Q: Wherever you go people seem to comment on your demeanor and about your physical appearance. Yet I know you don't practice yoga or do any exercises.
UG: I don't exercise at all. The only walking I do is from my place to the post office, which is about a half a kilometer or even a quarter of a mile away from where I live. But I used to walk a lot.
Q: I remember that twenty years ago you used to take long walks. I have read that piece of information in one of your books.
UG: I am afraid that I may have to pay a heavy price for all the walking that I did before. You know, joking apart, I am not competent enough to offer any comments on these matters. But one thing I want to assert is that for some reason this body of ours does not want to know anything or learn anything from us. No doubt we have made tremendous advances in the field of medical technology. But are they really helping the body? That is one of the basic questions that we should ask.
Q: That is the question we always have to keep asking. Can we actually help the body?
UG: I think what we are actually doing is trying to treat the symptoms of what we call a disease. But my question is, and I always throw this question at the people who are competent enough - the doctors, what is health? What is disease? Is there any such thing as disease for this body ? The body does not know that it is healthy or unhealthy. You know, we translate the `malfunctioning' [of the body] to mean that there is some imbalance in the natural rhythm of the body. Not that we know what actually is the rhythm of the body. But we are so frightened that we run to a doctor or to somebody who we think is in the know of things and can help us. We do not give a chance for the body to work out the problems created by the situation we find ourselves in. We do not give enough time for the body. But what actually is health? You are a doctor, and my question to you is, what actually is health? Does the body know, or does it have any way of knowing, that it is healthy or unhealthy?
Q: We do [know]. We translate health into the general terms of being free from having any symptoms. If I don't have a pain in my knee, then I don't have a disease there. We indulge in medical research in order to gather useful knowledge that could be applied when there is a pain in the knee.
UG: But what is pain? I am not asking a metaphysical question. To me pain is a healing process. But we do not give enough chance or opportunity to the body to heal itself or help itself, to free itself from what we call pain.
Q: You mean to say that we do not wait long enough so that the body can get rid of what we label as pain. We think pain is negative and then run here and there to get a remedy for it.
UG: We are frightened, you see. We are afraid that something terrible will happen to us.
Q: And that is where we become gullible. And this is being taken advantage of by some fakes and commercials.
UG: That is what all these commercials are taking advantage of. They are exploiting the gullibility and credulity of people. It is not that I am saying that you should not go to a doctor or take the help of medicine. I am not one of those who believe that your prayers will help the body to recover from whatever disease it has, or that God is going to be the healer. Nothing like that. Pain is part of the biological functioning of the body, and that is all there is to it. And we have to rely or depend upon the chemistry of this body, and the body always gives us a warning. In the early stages we do not pay any attention, but when it becomes too much for the body to handle, there is panic and fear. Maybe it is necessary for us to go to a person who is in the know of affairs and get a helping hand from him. That's all we can do. The patient can be given a helping hand. All treatment, whether traditional or alternative, is based upon the account of the symptoms narrated by the patient.
Q: That's right.
UG: If it is a physical problem, you see, then it is a mechanical problem.
Q: Yes, but nowadays, in the new medical school of thought, there is a tendency to tell the doctors not to listen to the patients too much and to do the tests themselves. But I think that is a mistake because if anybody knows, it's the patient who should know.
UG: But his anxiety is always coloring what he is telling you.
Q: That's true.
UG: But at the same time there is no other way than to depend upon what he is telling you. If somebody says he has this or that you have to go by what he says.
Q: But when you educate people, you give them some knowledge about how to help the body, and that would save them much anxiety when they have any pain.
UG: Do you mean to say that doctors are above all these problems? Doctors need more reassuring than others.
Q: Doctors too have pain in their knees.
UG: My advice to the doctors is that they should heal themselves first. It's so surprising that many of the heart specialists have died of heart failure.
Q: Yes, they have done some research on this. It's very interesting to learn that psychiatrists have tended to commit suicide more often than others.
