If you ask an enlightened soul: “What will you like to have for yourself?”, he may start thinking: “What could I possibly need?” He already has every thing. On the contrary he
will think, “If I really have to go shopping then I must buy something by which I can express my love for others”. An enlightened soul will purchase something only if it is a thing of spiritual value because there are certain very beautiful things created by human beings, which do emit Divine cool vibrations and relax enlightened people. Alternatively he might support some artist, or poor person, who is trying to make a living by creating something artistic. So, underlying his purchase, there is not the principle that “I like it”, but there is the principle that “My Spirit enjoys it”.
But in those choices behind which the chanting of “I like it” resounds, one finds nothing more than a big collection of junk, that is, random pieces of matter. The cluttered accumulation of this junk makes you very upset and very angry with yourself, that you have wasted so much money on something you did not want and now you have to waste more money getting it taken away and thrown in some rubbish dump. The acquisitive instinct in human beings goes on acquiring things, but when the polarity of choices starts manifesting itself, the very same things, for which one has made all the effort and paid all the money, start haunting one. One does not know what to do with them. The things look so different to one’s mind and one starts thinking: “I didn’t want that, I don’t know how I could have bought this junk”. And you don’t even know whom to give it to, as nobody else wants it either because it has gone out of fashion already.
For, along with this freedom of choice, arises the idea of fashionable things and the idea of fashionable things allows one to tread and trample upon the freedom of others. For example, you might go to somebody’s house and, after having a nice cup of tea or some other drink, very nicely, you open your mouth and voice an opinion: “Oh, I don’t like this carpet.” or, “I don’t understand what you see in this painting.”, or, “I don’t really like your curtains.” or, “I don’t like this clock.” or “I can’t bear this flower arrangement”, “I just cannot stand your wall-paper!”, so on and so forth.
It is of course, quite fashionable to air your opinion in this arrogant way to hurt others. And yet, if we go by traditional values, it is actually quite aggressive and unmannerly behaviour on your part. Apart from treating your host to your opinion, you might even flash some witty remarks on the person who has bought it, confusing him completely.
While you are enjoying yourself in this demeaning way, you should just ask the question: “Who are you to say such things to hurt another person?” If somebody said the same thing to you, how would you feel? The fact is that, in your present Western human state, you cannot appreciate anything unless your ego plays into it. So every action of this kind, which is so arrogant and so hurtful, gives you the very great power of an egoist and you enjoy your ego to no end. The beauty of the ego is that the person who has it never feels it. He only enjoys his own arrogance and his own capacity to hurt others. But this ego goes on growing, till it becomes a sufficiently big balloon floating in the air, losing all grounds of reality; ultimately it suddenly bursts. One finds then that like Humpty Dumpty one really has a “very great fall”. The problem with the ego being mixed up in all this business of acquiring things, is that one has to have more and more choices, so that Mr. Ego can show what a clever, unique person one is.
To make things worse, everyone wants to have individual, unique tastes. If you are travelling in an American car, before you set off you should first find out how to open the door. Because choices are many, every American car can have a different kind of door fastener or handle which you could never work out without some special sort of training. If you are caught in any kind of accident, then unless the owner is alive and found, you cannot get out of that car, whatever you may try. The same thing is true of bathrooms in America. It is better to ask how they work before you go in, because every bathroom has its own peculiarities, and sometimes, if you just enter innocently through the door you may fall into a swimming pool. Sometimes you may find yourself in the middle of an explosion, like a watery firework display, if you switch on the shower by chance, while looking for the light switch.
The French have another most peculiar style of having their own individuality, because their sewage system often works the other way round and so it is rather a daunting task to find out exactly how to use French bathrooms, even though it is said that they have a lot of expertise in bathroom culture. When the French, of course, are working in another country, like India, they can make it so peculiar that no one from those developing countries can operate whatever they install. For example, the French have set up the telephone system in India and the way it works, only the French know how to operate it! Houses, for example, have to be different, but in functioning they should be of some standard design. Bathrooms especially, I feel, ought to have a very simple modus operandi, that is if you care for your guests at all. Also you must have consideration for those who are buying your house. I wanted to purchase a particular house in England which had five bedrooms and one large bathroom. The owner said: “If you want for four to five people, they can share very easily.” Once I had to visit a Georgian house made by Adam. I asked: “Where are the bathrooms?” They said: “In those days they used the windows.” Up till now I did not understand how. Those who live in one house all their lives can, of course, cope with a particular peculiar system, but it is no good for guests, or for people who have to travel all the time.
Of course, one can have variety in one’s dress, and only a handmade dress can give that variety. In Western countries, once the fashion starts, everybody will have a beard and a moustache, and they will all wear the same type of clothes. Of course, with class consciousness, some may only wear clothes from Saville Row or from Pierre Cardin and others will wear clothes from some other shops with expensive, trendy labels. I have seen many who put the labels of those expensive designers outside their attire. But the problem is that with so many people looking the same, it is difficult even to identify somebody who has been involved in a crime. They all look completely alike as they are red in the face or very pale. A whole regiment of different varieties of clothes have gone into it, and yards and yards of cloth, together with tons and tons of ingenuity have been spent, just to show how human beings can be absolutely identical according to the highest sartorial expertise.
To top it all, they now have unisex clothes so that it is becoming very difficult to make out a man from a woman. One may say: “So what? What’s wrong with that?” Well it is wrong: firstly, because it does not allow natural variety which is pleasing to the eye; secondly, it does not differentiate people which is often a practical necessity; and thirdly, it can cause terrible misunderstandings and confusion if a man looks like a woman. The original idea of homosexuality might have raised by some coincidence, where some man must have been confused for a woman by another man, as in the comedy ‘Charlie’s Aunt.’ There is a little joke about this. A gentleman was waiting at the airport. There he saw a young girl looking like a boy. In order to verify this he asked the person standing next to him, “What do you think? Is that a girl or a boy?” The person replied: “She’s my daughter”. Our gentleman felt embarrassed and he said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were her father”. The second person replied, “Well, actually I’m her mother”.
