The Tea Quake
The British Legacy
The British may have left India, but every morning brings a jarring reminder of their continued rule over India. It’s tea; the ‘slow poison’ drink that is their post-independence legacy.
Tea is alien to the original Vedic culture. The British started extensive tea-fields in India to meet the demands of the Western market. Once the Western demand was met, they realized that their profits could be multiplied manifold if they could generate a local market. So through economic coercion (the government held all the tax strings) and false propaganda (the innate inferiority complex of the Indians of that time made them only too ready to imitate anything Western), they hooked the Indians to tea. And the vested interests of the tea barons have ensured the perpetuation and proliferation of this useless addiction.
In this article, let us take the example of this almost ubiquitous beverage and analyze what it represents.
“My Dear Tea…”
Mr. Armchair Critic sits on his easy chair in the morning, sipping a cup of tea and reading the newspaper, “O my God, 5,000 people killed and 1000 crore worth property destroyed in Gujarat earthquake!” In the same breath, he calls out, “Ramu, get one more cup of tea; make sure it’s hot and sweet.”
Here’s hypocrisy at its best (or worst, depending on how you look at it). How? Let’s do a simple analysis.
Statistics indicate that the population of India exceeds 100 crores. At least 25 crore people drink 2 cups of tea everyday. If each cup of tea costs Rs 2.5, India spends Rs 125 crores just on tea everyday. So if Indians stop drinking tea for just 8 days, it can compensate for the entire quake loss. In other words, the seemingly harmless tea cup causes a devastating quake in the national revenues that takes a toll of Rs 1000 crores every 8 days.
If some prefer coffee instead of tea, that’s even more expensive. And if its soft drinks, that hurts the economy even more.
Apart from the loss of money, just imagine if all the hundreds of acres of land now devoted to cultivation of tea, coffee and the like were utilized for cultivating food-grains; our hunger and starvation problem could be eliminated from the root.
And there’s more in store – the health costs involved. The injurious effects of nicotine present in tea, caffeine present in coffee and several ingredients present in soft drinks have all been well-documented by health experts. And needless to say, they have been equally well pushed under the carpet and kept away form the public eye by the powers that be.
Our financial woes explained in a nutshell: “A tea cup a day keeps economic health away.”
The foregoing analysis may be quite startling for some of you, but the point to note here is that often our casual indulgences end up causing as much scarcity and suffering as do devastating natural calamities. Tea is just a representative of our many apparently harmless indulgences, which on a little analysis turn out to be not just superfluous, but also dangerous.
“It Peps Me Up”
Just about everyone who drinks tea knows that it has hardly any nutrition value. And yet everyone keeps drinking it. Why? “It stimulates my brain to work better. In a day full of dreary, burdensome work, the tea-break is practically the only thing to look forward to. It helps me cope with problems better. So what’s wrong?” Not only for tea, but for many such obviously superfluous activities like smoking, drinking, etc., and even for most of the hobbies that people nurture like gardening, stamp collecting, reading mundane fiction literature, watching movies, listening to mundane music, and so on and on, this is the typical answer one generally gets.
The Vedic scriptures propose a radically different approach to problem management: “Instead of temporarily forgetting the problems in a tea-induced hallucination, find out fundamentally why the problems are there and tackle them at the root level.” Tea doesn’t solve the problem; it only puts people into a temporary illusion of forgetfulness. And as the clock ticks on inexorably, both their problems and their bodily systems worsen. Undaunted, they keep gulping down tea and keep trying to forget the reality – till death destroys the illusion.
When Painkillers Replace Medicines
An analogy from medicine will make the pernicious effects of tea and the like more clear. When a patient has acute pain, the medicines alone may not provide immediate relief; they may take time to cure the disease. So the patient is given some painkillers to numb himself to the pain. Now suppose he thinks, “The painkillers are what relieve my pain; the medicines do nothing.” And he starts taking just the painkillers and avoids the medicines. What is the result? Due to the temporary cessation of pain, he lives happily in an illusion of good health. But without his knowledge, the disease is devouring him from within. And one day, even the painkillers stop working. But by then it’s likely to be too late.
