What is Good? - Audio

I think all of you are going to be teachers. The last scene was very moving. That is the celebration of teaching. That is the great fulfilment that comes from teaching. You feel that you have touched every heart, every mind, every soul and you become the music of their hearts. Any questions you have in particular? Think about this documentary itself. Did you like it? Does it convey the message that it wants to convey? Tell me what is the message?

(Students answer)

Good and tell me how you should be? Good, excellent, wonderful.

Kindness and Justice..

That was Rousseau. These are good words. Very difficult to implement. Tell me what the difficulty is? To be ahead of your class is a difficult task, to be kind and to be just is even more difficult. To give experience to the children is still more difficult. To teach and yet not to teach, then you are the artist. How do you teach without teaching? Tell me.

When you can touch the faculty of understanding. Learning takes place in the faculty of understanding. And that cannot be touched by outside agencies. The faculty must function by itself. That is why Hellen Keller was taught by that very method. Blind and deaf, how to reach inner recesses of understanding?

Do you have any questions? Tell me is this documentary improvable. She is the director of the documentary and you know she has written a book that will be complete soon: Education for the Complete Person. Look forward for the coming publication next month. She is now writing another book—A New Approach to Education in Values—with a special emphasis on spiritual dimension, a very difficult subject. Can you think that this particular documentary is also a documentary on value education. That is to say if you do a true teaching-learning, it is automatically a teaching in values, you can’t separate the two. A good teacher is good, that is to say valuable. To be a teacher is to be a good teacher. To be a student is to be a good student.

What is goodness? Can you tell me? You know there is a famous teacher called Socrates. You have heard his name? His whole life was given to one question—what is goodness? His pupil Plato wrote a number of dialogues and the one theme in these dialogues was: what is goodness. Can anyone tell me what is goodness? It is a very important question.

Do unto others what you want others to do unto you.

Do you agree with this definition? This is the starting point of goodness. It is not the completion of goodness. The ethical instinct is born with this feeling.

There was an orphan. She was received by a very nice woman into her house. A guest came to meet. She was plump, hilarious, almost cocky. As she entered into the room where the orphan and the hostess were seated. “Oh this is the girl that you have adopted, how ugly she is.” Then she asked her “what do you like my child?” She didn’t answer. “Oh she is dumb. What have you brought this”, the old lady said. She went on commenting on this girl. And suddenly the girl stood up and said, “Now will you stop? If I were to tell you that you are plump, fatty, despicable, how would you like it?”

This was the ethical impulse. She wanted to teach this lady: Do unto others what you want others to do unto you. This is the starting point of the feeling for goodness. What is goodness? This is the beginning of goodness. But now develop it. What is goodness?

What is good for me is good for me and what is good for you is good for you.

Right? That was the message of Protagoras. You know Plato wrote one dialogue called Protagoras where the dialogue is between Socrates and Protagoras and Protagoras said exactly what you said. And that was severely criticised by Socrates. Protagoras said man is the measure of all things. Measure means judgement, the standard of judgement. And man is a standard of judgement. If I think it is right for me, it is right for me. If you think that is right for you it is right for you. And Socrates said this is absurd. There should be something intrinsically good so that it is good for everyone. If there is no universality of good, that is not good, it’s a taste, it’s a preference but not good. Right?

The search for the good is a search for the universal. As long as you have a tendency to judge in terms of preferences and taste, you have not reached that level. Have you heard the name of Kant? Have you done philosophy of education? Immanuel Kant, you have heard his name perhaps. What did he say? He defined the good, he defined the right. He said, a right action is right because you can will it to be universal in character. There is a universal law, cosmic law, which works impartially for everyone. If you discover that universal law and act according to that universal law, that is good, that is right.

Because it is universally right. Correct, you are right. Do you think that this is the final answer to what is good? How do you discover the universal law? Universal law according to Kant cannot be discovered, and it is a very important answer, merely by thinking. Normally whenever you discuss the question of what is right, what is just, what is equitable, we try to think this way that way at this level at that level, Kant pointed out the knowledge of good is not in thought but in will and normally in all human beings knowledge and will are very much interlocked.

If you examine your life you will find that sometimes you think mentally, this thinking is mixed up with desires, emissions, likes, dislikes. You very rarely come across a state of mind where your thought is absolutely pure, there are no preferences, no angularities, it’s a pure thought which thinks about thought. Thought thinking about thought is the purity of the thought. But even there the highest thought that you can have is a thought of universality and yet it is not the door to the good. In the state of absolute purity of thought you should arrive at will. Now what is will? We have many examples of willing: “I like it, I want to do it, Oh I am eager to do it, I am dying to do it.” There are many states in which you think you are willing but there is a distinction between desire and will. What you want to do is very often what you desire to do but not what you will to do.