UG: They do need psychiatric help.
Q: Do you know that cardiologists have more heart disease?
UG: Sure they do. There is a saying in India that the snake charmer is always bitten by a snake, and that will be his end. It's very strange. He can get away with playing with the snake for a long time, but ultimately his end is always through the bite of a cobra or some other snake.
The basic problem is that we have unfortunately divided pain into physical and psychological pain. As I see it, there is no such thing as psychological pain at all. There is only physical pain.
Q: What about people who feel they are nervous or feel they have anxiety? That is why Valium is probably the most prescribed medication in this country.
UG: It puts you to sleep. When the physical pain is unbearable and you have no way of freeing yourself from it, the body becomes unconscious. In that unconscious state, if the body still has any chance of renewing itself to function normally, it tries to help itself. If it cannot, that's the end of the story. So the pain seems more acute than what it actually is because we are linking up all these sensations of pain and giving them continuity. Otherwise the pain is not so acute as we imagine it to be. Another problem is that we don't give a chance to the body to recuperate. We just run to the corner drugstore or to a doctor and buy medicines. That's probably one of the things that is making it difficult for the body to handle its problems in its own way.
Q: When confronted with pain, the average person tries to take a shortcut.
UG: There is a shortcut because you have made tremendous progress in surgery.
Q: In fact, as you were saying, people can have injuries to their bodies from surgery or medication. Surgery sometimes makes the problem worse.
UG: All surgical corrections disturb the natural rhythm of the body. I am not for a moment saying that you should not take advantage of the tremendous strides made in the field of surgery. The basic question that we should all ask is, "What for and why are we so eager to prolong life?" Now they are saying that it is possible for us to live beyond eighty-five. The dream of living for a hundred years, which has been the goal of every Indian, has come true. Every time anyone meets you there, he blesses you by saying, "May you live for a hundred years." But so far they have not succeeded. Maybe in a few cases here and a few cases there. And in spite of the blessings of all the sages, saints, and saviors of mankind, the average age of an Indian has remained twenty-three-and-a-half years for centuries. But suddenly, I don't know why, it has jumped to fifty-three-and-odd years.
Q: What has happened there?
UG: Maybe it is because of the rich food they are eating.
Q: The death rate is also less. But people don't actually live longer in the older age-groups.
UG: We place so much importance on the statistical truths of this, that, and the other. Statistics can be used either way. Either in favor or against someone's opinion.
Q: I want to refer to a bit more personal side of you. I have had lunch with you sometimes, and you eat very little. I mean, the quantity of food you eat, when compared with the average intake of a person, is strikingly less. People are saying now that eating less food apparently increases the life span. In the case of animals they have found that out.
UG: As we grow older and older we have to reduce the quantity of the intake of food. We don't do that because our eating habits are based on nothing but pleasure. We eat for pleasure. Eating is a pleasure-seeking movement for us.
Q: There is a great variety of food that people are keen on.
UG: That is why in every television show I always make this very frivolous remark that if you like varieties of food, varieties of girls are also acceptable. That may be an antisocial activity, but it is acceptable to me - varieties of food, varieties of girls, or varieties of men. [Laughter] We eat more than what is necessary for the body. That is one of the basic things that we have to come to terms with. We don't need to eat so much food. I eat very little. I had many friends, top nutritionists, living with me as my neighbors in Chicago. For some reason, I have always been taking large quantities of cream - double cream, triple cream, clotted cream, name it. That's my basic food. They always warned me, "Look here, my good friend, we are very much interested that you should live long, but with this [eating of cream] you are going to have cholesterol problems. You will die of this, that, and the other." But I am still here, and they are all gone. I maintain that fat eats fat. [Laughter] Be that as it may, I am not recommending this [sort of diet] to anyone.
Q: I don't know whether you know the amount of calories you eat per day. It is probably something around six hundred to seven hundred calories a day.
UG: I have survived for seventy-three years you know.
