Editorial: A Comment on Modern Life

Dr Swami Vivekananda Saraswati MB, BS (Syd.), MANZCP, DPM

An Australian psychiatrist and medical practitioner, who renounced name and fame to become a sannyasin, recently sent the following letter to his family, who are residing at Bihar School of Yoga in India as Sannyasins.

Hari Om,
I am extremely grateful for the positive direction that our lives have taken in the last fifteen years since we have been under Swamiji's guidance. In many ways, I had, back then, reached a social position in this society which most people just dream about. However, I found that it was mainly hollow and irrelevant, I know now that the existential 'pot of gold' just does not exist at the end of that rainbow.

There are a few 'holy cows' in the mythos of our present world society which are not really what they seem. My present views on them are as follows:

1. Education - This is a word and an institution which has become corrupted over the years. The original meaning of the word was 'to draw out', or 'to bring out' ('e'- out, 'ducere'- draw or bring).

Learning facts and details is necessary for technical ability, but the fundamental essence of education is to 'bring out' a person's inner qualities and to allow him or her to realize the realities of themselves, and to find their own personal autonomy and inherent harmony with mother (or father) nature.

Here is where the problem arises, because stuffing the head with 'facts' and concepts of a narrow mythos, can actually suppress a person's ability to find what is within. That is largely what is happening in our educational system and that is the pity of it. We are turning out a race of highly qualified imbeciles who have no idea of their own inner reality or their relationship with other people.

It is clear to me that most of the western type 'education' can be destructive to the unfolding of real education. However, what about the argument that 'kids need it to get training for a good job'. Let's have a look at those jobs and see what they are all about:

Trades (carpenter, plumber, electrician, etc.) - most of these are practical and best learnt by in-service-training. The best source of this type of education that I know of is the ashram, where people 'learn by doing'.

Academics (graduates in arts, philosophy, etc.) - these people either work in schools and universities perpetuating a largely irrelevant educational system, or try to make a go of it in the 'outside world'. If they take the latter course in places like USA or Australia, they cannot even get a job now. This country is full of MA.s and Ph.D.s who are working as waiters in restaurants.

Business graduates (accountants, MBEs, etc.); these are necessary to keep our financial economy supply channels working, but there are many other and better systems of society than these. In addition to this, the people who get in these professions can personally get lost in the money maze, and never realize that there is so much more to life than that.

Lawyers spend most of their time either trying to create business for themselves or mediating in other people's greed and power squabbles. You know the mentality of most lawyers.

Doctors - It has been estimated that a large percent of present day medical practice (especially in the west) is unnecessary and probably even harmful. For instance the overuse of drugs and the unnecessary investigations and surgery performed are a disgrace. Of course, many aspects of medical practice are necessary, as things are at present, but of these things a good percentage is curable by a sensible lifestyle, good nutrition, appropriate medicines and the practices of yoga.

Yoga teacher - This is what people need and it is what they are asking for more and more as they 'wake up'. This is the big growth industry of the immediate future. However, a competent yoga teacher must know himself as well as the details of his profession. You don't learn either of those at schools or universities: just in one place and under one kind of teaching. I know that the usual professions mentioned above, and others, are particularly necessary in our society as it is today, but societies can change, and I feel that our world today is in just such a time of change when the old mentality is fading out and the new (yogic) mentality is coming in. What a shame to continue to 'educate' bur children with the customs and attitudes of a disintegrating mythos at the expense of suppressing their ability to realize their qualities necessary for the new society.

2. The nuclear family - dad, mum and children living in one household is the basic building-block of the society and it seems that it will remain so for a long time to come. As it is, it can be quite a good system for nurturing the young and for inculcating the customs of society into them. As you and I know, a close, loving family can be a beautiful environment in which to grow and when this is the case, I am all for it. However, I have a few reservations, such as:

a) Whilst a good family environment is a positive blessing to the individuals and to society, a bad family can be a mutually destructive hell for the husband and wife and a cruel prison for the children.
b) The nuclear family is not the only unit of society available to us and it is not the only one which is 'correct'. In fact, it is my opinion that the, ashram-type of life is the best system to develop most people, adults and children, towards their fullest potential.
c) True sex-love between a man and a woman can be a meaningful and mutually evolutionary state of life between them. It is a very spiritual thing. However, most married couples don't have it. Their love is corrupted by power games, and their sexual harmony is disrupted by neurotic attitudes and inhibitions, so much that they inhibit each other's evolution instead of facilitating it. In addition to this, there is within people, the potential for a less physical form of sharing which is experienced by very few. Its possibilities for intimacy are not even suspected by the vast majority of people.
d) Ultimately there is only one family and the human consciousness must develop towards this realization. Unfortunately many nuclear families move away; they become semi-paranoid ("us in here- them out there") little fortresses that separate their members from ever realizing their oneness. In terms of the unitive mentality, the ashram is an infinitely better place to live than most families.

It seems to me that a child who grows up in an ashram will get most of, or more than what he or she will get from any sort of conventional family and develop a greater ability to share it too.

The ashram ideal also solves the problems of unequal distribution of wealth, poverty, lack of shelter, misuse of land. In the ashram the group owns the property and we all work to support it and to help it support us. We get the productivity without the greed and attachment and all our needs are supplied without the attachment.

3. Our direction in life - Surely our aim in life is to help ourselves and to help others in a simple, natural, adequately informed and intuitive way. That is what you and I and the boys are learning and, as far as I can see around the world, it is not being taught anywhere but in the kind of environment in which we are living, even though it is the one thing that the world needs most of all.

Most people around the globe, including India, are striving to go on the kaleidoscopic journey of quasi-security, sensation, personal power and status that the industrial world promises. However, if they are lucky, they soon realize that a kaleidoscope is really just a few bits of broken glass and that the promise is never fulfilled. It only leads to addiction to forces outside themselves.

When people discover this, they need help to turn their lives around. Who is there to help? Who was there to help us when we reached that point in our lives? Who will help in the future? And who is teaching the future helpers now? Look around you in the Bihar Schools of Yoga and you will see all the answers.

My best wishes go out to you and the boys, and to all my other brothers and sisters over there as you each tread your individual pathways. With Swamiji's grace and example, we will realize all the beauties that life has in store for us, and we will be able to pass them on to others throughout the world.

Om Tat Sat, Vivekananda