By using modern technology, I feel we are hurting this vibrating, juicy Earth with the dead garbage of plastic, radioactivity, bad air and so on. Please would you comment.
Dhyan Tara, it is one of the most complicated questions…. It is true that, “by using modern technology we are hurting this vibrating, juicy earth with the dead garbage of plastic, radioactivity, bad air and so on.”
This question has two possible answers. One is that of Mahatma Gandhi: “Go back… to the point where all modern technology is dropped” – which superficially looks right. If modern technology is creating an ecological crisis on the earth, disturbing the balance of nature, then it is a very simplistic solution to drop modern technology and go back.
But you have to understand that in Gautam Buddha’s time, just twenty-five centuries ago; this country only had twenty million people. The earth was enough to support them. Today, this country alone has nine hundred million people. If you want to go back to the days of Gautam Buddha, you will have to kill or allow to die such a large part of the population. And when only twenty million people are saved, and the remainder of the nine hundred million people are lying dead all around you – do you think those twenty million will be able to live either?
And the population goes on increasing…. By the end of this century, the population of India may have increased by half again. That means it would be one billion, three-hundred million people – from nearly nine-hundred to thirteen-hundred million people.
That is why I have been disagreeing with Mahatma Gandhi on every point. He talks about non-violence – but this is not nonviolence; nothing can be more violent a step than this. No war has destroyed so many people as will be destroyed without any war. And it is impossible to live amongst dead bodies piled all around you. There will be nobody to take them to the funeral or to take them to the graveyard. So many people dying at such a rate is going to kill the remaining twenty million people too; their rotting bodies will create thousands of diseases, infections.
Mahatma Gandhi used to think that we should stop technology at the point where the spinning wheel was invented. The spinning wheel was invented somewhere around ten thousand years ago or even earlier. The people were so few and the earth was so big… the earth was giving so much that those people could not even absorb it all; most of it was going to waste.
So this is one solution, which came to Mahatma Gandhi from Leo Tolstoy – he was also against modern technology. But I cannot support it, because it means no railway trains, no hospitals, no surgery, no medicine, no post offices, no telegraphs, no telegrams, no telexes, no electricity; and all these have become part of your life. You cannot conceive of yourself without electricity!
There was just one failure of electricity in America. For three days people were in such a panic, because the elevators were not working and to go by the stairs in a high-rise building – perhaps one hundred stories, one hundred and twenty stories – just coming down and going up was enough to finish anybody. People became aware for the first time, in those three days in New York, that now there is no possibility of dropping technology.
I have another alternative. It is not the fault of modern technology; the fault is that we have not been very clear what we want from modern technology and what we don’t want. The scientist has been discovering almost in a blind way, and whatever he discovers we start using – without thinking of the aftereffects.
Going back is impossible and idiotic, the only way is forward. We need a better technology – better than modern technology, which can avoid plastic garbage and disturbance in the ecology. The scientist has to be very alert that whatever he is doing should become an intrinsic part of the organic whole; technology should not go against the whole. And it is possible, because technology does not lead you somewhere in particular; it is you who go on discovering things in a blind way.
Now that it is clear that whatever we have discovered up to now, much of it is a disturbance in the harmony – is finally going to destroy life on the earth – still, scientists go on piling up nuclear weapons. They don’t have the guts to say to the politicians, “It is enough. We are not slaves. We cannot create anything that is going to destroy life.”
All the scientists of the world have to come to a consensus: they have to make a world academy of sciences, which decides what should be discovered and what should not be discovered. If something wrong is discovered, it should be undiscovered immediately.
We need a superior technology, a more enlightened technology. There, I part from Mahatma Gandhi, who goes backwards – where there is nothing but death. I go forwards. Technology is in our hands; we are not in the hands of technology. We can drop all those parts which are dangerous, poisonous, and we can discover substitutes which enhance the ecology, which enhance the life of man, which enhance his outer and inner richness and bring a balance into the world.
But I don’t see anybody in the whole world preaching for a more sophisticated, more enlightened technology. Sometimes I wonder: millions of people, thousands of great scientists – are they all blind? Can’t they see what they are doing is cutting their own roots?
And if technology can manage to do miracles – it has managed on the path of destructiveness, it can also manage miracles on the path of creativeness. All that has been discovered, if it is a disturbance to nature, should be dropped. But I don’t see that electricity is a danger to nature; I don’t see that railway lines or airplanes are disturbing the ecology; I don’t see that innocent telegrams, post offices, have to be destroyed. That will be moving to the other extreme.
