On 20th May 1965, Swamiji was invited at the Bartholomew Hospital for tea and later to address the students, most of whom were in their final year of medical college. Swamiji spoke to them on the “Art of Meditation”.
“Meditation” he said, “is a vocation which only the human intellect is capable of.
It is not possible in the animal, for the human intellect alone has the capacity to stand apart from its own emotions and judge.
In the case of the animal, its actions spring from its instincts and impulses. An individual who is also victimised by instincts and impulses, will not be able to meditate.
Meditation is a method of controlling our thoughts so that we can be better and efficient men in the outside world. It brings out a better cadence of work from an individual. There are thoughts which are prompted by our earlier animal impulses or more dignified human ideals. In all human beings both good and bad thoughts come. The one who refuses to entertain low vulgar thoughts, sensuous or degrading thoughts but only allows noble thoughts and ideas, is the man.”
On 21st May at the Indian Institution of World Culture, Swamiji spoke on the Upanishads.
With an uncanny sympathy with the audience, Swamiji started, “This great life we see everywhere in everybody and in us, this life pulsating through the body manifests as the perceiver and life pulsating through the intellect as the thinker. Life is something different from the body, the mind and the intellect. E.g. the bulb, the heater and the fan are the equipments of electricity – the light, the heat and the air, are its manifestations: but electricity is something apart from all these, because of which they function, without which these things are lifeless. So this Life which is the “perceiver” in the body, the ” feeler” in the mind, the ” thinker” in the intellect is the ultimate essence in the experiencer. This individuality is forever defeated in our everyday life, because the objects around are always changing as they are conditioned by time.
These subjective scientists who had man as the theme of investigation, were called the Rishis and their recordings were called the Upanishads.
The Upanishads were not given out by one man. It was a science like any other sciences, built slowly by generations of thinkers.” Swamiji, after his one hour’s logical outpouring, concluded. “To rediscover this life in us is the path of Spirituality. To recognise it in us is to recognise it everywhere.
These Upanishads are in the form of conversations between the teacher and the taught. Upa – means near; ni -means below; shad – means sit. So it is that literature, or a knowledge gained through the teacher, in a spirit of humble enquiry. The disciple in his term, teaches his pupils; and so the great knowledge comes down through the centuries by word of mouth.”
On 23rd May, 1965, a lecture was arranged by the Hindu centre at St. Michael’s Hall. After Mr. L.K. Jeswani, Secretary of the Hindu center had given a welcoming speech, there were bhajans and devotional songs as part of their usual programme.
It was a huge gathering and there was pin drop silence when Swamiji rose to speak on the “Geeta Vision”.
“The backbone of a culture” Swamiji said “is its philosophy. A culture dies away when the philosophy is not strong enough to accommodate the new urges of a growing society. Philosophical truths, eternal though they are, should be interpreted to the ordinary man in the context of the changing times. This interpretation of philosophy evolving a new way of life is done by the rare few, great masters.
The Bhagavad Geeta is the conversation between Lord Krishna and Arjuna; though it took place 6000 years before Christ’s birth, it is immortal and eternal because it comprehends all situations man faces and all types of men in any situation. It is the bible of the Hindus. The great poet – philosopher, Vyasa has painted in the Mahabharata a cross section of humanity.”
Swamiji explained how the Upanishads and the picture of the Geeta are exact opposites, though they give the same truths. The Upanishadic Rishis were those who had retired into the Himalayas, to them the students came in humbleness, with a thirst to know the great reality. Whereas in the Geeta, Krishna is a mere charioteer and the arrogant, royal prince, Arjuna, refused to take Him seriously. This, the background and other details show that Hinduism is not for the retired recluse, but is to be lived every day in the market place, home and office.
The first chapter describes the state of dejection of Arjuna – the victim of a psychological break up in himself and wanting to escape from life’s battles.
The following chapters give the way of life, which diligently lived, the shattered person can be rejuvenated and reoriented to face the challenges of life.”
Wednesday, the 7th April, started with a very busy schedule. A half an hour at 8.30 a.m. there was a very interesting discussion with Professor Robinson of the University of Wisconsin over the radio.
Q. What is the difference between materialism and spirituality?
A. Materialism is when man turns outward for sense gratification. Spirituality is turning inward, seeking for a sense of satisfaction .
Q. Do you object to sense gratification ?
A. Not at all.
Q . A man looks on to enjoy forever a bird, or a woman. Would you call it as a sensual act ?
