BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Loving Sai Ram and greetings from Prashanti Nilayam.
Swami reminds us again and again
that our true nature is Ananda or Bliss, but the sad fact is that in this
wide world, wherever we turn, there is a lot of violence. Violence always
causes pain, suffering agony and anguish. It is natural therefore to wonder
why there is so much violence and conflict, if we all are the Sparks of the
Divine and Embodiments of Love, as Swami invariably addresses us. That is
the question we wish to explore this Sunday.
A wise man once said that the Mind has infinite capacity to trick itself.
This is very true; the Mind of man is indeed enormously powerful. That
should be no surprise because in the Gita, Krishna emphatically declares
that among the senses, HE is the Mind, meaning that the Mind is packed with
vast reserves of the Power of God. It is because of that Divine Power latent
in the Mind that man has been able to accomplish so much, not only in art,
music, and literature but in Science as well. In fact, it is in the areas of
Science and Technology that the awesome power of the human Mind becomes most
evident. All this means that man must undoubtedly be incredibly clever.
The question now arises: “If man is so very clever, how come he is not able
to see the obvious?” The word obvious here refers to the dangers that Mind
can create. This is precisely where the quote we offered becomes relevant,
besides uncovering an immense tragedy. It all starts with the question as to
what man thinks he is. This is not a trivial matter, which is why Swami
often poses the question: “Who am I?” in His Discourses. Man has to
constantly ask this question of himself, and look for the answer from
inside. Broadly speaking, he can get two kinds of answers. Category 1 would
be, “You are so and so, you are a terrific person because you achieved this
and that,” and so on. This answer that man gets is from what might be called
the lower-self or ego, as spiritual philosophers describe it. Basically, the
ego is shorthand for a man who identifies himself with his body, his senses
and his Mind. Such a man is all the time focussed on the external world,
concerned about the success and fame he must achieve in the world, etc.,
etc. He is highly body-conscious. In other words, the lower-self is almost
entirely preoccupied with the external world and the way the individual must
respond to it.
We must mention that preoccupation with the external world need not always
be in terms of achieving fame, wealth etc. For millions if not billions, it
is sheer survival that is priority number one. There are millions without
food, water, clothing and shelter, the primary needs of every human being,
but which they do not have access to. Such people become worried, depressed
and a good many of them even end up taking their lives.
One might at this point ask, and legitimately too: “Listen, it is God who
created the world and it is God who put us there. It is also God who gave us
the body, the senses and the Mind. And now you seem to imply that the body,
the senses and the Mind form the ego, that they are dangerous, etc. There is
something funny going on here and I am very confused. Can you be more clear
about what you are trying to say?” A valid point and that is precisely what
we wish to address today.
Let us get back to the category of answers that one would get, and consider
what we would call Category 2. In response to the question “Who am I?”, the
answer in Category 2 would be: “The human being is actually a composite of
the body, the senses, the Mind and the Atma. This composite entity thinks it
is the ego. This is a wrong choice or identification. The correct choice is
for the human to say, ‘I identify myself with the Atma.’ So, the answer to
the question who am I really is: ‘I AM THE ATMA.’ ”
So it all boils down to a matter of identification. The human can identify
himself or herself with the ego/lower-self – that is choice one.
Alternately, the human can identify herself/himself with the Atma/Higher-Self
– that is choice number two. OK, there are these two choices for
identification. What do they mean in practical terms? What has all this got
to do with the enormous amount of violence that we see all around? That is
the question we shall now turn to.
Trouble starts, sometimes in a big way, when a person identifies himself
with the body. Such a person easily gets affected by the six deadly viruses
lurking in the Mind – Lust/desire, anger, etc., which have been pointed out
to us by Swami innumerable number of times. The senses then take over and
get into the act and constantly take the person in the direction of worldly
pleasures. The Mind gets corrupted, and soon the person is in the control of
desires, jealousy, greed and so on. The Mind keeps on prompting: “Hey, you
are born free. Why restrict yourself? Go out and have a ball!” When lust
grips a person, there is trouble for sure. When greed and ambition rule a
person, there is trouble for sure; and so on it goes. The problem is that
the actions of an individual affect not only affect that person or those
close to him but often also affect large segments of Society, if not the
whole of it.
Take the case of a computer hacker, who creates a computer virus just “for
kicks”. The virus may spread and affect millions of computers the world
over. Thus, with Science and Technology in hand, the individual’s capacity
to cause havoc on a large scale has now greatly increased. Let us now focus
specifically on violence, physical violence that is. Here, one might perhaps
distinguish two types: a) violence caused by the greed of some to make
money, etc., and b) violence that is the result of poverty.