This is the way things are going into confusion nowadays. There is a complete confusion of roles and people are no longer sure what it means to be a man or to be a woman. God has created two sexes for good reason, and these two sexes I feel are like the two wheels of a chariot. Of course, there is a certain space or distance between the two and although equal and similar, they are not identical. One is on the left side and the other is on the right side. If you try to fit the left onto the right side and the right side to the left, it won’t work out. Apart from that, if you make one of these wheels smaller or less important than the other, this will prevent the chariot from moving forward and it will just go round and round in circles. So this differentiation of the sexes or of gender roles (as people now say) is part of the great variety that has been created by God. Every leaf is different from any other leaf in the whole world. He has made these minute differences in order to create the beauty of variety, while we, with our freedom of choice and our nonsensical rationality, are trying to make all human beings look alike, walk alike, talk alike – regardless of sex, culture and age – and all this regimental behaviour finally makes you absolutely bored with human beings.
Now, for example, women in India are taking to Western clothes. Instead of their traditional saris, they are wearing trousers made by fashionable tailors. These saris – each of which is an individual work of art of great beauty – are made in the villages by simple country folk who are free from agricultural work for five to six months in a year. In this way they can supplement their income from farming and balance their lives with two different kinds of work. If you really look at their weaving, you will find it is beyond your comprehension as to how they do it. Such things could not be made in any Western country. Nothing even approaching it is possible. In the so- called developed countries they are fed up of artificial products and these hand-made items are appreciated, but unfortunately the so-called modern Indian people who are copycats cannot appreciate them, because they have no depth to see the underlying principle of this beauty: they are created by simple ordinary farmers who depend on this craft for their living, and so put all their best skills and their most careful attention into it.
These handmade things made by villagers are a reflection of their enjoyment of life. If we know how to appreciate their deep feeling of harmony and joy, we will know how rich they are in their simple lives. These simple artists feel that whatever beauty God has created around them has nourished their minds with that beauty, and the natural world – the flowers, leaves and colours that they see around them – goes into the cloth which will be covering and enhancing the beauty of lovely ladies. They know that the body is created by God and that its beauty is to be clad and set off by the beauty of human creation. It is surprising how poetically these simple people describe their work when they talk about it. But such things also have their practical, functional value. The quality of beautiful, handmade clothes is much better and so they last longer. Also, the texture, as well as the appearance, of such clothes is very appealing and congenial to the human body. For example it is much more comfortable, in both summer and winter, to wear cotton and silk rather than polyester and rayon, which cling to the body and produce a sticky hot and unhealthy sensation.
Handmade clothes, made of natural materials, are easy to maintain and extremely economical. There is no need to buy replacements very often, as they get worn and torn only after a very long period. Actually, if you wear a sari you don’t have to waste your money on a tailor. It is a simple piece of material which can be arranged very quickly as a very beautiful and graceful dress, and which can be used for various other purposes as well. When it gets old, you can use it for a girls dancing attire. India is a country where chastity is regarded as the power (shakti) of woman. The women use the saris for bathing in the river or in the open so their sari covers them fully as a towel. It can be used for covering furniture or as a wall hanging and a room divider. In India they use saris to make cool awnings outside, as a protection against the sunlight. So the quality of the cloth which is made by human hands, and which is both beautiful and practical, is such that we may say it has something Divine about it. Unfortunately, however, the people who live in the very countries where these saris are handmade, are being fed with ideas from Western entrepreneurs through the media and are beginning to think that mass-produced nylon saris are better, because you can have ten of them instead of having only two nice silk or four cotton saris. In this way even developing countries, like India, are unfortunately beginning to be infected by the destructive idea that it is preferable to have many things of no value, than to have a few things of good value and great beauty. The consequence is that if we are not careful and we give up handmade things and take to mass produced labels, those farmer artists who produce these wonderful saris will die out and their creativity will disappear forever.
With modernism, we have created static forms made up of straight lines and stark contrasts in the design of our homes and in the creation of our dress fashions, calling them “simple”, “uncluttered” or “honest”. But all such creations are in actual fact so drab, so stark and so morbid, that after living in such houses, people develop psychogenic problems or end up in lunatic asylums. If not, they simply fade away into dullness and mediocrity from wearing these “fashionable” clothes in which only the label is to be looked at, and which nowadays is worn outside the clothes to show off their rich clothes.
The variety of materials out of which one can create handicrafts and furnishings cannot be rivalled by any machine. One can use so many different things like glass, clay, sandalwood, ivory, shell, coconut, wood, wool, cotton, brass, silver and gold. So many different materials can be used. Moreover there is an ecological “spin-off”. Because the things are handmade, they do not consume so much from Mother Earth. Since individual human labour is involved, there is a natural limitation imposed, which curbs the use of too much raw material and man-power. Moreover, the craftsman’s hands do not create fumes to punch holes in the ozone layer, which is a most vital source of energy conservation and protection for us. The only handicap in all this is that you might end up with too many lovely things. But it is such a beautiful thing if you can look after all these things and give them a proper place in your home, in order to beautify and harmonies your own life and that of all those who come to see you. Moreover, even if you were to buy some handmade thing that you find you cannot use, you can give it to someone else who will appreciate it and enjoy your gift much more than something mass-produced or made of plastic, because it is so substantial, because it is naturally individual and unique, and so beautiful in itself.
Nowadays, there is increasing criticism of modern architecture. In particular, that architects are not keeping in touch with the real needs of people who want to live surrounded by lines that flow and move and have shape, and not feel imprisoned and alienated from the real and natural world by the rigid lines of modern buildings. If you look at the house market it is very obvious that people like to have houses which were built by other people a long time ago, when there was more concern to create beautiful forms that copied nature. Every inch and feature of traditional properties has been preserved, and even if they are in the most decrepit state, they are highly respected and command the highest prices.
