Strong passions and fears
The second point is what’s called vairagya. ‘Vai’ is a negative prefix and ‘raga’ means passion, roughly. It is perhaps connected with the word rage, but it is not only anger. It means a strong passion for something or strong fear of something. This is constantly coming up, it is said, from our past animal inclinations. It is constantly coming up and it has to be eased. One of the things is to learn to get space in life – especially one sees it now with the credit cards. People have no space in their life, and they don’t want a space either. “I want it now. Well, I can have it now. Then I will be paying for it over the next six months, but when I have had it for two or three months I am fed up with it.” So most people are spending a lot of their time paying for things that they are fed up with, and this is a very depressing circumstance – but those who see clearly say this is a characteristic of the present situation. It is a frustration.
The Gita has many verses – very interesting they are, some of them – but it says briefly that there are things which are like honey, just for a moment, and then they are like poison. Every action that is done means a disadvantage somewhere else. If I give food here, I don’t give it there. The main thing is not to give food to people who may be like Saddam Hussein. Do I feed the local bully? The United Nations people go to some primitive tribes. There is one tribe that lives in the valley and cultivates the land. [Another tribe] trained themselves in the use of weapons and don’t cultivate at all. Then at harvest time they come down onto the valley, kill a few people and take away anything they want. They are what used to be called in India criminal tribes – that is their profession. Then there’s a famine and both sides are starving. The United Nations go out to bring famine relief. The people in the valley say, “Don’t give the food to those murderers. The moment they are strong again they will come down and kill us again. They will take our harvest again.” The United Nations man said he had a terrible crisis what to do – are you going to be kind to the murderers? There’s a Persian saying, “He who is kind to tigers is a tyrant to sheep.”
The theory of the Gita is that by teaching an example our natures can be changed, but if we simply feed starving tigers then we are not necessarily doing good. We can say, “Yes, there are people who are in genuine need. If we are going to exclude others, this means judgements, and this will mean…” It is not so easy just to do social good and social work. You can make people dependent and you can make people also very slothful. Everything has got to be done. The best thing is to inspire people and to bring out this energy in people.
You may say the Gita is a ruthless text, but it is very profound. Its analysis is not careless. These are important points. It believes that there is a divine element in every man, which can be stimulated by teaching, but mainly by example. In our civilisation the fact is, if I have got one car, I want two. But the sight even of somebody who is free from that [can inspire]. Here we tend to think that if a man is poor it is because he can’t be rich – but still in the East there is quite a tradition that there are people who elect to be poor and they do their work. There are many very poor poets in Japan, five million poets – but they are doing poetry and they are raising the cultural level. In certain respects, we are rather primitive compared to them.
We were going to a contest near a famous beauty spot. We had the judo contest, and I was pretty tired. We went out afterwards and they said, “We will show you the sunset.” So we saw the sunset. You go in a trance with a sunset, you just stand and look at it. Then we came away and the captain said to me, “Well, Leggett San, what is your poem? Didn’t you make a poem?” “Oh.” They had made a little poem looking at the sun. I wrote one of them down and I asked my teacher the next day. He said, “Well, it is not much good as a poem, but he had written a poem. He was a tough athlete, but he had written a poem.” [The Japanese] appreciate them and all we can do is, “Oh, lovely, yes.” In those respects they think there is a gift for poetry in every person. We don’t. We think a poet is somebody a little bit special. When I went there I used to think poets were more or less pansies.
This is an example. If there is a belief in a divinity or a gift or poetry in people, it can be stimulated and brought out. They have a poetry competition in Japan the end of every year, and they get 20,000 or 30,000 entries. There’s no actual winner, but there are honours and the winner of the honours is often a farmer’s wife or a coal miner. It has got nothing to do with what we would regard as cultural differences – there aren’t any. Well, now they have brought out the poetry in people and mostly it is women. They have had enormous influence there and they are an example that these things can be brought out. So the main aim of the Gita is not to leave us as we are and help us materially, but to try to bring out these latent faculties in us.
© Trevor Leggett
Talks in this series are:
Part 1 : Bhagavad Gita 03.04.1991
Part 2 : There is a self which is immortal
Part 3 : Reincarnation is beautiful doctrine
Part 4 : Strong passions and fears