Jyothy Sreedhar

Conscience, not for rent

There had been a time when I used to blindly think that my school textbooks were the ultimate truths. We were taught that we have no voice against whatever is written in it. The "goods" which they speak about are to be accepted as undoubtedly and supernaturally good, and the "evils" are "of course, evils for all." The education of my school times were all about the process of blindly believing, deeply by hearting and reproducing it in exact words. All we could was reading the lines, and not 'reading through' or 'reading into' the lines. Thus I blindly believed that man, including me is a social animal, in the sense that there is no escape for him from society. Reading about the society and experiencing it are on extreme poles too. There comes the first crack to the base from which the rest of the chapters are taught to us. Every subject and every language showed a violent struggle to bind us to society, its norms, and interestingly to its senseless rules more. We were not allowed to think, instead we were made to by heart it even without understanding a word. Someone would have realised that a little thinking by a student would cause serious harms to the established nonsenses which we are made to oblige to. It was a time when Lord Krishna, Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Mother Teresa etc were imposed upon us as heroes, unquestionable forever. We learnt them not only in Malayalam, English and Hindi but also in social sciences and history. To be frank, while Krishna used to fascinate me with his kiddish mind like me of that period, while I was almost ignorant about Christ except for some short essays, while Tagore remained neutral, and Mother Teresa was not a big and long topic, I couldn't help getting bored with pages and pages about Mahatma Gandhi. I had then got by heart even with his second class train travel, his goat milk drinking and making Kasturba clean the toilet, as if I could draw the frames alive. It was only after intentionally breaking away from the much prejudiced traditional conscience that I started to really see the things through my own eyes. I gave back all those rented perspectives and conscience, and understood that I have my own set. I then started to feel that I missed the chances for learning and unlearning things in a proper manner which could have given more precision and a clear see through into things. Anyways, exams are over by now, spoonfeedings too. And I am not committed to any other set of conscience, not even a bit to the widely accepted comprehensions. I feel that our education system is extremely partial that once they define someone as good, they get blind to their bads, and vice versa too. It is like teaching the students about supernaturally good and bad persons. It doesn't promote a critical thinking in the students' minds about the persons or events they study as part of their syllabus. The biggest wrong in the system, I feel, is there. It is atleast a decade after my matriculation that I started to read critical works about the 'universally good' persons. My recent study was about Mahatma Gandhi. Reading Osho's 'The Book of Man', there are references about Gandhi, breaking all the set up beliefs till date. Accidently going through the lines, I felt to do a little more research in that area for credibility and hit at any link that came to me. Four most interesting parts from Osho's discourse on Gandhi would be the following: 1) "Mahatma Gandhi had everything available to him, although he lived like a poor man. One of his intimate followers, a very intelligent woman, Sarojini Naidu -- has a statement on record that to keep Mahatma Gandhi poor they had to spend treasures on him. It was not a simple poverty, it was a managed show. He would not drink the milk from a buffalo because it is rich, rich with vitamin A and other vitamins. He would not drink the milk of a cow because that too is rich, and poor people cannot afford it. He would drink only the milk of a goat, because that is the cheapest animal and poor people can afford it. But you will be surprised: his goat was being washed twice a day with Lux toilet soap! His goat's food consisted of the richest nourishment that any rich man may feel jealous of. It is such an insane world! The goat was given the milk of a cow to drink. Cashew nuts, apples and other nourishing fruits were her only food; she was not living on grass. Her daily food in those old days cost ten rupees per day; that ten rupees per day in those days was enough for a man to live for a whole month. And Gandhi was traveling third class. Naturally, he was attracting attention -- a great man is traveling third class! But nobody saw that the third class compartment, which could have carried sixty people at least, was carrying only a single man; it is far more costly than the air-conditioned compartment. But it attracted attention." 2) Mahavir Tyagi has mentioned an incident in his book of memoirs. One day Gandhi visited his town and addressed a largely attended public meeting in the evening. At the end of the meeting he asked for donations from the audience. Many people gave money; women gave away their ornaments, like earrings, bracelets and anklets. Gandhi accepted them and piled them on the podium. Before he left the meeting he asked Mahavir Tyagi to carry the donations to his residence. Tyagi arrived at Gandhi's place at about midnight. He thought that Gandhi had gone to bed; he also thought that he himself could have waited until the next morning before he saw him. But he had no idea of the mind of a businessman -- he never goes to bed before finalizing his accounts. And so he was surprised to see that the old man was wide awake at that hour of the night. As soon as Tyagi arrived Gandhi enquired if he had brought everything from the meeting place, and immediately he opened the bag and examined it. He found one earring missing. "No woman will give only one earring; she will donate the pair. So go back to the meeting place and find the other," he said