For example, it happened that I went with my family to a very famous European city which had a rich history behind it. There we were put up in a beautiful hotel, which was very expensive to live in. This hotel, we were proudly told, dated circa 1760. The only trouble was, it had such basic problems that we had to leave within two days. As soon as we opened the door the handle came off in our hand. We were quite embarrassed and we thought we would have to pay for a new one. But the gentleman downstairs came up and said, “Don’t worry, it can easily be fixed back”, as if every handle, hinge and nail in the place had fallen out and been fixed back in again a thousand times. The whole place is a museum of antiques, without any real purpose, but they are still using it successfully as a very expensive hotel. So after the drama with the door handle, we tried opening the tap in the bathroom. The tap came away in our hand and the bathroom was filled with water. Perhaps this has happened to every single visitor who ever stayed there, but still they continue with the same style and their guests keep going back, because people are willing to pay a lot of money to live in a place which may be very uncomfortable or with threadbare furniture or dingy decorations, but where, quite simply, they find more peace and tranquillity.
No one really wants to live in a museum, but if architects would just take some of the good points that we find in traditional architecture and use them to create modern but harmonious and natural homes, they would not only earn their living, but would definitely give a better deal to the owners who in this way could easily enjoy up-to-date comforts, as well as the variety and the beauty of a traditional abode. It is a well known fact that on a ship people get very bored because everything is decorated with the same colour and texture. The curtains are the same all over, and even the food is much the same every day. All these repetitions very quickly bore the unfortunate passengers. Of course, once you are stuck on a ship, it is not possible to do anything about your problems, as there are no solutions. But why should we who are on the shore, on terra firma, the restful and reliable Mother Earth, put up with the same boredom of living in houses which are mass-produced in a style that doesn’t enable us to relax and enjoy our lives?
So, on the one hand, we feel that we are free to make our own choices: the choice between baked beans on toast or fish and chips or maybe the choice between pizza or pasta. Of course, it could also be a choice between different types of biscuits or chocolates. Now, we should ask ourselves whether the quality of our lives would go down so very much if we always took the “dish of the day” and enjoyed the variety of biscuits that happened to be there. But, on the other hand, when it comes to the substantial things which are so important in our lives – like the houses we live in, the clothes we wear, the cities we plan – we will quickly perceive that all these things must have variety.
Take somebody who is constantly travelling. He may be in San Jose, California, and then the next day wake up in some place in Europe. When he looks out of the window or walks down the street, he cannot tell whether he is in San Jose or in Europe, because they both look exactly alike and in both of them, he has to make inquiries as to which place he is in. After some time perhaps, thanks to the labour-saving standardisation of the architects and planners, we might end up with all the cities of the world looking exactly alike and we will have to keep a diary all the time to remember which – in a whole series of indistinguishable cities – we are visiting. So much for the actual limitations imposed on real choice by modernist architecture.
As we have mentioned earlier, another area in which people have been very skillfully fooled by the entrepreneurs is fashion. For example, I saw a lady recently in Helsinki. All her clothes were torn and she had a very funny and embarrassing appearance with so much of her showing through. She had a primitive hair style with half her hair shorn off and the other half totally unkempt. Furthermore she smelled very bad. I thought that she was too poor to afford a proper dress and I offered her a good clean dress to wear. I felt that she must be ignorant and did not know that if you go to see a saint, you should be at least bodily clean. But when I asked her if she would care to have a bath, she refused and said: “These days having a bath is out of fashion”, The dress that I offered her was, according to her, absolutely out of date, while the dress she was wearing was absolutely ultramodern. Most of the girls from very rich families are dressed up like this or they are always in mourning black with their pale white faces, in the night you can only see their faces with their teeth if they smile, but in the day time they look like colourless witches.
I felt that this was where the law of polarity once again was showing its effect. I thought that this lady must have been trapped into slavishly imitating the fashion with her so called freedom of choice. She must have dressed up in all kinds of fashionable dresses at different stages of her life. And now she had reached the situation where she felt that all the clothes she had bought were of no use, because they had so quickly gone out of fashion, and that it was better to wear something which was so worn out that it had become antique and had formed its own torn patterns. But to my amazement, I found out that the clothes that she was wearing were sold in a very special boutique at a very high price, and that they were “stone-washed” designer clothes made threadbare and torn to order, and that were now being sold as something very unique and exclusive. Just like them, this lady from Helsinki was convinced that she was exercising her choice in the freest possible way, but in actual fact this is like passing from one kind of slavery to another kind of slavery. Her case is not rare and we see so many of these manifestations of creativity all around us who embarrass decent people with their aggressive behaviour and beggar’s clothes.
Not so long ago, the really ‘in’ thing was to dye your hair green and shave your head into curious patterns like an ornamental hedge, for which people had to pay heavily and often borrowed money for it. But now if you talk of punks, they say you are out of date. So what is the very latest fashion? It is actually impossible to say, as the entrepreneurs are producing new fashions with such speed. The modern generation is schooled to be able to keep up and to cope with that speed. If they cannot, they are quickly classed as out-of-date and discarded by the social group in which they live. What appears to be up-to- date, or “with it”, is nothing but the clever invention of the entrepreneurs that you must buy something new every day to keep their machinery going. What a blind-folded slavery.
The whole fashion industry is just a money-making racket. It is a wonderful way of pampering the ego to say that such and such a style has won the first prize in the fashion parade in Milan or Paris or Timbuktu. And you are so enamoured by this new chance of exercising your “choice” and of throwing out all the expensive clothes you have chosen before as so much out-of- date junk. Once you become addicted to fashion, you do not know how far to go with the entrepreneur who is thus so kindly giving a new dimension to your stupidity and your gullibility. With this kind of compulsion to change, we live on the cusp of superficiality and our attention is always caught up with deciding what new irrelevance to have, to buy, to own and to display.
Our unnecessary demands on raw materials to feed our “choices” has meant that we have started consuming excessively and depleting the Mother Earth, creating terrible environmental problems for both the present and the future. To cover your body you need something substantial and sensible. Of course variety brings beauty, no doubt, but only if this variety is created by artists, and not by entrepreneurs, who are on the look out for nothing but money-spinners.
This is another horrendous example of what happens to people who become slaves of fashion and give up their natural good sense. I have seen that when the fashion for tight clothes started, women who wore extremely tight fitting clothes thought themselves very beautiful, though they looked like mosquitoes (or one might say like tuberculosis patients). These uncomfortable dresses made them develop horrible varicose veins later on in life. Of course, in their vanity they never told anyone about it. It was a sanctum sanctorum kind of secret. After that, another fashion started for clothes which were manufactured with holes already in them, and they call them grandly “holey” pants. In the damp and windy climate of England one could see many people walking around proudly with these holey pants on and, of course, getting very severe types of problems in later life such as rheumatism or gout.
