(This story and a dialogue explores a relationship between our inner world and our outer life)
Charles Ronald is a young, ardent seeker from the West with a thoughtful mind and a sympathetic heart. He wants to know the true meaning, purpose and remedy for the violence and suffering he sees everywhere in human society. He believes that irreverent and defiant questioning of the wise men and women of the world is the most effective way to know the truth. He was greatly impressed by the spiritual lore and wisdom of India and Sri Ramvir Maharaj, a modern representative of this wisdom.
Sri Ramvir is a sage of modern India who has attained the highest level of enlightenment in the path of knowledge even while living as a householder and pursuing his outer occupation as a small trader. Most of us don’t have the inner discernment to perceive the spiritual stature of a person. For many years Ramvir was plunging inwardly into the Brahmic super consciousness while outwardly doing business. He said to one of his disciples that while he was doing business as a petty shopkeeper, he was living in a consciousness of universal compassion. How many among his thousands of customers would have even remotely felt that this man with a blackish round face and sharp eyes, who was selling soaps and cigarettes to them, was an enlightened sage overflowing with a universal love for all creation? Later, as he progressed further to the ultimate goals of the path, he attained unbroken identity with the unity-consciousness of the Self, which is the foundation of universal Compassion. However Sri Ramvir was not outwardly loving or compassionate. He was aloof and detached and sometimes indifferent or even rude in his behaviour and speech. He displayed no sentimental pity or sympathy for the suffering or death of human bodies. His compassion was deeply spiritual, in the form of a finger of light shown to the seeker, leading him to the eternal Light within him and to the inner abode of everlasting peace and fulfilment.
Ronald, whenever he came to India, visited Sri Ramvir every day and had long discussions with him. Ramvir felt a deep and special affection for Ronald, probably because of some past karmic affinities. He listened to and answered patiently to all the questions of this rebellious seeker with a paternal compassion.
Today Ronald was very dismayed over communal violence and carnage which was going in a neighbouring country. When he met Ramvir, he asked “Sir, have you read about the mindless slaughter reported in the newspapers. What do you think about it?” Ramvir said a little indifferently “I don’t read newspapers and I don’t have any opinions. They are like flickering images which appear and disappear in a screen.”
“You are callous Sir”, said Ronald. “People are dying in thousands and you are sitting comfortably and talking about images. Don’t you have some sympathy for them?”
Ramvir responded in a calm undisturbed voice “I don’t have the kind of sympathy you have. What your sympathy can do? Can the ignorant emotions of your puny little ego stop the carnage?”
Ronald said passionately “Look here Sir; I am a man of emotions and action. I can’t sit there like you and talk philosophy when people are dying. I want to do something.” Ramvir looked at Ronald for a few seconds with a benevolent smile and said, “What you are going to do? Go and get killed? However, if you feel like helping the afflicted people then go and help. But before going, calm your agitated mind and heart, give some thought to it and be very clear about what is the best way to help” After a moment of silence Ramvir continued “I have explained this to you many times. You must understand that as long as there is violence in the hearts and minds of people there will be violence in the world outside. You can’t prevent it because you are the world”
“As a theory and principle, yes, I agree with you, but what is the remedy?’ questioned Ronald. “Let me illustrate it with an example” Ramvir explained “You are in a theatre looking at a movie full of violence, suffering, slaughter and ugliness. If you want to change it into something beautiful what will you do? You have to replace the film in the projector with images of beauty and goodness. The projector is your own mind and the film is all the thoughts, feelings, impulses and the karmic impressions you have accumulated in the course of your evolution. The world you see and experience is the projection of your own mind because you are the world. If you want to change the world you have to change the film in the projector. But what is the use of getting agitated over the dying and suffering images in the screen. Will it change the nature of the images?
With an appreciative smile, Ronald said “I like your metaphors. They make things concrete to my understanding… changing the film… which means what you and many yogis in India talk about… change or transformation of consciousness… the yogic utopia. Well, I agree in theory that this is the ultimate solution to all human problems. But the main problem here is that it is a far off ideal which may happen only after many millenniums. Until then, do we have to sit like stones without feelings and without doing anything to alleviate human sufferings?”
“Did I say that” asked Ramvir “As I said already, if you feel strongly from within go and help. But you can’t help much, because as long as the inner seeds or causes of suffering exist in the minds or hearts of people, it will express itself outwardly again and again in different forms. But there is nothing wrong in helping others because it helps you in your own inner growth towards the Self. By helping others or the world you are helping yourself because you are the world. Similarly your sympathies or feeling can’t change things. But still to feel and sympathise is good because it helps in opening the petals of your heart to love.”