to Tyagi. A tired Mahavir Tyagi returned to the meeting place at one in the morning and found the missing earring with the help of a gaslight. When he returned to Gandhi's place he again thought that he had gone to bed, but no, he again found the old man awake. When he received the earring he was satisfied and said to Tyagi, "Now you can go; the account is okay." 3) "The country was partitioned and it was a mutilated and lifeless independence that we had, because the businessman is always for compromise; he cannot afford to be an extremist. He says, "Let us settle on the basis of fifty-fifty." India's partition was the result of Gandhi's leadership. Because the mind of a businessman does not like fight, he chooses compromise instead. He believes in settlement on the basis of give-and-take. He avoids conflict and confrontation. Whether Gandhi said so in explicit terms is not the question. It was the mind of a businessman that the country acquired from the leadership of Gandhi. This is precisely the reason why Gandhi found accord with the British, because they also are a community of businessmen. The British could not have found this accord with anyone else. It was impossible to have accord with Bhagat Singh or Subhas Bose. They had accord with Gandhi because their mental type was the same. The British were essentially businessmen, who by mistake became rulers of a country and wielded power. And the person who confronted them was, to their good luck, also a businessman. It is surprising to see that the British government provided every security to Gandhi, something no government on earth had ever done to their enemy. We could not save Gandhi's life after the British left India, but he was alive as long as they were here. It is such an interesting episode of history." 4) Gandhi was so against education- schools and colleges that he didn't allow his children to go to school. Haridas, his son agitated against it, left home to his relative's house and said, "Please help me. At least I would like to be a matriculate". Gandhi was very angry. The prophet of nonviolence was angry, violently angry. What he said was, "Now this home is closed for Haridas. He should not be allowed in and nobody from my family should meet with him. Even his mother, his brothers, his sisters -- nobody should see him and meet him. If anybody meets with him, he also goes with him. He has failed me." Later Haridas converted himself to Mohammedanism. The Mohammedans started calling him "Mahatma Abdullah Gandhi.". The doors of the home were closed. Gandhi had abandoned him, declared, "He is no longer my son. I am no longer his father. He has utterly failed me. If he had died it would have been better." Just by coincidence, there was a meeting in Bombay. Just by coincidence, Gandhi was going into the same train from which Haridas was getting out. Kasturba, after all, was a mother; she wanted at least to have a look at her son. She knew that her husband wouldn't allow them to talk, but Gandhi didn't allow her even to see him. He said, "Remember, don't look at him. He is dead for us. He has slapped me on my face by becoming a Mohammedan." He forgot all that synthesis of all the religions... and still the prayer- with the Gita-synonymous lines in Bible, Quran and Torah, continued the same way every day. Gandhi still continued to say, "All religions are one." Now hardcore fans of Gandhi would start abusing me in their minds, defining me as an 'anti-Gandhian'. But let me tell you, beyond 'praise' and 'condemnation', there is a thing called fact, which unfortunately gets blinded due to both the extremes of the formers. I am not an anti-Gandhian, not a Gandhi-fan too. And I took time to search for confirmation for all that is narrated by Osho in the quotes. It is exactly the 'fact' part where I stand rigid on, and what I speak out too. Those who wish to read more about Gandhi can rely on the following links: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/thrill-of-the-chaste-the-truth-about-gandhis-sex-life-1937411.html http://www.messagefrommasters.com/Osho/oshodiscourses/osho_on_gandhi.htm Let the Gandhi part be over there. And let me put a bit from some other person's story. Yesterday, between a conversation with me about traditional and anti-traditional concepts, my friend spoke about some eternal figures, of which one was Mother Teresa, one whom I had never thought to research about. He never wanted me to be pre-judgemental about her and hence forwarded to me a book called 'The Missionary Position- Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice', by Christopher Hitchens. Along with that there were links with appreciations and criticism alike. Of all, the book was a real stuff, I felt. The first thing that caught my attention while scrolling fast was this:

"Mary Loudon, a volunteer in Calcutta who has since written extensively about the lives of nuns and religious women, has this testimony to offer about the Home for the Dying: My initial impression was of all the photographs and footage I've ever seen of Belsen and places like that, because all the patients had shaved heads. No chairs anywhere, there were just these stretcher beds. They're like First World War stretcher beds. There's no garden, no yard even. No nothing. And I thought what is this? This is two rooms with fifty to sixty men in one, fifty to sixty women in another. They're dying. They're not being given a great deal of medical care. They're not being given painkillers really beyond aspirin and maybe if you're lucky some Brufen or something, for the sort of pain that goes with terminal cancer and the things they were dying of . . . They didn't have enough drips. The needles they used and re-used over and over and over and you would see some of the nuns rinsing needles under the cold water tap. And I asked one of them why she was doing it and she said: 'Well to clean it.' And I said, 'Yes, but why are you not sterilizing it; why are you not boiling water and sterilizing your needles?' She said: 'There's no point. There's no time.'"