It is impossible to understand why we consume so much plastic these days. Our forefathers used to use only one brass plate or one silver plate, while nowadays in the West plastic affluence and polyester clothing have given rise to a balloon like existence. A balloon which has no substance, only some air to make it float wherever it wants to go. Those who are busy with the creation and manufacture of plastics are nicely developing and building up their financial image as multimillionaires. Meanwhile, mindless consumerism is creating mountains and mountains of plastic, so that one does not know how they are going to solve the problem of destroying these man-made mountains which are not only unsightly, but which might even be spoiling the atmosphere by their very existence. The overproduction of plastics and artificial fibers is, of course, a serious by-product of compulsive consumerism which is fuelled by the notion of fashion.
If you are a follower of fashion, how can you be a free person, because you actually become addicted to reading fashion magazines to find out what is most up-to-date and modern, as if you were running a race and it was desperately important to find out who has got ahead of you.
As children born in the West are left to themselves without any love or any rapport, they feel very lonely and lost. As parents have money they allow the children to get into the hands of entrepreneurs. The poor children are also constantly bombarded, via the television, with the ever increasing number of choices that they have. Now they have even come out with dolls with their own birthdays, bears with pedigrees, including their father’s name, their grandfather’s name, and their uncle’s name and their whole dynasty. According to the alluring suggestions of the advertising men, you are supposed to invite all the relations of these dolls or bears for dinner together. For these relations, naturally, they have to travel from place to place. If, as a parent, you do not agree to this, the children of these modern times will get after your life to such an extent that in the end you will- have to spend even more money organising these parties, every month, in some part of the city. Here the entrepreneur, through the medium of advertising, is creating totally unrealistic needs and false reality. Furthermore, it is he who enjoys the earnings of your labour.
Such children no longer have any relationship with their own parents or grandparents. They do not know very clearly who their own uncles and aunts are, but they do know by heart all the pseudo relations of these plastic dolls or bears. In the developed countries, people’s houses, nowadays, are full of these things, so that children are more attached to their dolls and bears than to their own parents. The other day I saw at the airport, the security people insisting that a little girl’s doll had to pass through the x-ray machine, but the child was so attached to the doll, that she wanted to get into the machine along with the doll. And when they did not allow her, she started to cry loudly and made everybody feel quite upset about the whole thing. How does it come about that children are so attached to their toys, when that is not their innate nature? Normally they play with their toys and then, when they are fed up with them, they give them up. But so many parents just do not have time for their children, because they also are so terribly busy with their fashions and their choices. In this situation the children transfer their affection to their toys which are all the time with them, and so give them some security and comfort. As parents have no love for the children, their love is transferred to toys which are bought in the market. Thus one can pay for LOVE.
Manufacturing output, advertising and consumption all go on with a kind of mechanical inevitability, but we have to realise that this machinery is not our master. It is we who are the creators of this machinery, and so it is we who can control it. Moreover money is created by man and how can money dominate man to such an extent? If you think that freedom means freedom to do anything according to your whims and fancies, then I think that the idea of freedom is absolutely naive. Actually real freedom is freedom from compulsion. But on the contrary, in these developed countries you are compelled. Compelled to buy things you neither need nor want. Compelled to live with all kinds of junk around you. Compelled in the end to spend your time and money to get rid of it all again.
Just think of the thousands and millions of families who are absolutely surrounded by, and dominated by, these products of modernism and are so desperately anxious to get rid of what they already have and swap it for something new. This is a problem caused by so many choices and challenges being put forward in a society of expert marketing.
The expertise of entrepreneurs at launching different varieties of unnecessary products is at its height in America. You can never buy two pieces of the same neck-tie because every tie has to be different. Every door fastener or car lock is different. Every carpet has to be of a different style. So far so good: there is a great range of choice. But this choice is illusory, because all this variety is basically made of the same thing. That is, the products that dazzle and tempt us surprisingly are mostly man- made, in the sense that only artificial material is used to create them. Sometimes if you walk on these lovely synthetic carpets barefoot, you feel as if your feet are burning. And some of the clothes that they create, can give you a rash all over your body. Oddly enough, people don’t seem to mind. I mean, after all, perhaps it has become the fashion nowadays to have a rash. The worst is when you are in a car which is moving at speed and you suddenly find the door lock has some unique quality or variety so that you cannot open it in case the car should catch fire or an accident; you get into a terrible shocking stress, if you are a foreigner, to such fancy whimsical choices.
All these artificially created and elaborately advertised variety just makes us feel more and more confused and alienated in our own world. It is better to be humble and not to feel shy about asking how to open the door of any car or a train before you get into it. In all probability, it will have an engine of a peculiar type which has suddenly come into fashion and everything else will be different too. Best is not to feel shy of your ignorance in this modern world. For example nowadays they are having very delicate small knobs near your seats in aeroplanes which are newly made. Especially in the first class a lot of old people travel. It is always better to ask the air hostess to help you with these very gentle operations though she may make fun of you, as if you are a naive person.
Where there is excessive choice and unnecessary variety, there is no standardisation and no one knows what is happening. Because, after all, some measure of standardisation is required for the security and the safety of the people. However, when they do go in for standardisation, they take it to absurd limits too. When, in a country like India, for example, they wanted to manufacture hinges, instead of using traditional craft skills they decided to make them by machines (all very expensive of course) and now it requires a wrestler to open doors with those hinges and two of them to close them again. It is impossible to understand why such stiff hinges were made for the use of ordinary human beings. The answer came that this was done to normalise manufacturing procedures and to standardise hinge sizes by using machines. In India, we have traditional hinges, beautiful ones made of brass at a much cheaper price and which open easily. Of course they do not have precise dimensions. But because doors are now being mass-produced out of artificial materials, there needs to be some limitation to what you can call natural variation, and in order to obtain the precision you need to fix the hinges by machine. So against our better intentions we have to take to these horrible machine-made hinges which can neither keep the doors open nor closed (unless you find someone who can pay a healthy wrestler to act as a helper).
