January 6, 1993: Dialogue with a scientist – Development and spirituality

While we were in the United States, Maharaj told me he wanted me to arrange his meetings with scientists for the sake of dialogue. I hadn’t been able to arrange anything of this sort for him, and was feeling very sorry. But by his grace, when we took our seats on the plane for the flight back from New York to Delhi, I found myself sitting next to Naresh Singh, a United Nations environmental scientist working among the Caribbean countries. As we began to talk, I recognized that he was just the person to take to Maharaj.

Maharaj was sitting almost alone in the front row of the first class cabin. With his permission, I brought Naresh to him and also a young woman named Laura whom we had met on the plane. As they began talking, the conversation became so interesting that the chief steward and hostesses also gathered around to listen. Laura and I sat on the floor ahead of Maharaj’s seat, listening intently. And thus we crossed the oceans. Churchill Chadha was translating.

Naresh at Gobind Sadan’s forum in 2007

Maharaj opened the conversation by asking Naresh, “Why is there so much pollution in the world?”

Naresh replied, “There is too much consumption by the North. Only 20 percent of the earth’s population is consuming 80 percent of the world’s energy.”

Maharaj asked, “What do you think about the involvement of the poor?”

Naresh said, “Poverty causes other kinds of problems. India and China are likely to become big problems for environmental protection. They are saying they have equal rights to the lifestyles of Europe and North America. So what we are trying to do is to say to the rich West that you have to help the poor countries so we have a more equitable distribution of the world’s resources.  We are saying, ‘Give us the technology so we can produce more without pollution.’ While scientists and legal people are negotiating these things, my personal belief is that man’s attitude toward life has to change. The question is, ‘How do we make that change?’”

Maharaj responded,

My idea is that bad thoughts are polluting the world, and everything spreads. I think it is not possible to bring everyone to one level by talking. Only God can bring this change.

You must have met many kinds of people. There is a big clash of ideas. How can we develop anything unless we agree upon a goal? First we have to have ideas of kindness, of love—then automatically we change.

Naresh said, “I know and believe that. But how do we get people to follow it?”

Maharaj replied,

You have to bring those things in your own practical life before speaking. People won’t believe you otherwise. They are dyed in their own beliefs.

I myself have always had doubts from my childhood. At our farm, people used to be thieving, illiterate, with hardly anything to wear. So many people used to visit those places and give them advice, and they just laughed. I went there, said nothing–and took those worthless lands and started developing them. They used to drink bad water. We put in wells with hand pumps. They stole them. I said, “Bring more.” Because they won’t believe you until they see it. Now there is so much development there.

Once we have developed the land, we hold big feasts for the holy days of all religions there. We blessed the people, saying, “Everyone should work.” The land that we have developed was useless. Now it is better than fields in the USA.

One day a Muslim came with a hundred people from his village to work. They thanked me. I said, “I have given you nothing. God has given to me, and I have given to you.”

Naresh changed the topic, saying, “I have a personal question. I am a scientist, and I work for many governments. But I don’t feel that science can solve our problems. My problem is that I want to demonstrate myself and live the life I speak of.”

Maharaj agreed, “People won’t believe otherwise at this time.”

“I’m afraid to do so.”


“Because of the recognition I have among world scientists. Scientists recognize each other by papers they write. Second, if I start working with the common people, I have a feeling that it is too late for me since I did not start at an early age. I am pulled between this and my realization that science will not solve all problems. “

Maharaj explained,

In the beginning, you have to send a small sample. When from that small sample, you get big orders, then they spread all over the world. It is my feeling that this has to be done. I keep thinking of what is polluting the environment. It is possible that with your hard work and dedication, so many big ideas may come to your mind, and you will be very successful.

So much science has been written in Guru Granth Sahib—even the distance between the stars. Guru Nanak wrote that the universe is round. There are neither sun nor moon nor stars [as we perceive them]—they are all planets. There are millions of planets around their suns.

There is also so much science in the Vedas. Science and God are not separate. The dervish and the scientist are going on the same path. They both have a goal in their mind. Now that you are realizing and thinking of going in that direction, you are thinking that your links with scientists will break. The dervish is on the same path as the scientist who discovers electricity, TV, and so forth. The dervish tries to find God working in everything. When the saint looks with enlightenment, he can even talk with the trees and with the animals.

