Will you allow me to disagree with the point of view that the practical and illiterate person is more advanced and even preferable from the educated and trained person?
It is not necessary for a sannyasin to be a scholar or an educated person because spiritual experience can come to anyone. This does not mean that educated persons cannot have spiritual experiences. Educated people can also have spiritual experiences, but the educated people will have to work a little more.
I will give you a very simple example. When I initiate uneducated people into mantra, I give them a sound and tell them to concentrate on the sound. When I initiate an educated person into mantra, I give him a sound and tell him to concentrate on the sound, but this educated man has difficulties because he has no concept of sound. If I tell him to concentrate on the sound of Om, he knows O and M, if he knows English. He has to transcend that step first. The uneducated person can directly go to the sound waves because his mind is not conditioned like ours. A particular sound has been taught to us in symbols. The sound ‘ah’ has a symbol.
The concentration on sound has to be symbol-less. When you are concentrating on a mantra through a symbol, you are not concentrating directly. Therefore, a person whose mind has not been structured by certain symbols finds it easier to conceive the subtle waves, but it should not mean that only illiterate people can have experience. Anybody who practises sincerely has access to spiritual experience.
Can you tell us how an industrial, capitalist and materialistic country like America has developed so much in yoga?
Wherever there is wealth there is tension; wherever people are living the fast life, there are more tensions. The same is true with America. It is an affluent nation and therefore they have more mental problems. They have tried many methods to get rid of these problems and finally they have come to yoga and are finding fantastic results with yoga.
In India, life is different. When you live in the villages, life is calm and quiet. There may be dust, but there is no pollution. There is a lot of fresh air and fresh water. They get up at four o’clock in the morning and they go to bed at eight o’clock in the evening, and are outside throughout the day from morning to evening. Only at night they stay in their houses and most parts of the year they do not even sleep in their houses at night. For nine months from February to October, they sleep outside. So naturally, they have no such problems as Americans have. Americans have a lot of problems like pollution and emotional problems and tensions. Whether they are in houses, offices, cars or trains, they have to be in completely soundproof compartments. They do not have a community. They do not have a family. The man in this flat does not know who is staying in the next flat.
Two Indians from Jamalpur living on the same floor of a building for seven years never knew each other. One day, when I went to Jamalpur to inaugurate a function, I met both of them. I asked them, ‘Where do you stay in America?’ One named a particular city and the other said, ‘I stay in the same city.’ I knew the city a little so I asked, ‘On which side do you stay?’ They named the street and the building and finally they realized they were staying with only a wall in between them. In America there is neither emotional integration nor informal friendliness.
Once in Barcelona, we were having kirtan in the flat of my host. All the next door neighbours said, ‘What are you doing?’ It cannot happen here. If you are singing in India and I object, I will be considered a crazy man. People will say, ‘He is singing, why are you worried?’
In the absence of emotional integration and because of other factors as well, the young people chose a different life altogether. In the beginning they were following the path of the hippie cult, but they did not find peace. Then some of them followed the Hare Krishna cult where they found a very well integrated community. Now they are finding that yoga is the best way.
17 January 1981