Just as we speak of Kant in the west we think of Bhagavad Gita in India. As you know in the teaching of Gita the central question was what is the right action? You know the story of Mahabharata, isn’t it? it is very well known to each one of us, But we don’t study the Gita from this point of view because it answers the question of what is good, what is right. You know Arjuna when he starts seeing all the enemies around, he finds they are his brethrens and sires and teachers and elders, and he feels how can I destroy them, how can I kill them? It’s not the right action, not the good thing. And then he comes to the conclusion, what was I going to do? What for? For pleasure, for rulership, for kingdom? He said no no I don’t want it, na sukham icchami, I don’t want to have happiness; rajyamicchami, I don’t want the rajya. And so he gives up his gandiva and says I will not do it. And many people think that was a wonderful sacrifice he was making and yet Sri Krishna smiles at him and says, you are a coward.

Both actions which he had been doing, he had come to kill and deciding not to kill both were desires. And that is what Sri Krishna says, your entry into action, your shrinking from action, both are results of desire. Now you desire to embrace your brothers who are you enemies but you have a desire for embrace of your brethren, there you wanted to destroy them, that is also desire. So Sri Krishna says that until you rise to the point where desire is gone you will not enter into the kingdom of the good and the right. And then if you see the whole of Gita as it rises from level to level, it’s a very difficult mountain to climb to go from desire to will and the whole of the Karma Yoga as is taught in the Bhagavad Gita is this climbing. If you give up the desire you become a sanyasin, you go away from the world, you don’t do anything at all. It is quite easy. To do action with desire is easy, not to do anything with no desire is also easy. But the difficult task is to do and yet have no desire, that is Karma Yoga, that is the right action. How do you reach that point?

Now this is not a lecture on the Gita so I won’t teach you that. If one day you want to discuss with me, call me, I will come, I will explain the whole process by which one can rise from desire to will.

Desire is to move out of your being and to try to snatch something from outside. You see every movement of desire, this would be the basic point. Something is outside you and you try to draw it within you, to acquire it, to enjoy it, to possess it. This is the movement of desire. In will, what happens? You have something within yourself, so much within yourself, that nothing in the world attracts you, you are so full within yourself. 

You know there is a famous book of UNESCO: Learning to Be. It is a very famous book.

When you are, you are so full within yourself, you don’t have this tendency to grab something from outside. This grabbing is desire. All grabbing is some kind of stealing. When you are, you possess yourself, this is called self-possession and self-possession means it has two capacities, it has a capacity in which you do not feel you are capable of not pouring out. You are so full, you don’t pour out. Or at the same time you can pour out if you so wanted and to the extent to which you can pour out or you would like to pour out. This is called self-expression. When what you have you can express if you want to, you may not express if you don’t want to, then if you express it is a result of will, not of desire. That is called self-expression. So will is a state of self-expression, You have a mastery to pour out yourself or you may not pour out. When you reach that state, that is the state of will. In that state of will you are truly free. Till that time all desires are like yokes. Desire impels you, you are driven. When you will, you are not driven. Such a mastery you saw Holland playing the orchestra, every movement was so measured, so much of mastery. So when you reach that level of perfection, then only there is will, what expresses through that self-expression in that condition, that is good. It is universal, impersonal, it has something that gives you the experience of fullness.

We shall discuss this question sometime when I can come again, if you want me to come again, I will come. But this is a question that you should think of. I have not given a complete answer deliberately because a good teacher is one who leaves something. He puts the pupil on the road but does not walk with him on the road. So I leave you on the road and now you walk. Alright. Fine, thank you.

It is difficult at present, but because it is difficult it has got to be done. How to do it? How to teach kindness, how to teach justice? And to be kind and to be just yourself. I think all teachers who want to be teachers should constantly seek the company of Socrates. Be with Socrates, you read his dialogues, read the Bhagavad Gita. These two companions you should keep constantly, one from the west and one from the east. If you study these two you will be vehicles of what is to be given to the children. They need it. We think that they are today the creatures of commerce, consumerism, we think that they are so but they are not. Everyone in the world seeks to be good. Only he does not know what is good, how to be good, how to be fulfilled. So change your assumptions. Whatever circumstances of human life you should be high above then you will be able to do what you want to do. Alright. Thank you.