Whether or not you agree, in the changing India of today, many social beliefs will have to change. One of these is whether marriage should be for love or it should be a socially-arranged match. In the coming age, children will raise the question of choice, 'It is I who am marrying, not you. Why are you so concerned about it?' This is one matter.
Premarital sexual relations is another matter. Today, there is freedom in everything, and girls and boys discuss the matter of premarital relationships freely. There is yet another subject: the unwed mother. In the social conditions of today, there is no choice given to an unwed mother except abortion. However, abortion is not good for women's health. Abortion can cause tumours, cancer and infections of the uterus. How can this be stopped? Either accept abortion or accept the status of unwed mothers. Children have their own thoughts and views about many things. They have opinions about clothes, about food. Society has to change with the times. In India, many centuries exist simultaneously. The twenty-first century has arrived in Delhi and Bombay, and here in Rikhia, we live in the seventeenth century. Look at the world around you and you will realize that you cannot function in isolation. A simple calculation illustrates the point.
What is the population of the world? Five billion. Out of that five billion, ninety crore, or nearly one billion, are in India. Out of these ninety crore, twelve crore are Muslim, and the remainder is seventy-eight crore. Out of that, two crore are Christians, which leaves seventy-six crore. From that number there are twenty crore of adivasis, or tribal people. That leaves fifty-six crore. From the fifty-six crore, subtract the number of the shudras, or lower caste people, and the remainder is only twenty crore. This remaining minority represents the number of brahmins, kshatriyas and vaishyas. The ones who are called shudras, the service class consisting of the washer men, potters, cobblers and sweepers, constitute about forty percent of the population of India. These people are the workers. They do the manual work in the mills and in the farms. Today, if they united politically, they would overpower you.
Only the twenty crore of brahmins, kshatriyas and vaishyas believe in caste, and they also handcuff their girls. There is no such thing as caste anywhere else in the world. The Muslims do not believe in it, the Christians do not believe in it, nor do the Jews, the Parsis, the Chinese, the Japanese or the Russians. However, you all say that the tradition of caste and creed is written in the Vedas. No, it is not written anywhere. To say, 'This person should not eat in the house of that person' and 'That person should not marry into the family of this person', is wrong. Nothing of the sort is said anywhere in the Vedas. When you look at the whole world, you will see the truth of it.
Every individual must decide upon their own future. Parents will always be the parents. After all, the tree that one comes from has to be acknowledged. Yet, the child must look after its own future, and one needs to think about this. It does not matter if you have no interest in a serious subject like science. The famous poet Rabindranath Tagore did not study science, but he received the Nobel Prize. The author Arundhati Roy is not a scientist, yet she was awarded the Booker Prize. There are many people like these, who are doing excellent work in the fields of literature, art and music. One can excel in any sphere today.
The field of sannyasa, however, remains restricted. It has remained very limited. Any community that has too many rules does not progress much. Rules should be flexible. One has to face many obstacles in a society that has excessive rules and regulations. Maybe one or two like me can overcome them and attain their goal, but the rest perish in between. This is not such an easy road. The field of sannyasa has many possibilities. Still, there are some rules and prohibitions that not everybody would be able to withstand. Suppose a person takes sannyasa, and after a few years he has an urge to drink liquor or eat meat, what will he do? Society will not tolerate this.
In the future, after ten or twenty years, relaxed rules within sannyasa may be possible. I have given birth to a tradition where even a married person can live like a sannyasin; two married sannyasins can live together and do the work. If society were to accept this, it would indicate progress. There is some possibility of introducing this change among educated people, but the common man would just say, 'What kind of a sadhu is that, living with a woman?' In the olden times, no one commented on such a thing; at that time, it was a civilization of rishis, realized sages who were married. Arundhati and Vashishtha were married, Agastya and Lopamudra were married. Rishi Vishwamitra had a relationship with the celestial damsel, Menaka, but nobody objected to all this.
There has been much conflict on this point in Christianity. Catholic priests are not allowed to marry and Martin Luther objected to this. As a result, Christianity split into two, Catholic and Protestant. Catholic priests are forbidden to marry. If they do, they are excommunicated, ostracized and not given a grave. On the other hand, Protestant priests can marry, have children, and continue to preach and give sermons. If everyone agrees that married life does not destroy the spirituality of a person, then why forbid marriage? Celibacy is not possible for everyone. However, our society is not mature enough to accept this flexible perspective. It will take at least another twenty years to mature in this direction. In the same way, everybody condemns alcohol socially, yet it is taken in the Juna Akhara. The sannyasins at Juna Akhara drink brandy and people make them an offering of it too.
—24 October 1997, Rikhiapeeth, India