On entering India, Richard (now Radhanath Swami) travelled from Firozpur to old Delhi. He unwittingly succumbed to a bhang drink, an intoxicating beverage. Still reeling under its effect, Richard realized a snake charmer had wrapped a monstrous twelve feet long and three inches thick serpent around his hips. The serpent’s face was only inches from Richard’s and he could practically feel and smell its breath. Richard’s heart pounded and his limbs trembled as the snake tightened its grip. The snake charmer demanded money and Richard didn’t have any. Richard desperately prayed and felt inner peace. Finally a sympathetic man bargained with the snake charmer and got Richard released.
This was a culture shock for Richard. Never before had he seen such a spectacle as he witnessed in India. Never before had he seen monkeys frolicking freely. The teeming crowd of millions was a never before witnessed sight for Richard. Curious to experience the food and customs of India, he unknowingly ate a red-hot chilli pepper; this was the first one Richard had ever seen or tasted. The other Indians however ate as if it was a red candy; they had no expression on their faces. Richard realized ‘one man’s food is another man’s poison.’ Radhanath Swami writes that the world is so relative; what is enjoyed by one person creates suffering for another.
Radhanath Swami has beautifully elucidated the relative nature of this world in his teachings. He offers an interesting analysis. For example if you ask a dentist, “How’s business” and he replies, “Fantastic”, what do you conclude? His prosperity is dependent on other’s dental problems. The dental problem is then called as a relative problem of this world because it isn’t a problem for all. For the dentist, dental problems in society are a blessing in disguise. Are rains problem or a boon? For an umbrella seller, rains are a benediction and he wishes it rains the whole year. A vegetable producer or a farmer could be miserable if the rains shower the whole year; his produce is then negatively affected. What about corruption, over population, unemployment and a plethora of other issues plaguing the Nation? Are they real problems affecting all or are they relative problems.
Radhanath Swami once spoke about an interview he read of a multi-millionaire industrialist from Mumbai who was asked what his heart’s deepest desire was. He wished to go to a remote village in the Northern India and relax amidst Nature and a life of minimum necessities. Radhanath Swami then asked us, “If you ask a simple villager living there what his heart-felt desire was what would be his reply?” Radhanath Swami himself answered, “I reasonably assume he would wish to make it big in Mumbai. Both men would seek to trade places for the grass is greener on the other side!!”
That’s material world for you, says Radhanath Swami. On hearing Radhanath Swami’s explanation I recall an anecdote I read in school of Emperor Darius, the king of Persia. Once, he summoned the Greeks who happened to be present at his court, and asked them what they would take to eat the dead bodies of their fathers. They replied that they would not do it for any money in the world. Later, in the presence of the Greeks, and through an interpreter, so that they could understand what was said, he asked some members of the tribe called Callatiae, who do in fact eat their parents’ dead bodies, what they would take to burn them. They uttered a cry of horror and forbade him to mention such a dreadful thing. That’s how cultures could be different!