Publisher's Note to One
We live in momentous time. This is the best of times, and perhaps, this is also the worst. On the one hand the marvelous advance of science and technology is showering on us comforts and luxuries galore, undreamt of a century ago. We communicate right across the world in a second, see what is happening in continents away, travel to the moon, tap an infinitude of information via the Internet, are rid of many fatal diseases and have a much longer life expectancy. This is the obverse of the coin, the bright side.
The reverse of the coin, however, is terribly grim. Mindless violence stalks the world. Crime rules the roost. The exploitation of the 'have-nots' by the 'haves' is terrifying. At all levels shameless corruption has become a way of life. Over our heads dangles the Damocles sword of the nuclear bomb, and the unwitting press of a button by a moron may wipe humanity off the face of the earth. Peace of mind has become a cruel joke.
Caught in this whirlpool, it is the rising generation that is most affected. Youth has immense courage, is full of optimism and is sensitive to noble ideas and ideals. But they will not stand sermons. They have 'to be taught as if you taught them not and things unknown proposed as things forgot'.
Swami Jagadatmananda's book does just this. A senior monk of the Ramakrishna Order, and currently the Head of the centre in Shillong, the swami has moved with and guided youths in many places in India and abroad with great success. His book Badukalu Kaliyiri in Kannada received a very warm welcome and more than a lakh of copies of it were sold. An English version published by the Ramakrishna Mission, Singapore, with the title Gospel of the Life Sublime also found a wide readership.
Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, has now the pleasure of bringing out the book under the title Learn to Lie. Tapping the tremendous potential of goodness and creativity in all youth, this book provides role models whose footsteps the young ones can follow with enthusiasm. With matching illustrations from authentic case histories the swami has highlighted virtues like self-confidence, and paying as much attention to the means as to the ends.
Our special thanks are due to Dr. N. Tirumaleshwar Bhat for his elegant translation of the Kannada book into English; to Swami Satyeshananda of the Ranchi T.B. Sanatorium for many helpful suggestions; to Prof. Siddhartha Ganguly of Meghalaya, to Dr. Bula Roy of Ranchi and to Dr. Bharati Bhat of Bangalore who have helped in many ways in preparing the manuscript.
This is the first of two volumes. That it may inspire the youngsters to strive for the best and find fulfillment through selfless service of fellowmen, is our earnest prayer to Sri Ramakrishna.
Introduction to Volume One
There are certain values that are extremely necessary for life, but which are generally ignored by the modern system of education. My mind has often been engaged in trying to find a way of getting our youth interested in these values which can instill a sense of self-confidence and enthusiasm in them. I have had several opportunities to address young people at schools and colleges and have realized that important truths can best be driven home not by simply preaching theories, but by the use of illustrations. Today's education lays emphasis on accumulation of actual knowledge, but fails to mould the character of the youth. Our young people therefore have failed to acquire the means by which they can make themselves spiritually strong, courageous, bold and upright. The intellect gets sharpened by means of studies. Should there not be a similar training for the cultivation and control of our minds and hearts? Our intelligentsia does not seem to have arrived at a constructive plan for the training of character as yet. The proverb goes, "A single good act is worth a tonne of advice." Many enriching experiences and incidents in successful lives are not only of interest and significance, but also help in the moulding of character. Many books have been published in the West-based on actual incidents and experience which can provide inspiration and guidance to our youth.
There is no dearth of intellectuals, who try to correct the weak and the diffident by means of reproach, blame and contempt. Intelligent as they are, they don't seem to realize that damaging a young man's self-respect could eventually wreck his life. Till now, they haven't seemed to have made an honest attempt to rectify the problem either. Though it might be necessary to admonish and even punish those who go astray, it cannot be considered the only answer to all problems. What the youth really need are proper ideas, inspiring models and appropriate guidance to help them realize their follies and correct themselves, rather than criticizing them violently, attacking verbally or condemning outrightly. The purpose of this book has been to attempt to find an answer to these problems that afflict our youth.
Are the youth an asset to the nation? Are there among them builders of the nation who can make her hold her head high among other nations? Are they capable, with the education they have been given, of defending themselves and the country? Have they some concern, some feeling and sympathy for the millions of poor people who have been subjected to repression and exploitation for centuries, people whose sweat of labour has provided them with the privilege of education, job and other amenities? Have they at least the keen desire to attain a level of achievement in the field chosen by them? Has the education taught them the virtues of honesty and responsibility? What can the nation expect from the youth who are physically weak, who are slaves of comfort and luxury, who are idling parasites, sucking the blood of the nation? How is it that the love of labour has not grown as a natural trait of our youth? Is it any credit to them that they work desultorily and reluctantly only when they are forced to do work? Is there no solution or principle that can keep our youth from drifting along the swift current of selfishness and over the precipice of degeneration?
