It was quite early; the sun wouldn’t be up for an hour or so. The Southern Cross was very clear and strangely beautiful over the palm trees. Everything was very still; the trees were motionless and dark, and even the little creatures of the earth were silent. There was a purity and a blessing over the sleeping world.
The road led through a cluster of palms, past a large pond, and beyond, to where the houses began. Each house had a garden, some well-kept, and others neglected. There was a scent of jasmine in the air, and the dew made the perfume richer. There weren’t any lights in the houses yet, and the stars were still clear, but there was an awakening in the eastern sky. A cyclist came along yawning, and went by without turning his head. Someone had started a car and was gently warming it up, and there was an impatient honk. Beyond these houses, the road went past a rice field and turned left, towards the sprawling town.
A path branched off the road and followed a water-way. The palm trees along its banks were reflected on the still, clear water, and a large white bird was already at work, trying to catch fish. There was still no one else on that path, but soon there would be many, for it was used by the local people as a short cut to the main road. Beyond the water-way there was a secluded house, with a large tree in a rather nice garden. The dawn had now fully come, and the morning star was barely visible over the tree; but the night still held back the day. A woman was sitting on a mat under the tree, tuning a stringed instrument which rested on her lap. presently she sang something in Sanskrit; it was deeply religious, and as the words filled the morning air, the whole atmosphere of the place seemed to change, becoming charged with a strange fullness and meaning. Then she began to sing a song that is sung only at that hour of the morning. It was enchanting. She was utterly unaware that anyone was listening to her, nor did she care if anyone did, for she was wholly absorbed in that song. She had a good, clear voice, and was thoroughly enjoying herself in a grave and serious manner. One could hardly hear the stringed instrument, but her voice came across the water clear and strong. The words and the sound filled one’s whole being, and there was the joy of great purity.
He had come with several of his friends, but some were evidently his followers. A large man, very dark and powerfully built, he seemed vigorous, and he must have been physically very active. He was freshly bathed, and his clothes were spotlessly clean. When he talked, his lips seemed to cover his whole face; some inward fury appeared to be eating him up, and his large head, with heavy hair, was held high with disdain and authority. His smile was forced, and you could see that he laughed with very few. His eyes, direct and without reserve, indicated a complete belief in all that he said. There was something strangely potent about him.
‘I hope you will excuse me if I plunge into the subject at once; I do not like to beat about the bush, but prefer to come straight to the point. I am with a large group of people who want to destroy the Brahmanical tradition and put the Brahmin in his place. He has exploited us ruthlessly, and now it’s our turn. He has ruled us, made us feel stupidly inferior and subservient to his gods. We are going to burn his gods. We don’t want his words to corrupt our language, which is much older than his. We are planning to drive him out of every prominent position, and we shall make ourselves more clever and cunning than he is. He has deprived us of education, but we shall get even.’
Sir, why this hate for other human beings? Do you not exploit? Do you not keep other people down? Do you not prevent others from being rightly educated? Are you not scheming to make others accept your gods and your values? Hate is the same, whether it is in you or in the so-called Brahmin.
‘I don’t think you understand. people can be kept under only for a certain length of time. This is the day of the downtrodden. We are going to rise up and overthrow the Brahmin rule; we are organized, and we shall work hard to bring this about. We want neither their gods nor their priests; we want to be their equals, or go beyond them.’
Wouldn’t it be better to talk over more thoughtfully the problem of human relationship? It’s so easy to orate about nothing, to fall into slogans, to mesmerize oneself and others with double talk. We are human beings, sir, though we may call ourselves by different names. This earth is ours, it is not the earth of the Brahmin, the Russian or the American. We torture ourselves with these inane divisions. The Brahmin is no more corrupt than any other man who is seeking power and position; his gods are no more false than the ones you and others have. To throw out one image and put another in its place seems so utterly pointless, whether the image be made by the hand or by the mind.
‘All this may be so in theory, but in everyday living we have got to face facts. The Brahmins have exploited other people for centuries; they have grown clever and cunning, and now hold all the choice positions. We are out to take their positions away from them, and we are doing it quite successfully.’
You can’t take away their acumen, and they will continue to use it for their own purposes.
‘But we shall educate ourselves, make ourselves cleverer than they are; we shall beat them at their own game, and then we shall create a better world.’
The world isn’t made better through hate and envy. Aren’t you seeking power and position, rather than to bring about a world in which all hate, greed and violence have come to an end? It is this desire for power and position that corrupts man, whether he be a Brahmin, a non-Brahmin or an ardent reformer. If one group which is ambitious, envious, cunningly brutal, is replaced by another with the same trend of thought – surely this leads nowhere.
‘You are dealing in ideologies, and we in facts.’
Is that so, sir? What do you mean by a fact?
‘In everyday living, our conflicts and our hungers are a fact. To us, what is important is to get our rights, to safeguard our interests, and to see that the future is made safe for our children. To this end, we want to get power into our own hands. These are facts.’
Do you mean to say that hate and envy are not facts?
‘They may be, but we are not concerned with that.’ He looked around to see what the others were thinking, but they were all respectfully silent. They also were safeguarding their interests.
Does not hate direct the course of outward action? Hate can only breed further hate; and a society based on hate, on envy, a society in which there are competing groups, each safeguarding its own interests – such a society will always be at war within itself, and so with other societies. From what you say, all that you have gained is the prospect that your group may come out on top, thereby being in a position to exploit, to oppress, to cause mischief, as the other group has done in the past. This seems so silly, doesn’t it?
‘I admit it does; but we have got to take things as they are.’
In a way, yes; but we need not continue with them as they are. There must obviously be a change, but not within the same pattern of hate and violence. Don’t you feel that this is true?
‘Is it possible to bring about a change without hate and violence?’
Again, is there a change at all if the means employed is similar to that used in building up the present society?
‘In other words, you are saying that violence can only create an essentially violent society, however new we may think it is. Yes, I can see that.’
Again he looked around at his friends. Wouldn’t you say that, to build a good social order, the right means is essential? And is the means different from the end? Is not the end contained in the means?
‘This is getting a little complicated. I see that hate and violence can only produce a society that is fundamentally violent and oppressive. That much is clear. Now, you say that the right means must be employed to bring about a right society. What is the right means?’
The right means is action which is not the outcome of hate, envy, authority, ambition, fear. The end is not distant from the means. The end is the means.
‘But how are we to overcome hate and envy? These feelings unite us against a common enemy. There is a certain pleasure in violence, it brings results, and it can’t be got rid of so easily.’
Why not? When you perceive for yourself that violence only leads to greater harm, is it difficult to drop violence? When, however superficially pleasurable, something gives you deep pain, don’t you put it aside?
‘On the physical level that is comparatively easy, but it’s more difficult with things that are inward.’
It is difficult only when the pleasure outweighs the pain. If hate and violence are pleasurable to you, even though they breed untold harm and misery, you will keep on with them; but be clear about it, and don’t say that you are creating a new social order, a better way of life, for that is all nonsense. He who hates, who is acquisitive, who is seeking power or a position of authority, is not a Brahmin, for a true Brahmin is outside the social order that is based upon these things; and if you, on your part, are not free from envy, from antagonism, and from the desire for power, you are no different from the present Brahmin, though you may call yourself by a different name.
‘Sir, I am astonished at myself that I am even listening to you. An hour ago I would have been horrified to think that I might listen to such talk; but I have been listening, and I am not ashamed of it. I see now how easily we are carried away by our own words, and by our more sordid urges. Let’s hope things will be different.’