The father of India's first nuclear bomb, the architect of our sophisticated space and missile technology, and a rare scientist whose vision to develop society upon the foundation of values, the 70-year-old Bharat Ratna, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam came calling upon HDH Pramukh Swami Maharaj, with his fellow scientist, Y.S. Rajan, Scientific Secretary to the Government of India and Executive Director of the Technology, Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council. They sought blessings and guidance for Vision 2020. This special meeting on 30 June 2001 turned out to be a beautiful fusion of science and spirituality. Some illuminating sparks have been compiled from the hour-long session of questions and answers.
Abdul Kalam: Swamiji, India had the vision, since 1857, for Independence. It took ninety years to get freedom. At that time the whole nation, the young and old, had united to get freedom. Our first goal was to acquire Independence. Swamiji we are thinking, what is or what can be such a vision now? Since the last 50 years, India is a developing country. It means economically it is not strong, socially it is not stable, security is not enough... that is called a developing country. Five hundred members like me are thinking, what should be the next vision for India? How do we transform a developing country into a developed country in the next 30 years. We have identified five important areas to transform India: Education & Healthcare, Agriculture, Information & Commu-nication, Infrastructure and Critical Technology.
Swamiji, our problem is that we may present this before the Government, but how do we create people with values to carry out such a big vision. What we need is a cadre of value-based citizens. For this you are an expert. We need your advice.
Swamiji: Along with these five, add a sixth - faith in God and developing people through spirituality. This is very important. We need to first generate a moral and spiritual atmosphere. Unlike the present system and climate of crime and corruption, we need to raise people who live by the laws of the scriptures and bear faith in God. For this we need to rekindle faith in our scriptures and God. This will make things easier. Questions will be solved and we shall be able to achieve what we dream.
Abdul Kalam: Swamiji, for carrying forward such a big vision of transforming India , should we first create a spiritual tradition, make people spiritual and then embark upon our vision, or focus on one of the important areas like education or health? Or should we integrate everything and begin simultaneously?
Swamiji: Simultaneously. Work in the five fields you have identified for the country's progress should be continued and together with it this should be parallely incorporated. Our culture teaches us to learn both Para (spiritual) and Apara (worldly) vidya (knowledge). Therefore, together with knowledge of the Apara, one should learn the Para as well. If one learns this then Apara- worldly knowledge will become founded on dharma and spirituality.The goal behind God's creation of the universes is that every person, every soul attains bliss. For this, together with knowledge of His creation, He has given the knowledge of Himself. So, together with this worldly knowledge, knowledge given by God - spirituality is equally necessary.
Abdul Kalam: To realise this great dream, three types of people are needed - punya atma (virtuous people), punya neta (virtuous leaders) and punya adhikari (virtuous officers). If the population of all the three increase in our society, then India would become the jagadguru (world leader). How can their numbers be increased?
Swamiji: Together with your academic and scientific efforts, give spiritual training in our schools and colleges. Nowadays, spiritual education has been removed from schools and colleges. That which should be received from infancy is not being given and we continue to teach mere academic knowledge only. But from the beginning, right from birth, people should be taught values, only then will people become virtuous. From the cradle, such values should be inspired. In the education syllabus, knowledge of our scriptures and great sadhus and sages should be given. Such a system will help produce virtuous people. The virtuous social, spiritual and political leaders we see today have attained their values from the very beginning. In the past, such values were taught in our gurukul system of education. Whether a prince or a pauper, everyone studied together. Along with academics, lessons such as: satyam vada (speak the truth), dharmam chara (tread the path of righteousness), service towards others and faith in God, were taught.
Abdul Kalam: Swamiji, what a pity good citizens are not produced by the laws of the Government. They are created only by Swamijis like you. Can you preach to families that upto the age of 15, parents should take interest in their children and inspire values in them. Similarly, in all elementary schools, teachers should also teach values to their pupils. But if we miss this age of 15 of instilling values by father, mother and teacher, then the Government can not produce good honest citizens. Is my understanding correct?
Swamiji: Yes, it's true. It's definitely true. We've been saying this from the very beginning that values should be taught by parents at home, teachers at school and the guru in life.
Abdul Kalam: Swamiji, when I first launched a rocket it failed and I became very depressed and disheartened. At that time I thought about becoming a sannyasi, and give up everything. (In this context, one sadhu added, “Dr. Kalam studies the Gita. Reads it every day, and has tremendous patriotism.”)
Swamiji: Because he posseses such noble thoughts, such patriotism is but natural. That's why we say, if spiritual knowledge is given from the beginning, love and pride for one's country, society and dharma is a natural result. However, spiritual values should form the foundations.