The youth are the symbol of a nation's enthusiasm, energy and hope. If we cannot make their irrepressible energy flow in proper and useful channels, all our national projects will go down the drain. What directions do the minds of the educated youth, who received their training because of the hard work of the people of the nation, take today? Do they have a sense of dignity of labour? Today, teachers and parents think that the purpose of their lives is fulfilled when their children are educated, pass examinations, get a job and earn money. Nobody seems to be concerned about whether children imbibe any noble qualities and become good human beings.
Sukhomlisky, a Russian educationist, says: "Indolence and idleness are the direct outcome of lack of self-confidence, lack of faith and distrust in oneself and they lead further to disaster". He also says, "Love of work is a moral quality that can only be fostered within the collective. The more powerful the collective's respect for work, the more effective is the moulding of each school child." "If man is not allowed to be a lion, he becomes a fox." This proverb fits in the present situation. Sukhomlisky says this with reference to school children, but in India the malady is common even among teenage boys, girls and youth. One of the factors contributing to this is the fact that our country lived for a long period in slavery under colonial rule. Another factor is the inability of the people occupying higher ranks of the society, the intelligentsia, in making a sincere, honest and concerted attempt to lift the underprivileged and underdogs of society from their station in life. "He sank the well when the house was on fire". In accordance with the spirit of this proverb, incapable of looking into the distant future, our leaders have been engaged in seeking solutions to the problems immediately bothering them.
There is a solution to the problems of the youth. The solution lies in re-establishing the self-confidence of the youth, in showing them the way of regaining their faith in themselves. With this, not only the individual but also the society rises to the heights of great achievements. When an individual becomes aware of his own tremendous potentiality, when he realizes that he himself is the architect of his future, he tries honestly to come up in life just like a man who falls to the ground will use the ground itself for support to stand up. The deliberations and discussions in this book, I hope, will help our people, both young and old, at least to some extent in bringing about the much-needed change in themselves and society.
Many of the leaders who fought for the freedom of India staunchly believed that the country has a special spiritual message to give to the world. Gandhiji imbibed the spirit of this message in his life and inspired his countrymen to live a life of selfless service for the good of the nation. The fight for freedom started only with the noble urge for preserving the culture and virtues of the people and also ensuring their welfare and well-being. At the dawn of the freedom movement, Swami Vivekananda gave a clarion call to the people to imbibe the spirit of true religious idealism as laid down by our great seers, based on the eternal and universal truths, which respect all religions. The true philosophy to live by is based on the universal principles of the divinity present in every human being, the solidarity of the universe, the essential unity of all religions and service of God in the human being. Indeed, these are the answers to the fundamental questions about life and existence. Hence these truths are applicable for all times and for all places. Swamiji proclaimed that the effect of these great ideas would spread throughout the world, at one point ideas would spread throughout the world, at one point or the other. The well-known historian Arnold Toynbee made a prediction towards the middle of this century: "India will conquer her conquerors culturally, not politically", as Swamiji had already hinted. If we subject the above ideas to scrutiny under the light of modern discoveries and are able to confirm that these ideas are true, it will add a new dimension to our knowledge. At the same time, we will have discovered the basic principle of moulding character, since the real problem of education has to be solved in the light of the true concept of the human being.
Many people in the country hardly have a roof over their heads. Their lives should become secure and happy. The individuality that they lost to slavery for centuries should be regained. In this regard, the educated have a great role to play. And the role of young people is still greater. It is not material help alone that provides a cure for the ills of the world. "We may convert every house in the country into a charity asylum; we may fill the land with hospitals, but the misery of man will still continue to exist until man's character changes," says Swami Vivekananda. We will be doing the greatest service to humanity not only by raising the roofs of houses but also by raising the minds of people. This book is a humble constructive attempt in this direction.
Publisher's Note to Second Volume
The first volume of this book has had an enthusiastic reception from the reading public and has been reviewed warmly by the print media.
At the pressing request of friends Swami Jagadatmananda has continued in this volume his pep talk to the youth, inspiring them to find life's fulfillment by steadily pursuing the higher values of life. He calls for an end to the self-defeating tendency to worry and explains how the mid and heart can be made to bloom. He expatiates on the charm of selfless service to fellowmen and the power and glory of the mother's love. The part played by sincere prayer in everyday life is brought out convincingly. He has also marshaled many authentic case histories regarding the Vedantic theory of Karma and transmigration.
On the whole this book very well justifies its title and exhorts the readers to arise, awake and learn how to live wisely and well.
