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The Sunday Talk Given by Anil Kumar  

“Questions from America”

Part II

 July 27th, 2003



  Sai Ram

  With Pranams at the Lotus Feet of Bhagavan,

  Dear Brothers and Sisters,


We have been discussing the questions that have been put to me during my recent trip to the USA. As I told you already, the questions have been categorised under four headings: personal, organizational, social, and spiritual.

Last week we completed two of the aspects - personal and organizational. The social and spiritual topics remain. The following are the next questions and answers.


“How Can a Wife Develop Self-Confidence?”

These days we hear about the women's liberation movement. Women are trying to claim equal rights with men. The Indian government is also attempting to increase the percentage of seats in the Parliament and in the legislature for women. There is nothing wrong with it. There's an awareness among women. They will fight for their rights to be given as much salary as men get. There is no question of discrimination on grounds of gender.

Along this line, a question was asked: “How can a wife develop self-confidence if she has to be submissive to her husband?” (Laughter)

It is a sensitive question indeed. However, there are two aspects here. One is that of self-confidence; the other is about the submissive nature, submission and submissiveness. You have to clearly understand what both points stand for. Self-confidence has to do with individual character. Self-confidence relates to the individual, while submissiveness deals with an inter-relationship: I am submissive to you, or you are submissive to me. This sort of submissiveness has to do with an inter-relationship, whereas self-confidence is an individual characteristic. They are never contradictory.

How can an individual character contradict an inter-relationship? It's not possible. Both work in different channels. A simple example: I have total self-confidence that I will be able to discharge my duties to the best of my ability. That does not mean that I am, that I cannot be or that I should not be submissive to my boss. I think I am clear.

Before the vice-chancellor, I am submissive. In front of the principal, I am submissive. The submissive nature goes along with obedience, which is a code of conduct, which is a disciplined way of behaviour on the part of an employee towards an employer. But self-confidence is based on one's own ability, one's own capacity, one's own skills and competence.

Submissiveness will make you very humble. It will make you better. It will improve your inter-relationships: the boss will be pleased with you. Your self-confidence will help you to be more competent, more efficient, and more proficient. Therefore, a housewife can be both self-confident and submissive.

A self-confident person need not be arrogant. A self-confident person need not be headstrong. A self-confident person need not be rebellious. A self-confident person need not be a revolutionary. No. Self-confidence will improve your own personal ability. Submissiveness is an expression of your humility.

That is the answer I gave to this question.


Advice From Swami When Wife And Husband Disagree

“What advice does Swami give to couples when the wife and the husband disagree?” (Laughter)

A husband and wife relationship means that there will be disagreements! (Laughter) As long as they are friends, there will be total agreement. From the day that friends turn into a couple, disagreements start. Disagreement is everywhere. There is an agreement and a disagreement. We should agree to disagree. If there is agreement always, there is no charm in life. (Laughter) There should be disagreement. This happens everywhere. There are no exceptions.

I remember a joke shared with us by Sadhu Vaswani of Pune:

“A couple celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. Everybody attended their wedding anniversary function and congratulated the couple. They were successfully linked together for 60 years, without wanting any change. People told them, ‘You are really great. What is the secret of your success?’”

The question was asked of the husband. The husband gave this answer: '”We have been very successful so far. We are able to celebrate our 60th wedding anniversary because I take all the major decisions. (Laughter)  She makes all minor decisions. (Laughter) However, as yet, I have not made a major decision! I have yet to make a major decision.’” (Laughter)

Therefore, my friends, disagreement is everywhere. Bhagavan gave an example of Lord Shiva Himself. Lord Shiva's dwelling place is a burial ground. His consort Parvathi lives in a paradise, Kailash. Shiva is almost naked, while Parvathi is full of jewellery. They are opposites: Shiva is for total renunciation and detachment, while Parvathi is full of affluence, plenty and prosperity. Yet, they continue to be an ideal couple. This sort of idealism lies in establishing harmony between the two.

Yes, the two wires - negative and positive -- unless the positive and negative wires are there, the current won't flow. If you have only positive wires, then there won’t be any current. Positive and negative are a law of life.

