Faith and Friendship in the Age of Changing Values

Faith and Friendship in the Age of Changing Values
We present a talk delivered by eminent writer Mr. Manoj Das on 24th Oct. 2011 in a symposium organised jointly by Lucknow Oriya Samaj and Lucknow Management Association at Lucknow.

My esteemed friend Sri G.B Pattnaik, esteemed friends on the Dias and dear and kind listeners. Among you there are so many potent people. I am sure this kind of audience is accustomed to very sophisticated topics- be it humanistic, scientific, technological or otherwise. The topic on which we decided today i.e. myself and Mr. Pattnaik was to initiate a thinking process; may be a very simplistic one. In fact, my limitation is that I am not an academic scholar. As a creative writer and particularly as I live in an ashram, I have received numerous queries from my readers and even people who are not my readers. One of the frequent observations I came across is this-“Today We cannot believe anybody. How to live in this world? How to communicate our feelings? The sum and substance of hundreds of such observations is that we do not find a single sympathetic heart” So when Mr. Pattnaik asked me as to what subject I must speak, I gave him a list of few topics. He chose the topic and the subject was such that communication has been at a very intimate level. What surprised me in an unpleasant way & inspired me to choose the topic is the brief talk of Mr. Pattnaik we just had. I have almost forgotten to thank him for the profound introduction he gave about me. I am overwhelmed by the organization, the display of my books. I do not know in what words I should thank him or express my gratitude.

Depression, current scenario:

Now coming onto the subject some of us would definitely remember the month of July 2011 wherein a survey report conducted by UNESCO was published. The headlines were depressing as the survey shows that India is the most depressed country in the world with a colossal 36% of men and women suffering from this ailment.

I was stunned dramatically because this is the country where the first cure of depression was initiated by lord Krishna when Arjuna suffered from ‘Vishada Yoga’. When Arjuna was victim of melancholy and depression, Krishna cured him particularly of this melancholic psychological state by making him aware of his ‘Swadharma’ or ‘the inner law of his being’.

Naturally the survey was restricted to urban areas and not to the ‘rustic’ or the Village India’ and the 36% reported would be definitely more as many do not like to confess that they are depressed. The critics ascertain that. The reported number is no doubt a colossal one. While travelling yesterday we were discussing that earlier when there was a problem facing somebody, people could communicate it to a closed circle of relatives, friends, family and the problem dissipated. Others only needed to psychologically come in and bear parts of the burn or crisis which had befallen on the individual.

However, today that is not just possible because we are not certain who is friend today? It is a big question and we suffer from many paradoxes. I can hardly list them because we belong to the extreme sensitive class of the society. Though we have got elegant buildings, we have broken wounds inside. We have got great speed but we do not have any time for a little bit of introspection, meditation or leave apart little humanity. We have got all the amenities, technological inventions, still we have anxiety and tension haunting us from one moment to another. The list is very long and we have got many acquaintances be it of professional obligations, vocational demands, associations, international federations, clubs and partnerships.

Fifty or hundred years ago that was not the case. We managed to have numerous acquaintances but very few friends. Yet friendship is the oldest human institution, next the family and then the world. Today when I hear people saying – “How to have faith in everything?” I find it awfully hurt. However I do not openly say to that individual as he or she may get hurt. But do we analyze and see? ‘Has having faith become something alien to us?’ ‘Can we live more a moment without the basis of faith in our life?’

Today you have come here with the faith that I might speak something sensible. I am here with a faith that I will get a sympathetic listening/hearing to my words. Every step I take is with the sub-conscious faith that the Earth will not give a way. Every morsel of food I take, I take with the faith that it is digested and it is not dangerous for me. Every moment we breathe faith. The very first cry a child gives the moment it is born, is a proclamation of its faith that there are kind hearted souls around it who take it up to nurture it & sustain it. It is nature’s inbuilt intuitive faith implanted in a child that expresses itself as its first cry to announce to the world that it has come. Then there is faith which is inside a family. The relationship based on faith gradually expands when a person grows up. It manifests as friends.

One of the oldest relationships in the world is that of friendship. In Ancient India there is a famous quote on real friends-

“Utsave Vyasane Chaiba,

Durbhikshye Rashtrabiplabe

RajadwareShmashane Cha

Jah TisthatiSah Vandhabah..”

