I remember a man who came here a very long time ago, to stand as a candidate for the government. It so happened that he was introduced to me because they wanted my opinion of him, and so he asked me questions about the Ashram and the life we lead here, and about what I considered to be an indispensable discipline for life. This man used to smoke the whole day and drank much more than was necessary, and so he complained, you see, that he was often tired and sometimes could not control himself. I told him, “You know, first of all, you must stop smoking and you must stop drinking.” He looked at me with an unbelievable bewilderment and said, “But then, if one doesn’t either smoke or drink, it is not worth living!” I told him, “If you are still at that stage, it is no use saying anything more.”
And this is much more frequent than one thinks. To us it seems absurd, for we have something else which is of course more interesting than smoking and drinking. But for ordinary men the satisfaction of their desires is the very reason for existence. For them it seems to be an affirmation of their independence and their purpose in life. And it is simply a perversion, a deformation which is a denial of the life-instinct, it is an unhealthy interference of thought and vital impulse in physical life. It is an unhealthy impulse which does not usually exist even in animals. In this case, instinct in animals is infinitely more reasonable than human instinct — which, besides, doesn’t exist any more, which has been replaced by a very perverted impulse.
Perversion is a human disease, it occurs very rarely in animals, and then only in animals which have come close to man and therefore have been contaminated by his perversion.
There is a story about some officers in North Africa — in Algeria — who had adopted a monkey. The monkey lived with them and one day at dinner they had a grotesque idea and gave the monkey something to drink. They gave it alcohol. The monkey first saw the others drink, this seemed to it something quite interesting, and it drank a glass, a full glass of wine. Afterwards it was ill, as ill as could be, it rolled under the table with all kinds of pains and was really in a very bad condition, that is, it gave the men an example of the spontaneous effect of alcohol when the physical nature is not already perverted. It nearly died of poisoning. It recovered. And some time later it was again allowed to come for dinner as it was all right, and somebody placed a glass of wine in front of it. It picked it up in a terrible rage and flung it at the head of the man who had given the glass… By that it showed that it was much wiser than the men!
It is a good thing to begin to learn at an early age that to lead an efficient life and obtain from one’s body the maximum it is able to give, reason must be the master of the house. And it is not a question of yoga or higher realisation, it is something which should be taught everywhere, in every school, every family, every home: man was made to be a mental being, and merely to be a man — we are not speaking of anything else, we are speaking only of being a man — life must be dominated by reason and not by vital impulses. This should be taught to all children from their infancy.
8 May 1957