Acharya Prashant: Should one compromise on his principles?


Acharya Prashant: Ashutosh is asking, ‘Is it wise to not to compromise on one’s principles?’

Ashutosh, whereas not compromising has a beauty about it, it has a 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 a compromise! I am all for not compromising, surely one must not compromise, but principles themselves are a compromise.

Will go into it, pay attention:

What is a principle? What do you mean by a principle or an ideal?

A principle says that, ‘Given such a situation, this is what must happen’. A principle says, ‘This is right and this is wrong’, and the principle says this is fixed. This has been determined for all time to come, ‘siddhant’, done, proven, finished.

Now can life move according to principles?

I understand principles are very close to our heart, so what I am saying will sound a little jarring, but stay with me; can life move according to principles?

All principles are based on acceptance and rejections, on right and wrong, on proper and improper; but life is complete, life has space for everything.

Principle says  ‘A’ is right, and ‘B’ is always wrong, where as A and B both are parts of life, life consists of A and B, principle says only ‘A’, so what is the principles doing with life?

The principle is dividing life into two zones, one of acceptance, one of non-acceptance, at its proper place, at its proper time, everything is alright, that’s why it is present in life, whatsoever is there in life is good, is welcome, its auspicious, at its proper place and time.

Had it not been right, it would not been present at all in life. The very fact that it is there, even though it may appear cruel, and bad, and violent, still it has a specific place in life, you can not just outrightly reject it, you can not impose a blanket upon it, peace has its place, you may be principled, and you say that, ‘You know, I am all for peace, man must live in peace, society must live in peace, nation must live in peace and war is bad’.

That’s how principle sounds, right?.

‘Peace is good, war is bad.’

Now, war is not always bad, there is place for peace, 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 sum 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, if all blackness goes away then white will also not survive. You write on the blackboard with a chalk, the chalk is white but the white is visible only because the board is black, so if you remove the black, white will also lose it’s meaning. Black and white both are needed at their proper place. Black board and white chalk, but principle says only one is good, the other is bad.

Principles are always a partition, a division, and that division too is a pretty 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 operating according to a dead principle, now life places new and 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, and intelligence does not know anything, intelligence has no inventory of knowledge, intelligence is just wisdom in action. The ability to act, that is intelligence, the ability to understand, that is intelligence.

Principles are the mind’s substitute against intelligence, ‘Why bother to pay attention and understand what is going on, just apply some old principles!’ Principles are like formulae, you know, a problem in mathematics is there in front of you, you do not really understand what the problem is asking but you pick a formula from somewhere and plug-in the value and you hope to get you answer.

That is what principles do, If I really understand the fundamentals, then, I don’t need principles, and that’s how the intelligent man lives in life, in the fundamentals, not in principles. So that’s why I said the principles themselves are a compromise.

The principled man, the man who lives in ideals is a very dangerous man, and very stupid man as well. First of all, 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 a man of a principles’. First of all, he cannot listen to anything, he is disconnected from life, secondly, he is so full with principles that nothing can get in now.

Principles are in, life is out; principles are in, reality is out. He does not know the reality. He only knows his principles. Now, 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, ‘No, I am a holy man’, and somewhere within, ‘He will say I deserve respect because I have lived my life according to principles’, and that’s his temptation, ‘Be a principled man, you will get a lot of respect, at least self-respect will be there!’

So, I am saying be very unprincipled!

Don’t be idealistic, an ideal is an imagination, why live in imaginations?

Live in reality and don’t compromise.

The biggest act of defiance, the biggest statement, the loudest statement that says, ‘I will not compromise’, is intelligence.

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

Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: Should one compromise on his principles? The transcription has been edited for clarity.

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