The Vedic scriptures explain that:
- The disease of all living beings in the material world is ignorance of their real identity. The direct symptom of this disease is the feeling of incompleteness, the feeling of a lack of real happiness that everyone in the world experiences time and again.
- The process of devotional service is the medicine for this disease; it awakens the living being to his actual identity as a spiritual being – a beloved child of the Supreme Lord. Once he is reinstated in his original identity, the soul relishes eternal ecstasy in loving service to God. That is his healthy state.
- Material enjoyment is the painkiller, which helps to temporarily cover the pain of the disease of ignorance. So it is allowed by the scriptures; but only in a strictly regulated way so that it does not interfere with the real treatment of devotional service.
But the modern intelligentsia declares that taking the painkiller (material enjoyment) is the goal of life! And that taking the medicine (performing devotional service) is an unnecessary waste of time, meant for those sentimentalists who can’t do anything better!
A tragically myopic view of life, to say the very least. What is its consequence? The masses, being addicted to bodily pleasures of which tea is a mild representative, live in the illusion of well-being. They sip their cups of tea and think themselves much more intelligent than the genuine spiritualists who engage in devotional service. And they drag on in a meaningless, mundane, vegetable-like existence. Till they are tortured by old age, tormented by disease and finally terminated by death. Only to take birth again – to continue drinking tea and suffering old age, disease and death. And the cycle goes on.
“But the tea industry provides much-needed employment to so many people.” That’s like saying that pick-pocketing provides employment to so many people. The pick-pocketing industry plunders people of their hard-earned money. The tea industry basically does the same. Once the people in the tea industry understand the great harm they are doing to society, they will naturally look for and find other forms of employment.
Of course, the ad industry by its awesome power fools people into thinking that they are being modern and trendy while they are actually being stripped of their hard-earned money. An inside secret of the ad industry – the key to successful advertising: “The best ad is that which can sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo.” Nice to hear and laugh, but in simple language, it means that the best ad is the one which cheats the most. Cheating – isn’t that what the ad industry is mostly about? Are there any ads for rice, wheat and other necessities? Rarely, if at all. The things that are advertised most aggressively are those which no one actually needs. Through a series of moving optical illusions, the masses are made to think that they can’t live without such things. And thus they are plundered – willingly. The entire tea business is a glaring example of such open robbery.
Why don’t we learn all these things in our schools and colleges? Could it be because the powers that be want us to stay in ignorance so that they can continue exploiting us? Although in one sense this entire racket is so obvious, the whole system programs us to think in such a way that we just can’t perceive the obvious. Common sense thus becomes conspicuously uncommon.
Is there any way out of this whole mess?
A Recipe For Wisdom
The world’s greatest masterpiece of philosophical wisdom, the Bhagavad-Gita (10.10) gives a remarkably simple recipe for getting both pragmatic common sense and profound philosophical wisdom. The Lord is the source of all common sense (aned all uncommon sense and all super sense too). When a living being engages in the devotional service of the Lord, the Lord gives him intelligence from within. Equipped with this intelligence, the living being can see things as they are. He thus becomes a genuine intellectual acting for the true welfare of his own self and of the whole world.
In the present age, devotional service can be performed very easily through mantra meditation – through the repeated chanting of the maha-mantra (the great chant for deliverance).
The Holy Name is the inner light which opens the eyes of the chanter to the reality of the world he is currently living in. It also reveals the higher realms of reality where he actually belongs. And, most importantly, it bestows him with the dynamic intelligence by which he can live in this world as a champion of truth and ultimately achieve the ultimate truth – the kingdom of God.
Mantra Meditation has worked for countless millions of people throughout history. And it is working for millions of people all around the globe even today. Why not give it a try?
Very good article.