Be Thankful for What You Have
Long Beach – a suburb of Los Angeles famous as the home of the old "Queen Mary". It was not on the ship, however, but in the nearby Convention Centre that, on December 13, 1986, Maharaji attended a birthday celebration held in his honour by Elan Vital in the USA.
Here is an edited transcript of the informal talk Maharaji gave, not only to those present but to a nationwide audience watching via satellite link-up.
First the M.C., film star Michael Nouri, introduced Maharaji.
(Clapping) Thank you very much. Thank you. Well, I'll just assume you're all out there, otherwise they must have pretty good sounding speakers here to be able to reproduce the sound of people clapping, because I can hardly see you out there.
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And I'd like to welcome everyone. I don't know if I'm a jeweller or if my job is to go and bring scattered beads together, but if it is then that's certainly one thing I haven't been doing! It sounds good, it sounds really good, but what does it mean? That's what I was thinking about back stage.
The life as it is
And really what it's all about is that as human beings, we are trying to understand, trying to realize, trying to cope with what this life is as it is presented to us. Not the way it is, but as somebody tells us it is. "By the way, guys, this is the way everything is." And it is just taken for granted that there's a lot of hard work you have to come up with before you can start feeling good about what you have. And I suppose that fundamentally, Knowledge disagrees with that, and tells us that what we need to begin with, what we need to start with, is an appreciation of life as it is, for its own sake.
And one morning I was down in my office, oh, around five forty-five in the morning, getting my materials together, and all of a sudden a quote hit me. I went ahead and put it down, and another one came and then another. And one of the quotes that I came up with that morning says – it's a little bit of a snapper, so you have to think about it – "Be thankful for what you have, be grateful for what you don't, and work for what you need."
And when you say "grateful for what you don't have", all of a sudden everyone scratches their head and thinks, "How can I be grateful for what I don't have?" But believe me, if you had all that other stuff and all the troubles that come with it, you really would be grateful for all things you don't have. And at the same time, be thankful for what you do have because it's an incredible, amazing life. This life in itself is complete. It doesn't need to be augmented, nothing needs to be done to it. It is perfect in nature, it is perfect in design. It is perfect in its quality and it's perfect in its experience. What seems to be missing again and again is where it's aimed for– what we do with it. Because in its perfection, one of the qualities that we have been given is that the steering wheel has been handed to us to take it wherever we want to go.
And sometimes we try to make our lives no different than the Titanic's. You see, to me, the Titanic represents some-
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And all along there is just that simple purpose. Oh, people are looking for the big, great purpose. But do you realise how long people have been looking for this purpose? I suppose since the caveman first came out, lit his little fire, sat down next to it, warmed himself up, had a moment or so to think because the dinosaurs were asleep, and said to himself, "Gee whiz, I wonder what I'm doing here?" And the wildfire, it's caught on. "What are we doing here? What are we doing here?" Nobody's saying, "By the way, I'm here." It's always, "What am I doing here?"
thing. And what it represents is that we all want to be able to come home one day and say "Well, everything is perfect now. Nothing can ever happen to me again. That's the way I want everything to be." And that concept is, perhaps, not that far away from what you and I sometimes start thinking about. And what was that Titanic? This incredible, immaculate ship that had everything. In fact, so resistant to any hazards that it could plough right through all of them. And somehow I see a lot of people trying to build their lives like the Titanic.
It took a long time to build the Titanic, and the amazing thing was that as it went on its journey the thought that never crossed anybody's mind was, "Something bad may happen." Because the concept, the design, of the Titanic was that it was supposed to be disaster-proof. And that ship, which so many engineers took so long to develop, that concept that everyone thought had become a reality, took one iceberg. Just one, which happened to be, I suppose, strategically placed that night. And down it went.
And so to me, I see a lot of people who are taking the most beautiful thing, and it's like having a candle-light dinner. You've got your candles and
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you light them up and they look beautiful. They look so beautiful in fact that you want everyone to see them. So you get some strong lights and you turn them on so you can see your candles lit up. But pretty soon you can't really see the flame on top of the candle at all. It has become self-defeating.
