The Importance of Society

(1978) – Samánam ejati iti samájah: “Society is the collective movement of a group of individuals who have made a unanimous decision to move together towards a common goal.” When the members of a society come to a unanimous decision, “We’ll move together, we’ll live together in good times or bad,” then their collective movement is known as Samaj or society. Some may have moved far ahead; some may have lagged behind. Some may be unable to walk due to pain in their legs. Some may have fallen on their faces. Those who do not even care to look after their companions trailing behind them are not worthy to be called members of society.

The proper thing is for all members of the society to move in unison; and while moving together, each member should feel a responsibility for every other member of society. Those who are unable to move must be carried so that the rhythm of the collective movement remains unbroken. At present, we will have to look at everything in this world from the perspective of our solar system, even if we do not yet look at things from a cosmological perspective. We must move ahead, looking upon this solar system as one integral entity. But in the future, human beings from other planets and satellites will join our movement; we will have to build our society together with all. We will have to look upon this whole world as an integral entity.

What do we see today? In some homes people are rolling in luxury; in others people are dying of starvation. One section of society is breathing a free atmosphere of light and air while the major portion of society, perhaps 80% of the population, has been kept confined within their four walls. That is, one section of the population has been granted license to do whatever they please, and no one even raises a finger in protest, while the other section, if they make even the slightest mistake, is subjected to severe treatment by the society. This sort of discriminatory treatment cannot be tolerated.

Discrimination has been practiced for a long time. But today the gap between an educated and an uneducated person has become almost too wide to be bridged. A male member of a family may be highly educated while his wife is totally illiterate: the gap between them is extremely wide. There are various undesirable social discrepancies like this. Even if there is no acceleration in our speed, we will have to bring with us all those people who are moving slowly or who have lagged behind. If, while moving with all, my speed decreases somewhat, this will have to be accepted. But we must move together; this is the Supreme Truth. Those who wish to move together with all require sufficient physical and psychic strength. In addition to that, if they really wish to move collectively, they must possess some additional strength as well. That is why I tell you that you must not be like average people: you will have to be above average. It is not enough to move alone, you will have to take others with you, and for that you will have to acquire additional strength. You must prepare yourself accordingly.

Some time ago I said:

Trividhaduhkasya átyantrkii nivrttih paramárthah.
“That which brings permanent relief is called Paramártha.”

Suppose a man has no clothes and feels cold. Having no money he cannot afford to buy clothes and having no food, he feels hungry. If he gets some money he can remove his hunger by procuring food and thus he can remove his afflictions. People buy food, clothes, etc., with money and so money in Saḿskrta is called artha. But it should be remembered that money is only artha and not paramártha, for Paramártha means “that which removes one’s afflictions forever” – once the afflictions are gone they will never return. Suppose we buy food with money today; tomorrow we will again feel the pangs of hunger. So, money is artha, not Paramártha. Paramártha is that which brings permanent cessation from the triple afflictions – physical, mental and spiritual.

All the afflictions in the physical sphere are due to lack of food, clothes and the like. Now the question is, to what extent can money remove these afflictions? You can at best temporarily relieve them, but the next day the trouble will return again. The only way to bring permanent relief is Paramártha. With the help of Paramártha, human beings can develop such a social order that there will never be a shortage of food and clothes, etc. This will require a fundamental change in the social order. And those who are the pioneers in such a task, what will they do? They will have to acquire far more strength than average people. The pioneers who want to travel through thick jungles will have to clear part of the jungle and build a road. Once the road is constructed, those who come behind will be able to travel easily through that jungle.

What is the nature of psychic afflictions? Suppose we remove the mundane problems forever. PROUT was formulated for this very purpose of removing mundane problems and helping human beings attain the Greatest Good (Paramártha) I have not said anywhere that society should give plenty of money to everyone; I have only said that the purchasing power of each and every person should be increased. Suppose the price of rice is Rs. 5 per kilo: it does not matter if the per capita income is as much as Rs. 1,000. Whether the salary is high or low is not the point: the main thing is the purchasing power. If the purchasing power of each and every individual is increased, there will be no physical trouble. But, supposing physical troubles have been removed, psychic afflictions will still remain. Even at that stage there is pain and grief, there are sorrowful feelings and sentiments. Everyone mourns the death of their nearest and dearest ones; so the psychic afflictions remain. To eradicate them, one must undergo proper psycho-spiritual training so that one’s mind can be properly prepared to fight against adverse circumstances. All responsible members of society will have to do this. Here, whom do I mean? I mean those who have realized that they will have to acquire the requisite power, or even more than the requisite power, in order to equip themselves for the onerous task before them. Those who do not have the capacity to realize this, those who have understood little, are also our blood brothers and sisters; they, too, are our close relations. So in order to help them, we must acquire a little more strength than necessary. Otherwise we will not be able to help them.