Q: You are not weak. You look quite robust.
UG: It is very strange that ever since I was twenty-one my weight has remained one hundred and thirty-five pounds. It has never changed, regardless of what I eat or don't eat. That's the reason why I always emphasize, and it may sound very ridiculous to you, that you can live on sawdust and glue. The glue is just for adding flavor to the food!
Q: It is going to be very tasty sometimes....Sure....[Laughter]
UG: Instead of using curry powder or other spices you might as well use some glue. [Laughter] You know that's going too far, but nevertheless the fact does remain that those people who lived in concentration camps never had any trouble with their health.
Q: They have seen such things again and again in concentration camps. The American prisoners of war in Vietnam were healthy.
UG: Exactly. So it may sound very frivolous and ridiculous to say that, but when those people who had lived for years and years in concentration camps moved over to countries like the United States and Western Europe and ate this kind of food, they started having nothing but health problems. I am not making any generalizations from that.
Q: You don't have a food fad. But the fact is that you eat very little quantity of food.
UG: Very little, you know. But I am not recommending this food to others at all. You know there are no hard and fast rules applicable to everyone. My suggestion to all these nutritionists and doctors is that they should rethink the matter and try to look at the functioning of this human body in a different way. But that will take a lot of jettisoning of our ideas which we have taken for granted.
Q: That is clearly necessary.
UG: Very necessary. But all those people who have tremendous investment in drugs and belong to the medical associations here and everywhere in the world will naturally oppose that suggestion. We have to look at things in a different way. We have to come to terms with the basic situation that this body of ours, which is the product of thousands and thousands years of evolution, has enough intelligence to help itself survive under any circumstances. All that it is interested in is its survival and reproduction. All the cultural inputs that you have imposed on this organism have absolutely no value for this body. It really does not want to learn or know anything from us. That being the situation, all the things that we are doing to help it to live longer, happier, and healthier are only creating problems for it. How long all this can go on I really don't know.
Q: You are saying that all the things we do are in some way or other probably hindering the body from living longer, healthier, and happier. So you must leave the body alone.
UG: Yes, leave the body alone. Don't get frightened and rush here, there, and everywhere. In any case, there is no way you can conquer death at all.
Q: I get what you say. People are trying subconsciously to prevent death.
UG: Our pushing people into a value system is a very undesirable thing, you know. You want to push everybody into a value system. We never question that this value system which we have cherished for centuries may be the very thing that is responsible for our misery.
Q: Yes, that may be the very thing that is generating disease.
UG: Disease and conflict in our lives. We really don't know. Another thing I want to emphasize is that what we call identity, the `I', the `me', the `you', the `center', the `psyche', is artificially created. It does not exist at all.
Q: It is also a cultural phenomenon.
UG: Yes, it has been culturally created. We are doing everything possible to maintain that identity, whether we are asleep, awake, or dreaming. The instrument that we use to maintain this identity strengthens, fortifies, and gives continuity to it. The constant use of memory is wearing you out. We really do not know what memory is, but we are constantly using it to maintain that non-existent identity of ours.
Q: You are saying that we are constantly using our memory to remind ourselves that we are individuals.
UG: We really don't know, and nobody has come up with any definite and positive answer to the question of what memory is. You may say that it is all neurons, but there is this constant use of memory to maintain identity.
Q: Memory is a major problem now because people are literally losing it.
UG: That's what we call Alzheimer's disease; and that is going to be the fate of mankind. You may kid yourself and tell everybody that it is caused by the use of aluminum vessels and all that . . . .
Q: But why do you say that it is the fate of mankind?
UG: Because it [memory] is consuming tremendous amounts of energy.
Q: Everyone is using memory all the time neverendingly.
UG: A certain amount of the use of memory is absolutely essential; but to use it to live forever, to be fit and to be healthier, will create complications.
Q: But you have to remember to go home, and you have to use your memory for that.