So the reactive nature of these ideas – having precision in the wrong place and no standardisation in the right place – also comes from the confused minds of entrepreneurs, who must be going crazy thinking up new things every day. Thus, we end up with a great many people: the manufacturers, the advertisers and the consumers who are absolutely confused and do not know what two plus two is. The slow demoralisation of people and the loss of their capacity for the real enjoyment of things are the absurd consequence of the so called freedom of choice.
We have a huge variety of other unnecessary freedoms also. One of them is to have the choice of what we will be wearing when we get into our coffin. Also the choice of selecting our own coffins. This looks extremely ridiculous to any wise person, but it is yet another example of the freedom of the entrepreneur to make as much money as he likes, even out of people who are going to die.
However, the worst type of freedom we are suffering from in modern times is the freedom to lead an immoral life. You can marry one person, sleep with another, flirt with a third one and create children with a fourth. It is an amazing statistic recently published that on an average, in a particular Western country, a man sleeps with 6.9 women every year. This completely crazy idea also comes from the notion that you always have to be looking for something new. A woman who is old for one man becomes new for another and with this foolish idea, as one starts changing women as one changes one’s clothes, one falls into yet another trap. This exhaustion of your energy on the endless pursuit of the new, even in your most intimate relations, creates horrible problems: emotional, mental and physical. If promiscuity were a very natural, normal and good thing, then why is it that people are now suffering from life-destroying diseases which are directly due to this kind of lifestyle? Why is there jealousy? Every day the very newspapers that support and defend the freedom of permissiveness are full of reports of violence: of women killing their husbands, of husbands killing their wives, of lovers killing their lover’s lovers. This mutual destruction goes on and on and on. If promiscuity is akin to our nature, then why do we resist it with such violence? What sort of freedom is it to flirt with any man or woman, whether you are married or not, and to develop eyes which are lecherous and adulterous? With time these eyes cannot even perceive innocence when they see it, and now they are no longer stimulated by adults and have turned their evil gaze on young children. Today we have an almost unbelievable number of cases of child abuse, sometimes even perpetrated by the parents. This flouting of the well-tried moral conventions of centuries of civilised life is of course yet another very degrading low level aspect of modernism, and with it human beings have become worse than animals.
It is quite obvious that promiscuity leads to unhappiness, disease and death and that we have to do something to check its spread. But the problem is that legislation and even education can only achieve very little. People just have to know where to stop. But this control, this compulsion, has to come from within. This means you have to have a spiritual awakening. The light of the spirit has to come into your attention. A person who is a realised soul doesn’t like anything that takes him to extremes. A realised soul is actually a person whose personality is in balance. He is in the centre because whenever his attention gets out of balance, it is brought back to the centre by the light of his Spirit. And such a person has his feet on Mother Earth. Such a person by his very nature has to be practical, pragmatic, wise and detached. Such a person simply cannot form habits and cannot take to something that is stupid, idiotic and destructive. Such a person will not waste time choosing things. Whatever is available, the person knows how to enjoy it.
This “choice” business becomes particularly horrible and destructive when it enters into the area of marriage. Now marriages are arranged by the unleashed ego alone, unaided by any restraining or guiding influence traditionally provided by parents or the caring community. Now the choice of marriage partner is based purely on the whim of the ego, lust or greed. In these circumstances, any small difference of opinion can create a problem in a marriage. Families are broken, children leave home as soon as they reach eighteen to find their own house or flat to live in or they join a squat and occupy somebody else’s house.
As things are, children cannot tolerate their parents and parents cannot tolerate their children because their marriages are unhappy. In the name of developing their individuality and sense of identity, they make their children work very hard. I have seen a little girl of nine years coming every morning on her bicycle to drop the newspaper at our door. One day I asked her who her parents were and she named one of our neighbours, but she said, “I have to earn money for myself. I have to learn how to stand on my own two feet.” She was not yet grown up enough to stand on her own feet at such a tender age. And if such a young child is raped on the way or mugged and plundered, who is responsible for that? And will that help her to stand on her own two feet?
Marriage exists for creating progeny in a secure and balanced environment and to look after the children so that they become confident and decent adults. If you want to be a bride all your life (that is, on a perpetual honeymoon) it is better not to marry at all but to go to some place where you can earn some living out of your body and everyone knows what you are. Marriage is meant for women and men who want to lead a sane and sensible life, providing a harmonious environment for their progeny to come. “Romance” and the “roving eye” must end when the house becomes the home. There are so many things which can spoil married relationships. But who or what has killed romance in marriage? Many things, each more superficial than the last, can be blamed. If I tell you a recent one, you will be amazed. The hairdressers! I know of several fiances who left their women because they did not like their new hair style.
Marriage imposes great responsibilities and is meant only for people who have maturity and a clean personality. Otherwise, as the statistics for child abuse and juvenile delinquency show, it is not safe to place children into the hands of irresponsible, cheap or aggressive parents. Such people do not realise that to be a parent is a privilege that carries its own responsibilities and they should have no automatic freedom to produce children if they do not have any love for them.
As things are, this “choice” business, when it comes to marriage, can lead to the destruction and even the murder of many children who either die helplessly or fall into self- destructive habits because the parents do not want them and consequently have no idea how to look after them. There should be only one clear choice for them: whether to have their own- egoistical romantic life or to accept their responsibilities, which set a proper limit on their so called freedom, and have children and look after them.
The problem is made worse because the idea that you have a right to go on choosing your partner is continued even after you have chosen to get married. The law is supportive of divorce and anybody who does not want to go on with his or her marriage can have a separation or divorce without any problem. But even when they choose to stay married, couples in developed countries, tend largely not to stay faithful to each other. On the contrary, any man or woman who stays faithful to their wife or husband is regarded as out-of-date. You have to be “sexy”, to be attractive to another man or woman, not to your own partner, of course, but to others. Unless you are that, you are not considered suitable for this modern world.
