Various examples are given from that time, but an example from our time is that recently, at the beginning of this year, there is a television serial, which I admit I don’t know, called Coronation Street which has run for about thirty years. At the beginning of this year a popular actress who has been in it twenty-three years was shown in the programme as intending to leave Coronation Street and go and retire in the country. She’s very popular it seems. The television company made a mistake in that they named an actual village, Hartingdon. And in Coronation Street she said farewell to her friends, “Now I’m getting on, I’m going to retire to Hartingdon”. And that weekend, there were not one or two, but a large number of fans of the programme in the village of Hartingdon, asking for her address, for the address of this fictional character from Coronation Street and the television company had to apologise for giving the name of a real village. And they said a lot of our enthusiasts can’t distinguish the story from reality. So they actually went to this village. Now that’s an example. They have clear knowledge. In one sense they know perfectly clearly this is a television programme – that the lines are spoken by actors and actresses and refer to imaginary events – and yet they went to the village and created a considerable disturbance. The villagers were furious at being knocked up and asked where the address was of this actress. So this is a present day example of the fact that knowledge, although it’s clear that they know it’s television – because sometimes they write to the television company to their favourite character – yet that knowledge is clouded.
The point of studying an outside comment on Yajnavalkya is that it gives you the teaching for which he was famous, his central teaching. It’s a very useful thing, and it’s a very important thing, to know what is central teaching of one of the religious sages, or a great man of any kind. Now the same truth, or the same idea, can be put forward in different ways. For instance this: Swami Rama Tirtha says, “God is your own self. Realise that.” And then in more philosophical terms, “Man’s knowledge of God is man’s knowledge of himself, of his own nature. Where the consciousness of God is, there is the being of God, in man therefore. In the being of God it is only thy own being which is an object to thee. What presents itself before thy consciousness is simply what lies behind it”. Then another example: “This is the state, the ideal state: Production activity will become joyous creation. Man will produce things spontaneously, for the sheer pleasure it gives him, as if in play. He will enjoy, without desire to possess or own anything.” Swami Rama Tirtha says the same thing too. “Take to your work not as a plodding labourer, but as a noble priest for pleasure’s sake, as a happy play or a game.”
Now the second one, in both cases, was Swami Rama Tirtha, but the first one was Karl Marx. Karl Marx wrote those: “Production activity will become joyous creation. Man will produce things spontaneously, for the sheer pleasure it gives him, as if in play. He will enjoy without any desire to possess or own anything.” And Karl Marx says, “In the being of God, it is only thy own being.” Now it’s easy to take out these sentences and say “Well, Marx and Swami Rama Tirtha teach practically the same thing”, and one can only do this if one doesn’t know their central position. Their central position is something entirely different.
What is the means to achieve this? The nature of man, according to Swami Rama Tirtha is the universal Self; according to Marx, the true nature of man is man as he is conditioned by the senses, but without the inhuman impulse of greed – this is man’s true nature. The central position is entirely different and the way to achieve this, Karl Marx says, is to incite the different classes against each other. “A wild melee of seizure and destruction of property, promiscuous socialisation of all, including general prostitution of women to the lust of the masses, complete negation of the personality of man, general envy as power, greed establishing itself in another way, infinite degradation.” He saw this as the process which would lead finally to a change in man.
Swami Rama Tirtha’s process, his central position is entirely different. He says: “Have a living faith in the truth, realise the spirit to such a degree that this world becomes unreal to you. Realise this planet is nothing in contrast with the supreme infinite power, the Atman, Self. Realise that, feel that. Light of lights you are, all glory is yours. Feel that and realise it to such an extent that the earth and name and fame, the earthly relations, criticism and flattery all become meaningless to you.” This is a characteristic statement of Swami Rama Tirtha. If you look through the lectures and count these declarations where he says, “Feel this, realise infinity”, you will soon get up to a hundred and then can stop. Here is another one a few pages on: “For one minute throw over desire, chant OM – no attachment, perfect poise, and your whole being is light.” Then later he’ll say, “Assert Godhead, fling into oblivion your little self as if it had never existed. Burst the bubble.”
These are his central teachings and if they’re not included in a presentation of Swami Rama Tirtha then one can easily think, “He was a faintly sceptical philosopher. By the ‘true nature of man’ he simply means the nature of human nature, conditioned by the body and the senses, as he says himself, but without the crashing un-human impulse of greed. Our teacher made a big point of this, he said, “We reverence all the great religious schools”.
© Trevor Leggett
Talks in this series are:
Part 4: Karma is waiting for you
Part 5: Free from the desire for things