(The grand plans for the Akshardham Complex in New Delhi were explained. While seeing them, Dr. Kalam was himself filled with pride.)
Abdul Kalam: People should see this monument and realise that India is not weak, but is an extremely powerful and cultured country.
(Then with the mention of Indian Culture flourishing along the banks of river Saraswati, Abdul Kalam suddenly asked...)
Abdul Kalam: Do you feel the Saraswati river was existing?
Swamiji: It exists. It is written in our scriptures that it exists.
Abdul Kalam: India was a rich country. Economically it was rich, culturally it was rich. My mind always asks a question, for 3,000 years India has been invaded again and again, but not once has India invaded others. Why?
Swamiji: It is the virtue of God. A divine quality- not to take another's. And not to forcibly usurp. Not to hurt or harass others.
Abdul Kalam: Spiritual strength is important. And alongwith this, if we have financial strength, we will not remain poor. A combination of both is necessary. Seeing what you will present here (in Akshardham) should inspire the children of India to adore their culture and dedicate themselves to the country. They should contribute to bring our country forward. I have authored a book in which I have written about these two factors - that the progress of the country should be based on spiritual and financial strength. And to achieve both, there is only one answer - sweat! Hard work is a must.
Swamiji: We often say, ‘Human effort and God's grace.’ Even failure of the first rocket which you faced was for your good, it prodded you to make things better. The way you have worked, for the invention of the rocket brought success. God has ultimately given you success.
Abdul Kalam: For India's development, I wish to establish a trust - Vision 2020. I seek your blessings for this.
Swamiji: God's blessings are already upon you. I shall pray that your ideas are successfully realised. May India prosper both spiritually and economically. What I wish to say is that the stronger the spiritual wealth, the stronger will become all other forms of wealth. If you increase material wealth alone then man will be lost in luxury and worldly pleasures. Spirituality will guide him back, help him retract from mundane indulgences. In reality, we rarely provide what is really needed. We provide everything to man - clothes, food, drinks... economic needs - but with all this we should also provide spiritual wealth. Man should be given what is necessary. Clothes, food and other things are necessities. But by surplus wealth, merely more and more of everything, man loses control... when man gains extra money and power, more than what is necessary, then he invites ruin, restlessness and destruction.
Abdul Kalam: I've visited ‘Akshardham’ in Gandhinagar and now seen the plans for another ‘Akshardham’ in Delhi. All this has given me one single thought - that you, only you can produce one lakh (100,000) virtuous, cultured youths every year. Only you can do this.
Swamiji: It is our guru Yogiji Maharaj's wish to produce such youths. Accordingly, we are channelising our efforts and training children, teenagers and youths all over the world.
At the end of the meeting, Swamiji said, “It’s good that you’ve come here today. It's given us much joy. The rishis (sages) of the past have also given us science. You, too, are a rishi. In the past, rishis were householders. They used to keep long locks of hair on their head (pointing to Dr. Kalam’s long hair). They lived simply, like you. You have achieved such a high post, yet your life is simple. Pure. Somebody else in your position wouldn't care to listen to others. The rishis also kept long beards (pointing to Y.S. Rajan's long beard) and hair. They gave knowledge of the Vedas and Upanishads - what we call Para knowledge. You two are both rishis. Blend spirtuality to your science and research to ultimately help mankind. Through physical experiments you have discovered things, and our ancient rishis discovered things through the spiritual power of the soul and God. Your dedication lies in your field, and their devotion to God gave them spiritual powers. All this is amply described in our scriptures.”
Swamishri remained seated in the meeting hall while Dr. Kalam and Y.S.Rajan were ushered into the next room for dinner. The sadhus gathered around Swamiji. When they described Dr. Kalam's simple lifestyle, Swamiji, spontaneously said, “He is not bothered about anything else. He is engrossed in his work. He has dived deep into science. Dr. Minochar Modi, who often treated Yogiji Maharaj, would forget to eat or drink when engrossed in his reading. He said that one day, his wife came and told him, ‘Why are you just reading and reading? Don't you even care for eating?’ Such people are not concerned about food and drink. They only pursue the work they want to achieve. Similarly, we want to attain God, so we should not deviate here and there and become attached to other things. Yogiji Maharaj has told us to be aware of this. Do everything, do a world of activities, but remain focussed on God. If you deviate from this, then you'll fall. And then you'll suffer misery and face difficulties. You'll become frustrated. We are out to attain God, so don't glance hither or thither, just fix your vision solely upon God.”