Bhagavan gave one example. Where there is understanding, there will be adjustment. Yet, we go in the reverse direction. We want adjustment, then understanding. That's why we are successful failures. (Laughter) We must understand first -- then adjustment is fast.

Bhagavan gave an illustration: A newly married couple started their life in a metropolitan city. The wife was very understanding of her husband because she knew that he was highly qualified and she was fully confident that he deserved a promotion. Yes – a double promotion if possible! He worked very hard. She knew it very well. Therefore, when the husband returned home late in the evening she wouldn’t mind. The office closed at 5 o'clock. Even If her husband returned at 7 o’clock, she didn’t mind. She would be waiting at the gate.

She would say, “I understand that you are very tired. I know how busy you are. I know you are very efficient. You never shirk your responsibility. Would you like to have hot coffee now? Would you like to have coffee, or would you like to have it along with tiffin?” She would continue talking like that. This man will forget that he was tired and begin to have a broad smile on his face.

But suppose someone tells her that this man is having an affair with somebody! Then, if he is late by five minutes, she will be waiting at the gate, no doubt as before, (Laughter) but this time not with a cup of coffee! If possible, with sticks especially made! (Laughter) She will ask for an explanation.

“What happened to you? When the office closed at five o‘clock, why the half-hour delay? What happened to you? I suspect something is wrong; something is fishy.”

This sort of suspicion comes due to lack of understanding. As long as there is perfect understanding, there is no suspicion. When there is misunderstanding, there is no adjustment. According to Bhagavan, couples should understand this: they need to understand each other. Thereafter, there would be 100% adjustment. It should not be in the reverse direction of  ‘adjust now and understand tomorrow’. No! Then they will end up in a divorce. So, understand first and then adjust.

Here is another instance that Bhagavan mentioned. A husband should know how to treat his wife. His wife has left her parents, her relations, and her kith and kin, and has gone to live with him. He should be sympathetic. He should be tolerant. He should be understanding. He should be forgiving. She sacrificed everything for her husband.

The wife should also be understanding of her husband. This man is returning from hectic activity, having been so busy at the office. This is not the time to come forward with demands or requests. Living together, they should come to know each other - like two eyes with a single object of vision. ‘I look at you and see only one person not two.’ Though there are two eyes, you have only a single object or vision. Similarly, there may be two, husband and wife, but when they are together in absolute understanding and total adjustment, they can be together in perfect harmony. That's the answer.


“Whose Prayers Will Be Obliged?”  

Next question: “When parents and their son are discussing a particular issue, but see it from different perspectives, whom will Swami oblige?”

This was a question raised by a young adult.  Both sides continue to pray to Swami. (Laughter) The boy is praying to Swami; his parents are also praying to Swami. Both need Swami, but their temperaments disagree. What the boy wants, the parents don't want him to have. The parents don't approve of his requests. Still, this fellow wants it. When their desires are contradictory, when their plans are opposite, when they continue to pray to Swami, whom does He oblige? This is a very good question. (Laughter) Whom does He respond to?

The answer is simple. Baba said that it is absolutely necessary for the son to follow the command of his parents. His parents know his interests much better than he does. The mother, who has given birth and brought up the child, and the father, who has sacrificed everything to bring up his son, will naturally be very much interested in the future of their son.

So, the son has to necessarily follow the parents. There is no question of ‘I have this idea and you have that idea; so let’s pray together and see who will win?’ (Laughter) Prayer is not a matter of competition. There is nothing like ‘higher’ prayer and ‘lower’ prayer. Prayer is prayer. “I will pray more than you!” There is nothing like that. There is nothing like parameters, nothing like a measure for the intensity of prayer. A prayer is a prayer!


The Iraq And America War

  Next question: “What has Swami said about the war between America and Iraq, and the present conflict between America and the Middle East countries?”

What sort of answer could I give to the Americans, since I was staying with them? (Laughter) I cannot say they are wrong; I cannot say they are right. I was in a very embarrassing position. (Laughter) But Swami helped me to get beyond this.