Life is immaculate
There are so many people who can come up with an idea of how we "ought to be", or the "ideal society", or the "ideal human being". And there are plenty of people who can go out there and say, "By the way guys, this is how we ought to be." No shortage of it. And all I do is I carry a little mirror with me, and anything somebody says, "Well, how should I be? What should my goals be?", I just try to whip out that little mirror and say, "Look, do you even know what you have?" And then people can take a simple look at a very simple life, at a very simple concept of being alive, of, being here It's very, very simple, it is so simple, so sweet and so kind.
Because it's only human beings who can take' a coconut and say "I wonder what the purpose of a coconut is?" While everybody else on the beach might be enjoying themselves by drinking the milk from the coconut, enjoying the middle part, there are some people who are starving and at the same time wondering what the purpose of a coconut could possibly be. If a coconut falls on one of their heads, that person writes down, "The purpose of the coconut is to hit you on the head." If one falls on the foot, somebody says, "No, no, no, no. We're all mistaken. The purpose of the coconut is to fall on the foot, not on the head." And then somebody gets hit on the shoulder and says, "The ideal usage of the coconut is to throw it at your enemies when they're coming too close." But all they have to realise is that enjoyment that life is offering, every single day.
Being able to be thankful is such an art. By the way guys, it's not so easy as we think. It really isn't, "Gee whiz, just go out there and be thankful." It really isn't. Life is immaculate and so has to be its appreciation. Immaculate. You have to have the eye, which you all do, to be able to see what it is all about. The problems we are caught in are so trivial, so trivial, that maybe it takes an intense moment in our lives for us to even realise, "My goodness,that was really trivial."
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And all along there is just that simple purpose. Oh, people are looking for the big, great purpose. But do you realise how long people have been looking for this purpose? I suppose since the caveman first came out, lit his little fire, sat down next to it, warmed himself up, had a moment or so to think because the dinosaurs were asleep, and said to himself, "Gee whiz, I wonder what I'm doing here? And like wildfire it's caught on. "What are we doing here? What are we doing here?" Nobody's saying, "By the way, I'm here." It's always, "What am I doing here?"
And then, all of a sudden, the game begins. I saw a comedy two nights ago, it just cracked me up. There was this lady and her job was to teach people in her class how to be able to say "No". She had realized that these people who she was teaching needed self-esteem. So she would throw little tests in there – for example, she would say, "Could someone please come up and erase the board?" And if somebody said "Yes", she would say, "Now, now, now, you don't have to say, 'Yes' to everything. I want you to say 'No'." And it went on for a while and it was like, "Yeah, right. That makes a lot of sense, right?" At the end of the whole session, the lady, who couldn't drive a ear, went to catch her bus. But when she was flipping through her purse she realised she didn't have enough money for the bus fare. So she went back to her students and said, "Can any of you please lend me some bus fare?" And they said, "No". She said, "But I'm serious. I really need it." But still the answer was, "No." And they would all just smile at her and say, "Aren't we doing good? Isn't this wonderful?" And I just got such a laugh out of it.
Because it's very much like that. Nobody is saying, "Gee whiz, I've got a coconut in my hand. There it is, me, as an individual on this earth. And I have the capacity to think, I have the capacity to admire. I have the capacity to understand, to comprehend, to move and to be moved. And I can appreciate that I have the quality to be able to appreciate, and that's a quality in itself." Don't throw it away. You know, when you start throwing your baby clothes away, don't throw away the baby with the clothes. You've got to let the baby grow up and make sure the baby isn't in the clothes. And sometimes we do that. Very much so. And to me, how wonderful and beautiful it then becomes, just to go place
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thankful is such an
art. It is not so easy
as we think. Life is
immaculate and so
has to be appreciation.
to place. And people come. Boy, do people come. They want to hear. Some people come for a big philosophical discussion. Some people come to see what it's all about. And all I have to say is so utterly simple. I'm saying, look, of all the places you could go and all the things you could be, there you are. And you are what you are. Realize in that what that Creator, what that Maker, has accomplished by creating you. Because something has been accbmp]ished. And the rest is an open book.