Take the case of India. We are not as developed as we should be. Why? One of the reasons is that we have kept women confined within the walls of their homes, resulting in the progress of only fifty percent of the population – the males. And as only the men are progressing, they will have to carry the load of 50% of the population. Thus the speed of progress is reduced. Ideally, women should also move with their own strength and with the same speed as their male counterparts. In the process of movement, if they feel pain in their legs, if they fall on their faces, they should be physically lifted up. But not only women may need assistance: the males may also fall down, and then it will be the duty of women to extend their helping hand to carry the load of their male counterparts. We cannot expect that, in relation to men, the position of women will remain one of subordinated cooperation: it may also be one of coordinated cooperation. The position of males may even be one of subordinated cooperation. Nothing can be said emphatically in this world. The fact is that we must move together in unison with all.

In the psychic sphere too, the same practice should be followed. Those who have begun to realize this should understand it still more deeply. As a result they will be able to comprehend the position of those who have less capacity to understand or to judge.

The third category of affliction is spiritual affliction. Whatever people might say outwardly, they know that they are the progeny of the Supreme Consciousness, and that He is always observing them. They know that they are never alone, not even for a moment. Even confirmed atheists, whatever they might say verbally, pray in their heart of hearts, “Oh Lord, please save me.” So, those who say that they do not believe in God, or words to that effect, should be labelled as hypocrites for they do not speak their minds. No indulgence should be given to hypocrisy. All human beings know that Parama Puruśa belongs to them, and that they belong to Parama Puruśa. But in spite of this knowledge they cannot easily attain Parama Puruśa with their whole being. The pain caused by this non-attainment of Parama Puruśa is called spiritual affliction. One can overcome spiritual affliction only through spiritual practice, through meditation. The supreme and final aspect of meditation is devotion. One may not possess knowledge or intelligence; but if one has devotion, that is enough. So devotion must be aroused by all means. After coming in contact with a devotional person, thousands and thousands of people may also become devotional.

Many are aware of the fact that Mahaprabhu Caetanya Deva had a great devotee, Yavana Haridas by name, who was of a low caste. When Haridas would do kiirtan, Mahaprabhu would often touch his body. The orthodox pandits would say, “You’d better take a bath in the Ganges now, otherwise you won’t be able to enter the house.” So, Mahaprabhu had to take a bath in the Ganges, even in the winter’s cold. How troublesome for him! Haridas used to say, “Thakur, why do you touch my body? For this you have to take so much trouble at night.” However, Mahaprabhu would still touch him. So Haridas used to sit at a little distance from Mahaprabhu, and when Mahaprabhu was about to touch him, he would run away as fast as he could. But Mahaprabhu was about 20 years old at the time and Haridas was much older than him. So how could he escape from Mahaprabhu? Mahaprabhu would easily overtake him. Then Mahaprabhu would again have to take a bath in the Ganges. With tears in his eyes, Haridas complained, “Oh Lord, why do you touch me? What do you gain thereby? You simply have to undergo a lot of trouble by having to take a bath on a cold winter’s night.”

Mahaprabhu said, “Haridas, you are such a good devotee, you have such devotion in your heart, that I just wish to touch you and thereby make myself holier. You are full of so much devotion that you can make the whole universe holy.” Devotion has tremendous power which neither knowledge nor action has. Rather, people of knowledge, the jiṋániis, have a subtle sense of vanity, of which common people are afraid. So they maintain some distance from the jiṋániis saying, “Good heavens, they are such scholars, how can we go near them?”. But no one is afraid of people with devotion. Rather they think, “After all they are devotees, so let us go and sit near them for a while.” So, if you can arouse devotion, then by coming in contact with you, thousands upon thousands of people will attain real Paramártha and spiritual salvation. That is, in order to attain liberation from the triple bondages – physical, psychic and spiritual – you will have to attain Paramártha: and you will have to attain it in such a way that those who are spiritually undeveloped will also be benefited by your contact.

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