Student: Sir, what is an Ideal?
Acharya Prashant: You tell me. What is Idealism?
S: It is a prescription by the society in regard to how we should be.
AP: For an idealism to exist there must be an ideal and for an ideal, there should be an idea. Let’s see what is an idea, an imagination is. To imagine something new, you must first know what is. And to know what is, one must be awake. Otherwise, imagination is absurd; it is just a dream. But if I am awake, I can’t be imagining. If I am imagining, I can’t be in the present. When we are thinking, we are out of touch with Reality. Reality is what is right now. Reality is not a thought of the mind. Either I can be directly in touch with this moment, or I can be thinking. So idealism is imagination.
S: Why do people want ideals?
AP: Because people are dissatisfied with the present. If I am present here; if I understand this moment, won’t I have a spontaneous response? For example, if there is a fire in this room, do you require an ideal to know what is the best thing to do? People have created ideal as a substitute for understanding what the current moment is. And so are all ideals, like planning, setting targets or any thought relating to future. You all are great idealists. You don’t know, you are following a set pattern that has been given to you.
If I understand this moment, deeply understand what is right now, then I have infinite possibilities. For example, if I am a die-hard communist, can I really take any action out of an understanding ? Or am I bound to act as a communist? Intelligence or Communism? Idealism will hamper my action because I don’t want to keep all possibilities open to me. This is so because either I am not courageous or I am not open. So I need one course of action. Hence Idealism must be demolished. We are intelligent human beings who can understand. Idealism is against intelligence. All intelligent men have defied ideals.
S: It is an ideal that we should not kill people. What would you say about it?
AP: There will be times when killing is appropriate. What else is Bhagavad Gita saying?
S: Sir, What about speaking the truth?
AP: Do you really know what Truth is? How can you speak the truth, if you don’t know the Truth? What is your truth except a mere repetition of facts? In the name of truth, you only express your opinion about the truth. Truth is a situation vested in a person. There is no objective truth. When I stand clear of my thoughts, dogmas, prejudices and pre-conceived notions, only then I can see the truth.
S: Religion gives us ideals like reading Quran 5 times a day.
AP: You are not talking of Religion; you are talking of a dogma of religion, a set of prescribed activities. Talking of religion, you see, the most repeated words in The Sermon on the Mount are ‘But I say unto you‘.There were 10 commandments that Moses had prescribed. Jesus takes up each one of these and puts all of them to the test of ‘But I say unto you’…meaning that each of these commandments is limited and violable. Just see the reality, understand it; where is idealism in all this? That alone is the basic obligation of a human being, to use one’s intelligence and understand.
S: Sir, what about God?
AP: Do you really think that believing something without knowing is good for you?
S: Sir but we feel God’s presence sometimes.
AP: (sarcastically)If you really feel God, then would you be the way you are? Your feeling is also a thought which has been borrowed. This God too is a concept of yours.
S: Sir but God is something which is unknown?
AP: Is the fact that God can’t be known your own personal truth or is it again a borrowed thought? Have you really understood on your own that God is beyond logic and understanding? If you are accepting or rejecting a hypothesis, do it yourself. If in your Maths exam there is a question in your exam that asks you to prove L.H.S. = R.H.S, what would you do? Would you just write in your paper that ‘I believe it is so’? I believe that LHS=RHS, and hence there is no need to prove !
S: Sir, you are talking about two opposites-sciences and spirituality, your example doesn’t fit in the area of science.
AP: Who is the one, who talks about science?
AP: Who is the one talking of Spirituality?
AP: You being one, how can the understanding be fragmented? How is it possible that the same individual who explores life and iron ore on the moon, chooses not to step out of his house on a Lunar eclipse! All such rubbish is caused by the fragmented individual who has compartmentalised Science and Spirituality in two different minds.
S: Sir, you are talking about a Utopian world.
AP: Is this world, your world, a Utopia? Or am I talking about a Utopian world? I am the one talking of reality and you have been continuously talking about your dreams and imaginations. The world of goal, planning, targets is a Utopia. We are living day in and day out in a Utopia.
S: Sir, you are saying that we have borrowed everything from outside, is it possible for me to be intelligent, to be able to accept or reject on my own?
AP: By virtue of being a human, you are intelligent. You are talking like a man who has all the riches in his pocket but has been made to forget that he is wealthy.
S: (Mockingly) Sir you really think we are intelligent?
AP: Your conditioning has made you believe that you are a slave. The way you are brought up in your family, your education system, society—all have made you believe that you are a slave. Just see what it has come to! You are asking me whether I really think that you are intelligent and you are laughing! You are laughing at yourself ! You deride yourself and take pleasure in it ! You giggle so incredibly at my suggestion that you may be intelligent.(sudden silence)
Please understand that the way you are right now, you are not intelligent. Look at the chaos in the street, look at the mad crowd, look at the sheer obligation you enter this class with! Is that intelligence?
Can a person who is asleep, know that the other person is awake? Even to say that somebody is intelligent, you must be intelligent yourself. You are talking in this manner, “suppose somebody is intelligent”..What is this supposition? You know intelligence only when you yourself are.
There are two ‘I’s- One of them is your self-concept and the other is what you really are. Of course, we can’t explore it in just 20 minutes, or with a person in front of yourself as an authority. This must be done individually, with a tremendous sense of Self-love.
S: Is it not my intelligence to follow ideals sometimes?
AP: Sometimes ? How many times? How many times have you been intelligent? Whenever intelligence dawns upon you, it will show you something that you don’t want to see. That‘s why society has established guilt inside you. That’s why your ‘sometimes’ is so rare.
S: Me coming to this session, is it not intelligence?
AP: No. Intelligence comes out of understanding. Intelligence is not a thought. Everyone is caught in thought and conflict. Intelligence happens in the absence of thought. In thoughtless observation, things are known. The moment you borrow a concept, you also borrow the belief in the concept. If you are attentive, whatever comes to you is intelligence. Did you come here out of your understanding? Then you would have been free. Understanding is freedom. But you come at my behest, and you will go when I will close the session. And in between coming and going, you listen to me mechanically. Some of you are resisting me, some of you are gaping at me in sheer awe, some are coolly indifferent to the proceedings, and some are simply asleep. Where is intelligence in all of this?
Dated: March 12, 2012
Place: Session at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi