This talk was given by H.H. Swami Chinmayananda, world renowned authority on the scriptures of India. It was recorded live on December 2, 1992 at the United Nations by Source Productions. In a vivid and humorous style, he not only eloquently defines the current problems facing us today, but also offers practical long-term solutions for the individual, the community and the world at large. Video cassette of live recording of this event is available from any Chinmaya Mission centers.
PROBLEMS FACING US TODAY
Why is it that we are not able to find a solution to all the problems in the world? What is it we do not have? Organizations like the United Nations have never before in world history, joined together for the purpose of bringing peace to the world.
Technology has brought about global communication. Knowledge and science have developed tremendously. We are not in the caveman's state of utter ignorance and development. We have conquered the world and outer space, yet with all these achievements, people are suffering and unhappy. There are problems after problems. Never before has the world been in this condition.
Take the map of the world, close your eyes and put your finger anywhere you like. Is not that area disturbed, having mutual killing and famine? If food reaches there, they do not want to distribute it. Think of it? Then the army comes. But is the army the answer? Is providing food for the hungry the solution? Think, what is the solution? For years you have been struggling in this great Institution. But what is the sum total of your results? You have tried politics, changed the constitutions and changed sonic laws. What is it that you have not done? Diplomacy? It is all right to say that we have progressed. What is this progress? Progressed to what? Progress in the arrangement of the outer world? Expecting from this a great individual satisfaction and fulfillment? This is what we have expected. Did we get it? When we look back in history, was not the caveman much happier?
We have everything. Better housing, better clothing and food . Yet with the luxurious plenty of the outer world, you and I sit on cushions and weep. It does not matter if you are rich or poor, powerful or powerless. No community or race is happy. In fact no part of the world seems to be happy. Why? Why? We never ask this question! All we do is find out what the problem is. Then they find out how to mitigate it and cure it for the time being. But we do not inquire into the fundamental source of all these disturbances.
It is something like a doctor who does not know the diagnosis and starts treating the various complications he has seen and observed. If it is a fever, he gives him medicine for a fever. If he has a sore throat, treats him for that, etc. But what is the source from which all these diseases are coming? He is not able to understand it. Therefore he starts treating according to what he knows. Are we not doing that? Millions have been doing it. Due to technological knowledge and development, we have started new methods of mitigating the sufferings of the world. Yet have we brought about any peace and tranquillity? By the time you have solved one problem in one part of the world, ten different ones have erupted in another part of the world.
How long are you going to treat the world with this same technique? We tried economics, revolutions, political changes, art and literature. We tried different religions, churches, mosques and temples. They themselves have become sources of mutual animosity. I am trying to make you realize what a sad condition we are in . Are you satisfied with the world condition? It is all right in journals and newspapers to congratulate you and me. But are we happy?
When you start thinking, you must think deeper. -What is the source of these eruptions? Think! This is what Vedanta does. It is a subjective science. It is not an objective science. We do not recommend a solution for problem after problem, individual, communal , national or international. Vedanta goes into the depths and tries to find out the source of all these troubles.
As a result of this, the subjective scientists, called rishis, saints and sages, from the Vedic period onward, with one voice, they are all crying out that it is time to move on to a new realm and level of consciousness. I am saying it in one word, but I will try to explain.
This is the pain of a new birth. No new birth is possible when the mother is smiling and the child is laughing and giggling. No! When both cry, it is a new birth. Is not the world in pangs of pain and agony? We refuse to move forward in a new direction. We are not able to recognize what has to be done because it is easier to follow what has been done in the past. There are periods in history when the world progresses forward and we must learn to adapt to the new conditions around us. If we are not able to adapt, Nature's Laws have no compassion. It will wipe us clean.
Many birds, plants and animals have become extinct in nature because they were not able to adapt themselves to the surrounding environment. The same will be the fate if man is not smart enough, conscious or intelligent enough to understand the nature of the situation around and try to change himself and adapt himself to the new environment. Change yourself means adapt yourself to the new environment. How sad it is that Nature's Laws work to help things become extinct?