All through the true incidents depicted in the book, I got a feeling that Mother Teresa was a brand ambassador of poverty, and no friend of poor. She loved to advice the suffering poor to get used to their illness, feeling one with Christ himself. Anything she said, she gave the disguise of a Christ character into it. There was an exaggeration of Calcutta's poor conditions of living, so much so that, she got benefited by setting up a so called "charity" hospital there. The Home for the Dying is an apt title, because anyone who "suffers" there, are led to more suffering, in the name of Christ. They were not given proper medicines or so, and there were patients who got worse only due to the lack of proper medical assistance. There are people who got their internal organs much worse only due to the lack of antibiotics and medicines. Mother Teresa needed a home for the "dying", in a city of extreme "suffering", where there are patients who suffer "like Christ". Hitchens writes:
"Bear in mind that Mother Teresa's global income was more than enough to outfit several first-class clinics in Bengal. The decision not to do so, and indeed to run instead a haphazard and cranky institution which would expose itself to litigation and protest were it run by any branch of the medical profession, is a deliberate one. The point is not the honest relief of suffering but the promulgation of a cult based on death and suffering and subjection."
This brand ambassador of poverty, Mother Teresa herself, it should be noted, had checked into some of the finest and costliest clinics and hospitals in the West during her bouts with heart trouble and old age. She had never got admitted to her own "dying" hospital, to suffer "like Christ". There are some important disclosures by Susan Shields, who for nine and a half years worked as a member of Mother Teresa's order, living the daily discipline of a Missionary of Charity in the Bronx, in Rome and in San Francisco. She was a woman who left the Missionaries of Charity for the same reason that she joined it - a love of her fellow humans.
"Our bank account was already the size of a great fortune and increased with every postal service delivery. Around $50 million had collected in one checking account in the Bronx. . . . Those of us who worked in the office regularly understood that we were not to speak about our work. The donations rolled in and were deposited in the bank, but they had no effect on our ascetic lives or on the lives of the poor we were trying to help. Without an audit, it is impossible to say with certainty what becomes of Mother Teresa's hoards of money, but it is possible to say what the true purpose and nature of the order is, and to what end the donations are accepted in the first place... ...For Mother, it was the spiritual well-being of the poor that mattered most. Material aid was a means of reaching their souls, of showing the poor that God loved them. In the homes for the dying, Mother taught the sisters how to secretly baptize those who were dying. Sisters were to ask each person in danger of death if he wanted a 'ticket to heaven'. An affirmative reply was to mean consent to baptism. The sister was then to pretend she was just cooling the person's forehead with a wet cloth, while in fact she was baptizing him, saying quietly the necessary words. Secrecy was important so that it would not come to be known that Mother Teresa's sisters were baptizing Hindus and Moslems."