UG: That is part of the living organism. That's already there. Animals have that kind of memory.
Q: Right, an animal knows how to get back to its home. But that's not the kind of memory you are talking about.
UG: No. It is that [memory which maintains our identity] that is responsible for turning us all into neurotic individuals. The constant use of that is going to be the tragedy of mankind. Because of this overuse we don't have enough energy to deal with problems of living. It is consuming tremendous amounts of energy. But there are no hard and fast rules, so much so that anybody can offer us ways and means of freeing ourselves from this danger that we are all going to face one of these days.
Q: So you are saying in a sense that memory is almost like a muscle that is wearing out. It is being worn out by constant use.
UG: Yes. I maintain that there is some neurological disorder in the nervous system.
Q: Is it in the form of a complaint that we have to remember too many numbers or store too much information?
UG: Now with the help of the computers it is easy for us to use less and less of our memory [for those purposes].
Q: You think so? But it seems that the computers somehow have made the problem even more complex. They have not really helped people.
UG: I think they have. I have a word-finder which is very helpful. There was a time when we were made to memorize dictionaries, the thesaurus of Sanskrit, and all that. But now there is no need. You just press a button, the machine says, "Searching," and a little later it tells you the meaning of the word, as well as its root meaning and spelling. It is a lot easier to use such machines than to memorize all that information. Our reliance on memory [for those purposes] will very soon be unnecessary.
Q: Well, if that could be done, that will certainly relieve us of a lot of problems.
UG: One of these days you will be out of your job!
Q: That will be fine . . . .
UG: . . . . because the computer will analyze all your symptoms and tell you what to do. And the robots will take the place of specialist-surgeons and perform operations. I suggest that you should make enough money and retire before such an event occurs. [Laughter]
Q: You said that one should look at the body entirely differently. Here they are trying to look at the pineal gland.
UG: They call that ajna chakra in India. We don't want to use those Sanskrit words.
Q: Twenty years ago they were saying in America that this gland had no use. They now find that the gland actually creates. . . .
UG: They have to revise all their opinions and ideas about these glands. Because of the constant use of memory, which is thought, to maintain identity, many of these glands which are very essential for the functioning of the living organism have remained dormant, inert, and inactive. Some people who are interested in religious things try to activate them, and feel that they are getting somewhere. But if you try to activate any of those through some techniques that you are importing from countries like India or elsewhere, it might be dangerous. They [those techniques] might shatter the whole nervous system. Instead of helping people, they might give you a `high'. One danger in playing with these glands is that we might create more problems for this body rather than to help it function normally, sanely, and intelligently. That danger is there.
Q: That [trying to activate these glands] somehow will generate a whole series of problems.
UG: Yes. Say, for example, the pituitary gland. They say (I don't know this myself) that it is responsible for the height of the body. Through manipulation or activation of that gland, you can grow taller.
Q: Exactly, you are given growth hormones.
UG: Yes, growth hormones. It's all good for the research scientists to indulge in such things, and they will be amply rewarded by the society. But we don't know whether they are really helping us. There is not enough research done on these things, and it may be highly dangerous to rush into doing something with them.
Q: What do you think about the pineal gland?
UG: That is the most important gland. That is why they called it the ajna chakra in Sanskrit.
Q: It is injured by thought, yet they are using thought to investigate it.
UG: Yes. It is injured by thought. They are not going to succeed. Probably they will use it for healing purposes or . . . .
Q: But what most people are doing is actually injuring their own pineal gland.
UG: Exactly. If it is activated in a natural way, it will take over and give directions to the functioning of this body without thought interfering all the time.
Q: So we keep coming back to this point that thought itself seems to be the enemy, the interloper.
UG: It is our enemy. Thought is a protective mechanism. It is interested in protecting itself at the expense of the living organism.
Q: You are saying that thought is the thing that causes people's worries.
UG: It's thought that is creating all our problems, and it is not the instrument to help us solve the
problems created by itself.
Go to Chapter 10