It has been a well-known fact that mothers have sold their children, just for a few rupees, because they were hungry for so many days. Now, to think of a mother selling the child – maybe to a butcher – just for five rupees, just to feed herself for one day: what more indignity can there be? But you cannot blame the mother.
Parents have been known to murder their children – for the simple reason that they cannot feed them. It happens every day; almost every day in India in some corner or other girls are sold for prostitution by their own parents – of course with great sadness, with tears in their eyes and in their hearts, crying and weeping. But what else to do? There seems to be no way out.
Every day I read in the newspapers: families first throw their children into a well or into the ocean, then they jump themselves. They destroy the children first, then the mother, then the fathers themselves. Or they take poison and go to sleep.
How can you save the dignity of the poor?
Why not destroy poverty? – Because nobody says, “Save the dignity of the rich!” That will bring to a focus the whole point, that will bring you to a clear-cut perception. No pope, no shankaracharya, no ayatollah says that, “We are trying to save the dignity of the rich.” Everybody will laugh. There is no need to save the dignity of the rich. Why is there a need to save the dignity of the poor?
It is poverty that is making their life subhuman. Why not destroy poverty? Now we have the means and the methods to destroy the poverty. It is now within our hands, within our capacity. We can forgive the past and forget all about it, because I can see it was impossible for Jesus to destroy poverty. It was impossible for Buddha to destroy poverty, because there were no scientific methods available, no technology, no industry. They had to find some rationalization for the poor.
Buddha found a rationalization in past lives: because you have done wrong in past lives, that’s why you are poor. That suits, it makes it reasonable. If you have done so many sins in the past, who is going to suffer? You sow the seeds then you have to reap the crop. Nobody else is going to suffer for you, nobody can suffer on your behalf.
It looks logical. Buddha can be forgiven – because there was no other way. The poverty was there and no possibility to destroy it – at least some consolation, some comfort can be given. If it is from the past, then you have a certain rationale for it. And you have a hope also, that if you don’t commit the same kind of things now, in future either you will be born rich, a prince, a princess; or if you are really virtuous you may not need to be born at all, you will live in paradise for eternity.