Introduction to the Second Volume
The present social and ethical conditions can very easily make one pessimistic about the future. Nations considered to be highly advanced, powerful and civilized are competing with one another in the matter of producing and stockpiling weapons of mass-destruction, which are capable of annihilating the entire globe within a few seconds. Millions of dollars are being spent on the manufacture of weapons of mass-destruction. Jonathan Shell, in his book 'The Future of the Earth' points out the human society is precariously hanging on the brink of disaster. If one compares the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima a few decades ago with the latest weapons the former was not even one millionth of the latter in its destructive power. Yet nations are piling up more and more such weapons. He remarks bitterly that the absence of any public protest against this, shows that the people are oblivious of the sense of human welfare or even of their own welfare. There is such an aggravation in man's evil spirit that the tragic day is not far off when the living might envy those who are dead. It cannot of course be denied that there are some organizations which strive for the welfare of the whole mankind, which, by carrying out constructive programmes for the upliftment of humanity stand testimony to the still surviving goodness in man. There are different branches of the United Nations Organisation and other non-governmental organizations, which are engaged in the task of feeding the hungry, driving away diseases, protecting the rights of the working class, rendering succour to men affected by various kinds of natural and man-made disasters, promoting culture, art and education. But demonic forces seem to be bent on strangulating all forces of goodness by using the powers of modern science placed at their disposal. Just think of the activities of the terrorists whereby innocent people are massacred. On the one hand large amounts of money are being spent on weapons meant not only for wholly non-productive but also for blatantly destructive purposes. On the other hand through the direct and indirect promotion of adulterated food, obscenity in films and literature, and drug-addiction, greedy men all over the world are minting money. In the pyre of selfishness, family and moral values are being reduced to ashes. Our youth tempted by the forces of evil and everywhere society is disintegrating.
Neglect of moral and spiritual values, materialistic ideal which exaggerates the importance of sense pleasures, a spirit of enquiry which encourages hedonism, the abuse of technology are dragging mankind to a tragic end. What is the use of conquering the world and losing our own soul? What is the use if a man, who is able to control a computer or a wonderful spaceship, is not in a position to control his own mind?
"Materialism and all its miseries cannot be conquered by materialism
. The whole of western world is sitting on a volcano, which may burst tomorrow, go to pieces tomorrow
It is spiritual culture and ethical culture alone that can change wrong racial tendencies for better", warned Swami Vivekananda in the late 19th century. It is a historical fact that in a few decades after the pronouncement of this warning the two world wars devastated mankind and wiped out millions of people from the surface of the earth.
Unless our basic attitudes towards life and reality are changed true happiness and lasting fulfillment will ever elude us inspite of enormous increase of objects of enjoyment and means of seeking pleasure. Why? Pleasure is caused by an excitement of the senses and is short lived whereas true happiness is independent of sense contact and long lasting. It wells up from within, from the depths of the heart. Pleasure is based on selfish or ego-centric drives, whereas true happiness comes from going beyond the self and seeking the welfare of the other people. Sense pleasure produces painful reactions whereas true happiness gives us calmness and peace.
According to Vedanta ignorance of our true nature is the cause of all suffering. We usually identify ourselves with our body and mind. It is this identification that creates the ego or the false or lower self. But our true nature is the spirit known as the Atman or higher self, which is beyond both the body and the mind. Atman is the real source of all the happiness we experience. But without knowing this we seek it in external objects and other people. If we want to attain true fulfillment, true happiness and lasting peace, we must go beyond the lower self and discover the higher self, our true soul, the real centre of consciousness in us. This is achieved through self-analysis, self-control, selfless service, prayer, japa and meditation, in other words through following the path of spiritual discipline. Problems of unfulfilment, meaninglessness, loneliness, anxiety, sense of guilt and fear of death can be solved only by realising our true self.
Man's development s incomplete till he becomes introspective and tries to understand sincerely the true nature of the soul. Science makes a special study of the outer world, it gathers enough knowledge about man also. It can also promote the discovery of eternal values. But spiritual experience is beyond the purview of science. It has to be attained; by quite a different means. Selfless service, purity of mind, worship of the Lord, prayer and meditation, the observance of ethical and moral principles are the means of attaining spiritual eminence. There is no short-cut in this process. In ancient times our sages and seers had done considerable research on the subject. By going beyond the limits of the conscious and unconscious mind they had discovered the perfect means of attaining spiritual freedom. If the balance between spirituality and worldliness is upset, the peace and happiness in man's life will also be undermined.
