General B.C. Joshi’s address in the Hall of Harmony on 3-2-94 at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education
COAS Address at Pondicherry
February 3, 1994
Respected Nirodda, trustees and friends, I have been asked to introduce the Chief of the Army Staff, I don’t know why I should have been picked out, one of the ashram people should have done this, but I welcomed it for another reason and I might tell you that when I joined the army more than half a century ago, the very name of the chief could produce a tremendous awe. Of course, we never saw him.
And today I have been asked to introduce the Chief of the Army Staff of a much bigger army, and for me particularly it is a matter of honour and pride because I can claim that I trained General Joshi as a cadet for his commissioning into the Indian Army more than 40 years ago. It fills one with deep emotion, I must control it.
General Joshi was no ordinary cadet. I used to keep, then, pictures of all the cadets and I tried to locate it in my papers, I couldn’t locate it but I remember one remark which was ‘this gentleman cadet will go far’. And what makes me very happy is that he has not let down my assessment of him. He was a gold medallist from the IndianMilitaryAcademy which means that he topped the list of all the cadets at that time in his course. What makes me particularly happy that he as the Army Chief has taken the initiative, formally, to introduce spirituality into the Army and who better could he have found than Sri Aurobindo and the Mother? And I am happy that our Kittu bhai has been chosen as an advisor. I wonder if I should have said our Honorary General Kittu Reddy. I am also happy that Manjula Joshi is here with us. I have no doubt in my mind that she has also played a significant and important part in General Joshi’s rising up to the pinnacle where he is now. I shouldn’t delay this more, but I request General Joshi to address us all and I might remind you that this is the first time that the Chief of the Army Staff is addressing in the Hall of Harmony and secondly, he happens to be the chief of, in my opinion, undoubtedly the finest army in the world today. So, General Joshi.
Revered organizers and administrators of this great temple of learning, distinguished residents of Pondicherry and Auroville, and my young friends:
You have done me a great honour by asking me to come and talk to you this afternoon. And the subject I have chosen to speak to you on is ‘India’s destiny beyond 2000 and our role and contribution in it. ’ Let me say that it is my firm belief that the next century is going to be India’s century. It is not something new that I am saying. That clarion call for the tryst with destiny actually originated right here, when Sri Aurobindo in the early part of this century sounded out India to get ready for its destiny. Subsequently, towards the middle of the century, the Mother reiterated it. And she continued to do so till as recently as 1970. So this is your special legacy, this is your special heritage and I believe the time has now come to redeem this pledge, to take courage in both hands and to seek out our destiny.
Dr. Kittu Reddy and I some time ago found eight manifestations which are clear for one to see that it is indeed going to be so. Subsequently I have added the ninth manifestation to it and if you are prepared to look at the country and its events with Arjuna’s eyes, the writing on the wall is clear. But if you look at it with Duryodhan’s eyes I am afraid that even a Krishna may not be able to help you.
The third thing I want to say is that this exciting challenge of the next century is a mere six years away. We must measure up to this challenge because inability or unwillingness to do so will indeed be unpardonable. Since I said you have a responsibility because this clarion call originated here, I also want to assure you that for whatever we are worth, I myself and my 1.3 million army is determined to act as a catalyst. Nobody can stop us.
I want to give you and share with you a fourfold mantra which will particularly help the young people to fulfil this charter of actually finding their destiny. It is possible that some of us who are getting on in years may not be lucky enough to give the complete yogdaan; it is also possible that some of us may not live to enjoy the fruits of this great future that awaits us. But be that as it may, nothing stops our young because your whole future is before you.
So the first ingredient of this mantra is you must pursue excellence in everything that you do, be it in word or in deed. You must seek out your opportunities, take calculated risks, and be audacious. Then only will you have joined the mainstream of this great excitement. You have to learn not only to work but you’ve got to learn to work to win. Because very often in life there is not a prize for the runners-up which is good enough to be exciting. So learn to win, learn to win the right way and there is nothing wrong with it.
The second ingredient of this mantra is that you must learn to lead from the front. Your country, your parents, your guardians have stretched their resources to put you in this great place which seeks its inspiration from absolute giants that this country has produced, so you are, in a manner of speaking born to lead; what I am suggesting is learn to lead with personal example. Seeking inspiration from your conscience, to lead from personal example upholding the path of dharma which is the path of righteousness without being self-righteous. When the cause is right and just, remember the valiant never flinch. The sine qua non of leadership basically are integrity and courage. It is possible that these words may mean different things to different people. But the litmus test of what a leader is made of is that you must never do anything out of temptation or fear which you are ashamed to admit in public. It is a very simple litmus test.
The third ingredient of this mantra is to learn the art of converting your problems into challenges to conquer, because problems only cause worry while challenges induce inspiration. Inevitably, your path in this world will be strewn with challenges. The brave never covet an easy and uninteresting life but once your attitude of mind learns to seek inspiration and treats every challenge as an exciting opportunity to get the better of it, life becomes so much more meaningful. What you need is the correct mix of work and pleasure. Remember you have to enjoy the nobility of your chosen profession. Whatever it may be each one is as important as the other. This will generate a great interest in your life. Learn to give freely because the real pleasure is in giving and very often you tend to receive in the same measure and the same proportion in which you give. Learn the exciting world of conquering challenges. And finally, learn to grow up because that itself is betterment and in a manner of speaking, further creation.