This idea of sort of ‘official attractiveness’ is also very new and has come yet again from those evil geniuses, the entrepreneurs. It is they who create the sensational image of the woman who is “attractive” or of the man who is “good looking”. But why should every woman and man have to strive to be attractive like prostitutes? What is the need of wasting your energy trying to conform to the height, the waistline, the hips and the legs prescribed by those official image makers, the entrepreneurs? Have we not got our own brains to think about it and to make a genuine choice? If we have freedom and intelligence, why shouldn’t we think that whatever body God has given us is more than sufficient for our needs? And besides, why should we hanker for people to be running after us for our bodies? Of course for many the idea that we might actually not enjoy being pursued by every Tom, Dick and Harry seems to be very out-of-date because strangely they enjoy this kind of joyless pursuit.
The notion that you should have unlimited choice has most clearly gone too far in the rapid increase in the availability of pornography. I have seen books which even exploit children to satisfy the perverse sexuality of some people. Although I had no courage to read them, I understand that these books are very popular and are making a lot of money for the publisher and the writer. When innocence itself is used to satisfy the basest and most selfish passions, then that society has clearly lost all contact with the traditional values which allow any society or culture to survive. There has to be respect for marriage and for the innocence of children. Everyone should become alert and aware of the vital importance of finding out what the purpose of marriage is, which is to protect the innocence of little children and prevent them from being overpowered and exploited. But in modern societies parents have become no more than fierce, unreasoning bullies who shirk their real responsibilities of providing love and security or else they are like cabbages that children can eat them with a chilly sauce of cruel treatment. It is precisely the failure to understand the vital importance of stable marriages that has destroyed the .so-called advanced societies in which parents cannot give guidance through love to their children, because they are too busy running after artificial images created by the entrepreneurs. Children at a very young age are frustrated in their desire for love and affection and are driven to seek the company of other children. And in their desperate desire for love, they enter the mess of immorality at a very young age. Even the media, particularly the television, feeds their brains with all kinds of absurd ideas about the importance of sex. In a society where the media is not allowed to focus upon sex for children, there is no need to give sex education to children in schools. It is not done in India so far and will not be done (I hope) because it is not necessary. Why expose the innocence of children to these frightening ideas which (where a child has been deliberately saved not to be ruined by exposure to sex and violence on TV and videos) simply do not exist? It is a terrible misuse of this power of the educators to implant something so dangerous at such a young age, when they should just enjoy life and their innocence. At the tender age of seven or eight it is too soon to end these beautiful years of innocence and it is also cruel. Children are not naturally equipped to cope with the so-.called facts of life so aggressively thrust into their consciousness, in those beautiful days of playful, joyful, innocent existence.
In this way modernism has created a whole generation of human beings who have ruined their own lives, ruined the lives of their families, ruined the lives of their children and of their parents. All those sources which traditionally provided the nourishment of love and peace have been completely ruined. Now-a-days, a grandmother is too busy to look after her grandchild, because she “has to go to the hairdresser’s” because she “must look young”. Because if she does not look young, she is considered to be “over the hill”, as good as a dead person.
Nobody will allow you to go along nicely without putting your head into the dirty hands of hairdressers for example. I, myself, never go to a hairdresser. So many people have thought me to be a rustic woman from some sort of unsophisticated family. But when I now see those who used to think like that, at the same age as me, they have all become nearly bald or are absolutely grey with wrinkled faces. They have slowly lost all their natural smile, their sweetness, their soft expressions. This is the so-called gift of all those beauticians.
Also there is a choice for you: to get just your skin or your whole face lifted. But I have seen in one country a President’s wife who wears a permanent grin on her face. Try as I might, it was impossible for me to understand how this woman could have a grin on her face all the time, regardless of whether she laughed or cried. Later on I discovered that she had been through a very severe course of face-lifting treatment in Switzerland and had achieved this expression permanently.
A mature person understands that as age advances, you have no choice but to become old, but at the same time, may remain graceful, dignified and serene. But things have become so materialistic in the modern society that even when you have one foot in the grave, you have to be sure that you look all right and are playing into the hands of the entrepreneurs. Even your final gesture at that time is going to be watched by all the people to make sure that you have kept to the latest fashion and stayed up-to-date.
The great principle in the consumer society in which all your choices are carefully multiplied so as to drain you of your money, is that you should spend all your precious energy seeing and being seen. The code of behaviour is dictated before you even begin to choose.
When we first came to London we had no appropriate glasses or tumblers for wine or spirits. We were told quite clearly that nobody would come to our house unless we offered them a drink. Despite my uneasiness, and my natural disgust of wine and alcohol, I realised, I had to do it. So I requested my husband to undertake the responsibility for this aspect, as I would not be able to do justice to such a demanding task. He calls me an idealist and that I am not practical. First he had to get a dictionary to read up all the details about wine and alcohol. Then we realised that there were books and books written about alcohol and how drinks are to be served and what tumblers and glasses should be used. It was a regular course of study. Then we got hold of a friend and took him with us to buy the minimum number of glasses needed to entertain about twelve people. You would be amazed! It was in 1974, in England, and we had to pay more than 900 Pounds to buy that one set for twelve people, because it had to be very elegant and of a special style. I was amazed that there are so many expensive kinds of glasses needed for different kinds of wines and spirits, while in India, we can do with just one glass or silver tumbler for each guest for soft drinks. Moreover, for people who have had a few drinks and who cannot then see anything, what is the need of having such elegant artistically made crystal glasses? It was a nuisance to clean them, put them in the right order, and to remember which was to be used for what. In India, as we have servants, my husband had never known how to carry even a tray, but as I would not agree to do that, he had to carry tray after tray upstairs, where our guests were sitting and drinking. Some of the guests who were to come to our house lost their way and they arrived for lunch at four o’clock. After that, of course, we had to serve them. The more we poured, the more they drank (always from the right glass of course) and after an hour they were no longer in their right senses. They said the same things over and over again, but nobody was listening anyway.
