The Need of the World
I pass on things that I’ve heard mainly from my teacher in the hope that, as they’ve helped me, that they can help other people too.
There’s a verse in the Gita, ‘Those who worship lesser gods, really worship the Lord, but they don’t know it. Hence they fail. They have passing successes and then those drop away.’ Now, the analysis of most of our human efforts is that we’re worshipping minor gods. Sometimes we’re worshipping, frankly, selfish gods, but quite often we’re worshipping minor ideals, which we feel will somehow solve all the problems. When I was young, we used to think that crime was caused simply by want and that when everybody had enough to eat, crime would disappear. But we overlooked the fact that a lot of rich people committed crimes and we see today, people who are putting bombs on aircrafts, they’re not starving.
That was a minor ideal, as Mencius said, ‘First, feed the people, but then give them spiritual education.’ Don’t stop and think, “Oh, when everybody’s fed, we should all be happy.” There’s one of the traditional stories about a man who practised in the mountains until he could read the thoughts of other people. He came, full of a desire to demonstrate this, to see a great teacher of meditation, who said to him, “Well, what is it like?” He said, “Well, I admit the, sort of, thoughts that you read are not really very interesting.” He said, “No. It’s the same sort of things as people talk about.” So he said, “Well, anyway, I can do it.” The teacher of meditation said, “Rather than reading the heart of other people, learn how to read your own heart.” He said, “Oh, I know what that is.” Learn to read your own heart.
Now this is something which the world needs today. We have ideals, but we don’t know our own hearts. For instance, I can have an ideal that if everything’s fair, there’ll be no quarrels, but that isn’t so. When we’re small children, when mother gives us each a cake and they’re exactly the same, but his cake always looks bigger than mine. Equality. There’s an Indian proverb; ‘Absolute equality is the very thing to destroy it.’ The example given is two kings of exactly equal power. They’re sure to fight. If one of them is considerably stronger than the other, they probably won’t fight, this one won’t challenge the strong one; but if they’re exactly equal, each will think, ‘I’ve got a pretty good chance.’
These are partial ideals and there’s something in the heart. We’re all against tyranny. Everybody’s against tyranny. If you read the early speeches of Mussolini, of Hitler, of Stalin, of Mao, of Kim ll-Sung. They were all against tyranny. But when we get the power, we suddenly find we are tyrants ourselves because we didn’t know our own heart.
I’m against injustice. I’ve no reason to commit injustice. If the time came, I might find something very different in my own heart. And so the analysis, the spiritual analysis is to find one’s own heart first. I have said to an idealistic, revolutionary, “What guarantee do you have that when you get power, you will behave any better?” He said, “I am all against tyranny.” But then, and I must say, honestly, he said, “I’m so against it now, I assume we don’t know our own heart.” Bakunin, the anarchist, he pointed this out. He said, “Put the peasants in the place of the nobles and they’ll behave just as badly as the nobles are doing now.”
We have to first find out something about our own heart. We can obviously think of doing good, but it’s not so easy. There are two examples, one an old Chinese poem. The housewife sees the hens pecking, picking the ants up. She feels sorry for the ants. So she says to the servant, “Take the hens to the market and sell them.” So he ties the legs together and takes them and they make a tremendous clucking as they go. The master of the house sees them going out and he said, “Where are you going?” He said, “Well, I’m taking them. Mistress said, take them to market and sell them.” Then they have an argument. And the poem ends up, where is the good? Is it the good of the ants? Is it the good of the chickens? Is it the good of the human beings? Who can decide? He says it’s like a river whirling round and round and round.
What is good for one is bad for the other. It goes on. You can’t get a decision. We feel that something which can be absolutely good, can be found; but the yogic analysis is, without penetrating into one’s own heart, we shall not be able to find out what is good. Now I give one or two examples, which perhaps won’t be known. There’s a millionaire in Japan. He was the richest man in Japan for quite a time. The founder of Matsushita Electric – a man with no education. That’s how he gets all these new ideas – they haven’t been driven out by education. And he’s a man of meditation. And one of the things he said, impressed me – I read his speeches occasionally and articles he writes.
He was giving a bonus to the whole firm and when he announced this big bonus, he said, “This will make you happy for about three weeks. You’re getting the bonus now and all your wages and going home. It’ll make you happy for about three weeks. After three weeks, you will have taken on new commitments in keeping with your new salary, and you’ll be just as short of money as before. So you won’t be happy. You’re going to get this bonus, but it won’t make you happy. What will make you happy will be working in the company to make electric goods for the Japanese housewife, of first-class quality, which won’t go wrong and which will be as cheap for her as possible. That will make you happy, but getting the extra money, won’t make you happy.”
This is based on something in Zen and he passed it on to his workforce. So he’s an extremely popular president. I want to quote one or two examples of his inspirations, which he gets from meditation in his ordinary life. It doesn’t solve the problem of life, but it gives a certain lightness to the burdens of life and the attempts to do good.
© 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