The fourth and the last ingredient of this mantra is: don’t deny yourself the great joy of living. It is my belief and honour has been first and foremost in propagating this belief that the most important purpose of life is to gain happiness. If this be the divine command you are almost defying what God ordained by giving you this human form. If you deny yourself what the French call joie de vivre. You want to grow up taking courage, accepting challenges, licking problems, helping others, living a full life and what is more, enjoying it while indulging in this kind of a dharmic activity. So my dear young friends, what I want to say to you is that the question that is begging us all is not whither goest India, India’s destiny is already charted. It will own the next century. The question that is begging us is, is it going to be because of us or is it going to be in spite of us? I suggest each one of you, indeed each one of us makes a conscious effort not to get sidelined and insure that we act as catalysts and willing performers in this great task of taking India to a spot which is rightfully its own because then there will be harmony with what destiny means. There will be harmony with what Nature promises. And we will indeed partake of the great joy of this selfless work. Thank you.
Dr. Reddy: We give you five minutes; you can ask your questions.
Do you believe that Pakistan can get united with India?
It is my belief that in spiritual terms the territory that is Pakistan is already India’s. Yet Mr. Ratcliff in 1947 gave an arbitrary award and his knowledge of geography was so weak that instead of following what is called the thalvic principle whereby the middle of a water channel is taken as the natural boundary between states, he left enclaves on either side. But the story doesn’t end there. In this artificial partition of a piece of land, unfortunately our leaders of the time also connived. I am not being wise after the event but history will judge them very harshly for the indecent haste as also for the unthought-of-of-of-through process which could have been averted had we been a little more patient.
Is the army prepared to face external threats?
The army is prepared to face every kind of threat whether it is conventional, nuclear, clandestine, covert, and overt.
You want to introduce spirituality in the Army?
Firstly it is my belief and I will recount to you what I have told Mr. Khushwant Singh when he was interviewing me for the first time in April of last year, I said it is my belief as an Indian that in every gene of an Indian there is a capital S and it does not stand for what you think it stands for; it stands for Spirituality.
How did you become the chief?
Say again? How do you become a chief? It is the easiest thing on earth, if I could become a chief you can become the chief twice over.
What should India do now?
India must organize itself and occupy its rightful place of inspiring the whole of humanity to the betterment of the entire globe. That is India’s destined role; even in the state of degeneration our masters did not forget this. It is up to us now to rediscover ourselves, to rejuvenate ourselves and to fulfil the role for which India was created by God.
How do you plan to introduce spirituality in the Army?
Well, the first problem, the negative aspect of that is the amount of ignorance that exists within the army as indeed within the country; very often spiritualism is considered synonymous with religion, while you know it and I know it, it is not so. So the first attempt which I am doing is that in my attempt to introduce spiritualism in a formal kind of a way, make sure that our secular ethos is not allowed to be disturbed. Because some people who do not understand the totality of what spiritualism is all about, tend to mix it with normal, ritualistic, religious practices.
The second point is that I am not making it compulsory. I am exposing people at the pre-commissioning stage at the IndianMilitaryAcademy, at the NationalDefenceAcademy and subsequently right up to the highest school of learning we have at the NationalDefenceCollege in Delhi, capsules with the assistance of Dr. Reddy articulated in the army language which is simpler to understand. We will give these packages to people, leave a spark in them and hope that the spark will ultimately turn into a raging inferno of thrust for learning.
What is the role of the Army in internal security?
Well, when the Indian Army of post-independence, was being commanded by then General Cariappa, he outlined for the Indian Army two roles: primary role to meet the external threat and a secondary role to assist the civil administration in guarding internal security. Well, I am afraid the degeneration of the country since ’47 is so complete that there is nowhere below now left to go, with the result that we can only come up. That is one of the manifestations which I have worked out with Dr. Reddy, that if you have sunk to the nadir according to the laws of Nature you can only come up, so we have to resurge. Since the degeneration is so complete, the law and order agencies, the politicians who control it are no longer trustworthy, so someone in this country has to bail out and ensure that the country is on the right path. If this is so, if nobody else is prepared to do it, I cannot be a slave of what General Cariappa said in ’47; so I have changed that, I have said that the two roles have got so intermingled that you cannot perform the one without the other. The point is if there is an external threat there will be no internal security. By the same token if there is no internal security how can I meet the external threat? So I am taking on both. And I don’t want any praise for it. I am doing it because someone must do, and I feel God has chosen us to do it. That’s enough.
At the outset let me thank General Joshi, for having spared some time to speak to the students and teachers of the Centre of Education. As General Tiwari told you just now that we Indians can be very proud of our army. It’s absolutely professional, deeply loyal and despite the blah blah of the western press it is deeply humane. All this noise about human rights is a big noise and so we can be very proud of the Indian Army.
And today, at the head of the Indian Army we have General Joshi. General Joshi is a Brahmin by birth and a Kshatriya by profession. In the days of heroic India as Sri Aurobindo said these two qualities always met, whether in the Ramayana or in the Mahabharata. General Joshi is a Brahmin in the very best sense of the word, a deep lover of knowledge with a profound humility, one who is willing to uphold dharma at any cost. And, as a Kshatriya he has risen to the top, a man of valour, character and absolute integrity and strength. It is very fortunate for us that we have today in this most turbulent period, when major decisions are being taken which will set the direction for the future, a man of this calibre and this quality.
I shall end by saying only this, that not only is General Joshi a true and noble son of India, but today I can say with pride that he is a true child of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo and as such, we welcome him among our midst. Let us all pray to the Mother for his continued success in this very great and noble endeavour and may I request you to join me in giving a hand to him.