Should one compromise on his principles? || Acharya Prashant (2013)

To personally meet or connect with Acharya Prashant: click here.


Question : Is it wise to not to compromise on one’s principles in today’s world? Can believing in his principles might lead one in a situation where he has to interact with people of different ideologies?

Speaker : Ashutosh is asking, “Is it wise to not to compromise on one’s principles?”

Ashutosh, not compromising has a beauty about it. It has vigor about it. It has the warmth of life about it. It has the resilience of life about it. “I will not compromise.” On the other hand, principles are in themselves are a compromise. I am all for not compromising. Surely, one must not compromise. But, principles themselves are a compromise. We will go into it.

What is a principle? What do you mean by a principle or an ideal? A principle says that given a situation, this is what must happen. A principle says that this is right and this is wrong. And a principle says that this is fixed, this has been determined for all time to come. Proven, finished. Can life move according to principles?

I understand that principles are very close to our hearts. So, what I am saying is going to sound a little jarring but stay with me. Can life move according to principles? All principles are based on acceptance and rejection, right and wrong, proper and improper. But, life is complete. Life has space for everything. Principle says A is always right and B is always wrong whereas A and B both are parts of life. Life consists of both A and B. Principle says, “Only A.” So, what is the principle doing with life?

Listeners : Division.

Speaker : Good. The principles divide life. Principles divide life into two zones. One of acceptance and one of non- acceptance. At its proper place, at its proper time, everything is alright. That is why it is present in life. Whatsoever is there in life, is good, is welcome. It is auspicious at its proper place and time. Had it not been right, it would not have been present at all in life.

The very fact that it is there, even if it appears crude, and bad, and violent, but still it has a specific place in life. You cannot just out rightly reject it. You cannot impose a blanket ban upon it.

You may be principled, and you say, “I am all for peace. Man must live in peace, society must live in peace. Nations must live in peace. War is bad.” That is how principles sound. “Peace is good and war is bad.” But, peace has its place. Now, war is not always bad. War is not at all always bad. There is place for peace and there is place for war as well; at its appropriate place and time.

There is place for black and there is place for white. There is place for sweet and there is place for sour. There is place for man and there is place for woman. There is place for all opposites in life. Life is a sum total of all opposites. And life will become very-very unlively if some of these opposites are taken away.

In fact, if you take away black, white also cannot exist. Now you say that I love white, so reduce all black, remove all blackness. The problem is that if all darkness goes away, the white will also not survive. You write on the blackboard with a chalk. The chalk is white. The chalk is visible only because the board is black. Without black, white will also lose its meaning. Black and white both are needed at its proper place. Black board and white chalk. But principle says that only this one is good and the other is bad.

Principles are always a division. And that division too is a very pre-determined division. You have already decided. You are not looking at the real life situation. You are not seeing what this moment is asking for. You are just acting according to a dead principle. Now, life places new demands. Its challenges are always fresh. And principles are always old.

Life cannot be lived according to principles. Life has to be lived in intelligence. Intelligence does not know anything. Intelligence does not have inventory of knowledge. Intelligence is just wisdom in action. The ability to act, that is intelligence. The ability to understand, that is intelligence.

Are you getting it? Principles are the mind’s substitute against intelligence. Why bother to pay attention and understand what is going on? Just apply some old principle. Principles are like formula. You know, a problem of mathematics is in front of you. You do not really understand what the problem is asking. But you get a formula from somewhere, and you plug in the values, and you hope to get an answer. That is what principles do.

If I really understand the fundamentals, then I don’t need principles. That’s how an intelligent man lives his life, in the fundamentals, not in principles.

The principled man, the man who lives in ideals, is a very dangerous man and a very stupid man as well. Firstly, he does not know what is going on, he is living in his own world of principles. Secondly, he is so occupied with his own world that he will not listen to anything. He has the added ego that I am the man of principles.

Firstly, he cannot listen to anything, he is disconnected with life.  Secondly, he is so full of principles that nothing new can get in now. When principles are in, life is out. When principles are in, reality is out. The principled man does not know the reality, he only knows his principles.

Intelligence is to respond to reality as it is, and that response cannot be within the domain of any principle. That response is beyond all principles, beyond all ideals. But the principled man will say, “I am a holy man,” and somewhere within he will also say that I deserve respect because I have lived my life according to principles. And that is his temptation. “Be a principled man, and you will get a lot of respect. At least self- respect will be there.”

So, I am saying that be very unprincipled. Don’t be idealistic. An ideal is an imagination. Why live in imagination? Live in reality, and don’t compromise. The biggest act of defiance, the biggest statement, the loudest statement that says that I will not compromise, is intelligence.

Intelligence is the biggest defiance. The loudest proclamation of your freedom.


Excerpted from a ‘Shabd-Yog’ session. Edited for clarity.

Watch the session video: Should one compromise on his principles? || Acharya Prashant (2013)

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