Swami's message cannot be limited to America and Iraq, American and Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. No, no, no! Bhagavan's message is universal. Bhagavan's message is meant for everybody, at all times, for all countries. You cannot localise an issue. His message is based on Love. Bhagavan does not approve of bloodshed. He is for non-violence. He is for open discussion, not for war. He always believes in empathy, sympathy, friendship and understanding. I was happy that they were satisfied with the answer. That way I did not have to blame anybody. (Laughter)

While talking with Swami about this, I said, "Swami, I faced a very inconvenient question."

He said, "What? What?"

"Swami, people wanted to know whom You support - the Americans or the Iraqis?” (Laughter)

Swami asked me to repeat my answer. (Laughter)

I knew that some ‘music’ (some reaction from Swami) would be waiting for me to follow. If anything went wrong, I would be beheaded (Anil Kumar is speaking jokingly here) without even a month's notice! (Laughter)

“Swami, this is what I said: ‘I cannot bring down Bhagavan’s message to the problem prevailing in America and Iraq. No! His message is universal. It may be Palestine and Israel. It may be Iran and Iraq. It may be a conflict between any other two countries. But Bhagavan’s message is based on Love and friendship.’”

“The correct answer!“ He said. Therefore, I continued on a good footing with Swami, as He approved of the answer given.


Culture Shock

  The next question was: “After being here (this question was asked by an Indian in the USA), we face ‘culture shock’. What does Baba want us to do about culture shock?” So, for your shock, He has to suggest something! (Laughter)

We have to clearly understand that culture is not geographical. One may be here in India, yet leading a Western life. If you go to cities like Delhi, Calcutta or Bombay, I don't think that you will see much Indian culture there. It is India, but you don't see any Indian culture. So Indian culture need not necessarily be practiced in India alone. No! So I can show you a thousand examples in India where Indian culture is not followed.

Therefore, Indian culture is a way of life. It is an attitude. It is a sort of interaction between an individual and the community. It speaks of the objectives of life. It speaks of the purpose of life. It speaks of the nature of the Divine and several other aspects.

Therefore, if you say that you are facing ‘culture shock’, it only means that you have forgotten your own native culture. You are still not able to imbibe the ‘alien’ culture, the new culture in the land where you are now. You are not able to adopt that, yet you have forgotten your own culture. You are in-between. Therefore, there is this ‘shock’.

So, culture shock is not the mistake of the culture. It is the mistake of the individual. If you are really convinced of the validity of your own culture, then wherever you are, you will never change.

Don't misunderstand me. I see many people. I know many people here -- the Westerners working in the canteen, the bookstall and so many places. How do they do it? With a smile on their face! They are very active. The culture of the West is work-focused, with a spirit of excellence. Wherever you put them, they are excellent workers. They want to be ‘number one’ at work. That spirit has been imbibed. Therefore, every culture has its own uniqueness.

Suppose my work culture (say, an Indian working in the USA) wants me to be number one in the world, but my native (Indian) culture does not want me to take any credit! The Indian culture wants us to work with the spirit that this work is an opportunity, a gift from God. It is not to dominate, not to be number one. Our culture views it as an opportunity, as God's gift for excellence. Don’t get me wrong -- I am not rooting out excellence all together. You are supposed to be excellent; there is no doubt about it. But in this culture, this opportunity for excellence is viewed as a gift of God.

Therefore, ‘culture shock’ is of your own making. If you are really aware of what culture is – a way of life -- there will be no shock anywhere. You will never be confused. Eternal values, even in a changing society, lay much emphasis on the culture (the way of life) that has to be adopted, despite worldly changes all around. What changes is the civilisation. What does not change is the culture. We should not get confused with that. Culture does not change; it is eternal. Culture has continuity with eternity whereas, from time to time, civilisation changes because it is based on conveniences, comforts and luxury. Culture stands for and represents values. When you have perfect understanding about this, you will never get this ‘culture shock’.


“Are Comparison And Competition To Be Avoided?”

  The next question: “Mr. Anil Kumar, you say that comparison and competition should be avoided.”

“Yes, I always say this. It is not an allegation. It is truth. Yes!”

“How do you relate to schools, which are highly competitive? In schools and colleges, there is very keen competition. Mr. Anil Kumar, you say that there should not be competition and comparison. How do you explain this?”

