‘I am an instrument,chiselled for different things’

Jaswant Singh,has served seven terms in Parliament and held charge of six ministries in BJP-led governments

Written by Nadine Kreisberger | Published:March 29, 2009 11:53 am


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Jaswant Singh,has served seven terms in Parliament and held charge of six ministries in BJP-led governments,including finance,external affairs and defence

What does spirituality mean to you?
Is it a yearning,a direction,a search? A distillation of who and what we are,of what and why this is all about,knowing it is not only about you or me?
It certainly is apart from physicality. And it is very different from organized rituals or religion.

It refers to the spirit. There is no shape or form to it. You cannot capture it. It is like a fragrance,a perfume. If you try to photograph it,you won’t be able to capture it. The moment you try,it will escape you.
So I cannot answer what is spirituality. If I could define it in words,I would not have to do all this. All this would be a waste of time.

So all this is a search?
Of course it is. This question has inspired the search of human beings ever since they started thinking. I cite Saint Augustine,who in his “Confessions” remarked: “I do not even know what I do not know”. And I am still searching.

This search has not led to answers yet?
Search is like the horizon. And there is an Arabic saying,“once the house is built,the decline starts” — once the search is complete,life ends.

Is the search destined or rather about chance,“coincidences”?
What is a coincidence? Co-incidence. Why should two incidents come together? We attempt to explain here what is beyond human intellect through the inadequate mechanism of human intellect. So you have to submit,you have to accept.
How does one react to beauty for instance? You have to submit to beauty. You cannot conquer it. And if you have to experience it,you do not experience it through dictating. There is a very fine Sanskrit shlok,“in accordance to the inherent laws of Nature,things happen”. Those who are arrogant work on the assumption that they control it.

It reminds me of a story about Ramana Maharshi,maybe the most profound practitioner of non-duality — there is no God outside of you,It is you! He was once asked if everything is in accordance to fate.
“Yes” he said.
And he further added:
“Imagine you were sitting in a train’s carriage. Another passenger carrying a suitcase on his head enters the carriage. He sits down but does not put the suitcase down on the floor. What would you say?”
“That he is a fool! said the questioner. An engine is pulling the train and its carriages,so why carry the suitcase?”
“So whoever is pulling the carriage of your life…”

You also quoted from the Quran: “in Him I have put my trust and to Him I turn penitently”
Of course I have put my trust in Him. You are part of that “Him” as I am. Who,what is that Him? There are various names of It. There is a wonderful Sanskrit quote,“I am the universe,you are Me”. It is the concept of non-duality: there is no Him outside of me.

As a child you had belief,and later on came faith,how did that happen?
I was born in very conservative,traditional circumstances. So I understood early the essence of belief. Then there were too numerous experiences. And faith gradually came. It is not that I had some sudden revelation. I have not been illuminated as some other people have. It is like water in a well — not an artesian well that suddenly erupts from the ground,but one in which the water slowly rises.

Did you ever have moments of doubt?
Yes,but not of Him,of myself. Yet I am not keen on speaking in the first person,in an autobiographical way. It is a form of self-aggrandisement. I find it arrogant and distasteful,even though politicians must live in the world of self-projection,and everyone tells me I do not do enough of it. But I cannot do which I am not. I would become so dry as a human being.

How come you are in the world of politics,of all worlds?
I won’t tell you it is “because I want to serve a great purpose”. Part of it is circumstantial,part of it is a search of one’s own self,and partly as an avenue of self-expression. I also write,I sketch a bit,I listen to music,I ride,I appreciate the fragrance of flowers,beauty and so on. Nothing is compartmentalized,it is all the flow of human personality into different channels.

So is there such a thing as a special purpose or mission to one’s life?
Of course there is. I am an instrument,chiselled for many different things. But none of it happened in a calculated way. I have not led a calculating life. My instinct has led me much more than has dry dull reasoning. Because you have to jump in order to find. Reason is quite often an impediment to instinct.

When I finished school,my father asked me what I wanted to do. I said I wished to go to university. But we had suddenly become very poor and he said he could not send me. So without telling anybody,I sought to be admitted if found fit in the military Academy. I just jumped into it. I did not serve though to be a pensioner. At some point,when in search of another avenue of self-expression,I resigned from the Army and joined politics.

Growing up in the desert,you imbibed such a sense of freedom — how could it combine with the restricting worlds of the Army and politics?
By building a very strong cocoon of privacy.

What about your unbending spirit?
It is about never giving up. In the Army for instance,I always did something slightly off the routine. As a cadet for instance,we were once in a general training camp in the jungle. Early morning,I tied a red scarf which is against the rules. As a punishment,the officer asked me to dig the latrine. Then,as we had to go up a hillside,he made me carry the heaviest weapon. He told me “you are not complaining”. I said “what is the good of complaining to you?” And I have found at times an unnatural resistance to pain.

If there was one question you could ask God,what would it be?
It would not be a question. “I am You”,so whatever I do is what You are doing. There is nothing I can ask. Give me light,that is all I would say.

If you were to be reincarnated,what would you choose?
I know there is reincarnation. And whatever my faith ordains shall be.

What is your idea of happiness?
Is it just an absence of discontent? Is it a fulfilment,as simple as having a good meal? Happiness is such a weak word. “Anand” is much more powerful. It is about the cognition of Beauty.

At times of challenges where do you find the energy,the anchor?
In myself.

You are that anchored?
Because I am anchored in Him.

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