Questions & Answers – Money, Illiteracy and Jealousy
Question: The foundation for a good life is fame, fortune and wealth, is this contradictory to spiritual realisation? Would it impede or hinder spiritual progress?
Fundamentally life should be prosperous. Fundamentally, all life should be prosperous. The sign of poverty whether in one's inner life or outer life is an indication that what is to be manifested has yet not manifested. This world is a garden of God. This world is therefore a garden of plenty and if things are done in the right way, then all that is needed at the right moment will automatically flow. This is the ideal condition. But to reach that ideal condition you have to have the right attitude. In the right attitude, two things are to be developed. You need the capacity to bear any kind of condition of life in which you are put now. If it is poverty; you are able to bear it. Not that it should be continued. Bearing does not mean that you are sanctioning continuance of poverty. But you should have the capacity to bear it. You should not be grudging, complaining and feeling helpless. Poverty can be suffered bravely, rightly, heroically, this is the first condition. The second condition is that you have to work very hard to remove poverty and you have to find out the right means of removing poverty. There are many wrong means also of removing poverty, but there are also right means of removing poverty. What are the right means? The first mean is: utilisation of your present resources by circulating them. This circulation is a very important method. When resources are circulated, then there is a movement of increase. Circulation is the secret of increase of wealth. Circulation is sometimes done with greed, to receive returns in a big manner and this is a fault. Circulate your resources in such a way that the increase is normally, at the rate of 10 %. This will curb all the unnecessary greed. Your legitimate portion in any increase of wealth is 10 %, so circulate with this particular attitude.
The third thing is the expenditure. While you turn your resources and increase your resources the expenditure has to combine two principles: of generosity and of economy. These are two normally contradictory movements but both of them have truths. Economy tends to conserve, generosity tends to expand and both are good things. Be generous in everything that you do but at the same time be extremely economical. This requires right judgment. How to spend, with what attitude to spend? The criterion is that at no stage should you feel poverty of spirit. The moment you begin to feel a poverty of spirit then even if you have lakhs to give, you are poor. So you have to measure everything with this inner criterion: in my economising or in my spending, am I afflicted with a sense of poverty? The more you feel a sense of poverty the more you are in the wrong. This means that you are not able to know-how to spend; you have not learned the art of it. Somewhere you are giving too much where you should not be and somewhere you are too greedy where you ought not to be. When the two things are really reconciled then you will not have the sense of poverty. God likes every child in this world – all of us are children – to live as princes and princesses. This is God's intention and therefore we must live with that spirit. As Sri Aurobindo says: "Even in rags I am God, fallen I am Divine". This is the sense in which we must live all the time.
Question: There are people who are illiterate. How do they progress spiritually? Is it through Bhakti or pilgrimages?
Of course there is some connection between literacy and knowledge, some connection, not an entire connection. Literacy is a great help and for higher realms of knowledge, literacy is very important. If a child refuses to learn the alphabet, you have no right to enforce upon the child; but you have a duty to explain that he is free to remain illiterate if he wants to but he should not imagine that he will become a genius, of a Supramental kind. If you really want true perfection then learning, studying, even through literacy is very important. But to believe that only through literacy you can do it or that because you become literate you will also become a Supramental genius, that also is not true. There are people who are illiterate and yet become great masters in regard to many things. Sri Ramakrishna for example without knowing much of reading and writing could become one of the greatest teachers of the world. Akbar without too much knowledge of reading or writing was one of the greatest emperors in the history of the world. And you know in India for example, millions of illiterates are closer to God than many learned people on the other hand. This also is a fact. Bhakti is not the only means by which an illiterate can approach God, Karmayoga is also open to them. Even knowledge is a means because literacy only makes you read and write but knowledge can be also heard, so even by hearing you can approach the higher realities. That was the reason why Indian sociologists encouraged a good deal of hearing. The whole shruti parampara in India has actually kept our masses illiterate but not uneducated. There are number of them who do not know how to read or write but they are extremely educated.