 A very good question! What I mean is that there should not be competition and comparison once you settle in life. Once you settle in life, whatever lot you have, be contented. Whatever thing you have, be happy. Don't compete, thereby denying yourself any happiness.

Here’s a simple example: Assume that God has given me a small car. God has given you a bigger car, the latest model! If I go on thinking of you, I miss the pleasure of driving in my own car. Therefore, competition and comparison will deny me any pleasure, right at that moment.

But, as long as you are a student, you should be highly competitive. In scholarship, one has to compete. In grades, one must compete. Pardhaya Vardhathe Vidya. Pardhaya means ‘competition’. Vidya means ‘education’ and vardhathe means ‘improve’. Out of competition, one will certainly improve and advance in studies. Later in life, we want contentment and satisfaction. So, you cannot quote me when you are at the student stage! But what you do as a student should not be brought forward once you settle in life.

Here is another simple example: As a young boy, you can play with marbles. It is very nice. Later, why can't you play with marbles in your office? (Laughter) It is childish. What is good at one stage is not good later. Use competition and comparison as a student; but once you are settled in life, experience contentment and contemplate on self-inquiry. Be on a search -- a quest for peace and bliss. At this later stage, the objectives or targets change. A retired person cannot compete with a boy due to his age. (Laughter) If he does, something is wrong with him. If a person goes on competing, after retirement, with a boy of twenty, well what do you say? Something is wrong with him. If a college student goes on saying, ‘Let me be content with 30% marks; let me be satisfied with failure’, that would be wrong. Therefore, what I said applies to settled life, not to a student.


Attaining Liberation

  Now for the next question: “When there is no co-operation within the family, can we still attain liberation?”

This is a question perhaps based on the political system! (Laughter) Unless there is co-operation, you cannot win in an election. Unless there is co-operation, you cannot run your office. Unless there is co-operation, you cannot run your family. At the family level, at the provincial level, at the national level, co-operation is necessary.

But, in respect to spirituality, we stand all alone. We stand all alone! If I am going to hell, I cannot say, ”All of you join me -- let us proceed.” (Laughter) There is nothing like that. Liberation is obtained all alone. A son may be deserving, but the father may be undeserving. A husband may be undeserving, and the housewife may be the better-half. (Laughter) We cannot question it. In spirituality, we stand all alone. There are no blood relationships.

After all, Bhagavan has said, "Children are not from the parents. They are through the parents." Let us be very clear – ‘through the parents, not from the parents’. What does it mean? Parents are merely channels, that’s all. Parents have allowed life to manifest through them as channels, that's all. They cannot claim that the child is their product. Perhaps that son will be a rebel later. Therefore, the parents have no claim except to act as a channel. ‘Through the parents’ is the more appropriate description.

Therefore, the answer is this: When you want co-operation from the family, it is a political problem. It is a social problem. All the family wants to go somewhere. All of them want to attend a wedding. They need co-operation. The son cannot say, “Daddy, I am sorry. I have some other appointment.”

When the mother is cooking a certain dish for the evening meal, the daughter cannot say,  “Sorry, mother. I want something different.” Anything social, anything that has to do with the business, anything political, requires co-operation.

Today, unfortunately, there is no co-operation. To quote Baba: “There is no co-operation. There is only operation.” That's the reason why systems fail from time-to-time. From the spiritual point of view, we stand all alone: Udhare Atma Atmanam. We should work for our own liberation. Nobody can help you.

To quote Swami: “Even with co-operation, even with intense love among brothers, the elder brother cannot say to his younger brother, ‘Brother, you sustained a fracture. I know it is highly painful. So to save you from this pain, I would like to have the bandage.’ (Laughter) The elder brother cannot take the fracture from the younger brother. If the older brother is suffering from a fever, the younger brother cannot say, ‘Brother, I know you are suffering from a fever. So I will take the medicine on your behalf.’ (Laughter) You cannot do it.”

One has to eat for one’s own hunger. One has to drink for one’s own thirst. One has to work for one’s own liberation. There is nothing like co-operation. It is an accident that we are in a family. It is an accident that one is a son to the father. It doesn't mean that it is a life-long bondage. 

Page 2 (Continued)