Let us start with the first category. We start with the gun. Everyone knows
that guns kill people. Yet, there is a thriving gun industry that makes huge
profits. It is simply not bothered that free availability of gun actively
promotes a gun culture and thus violence. The gun industry is vigorously
aided by lobbies that secures political patronage. And the movie industry
aids the process for it does not bat an eyelid in the graphic portrayal of
The most serious aspect of the gun industry is the huge export market it
caters to. Take Africa for example. Everyone knows that there is widespread
poverty in Africa , and that the continent has all kinds of problems , that
need urgent solution. Yet, powerful commercial forces are busy marketing
small arms, which in turn have promoted innumerable conflicts and even
genocide. So Africa which ought to spend all the money it has for solving
problems, ends up buying guns which add to the problem. The matter was taken
up by a Committee of the UN. The Chairman of the Committee, an African,
pleaded to the members from the rich countries: “Please for heaven’s sake,
place an embargo on the sale of arms to Africa . These guns that you sell
for profit are killing thousands and thousands of people.” His plea did not
make any impact on the arms traders; all they were interested in was their
That the arms industry can become excessively obsessed with sales and
profits to the point of completely overlooking danger to humanity was
foreseen by Gen. Eisenhower, when he retired as the President of USA. Now
Eisenhower was the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during
World War II. He was a much-decorated military officer. Yet, quite contrary
to the hawks that military officers usually are, Eisenhower, in an address
that he delivered when he stepped down from office, said that humanity had
to protect itself from the dangers of the Military-Industrial Complex or MIC
as it was referred to in those days. It was a most perceptive warning with
far-reaching implications. Unfortunately, what Eisenhower feared is
precisely what happened later, with many countries making small arms an
important item of export.
The point we are making is that the free availability of guns and various
types of arms in the global market has made an enormous contribution to the
killing of hundreds of thousands, if not millions every year. And this sale
is promoted by the greed of the arms merchants. This is not to say that the
rich alone are responsible for all the killing. Far from it. Poverty
produces its own “reasons” for people to resort to violence, sometimes in
the extreme. In the slums and the ghettos of the world, it is the poor who
kill the poor; and yet, the asymmetry of wealth distribution is an important
contributing factor to slum violence.
We do not wish to imply that violence and cruelty are a recent phenomenon.
Far from it; they have come to man from the time he evolved from lower
species. However, technology, communications, and extreme asymmetry of
income now prevalent have vastly enhanced the scale of violence. It is time
now to return to the starting point and link it all up.
A human being is Divine at the core but is shaped at the level of the senses
and the Mind by the environment around him. If, for example, the external
environment says a girl child is bad news, then people in that society try
to get rid of the girl child before birth or immediately after birth. This
makes two things clear. The first is that violence really starts in the
Mind. The second is that it really starts with individuals, just as cancer
starts with individual cells that start malfunctioning. Thus it is that
violence has always been present in human society to varying extent. Having
said that, we must also acknowledge that in today’s circumstances, violence
has galloped and become a most horrifying phenomenon, largely due to the
social climate prevailing.
Have things gone beyond the point of no return? Is there no hope for a
return to sanity? There is, provided we take level 2 of individual
identification seriously. Suppose each one of us says, seriously that is: “I
am not the body, I am not the Mind; I am a Spark of Swami at the core.
Therefore, my actions should be similar to that of Swami, at least in spirit
though not may be in quantity.” Suppose we make this identification
seriously and start living our lives in this manner. It is not difficult to
see that it would make a sea change in our individual lives. Equally
important, this change would also have an impact in the environment
immediately surrounding us, like our family, like our work place, etc. In
other words, when individuals change their identification, there is
definitely a multiplier effect.
Today, the population of the world is six billion plus. Just imagine if a
mere one million people identify themselves in this manner and lead lives
that are only 10 % Selfless as Swami is. What a change that can bring about
in our society immediately! That really is the point we are trying to make.
Himsa and Ahimsa [non-violence] start really in individual Minds. One
Hitler, for example, could eventually cause the death of over 20 millions in
World War II. The Mind becomes prone to violence when in the grip of the
internal enemies. One might be immensely clever but when it comes to
selfishness, greed, anger, desire etc., logic almost invariably fails. As
Krishna told Arjuna,
Dwelling with the Mind on sense objects develops attachment; attachment
leads to desire, and desire breeds anger.
From anger arises delusion; delusion promotes confusion of the Mind;
confusion generates loss of reason; and finally, loss of reason leads to
So you see, a person may be very clever in the worldly sense, but if he
lacks discrimination, then he can become blinded to reason, cause havoc, and
himself rush to ruin.
So the bottom line is, humans have two fundamental choices: 1) To submit to
the senses and the Mind and identify themselves accordingly. 2) To submit to
the Atma and identify themselves accordingly. If they prefer the former
identification, then they would become a prey to the beast, if not become
the beast themselves. On the other hand, if they make the second choice,
they would emerge as the Beauty instead of as the Beast.
It is thus entirely within our power to be the Beauty or the Beast. Long ago
Plato talked of Truth, Goodness and Beauty. Those three words have also
often been referred to by Swami, who uses the more ancient Sanskrit terms,
Sathyam, Sivam, Sundaram. If we follow Sathya, we would transform into
Sundaram or Beauty. If we follow Asathya and all its companions, then we are
sure to become the Beast. If the world is full of beasts, then it becomes a
jungle. If the world is full of Beautiful people, it becomes Heaven. It is
not God who is going to make this world into Heaven. He merely gives the
recipe. It is we who have to do that. And whether that happens or not
depends on which of the two identification options we prefer to make.
We are sure most of you would think we have grossly oversimplified the
issue. Could be. In that case, why don’t you write to us telling us about
your point of view? Criticisms always help us to learn!
Jai Sai Ram. H2H Team.