That is how the human mind works: it works like the pendulum of a clock, from one end to the other end. It never stops in the middle. I want human consciousness to stop exactly in the middle, so that it can see both sides. Certainly, destructiveness cannot be supported; and the energy that goes into creating destructive things has to be converted into creativity.
But Mahatma Gandhi is not the way. His ideology will prove more dangerous than modern technology has proved. Modern technology may still take hundreds of years to destroy everything.
If we follow Mahatma Gandhi, within a day everything that we have achieved in thousands of years will be destroyed.
You could not have cold and hot water in your bathrooms – that depends on modern technology.
It is true that it has polluted the air, but that is our fault, not the fault of modern technology. If we had insisted that petrol should be refined to such a point that it did not pollute the air, and that there should be devices which went on every car, to purify the air of whatever damage the petrol was doing, so the balance remained the same…. but it was, in a way, natural. You know something only when it has happened.
Nobody was aware that going to the moon was creating dangerous holes in the protective shield around the earth. There is a subtle, invisible layer of ozone twenty miles above the earth, all around it. This ozone layer has been protective. It does not allow all the rays of the sun to enter; it allows only the rays which are helpful for life, for trees, for human beings – and the destructive rays are turned back. But nobody was aware of it, so nobody can be blamed for it.
When our first rockets went beyond the twenty-mile thick atmosphere, they created holes in the ozone layer; and from those holes, the protective layers disappeared. Now the all the rays of the sun can enter through those holes, and they have brought many diseases which have not been known before.
But now we can make arrangements if we want to go to the moon. In the first place, it is lunatic; only people who are in some way mad want to go to the moon. For what? – There is neither water nor greenery nor air to breathe. What is the point of it all? Perhaps military experts may be the only ones who are deeply interested in acquiring the moon – because then the moon can be made a base for throwing nuclear weapons at the Soviet Union, if America gets hold of the moon, or if the Soviet Union gets hold of the moon, it becomes their territory.
But even if you want to go to the moon, you should be careful not to create these holes; and if you are creating them, you should immediately make arrangements that they are covered again, so destructive rays from the sun cannot reach the earth.
One thing has to be remembered, Tara: man can only go forward; there is no way backward. And there is no point, either. It is just people’s imagination that in the past, when there was no technology, everything was beautiful and good. That is absolutely wrong. I will give you a few examples. Hindus brag very much that in the golden old days, people were so rich that locks were never used on the doors. Yes, it is mentioned in the scriptures that locks were not used. But it does not say that people were so rich and there was no stealing around – hence, locks were not used. My conclusion is just the opposite: locks were not invented yet, so how could they use them? Secondly, people were very poor; there was nothing to lock up.
And if somebody says that people were rich and there were no locks and there was no stealing, then they should look again into all the scriptures of the past. Gautam Buddha, every day for forty-two years continually, was teaching that stealing is evil. I wonder whom he was teaching. If there was no stealing happening – even locks were not needed – then he must have been mad, talking to people who have never stolen and who were not going to steal, they were themselves so rich. Then why did he go on, every day?
And it was not only Gautam Buddha; Mahavira went on doing the same, and other scriptures and other masters of the past all insisted that stealing was a sin. That is enough proof that there were thieves all around. So the only possible way to explain why locks were not used is mine: because locks were not invented yet.
Locks are also part of technology. If you go to an aboriginal society living in the forest they don’t use locks, because they cannot create locks and they are not rich enough even to purchase locks from the cities. And for what? – Because they don’t have anything in their houses. If they can get one meal a day, that is a great blessing from God. Most of them don’t get even one meal a day.
Technology should not be looked at only negatively. In India, just before this century, nine children used to die out of ten. Today, the situation has reversed: only one child dies out of ten, because of the advancement of medicine. The clothes you are wearing… soon it will be impossible to provide cotton clothes for everybody – and there is no need either: better clothes can be produced by technology. Just as a symbol of my philosophy, I never use anything that is cotton. My clothes are pure productions of technology – one hundred percent polyester.
Technology can create better houses, lighter houses and more beautiful; there is no need to use heavy material, costly material. Technology is bound to create better food, more proportionate, giving you all the vitamins that are needed and giving you a better taste, too – now plants are not so scientific. Any flavor can be given to your food. There is no need for people to eat meat just for taste, because any food can be given the flavor of meat.
Technology has a better side also; but if you drop all modern technology, you will be falling into the dark ages, and it will be the greatest violence on the earth, preached by the man who thought that his philosophy was nonviolent.
But something has to be done. Up to now, technology has been just groping. Now we can give it a direction; and we can drop all those things which are destructive of ecology, harmony, nature, life.
I am all for technology – but a better technology, a more human technology.
From The Rebellious Spirit, Discourse #8
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