It was Thursday, May 23 1996. After work I was returning home riding the train. I was reading intently the latest issue of Sanathana Sarathi (April, 1996). I was oblivious to the surroundings. Suddenly a gentleman, a passenger, from behind, asked: "Are you reading a Hindu religious book?" I replied: "No. It is a monthly and it does not deal with Hinduism, it deals with humanism.” He observed: "Such journals should be available in U.S.A." I continued: "You can subscribe from here, you can get an address.” I was thinking glibly that he may get interested. Out of curiosity I asked: "What is your profession?" He answered: "I teach mathematics." I asked: "Where?" And he politely mentioned: "I teach in Harvard, MIT, Brandeis. I teach when I have something to teach." I was impressed. I was still dazed and I continued: "Mathematics would have a close relationship with philosophy.” He seemed to agree. At the next suburban station, he turned to me and said: "This is my stop.” I did not pay much attention and said "Thanks.”
Well, he did not get down! He accompanied me to the terminus (Alewife). We got down together and walked several steps together. We continued the conversation. He finally mentioned, "Please open the page you were reading in the train.” I opened it and he pointed to Swami's declaration: (p.97)
"Sathya and Dharma are the two rails on which the locomotive of the nation runs; when Sathya is given up, chaos prevails; when Dharma (righteousness) is discarded, might becomes right."
"Unfortunately India today is affected by consequences of seven grievous sins.
1. Business without morality (2) Politics without principle (3) Education without character (4) Worship without sacrifice (5) Acquisition of wealth without hard work (6) Human existence without regard for ancient Scriptures (7)Devotion without austerity."
Immediately he said rather forcefully: "Let me add", and he added in Swami's inimitable style:
1. Money is less important than honour;
2. Honour is less important than life;
3. Life is less important than thought;
4. Thought is less important than freedom!
"Let me add" I said: "You mean not freedom, you mean liberation.” He said: "No. freedom.” And he turned back, walked a few paces, and disappeared. I could not believe it.
Such a thing has not happened in years. I could not sleep the whole night, yet in the morning I was still fresh. The message in the four lines composed impromptu was important for me. I could read a special meaning into them during the night.
All professionals care more for honour than for monetary rewards but they neglect life, theirs and of those around them. They may tend to be oblivious to the humanness or human element while engaged in their profession. Besides, in their pursuit of perfection they tend to regard others less knowledgeable as less worthy. They then become unmindful of the purpose of life on this planet, viz., to realize the Self that is beyond senses, the mind and the intellect. Their narrow pursuit often results in pride and frustration. Ego rides over them. The word freedom is pertinent. Swami has emphasized it in His discourses to students. Students claim they are free or they deserve freedom. Swami reminds them, "You are not free, you are bonded slaves to your senses. Till that bondage is got rid of, you are not free.” Good thoughts are valuable for the individual and they make a precious contribution to the welfare of society. But such good thoughts can be bondage if viewed and pursued rigidly.