In the United States we met many black people. There was one professor from Africa. He had visited Gobind Sadan also. I told him he should stay. He held my hand and started crying. He said, “Babaji—we have such a place?” I said, “You are very intelligent. I have selected you.” Then he spoke into the microphone and said, “There is only one place where everyone is accepted, blacks and whites. It’s Gobind Sadan.” Why did he say that? Because he saw practical proof.

Have your goal among scientists but also work among the common people. This is the requirement of the day. I don’t think such a time has ever come before.

All these industries will start thinking. It is not that we just go and fight with those who are polluting. We have to find a way that the pollution they are spreading can be controlled. They have taken years to develop these factories. You must put in their mind the thought that all these things have also been given by God. The idea in you has also been given by God. Try to develop it. It is possible that this idea and science will grow side by side.  Don’t be afraid. It is possible that you will create even more in science.

Naresh pointed out, “The other problem is financial security for my young family.”

That’s no problem.”

Naresh persisted, “I have risen to the top of where a scientist can go. I think it looks foolish to give up such a high level job. I cannot find a way to give up the job. Working with fifteen governments, so much time is given trying to get government officials to do anything.”

Just start thinking on what I have told you today. I’m not going to impose anything on you. I’m saying that you might be very successful.”

“With this clash, I might need some guidance from time to time from a spiritual person.

Maharaj assured him,

If you start thinking in that direction, maybe God will solve your problems faster. We believe that He is very powerful.

Once it was time for sowing. Time was very short. We kept working for 70 hours at a stretch. When we left, the person with me said, “Do you know how long we were there?” I said, “I don’t know. I have my mind focused on one thing.” Then there was a great result.

God is not a source of weakness.  He is the All-pervading Power. He keeps cleaning your mind and you are always successful in your goals.

Naresh said to Churchill, “I am very impressed with Maharaj’s wisdom and his simplicity. If I want to continue to be close to him and get his guidance, will he think that is necessary or possible? How?”

Maharaj said,

When you think about God, when you have faith in Him, He gives you a lot of ways to work. The One we call God is not sitting idle. He’s not like a pujari [priest], building a name for himself. The one who thinks of kindness and charity gets these ideas from God.

God’s tastes and ideas are different from ours. We like big buildings and cars and chairs. What are God’s ideas? Ideas of love and kindness.

I told Mary I wanted to meet scientists. Here you are this morning. God is so great, and resides in everyone. These things do not happen only once, as has happened today. God is very powerful. You ask me a question and He answers, and we both learn.

In the previous life you must also have been a scientist because of the way your mind is working.

At this point, the plane encountered air turbulence. Laura and I were forced to sit in seats behind Maharaj, abandoning our prime place on the floor in front of him. We could only see Maharaj’s beautiful face and his gestures, but we couldn’t hear what he and Naresh were saying.

When the turbulence ended and we returned to sit on the floor next to Maharaj, he was speaking about the way of the prophets:

Your thinking becomes so clear that you think of something and immediately it happens. The prophet looks with the Third Eye and then speaks.

I am not worried about my body. Why? Because there is Someone Else controlling the ideas of my body. Ideas are great. The body is just a storage place for ideas.

More crew members kept gathering around and hanging over the seats to listen as the turbulence ended. Maharaj continued,

People have so much love in them. Why do they ask questions? In order to learn. I was invited to Russia when so much pollution was occurring there. We had four meetings with top-level people. They were planning with their brains. They kept asking me questions and taping my answers. Then they said, “Babaji, can you come and speak on TV?”

The director of the television programme said to Father Mark, who had arranged the meetings, “Father Mark, you know a lot about religion and a lot about the people making the policies. What do you think?” Father Mark said, “The things Babaji is saying are 101 percent true. They are written in our ancient books and are good for our country.”

They asked me to speak not briefly, but in detail, on how to put development and spirituality together. On TV, they asked me, “There are 18 crores people listening. What is your message for them?” There were two major parties, even in the old times. The staunch communists might ask, “How have you brought religion to this government?” I realized they might be afraid to bring in religion. I told them, “Gorbachev is trying to make change too fast. He hasn’t first taught the people, and he is suddenly trying to remove poverty. The people don’t realize that they have to fill the table, not the President. You have to work, throughout the country. Gorbachev has freed you, but you don’t understand.” They were amazed by what I was saying.