I must admit that I come from a family which was always against drinking alcohol, but I did not realise how naive and unprepared I was to play the role of the kind of housewife I had to be in London, at that time. I did not know even the colours of anyone of these drinks. How was I to serve them? So I asked my husband to do his “religious” duty. In order to assist him in this great task, he got hold of two Chinese waiters who, as it turned out, came to us as a great blessing. They knew a lot about different types of alcohol and the manner in which they should be served. We had to pay them quite a lot for their knowledge and expertise. They looked at our stock of wines and spirits and found this to be inadequate for the number of guests who were coming for lunch. They also made a huge list of other requirements. My husband had to rush to the local market to purchase some bottles of ‘Chivas Regal’ whisky as well as some wines. The other requirements indicated by the Chinese waiters were also purchased. We now felt confident that we were well prepared. However, when the guests arrived and the drinks were served, we suddenly faced a problem which, due to our ignorance of drinking requirements, we had not anticipated. One of them had asked for an alcoholic drink with Worcester Sauce. As far as I was concerned, I had heard of a character in novels of P.G. Woodhouse who had the same name phonetically: Wooster. But not a sauce. In any case, for our Indian food we do not need Worcester sauce and we had none in the house. Even our experienced Chinese waiters had not included this item in their list. What could we do? My husband apologised to the guest concerned, but he was not amused. Eventually he accepted another drink rather reluctantly but as time passed, became quite genial. Sometimes I felt very much aggressed and disturbed by the insisting demands of these unmannerly guests in their choices, as if it was their birth right to ask for a particular type of drink.
It is so difficult for me to understand why so many people who are at the helm of affairs and who have to do so much responsible work for their country, have this horrible addiction. It has become the one and only culture of the Western countries, and unless you offer your guests this intoxicant, you cannot talk nor have any rapport with them at all. The trouble is, once the alcohol is there, maybe all that rapport can become so much disconnected nonsense, even in diplomatic circles. I feel that the spies and the traitors of every country must be cleverly using this choice of alcoholic drinks as a method of enticing people, dulling their senses and getting their secrets out of them. Even for simple bribery and corruption, alcohol is a very good vehicle. If you know a person in charge likes a particular type of spirit or wine, it is very easy to win him over.
Once we tried this experiment with the station master of our local railway station. He was a multi-purpose employee who served at the ticket window as well. Whenever I went to buy a ticket, he would behave rudely on one pretext or another. If I did not have the exact change, he would show his annoyance by gesture or words. Perhaps he could not bear the sight of a traditionally dressed Indian lady. We did not know how to make him kinder or to win him over. My husband suggested that as we would not need the left over Chivas Regal bottles, we might send a couple of them to the station master as a gift on the occasion of some celebration at our residence. The bottles were duly delivered by our domestic aide to the station master. He asked: “Was this some religious festival of yours?” “Yes, it was.” replied our man. The station master was delighted. He accepted the bottles of whisky with great pleasure and conveyed his profuse thanks to us. Next day, when I went to the station as usual, I was treated with very special courtesy and respect as if I was the local baroness. I was amazed at this total transformation. We continued to live in that place for four years and we thereafter had no problems at all. The extra bottles which my husband had bought had come in very good use after all. We were sending these bottles every year but the dates changed as we did not keep a record. He asked me how your festivals fall at different dates. I did not know how to answer. He then told me that an Indian friend told him that Indians follow the Moon Calendar and not the Sun Calendar.
The key idea in modern times is that every day one must have something new. There should be a change every day, perhaps even down to your wife or your children, because a modern person becomes bored so very easily. Perhaps he has to make up his mind so often between so many different choices that his brain gets exhausted and ultimately, when he gets what he thought he wanted, he finds that he is bored with that as well. This secret is well known to the entrepreneur. He first tempts your attention with a vast array of choices, and then he bores you stiff and creates more and more things for you to choose from, because that is how he can keep his machines satisfied, and these require feeding every day. He knows how to pamper your ego and to suggest that you have the choice to do something, or to accept something. For example, if you want to buy or sell some property in England, a house which is not decorated and is not yet attended to and has been left to its own fate, fetches much more money than a house which has been done up and is well decorated. The point is, the house which has not been done up – is the one which satisfies the ego of the purchaser, who would like to have the house done according to his own choice. So, personal choice becomes the criterion for deciding what is the best for you. But this choice is based on the play of ego and if some entrepreneur is clever enough to see how he can fool the buyers by advertising in the media or through window displays, he can easily make a vast sum of money in a very short time.
Now, if he, the entrepreneur, also happens to be a politician, then such a man can become an important person at the helm of affairs, simply because he has a sharp mind and knows everything you need to know to be successful. Meanwhile the consumer, of course, thinks that he has a great freedom of choice. He thinks, “Oh, I can choose this or that. What a lord I am that I have a right to choose”. But gradually he gets lost in the choices that he has and is very confused because he is living superficially on the cusp of all these choices. He cannot go deep into his being to understand what he actually wants. Just by saying the magic words: “I like it” he feels that he has an identity and a personality by which he can assert his own will and affirm his own self in the world.
When one plays into the hands of the entrepreneurs, one wastes all one’s labour and all one’s energy in consumerism. We start desecrating Mother Earth and creating environmental problems. Unfortunately, human beings, however highly they might think of themselves, cannot create matter. Nor can they create life out of matter. All they can ever do is to create dead things from dead material. Thus they exhaust Mother Earth in their frantic and endless rush to create new fashions, new things and new egos. One should buy no more than one needs. Even for daily use one should buy something substantial, sensible and artistic.
In their vanity, some ladies prefer to buy shoes which make them look six inches taller, with a pointed stiletto heel. They do not even pause to think that this kind of showing-off temperament of theirs will invariably lead to sprained ankles, or to sciatica, or to more serious troubles with their spinal column, so that they may not, one day, be able to walk and will have to lie down on their beds and make their choices from there. There is not a lot of sense in believing that you are free to do what you like and to choose what you like, when all you are doing is playing into the hands of unscrupulous entrepreneurs and spoiling yourself.
In modern times there is another way the entrepreneurs try to create problems for consumers. In Western countries there are very few people who can afford to own things made of gold or silver, but strangely enough in the developing countries every household will have something made of silver or gold. The reason, I have found, is that everything is seen in terms of its cash value in Western countries, so that everything you buy has to be re-sellable. If you want to buy a silver spoon, then it has to be hallmarked. If it is not hallmarked, then it cannot be resold. So the spoon is bought to use and later to re-sell. It is never thought that “this spoon could go to my children or to my grandchildren”. The hallmark is very important, and you cannot have silver of any other variety. For example, you could have cheaper silver if you mix it with something else, but such a thing would not resell.