Friendship: Through ages

We have a classic example of the friendship of Shri Krishna & Sudama’s friendship – a friendship which does not differentiate between a prince and a pauper. The idea that friendship is greater than kinship is demonstrated by the intriguing yet impressive character of Kama (The Epic Mahabharata). Though he knew that he was the blood related brother of the Pandavas, yet his friendship with Duryodhana (Kaurava Prince) is much greater than this relationship to which he adhered. In the western world we also have an example of friendship. It is a very wonderful thing. Whether in east or west, the institution of friendship has been given high merits since time immemorial. In the old Greek legends we find the story of Dmon and Pithius. Dmon and Pithius were two friends. Dinocius was a tyrant. One fine day got disgusted with dmon for some reason and passed an order for his execution. He was to be killed in the open court. Dmon stood up and said, “My lord, I don’t mind being killed. Just allow me a weeks time. I will go to my distant village, will be a good boy to my wife, my children, friends & come back before the week is over.” Dinocius laughs and says, “you believe that I will allow you to go back to your village and you will give me a slip.” Dmon replies saying, “I am a man of truth”. Dinocius tells him that he could go for a week provided somebody else would have to take his place and pledge himself for him with his life.

Dmon had few friends and among them one was Pithius. Pithius comes forward and says, “I will take his place in the custody”. Dinocius warns him to be aware of the prospective reality that dmon might not return back. Further the moment the 7th day was over and the 8th day sun arose, he would be executed. Pithius said, ‘Agreed! My friend will never betray my faith.’ So Dmon was allowed to go home and Pithius was locked up. Days passed in this manner. On the 8th day as the sun rose Dinocius visits the lock up to see Pithius crying. In those days the rulers had very few work to do. So Dinocius says,’ now you realize that your friend has betrayed you! You are now crying for your life.’ ‘My lord! You would never understand the value of these tears. These tears are the tears of gratitude to the divine that somehow he has prevented my friend from coming so that I can sacrifice myself for that noble life. These are great tears of gratitude’. Dinocius is snuffed. Just as everything was ready for execution orders to be executed someone shouted from afar- “please wait!” In those days execution was a public festivity though in some countries it is so today also. Dmon was seen to have come back. He was crying. He embraced his friend and said, ‘How grateful I am to providence that I am able to come. I was prevented with a terrible flood in the river. No boat was available; so I had to swim across the breadth of the river. Sol was late. But I am lucky to find you!” Pithius hugged him and said, ‘how unlucky I was to not have been able to sacrifice my life for you.’ Dinocius was observing the whole situation. He comes forward, bows to both and says,’ please! Accept me as the third member of your small circle of friendship’.

The betrayal story of Brutus:

This was an example of friendship in the western world. That is of Julius Caesar and Brutus. I don’t mean to elaborate it but he was murdered by his people, his senators. He had hardly believed that Brutus could be one of the conspirators because as Shakespeare puts it- Brutus was his angel. It was certainly not Caesar’s personality and neither those who killed him were professional murderers. They were a nervous lot.

Had Julius Caesar shouted at that moment, market people, his bodyguards would have rushed in and protected him. But what disillusioned him was the fact that when he looked for Brutus-he could not understand what was happening. He was stabbed. He looked into the eyes of Brutus while searching for assistance and in a shock saw the dagger in his hand. And then you know the famous words – “ET TUTE BRUTUS! Meaning’ you too! Brutus!’ What is life then? If my best friend can do that to me, is this life worth living?

We are just speculating. This must have been the terrible mood of Caesar when he allowed himself to be stabbed. As Mark Antonio expresses beautifully,’ the day turning the devil’. People have come gathered around Caesar’s body and Mark Antonio was sewing the wounds of Caesar. He was actually not present but bluffing.

But the wonderful expression of emotion and drama shown by Shakespeare takes a hold when Mark Antonio points to a drop of blood on the chest of Caesar and says,’ look at this blood clot! This blood comes out to determine what Brutus meant’. This blood must have come out of Caesar to resolve that it was indeed Brutus who was holding the dagger. Blood would have anyhow come out but it was the melodramatic way of Shakespeare to show the overwhelming expression that must have grasped Caesar at the moment Brutus stabbed him. Till today there are many people who have not pardoned Brutus. The author of the book’ A passage to India says, “If I would have been Brutus, I would not have it.” Friendship is an institution older than all political institutions. Be it monarchy, dictatorship, socialism or democracy, friendship recedes all institutions. Hence friendship is much more sacred for me and I wouldn’t have done what Brutus did.”

Present condition of man

So what has happened to us? How is that we have been deprived of this sense of ‘Swdharma’ within us. To briefly mention that from the primitive times the consciousness in man was just like that of a primitive animal. Just as animals are rival to each other, primitive man saw their companions as rivals. By the end of crude physical age, the emotional age came in where vitality dominated over our life or activity. Hundreds of years back when culture found a boost emotionally, we wrote epics, poetry. We painted, we sculpted! The ‘Ragas’ and ‘Raginis’ were created. All these things required a receptivity and a sympathetic response. Friendship is one of the manifestations which bind humans in a great cultural upsurge. The age of emotion was over and mind gave the footnote. Mind was with its properties like wit, intelligence & rational faculty. There was again a reversal to primitive type. Rationally we were inclined to perform or decide whatever we would do. Emotions had hardly a place. We are at the end of that rational age today and automatically there is that emotional element in us which is the basis of human friendship, a friendship which does not depend in give and take. A friendship is thus an autonomous expression of one’s goodwill behind which there is a truth of supreme oneness. We are one in many facets. But somehow we are not able to comprehend that everybody belongs to us and everybody is one with us.

