In the ancient scriptures, it is said that it was a very rare accident, and thought to be very unfortunate, if a son died before his father. And the religious people, following those scriptures, brag about it very much. Neither do they understand, nor is their idea about it what the real reason was. The real reason was that we have not been able to find any skeleton of a human being, five thousand years old, which is of a man who died at more than the age of forty. It seems forty was the highest age. If forty was the highest age, then naturally no son would die before his father. Now things are different.
An old man of ninety-five years and a woman of ninety years reached the court; they wanted a divorce. The magistrate could not believe it. He said, “How long have you been married?” They said, “We have been married at least eighty years.”
The magistrate said, “If you have managed to remain married for eighty years, what problem has arisen that now you are divorcing each other?” They said, “We always wanted to divorce, but we waited – we waited for all of our children to die, so that they would not be shocked. Now everybody is finished, and the great day has come that we can divorce.”
Just at the beginning of this century, nine out of ten children in India used to die before six months of age. Out of ten, only one survived. Now the situation is reversed – out of ten only one dies, and nine survive. Looking at the past, you cannot find anything that you can call the golden age. But almost everybody thinks that the golden age has passed long before.
People were utterly poor. The Indian scriptures say that nobody used to have locks on their doors. When I was a student, one of my professors of philosophy, Dr. S.N.L. Shrivastava mentioned it – he was a very past oriented, very orthodox and traditional Hindu – that there were no locks because there was no stealing. I said, “On that point, I disagree. I say that there were…it is a fact there were no locks, but not because there was no stealing. It was because there was nothing to steal; people were so poor. And secondly, locks were not yet discovered.”
He was very angry. I said, “It does not make any argument; your anger is not an argument. I have a few more things to support what I am saying. Gautam Buddha, Mahavira, both continually teach people that stealing is sin. If there was no stealing at all, then I don’t think that Buddha and Mahavira both would make non-stealing a foundation of their religion, or would continually preach it to people who don’t steal.”
I asked him, “You will have to prove to me that Buddha and Mahavira were mad – they were talking to people who were so religious, so spiritual – nobody was stealing, and still, continually…Buddha talked every day for forty-two years, and he was saying, ‘Don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t kill.’ These sermons make sense only if people were killing, if people were stealing, if people were lying.”
When was this golden age? In the days of Rama, Rama himself killed a sudra, an untouchable, because it was prohibited for the untouchables – the lowest of the low, the poorest of the poor, the most oppressed people on the earth – to read the Vedas. Reading was out of question because they were not allowed to be educated, but they could not listen to somebody else reading the Vedas, because that defiles the Vedas. Strange, the Vedas should purify the sudras, not vice versa.