he continues to be a Jain, and a Jain cannot be a saint. A saint is just a man, he is not a Jain or a Hindu or a Christian or a Mohammedan. And secondly, he escaped with the kamandol — the water container — and other things which are symbols of a Jain saint, and which the Jains had asked him to return to them. The Jains had gone to the airport when Chitrabhan was leaving, to seize his symbols, but he managed to hold on to them. It appears that the saint and his opponents are in the same boat, because both believe that sainthood consists of those articles. Chitrabhan escaped with those things because he thought he would be reduced to nothing without them. He had nothing else with him; without those symbols he would not have made his foreign trip worthwhile.
His saint-hood was confined in those things.
As the friend wants to know my view, I say it was sheer cunningness on his part to do so.
If he thought it right to travel abroad, he should have given up the symbol of those who were opposed to his going to a foreign country as a Jain saint. But he held on to the symbols and kept them with him with great effort because he did not want to lose the respectability that went with the symbols. This was sheer cunningness, pure dishonesty on his part. It is not a question whether his foreign tour was right or wrong — the question is that you want to have the respect that comes with those Jain symbols, the respect of the Jains who are opposed to your tour. It was not proper at all.
The friend also wanted to know what Chitrabhan would do after his return from the foreign trip. I said he would atone for it. He would atone and apologize. And the act of atonement will not be that severe, because there was no airplane when the Jain scriptures were written. So he will atone for using a vehicle like the bullock cart and be back in the Jain fold. He will be a saint again.
The thing is that he had to choose between character and the tempting offer of a foreign tour. While he was here he had never used any transport, he always walked on foot from one place to another. And he was enjoying the respectability that comes with being a Jain saint. Now an invitation from Switzerland created a big problem. It was like the offer of a bribe worth five hundred thousand rupees. What to do? To accept it or not was the question. He had to make a choice between his character as a Jain saint and the respectability that comes with a foreign tour. The choice was really difficult and he had to give up character because the temptation was great. If you had offered to take him to Poona in your car, he would have easily turned it down, because it was like a bribe of five paise. He would have walked to Poona or foregone the offer altogether. But the offer of a visit to Switzerland was too much; he had never been there. Until then he had been confined to Bombay; he had not even seen Poona. So Switzerland was too much and he had to give up his character.
Generally the movement of a Jain monk is very restricted. Because he cannot use any transport, he has to walk and walk. He lives like a frog lives in a well. So when a Jain monk goes from one part of a city, say Bombay, to another part, it is said that he has changed his city. He is still in Bombay, but he has changed his city. It is the story of the mad asylum being repeated. So it was with Chitrabhan before he went to Switzerland. His visit to Switzerland was like an offer of a bribe of five hundred thousand rupees, and he accepted the offer in the hope that he will mend his character later on. After all, it does not take much time to mend character.
This is how everybody’s mind works.
Really, it is poverty that does not allow character to grow. And who is poor? Lack of any kind, any sort of inferiority, makes for poverty. For example, an Indian monk thinks that unless he has visited Europe and America, he is not a great monk, he is far behind Vivekanand. He is oppressed by the feeling that he will remain a petty monk if he does not visit the West. An inferior man is a poor man. Whether he is inferior in wealth or in knowledge, or in prestige or in anything, he is a poor man. And poverty breeds corruption, characterlessness. Every kind of corruption arises from poverty. And since there are many forms of poverty, the forms of corruption are also many.
Similarly, there are many kinds of richness too. There is a richness of wealth — and it is difficult to bribe a wealthy person. Then there is a richness of knowledge — you cannot buy a really knowing person with certificates. Self-knowledge or enlightenment has a richness of its own; it is difficult to tempt a Buddha with the things of the ego. And peace has its own richness where challenges and tensions simply go to waste.
