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Socrates and Plato - Track 201

…………he had stress in his mind therefore he breaks everyday and give me a jar next day, this is my need. Yu have to consider whether his needs are legitimate or not. Right, so we have to add a little phrase, ‘everybody should be paid according to his legitimate needs.’ So let us add one more word before we come to the idea of justice. Now this word ‘legitimate’ brings in some other ideas, some other dimensions to the question. What is legitimate, Tobean may need after two or three years a good library which might cost let us say 50,000 rupees and he might come to Deepti and say: “I need 50,000 rupees because I need, is it a legitimate need that he may demand. So according to this definition legitimate means something that keeps your body in good shape, your physical, material needs are legitimate. We had a very interesting question at one time. We had the need to white wash our school in Pondicherry that was one need. There was a need to buy a number of articles for the laboratory; thirdly there was a need to buy costumes for a theatrical performance. The cost of all the three was 50,000 rupees and we had only 50,000 rupees. All the three were simultaneous needs. Now how do you decide which of these three needs is legitimate and where did we spend the money. Whitewashing the school, equipment for the laboratory and buying the costumes for a theatrical performance. How will you decide which is the legitimate need that becomes difficult, no? Some may argue to keep the school building in good shape, looks beautiful, it’s very nice, very important; some said laboratory equipment is very important. Of course it was argued if we had no laboratory equipment at all and tomorrow we can’t do laboratory experiment at all, which are very necessary then it was easy to answer the question. But laboratory equipment was of such a nature that last year we did without it, this year also you could do without it, then the question of costumes for a theatrical performance. We went to the Mother and she said: ‘you buy the costumes.’ The experience that you get in your educational process, you can’t repeat the same drama every year to get the experience, every year there is a new drama, you cannot postpone the possibility of an experience, it is educational experience and so she said you spend money on costumes because a certain experience of drama which had to be shared by a large number of people and by the performers was more legitimate than the other two needs. So now you can see that the problem becomes very difficult as you go into the depths of the question of needs. You can see that you will require a greater insight, you cannot judge merely by outer facts which are given to you. Now if this is so then you have a new dimension, you cannot be truly just, unless you have a good insight, right? If you want to decide the legitimate needs you should have insights as to what is a legitimate need. Of course what you said is right, first of course is physical needs are most legitimate, if that was the only question then the answer was very clear. Once Mother told me, – there was somebody who wanted (who was working with me) and he told me to tell the Mother that he gave a certain amount of money and said: Mother I give you this money. And then the amount of money that was given was hardly sufficient for even the physical needs but he gave all that he had and then there were some around me who argued this is not enough. Then Mother said: but the question is of nourishment, so don’t mix up with this money that is given and his need for nutrition and Mother sanctioned the food that was to be given to him. So his contribution was not equated with what he could buy in terms of nutrition. Mother said nutrition of course you should give him so if it only the basic need then answer is much easier. If there were a distinction to be made between basic need and legitimate need then the answer is easier. But when you have several competing needs which are legitimate then you require a deeper insight to judge what is more legitimate and this is what Plato ultimately came to.

He said you cannot have justice in the society unless you have in the society a few individuals at least, who have deeper insight. You cannot be just unless you have people with deeper insight. You can have all kinds of arguments this is fair, that is fair, this is unfair etc, etc. and you’ll have many kind of criteria, many tests you judge whether this is right or wrong, only one who has insight, and then the question was who has insight? And that was the very interesting question, who has the insight? And that was a very interesting question: who has insight? I shall come to this question later on when I deal with Plato. But his answer briefly was only philosophers have insight. His answer was that you should have the knowledge of the whole, of the totality to be able to judge whether a given need is greater or lesser. So only one who has a total vision and who has a total vision – a philosopher. This leads Plato to discuss what is philosophy?

Of course by philosophy he did not mean what he is called dry philosophy, you know there are many philosophers who go on discussing questions in a very abstract manner, he meant by philosophy, what is called wisdom and wisdom has two aspects. First aspect is vision of the whole truth, of the totality and second is the skill to apply that vision in actual daily life, it has two aspects − vision of the whole and the skill to apply that vision in every particular item.

Actually the word philosophy consists of two words, – philo and sophia. Philo is the love and Sophia is wisdom, love for wisdom is called philosophy and that is why Plato said that the best that you can do to young people is to teach them philosophy but by philosophy he meant, ‘love for wisdom’.

What you did recently the first chapter of The Life Divine and the first chapter of the Synthesis of Yoga. The first chapter of The Life Divine was the vision of the truth and the first chapter of the Synthesis of Yoga was the application of that vision in life. This is the real study of philosophy and he declared that philosophers are first to be trained properly and then when they are very well trained and able to apply the vision of the whole in practical life then you make them the guardians. Guardians means those who are able to guard everybody, those who are able to see that everybody is protected, everybody is looked after properly, everybody’s needs are looked after properly, everybody’s needs which are legitimate and then he gave the definition of justice after doing all this. His definition of justice is to place everybody in his right place is justice.

Now I took up this question of justice because I wanted to illustrate the Socratic Method. You remember I pointed out the difference between science and philosophy and I said science seeks facts by method of observation, experimentation, verification and arriving at a general conclusion, whereas in philosophy you start with facts, you don’t seek facts. You start with facts as you will see we took certain set of facts like lion is an animal that is killing and then raising the question as to what will be the nature of share. So one set of facts we took then we took another set of facts of the lawyer and the labourer and then we took the third set of facts from the story of the Bible and we spoke of ‘unto this last’, then we made a distinction between the various kinds of needs – is also a fact, there are different kinds of needs, legitimate need, there also basic need and legitimate needs is also another set of facts. And then we saw the need of insights which is also a fact and having come to see the insight we came to the conclusion that that is the real insight that knows the place of everyone and places everyone in his right place and this wisdom, is wisdom which is born out of love. Philosophy, you should have love for wisdom, you need not study even philosophy to have wisdom; very often like I give another example which Ruskin has given in his book.

There is a small piece of bread which is left in the home – this is an interesting example. The piece of bread left in the home, there is mother and there are three children, there are four people. The mother is very poor; she has to do a lot of work to get even one more piece of bread. On that unfortunate day she couldn’t get more than one piece of bread, now she had to feed four people, herself and three children. Now Ruskin asks this question: how will the mother distribute one piece of bread, will she make four equal parts, will that be justice? If the pieces are good enough so as to make four equal parts to satisfy some basic need of that day for all of the four, maybe that she will make four equal parts. But as you know children have great appetite and elder ones even if they may have appetite they can control their appetite, isn’t it? Now the mother is inspired by love that is a very important factor. So now tell me how will she divide that piece of bread?

Three……good, that’s right and that is justice, no idea of justice, no idea of need, it’s inspired by wisdom, inspired by love. So you can now see the real dimension of justice. True justice demands a tremendous love on the part of the one who is to decide. That is why Plato said: that in training young people, you should give to every individual the possibility of the highest knowledge, knowledge of the whole, totality then give them a tremendous training in love, universal love, vast love in which one loses one self, not me first, they first, – those who need most. This is the kind of training he said you should give to young people. Plato was a great educationist.


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