Has not the Roman Empire died and disappeared? Mesopotamia is gone. All were great cultures and great people. The greatest literature and heroes lived at that time. What happened? Where did they go? Why were they wiped out? They were not able to adapt themselves. A new system was arising at that time.
Don't you think we have arrived at a point where the old methods can no longer be a remedy for the sufferings of mankind? Think! Why? Because the source is something different. It is not physical, emotional or intellectual. But with these levels the objective scientists are trying to find out all the remedies Sit back and think, "Why do we have the problems of AIDS?" Why do we have various sorrows of the world, economic upsets, poverty, disease and mutual killing?
No two countries can look at each other without anger. Why? When you thus analyze the cause of things, hunting for cause of effects, this is called an intellectual method of analyzing and understanding the world around us. Causation hunting is the preoccupation of the human intellect. This is how all sciences develop. Inquiring into the cause of things. Why is it we are suffering in spite of our continuous efforts? Our goal is clear. We put forth all our effort, more than we have ever done in the history of mankind. Yet by the time we have solved one problem, ten different problems arise. Why is this? What is the spring from which all these problems and sorrows arise? When we analyze it, a wondrous new truth which the ordinary materialist and scientist may not accept immediately. The outside world is an echo and a reflection of our minds. Think!
One Swami is talking. You are all intelligent people listening. Can I say that all of you are understanding in the same way? It cannot be. You receive the idea and interpret it according to your own mind. He understands it with his mind. So your world outside is ordered by, governed by, controlled by your mental attitude. Haven't you heard people say that this world is a Hell? Haven't you heard people say this world is a Heaven? Successful people say that this world is wonderful. Unsuccessful people say, "I want to die." Why? It is the same situation, the same sun, moon and stars. The same atmosphere and elements. Yet one feels it is wonderful and the other is miserable. When mommy and daddy are home, the elder son thinks it is heaven. The younger son thinks, "I am waiting to become 18 years old so that I can get away from these wretched people." His parents are loving him fully and completely, yet his interpretation is that he is in Hell. These undisciplined mental disturbances prompt us to live on instincts and impulses of the mind. They are utterly selfish, heartlessly desiring everything in the exterior world, wanting to acquire, possess, embrace, indulge and enjoy. They are like any cattle and we live only at the mental level at this moment.
All of us have intelligence to analyze and realize that what I am doing is wrong, but you do not have the strength to live up to it. There is no one who does not know that he is immoral, drinking is bad, smoking is ruinous. And yet we ask them, "Why are you drinking?" It is not that I don't know it. I know it, but I can't give it up. Everyone! Cheating, telling a lie, becoming angry, cruel and criminal in nature. It is not that you do not know it is wrong. But you say, "I am sorry, I cannot be away from it. I am compelled to do things." Think!
Now friends, each individual is a unit in this universe. All individuals put together is called a community, nation or world. Apart from the individuals, there is no world. Without distinction, all your minds put together is the world outside. If the majority of the minds are egocentric, utterly selfish, arrogant, vulgar, without character, that society, that community will be of the same character. That nation is no nation, it is only a country where a population lives. There is no integrity between themselves and no understanding internationally. . . Through individual perfection alone can world perfection be aspired.
In all world scriptures, this is the conclusion of our great thinkers of the past. I am not talking about Vedanta or Indian textbooks. Is not the Bible saying the same? Is not the Koran saying the same? The Dhammapada of the Buddhists saying the same? Every great Master who has given thought to it has understood that the cause for the sorrows of the world, is the imperfection and disturbances of your own mind.
Ecology has been a new science for the past fourteen years. Suddenly they have realized that the world is Divine. You have to look after it and not reject it disrespectfully. Your greed should not destroy the world. Your plundering in the world outside must stop. You must reverence and respect nature. Ohhhhh, in only fourteen years?!