The goals we set
A few days ago, in fact till December 9th, I was in a conference. Anyway, on the 9th I was completely under the impression that I was going to
be thirty years old. And I was thinking to myself, you know, "My God, that's a big event, thirty years. I mean, thirty years in this world." And I'm not the sort of person who says, "Well now, what are you going to do for the next thirty?" But more like, "This is it. I'm going to be thirty years old. And it's been good, it's been fun. A lot of changes, a lot of ideas, a lot of growing up." And you realize that you grow up more in the second thirty than in the first thirty. And that you grow up in the last thirty more than you grow up in the first thirty or the second thirty, all put together. And what does thirty years mean? Well, when I was one year old I had no idea I was one year old. It didn't mean anything. In India they don't really
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have this ritual of cake and candles and anything. I remember I was ten or eleven years old before I had a cake. The attitude is, so it's your birthday? It just so happens you were born on that day, and that's it: no special celebration, no special anything.
But now, here comes thirty years. And you look back and think, "What have I been doing with my life?" But then I said to myself, "No, it's not a matter of what I've been doing, but of something that has been happening for thirty years." I discounted the first few because I didn't have the awareness to remember what happened. And my feeling was, "My goodness, thirty of them have gone. One less to go." Whatever. I was thinking all these things and then, of course, I had to go to the conference, so I put it out of my mind.
And then, all of a sudden, that evening, I was told, "You're only 29." And I was. I didn't know what to make of that. I mean, all of a sudden I'd gained a year. One whole year, just like that, because I was convinced I was thirty. And now I have a whole extra year to live and think about what it's going to be like when I get to thirty!
What I'm getting at is that we often think in these terms:
"Another day to go. Another year to live. Another this, another that. I've got to do this, I've got to do that." But let's stop for a moment. Step back. Think. Organise. And then proceed. Proceed on to those goals which we establish. Which we set. Which we have been given. To use those tools and experience what we have been given to experience. A simplicity. A joy. A joy that nobody could ever think could be so joyous. A life.
It's amazing. You know, we do all these things, we have our friends and we have our good deeds and bad deeds and this went right and that went wrong, and all our decisions. And you get one day when everything will be very clear to you. One day. On that day you know exactly who is your friend, who is not your friend, if everything you did was right, if everything you did was wrong. You will know, absolutely. Guaranteed. That's the day you go. So, it's like a game. Before that, it's all speculative. One day you will finally find out, but after that you can't do anything about it. Nothing.
And to me, that is just the way it should be. Yes. We always like our life to be on the table, every card flippe2A little suspense is what we can't stand. The ultimate turmoil of
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"Am I happy?" Or, "Could I be happier?" is what you're caught in, between the rock and the hard place. And that's where the only tools you have are the faith, the belief, and to know. To know, by yourself. And that is what's so beautiful about what we're talking about, about what that experience brings us, about that Knowledge that allows us to open those doors for ourselves, and to walk through and see what we want to see and feel what we want to feel and realize what we want to realize and enjoy what we want to enjoy. Not somebody telling us what we need to enjoy. For too long people have set the table. For too long everybody else in our lives comes together and says, "That's the definition of happiness, by the way." Everybody else. They're the same people standing under the coconut tree, wondering what the purpose is. Again and again and again and again.
This festival of life!
This is a beautiful moment for all of us, when we can be here, together. And this is being linked to something like twenty-one or twenty-two cities within the U.S. We have people here from forty-eight countries who were in the International Organisers' Conference where forty eight countries were represented. It's amazing to see everything coming together. Slowing but surely everything having its purpose, its definition. And nobody's defining it. Step by step, for the first time in a long, long, long time, forty-eight countries came. And what did we talk about? We talked about how everything can be done so much better. Where everybody can benefit so much more from my visits and from what they have been given. So that everybody around the world can participate in this festival of life. Nobody excluded and no reason ever to exclude anybody.
I also today have some statistics which I just finished compiling. You may be wondering what has happened. I mean, really, our push came in '85. In '85 it was a matter of, "Okay, let's get it together." There were too many people standing outside the place going, "Am I supposed to enjoy this celebration of life or not?" Sitting there wondering, "Should I? Shouldn't I!