A. It is not what you look at that is of significance, but what your vision is at the time of looking at things. To live with the senses is a noble life, to live by the senses is a tragedy. If a noble and inspired ideal is thrilling the heart, it is immaterial what is the object you are gazing upon. The right relationship is ordered by the mental attitude and the intellectual value of the individual.
Q. Is it necessary to give up sex for spiritual attainment?
A. Sex should not be given up, but should be transcended. There is a tremendous power in sex. The sex energy can be sublimated to spiritual vitality. Concentration and contemplation need subtle energy and one will find less of sex in all true artists, scientists, politicians and authors, etc., who are creatively thinking constantly.
Q. American biologists says that sex has nothing to do with intellectual development. What do you say ?
A. A man who is well fed will grow just like an animal, and if a person concentrates on sex and the gratification of physical demands only, he is no more than an animal. Attraction between a girl and a boy is a natural phenomenon, and sex control cannot be accomplished by rules and regulations. Overeating is one of the causes of sexual excitement and, therefore, if a couple wishes to live for noble aspirations, sex may be controlled by dieting and divinising the relationship so that the sexual energy – 0jas – can be converted into the brilliance of spirituality (tejas).
Q. Most intellectual boys will not agree with you; they feel sexual consummation can be there along with spirituality – What is your comment ?
A. All the boys and girls will not be able to live up to the great ideals. In India, it is prescribed in the scriptures that the first 20 years should be that of a Brahmachari, without any sex indulgence, but plenty of reading and discussions on sex. The second 20 years are for a happy married life, entirely faithful to each other, satisfying the mutual sex demands more with the ideal of procreation, learning to live nobly during the time, practising the greater values of life at the same time.
Q. In India, people identify with their own castes and creeds, not feeling strongly for national interests. What do you say?
A. Indians have been striving under the pressure of foreign domination far the past two centuries which has sapped out all philosophy from the majority of the urban population. The only education available was supervised by the missionaries and they did their best in destroying our students’ faith in their own religion. After independence we were concerned mainly in removing our national poverty as soon as possible. Therefore, our attention was in rapid industrialization. There is now a growing interest in nationalism and the average student is very much interested in the Hindu philosophy and religion.
The interview was mainly directed to the 12,000 students of the university, and according to information, it was well received.
On the 20th of April, Mrs. Lee Graham interviewed Swamiji for Radio WNYC for 25 minutes for broadcast under the “People and Ideas “program. After introducing him, Mrs. Graham asked Swamiji a number of questions:-
Q. When did your interest in spirituality start ?
A. First, I was almost an atheist or, say, a sceptic. After University education, I studied various scriptures which confirmed there is something higher to seek for. So I went for contemplation and study in the Himalayas under a master in the right atmosphere.
Q. Do you find marked differences between Eastern and Western students ?
A. Western students initially find it difficult to understand Eastern philosophy, but they are more anxious to live it, whereas Eastern students are more curious to know philosophy. In fact, West studies Eastern philosophy more intelligently and pursues its paths more diligenty.
Q. You have been lecturing in various universities. What are your impressions in general ?
A. I don’t know how far it will be treading on the toes of your country. But here is my honest impression. Christianity seems to have failed to satisfy the youth here. They feel that there is something lacking in their religion, and they tell you this openly and straight. They naturally are trying to understand the Eastern philosophy if it can fill up the vacuum. They make an honest attempt, and in fact, many American universities have now separate department to deal with Indian and Asian studies and schools of religions.
Q. Do you think that Christianity is not able to give the necessary spirituality ?
A. It is not that the Christian religion has nothing to offer. But it is just that the Church is not able to satisfy the rational demand of the modern youth for explanations. It is not Christ or the Bible that have failed, but the Priests and Sermons have cheated the youth. Even in India the students are not inclined to discuss the Truth of life unless it is interpreted to them in a language that they can understand.
Q. Why did you feel compelled to do this overseas trip?
A. Our younger generation is being Americanized and this, coupled with the industrial revolution in India have resulted in labour troubles and other problems, economic and social. I want to see in America their social and psychological problems born as a result of the material and scientific pursuit without an equally diligent emphasis upon the spiritual values. For example, scattered concepts of morality, the emotional imbalance, the shattering of the personality, harmony, etc. Once I get a clear picture of these, then I can plan up for India some remedy to avoid these catastrophes by warning my people against possible dangers and training some to deal with such calamities should they arise.