We are concerned at the evil in the world. And, generally, we sit back and feel that other people should throw money, other people’s money, at the problem; that people should do their duty, people should be compassionate and caring and should labour unselfishly for others. And when one reads of somebody doing these things, comes the clap. But this is something at a distance. Then if we do something close up, the effect is so small that you think, “Well, it doesn’t make any difference at all.”
Now, there’s a yogic solution to this problem. That we seem helpless in face of the misfortunes and evils in the world. And yet we have an impulse. We feel that we ought to do something or to try to do something. A man went to a meditation teacher and he said, “People talk about God and Buddha, but how can you accept a great and benevolent God or Buddha when see all the things that are happening in the world? All the murders and robberies, swindlings, the oppressions; how can you say there’s a God who allows all this?”
So the teacher said to him, “Do you yourself contribute to this evil that distresses you so much?” And he thought, and then he said, “Well, I’m ashamed to say, I have sometimes done vicious things. I have sometimes done things that I knew were wrong.” So the teacher said, “Well, you are God, you’re a buddha, why do you do these things?” Now, we can think to analyse our own heart and then apply it to the universe.
When I say, “Why are these things allowed, in the universe?” Why do I allow them in myself? Well, actually, why? People say, “Well, the criminal is conditioned by society.” In a sense, everybody is guilty. No, I’ve done vicious and spiteful things, but society wasn’t guilty. I did them. I needn’t have done them. There were conditions and there were motives and certain circumstances, but I need not have done them. Society isn’t guilty.
You can say, “Oh, well,” to do this might make you feel a little more light, a little more aware of one’s actions, but, basically you’ve got to have… got to be able to live. You’ve got to have the material things. And the fact is a lot of people don’t have a car. Some people don’t have running water. Some people don’t have a washing machine. Some people don’t have a television. Well, the Chinese thing on this is, one bowl of rice and a vegetable every day is necessary. Two is better. Three is luxury. Four bowls of rice makes him ill. Five bowls of rice every day, kills him.
Now, we are in the process of killing ourselves with our television watching and our luxuries, which we don’t actually need, but which we feel we do need. The desires are created artificially, not necessarily by advertising. By my own heart. Now, to give an example which I felt, I translate from – a not very easy language – which is quite highly paid and there was quite a big job which the publishers wanted translating, and I didn’t want to do it and I had no need to do it. So they offered a very high fee for doing it.
So I finally go, “Yes, the money. Yes.” And every time I sat down to work on this translation, I used to think, “The money is good.” It was so much, 4,000 words, a high fee. Then somebody told me that there was another translator who was getting just a tiny little bit more per thousand.
And then I began to feel exploited. And then every time I sat down, I used to think, getting on with this stuff, “You know, might pay a bit more and I’ll do it.” And I just began to feel dissatisfied. Then I heard that although he was being paid slightly more, he was being paid for a thousand characters. I was being paid for a thousand English words. Now the thing expands enormously in translation. So I was being paid much more than he was.
And then again, I felt, “Ah, yes, well, well, well, one is being paid one’s worth,” and so on. Now, the thing had not changed at all. Seeing his cakes completely altered my situation and then finding out about it again, changed it back again. Our satisfactions and our happinesses, we need the bowl of rice a day, the vegetable and the two bowls of rice I mentioned. But beyond that, these things are artificial. Well, no, this doesn’t apply just to bowls of rice and vegetables; there’s a sensible basis and then on that basis, we should be able to work, not pile up more artificial desires and more artificial comparisons.
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are:
Part 1: The Need of the World
Part 2: Evil in the world
Part 5: Creativity in Life
Part 6: Meditate on the cosmic purpose