In the Vedic period, Purushasookta, the Great Chant expresses that the whole universe of things and beings is One Divine Person, One Divine living organism. Not a dead carcass. It is pulsating and living, revere it and love it. There is no limit. The sky is the limit that nature can supply you. Environmental peace and quietude is the right field for us to function, strive, achieve and aspire to. But this environment is all broken down. Think!
Recently the government of India decided to clean the Ganges. A lot of money was spent cleaning the river. Do you know that every river is clean at all times. You and I sitting on the banks of the river are dirtying it. The dirtying is not stopped, but we are purifying the river. Stop dirtying and poisoning it and the river will purify itself. Why? Fresh waters are coming in. It pushes out all the poisonous matter and the river becomes pure. We are the ones who made it poisonous and dirty. Whether it is environmental or political disturbances, or economical thralldom all these rise from endless greed and negative tendencies of the human mind, therefore life is miserable.
Once two brothers were living in the same home, eating from the same table and the sister-in-law cooking the food as in India. At 2 a.m. the younger brother woke up and vomited up the food. This happened for two or three days. His wife thought that the sister-in-law poisoned the food and suggested to exchange the food plates the next day. So the younger brother exchanged plates as his elder brother looked on. He smiled and said to his younger brother, "You are still childish, what is the difference?" Again the next morning he vomited up the food. So they went to see their family doctor. This doctor suggested that he go to a dentist. After the dentist looked in his mouth, he asked him if he was still living. "Your teeth are in very bad condition with a lot of pus," he said. He x-rayed and pulled all his teeth. The dentist explained that the food was not poisoned but that he himself poisoned the food with his bad teeth.
SECRET OF ACTION
Even today the world is a pure divine thing. When it passes through our mind by "My terms and my experiences", we poison it with our own false thinking, false ideas and false values. Think, all living organisms are responding and reacting to the world around us. This is called Life. There is not a single moment when you are not responding and reacting to the world. These responses and reactions at the body level in the world are called "work" or "action".
We are all active, dynamic people because we are alive. But your actions are totally different from another individual even when the conditions are the same. Under the same circumstances, threats or joys, the environment remains the same and each individual responds differently. Why? Responses to the world are ordered by, determined by, guided by my thoughts. It is subjective.
All actions are expressions of our minds. If we smile, that is your thought. If you growl, it is your thought. If you punch his nose flat, that is a thought. Good, bad or indifferent, all actions are expressions of our minds, our thoughts.
You say, "Swamiji, this is funny, it is God who gives thoughts to me and I am angry." "I have no objection when I succeed in action. Is it God that succeeded or myself that succeeded? Oh! no, no, I did it!" What are you talking about?" When you do something wrong and the police are after you, then you say that the Lord gave you this idea and I am now punished. Absurd! This is escapism. When you scientifically analyze it, the quality and quantity of thoughts that I entertain in my mind determines the very contours of my expression in the world, my behavior and responses to the world.
"If that is true, Swamiji, tell me why I always have a dirty mind and thoughts? I shamelessly express it. Everyone laughs at me because I am a dirty fellow. My brother's thoughts are beautiful, his actions are perfect and everyone applauds and congratulates him. Everyone loves him. Why? My thoughts are negative and his positive. This is really a serious problem."
Think of yourself. Why am I lustful, greedy, passionate, jealous and have all these negative thoughts? These thoughts create trouble for myself and sorrow to others. Other people are loving, tender, compassionate, ready to make sacrifices for others. Why these differences? If these are all thoughts and the quality of thoughts are the cause for it, now the question is, "Why do I constantly have negative thoughts? Why does my brother have good thoughts? Why?"
This was a serious question and those great Subjective Masters that scientifically observed, analyzed and collected all the data, came to the conclusion that the quality and types of thoughts. that arise in you are ordered by your own intellectual convictions.