Western materialistic approaches came to India around the early parts of the 19th century with the advent of the British Raj. Years of colonial rule led to a blind imitation of alien theories and approaches to life. The leaders of the freedom movement however were people inspired by the national spirit and tried to the best of their ability to safeguard the uniqueness of our national tradition. India has adopted a democratic political system. We have been realizing that in the path of national reconstruction there are many challenges to be faced. We now know how difficult it is to make all people of our country literate. It need not be separately mentioned, how much more difficult it is to sow the seeds of noble ideas in the public mind and to inspire them to live a life of noble deeds. In the days prior to independence enlightened, educated men occupying eminent positions in society were infilled with high patriotism and were ready to face the bullets of the British and shed their own blood to liberate their country. Many of them lost everything and spent their days in jail. The ideals of service and sacrifice, which they had accepted as a way of life were soon forgotten by the latter-day politicians and leaders. Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari Predicted what the situation could be if these high ideals were given up "As soon as we attain independence, elections and what they produce corruption, the arrogance of officials, the inefficiency of administration, all will render the life of people a hell. People will regretfully remember the rule, which they had witnessed earlier, just, efficient, honest and peaceful. The only consolation is that we have been free from indignity and slavery. We can hope for a better life only through a liberal universal education. Only through such an education citizens can imbibe right from childhood values like good conduct, faith in God, love and peace. In its absence there will be wide spread injustice and squandering of money. How happy the world can be if people find happiness is loving one another, develop faith in God and life with a spirit of justice! Develop faith in God and live with a spirit of justice! India has a greater strength to practice such principles than other countries".
Elders of the past generations had dreamt that by cultivating spiritual values like faith in God, mutual love and concern, good behaviour etc. right from childhood it is possible to establish peace in the world. Is the situation in the country today conducive to entertaining such hopes?
Will an awareness of this situation warn our educated youth of the impending danger and exhort them to take up some constructive project? Even during the 19th century Swami Vivekananda gave a warning to the educated people of India. "So long as the millions live in hunger and ignorance, I hold every man a traitor who, having been educated at their expense, pays not the least heed to them. Those educated men who now wallow in comfort and luxury as a result of the sacrifice and hard work of millions of poor people who had been exploited have a duty to strive for the welfare of the poor people. If they don't do so, I call them traitors."
'The uplift of the women, the awakening of the masses must come first, and then only can any real good come about for the country, for India.'
'Let me tell you as one who has been working at least trying to work all his life, that there is no regeneration for India until you be spiritual. Religion and religion alone is the life of India, and when that goes India will die. So every improvement in India requires first of all an upheaval in religion. Before flooding India with socialistic or political ideas, first deluge the land with spiritual ideas. The national ideas of India are renunciation and service. Intensify her in those channels, and the rest will take care of itself.'
'Three things are necessary to make every man great, every nation great:
1. Conviction of the powers of goodness.
2. Absence of jealousy and suspicion.
3. Helping all who are trying to be and do good.'
'Let us wipe off first
the stain of jealousy. Be jealous of none. Be ready to lend a hand to every worker of good. Send a good thought for every being in the three worlds. To become broad, to go out, to amalgamate, to universalize, is the end of our aims. Nothing else is necessary but these-love, sincerity, and patience.
'Then only will India awake, when hundreds of large-hearted men and women, giving up all desires of enjoying the luxuries of life, willing and exert themselves to their utmost, for the well-being of the millions of their countrymen who are gradually sinking lower and lower in the vortex of destitution and ignorance.'
Is there any likelihood of this generation of educated people accepting these suggestions and implementing them? Don't they just dismiss them as emotional outbursts and rhetorical pronouncements? Isn't it against the spirit of revolution if one accepts these values? Are these values relevant to the present world? Haven's they only rhetorical merit?
Whatever the so-called educated people say, real scholars have an entirely different view to express. Modern sociologists affirm clearly that religion or spirituality is the true foundation of culture. They differ from some political theorists who say that religion, once upon a time an important social force, has become only a fossil in the modern age. The words of Christopher Dowson, in his book, 'Inquiries into religion and Culture' (Sheed and Ward) are worth observing, "Religion is not a matter of personal sentiment that has nothing to do with the objective realities of society but is, on the contrary, the heart of social life and the root of every living culture. We are just beginning to understand how intimately and profoundly the vitality of any society is bund up in its religion. It is the religious impulse, which supplies the cohesive force, which unifies the society and the culture. The great civilizations of the world do not produce the great religion as a kind of cultural by-product; in a very real sense, the religions are the foundations on which the great civilizations rest. A society which has lost its religion becomes sooner or later a society which has lost its culture'. Sorokin and Toynbee also express a similar view.
