Listener: Acharya Ji, why do we keep acting on whim?
Acharya Prashant: What we call as whim is not our individual expression. The assumption behind your question is, there is a civilized social conduct and there is a personal whim. So, you are assuming that if the civilized social conduct is given up, then all that remains is the personal chaotic whim. Not really.
The civilized social conduct and the personal whim, they are one, because the person himself is the product of society, and then he furthers the same cycle that brought him up. There is something beyond both the social product and the person. There is something beyond both social order and individual whim. And that is the natural flow of living.
Kindly do not think that if you are not following social dictates then the only option available to you is your own idiosyncrasies. In fact, what happens is that the one who gives up on his social masters never proclaims that he has become his own master. Sitting here you would imagine that if you give up on your masters outside of you, then you will start believing that the master is now inside of you. That seems automatic, right?
It seems that either we would say that he, he, or he controls me, and if they don’t control me then I control myself. It does not happen this way. When you give up obeying the ones outside of yourself then you also give up obeying yourself. Then you don’t obey at all, neither others nor yourself. It is not about changing the one that you obey. It is about giving up on obedience itself. And that is a great change.
L: Giving up on obedience doesn’t necessarily hurt the people around you.
AP: No, it may hurt or not hurt them. But, right now it matters to you whether or not they would be hurt. And it matters to you in a self-defensive way. When you have given up on obedience, then other’s hurt would not mean the same to you as it means right now. It does not mean that you would become insensitive to the hurt of others.
You see, we are afraid of hurting others. It is not as if we are so loving that we do not want to hurt others. We are simply afraid of hurting others. And so much of social order is maintained is maintained just because we are afraid of hurting someone. You hurt the other, the consequence will be that they will hurt you back, so we don’t hurt others.
There is another mind. This mind is not afraid that he would be hurt back. Still, he does not hurt others. He does not hurt others because he sees no need to hurt anyone, because he has a certain compassion, a certain sensitivity. Do you see this?
I may not attack you out of fear. That is one thing. It only means that as my power grows I will feel emboldened to attack you. Do you see this? You are sitting next to me; I may not attack you because I’m afraid that if I attack then there would be counter strike. And, if I’m just afraid then I’ve not given up on violence. I’ve put violence on hold. Sooner than later violence would erupt.
There is another way of relating. I’m not hurting because who wants to hurt? What’s the point in hurting? Are you getting this? The person, the society, don’t take them very differently. What we are is a social output. If you want to be more exact, you could say socio-biological. And, there is life beyond that. And, that is not amenable to imagination. If you imagine, you will not be able to figure out what it is like. So, don’t imagine. Just let yourself a little loose. The more you allow yourself to be drawn towards it, the more you will feel empowered to be drawn more. Are you getting it?
And this is a very very important clarification. I’m glad this question was asked. It is not about this duality. It means the society and the person. Society and the person are one. One does not merely need freedom from the society. One needs freedom from the person that one is. Because it is, first of all, this person that accepts social subjugation. If you have changed, who remains to be oppressed by the society?
So, do not seek freedom from society. That is nice, romantic, rebellious thought. But useless. Seek freedom from yourself. See what you are thinking. See how the whole things works. And it’s very obvious because it shows up in our daily actions. Once you are not afraid, who can tame you through fear? So, do not ask that why do others tame me. Ask that why am I afraid? It’s not the power of others that bogs you down. It’s your own tendency to be afraid. Give up on that tendency.
L: How to give up?
AP: How did you get it? How did you get it? One gets it through a process. One does not lose it through a process. How did you get it? And are you not still accumulating and nurturing it? Losing something requires a method, requires an application only if that something is either central to you or sticks to you on its own. Fear is neither central to you nor does fear say that I want to stay with you. All fear is acquired and external. So, rather than asking how to give up fear, figure out how do you admit fear. And stop admitting fear.
How to stop admitting fear?