“You are telling that by helping others I am helping myself” said Ronald “It appears to me a little selfish and patronising. You seem to dismiss so lightly the value of outer help. I read a few days back in the papers that many farmers are committing suicide and dying of starvation in some parts of South India. If some individuals or institutions could have helped them to find some sustainable livelihood, it was a great work of compassion. You can’t dismiss it as worthless because it is not a permanent solution to the problem or starvation.
“I never said outer help is useless” insisted Ramvir “Every activity which helps in lessening suffering and improves the living condition of people is good. For example in curing a disease in the body, the most effective remedy is to find the psychological causes and eliminate it. But this doesn’t mean you should not use outer medicine, especially those systems which have minimum side effects like Ayurveda, Homeopathy or Naturopathy. In fact, inner and outer remedies are not mutually exclusive. They can go together. But the Indian spiritual paradigm is more interested in the inner remedy which leads to a positive and lasting inner transformation, which you call derisively as the yogic Utopia”
“No I am not at all derisive when I said it” protested Ronald “I said I agree with your ideal as a permanent long-term solution. But I am more interested in present actions rather than of a future ideal. Can you tell me what I can do now, internally and externally to progress towards your spiritual ideal”
“It is a good question” said Ramvir and elaborated further on the remedy “Regarding external action, you can do whatever you feel deeply or according to your nature, temperament, inclination, capacities. Coming to inner actions, you have to be more deeply selfish than the selfishness of the ordinary man or even the philanthropher. You must remember constantly that you or rather we are the world. You and me and everyone in this world, individually and collectively are responsible for whatever darkness, evil or suffering we see or experience in the world. If you see darkness like violence in the world, a bit of that violence is within you, may not be in outer action, but in your thought, feeling, impulses, motives. If you eliminate that darkness within you and transform it into light, it has a corresponding impact on the darkness in the outer life.”
“Wait a minute, Sir,” Ronald interrupted. “Does it mean all the four billion people in the world has to do what you are telling, which is an absurd impossible solution”
“It is not an absurdly impossible question” asked Ramvir “I am talking to you and not to the billions. Every great change begins with a few and slowly spreads into the masses. Here also a few people like you and me who are awakened to the deeper truths of life have to put them into practice”
“How can a few affect the millions” questioned Ronald. “No human being is an island” explained Ramvir “We are all linked together by a hidden Oneness. We are part of an interdependent and interconnected unity of life. Our body, life and mind are part of the universal Matter, Life and Mind. An inner victory or transformation achieved in an individual has a ripple effect on other individual centres. It creates the possibility or capacity for similar victories or transformations in other centres”
“But Sir, this is going on for many millenniums” Ronald went on with his relentless questioning, “Since the dawn of human civilisation many saints and sages like you and many seekers are practising what you are telling, but still the world remains sunk in darkness.”
Ramvir replied with an equally untiring patience, “Because, number of people who practice these deeper truths are still few and not yet reached a critical mass. To reach this critical mass, three conditions have to be fulfilled. First this deeper and higher ideals have to become an integral part of education; second, a collective environment, mental and social, which is receptive and ready for the ideal; third, leaders in thought and action who become living examples of the ideal and consciously promote and execute the ideal in every activity of human life. Until now all these three conditions have not been fully realised.”
“When do you think this may happen?”
“I can’t give you the exact dates. But I think time has come and it is not very far.”
“How far, approximately.”
“Perhaps a few centuries.”
“Few centuries! That is not a short period!”
“It may appear long to your small mind. But what are a few momentary centuries in the billenial cycles of Nature”
“So, we have to suffer for a few more centuries”
“Since the day we emerged from the ape as human beings we are suffering for many millenniums. Why not for a few more centuries… If we can, during this period of transition, become more and more receptive to the delivering truths taught by our sages and progress towards a state of consciousness which is free from suffering and made of eternal peace and bliss”
‘If we can… that is a big if.”
“Yes, our fate as a species depends on those two letters, IF…
“If we are not able to…”
“Let us not talk about “Ramvir interrupted with a sharp edge in his voice “Thinking negative scenarios are not helpful to human progress. It is better to think and imagine what a glorious destiny awaits our human race if we consent to it”
“But Sir, as I said earlier, I am not interested in dreaming.”
“Is not our human progress a progressive realisation of our best dream” asked Ramvir. “Such a hopeful dream acts like an invocation and a prayer for those luminous future possibilities to manifest. As a great mystic and poet muses ‘our winged chimeras are Truth’s steed in Heaven’. Our dreams have the power to bring that Truth’s steed from Heaven to Earth.”