Indian culture has this very great speciality, as I told you; it takes time to make a statement but it is a dishonor if you are afterward required to change it. In the West, you make a statement now because you find it is right at present, but there is no shame at all if tomorrow new facts come in your picture and you say, “Tomorrow my opinion is different”. It’s a fact. It’s a fact: “Tomorrow new facts have come into my vision and therefore my opinion is different tomorrow.”
In India, it’s a shame. “Why did you not take into account that tomorrow new facts will come into your picture? Therefore be very slow; assimilate all that could be; try to understand, you take into account everything that has come into your ken, assimilate properly, then you come to a conclusion, then you make a statement, so you don’t have to retreat afterwards.”
This is a speciality of Indian culture. If you look at Indian minds, you will find that they are hardly promising. They will hardly make any promises. Human beings in India will not make promises easily. They’ll take a long time before a promise is made, but you can be sure that once a promise is made, the genius of India does not allow you to change it after so easily. There can be changes, but not so easily. That is why also in India there is a lot of conservatism, conservation. To change, to make India radical, it takes a lot of time. But once it takes up the problem of radical change – it takes time to make it, but once it does it, it does it marvelously. And suddenly, there is a mutation, as it were: a new face comes up. That’s why Sri Aurobindo said the renaissance of Indian culture will be such that the spirit will remain the same, but the entire mind, body, life will be quite new. That will be the Indian renaissance; that is what is going to happen.
So I have found that for this particular book that we are planning about vital education we will also collect stories that are particularly indicative of various cultures, so that a student enters into the very heart, through stories. If you study Rama’s character, you enter really into Indian culture. If you read Mahabharata, for example, one illustration: Arjuna decides, on a particular day, before sunset I will kill my enemy, Jayadratha, who killed my son illegitimately. That was the promise he makes in the morning. He says, “Before sunset, I must kill Jayadratha and if I cannot kill him, I’ll kill myself.” That’s the promise he makes. And almost it was evening, actually. And Jayadratha was not killed. It’s a very important story in Mahabharata. And it became evening already. The sun seemed to have set. And the birds came out, in the evening. And Jayadratha, knowing very well that now Arjuna will kill himself and that there is no danger at all – he was hiding himself the whole day, so that he does not face Arjuna; Arjuna does not know where Jayadratha is hidden. He now, in his exuberance, came out of his hiding. And suddenly the sun was again seen on the sky. The story is that Sri Krishna, who was the charioteer of Arjuna and who knew the promise of Arjuna, and who knew that if this vow is not fulfilled that Arjuna will be finished and the whole Mahabharata will be over. The entire purpose of Mahabharata will be defeated. So it is said that Sri Krishna made that play, that magic – it is said in many ways. It was also said that it was a day of eclipse which took place at that time and only a short time of that eclipse. And because of the eclipse the sun seemed to have set and Jayadratha came out. And that was how Arjuna was enabled to fulfil his promise, because as soon as Jayadratha came out, Sri Krishna told Arjuna, “Here’s your enemy in front of you. You kill him.”
This is also to show you how the Indian culture – it takes a long time before promises or vows are made but, once a vow is made, there is a tremendous force in fulfilling it. In fact, one of the important aspects of Indian culture is a series of vows. Indian culture is nothing but a series of vows. If you go to villages, out of 365 days, nearly 300 days are days of vows, of one kind or another. Today is 11th day of the month and therefore only fruits are to be eaten; nothing else can be eaten. On such and such a day, you cannot eat before evening; only after the evening can you eat. For ten days in a month you can only drink water and nothing else. Various kinds of vows: you can only wear such colours of cloth, a white colour, or green colour, or red colour, and so on. This is because the whole system is based upon promises that you make to yourself and your desire to keep to your promises, so Indian culture cannot be understood without entering into stories of this kind.
I would like therefore stories of harmony, stories of illumination, stories of heroism, not necessarily separately, because stories of heroism can also be stories of harmony and illumination at the same time and vice versa, either in their simplicity or in their singularity or in a combination of all three elements. I would like stories to be told from all cultures of the world, or all major cultures of the world, or at least Easter and Western, so that ultimately the two cultures can come together, understand each other more properly. There is a great need among human beings today to understand different cultures. I was told when I went to Holland once that in Holland nobody gives you an answer ‘Yes’ very easily. Even the method of saying ‘yes’ will be almost ‘No’.