It will not be difficult even for a common man to understand this much: Behind the birth and growth of every civilization there is a centre of faith. Any revival or re-vitalization process should include the formation of a sense of harmony in the human heart. Neither civilization, or peace, nor progress is possible without mutual co-operation between human beings. Co-operation is the bond that unifies people together. The principle behind this co-operation is a common centre of faith. The core of this faith is the soul or the supreme soul God. To feel the presence of God, to impart it to others through one's own exalted character and conduct by reducing selfishness, will go a long way in re-vitalizing this trust in God. Each one derives a motivation to join others to work for a high ideal. People with a sense of history will understand how in our country spiritual heroes were behind every instance of social uplift and rejuvenation.
What we have seen of life is only a hemisphere, half of the globe. The other hemisphere is beyond our familiar vision, hidden in the darkness of ultra-physical existence. Ordinary mortals like us cannot say anything definite about this existence. When we hear the word "river" we can visualize its origin its two banks, the buildings on its banks, the sea it joins. True, but this is not the whole picture of the river.
There is yet another aspect of the river. This is rather invisible. The heart of the sun evaporates the water of the sea. The wind carries the vapour to the tops of hills; the rain on top of the hills flows as water along the river and joins the sea again. Likewise even in the stream of our life, there are many unseen forces in operation. A man born on this earth considers this terrestrial existence as the be-all and end-all of life, and that death terminates everything. But atleast a few know that the human spirit dwelling in the body doesn't cease to exist when the body ceases to exist. Existence and the existence of the soul are not just a matter of faith or imagination. They are truths verifiable by experience. Nearly six thousand years ago, our sages knew that man is not the same as the body, he only wears the body as if it were a garment. They knew that a living being comes to the earth and then leaves it according to an inexorable law. This book discusses this issue in the light of the new discoveries of science. Unfortunately the number of people, who consider the Karma theory to be irrational, unscientific, and superstitious is growing. There has been a foul habit of believing that those who attack these more vociferously are the more intelligent people. It must however be borne in mind that it is not in any way to be scientific minded, if we criticize things without studying them wholly and exhaustively. The thoughts presented here are not meant for those who pretend to sleep.
Believers can strengthen their beliefs on the basis of the evidence offered in the course of this book. I can say this much that the readers need not be unnecessarily disturbed because of the arguments of those who refuse to see the truth.
It is considered to be a virtue or virtuous action if we help those who are suffering from various kinds of difficulties, pains and diseases. "Difficulties follow actions. How can we interfere when people suffer because of their past misdeeds? Let them pay for what they did!" the Karma theory never upholds this attitude of indifference or neglect. Not to do anything to help people in distress, amounts to committing a sin. Those who suffer also would do better to strive to pray for God's mercy and rescue from the present predicament rather than to spend time only in hurling abuses at others. Properly understood, the Karma theory prevents us from following the spirit of materialism on the ground of being scientific; it prevents us from becoming slaves to bigotry and blind belief, in spite of being religious; it enables us to fact the difficulties of life with courage and gives us a maturity of outlook, which makes us adventurous in spirit. Innumerable examples like those of Cayce confirm the operation of this universal law. The organized religious forces, which in the past resisted the propogation of scientific ideas, are trying to suppress the thoughts of Cayce in the West. This is enough to show how difficult it is to conduct such studies.
There are of course critics everywhere who misinterpret the Karma theory and hold it responsible for the spirit of fatalism and in action, which sometimes overpowers our people. There are of course people who misunderstand every theory and abuse it for their own gain. The veracity or falsehood of a theory should not be decided on the basis of such flimsy examples of selfish men. The new light thrown by Edgar Cayce with the help of his rare extra-sensory experiences can certainly give a new insight into life. For the past twenty-five years, since I read the book "Many Mansions" by Gina Cerminara I have gathered various materials with the help of which I have discussed the Universal law of karma and reincarnation in this book. Unless we trace the genesis of the joys and sorrows of life and understand the laws that regulate them, we cannot understand the meaning and purpose of life. What kind of a life is it unless we understand its meaning?
An attempt has been made here to discuss questions such as the limitations of science, the importance of values, the power of selfless love, the path of gaining peace of mind, the method of developing character, the foundation of morality, the root cause of joy and sorrow, the background of miraculous events, the secrets of prayer, worship and meditation, the means of achieving individual development and social welfare, the nature of God and religion and also to resolve a few doubts which some modern people are likely to raise.
I would like to conclude with a humble prayer to the Almighty.
May He bless all the people, specially the youth, with the knowledge of the higher purpose of life. May His blessings being harmony, understanding, justice, peace and mutual love amongst all.
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