If I am convinced from childhood that money is all I want. If I have money and am a billionaire, I am a happy man. All I want is money, money, money. I am introduced to Swami and shake his hand. What are his thoughts? "Can I get something from him? Has he got enough? Are there any methods to get that money?" Suppose you are constantly dreaming about women. No matter how strong in character and behavior you are, the moment you shake hands you start thinking, "Not bad". I am not joking. The quality of thoughts are determined by each individual's intellectual convictions that this is my goal.
My purpose in life is the same, whether it is women or drinking. Do not all alcoholics advise you that drinking is the only way to live comfortably in life? Minus drinking, life is empty and miserable. You are not living, that is why you are not drinking. He is convinced that living means drinking. Then you say that you do not drink at all. Another man feels that power is the thing. He wants power by whatever means, fair or foul. Even if millions have to die, he must have power. It does not matter if it is political power, power in a company or in a board meeting, anywhere!
Each one of us is convinced of a goal in life and every thought in him is ordered by and colored by that intellectual decision and conviction. All these thoughts are being expressed through you and me. These are called values of life. Values have become very popular in America the last few years. Value based management, value based economics, value based politics, value based family life . . . hmmm. At election time, all these things come out, afterwards they are forgotten.
Value based conferences and symposiums are held at many universities. In the past several years, I have been invited to these lectures at several universities. Professors carry many books and files and embrace the knowledge outside. There is no knowledge inside. Professors speak as if they were lawyers with law books on both sides of them. They talk from morning to evening, one after another. What enormous patience the Americans have to sit and listen all day. But they are not understanding it at the end of the day. After 18 hours, how can you understand? You are tired, but they go on talking. At the end of the day, sometimes they ask me to come and say a few words.
I went to the platform and said, "My learned erudite scholars, in your presence, what can I say? You have been talking the past three days on values. What is a value? Value is a price? Value means what? In order to make you believe it, I am telling you honestly that in all six universities, I was shocked. I felt that somewhere an attempt should have been made to at least define what a value is. All of them just looked at each other and said, "What a funny question you are asking. Why? Why do you want to know what a value is, it is a symposium on values." You see they are not thinking of values.
A thing by itself has no value. Think of it, a piece of wood at the road side has no value. If someone takes it and carves a doll and gives it to a poor man's child, it has value. A piece of iron rusting away on the road side has no value. But let a man heat up the iron and beat it to make a vegetable knife with a wooden handle, then it has value. A thing by itself has no value. The thing plus your effort in it gives it a value. Raw material taken from the world has no value by itself. We use our technological knowledge, put effort into it and it becomes a thing that has value and use to society. You cannot get values from a symposium by merely listening or reading. After reading and listening, you have to start thinking, then you have to work on yourself to create the right values.
This can be helped to a great extent if the environment for the growing child is healthy. Children understand not by words, but by demonstration. If parents have values and are educated, their behavior must be a declaration of these higher values. Children are then living in that atmosphere.
Not only parents, teachers and the school atmosphere, but the whole thing has to be changed. We have neglected it for thousands of years. The whole system of thinking in the universe has changed into a calamitous tragedy and it has created more and more problems and situations.
Change! "But Swamiji, changing is difficult." I mentioned earlier that the plants that refused to change and adapt themselves became extinct. Animals that could not adapt to the environment became extinct. The great cultures and civilizations of Rome and Greece, Mesopotamia and even the Chinese, the culture is gone, almost gone. Why? They are not emphasizing the necessary discipline. There is a method, no doubt there is a totality of the method. "No Swamiji, it is not possible." OK, that job is not mine but you have to start rethinking the whole system by which we are trying to solve today's problems.
Any intelligent man will say that it 's ineffectual, a waste of human effort, human lives, army fatalities and through the army, other people die. That is not the solution. You have to change the mental attitude. If the mental attitude had changed in South Africa, would so many people have died there? I am just giving an example.
