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
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 violence.
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 market share.
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
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.