Years ago I was meditating in a field in Nilokheri in Punjab. When I opened my eyes after my meditation I saw a farmer sitting near me and he smiled and said, "I was sitting near you because I have a problem". As I was in a hurry to go back to my work I said: "If you do not mind can you walk with me?" So he walked with me. And I said, "What is your problem?" He said, "I have been trying for years and years to avoid jealousy but I am still not free from it, so please tell me how to master jealousy". This was the question of this illiterate farmer and I was so touched by him. Of course, I talked a lot to him. But this is only to illustrate that an illiterate man was so educated, perhaps he was more educated than many of us who do not regard this as a problem at all. We take jealousy as a part of our human nature, we do not try to deal with it but this man said "I was trying for years and years ..." and the problem must have been so acute that he sat down there, waited for I do not know how long, and when he and I got up he simply put this question to me. These are the peasants of India, and there are many examples of this kind that one comes across in India.
Question: And what was your answer? We all need it!
I'll come to it later. But illiterates can approach by shruti, so knowledge is open to them, they can approach through Karmayoga, action, like Akbar; they can approach through Bhakti also; all the three can be combined even for the illiterates and anybody who is prepared to do these three can also be induced to be literate in due course and open the other paths of knowledge which are available, that also can happen. Our approach has to be integral, therefore all methods have to be employed.
Question: What was your answer to the farmer regarding the cure of jealousy in our being?
It is one of the most difficult things in the world because the root of jealousy is the sense of being imprisoned in a very small circle. You may have a huge palace to live in physically, but mentally we normally live in small prisons, very small prisons, so small that we feel as if we are in a big crowd in a very narrow street, something like Bhuleshwar in Bombay; a small area and such a huge crowd of people and you do not know how to put one step forward. You are all the time elbowing out everybody else. This elbowing out forces you to be jealous, it is an experience that you are in a very, very narrow place and you have to move forward and for moving forward you have to elbow out other people. If you remember this, then jealousy can be loosened. First we have to remember that we are not obliged to be in this narrow street. We may find ourselves in a narrow street but first remember that you are not obliged to be in that narrow street. Secondly even if you are in the narrow street, elbowing out others is not the only method of finding your way for moving forward. As Mother once said: "The world is very vast and everyone has a place in it", and everyone has a wide space in this world, because the world is really very vast. So we have to remember that the world is really vast in which everyone has a place and this effort of elbowing out others is not necessary at all.
Question: But of course suppose it is the other way round, somebody else wants to elbow you out, how do you protect yourself?
Same way, you feel that you are being elbowed out because you are living in a small world. If you know there is a vast world and you have a vast place in it, you will try to find your real place. Why have you been elbowed out? You are not at the right place where you are. If you are really at the right place you won't find somebody elbowing you out. So the important point is that wherever we are, even though at the time when you are being elbowed out, and you are trying to do something in self defence, if you can go to those three methods which I spoke about, but only provisionally. Gradually you must enter into the vast world. Remember that you are a member of a vast world and you have a place in that vast world and your present problems are because you have chosen to live in a narrow world. Your choice is not correct. So try to become a member of that vast world then you will not need either to be elbowed out by others or to elbow out others.
Question: Whatever we feel, right or wrong in others, is it only a reflection of our own feelings?
No, you’re feelings of right or wrong is provisional, both are right and both are wrong. In being elbowed out both are right and both are wrong. In elbowing others out both are right and both are wrong, because all of us are citizens of this narrow world which is itself wrong, but having been in the narrow world you are trying to find out something. As long as you have not found out the right means, people are elbowing out each other. So it is a situation of compression. People will always try to find some means of elbowing each other out and as long as they are doing it you cannot judge it as wrong or right because the situation is wrong. The only method is that while you do all that provisionally, whatever you do, at the same time, correct yourself and try to be in a vaster world. That is the real method of coming out of jealousy. Jealousy is always a result of living in a narrower world than you are legitimately entitled to. You have chosen a narrow world somehow, even without knowing, but you are entitled to a wider world.
Question: Never thought of the world as such. It really feels so nice, now.
Yes! You are entitled to a wider world, so discover that wider world of which you are a member and occupy that place and then there is no need of jealousy. As Vivekananda said he was born without jealousy. He had no jealousy throughout his life at all. By birth he was free from jealousy; he was born in a wide world. So we should have that kind of life, like Vivekananda, living in a wide world all the time.