The Technological Culture

Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Chamarande (Essonne), France, September 1980

The technological culture is a very difficult subject to approach, because it has to be dealt with very bluntly. Wherever it has gone, it has brought pollution - not only environmental pollution but mental, emotional, social and political pollution as well.

Therefore, what we have to do now is check the growth of this culture. No culture should go unchecked or unabated, whether it is technological, spiritual or communistic. The mistake that people in the west have made is that they have not resisted it. They have succumbed to it, whereas the Chinese, Indians and Africans have not made the same mistake. They have seen both sides of the technological culture, and they have resisted.

Dangers of industrialization

Now, in the twentieth century, after two hundred years of industrial revolution in Europe, the people are finally beginning to think about pollution, but in India we have been aware of it long before technology became established. We knew that industrialization could produce wastes, disharmonize the rural culture and make man completely sick. The people of Europe are only coming to realize this now, and it is too late.

In every city, for instance, there are thousands of houses with septic tanks. All the waste matter is continuously being poured into the ground. How much subterranean pollution will accumulate in one year, or in ten years? Nature cannot cope with it forever. After twenty or thirty years of this abusive treatment, the earth might produce some dangerous bacteria which will start a new disease. Our water comes from the subterranean space, so it will surely be affected; maybe it already is! If all our waste matter was above the ground, the sun would purify it, but in our ignorance and selfishness we are polluting the entire face of the earth.

You see, people do not know the dangers. Nobody knows what the pollution is doing in London, New York or Bombay. Nobody knows what is happening in the subterranean space. People only see what they want to see; they fail to notice that the air in the cities is becoming very poisonous. In New York, where there are millions of cars and staggering emissions of automobile fumes, you can polish your car in the morning and by evening it will be absolutely black with pollution.

Problems of estrangement

Now, everyone will have to work very hard to efface and erase the corrupting influence of this technological civilization. It is not that everything about technology is bad. Technology has given us time and leisure, but how do we use them? The people in China, Africa and India have to work hard physically; they don't have modem facilities, but they do have very intimate interactions with one another. In Paris and other big cities like Amsterdam, London, Moscow, Tokyo, New York or Calcutta there is no interaction between human beings; we do not even know who lives on the next floor. This is why man has developed such an attitude of inner cruelty towards nature and other forms of life.

If our ancestors have made mistakes, we should try not to repeat them. We have seen how they massacred and created bloodshed wherever they went. We know the story of poor South America: how innocent girls were massacred just for a kilogram of gold!

Natural circumstances influence the customs

Humanity has to understand that society, politics, language and colour are geographical factors. The African people are brown or black and the Europeans are white. It is not because they are special people, it is because of geographical factors. In the same way, whether one is black or white is not God's creation, it is nature's circumstances. If I had been born in Denmark, I would be very white and if you had been born as an African, you would definitely have dark curly hair.

In the Middle East it is very hot, so the people cover their bodies from top to toe. In India it is very sunny and warm, so loose clothing is worn. In the Middle East there is no water and there is no fuel for fires, so when somebody dies they have to bury him. But in India there is fuel for fire and there is water, so they burn the body and place the remains in a sacred river. In this way the social customs, religious rules and ethical constitutions develop according to the fibre of nature in man.

The artificial culture of the west

The morality of the people is also dependent on the culture which they develop through natural processes. Under what circumstances has the western culture developed? It is not an outcome of the natural processes; it is an artificial, processed culture. Overnight there are high rise buildings with a hundred stories, shopping centres occupying five square miles, cinema centres showing twenty films simultaneously. Modern man lives a life of pleasure seeking in a jungle of cement.

People have little pleasure in life. There are few beautiful places and there is really nothing to enjoy.

Most people spend their days in a shop or a factory, at a desk, a telephone or a typewriter, and there are all sorts of difficulties and tensions at work. That is why people are so involved in sexual life, they must have some pleasure. Whenever a boy sees a girl or a girl sees a boy, immediately one thought comes to their mind. They seek some temporary escape from their monotonous existence.

So, people must learn to live more self-sufficient lives, and to rely less on sophisticated mechanization which leads to boredom, frustration and tension.

Situations influence our habits

Every time I travel by plane in Europe, I notice that the very second the "No Smoking" sign goes off, almost everybody lights up a cigarette. This not only pollutes the atmosphere, it is also a sign of agitation and inability to cope with the complexities of modern society.

On the other hand, if you go to countries where people live in the mountains and open spaces, you do not see this problem. If you fly in India, you will see that only a few people smoke. Once I was flying to Tasmania in Australia, and I noticed that nobody on the plane was smoking. The passengers were all farmers; they were healthy people with calm minds. You see, our situations influence our habits.

Those people who live in natural situations see trees growing; every morning and evening they hear the birds singing. They see the sunrise and sunset and the twinkling of stars at night. They know about mosquitoes, scorpions, snakes, floods, cold and heat. The natural situation in which they live creates an ethical and moral fibre in their lives. Ethics are not created in parliament or by social thinkers, nor are they religious conclusions.

Ethics and morality are automatic developments of the situations of people in relation to their natural surroundings. Any culture which has the power to exist should have enough discrimination to measure things on the scale of right and wrong.


A new culture is developing in the west with the fibre of the modern technological climate rather than the fibre of nature. But there is definitely one hope, and that is to develop the element of resistance. In the west, people have become very weak, but they do not know it. It is true that their children are well educated; they can drive motor cars and fly planes. But if a cruel political culture happens to come, can they resist? Resistance depends on the ethical and moral fibre of the people.

So, in order to develop the moral and ethical fibre, it is important that something be done. We discuss these things in India very much because we can see the west from a distance. We are the spectators and onlookers. We are aware of what can happen to a race or a nation because we have suffered the accidents of history. There have been very few countries in the world which have faced as many historical accidents as we have in India. We know how our women were trapped, and how our children were shot. We know how we lived through it, and that is the training of mental and moral strength that has to be given to the children if the culture is going to survive.

Definitely the children who just know how to look at the television cannot resist a cruel political onslaught. Those tender boys and girls who dance in the nightclubs cannot protect the culture and the nation, and that is why yoga has come here.