On the contrary, as far as gold is concerned, it is the lowest gradation of nine carats which is used in all the Western countries. This ‘gold’ absolutely amounts to very little actual gold in the ornaments. But, you can resell it, because it is hallmarked. While in the developing countries, especially China and India, people use 22 or 24 carat gold, so that there is a substantial amount of pure gold in their jewellery. When they fall on hard times, if the jewellery cannot be sold for its workmanship, at least there is gold that they can sell or pawn and redeem later. So it is a paradox that when you buy some thing, you have to know what the substantial value of that particular item is. If it is silver, then you need to know the mixture, and the proportion of pure silver in it will indicate the real value. So whatever one buys, it has to be substantial and when it is to be sold, it is the material substance in it that should be seen. But because of these paradoxical markings, one does not know whether to buy these things or not. For, as traditional wisdom knows, silver is very important for a good heart, as it keeps the heart in good shape, and gold is important because it does not tarnish. If a little gold is used for daily wear as jewellery, it helps you to achieve some good results in a very subtle manner, which I will explain later.
So, in traditional cultures which have largely escaped the blight of modernism and consumerism, there is knowledge and a respect for the subtle properties of material substances. It is a paradox that in the so-called materialistic societies, there is no respect for matter.
If you go into any modern house in the West, you will find numerous things, some made of plastic. If you sit on a sofa, it could be among many made of plastic. If you eat at a table, it may he made of plastic. If you touch the window frames, they are made of plastic. Things which are made of plastic have a curious capacity to penetrate any natural material such as cloth or glass, or any other God-made material that is used together with plastic. So much so that the natural material feels debased and loses its own particular energy. Because it is cheap, you can go on buying plastic after plastic, and in any household, people have many disposable things made of plastic as well as durable things which are also made of mixtures of plastic. Even the dinner plates are made of plastic. Why don’t they prefer to buy one nice plate made of brass? Something hand-made, instead of a vast choice of plastic plates? Plastic is machine-made from the waste matter of the earth which has therefore got all the ingredients for our destruction within it.
If you have something made by hand and you use it without making a big fuss about it, you can enjoy it for itself, as well as for the usefulness that it may have. Even if you have only a few well made and beautiful plates, you feel so satisfied that you don’t want to buy any others and waste your time window shopping all the time. Then you are truly a free person. But if you follow fashion, you will be busy all day wasting your time. You will go to someone’s house and say, “Oh, he has got such and such a thing. It’s very good”. So you will go out and buy the same thing, because this is the choice you have made. But who is playing games with whom? Who is calling the tune? The entrepreneurs of course, and they are spoiling you and your children. Their alluring advertisements are blasted out of the television at peak viewing hours for children’s programmes: “This is a nice thing that has just come out. Dolls with birthdays, bears with pedigrees” But all this is simply to keep the machinery working.
By exercising our right to make choices and spend our money on what takes our fancy, we are simply playing into the hands of the exploiter, the entrepreneur. Please remember that he knows you better than you know yourself. One has to remember that the machinery is meant to serve us and that we are not meant to serve the machinery. It is not our genuine needs that are responsible for the over-production of consumer goods by this machinery. But it is we who suffer from the over-production of such goods because it creates the depletion of the Earth’s resources and the constant waste of money which is the product of our labours and which we spend so compulsively on things we do not want and which are usually not good for us. I have seen many houses filled with junks and the owners are suffering from heart attacks, those who worked hard to collect this junk.
This idea that freedom is just the ability to make pseudo and irrelevant choices is believed only by those people who are still naive and who are not smart enough to see the underlying forces that bring forth every-day passions and compulsions which masquerade as freedom. Of course, one has to be free to act, to express one’s freedom, but this should never be unbridled. You should know what to do and where to stop. If you have a car which has an accelerator but no brakes, then what will be the situation of the driver? In the same way if you have freedom, then you must know also that you have freedom to curb this whimsical freedom at a point.
Some people who still live under a Communist regime may of course be curbed, but that, of course, is a compulsory curbing. When they are let loose, you see that their desires are still unfulfilled and they emerge even more powerfully than the desires of people in a free country. So this curbing has to come from within and for that, one has to have spiritual awakening. That is, the wisdom of the Spirit must come into your attention. If you ask a gnostic or a Sahaja Yogi: “What are you fond of? Are you fond of hot things?” He will say: “To begin with, I do not like or dislike anything, except anything to an extreme. I just enjoy whatever is there. Who is going to waste time choosing things? Just enjoy whatever is available.” But, of course, if it is very hot or very sour or very cold, then he will eat only a little of that, because it has gone to an extreme.
Unfortunately this ‘choice’ business is becoming more and more of a very extreme nature (even, as we have seen, when it comes to marriages). However this urge to multiply the choices which the ego can make is curbed by the Spirit, because, when it comes to your attention, it enables you to understand the vital aesthetic dimension of your experience. So, instead of allowing the ego to manifest greed for material objects, it starts enjoying the Divine beauty of matter. Or else the self-realised soul knows that matter provides a most wonderful way of expressing your love, when you want to give some material thing to somebody else. So a joyful thought is inspired within you, when you see something beautiful, that this would be nice for such and such a person that you love. For example, once a gentleman went with a Sahaja Yogi to a shop and he liked something very much, a piece of art, but he could not purchase it because, at that time he had no money with him. So his friend, who was also a Sahaja Yogi, went later on and purchased that particular work of art, kept it for some time and, on his friend’s birthday, he sent it to him. This concern and this deep expression of love enchanted the other person and he was doubly happy to see how a beautiful thought was attached to that work of art.
So it is the attention in the Divine discretion of the Spirit on the one hand that curbs your greed, your selfishness, your acquisitive urge and your dis-satisfied mind. On the other hand, the knowledge of what you can do to make someone really happy with some material thing that is available for purchase, suddenly dawns upon you and enables you to understand the true value of matter and to exercise your freedom of choice, in order to express your love and to enhance the quality of someone else’s life.