So nature sees to it that at least that particular trait is manifested through any relation with few people or maintained, okay, mind has done whatever it could do. The ages of mind has come to a condition, a brink of the mental stage in evolution. In fact we are passing through what Sri Aurobindo calls- ‘An evolutionary crisis!’ Unless a new consciousness comes and takes hold of the present imperfectness, dark is the human consciousness. When we can’t recover many of the old institutions including that of friendships, we are destined to feel more and more lonely. And more adverse insensibility is the fact that the more depressed one feels, the more there is no cure. But it can be turned into a blessing. If we go back to the oldest discovery that there is within us a ‘Swadharma’ which once discovered doesn’t let us down. It does not allow us to suffer from depression and melancholy because the loner is individuals own friend, his own inner self which is the divine principle. Isn’t it time for Indians to think, re-think of the greatest offering made to them by the divine consciousness once upon a time.

The story of Sohrab and Rustam

In human relationships we have to remember two things basically. One is when I say things I can assure you that I am not speaking theory and not saying an idea in which I have no complete faith. First is that life is not limited to two states. I am not bracketed by a date of birth and a date of death and they are not my limitations. Rebirth is a fact of life and death is a fact of life in the sense that it is a transition from one life to another. Secondly, the basic continuity is a goal, an ultimate goal or complete realization of truth or divine realization or whatever name we call it has to be achieved.

It was George Santiago who said that little knowledge is dangerous, then where is the man who is out of danger. Now we all belong to that. We are the sixth intelligence of that globe of ignorance and in that ignorance nature uses these human relationships in a negative way to make descent in our self some values. False values guide our life. Our motivations are very puny, limited and some kind of success we seek in the ultimate analysis has no meaning. I am giving you an example of your high school days where you must have read the story of, ‘Sohrab and Rustam’. It is a Persian drama ‘Shahnama’ written by Firdausi, which is a historical event. Rustam was man of great valour and courage, the greatest among the men in that sub-continent. Once upon a time he was a legend. He told his king, the king of Iran that as it was peaceful time he wanted to travel across the friendly countries and his own country. As he was the king’s cousin the king bade him away. But on the way he fell sick and in a small chieftain’s palace he took rest. The chieftain had a lovely daughter Pakhmina who fell in love with Rustam who was the mightiest of the mighty and they got married. One day there was a war between Iran and some other country and the king’s messenger came to ask Rustam to report immediately in the capital.

At that time Pakhmina was with a child. So Rustam left her a talisman like ornament with an advice in case she bears a son, the talisman must be tied to the arm of his son when he would become a teenager. In case a daughter was born, it should be forgotten. That was in the old world and Rustam went away. Pakhmina knew that Rustam would never remember her again. She had it live with the child born to her and it was a son. When Rustam’s messenger came to determine whether it was a boy or girl he was lied that a baby girl was born. So the messenger went away. Rustam never remembered Pakhmina again. The child called Sohrab was fed with the stories of Rustam’s valour and the day his mother revealed to him, it was excitement to him. He wanted to prove to his father that he was equal in strength and courage to him. So he trained himself in the art of war. In those days the principal allegiances of the kingdoms, their principalities often changes. Now even Sohrab’s maternal grandfather was against Iran and in due time there was a war to commence. So Sohrab along with the chieftain’s army went to the war. Rustam at the same time had some differences with his cousin, the king of Iran and was sulking away from the capital.

At Sohrab’s instigation the king of Iran was sent a challenge that instead of the war being fought, a hero was supposed to be chosen from both the sides and let there was a combat between the, two, whoever wins his side would be declared the winner or victorious. It was a question of prestige to deny this. Iran admitted that it had no heroes as Rustam was not there. Only Rustam could take such a challenge. At last on much request and for the sake of the country Rustam agreed to fight against this unknown warrior on the condition that the identity that he was Rustam would not be told to anyone. So he fought for the country under a pseudo name.