Whether it is Lebanon, Iraq or Iran, when there is a change of values through which quality of thoughts are purified, the actions become so beautiful and the community is healthy. I am not talking in terms of economic development, more money in the country. This is not necessary! All our saints and sages searched and attained bliss and maximum happiness. It is not true that all of them were voluntarily poor. It is a superficial observation to say that poverty is the cause for sorrows.
I can also say that the sorrows are there because of the wealth of the country. Sorrows are not caused by wealth or by poverty. It is your own clinging attachment. Have higher values in life where minimum is sufficient. Jesus never had a pope's palace. He was living under a bridge. He wore a torn frock, a broken chappal (sandal) and in the daytime he and his disciples sat on the public park bench. Do you mean to say that he was not happy? Did he not contribute anything to the world? He never had a United Nations Organization, a counsel or committees. What sheer beauty of thought! Think!
Friends, this mental renaissance must come. A greater awareness must come. We are being pushed towards the search for a higher state of consciousness. Just as when the fetus in the mother's womb is fully developed, does not every muscle in that loving mother push the child out? The child also wants to come out. If he does not come, a c-section is performed. In the same way, does not Nature from all sides squeeze the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless, whether you are a developed nation or an underdeveloping nation? A developed nation or a never developing nation, it does not matter. Is not everyone in the whole world being squeezed? Why? The pain and agony of a new birth. We have to move from materialistic prosperity and from running after objects into a better and larger awareness, a greater state of consciousness.
REAWAKENING THE HUMAN SPIRIT
We have to move into a process of reaching out to that greater state of consciousness. Or call it God-state consciousness, I have no objection. A larger state of consciousness. A broader shoulder to take the responsibility of the sorrows of the world upon your own shoulders. "I am the cause for the sorrows of the world". You change and the world will change. What we want is for the world to change so that "I" may be happy! This is called a materialistic point of view. We have lived this way for thousands of years. We have been struggling to beautify the world, not to beautify yourself. You are left to rot and the rotten people live in a beautiful world. We make the world rot.
If pigs are brought into your living room and allowed to stay over night, what will be the condition of this room the next day? It will become a pig sty. Where pigs live, it will be dirty. People live in this world and complain that something is wrong with the world. There is nothing wrong with the world. The sun, moon, stars, plants, animals and birds have no problem with the world. The problem arises only with the intelligently stupid man. Man is not able to live up to the Laws of Nature.
He does not want to have any controls put on himself and he lives as he likes. It is here where troubles come from. So then how can we bring about change?
By changing the educational system! One man, one Swami cannot do it. It must be international organizations like the United Nations and others. The educational system needs changing, but when I say change, I do not mean writing new books written by rascals about the greatness of . . . Ah! Don't do this. It is not the books, it is the atmosphere. Think! It must be an atmosphere of serenity and beauty. Teach them how to enjoy beauty. Let parents take the children to museums and show them. They are genuinely born. Children are just growing and themselves do not know what beauty is. Parents must be able to point out beauty, show them the beauty of sunrise and sunset. Train them to see beauty and love. Parents must manifest that love to children. In that way an atmosphere is created. Then alone can children develop new values and a system of values in life.
It cannot be done by the gun. Communists have tried it for 55 years. Now everyone has a gun. Change cannot come by the gun. Change can come by a method of slowly educating them. It is not a five year plan or a ten year plan. It is long term plan to bring back the world that has gone mad and astray. We must bring them back again to the line of right thinking and right living. It takes time. The entire system and the logical reasoning on why it should be done is elaborately given in the Vedas. That alone can satisfy modern man.
Modern man is not like our grandfathers. Grandfather said that it is sufficient to pray. The Bible said it is sufficient. In Hinduism, the Ramayana and Bhagavata said that it is sufficient. No questions were asked.