Naresh suddenly interjected, “May I interrupt to ask a basic question: What is the purpose of man’s life?”

Without pausing, Maharaj instantly shifted gears to reply,

The human being is an example. Guru Nanak says that among all the creatures, the human is the one who teaches how to live—how to keep the trees, how to keep the air fresh, how to keep your mind clean, how to have a right goal. Side by side, he said, “How will these things live forever? Always remain with the One Who has created everything.” Neither your mind nor the atmosphere will become polluted, but you must keep training your mind that way.

Naresh noted, “While growing up, I read both Indian and Western philosophy. What are people doing? They grow up, get educated, have a family, and die. In between they may have some problems. And that’s it. If they do good things and bad things—first, are any things good or bad?”

Maharaj replied,

All the prophets have stressed karma.

One person says, “What will happen?” He becomes nervous and has accidents. The other says, “Let’s work.” He doesn’t bring any accidents, for He is doing everything. The first person dies several times a day.

Pressing ahead in this golden opportunity, Naresh asked, “Is there such a thing as sin?”

Maharaj answered,

It is a sin to take someone’s rights, to do injustice, to not treat a person as a human. The worst thing is ego. You don’t look inside yourself and you are hurting someone else’s heart. It is good to have compassion.

Taking advantage of a momentary pause in Naresh’s barrage of questions, the Chief Steward said, “I want to have Maharaj’s full-time audience.”

Laura interjected, “Is it okay to put a time limit on God?”

Maharaj chided her, “Don’t think like that. Start serving—He’ll start helping.”

Laura said, “I feel like I have been serving. But maybe I need a change. My life has been serving handicapped children and adults. I’m a teacher. But I’d like to do something else. Is that okay?”

Maharaj, who knows us better than we know ourselves, observed,

“Your focus should be stronger. This is your biggest problem. “

“I know.”

“Sometimes it sticks its head out, and sometimes it draws it in. Your goal is like that.”

“I’ve got a lot of skills. How do I know what to do?”

Have faith and He will help you. Everyone has a way but they don’t walk on it. They just think.”

“I’m on a trip. This is a trip of faith.”

“How do you know?”

“Because I don’t have enough money, but here I am. I’m alone but I’m not afraid—most of the time. But one other thing: I have to let my school know in March if I’m coming back, but I don’t know if I’m supposed to.”

“Don’t think so much about these kinds of things. Just keep doing.”

Laura remarked to Churchill, “I appreciate him. I think we all have answers inside, but need someone to reveal them to us.”

Maharaj said, “For people who don’t have any goal, once you lift that curtain from the mind, then the goal is revealed. He is sitting inside you.”

“How to lift the curtain?”

“Go inside. Talk to Him. Close your eyes and try to be in tune with Him.”

“That’s what I call prayer.”

There’s a small difference between prayer and meditation. Prayer is to talk to God; meditation is to listen to God. Meditation is to listen; prayer is to keep saying something.”

“Thank you. I’ll meditate and pray. I’m looking forward to seeing the farm—I’m from Mennonite background. I’ll enjoy reporting back to my church what you are doing.”

Maharaj told her,

Jesus was once sitting quietly in a boat. Water started coming in. His disciples said, “Master, there is a big storm and water is filling the boat!” He said, “Have you no faith? The water and the air are under His control.” The water left the boat; the wind stopped. Then He said, “Have faith in the One who has created everything.” That is why we meditate—then you can see all these things.

Naresh rejoined the conversation with another of his life-long questions: “What happens to a person at the time of death?”

Maharaj explained,

He takes rebirth, but it is God’s wish whether he is ripe or unripe at the time of death. There is no death in God’s Light. This is what you can see when you get enlightenment. All this work is of the mind. When you focus your mind, you become a scientist or a saint. When you don’t focus your mind, you can’t do anything.

Laura asked, “Is meditation the way to focus the mind?”

“Unless you focus your mind, how can you achieve anything? The mind will keep thinking of weaker things.”

“Does Maharaj believe that people can attain anything we want to if we focus and believe in it strong enough?

Naresh answered her question, “He already told me that: I can work on both God and science at the same time.”

Maharaj clarified, “The more you develop your mind, the stronger your idea will become.”

Naresh questioned, “Sometimes I think the only way I can help is to become involved in politics.”

Maharaj replied, “It won’t work. You can’t do it alone.”

“You have to join a party, get support, to become a Minister or Prime Minister.