Character comes from richness, from fulfillment — fulfillment of all kinds. So let India understand well that it has to create richness first, and not indulge in tall talk of morality and character. Once richness is there, it will be easy to build character. But if we start from the wrong end, if we think of creating character first, we will have none — neither character nor prosperity. On the contrary, our poverty will become accentuated and abiding. Such mistakes have been made more than once.
A farmer sows wheat in his field. With the wheat harvest comes chaff. A foolish farmer may think that if chaff comes with wheat when wheat is sown, similarly wheat will come with chaff if chaff is sown. But it is never going to happen. On the contrary, even the chaff will be wasted. If chaff comes with wheat, it does not mean that wheat will come with chaff. Chaff is a by-product of wheat, but wheat is not a by-product of chaff.
Similarly, what you call character is a by-product of prosperity, wealth and education.
But we think in a lopsided way; we put things upside-down. We think that if we build character, prosperity and affluence will follow on their own. This is not going to happen.
It is impossible to build character without building prosperity first. If we have to have character, let us begin by having prosperity; let us begin from the beginning.
Let there be a unitary objective, a single goal before the whole country for the coming twenty years. Let us stop talking tall, talking nonsense, and work for this one objective with single-minded commitment. In twenty years’ time we must reach where Japan, a war-torn and vanquished country, and Israel, a poor newborn country, reached in twenty years. If they could attain to that prosperity, why not we?
Certainly we can, but our mind is divided; we don’t have an integrated mind. We think of a thousand things — all absurd and stupid things. The creative energy of the people is being diverted into wrong channels. But it is all in the interest of the politician, who comes to power by dividing the people. Divide and rule is his maxim.
The importance of the politician in India has to be reduced. It is essential to devalue him.
At the moment he has too much value; he is at the center of the stage. He commands all our attention, all our respect, everything — as if politics has become our life. Really it is not our life; it has fraudulently assumed this role, and it has to be pulled down from the pedestal.
One last word. If you want the good of your country, stop giving respect and adulation to the politician and make him leave the center of the stage. He does not deserve it. It is amazing that if the chamber of commerce holds its annual meeting, the prime minister is invited to inaugurate it. And the prime minister rebukes businessmen in their faces and they listen to him in silence, with a broad, but false smile on their faces. And if it is a university convocation, again the politician is called to deliver the convocation address to the students. People who never saw the face of a university are delivering convocation addresses. It is really too much. It is time we remove the politician from this exalted position — it is not at all necessary to exalt him, to hallow him. We have to cease looking up to him and turn our eyes in other directions.
We have now to turn our eyes to the centers of creativity. Wherever life is creative, whether it is in the field of science or wealth or health or literature or poetry or religion — the eyes of the country should be focused on it. Let us respect the scientist, the technologist, the educationist, the poet, the writer, the producer, the worker — they are the people who really create and enrich our lives. If we turn our backs on the politician, in twenty years we will have all: technology, wealth and character. And when the country is affluent then alone we will be able to thank God.
How can a poor man thank God? For what? Even if he goes to a temple he begs for the marriage of his daughter, for the employment of his son and for the medical care of his sick wife. And while he is standing with folded hands before a statue, he is wondering if his prayers are going to be answered at all, he is wondering whether there is God or not.
He says to himself that he will have belief in God if his sick wife gets proper medical care and his son is employed. The existence of God depends on his wife’s health and his son’s employment! The poor man can only beg, he cannot thank Cod.
But true religion is thanksgiving. True religion is a feeling of gratefulness. And who is grateful? Grateful is he who has everything in life, and he truly says to God, “Thank you!
You gave me happiness, you gave me peace, you gave me bliss, you gave me the fragrance and music of life, and I am immensely grateful to you!” The poor man cannot be religious. It is only the man of riches, who has riches of all kinds, who has peace, happiness and bliss, who thanks God heartily.
In the end I pray to God that the day may come when we will go to his temple not to beg, but to thank him. And that day can come.
I am grateful to you for having listened to me in silence and with great love. And I bow down to the God residing inside all of you. Please accept my salutations.