By simply seeing what are the ways in which you let your life be governed by fear. Had fear been something sitting right in your core, then we could have talked of processes of liberation from fear. And there are so many processes in the market. But the fact is that the fear is lifeless on its own. Fear does not stick to you, you clutch fear. So, instead of asking “How to give up fear?”, ask “How do I invite and retain fear in my life?”
And that requires self-observation. Because fear is not something that happened once upon a time. Day in and day out we allow ourselves to live by fear and in fear. Every time you accept something that seeks to control you by tempting you, or by threatening you, you are admitting fear. And that happens daily. It happens in our homes, in our workplaces, in the markets. That’s how fear gains control over us.
Stop letting in fear.
You watch an advertisement on TV and that advertisement talks of situation after your death. The advertisement, let’s say wants to sell Insurance. Right? That advertisement is trying to control you through fear. They want a particular behavioral outcome from you by terrifying you. Now you let yourself be drawn towards that fear. Not only are you drawn towards that advertisement, you may actually go and buy that product. That’s how you admit fear in your life.
You are not quite a performer at your workplace. Your boss comes to you and says, “You know what, things do not look good for you in the next appraisal.” And you let this statement become meaningful to you, and that afternoon you work really hard. Don’t you see what you have done? You have admitted fear. But you’d not ask the right question. You’d say, “How to give up fear?”
What do you mean by giving up fear? You are letting in fear. You are inviting fear. Not inviting fear is sufficient. Don’t invite it and it’s gone. We invite fear. Don’t invite it, that’s all. You do not require an elaborate process to have freedom from fear.
Even in intimate relationships, look at how fear colors one’s relationship with the husband, with the wives, with the son, the daughter, the father…everybody. And if we want the climactic example, our relationship with this entire universe and the so-called God itself is of fear. By admitting a God that keeps you in fear, are you not letting fear rule over you? In fact, our language contains the expression “God-fearing”. Why must we ask “What to do to get rid of fears?” If you have a God that rules over you through fear, first of all, give up that God. Keeping that God, you’d only be afraid all the time.
L: Should one seek a mentor or, can one play one’s own mentor.
AP: Depends on how this ‘one’ is being looked at. The one who is asking the question, the one who is seeking a mentor can never never be his or her own mentor. Because the one who’s asking a question is obviously in a state of incompleteness and confusion, otherwise the question will not arise. Now does that mean that the mentor, the teacher, or the Guru need be outside of the person? Now, that is not necessary.
The one asking the question is the ego. The ego can never be its own light. The light can come to ego either from the very center from which this personal ego arises, or it can come from the universe that the ego projects. Both of which are the same thing. Which means, the mentor, or the teacher, definitely has to be an agency outside of the ego. It could be your own meditative understanding, and remember that meditative understanding is not of the ego.
Just because of the body confinement, it appears as if both are the same. But, the confused person is not at all the same as the resolved individual. So, it could either be a meditative understanding, or it could be a book, or it could be a situation outside of you, or as has conventionally often been, it could be a person outside of you. Even if one sits down, observes and understands on his own, still, he must not cultivate the fallacy that the ego has been his own teacher.
If you have sat down in observation, as let’s say Gautama Buddha did, even then the Ego was taught by somebody else. That somebody else may not have been a person, but still, it was somebody else, somebody other than the ego. It doesn’t matter who that somebody else is. All that is important is that the ego must humbly accept that the ego cannot be his own teacher. And this is so difficult for the ego to accept. Because the ego is so full of knowledge. Knowledge itself is ego.
The ego can accept anything except its inferiority, surrender. The ego will not only not bow down to a person outside of itself, the ego will also not bow down to its own core, to its own heart. The mind is equally resistant to both. A source of light coming from the universe in the form of a person or a book or a situation… anything, and a source of light arising from the heart, the mind is equally resistant to both. What is it not resistant to? It’s not resistant to its own grandstanding, “I will know, I will understand, I will conclude, I am my own teacher. I will teach myself.”
Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: Do spirituality and wisdom lead to disorderly conduct? The transcription has been edited for clarity.
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