The Fourth Monkey: Exploring Positive Thinking

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Rupa Chilukuri’s The Fourth Monkey was first published in Research Foundation for Governance: in India

I first heard about the Fourth Monkey at Kanan’s office.  A colleague and I were sitting in her office and noticed the additional monkey attached to the ubiquitous ‘Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil, See No Evil’ monkey set. Kanan explained that the fourth monkey, with hands strategically placed in the Adam and Eve fig leaf position, meant ‘Think No Evil’. It was a whimsical thought but I could not understand its logic at that time. It was only later that I realized the message behind the Fourth Monkey.

I have to admit that my time here in India has been one of ups and downs. Initially, I did blame “the system” for slowing down the progress that I believe is possible in reducing the backlog of cases, making the judicial system more transparent, and in permitting law students to participate in those processes. Rather than looking at the possibilities and how those can come to fruition, I sometimes have been a naysayer.

Here’s a case in point. For instance, I have had the opportunity of interacting with many students at the Gujarat National Law University (GNLU), where I work as an Indicorps Fellow to research on how the backlog of cases in the Indian courts can be reduced. Initially, I was perturbed by the thought that more students are not committed to community service and volunteering.  I believe strongly that soon-to-be lawyers should be engaging actively with their communities. Unfortunately, instead of figuring out how to get students involved, I complained incessantly about this, engaging in negative thoughts. In an effort to channelise these negative thoughts into something constructive, I, along with Vijay Ramchandani of Volunteer Ahmedabad, Indicorps thought that the students should be given an opportunity to volunteer at an event that was to take place at the Gandhi Ashram on Gandhi Jayanti.  In fact, in the United States – the country that I come from, it is very popular to have ‘Be the Change’ Days on the 2nd or 3rd of October.  I think that in the land in which Gandhi was born and in which the Gandhi Ashram is situated, the students are well-positioned to learn from Gandhi’s legacy by creating a volunteer culture in their school and in the Ahmedabad metro area. I was excited by the response that I received from the student population at the University and I eagerly looked forward to the 2nd of October.

Gandhi Jayanti was a blazing hot day. 9 students and I waited for about an hour and so for a bus that never came. This wait was punctuated by a series of calls from me to the relevant agencies regarding the status of the missing bus and by my apologies and complaints to the students. The students, on the other hand, decided that we should take matters into our own hands and just go, bus or no bus. So we took public transportation to Gandhi Ashram, which entailed more discomfort and time, but the students did this with the greatest of grace. When we arrived at the Gandhi Ashram, the students pitched in and helped wherever needed – moving flower pots out of the way, playing in the peace games, assisting children in the creative corner, and so on. Their flexibility, commitment to service, and kindness taught me a very valuable lesson. It was then that I recalled the Fourth Monkey. Although I momentarily moved away from the path of positive thinking, this experience made me understand the message behind the Fourth Monkey. I realized how unnecessary it was to pre-judge people and situations. Even though I was swayed by ‘evil’ thoughts, the students, on the other hand, saw the good and more importantly, created the good in the situation. I now understand that the logic of the Fourth Monkey is simple – thinking no evil is the first and perhaps the most important step, in living a life of truth and honesty.

I learned that by thinking beyond negative thoughts, good things can come and people can surprise you. Big changes start with small steps and if we go by this principle, ultimately even the ‘system’ will become positive. I look forward to seeing how India’s youth – the GeNext Generation – can, as Gandhiji said, be the change that they wish to see in the world.  If they’re anything like my students at GNLU, India can look forward to a future of continued promise.

– Rupa Chilukuri, Young Professional Initiative Associate, 2009

3 Responses to The Fourth Monkey: Exploring Positive Thinking

rushitani s shah

July 18th, 2010 at 11:50 pm


the 4th monkey should express feeling of nonviolence

rushitani s shah

July 18th, 2010 at 11:51 pm


it is a marvellous thought


April 9th, 2012 at 12:52 am



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