Sohrab was expecting that Rustam would definitely come. Rustam thought that he could anguish the unknown young man in five minutes. However hours passed and he realised that the young warrior is equal to him. Rustam felt disgusted and shouted to himself as to what had come upon him. The moment the word Rustam was uttered, for a second, Sohrab stopped surprised. That very moment Rustam’s spear pierced his chest and he fell down dead. Sohrab asked to all to not be under the impression that Rustam had killed him but it was the name of the father. Rustam puzzled asks-father’s name? Rustam had so son as told. However Sohrab said that it was what he believed and it was the outcome of his mother’s foolishness. He unrolled his sleeves and reveled the talisman which Rustam had left with Pakhmina. Now Rustam observed the similarity between the boys and his own features. Taking the head of his boy he sat there. Time passed and the boy breathed his last. All his life Rustam had nurtured the values of victory, conquest, revenge and vanquishing others. In one single second and all the values had collapsed upside down. Just as Caesar had valued friendship and was disjointed, so also in a moment Rustam was decent red. How nature tries to promote our values through our discernment when man is lost under the crust of ignorance and ego is evident here.

Nature, A play of Forces:

Friendship today is also possible provided we return the faith we receive from others. No human being is a single personality. When we are kind to someone we are true at the moment and one is unaware what world with topple over the next moment. I don’t know for unless someone has some occult knowledge, one believes that one is acting, one is not really acting. Now I didn’t intend to elaborate but I will just give an example. One day a young man comes to a mystic and says that he has something bad in him. And doesn’t know what to do with it. The mystic asks him what he has, to which he answers that he has a lot of anger in him. But the mystic never said anything. For an hour he discussed everything like weather, this and that… Suddenly he asked the young man to show him what he has, to which the young man replies that he has a money purse, a fountain pen and a handkerchief.

Then the mystic enquires the young man that there was something else – the anger in him and must be shown. When the young man fails to show it, remember it or call it the mystic says that how can he have anger even when he can’t call or possess or summon it at will. The mystic said that this was also the way his fathers and forefathers must have been. In the words of the mystic. ‘Anger has an universal vibration’. It invades you because you are open to it. By the example I meant that hardly we are aware that our contacts are molded by the influences known or unknown, conscious or unconscious, physical or infraphysical. So when one is kind to you he may be true. But you can never predict what he will be the next moment. The wisest thing to do is to let into the source of kindness, the inward source from which all kindness, mercy, understanding, sympathy and friendship comes. And that is the divine. When I start I revise my attitude. I take my friend as one who can scrutinize his views.

One who can do what he wishes to do, who can think what he wishes to think. I know that my desires are controlled by hundreds of factors around, I feel grateful to the very source from which the kindness came because I needed it. Nature has so ordained that a mother will sacrifice her life for the sake of her child. As time passes the same mother expect the child to show different norms and different kinds of behaviour. We cant hold anybody responsible for it. These are the laws of nature through which we have to grow. And my dear friends, we should not be under the false impression that faith is not there. We have to reorient our attitude. We remember all experiences. Whether good or bad in the ultimate analysis it helps to proceed towards the ultimate goal.

A positive attitude:

Very simply speaking our attitude to the tragedies of life, the heaviness of life must change. We remember tragic instances because we take heaviness for granted. If there are seven days of rainy weather and the 8th day is a sunny one, look! What a sunny day! is our remark. But the hundreds of days the sun was there we don’t take any cognizance of it. We recognize heaviness more than happiness. But when our attitude changes, things also become different. In reality tragedy is also a contribution to my consciousness. I will conclude with a small child’s beautiful remark. A little girl had a toy. Once the toy was broken and the little girl was praying to god to repair her toy. Her elder brother laughed at her for being stupid and told her that god would never come to repair the toy and so there was no need of praying. The little girl however had strong faith that god would respond. Both of them went to sleep when the night fell. Early in the morning the boy got up first and saw the toy lying broken as it is. He woke the girl and made fun of her that god did not respond and the toy was still broken. The girl very calmly said,” god came. He said that I have passed the stage of playing with dolls.” This is what is the meaning of true faith. Faith is very much inn us. It is a question of activating it. There are many friends but the ultimate is he from whom all goodness comes through our human friends. The moment we change our attitude our problems to a great extent become simpler and smooth.

Closing Note

Ladies and gentlemen, it has been very kind of you to give me a patient hearing. Thank you so much. I extend my thanks to the management, associates, and of course, Lucknow Oriya Samaj. I know G.B. Pattnaik, whom I see as my younger brother and dear friend & who has brought me here wouldn’t like me to thank him, I still came here at his calling. And finally I thank you all.

(Transcription by: Jayant Mishra,Research Scientist, Genetech Labs, Lucknow.)


About Manoj Das

For thousands of men, women and children of the past two or three generations, Manoj Das has been the very synonym of light and delight, whose writings in Odia and English inspire in his countless readers faith in the purpose of life and also open up concealed horizons of confidence and compassion in humanity a dire need today.