It reminded me of a really old story I used to tell. There was this guy who went to a fair, and he came across a booth where the guy was saying, "Look, I have this fantastic powder and all you have to do is brush your teeth with it once and it will take all the stains away. All you have to do is just brush with it
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once and all the stains will be gone." And he would call people from the audience and say, "Try this powder. Try it." People would, and sure enough, their teeth would be shining bright. Now, this guy's teeth were definitely in bad shape and he thought, "Hmm. I definitely need to buy this." So he stood there with twenty cents in his hands, you know, a dime and a dime, and he would go like this with his hand, saying, "Should I buy it? Shouldn't I buy it? Should I buy it? Shouldn't I buy it?" And as he did it he would just rub the two dimes together. Finally everybody bought theirs and left. And there he was, "Should I buy it? Shouldn't I 'buy it? Should I buy it? Shouldn't I buy it?" There was only one bottle left and he finally decided, "Well, I should." And he said, "Oh, okay, I'll buy it." And he threw the two dimes on the table. The guy picked them up and said, "They're no good. You rubbed them clean off. They're not worth anything any more."
Sometimes we think we've got all the time in the world to appreciate this experience. And then one day you make up your mind, you realize you should do it, and you say, "Okay, I'm ready." But then somebody comes knocking on the door and says, "Well, let's go. It's time to go."
So much more to do!
We have so much more to do. So far only 36 countries have been visited and yet we know that 48 countries were represented at the Conference. I have been offered invitations to go to many more countries in which there are a lot of people and where the interest is amazing. In fact, one of the instructors who was in the Ivory Coast stopped off in Senegal just to check out the scene. Ninety people came to her meeting, from all religions, all walks of life. And never before had any activity been done there. After that she left a phone number and people just kept calling and calling and calling.
And to me it becomes very obvious that we have to make a sincere effort to reach those people not living in those 36 countries already visited. Because there is amazing potential. And I'm glad to say all over the world, everywhere, I'm trying to reach everyone. Last year there were 209 events in 94 cities. There are about 320 instructors as of right now, and around the world, approximately 21,000 people received the Knowledge this year alone to date. It isn't a very stunning figure, but it's with quality, and that's what counts. Not "The more the merrier", but
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with a lot of quality. Next year I'm looking forward to attending a lot of Instructor Conferences. One is already scheduled in South America, we need to do them in Europe, in Africa, in the North and South Pacific, and of Indian region, and of course I think it's looking good for one in the Untied States. We need more instructors. We need to go to more places. You see, once you have touched 959,121 people, you've got to go and say "Hello" to them again, as well as seeing all the others who still have to be reached.
It's not growing because there is an ambition for it to grow but because the people who hear about it want it to grow. It's always amazing whenever I go to Ecuador. They just let anybody come whether the people have Knowledge or not. One day I was there and those wanting to be instructors were supposed to show up the next morning. And a whole bunch of people showed up who didn't even have Knowledge and they wanted to be instructors. They were serious. They just said, "What do we have to do?" There's just a wonderful enthusiasm for it and for that growth. So I hope that all of you keep in mind the true spirit that prevails in all of our hearts. I know that Christmas is in the air everywhere. Somebody, one of the people that came from one of the countries, started flipping through the TV channels on Sunday morning. And the only comment they had that day they had never seen American television – was "Oh, my God, God's for sale here." And I can understand why they felt that.
The spirit of Christmas
A lot's going to be happening this Christmas. Already the speculation of the businessmen is, "How is this Christmas going to be? How many Father Christmases are we going to need? How many elves are we going to need?" And all based on computer projections.
But let me tell you the true spirit of Christmas is that spirit that lasts all the time. Sometimes people want to call it the spirit of Christmas. Sometimes they don't want to call it the spirit of Christmas. In some countries they don't even believe in Christmas. But there is the spirit there just the same. It doesn't have to have any name. It doesn't need any name. It is the spirit of life. And it is demanding, it is insisting, that we enjoy it.
I think we are truly fortunate to be just a part of this life.
Thank you very much and I hope that you enjoy yourself for the rest of this evening. And enjoy yourself for the rest of the days of your life.
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