Who is a seeker?
When you identify yourself as a seeker, its basic qualification is that you are humble. Believing means you made up things you don’t know. You also need 100 people to believe the same thing. But a seeker is always alone. For a variety of issues in the universe, whether it is religious or otherwise, the most fundamental problem is you believe something and I believe something else, and we are bound to clash somewhere.
Spirituality is the way forward for wellbeing?
It’s always been the way forward when human beings seek. In any aspect, human beings go way forward when only they seek. The greatest disaster is that people with no clarity have great confidence. People with no clarity become super confident because they believe something.
Why is there so much violence, despair and misery all around us?
It is only because you people write about the same people. If I have to be on the front page I have to do miserable acts. You don’t write about joyful things. If you get on top-of-the-world headlines you just have to kill 50 people in some terrible way. You can’t be on the front pages if you save 50 lives? I believe problems need to be attended to, but it is solutions that need to be promoted, not the problems.
How do you look at the democratic process the world over and in India? Are you satisfied with the outcomes?
You can’t actually compare India with the world. See, democracy is not the best way we create the world. But the most beautiful thing about democracy is a change of power happens without blood-shedding. Because everybody’s voices are heard. It is a cacophony. Sometimes even for simple things, 10 years are needed. Still, it is worthwhile because ultimately it is the people, who have to live; it’s the people who have to decide.
You have fought for a lot of causes including rivers. Why do you think environment or education are low-focus areas for media, policy or everyday governance?
I don’t want to say anything about intelligentsia because I am not able to find them. They are all highly motivated people, motivated towards something that they believe in. Intelligentsia doesn’t take sides. Indian intelligentsia has seriously taken sides.
Environment and education are on the back burner because they don’t give you TRPs, neither have they won you elections, so media and political leaders don’t focus on it.
I have been continuously pushing for these issues for 25-30 years, and I am finding better purchase only now because the government is a little more willing to listen to us. For instance, in the river rallies I have been working on, Niti Aayog has sent notifications to all the states that it should become a policy.
We have been pushing for education reforms for quite some time. The government has announced that only 50 per cent of the time in school will be for academics, and the rest will be for sports, other skills, music, art and other things. To build infrastructure for that will take time. At the policy level, it is changing.
By the time you are 18, you must be going to a university, or else you must go for one year of skill development. Or you go to paramilitary, military training… for one year, you must develop a sense of mental focus and physical fitness. This is simply absent. So we need to develop institutes for these on a large scale. If we don’t have a plan for our youth, we don’t have a plan for the nation.
How much wealth should one earn during a lifetime?
Instead of saying how much should one earn one should say how much wealth should one generate and that too as much as possible because it benefits everyone. Earn means you want to get it and go somewhere. You are not going to take it anywhere. So the only thing is you generate wealth.
What is the future of capitalism?
Capitalism is already dead. We are talking about the market economy. Capitalism existed when only a few families held the capital. Now it is a market economy. That means if you have an idea and show some competence to execute that idea, you have the capital.
How do you rate Prime Minister Modi? How do you look at the regime change in three states where Congress won?
Why do you call it a regime change? It is an election. Well, the very purpose of election is to make room for change. So people have chosen whatever they have chosen. The fundamental quality of a democracy is that once the people choose something, you just bow to that. Once people have recognised that this is what we want, right or wrong is not your business or my business to say. You just bow to the people’s will. If you question that always, you question the democratic process. That will lead to disaster.
But do you like PM Modi?
I like anybody who works for this country. The people of this country had such a bad deal for the last 15-20 generations. Over 30-35 million people have died in famines not because of lack of abundance in the country but because of manipulations of the people.
Should PM Modi come back in 2019?
It is for the people to decide. But has he done well? I think he has done very well. The only thing is he is taking the risk of changing some of the fundamentals of our economic structure, which hurts everybody. If you are not willing to hurt for transformation, there will be no transformation. A whole lot of people are talking against GST. It is one of the greatest things to be done in independent India if you ask me, economically speaking.
People argue that it is hurting small businesses. If our country has to function well, all of us have to pay taxes because it is our nation. So, yes, small businesses have been hurt. This is because they operated out of your pocket and never registered their businesses anywhere. But the size of the economy has grown in a big way and if we do not fix these fundamentals, India will be a small business and it will never become a big business. I like any politician who is willing to take unpopular measures for the wellbeing of the nation.
As there are a plethora of fake gurus, how does one wisely choose a guru?
You should not choose. You should just seek to know and what works you will come your way. The important thing is to make your longing for truth very profound. If you do that, you may find your guru in the pillow.
Does the Hindu worldview make one fatalistic?
Not at all. This is the most dynamic way to exist. This is the only and the only culture on the planet which told you your life is your karma. It means your life is of your making. There is no manager up there making your life. Your life is 100 per cent of your making. If this is not dynamic, then what is. This is the most dynamic way.
How does one make India Vishwaguru once more?
That is a grand idea. The moment you claim you are Vishwaguru, everybody will reject you. The most important thing is this is a land of human genius. We did not thrive in the past because of our organisation. We have never been an organised, mechanised country. We have been an amorphous nation. Sometimes, we have 150 political entities. Sometimes, 600 entities. Sometimes an empire grows, and half the subcontinent gets occupied.
We have been like an amoeba, growing and dividing. When all this was happening, people who were staying here and outside were recognized as one nation. Though our political borders were so amorphous, we have always been one nation. So the power of this nation has been an individual genius, not organisation. So even today, this is all you need. If you don’t produce great human beings, you will not be a great nation. Because Indians by nature are such that you cannot organise them too much. If you try to organise Indians too much, they will become dull. They don’t know how to be a part of an organisation.
So if we want the world to listen to us, we must rise and shine. You want to be a lighthouse, but if there is no light, you will just be a tower in the dark.