It was interesting to note that Mother Teresa was a privileged friend of some big names in the world, who used to pay visits to her hospital and also become hosts when Mother Teresa was a guest in their royal homes. Some persons in that circle were proved frauds in courts as well. One name which has to be explained in detail is that of Charles Keating, who was a regular donator to Mother Teresa in the sum of one and a quarter million dollars during that period. In return, Mother Teresa allowed Keating to make use of her prestige on several important occasions and gave him a personalized crucifix which he took everywhere with him. In 1992, after a series of political and financial crises and the most expensive bailout operation in the history of the American tax-payer, Keating was finally brought to trial. He appeared before the Superior Court in Los Angeles (his 'Lincoln Savings and Loan' had been a largely Californian operation) where he was heard by the later notorious Judge Lance Ito. The trial could have only one outcome: the maximum sentence allowable under California law. During the course of the trial, Mother Teresa wrote to the court seeking clemency for Mr Keating: Mother teresa And the reply which got documented was exactly as follows:
Dear Mother Teresa: I am a Deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles County and one of the persons who worked on the prosecution of your benefactor, Charles H. Keating, Jr. I read your letter to Judge Ito, written on behalf of Mr. Keating, which includes your admission that you know nothing about Mr. Keating's business or the criminal charges presented to Judge Ito. I am writing to you to provide a brief explanation of the crimes of which Mr. Keating has been convicted, to give you an understanding of the source of the money that Mr. Keating gave to you, and to suggest that you perform the moral and ethical act of returning the money to its rightful owners. Mr. Keating was convicted of defrauding 17 individuals of more than $900,000. These 17 persons were representative of 17,000 individuals from whom Mr. Keating stole $252,000,000. Mr. Keating's specific acts of fraud were that he was the source of a series of fraudulent representations made to persons who bought bonds from his company and he also was the repository of crucial information which he chose to withhold from bond purchasers, thereby luring his victims into believing they were making a safe, low-risk investment. In truth and in fact, their money was being used to fund Mr. Keating's exorbitant and extravagant lifestyle. The victims of Mr. Keating's fraud come from a wide spectrum of society. Some were wealthy and well-educated. Most were people of modest means and unfamiliar with high finance. One was, indeed, a poor carpenter who did not speak English and had his life savings stolen by Mr. Keating's fraud. The biblical slogan of your organization is 'As long as you did it to one of these My least brethren. You did it to Me'. The 'least' of the brethren are among those whom Mr. Keating fleeced without flinching. As you well know, divine forgiveness is available to all, but forgiveness must be preceded by admission of sin. Not only has Mr. Keating failed to admit his sins and his crimes, he persists in selfrighteously blaming others for his own misdeeds. Your experience is, admirably, with the poor. My experience has been with the 'con' man and the perpetrator of the fraud. It is not uncommon for 'con' men to be generous with family, friends and charities. Perhaps they believe that their generosity will purchase love, respect or forgiveness. However, the time when the purchase of 'indulgences' was an acceptable method of seeking forgiveness died with the Reformation. No church, no charity, no organization should allow itself to be used as salve for the conscience of the criminal. We all are grateful that forgiveness is available but we all, also, must perform our duty. That includes the Judge and the Jury. I remind myself of the biblical admonition of the Prophet Micah: '0 man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you. To do justice, love mercy and walk humbly.' We are urged to love mercy but we must do justice. You urge Judge Ito to look into his heart - as he sentences Charles Keating - and do what Jesus would do. I submit the same challenge to you. Ask yourself what Jesus would do if he were given the fruits of a crime; what Jesus would do if he were in possession of money that had been stolen; what Jesus would do if he were being exploited by a thief to ease his conscience? I submit that Jesus would promptly and unhesitatingly return the stolen property to its rightful owners. You should do the same. You have been given money by Mr. Keating that he has been convicted of stealing by fraud. Do not permit him the 'indulgence' he desires. Do not keep the money. Return it to those who worked for it and earned it! If you contact me I will put you in direct contact with the rightful owners of the property now in your possession. Sincerely, Paul W. Turley
Three years later, Mr Turley has received no reply to his letter. Nor can anybody account for the missing money: saints, it seems, are immune to audit, Hitchens says. Winding up with that on Mother Teresa, I don't wish to prove that they were frauds, by any means. These readings were done not to prove that they were "evils" and no "goods", instead it was done only to prove that there are bads in universally accepted goods and vice versa. No one living or dead is perfect, or supernatural as we learn from text books. Ultimately we hit at those points which make them "humans" with all flaws of it. The only anger I have is to this education system which "teach", but don't really teach. Every learning should also be a learning of the art of learning, with eyes open to its every side, without any intentional bias- one thing which I had missed in my studenthood. It is only now that I become a 'student' with all its real sense, learning things by myself based on the links of facts. Let there be proper reading by the students and further research by them which will actually lead to new truths deconstructing the established exaggerations. With that positive note, I stop here, genuinely wishing to escape from those who get ready to tar me as an anti-Gandhian or an anti- Teresan. I would rather wish to be a human, beyond addresses and definitions, with all flaws of humankind which include Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa.