Come face to face with the fact of your being.
Grand notions, or petty notions, any notions, will not work.
They are not evil, they are just useless. It is just that in my dictionary, the useless is the evil. There is no other evil. That is the definition of evil. That which is not needed is evil. That which you are needlessly carrying is the evil.
Questioner: I was reading the book by an existentialist author, Albert Camus, and the book is titled ‘The Outsider’. In the book, the protagonist somehow ends up murdering a man, and at the end of the book, he is at his trial, and there is no sense of regret within him. So the jury, and the judges find this extremely troublesome that the man does not regret what he has done. So instead of the trial being about whether the murder was premeditated or was it under self-defense, the trial becomes about the man being a monster. That he is not human, that he does not have any sense of guilt. They deemed him as a murderer because there was no sense of guilt within this man.
So I am bringing out this topic of guilt. What does it create within us? When I see a man who does not feel guilty or does not regret any of his actions, what does that do to me? To such an extent where I would not look at the objective picture as a whole, but just look at the fact, “Oh my god, the man does not feel guilty, what kind of a man is this?”
Acharya Prashant: Superficially, what is guilt supposed to be? Guilt is supposed to be both a driver and an instrument of correction, self-correction. So there is something that is wrong with me – in the sense that it is not as per the standards, benchmarks, and internal expectations that I have set for myself. It does not conform to my self-concept, does not agree with my self-image—So, I am troubled, I think myself to be one man, but my thoughts or actions are revealing that I am not quite the man I imagine myself to be. So I am troubled, because in my eyes, who am I? My own concept. What I think of myself. What I think of myself is not just a thought to me. To me, it is the reality and the truth. But then my actions do not add up to my imaginations, there is a gap, a dissonance. This is guilt.
“Why could I not be what I think myself to be?” This is guilt. What does then guilt seek to protect? What is it that guilt takes as an absolute?
Q: My thought about myself.
AP: My thought about myself. Guilt says, “My thought about myself is an absolute. The problem lies in the fact that my actions could not keep up with my thought.” Guilt never says, “Maybe I am not the man I think myself to be.” It does not say that. It says, “I am what I think myself to be – respectable, honorable, strong, worthy, moral, pious, and patient.” Whatever I think of myself to be – “caring, loving. But my deeds betray something else.” The guilty man never says, “The fact has emerged, so the self-concept must be adjusted in the light of the fact.” The guilty mind instead says, “I am, and I will continue to be what I think I am. Let the facts keep yelling. Let my actions keep exposing my real worth, yet I will just keep blaming actions, situation, and something outside of me; what I steadfastly hold on to, is my self-concept. That is not going to change.” It’ll say, “No, no! I am honorable, it is just the heat of the moment that did it; No, no! I am very composed, it was just the pressure of the situation that did it; I am extremely loving, it was just the frustration at the end of the day that broke my patience.”
So this has to be understood. The whole purpose of guilt is to protect your self-concept. Is this clear?
AP: Now, guilt is trying to protect something. Where does this ‘thing’ come from? What is it that guilt is trying to protect? We have guilt which is a thought, a feeling, and then thought is trying to protect another thought. It’s like a bodyguard. Now the thing that is being protected, where does that thing come from? Where does that self-concept come from?
Q: My background. Whatever people have told me about me.
AP: So if you look around objectively, you will find very few instances where one really, really knows himself. The proof of that is, there are very few people who do not feel guilty. If you really know yourself, then there will be no dissonance between what you know yourself to be, and what your actions are. And hence there would be no case of guilt. But there are cases of guilt with everybody.
Everybody ends up saying, “My bad luck! Why couldn’t I do better?” Such things, all of these are expressions of guilt. Even motivation is so clearly related to guilt. Sorrow; the whole feeling behind self-improvement; the whole drive to succeed, all of these are related to an existential guilt. The whole energy that goes into becoming, all of these are related to guilt. The whole urge to look better and be praised, and be acceptable, all of these are related to guilt.
And you see that everybody is experiencing that. So that is a clear proof that people really, really do not know themselves. Yet they have an idea about themselves. Now this is very interesting. They do not know themselves, which is proven in the fact that we see everybody wallowing in guilt, multiple times a day. So we do not know ourselves. Had we known ourselves, there would have been no dissonance, and hence no guilt.
We do not know ourselves, that is established. Yet we all have a fairly good idea about ourselves. If somebody asks you to describe yourself, you won’t really be tongue tied. You will have a lot of things to say. “I am this, I am that.” But your life proves that you hardly know a thing about who you are. Then how come you have so much to say about yourself? From where did all this come?
Surely it could not be an internal, factual, and meditative knowledge. It could not be the Truth looked at with the clear eyes of Truth Itself. It is something else. Whatever you think about yourself is not really your own self, looked at with your own eyes. It is coming to you, but not from within. So then there is only one place from where it can come to you, from the without, from the external.
So, putting things in perspective, we are discussing that guilt is trying to protect our self-concept, and where this self-concept is coming from. We have ruled out that it arises from within. So it arises from here and there. You may think you are pretty, but prettiness is no absolute. Who are you to decide whether one goat is prettier than the other? What benchmark can be there? You may think you are virtuous, who are you to decide what the standards of virtue are?
You may think that you are a depraved beast no fit to live, who are you to condemn yourself with that judgment? But you do that, right? From where is this judgment coming? Who is making you feel nice, or horrible; good or bad; high or low; this way or that way about yourself? You have to figure that out very clearly. We all live, looking at these pictures (Pointing at pictures of certain people in the room) in our rooms, imagining them to be mirrors. We think that we are looking at mirrors. We think that the fellow staring back at us is our own reflection.
It is not really a reflection. You are not looking at a mirror. You are looking at a rigid painting. Painted by god knows who. The eyes that are looking back at you are not yours. The face that you see all around is not really your face. It is somebody else’s, it is fiction. It has been showed to you as your face. Who’s doing the showing? Go sort that out. Find out. Whatever you think about yourself, the highest and the lowest, is not who you are. You are simply not who you think yourself to be. So whosoever gave you this concept about yourself, is surely the agent who has also given you guilt.
Guilt is trying to protect your self-concept. The self-concept is coming from somewhere. The source from where the self-concept is coming is also the source from where guilt arises. Those who give you your self-measure are also those who give you guilt along with it. Otherwise, you will drop these fanciful ideas. Guilt is there to protect them. We just said a while back that it is a bodyguard. So you are given an idea about yourself, and along with that, you are given guilt, so that you may keep holding on to that idea.
Q: So that you may avoid even those facts which are clearly visible to you.
AP: Yes, yes. So that when facts hit you, when you stumble upon facts, even then you do not drop that self-concept. Guilt prevents you, it scares you back. Guilt wants you to ignore the facts and retain the idea.
Q: So you can just feel guilty about it and stay as you are.
AP: Yes. The fact is not sacrosanct; the feeling about yourself is. That is the purpose of guilt. So guilt defeats its own definition. In the beginning, we said that prima facie, superficially, guilt is supposed to be an instrument of self-correction. Instead, guilt prevents any kind of correction. Because what does guilt protect?
Q: Your self-image.
AP: Which itself is the problem. So guilt is not going to result in any kind of improvement. Guilt is not going to result in any kind of liberation from suffering. Guilt is only going to perpetuate it. That is the only purpose of guilt. Many people think that by making somebody feel guilty, they will be able to induce a corrective feeling within him, which cannot happen, because when you are making somebody feel guilty, what you are saying is, “Why are you not acting as per your own high standards?”
The fact is, the fellow has no high standards, and that is his problem. Instead of exposing the patterns of his mind to him, what you are telling him is, “You are already alright, it’s just that your actions somehow failed you this time.” And remember that you are not saying this to the Great Untainted Self; you are saying this to the ego. You are telling the ego, “You are alright. It is only accidental that you failed in this instance.” Now, will the ego then want to change, sublimate or dissolve? Guilt is a sure shot way of maintaining status quo. It will not cause the ego- the problem, that which causes all mistakes to be dissolved.
Guilt does not put the blame in the right place. You see how you talk to a person when you want to strike guilt in him. You say, “How could you do this? Look at what you have done! Look at the results you have got!” So you are always pointing a figure at his actions. You are saying, “Look at what you have done.” See what you have been doing. You are saying that the action is to be blamed. Now the action is the actor. But guilt blames the action and protects the actor.
You are not telling him what kind of a being he is. You are not telling him, “Look at the entire structure of your mind. This one instance in which you have caused disorder or chaos, is just a representation of how you are spending every moment of the day.”— You are not saying this. You are saying, “Look at what you have done right now. Now remove this instance and everything else is alright.” That is what you are telling him. Or at least that is how he is inclined to hear what you are saying. He will say, “Everything else is alright, only in this instance did I do something totally woeful.” Is everything alright? The action has only exposed who you are, the actor. Nothing else is alright. But guilt protects the actor.
What brings about real improvement?
Guilt cannot bring about any improvement.
Real improvement comes when you are honestly prepared to look at what is going on.
You may have created a great mess around you, turning your face away won’t clear up the mess. Improvement comes from really standing in front of the mess, standing in the middle of the mess, looking at it, really looking at it, without regret. Without any feeling of superiority or without being condescending towards yourself.
Just looking at it and seeing, “This is me, this is my life.” And that’s it, full stop. “I’m not even saying that I want it to change.” I am saying, “This is it. This is my life. This is me. I am not even desiring a change. I just want to know what it is like to be me. For the first time, I really want to honestly experience being myself. This is me, and I don’t want to change. Not that I want to resist change, it is just that I have no desire to bring about a change.”
Q: Because that will anyway reflect.
AP: Yes, and it would only add to the mess. This is me, whatever I desire is reflected here, so I stand in the middle of this garbage. And when I say garbage, I am not spitting on it, because this garbage is me. So we say, ‘garbage’ with a kind of self-respect.
“This is me.”
And that moment is really not of motivation or planned improvement. In fact, the change that would spring from that moment cannot really be called improvement because improvement is always incremental. Improvement always takes something as a base. Improvement means that I stand at two and I want to be three. Improvement means that I am staying in a particular city and I want to move to another city. Improvement always takes something as the background. So, from two to three. Same plane, same dimension.
This cannot really be called improvement. When you really look at what you are, then what happens is not really change in the sense that we use the word change. You could call it a transformation, or you could simply call it real change. But it is not usual kind of change that we see, “Go change your clothes”, not that. But when you do that – standing in the middle of your mess and looking at it – your face would be not that of a moral being. You would not be repentant. You would not be begging forgiveness from god. Stone faced, you would just be looking at your life.
Not demanding an answer like, “Why did this happen?” Not craving for a change, “Can all this go away?” You are looking at it as one looks at a painting, or as one looks at a hillside, or as one looks at a pile of rubbish – objectively.
Q: So, in a way, standing apart from it.
AP: Standing apart from it in the middle of it. You know, this is a mistake that man has made, religions have made. They have tried to use repentance as a tool for improvement. Let me assert – this tool cannot succeed. The intention might be good but this tool is bound to fail.
Q: Jails are actually built on this concept. That if you keep somebody in a place for a long duration of time, you make him think about what he did, that he might come out of it a transformed man. So in a way what you are saying is, ‘Jails won’t work?’
AP: There is no way that jails are going to cause the transformation. And if it ever happens in a jail, it would be purely incidental. Firstly, I doubt that the real intention is to bring about a transformation in the prisoner. The real intention is revenge. Jails are not really places of compassion. You don’t jail somebody because you love him so much that you want him to transform. You jail him because you want to extract your pound of flesh.
Those who gave you your self-concept, will just not like that you do not feel guilty. That is why the jury and the judge in your story about Camus, must have been furious – that story by Camus rather – they would have been furious. Now, why were they furious? Let’s investigate that.
You have been told that you are pretty. You have been told that your prettiness is an absolute. If your prettiness is an absolute, then it must be the center around which everybody else’s looks would be measured.
That’s the meaning of absolute. The absolute cannot change. So if you are pretty, then I have to be something relative to your prettiness. If you are ten, and you are absolutely sure that you are ten, then I have to be something relative to that ten. Ten plus something or ten minus something. For you to keep believing that you are ten, I must keep believing that I am eight or twelve. Because your self-concept is relative to my self-concept. At the same time, you are depending so heavily on your self-concept that you need it to be an absolute. You cannot afford it to be shaky, you want it to be firm. And firmness means an absolute, something unchanging.
So you need that ten to be unchanging. For your ten to be unchanging my eight must also be unchanging.
AP: But if I come up in my own jolly way, and I say, “Two hoots to it!” Then that is an assault on your self-concept. If I do not feel guilty, then I am challenging my idea about myself. And my challenge to my idea about myself is a violation of your idea about yourself. Think of this. We say, or let there be a society which says, “Man is petty, man is limited, and man is a weakling.” And I am a man. So who am I?
Q: Petty, small, weak.
AP: That’s what I am. And because it is my self-concept so it has to be an absolute. Now if there is one person in that society who opts out of this idea and demonstrated a hitherto unseen strength. He demonstrates a measure of himself which has an immensity, then what has he done?
He has shaken up the self-concept of the entire community. He may not have touched you at all, in a personal way, yet he has caused a grievous assault upon you. Your heart would weep, because, in your eyes, you are what you think you are. And if somebody shows that to be false, it is a kind of a death. It is a murderous attempt upon you. I am my idea, and if my idea is being shaken, then I am being killed! I would retaliate, I would furiously retaliate. Furiously. That is why very few societies are able to accept marginal groups or outliers. Because the outliers prove that the majority is an idiot.
You may have taught crowds of your young boys and girls, “Life has to be lived in a particular way. You have to have this kind of formal education. Then you have to have the support of the opposite gender. Then you have to have an organized marriage. Then a house. Respectable job. A place in the society.” And other associated things. And you have taught thousands of them in the same way. And then there comes up somebody, just one man, who proves that whatever you have been teaching is nonsense.
And he doesn’t prove that by standing at a crossing and proclaiming it aloud. He proves it through his life. Through his life, he disproves whatever you have been teaching to your young ones. Just one man. You won’t be able to stand that man. You’d really want to kill him. So the judge and the jury could have forgiven the protagonist of the story for the murder but they cannot forgive him for being guiltless.
Murders are not very serious, because in the self-concept that has been given to us, we have been told that man is a bundle of mistakes. Evil, sin, Shaitan, Maya, anything can overpower us. So murders may happen. “Son, you made a mistake, but it’s alright. Just ten years of jail and then you can come back.’’ Murders may happen, they are not so uncommon. But to be guilt free! That’s a real rebellion. “I do not believe in what you tell me. I have eyes of my own.” And that is such a humiliation to those who refuse to see. It’s an absolute insult. They cannot tolerate it.
And when you look at all the violence that is happening against minorities of every kind, ethnic, linguistic, religious, gender-based, anything can make you a minority, you just have to choose a basis for separation. So in some sense, each one of us here is a minority on some basis or the other. The smallest minority is the Individual. And the Individual is under attack. Not because the individual is going to proliferate and harm the others, it’s just that the very existence of the minority proves that one can live without being in the majority.
Understand this. If there is one man living on mars, what is he proving? That Mars is habitable. Go there, colonize it, it is possible. One man living on mars proves that it is possible. You cannot forgive that man. One step on the moon – it was the sixties, Neil Armstrong, when he stepped on the moon, he said, “It’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” – So many religious enthusiasts and authorities averred that what has been displayed to us are false images. “Nobody can step on the moon. All of this is false.” Some of them, I’m afraid, still hold on to this view that man never really stepped on the moon, all that was just propaganda of atheists.
Because the sun and moon are supposed to be sacred things given by God to his special creation, ‘man’, who lives on the special planet ‘earth’. The moon is not supposed to be man’s territory. How can man step on that territory? If a man can do one thing that violates our concept of god, it proves that the whole concept of god might be wrong! Who knows! We said twenty things about god, and if one thing is disproved, then the other nineteen are also threatened!
So you don’t want anything to be proven wrong. So if people from a particular community say that the whole life began just a few thousand years back – the way we see man, he came just a few thousand years back – then they have to really create a history to suit their assertion.
So if one thing loses sanctity, then the entire edifice might come crumbling down.
Q: Hence so many people are against evolution. There is even a museum that has dinosaurs and man walking together.
AP: “We have been told that god created man out of his own hands. We have never been told that god first created monkeys and monkeys were then supposed to evolve into men. So we do not believe all this evolutionary nonsense.” Again, go back to the basics, what is at stake is your ego, your idea about yourself. My idea about myself, to a great extent, comes from what my religious scriptures tell me. Not that I am particularly protective about those scriptures. It is just that my ego comes from them. To protect my ego, I have to defend the scriptures. Not that I am a particularly religious man. “It is my country so I have to defend it.” What comes first, the country or me?
AP: Me. To protect my self-concept, my idea, I have to then defend a lot of other things. So I need to defend all the medieval thought that has been running down for generations. I need to protect all the institutions that I am a part of. Not that I have anything in my heart for those institutions, but those institutions give me my identity. My identity is what I am protecting.
Whenever you stand for something outside of you, please check, what stake do you have? Surely that thing that you think to be outside of you, is something inside of you. That is the reason why you want to protect it. And when you want to denounce something outside of you, again the same urge is at work.
Q: Because the opposite is my identity, so I will not agree.
Q: I was also reading about Mansoor, the Sufi mystic. In the story that I was reading, it was said that because he proclaimed ‘An-al-hak’ (I am the Truth), he was sentenced to death for it. The story also said that the people who cared for him or people who were around him said, “If you take your words back, then after a few years you will be freed.” So this sense of apology, this taking back of words…
AP: You see, they are not asking Mansoor to become a reformed man. They are not saying, “Mansoor, prove that you have really had a change of heart.” They are saying, “Just write an apology. Just say sorry. We are not bothered by what is there in your heart, what you are really thinking, what your real convictions are.”
Q: Just say sorry.
AP: Just say sorry so that our structures are maintained. That’s how superficial guilt is. Just say sorry from the tongue and let your inner disease, your inner condensed, solid mass remain. Nobody wants to really challenge that. Let that remain.
Q: So guilt can never be used as a way of transformation.
AP: There is no way. Fact is; guilt protects. Guilt is a defence against transformation. The guiltier you feel, the lesser are your chances of really changing.
Q: Okay, so if I am using guilt as a method because my conditioning has been such, then I am actually protecting their falseness. I am giving them a stronger defense against not changing.
Q: So when we talk about Advait as a movement towards a new humanity, when you are pointing out facts to people, it is not to make them feel guilty about what they are, but to show them what they are.
AP: You aren’t any better than this. There is this important and subtle difference that must be understood. When you are trying to make someone feel guilty, you tell them, “See what you have done, and how bad it is. This is what you have come to? How can you do something so bad?” What has to be remembered is that when you are saying that something is bad, in a manner of disparaging somebody, you are obviously saying that you can do better than this.
And it seems such a nice thing to say. “Guys, can’t you do better than this?” It seems so motivational. And it also seems so full of respect towards the other one. “You know, you have caused all this nonsense, garbage, but surely you can do better than this.” Everything about this statement seems alright. Alright, nice, humane.
Q: Respectful to other.
AP: Respectful. It is dangerous. Because what he has done, is not an accident. He is not better than what he has done. That what he has done is a representation of what he is. A clear, direct, honest representation. Why do you want to tell him that he could have done anything, any differently? Yes, do show him what he has done. But that should be like showing somebody a mirror. Not really like showing somebody a role model.
Guilt tries to make you your own role model. Guilt says, “You are better than your own work, so be your own role model.” Have you not heard phrases like this – “Be your best self!” – As if there are multiple selves and as if you have multiple options. But one thing all these slogans do is that they really make you feel good about yourself. They give you a false sense of empowerment.
Q: That you are better than this.
AP: And next time, if I try hard, and if really want, then I can improve.
Q: That even if you would have gone back, you would have done this thing differently.
AP: The funny part is, often we do see improvement happening as a result of induced guilt. Now from where does that improvement come? The fact is, what you call as improvement is just another kind of mess. It is quite likely that if you make somebody feel guilty again and again, if you challenge his ego, if you tell him that he could have done better, and all the other related nonsense, he might actually change his actions.
The actions are changing for sure, but is the actor changing? The actor remaining the same, the actions changing, which only means that the actions are superficially changing. So an ‘improvement’ will come, but that would be just another kind of mess. Trouble is most of us are satisfied with the new mess. Maybe that prevents boredom. We are so utterly bored with our old mess, that even if what we get is a new mess, we are okay with it.
Q: At least for a while
AP: At least for a while. Then we can again strike guilt in him, “How can you do this!” So then he can come up with a fresh mass of rubbish. Getting it? Real change requires saying, “This is what you are.” And this is not being said to you because we want you to change. This is it.
You are just showing him a mirror. “See, how you look.” It is not even about saying how you look. “See, this is your face. Greet yourself, say Hi.” It is not even question of judging yourself as you look at the reflection, just say hi, and then something miraculous might happen.
Q: But as a teacher, I would first have to completely look at my mess in order to get the message across to the other person to look at their mess. So first I must be, can I say ‘okay’, okay with the mess?
AP: Yes. That is very important. Because you really don’t have an option. You must be totally okay with the mess. That is the beauty of the whole thing. You know, when you are okay with it, you get something wider and broader and more beautiful than it. You get the most when you are not wanting anything. You have to be okay.
Q: Because until the time that I am guilty and I have that image in my head, I will only try to induce guilt in the student. So I have to first be okay with the mess.
AP: Yes, but the danger there is – the student might be so habituated to being made to feel guilty that even if you just demonstrate the fact, he might take it as a showing down. “My Teacher is trying to show me down.” Though the Teacher is just trying to show who you are. So you just have to be a little cautious and ensure that he is not taking you for what you are not. And imagine the power of that moment. When you are demonstrating without anger, without reprisal, just demonstrating.
And without an expectation that they would do any better. That is the role of the Teacher you know. To bring them to the fact. The Teacher cannot take the responsibility of bringing a change. Change does not come from somebody’s desire. And if change comes from somebody’s desire, then it would be a very planned and channelled change.
If I say that I want you to change, then I don’t really want you to change. I want you to be conditioned differently according to my wishes. That is what people mean. When somebody says, “Look at your position, can’t things change?” Now, am I leaving him free to change in free space? What I am saying is, change in a particular direction that I desire. So that is just another kind of conditioning. The Teacher really cannot have a thought or an idea about how she wants the student to come up.
Change will happen on its own if it has to happen. The Teacher’s job is to demonstrate where they are, who they are, and what they are doing. In that sense, a Teacher’s job is much more related to just to dispelling of illusion. “You have a false idea about yourself, let me show that the idea is false. Let me show that you actions do not stand up to your ideas.”
Q: That it is not a mistake.
AP: And that is not a mistake, it’s alright.
Q: So there is no role of morality in this.
Q: That would be imposing another type of conditioning?
AP: Yes. Do you know why mankind has not really changed? We have now the load…alright, the guidance, of so much of morality available to us, rather imposed on us, yet nothing has really changed. Man is what he always has been. The child is still crying though the toys are new. The child was crying yesterday and the child is crying today. Today he has newer toys. Today he has fancy toys, like inter-continental ballistic missiles. But the child is still crying.
The reason is, you are trying to quieten the child through wrong means. You are telling the child, “How can you cry? You being you! A manifestation of godhood itself! You, carrying the seed of the Buddha, how can you cry?” That doesn’t really help the child. He is crying.
Come face to face with the fact of your being. Grand notions, or petty notions, any notions, will not work. They are not evil, they are just useless. It is just that in my dictionary, the useless is the evil. There is no other evil. That is the definition of evil. That which is not needed is evil. That which you are needlessly carrying is the evil.
Q: So for a student who is used to guilt, and feels that his Teacher is still inducing guilt, would time in a way take away… So are we even aware that much, that over time, I will be able to see that the Teacher is not inducing guilt but is making me see what is.
AP: Yes, you do require a certain time. These things don’t really happen overnight. We would want to see them happen overnight. We have heard stories, that there are instantaneous transformations. They say the very glance of the Teacher can bring about a complete annihilation of the personality of the student. We have heard stories like these. But these things take time. A period, sometimes a long period of remaining in touch with the Teacher is needed.
A student kind of needs to get attuned to nothingness. I am taking about a real Teacher. Not one of those information providers. When the student comes in touch with the Teacher, just as the student has a self-concept, he tries to build a concept of the Teacher according to his own concept.
Depending on who I am, I build a kind of image of the Teacher. Again and again that image must be falsified. The student must be brought to a point where he is able to see that the Teacher is saying none of what he thinks Him to be saying. So that is what I mean by getting attuned to nothingness.
Otherwise, the student will rebel against the Teacher. The student does do that, often. The thing is, what he is rebelling against is his own concept. The Teacher, if He is really a Teacher, stands for nothing. He is nobody. So how can you rebel against nobody? So there has to be some kind of a providential support. The student has to be lucky enough to remain in touch.
And when the student has no real guidance from the Teacher, when the Teacher is not providing him with an alternate vision, when the Teacher is not trying to act as a role model, when the Teacher is not trying to give him a fresh self-concept, then the student has no choice than to turn inwards. Because outwards there is no home. The Teacher is useless.
Q: The Teacher is not providing him any material to hold on to.
AP: Though he is demolishing all my existing material. He is demolishing all that I have, but parallelly he is not giving me anything new. So Emptiness is what I will be left with. Empty of guilt.
You know, there are certain things that are unique to man. In the entire existence, tell me where do you see guilt? So is it not obvious that man has given guilt to man? And there are studies that show that man is so contagious a disease that he can give guilt even to animals. He can train animals to feel guilty about themselves.
Actually, whenever you train anybody for anything, you are also training him for guilt. If you train your dog to not to litter within the house, and if he cannot manage his movements, you will see a feeling of guilt in the dog’s eyes. Ask dog owners, they will aver to this. So you train somebody, then you are training him parallelly for guilt.
Guilt is an accompaniment of conditioning.
Q: One that perpetuates conditioning.
AP: Yes. So there are certain things that are very specific to man: Joyless-ness, boredom, guilt, morality, destruction, foolishness, a feeling of superiority.
Q: With guilt comes this feeling, “I am not allowed to exist. There is something wrong in my own existence.”
AP: Yes, of course. Look at the whole concept. You have been told, “Here are some manmade benchmarks and those benchmarks are better than what you otherwise would have been. So you are born inferior, the social benchmarks are meant to raise you higher.” That is the presumption. “And you better live up to these benchmarks. Otherwise, you are as fallen as these animals.”
Look at the presumptuousness. ‘As low as an animal.’
Q: So both are definitions, you are low also and then that higher standard. Both definitions are made by man. And it always requires somebody outside of the system to point it out?
AP: Your Heart is always pointing it out to you. That is the reason that even though man keeps dying of guilt, yet he keeps repeating the so-called sins. Deep within him, he knows that all of it means nothing. So let me breach the code once again.
Look at all the guilty souls. Is guilt even an effective instrument of modifying behavior? You may keep feeling guilty and at the same time, you may be repeating the things for which you feel guilty. And at the same time you would be writing beautiful poetry based on your guilt. “You know I am such a coward. I know that drinking is bad, but what else can I do when look into your beautiful eyes?”
Don’t you see what is happening? And we call this creativity. It is just an expression of disease. On one hand the fellow is feeling guilty, on the other hand he also knows that this guilt is nothing. So the interaction of these two gives rise to this funny thing that you call as “Literature.”
Guilt is known to be nonsense by everybody. That is why you keep going against your own sense of guilt. That is why all the hidden pleasures are all the more pleasurable. Are they not? There is that Hindi song which says, “Chori me hi hai maza.” (Only in theft is there pleasure) Don’t you see what is happening? Guilt is a pleasure multiplier.
That is why adultery is such an intoxicant. Your own wife means nothing, the others wife! Because guilt carries so much passion in it. You love it when a love story has crime and sensuousness and breach of morality and adultery and a couple of murders thrown in.
Q: So we want it to be breached but not completely, you play within the comfort.
AP: It’s like scratching your itch. You know later on it is going to hurt, but in the moment of scratching it, it is quite a pleasure.
Q: But you don’t get rid of the habit.
AP: Yes. So there are these sins, see how mankind has decorated the sins. See how your eyes twinkle when you mention gluttony. It is supposed to be a sin. Vices have such a grip over us. That’s what the phrase is right, “The thing has a vice like grip over him.” We never say, “Virtue like grip over him.” So morality has its uses. It gives you pleasures that otherwise won’t be pleasurable. Forbid something and you make it pleasurable.
Q: Make a rule and you want to break it.
AP: Forbid something and it becomes so attractive. Tell someone, “If you do this then you are a depraved soul!” And you have induced a deep desire in him to do it. It is just that he will now do it behind closed doors. Guilt is an invitation, is it not? Guilt makes you feel, that your otherwise worthless life is worth something.
“I could challenge a command! I could defeat an authority! I could resist subjugation! I had been told that such and such thing must not be done, but I did it! Nobody else might know, but I know I did it.” If you really want to get rid of the so-called sins, take the glamor away from them. People are attracted to these things because you have attached glamor to them by attaching guilt to them. Till the time war remains heroic, there will be wars. Till the time alcohol remains condemned, people would be drawn towards alcohol. Till the time you keep people feeling guilty about their body, there would be an undue attraction to the body.
Remove the feeling of guilt and you have also removed the motivation to indulge in nonsense. We do so many nonsensical things just because we have told that they are forbidden. That is the reason why everything that has been forbidden is so very prevalent. And everything that has been touted to be virtuous is nowhere to be seen.
Greed is forbidden and that makes greed sexy. Why do you forbid greed? Let the greedy one be shown the real face of greed. That is it. There is no point in forbidding it. Violence is forbidden and you have violence all around. And violence becomes related to valor, to heroism, to courage – things to which it has absolutely no relationship. Let people learn what violence really is. Do not condemn violence. Know what violence is.
And these are two absolutely different things. Understand this. Know what violence is, don’t condemn it. Don’t make people feel guilty because they acted violently, let them know what violence really means. You see, we have this WhatsApp group, and here we have a few people who are especially devoted to non-violence. A couple of people from the Jain community. One of them has, this evening, posted a story there, the story says… it’s a long story where somebody has hurt someone and then that someone did not retaliate, and then this fellow who had hurt that fellow got his punishment, the retaliation and the retribution from somewhere else. And the story ends by saying, “If somebody causes harm to you then you should not be worried. Because anyway he is going to be harmed one way of the other.” Now this is supposed to be a story promoting non-violence.
Please pay attention to what the story is saying. The story is saying, “If somebody is harming you, then you leave the matter there, you do not need to retaliate because you must know that if he has harmed you then somebody else will harm him.” This is such a violent thought. It is thought full of both cowardice and violence. It is saying, “Even if the right action is to resist, do not resist; let cowardice prevail over you.” And why must you not resist? “Because that fellow would anyway be taken care of by something else.” This is being touted as non-violence.
For such people, what is violence really? For them violence is just about beating somebody up, hurting somebody’s physical form or shouting at somebody. They think this is violence. And then they attach a lot of guilt and morality to violence. So if they see someone shouting at somebody, they will say that is violence. If they will see somebody slapping somebody, they will say that it is violence. They have no eyes to see that the biggest violence is what they are espousing. They are so full of violence themselves. How will morality help you?
Do not teach non-violence. Violence is a disease, non-violence is your nature. Just show what violence is. Show the true face of violence. And that is all around us and within us. That can be shown so easily. Instead of being shown what violence is, what we have in our textbooks are chapters on non-violence. This is stupid. Instead of exposing violence, you are teaching non-violence. Non-violence cannot be taught. Are you getting it?
Q: So teaching is non-violence is like a solution that is being portrayed. Which is not really a solution because you can’t teach non-violence to a violent man.
AP: Yes. He will start having an ideal of non-violence. That is all that he will have. And that is what all the so called “non-violent” people have – the ideal of non-violence. Do they know what violence really is? Even the ideal of non-violence is extremely violent. Any ideal is violent.
Q: So any study that aims at sensitizing people should just show the facts.
AP: Yes, of course. This is it.
Q: And not, “This is what it means to be sensitive.”
AP: No, no. Because sensitivity is there in your heart. And if it is not there in your heart, what hope is there, what is the point in putting in any effort? It is there. And that is why any education makes sense. That is why one must not commit suicide. That is why life is beautiful. Because all that is important is already there. You have it. Education is not about bringing in the important from the outside. It is about just seeing what you have accumulated from outside. And then once you have seen it, you can wait for the magic to happen. It happens.
Once you have seen the violence that one is mired in, then you need not talk about Love. Then you need not talk about Detachment. It happens. Like it happened with King Ashoka. No Buddhist was there to teach him Detachment. All he saw was utter bloodshed around him. That moment of encountering violence in all its severity, in all its ugliness, that is enough. And after that what you have is Detachment and Love, Compassion.
And do you think Ashoka would have felt guilty about all that? But that is what your textbooks say. That he felt very bad that he caused all this damage. But I am assuring you, he felt nothing. He couldn’t have felt bad, he couldn’t have felt good. That is a moment when you are not feeling anything. You are realizing. And realization is not a feeling. Even if you are moved to tears, those tears are not of repentance, those tears are of realization.
Ashoka did not further the cause of the Buddha all his life, out of repentance. “I brought death upon so many people, hence let me repent.” That is not what he was doing. Though it is often portrayed this way. Ashoka was expressing his own Buddha nature. He was not repenting. And there is a great difference between these two: Expressing your own Buddha nature, versus living by the ideals given by an external Buddha. These two are extremely different things. Are you getting it?
Looking at these things, awakened the Buddha within him, just as Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha was awakened at looking at another instance of suffering, of old age, of disease. The same thing happened with Ashoka; a direct encounter with your reality. With no guilt, no repentance associated with it, direct encounter.
Q: Then you don’t have to wait for an action.
AP: Yes, you don’t have to be guided. What Ashoka did was fresh. Nobody was telling him to cross the seas and take Buddhism to other Islands and nations. Nobody was telling him that. From that encounter, from that witnessing, arises creativity. Arises what you can call as your own action. And that is the real individuality.
We need a totally different model of education. And when I say ‘education’ I don’t only mean the formal organized education delivered in schools and colleges. I also mean the way parents relate to kids, society relates to individuals. The way people talk to each other in restaurants, and over a cup of tea. We all are educating each other all the time. So we need a totally different paradigm of education.
We need not really educate each other. Because the word education has become loaded with giving something. With connotations of knowledge. When I say, “I am educating you.” It often simply means that I am delivering certain concepts, ideals, knowledge, and theory to you. I am in a way making you more of an intellectual. The word education needs to be stripped of this meaning. It needs to be given a totally naked, new, and fresh meaning. Which need not be given to it, which is actually its real meaning.
