We are all assembled here by the grace of Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, by the grace of Swami Satyanandaji Maharaj, and by the blessings of Pujya Swami Niranjananandaji Maharaj to contemplate, let us say, to dream about a better world. A better world for ourselves and our children. We are all aware that today we are making attempts at creating a better world by building huge skyscrapers, roads, industries; an endless variety of effort in terms of material wealth, material prosperity to change the world of matter around us. We want to create a better world, but I think all of us here are aware that this is not the answer. This is not really the way to create a better world. Yes, it is necessary, it is essential, but through this alone we cannot bring about a better world.
In our legends, in our scriptures, we have any number of wonderful examples. Take King Ravana whose kingdom was called the golden kingdom, Suvarna Lanka. What happened? Everything perished because he was not established in righteousness, he was not established in dharma, he was not established in the truth of spirituality. Similarly in recent history, too, we have many such examples. It is clear to all of us then that by changing the outer world of matter alone, we cannot create a better world. It is also clear to us, to those of us here at this Convention at least, that it is by transforming the inner world, the world within us, that we can create a better world. Along with the transformation outside, there must be a simultaneous transformation of the world within. By transforming the individual we transform society. I think this is well understood by everyone here. By the grace of the guru and of the scriptures, these are things we take for granted. We don't debate it, we don't really discuss it because it is so clear, crystal clear.
Society is not made up of bridges, roads and buildings. Society is made up of individuals, of human beings. The individual is the building block. The individual is the raw material for society, for nations, for communities. As is the individual, so are nations, so is society. If you have the right kind of individuals, you have the right kind of society; if you have wonderful people, you have a wonderful society. So the target is to create wonderful people, to create better people for a better society.
When Professor Albert Einstein was asked by someone, "Professor, how do we improve the world?" Einstein's answer was very brief: "We must improve people."
This fundamental truth has been said by our great spiritual masters since the vedic times, since time immemorial.
When we look at the life of the individual, what really contributes to his development, to his growth? We can very generally classify it into three fields, or three dimensions. Firstly, the home; secondly, educational institutions; and thirdly, society at large. Each one of us is a product to a large extent of the influence of these three dimensions of life.
Let us begin with the home first. In ancient India during the vedic period, the home was a wonderful, pure institution where the young mind grew, not only physically, mentally and intellectually, but also spiritually. Parents were the first gurus, the first preceptors. The life led was the life of an ideal householder. The child saw his parents, saw their life, imbibed the culture and grew beautifully. Today, most parents around the world do not have time. Life has become so competitive, so hectic. We are running around and telling each other, "Hey! Take it easy", but we are running. We have no time for ourselves and very little time for the child. For those who do have the time, it may be quite possible that they are quite ignorant about the spiritual dimension of life. They may be aware of something called 'spirituality' and that it is important, vital to living, but they do not how to provide the child with an exposure to it. So today's family, today's home, by and large, does not provide a conducive environment for the spiritual development of the child. Those of us who are here are exceptions; we are, let us say, exceptional cases by the grace of the Lord and guru. But if you take society as a whole, how many homes feel the need for spirituality, for spiritual living, for spiritual thinking and for developing a spiritual environment? Forget about other countries, in India which is the home of spirituality, today this has become a rarity.
If we proceed from the home directly to society at large, once again we see the dominance of a purely materialistic culture, where acquisition of more and more material things, and achieving things in the material field is by and large the goal of life. That's all that I want, and sometimes that's all that I tell my child to go after. So, the social environment too is not conducive to spiritual unfolding.
It is only spiritual organizations, like the Bihar School of Yoga, the Ramakrishna Mission, the Divine Life Society, the Chinmaya Mission, the Gayatri Parivar in India, and similar organizations across other countries that are striving to spread this word, the wisdom of spirituality in society. Unfortunately, resources and the reach is limited. Furthermore, governments are not concerned and they have no program is this direction. Therefore, society at large remains in the clutches of a materialistic culture today.
Homes are difficult to access. How many homes can we access? How many homes can we reach? They are a private domain at the other end of the fulcrum. Yet society is so vast, so complex, that to change society as a whole is perhaps not really a practical possibility. Therefore, the only area where we can think of bringing about the change to eventually change society as a whole, seems to be in the area of educational institutions.
We need to have spiritual charging in educational institutions. A child from the tender age of five or six, and now even at three years is pushed out of the home. The child goes to school and remains there well into his adulthood, at university. And that's where he spends most of his time, where his character develops and he grows. I am very happy to hear about France and the wonderful work BSY is doing there — I think it's time that the world should wake up.
Unfortunately in the world today, and most of all in India today, the education that we have does not have the potency, the potential of developing the 'inner me'. My inner personality remains untouched. All of the courses that we study in school and colleges today, whether in humanities, science, or engineering, do not reach my inner self. My inner personality, that which is behind my mind and intellect, can only be accessed, influenced and moulded by spiritual science, adhyatma vidya, which is totally absent in schools and colleges around the world and also in India. It is time we think about it seriously. In addition to the wonderful teachings we have in all the secular subjects, we need to add Spiritual Science as a universal science, beyond the dogmas of individual religions, by going to the very root of each religion and coming to the common spiritual foundations. Spirituality needs to be taught as a universal science, transcending the barriers and the distinctions of religions. This is what the world needs today.
If we bring about this change in the educational institutions, we can take care of the growing child, right from the age of five to twenty and twenty-plus, when he becomes an adult. We can change the quality of the individual and make him a better human being. This is definitely doable. It is definitely possible. But, it is possible only if governments and those at the helm of affairs think about it and review the total strategy of human resources, of developing the ideal human being. That's where I feel that institutions and organizations like the Bihar School of Yoga have to set up a model, have to give a model, give their positive inputs to the governments to make them think: 'Yes, spirituality and spiritual education is vital for human growth.' Otherwise, man becomes animal and the planet is destroyed.
With these words, I offer my prayers at the lotus feet of Swami Sivanandaji, Swami Satyanandaji and Swami Niranjananandaji and pray for a better world.
—Address, 23 October 2013, Polo Ground, Munger