“If you become a Prime Minister, that’s something different. If you are in a meeting, they’ll say, ‘You can’t do it.’ Then 6 years are gone.”

“My father told me the same thing but I don’t believe him.”

“This is a good thing that you are developing your mind on this subject. In today’s world, politics is nothing—no good for you. Maybe with what you are trying to do, now the government will listen to you.”

I was very excited to hear this, because I knew that Maharaj was blessing Naresh, whether he recognized it or not. Maharaj was hiding himself, as usual. He told Naresh, “God is in everyone. Some people realize this and some don’t.”

Naresh asked, “Do people have to go into seclusion in the mountains to achieve realization?”

“Vivekananda said, ‘What is sannyas? Go to weak people and make them fearless. That is the biggest sannyas. The mountains are enjoying already, and so are the plants. Why are you going there?”

Laura asked, “So we don’t need to give up in order to serve?”

Maharaj replied, “The fact is that when you are in love with Someone, the goal is always in your mind. It becomes bigger than everything. But [without that love], even if you leave everything, go into seclusion, your mind will go back to your home.”

Laura said, “I will seclude myself with meditation.”

Maharaj told her, “That is good. Once you start loving Him, wherever you go you will serve everyone.”

Laura announced, “I have been blessed all my life.”

Maharaj responded,

A person remains happy when they know they have been blessed. You will be more blessed when you don’t say you have been blessed. Just think how many desires you have. When you are truly in love with Him, there are no desires, no wants. . . .

The scientist is a very powerful person, not a weak person. For one idea he spends his whole life. All the saints and prophets have talked a lot about science. Maybe those people who follow them may not recognize that, for people don’t read those books. There is the thought that the one who believes in science and the one who believes in God are separate. If they can keep the scripture between them, they will see that they are the same. Scientists have got the real meaning of God, but you people don’t understand. There is a lot in those holy books.

Naresh noted, “Now the most advanced research in science—quantum physics—is showing that science and religion are the same. The same things that were taught as the cosmic dance of Shiva, for instance, are the motion of electrons in the atoms that constitute matter, and are now being interpreted in the same way as the classical philosophies of Hinduism. I read those books to keep in touch on developments in that field. As we are talking again about science, I am a natural scientist, so I study Nature. But the problems we have in Nature are caused by human society. In human society, there are certain practices which are different from what we see in Nature. For instance, man marries one woman. In Nature, animals do not restrict themselves one mate to one mate. Why is it then considered immoral for a person to have more than one partner, if it’s not wrong in Nature?

Maharaj cautioned,

Think of this point very seriously: One thing that has been kept in our brains is that neither can a man tolerate his wife’s living with another man, nor can she tolerate his living with another woman. This is natural, too.

Naresh marveled, “These questions are very difficult for us, but so simple for him. How does he know these things?”

Maharaj replied, “Even I don’t know!”

“How have you achieved this level of realization?”

Maharaj explained,

I have loved Him who is the Creator of the whole universe. When you ask me a question, He knows. He has given you the question, and He is going to answer it.

Naresh said, “When I have a difficult question in my laboratory, I will call you.”

“I have faith that you will get the answers.”

Laura asked, “Is there a purpose in the lives of autistic children who can’t communicate?”

“There is nothing without purpose. Everything is born because it has some purpose in life.”

Afterward, looking back over this extraordinary exchange, Maharaj said to us,

“Man is like a wax mold. He is not like a stone that won’t melt in God’s love. If you listen from your heart, then you will have faith.”

By Maharaj’s blessings, Naresh has continued to rise professionally and has indeed made empowerment of the poor the hallmark of his career.  In 2007, when he was the Keynote Speaker at Gobind Sadan’s Forum on “Enlightened Development: Making Capitalism Inclusive,” he was the Executive Director of UNDP’s High Level Commission for the Legal Empowerment of the Poor. Looking back to this dialogue on the plane in 1993, which was followed by many more visits to Maharaj Ji, Naresh said,

In coming to Baba Virsa Singh 14 years ago, what little I have learned along the way is that we become mere instruments for a higher energy that works through us to make change that we desire to have. I’ve learnt that it is not I or we who are the agents of that change, but rather we are the vessels and the channels through which that change is made. . . . The “work is worship” approach pioneered by Babaji at Gobind Sadan is the spiritual soulmate of my work.