Today this is not sufficient. If you tell your son, "My dear, you must pray everyday," they ask "Why?" You have no answer because your father told you to pray. Children ask "What is prayer? Pray to whom? Where is God? Who is God? What is God?" You say that this is a terrible generation and you tell them to go away and drop it. This is your own ignorance. If you had only explained to him why he should go to church. The son asked, "Mommy, you say that God is all pervading, is He not also in this house? If God is in this house, is He not in my bedroom? If He is in my bedroom, is He not also under the blanket?" You answer him that God is everywhere. He is in this house, in your bedroom and under your blanket. The son asks, "Then why should I get up and go to church? God is everywhere , so then God is within me?" When children talk this way, the mother says, "Nowadays children are terrible monsters. They talk to me as if I were....... and I cannot answer them."
My dear child, is not the milk the essence of the cow? "Yes" Is not that essence everywhere in the cow? "True" When you want to get some milk, can you milk the cow's ear, nose or tail? If you milk the tail, milk will not come out. You have to go to the udder to get milk. In the same way, though God is all pervading, it is evidently more clear only in the church, mosque and temple where there is a mental atmosphere of quietude and contemplation. This atmosphere can take you to a higher state of consciousness.
If you explain it in this way, will your youngster not accept it? Think! Remember, we are not able to answer them. It is not their fault. We as a generation seem to have forgotten all about it.
Study your own scriptures. I am not saying you must study Vedanta only. In case your intellect is of a questioning type and would like to get more and more logic and argument of why and how, where and when of these ideas, Vedanta is an exhaustive science expounding it in a scientific way. All scriptures point out this great Truth in yourselves. There is no distinction. Any scripture can take you to the highest, but you have to work on yourself. It is a subjective science.
Just because my father is a great and famous musician does not mean that he can give me music. Music is not a cup of tea you can pass around. In a good atmosphere he can teach you. But you have to sit down and practice it. Music is subjective. In the same way, spiritual unfoldment will have to be developed in each individual. But we can give our children the necessary atmosphere and information. Slowly feed them from childhood onwards to the logic behind it and once they have understood it, they are dynamically marching into the spiritual unfoldment. You will be surprised at how they take to it as a duck does to water.
It is not true to say that the modern youngster is a lost soul. He is lost because of your confusion, your inability to guide him. Vedanta gives you the necessary knowledge. I am not telling you this as an idealism. I have been practicing it on the junior children, senior children and Yuva Kendra of our approximately 62 schools. In all these schools, there is an insistence upon the study of philosophy. Not philosophy in the sense of the western philosophy. Western philosophy is discussed only at the intellectual level and they do not go beyond. Children really respond beautifully. The books being prescribed and created were beneficial to many and thus we went on.
I cannot give you the whole science of Vedanta in one hour. Three years ago at MIT, I was invited to a tea and was introduced to Professor Charles. They told me that Professor Charles was an authority on nuclear science. I have not studied nuclear science and wanted to know what nuclear science was about. I asked Professor Charles, "What is this nuclear science?" He looked at me from top to bottom two times and turned his whole body to the fellow on his right and went on talking to him. He looked at me like something a cat had brought in. I cannot blame him. How can he explain all his nuclear science knowledge in a short time? Similarly when you ask me to explain Vedanta in one hour at United Nations, it is not possible. But I can give you some ideas on how it can be beneficial to mankind especially in this period of time.
The whole world is sorrowful and miserable. Joy and happiness is not in more money or in one more wife. The present wife turned him away and he is miserable. Now he wants the other man's wife. Why? For happiness. This is not permanent happiness. The first week may be all right, but after this you feel, "Oh Lord, I made a mistake, I have to change again." So it is my fourth and her fifth. It goes on. No, it is an understanding of the mind. An awakening in yourself, an unfoldment, a growth in ourselves to the higher. Naturally you leave these petty, paltry temptations of the toys of life and start living for a higher purpose in life. There is a great satisfaction when man lives for a higher purpose in life. There is a great satisfaction to man when he lives in this way, pursuing a higher life. Thank you very much.