It is just that it is shorn of the fake thing. So education should just mean, ‘Showing a mirror.’ Ah, and not with an intention. Not with an intention. When you have an intention with respect to your student, it is just domination of the student.
Q: Power struggle.
AP: It’s a power struggle then. He wants to become something else and you want him to become something else, and both are just becomings. None of them are returnings. By the way, the etymology of the word education has a relation to returning, emptying.
Q: Not being taken further away, not being glued in.
AP: Yes, not wearing another set of clothes.
Q: Which is what we see happening.
AP: Yes, of course. And don’t you see how it is happening? You have a name, and then one degree gets added to it, then another degree. So you are wearing one body of knowledge after the other. And ultimately what happens is, it’s quite funny, in India what happens is, even your name is dropped, but the education remains. So you are just “Doctor Sahib.” That is how we address Ph.D.’s in this country. You have become so loaded with your clothes that even the body no longer matter. It doesn’t matter what your name is. Finally the highest and the latest and the final robe that you took on, only that matters. “Doctor Sahib.” That is scary.
”Mr. President” Scary, quite scary.
Q: It is like a walking conditioning. So in my head, the image is of going back, from college back to the first grade. So you are returning to that childhood, where you are just so innocent, where you haven’t been trained.
AP: Yes. So you should actually be born a post-doctorate. Which you actually are. You have so many tendencies within you, so much of stored knowledge. Education should be about progressively liberating you. And when you finally emerge from the gates of the university, you should be a baby, with tender skin. The old men entered the system and the baby emerged from it.
What we have seen born in hospitals are actually very old men. Very, very old men, we are born. Evolutionary products, we contain all the history of the universe. That is how old we are at the point of being born. Everybody is born very-very old. We are born so very old that we are born dead old. That is why it is said that when Lao Tzu was born, he was already eighty-four years of age. That is an understatement. We all are born eighty-four million years old already, and then the counter starts.
You think your age starts from zero? No. When you say, “I am one year old.” You are eighty-four million and one years old. You get this? So the sim of education should be to take away your chronological age from you. “You are born so old, can I take away some of your time? All this load that you are carrying, can it be taken away? Can you be made to feel a little lighter?”
And how should we measure progress in education? The progress in education should be measured in, “How man millennia lost:” So the topper has lost 18 centuries, which is why he is a topper. This one is not doing so well, he is not prepared to lose much.
Q: So the lighter you get the better you are.
AP: In the most advanced sections, in the highest classes, you should have baby sitters. Very-very mature babies, like the Buddha.
Q: An education that takes away from you all that you have accumulated. Not give you more on top of what you have already come with.
AP: And what you have accumulated is anyway so worthless, that you will anyway drop it the moment you can face it honestly. It will be dropped. Dropping it is no big deal. You only have to be given a situation in which you can face it.
Actually, those situations are always there all around us. We are always in the middle of those situations.
Q: So why are we not able to, if the situation is there?
AP: No, you able to see the situation, but guilt tell you, “Oh, this just happened. You are better than this situation. You might be in the gutter, but it is just an accident.”
Q: They always tell you, “You can always look at the stars.”
AP: You can always look at the stars; so you are worth the stars. The situations always have a way of exposing your patterns reality worth to you. But guilt and morality defend your rubbish and the dream of achievement and becoming, “I can become somebody!”
Q: Or I already am somebody.
AP: I already am somebody who has a lot of potential to improve. “The potential to improve is already there within me.” Have you not heard all of this?
AP: And this is supposed to be very nice nonsense. Very popular nonsense. And you are supposed to be somebody’s well-wisher, if you utter these things in front of him. “You know sir, I think you have it in you, all you require is some growing, and then the sky is the limit.”
“I’ll provide the launch pad. I think you belong to the skies.” The fellow no wonder is now going to fire you. It doesn’t feel really good right? To be fired from behind, even if that makes you rise up.
Q: And then there is no end to it.
AP: No, there is an end to it. Sooner or later the balloon bursts. Somebody can put a fire engine, but it will run out. And what happens to the balloon? It comes down. But it looks spectacular when it rises, yes? And great motivational stories are crafted out of the rise. You see them on the covers of all the business magazines. You see them on the pages of history. Nobody really talks about the crash.
And even if you have to talk about the crash, that is taken as a beautiful irony. “The king looking at the Taj Mahal, that he made – His own creation – From behind the prison walls. Oh!” The king being deported to Burma, and being buried there. And the king is a poet and he is writing, “I couldn’t get even two yards of earth to be buried in my motherland.” This is taken as poetic, ironical, and even motivational.
You know how attractive it feels when you hear, ‘The fall of the Titans.’ “Huh! The Titan has fallen? The Titan has fallen!” Even his fall is spectacular. It becomes headlines. “Oh! another one falls. Another one is caught in an affair. Another one is caught in some kind of a scandal.” And you become motivated, even their imprisonment is news. Even their trial is headlines. So you feel like, “This is nice.”
Q: All the while you should have just opened your eyes to the gutter.
AP: Extremely easy, theoretically, but it doesn’t seem to happen very frequently, it happens rarely. Though it can happen very easily.
Watch the session: Shri Prashant: Guilt is a great method to not to change
Read more articles on this topic: