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Abortion: many perspectives || Acharya Prashant, with BITS Pilani (2022)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
39 min
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Questioner (Q): My question is regarding abortion. Broadly, there are two schools of thought regarding abortion. The first one is, because it is the woman’s body, she is the one who gets to decide whether to abort or deliver the child. The second school of thought says that the woman cannot decide to abort the child by her own will, because who is she to decide whether a particular life should come into this Earth or not? So, this creates a confusion in my mind as to what is the right thing to do in cases of unwanted pregnancy. What are your views on this?

Acharya Prashant (AP): See, it is not for you or me to decide. We may keep saying a thousand things; ultimately, it is the mother who is going to decide, unless you overrule her jurisdiction through law or other rules. So, it is the mother who is going to decide. The more pertinent question should be: How would the mother with deep consciousness and self-awareness decide versus an unconscious mother whose decision comes from deep body-identification and materialistic line of thought? That is where the difference comes.

You are trying to look at the issue of abortion as if it is an objective matter. You want to know my thoughts on abortion; you want to probably create a consensus on abortion. There are so many countries in the Third World, in the First World, in the Christian world, in the secular world, in the Islamic world, and they have all been struggling with the issue of abortion since decades now. Even in the most liberal of the countries the issue has hardly been settled, and it is not likely to be settled soon because there are dissenting voices and varying viewpoints. The church is saying one thing, the liberals are saying one thing, feminists are saying one thing, and time and again medical science comes up with a new discovery and that has an impact on the discourse. So, all that has led us to believe as if it is an objective matter, but it is not an objective matter. It is a thing in the domain of the mother. What is the relationship between the mother and the unborn child, I mean, the fetus? That will decide whether the mother will nourish it or kill it.

In fact, we talk of abortion so much because we are very body-centered people. The mother terminates the pregnancy and it bothers us so much, and probably rightly so. But the mother remains unconscious, the mother remains as most human beings are; she gives birth to the baby and, being as unconscious as she is, she just ruins the entire life of the kid. We don’t bat an eyelid, do we? Because what is happening in the inner domain of the kid does not matter so much to us. Why? Because what happens in our own inner domain does not matter too much to us. What matters to us is our physical being, our bodily welfare.

Bodily if we are alright, we feel we are alright. What is happening to our insides we are hardly very conscious of. Similarly, when it comes to the mother and fetus relationship, we are very bothered if the pregnancy is terminated. But if the mother carries through the whole thing and gives birth to one kid or five kids but remains as how most mothers, most fathers, and most people are, we say, “Oh, it is the normal state of things. Why do we need to talk about it?”

I am not saying we do not need to talk about abortion. I am saying the way we approach abortion itself rules out any decent in-depth understanding of the matter. We think of pregnancy as something that yields a body: a body is to be given birth. Now, if the body is safely given birth, we celebrate and congratulate, no? That is what we do. The new body has safely come to the planet, plus one; we feel happy. When the body does not come to the planet, some of us get concerned.

Who is the mother? Who is the child? What is really happening there? What do we mean when we say somebody is giving birth to someone? Now, get into the mind of the mother. And when I say mother, I mean the human being. Get into her mind. Sometimes it might just be right to abort, sometimes it might not be right to abort. Only a conscious decision-making entity is rightly placed to decide. There can be no objective law; your declarations and damnations are not going to work. It might sound very strange, very cruel, but it might just be very right to not terminate a baby even if the baby is known to be medically unfit. This decision has to be made by the mother, and for the right reasons, for very conscious reasons. And in other circumstances, it might just be right to terminate even a normal healthy pregnancy.

So, the entire debate has to shift to the education of the mother. Forget the issue of abortion. It is not merely abortion which is the issue between the mother and the baby. The mother has to be with the baby for several years even after the pregnancy, right? Her relationship with the new being is much wider than those nine months. Abortion is just one of the things that happens or may happen between the mother and the kid. A thousand other things happen between a mother and a kid, and they are decided by the mind of the mother.

So, let’s pay attention where it is due—to the mind of the mother. That is what needs education. And once you educate it, leave it free to decide. Do not make certain things mandatory; do not outlaw certain things. If a healthy mature adult has been decently educated in the self, only that person, then, is in the right place to make certain decisions. Who is anybody else to talk of those things? Only that person knows what the circumstances are, and only that person has the light, the clarity to make the best decision.

We want to take sides, we want to be partisan. We want to be either on the side that says, “No, no, all life is divine and everybody deserves to take birth,” or we want to be on the side that says, “No, women’s rights are supreme.” It is easy to take sides, and it is lazy to take sides. What we require is a self-aware woman. And once she is self-aware, neither you nor I have any locus standi; leave it to her. But before you leave it to her, ensure that your education system is robust, wise, efficient, and really purposeful. The issue of abortion is not significant; what is much more significant is how we are educating our girls. Educate the girls well and they will know whether or not to abort.

But we don’t talk of the education of girls; we keep talking of a thousand other things. “Should girls wear long or short? Should single motherhood be encouraged?” A thousand issues related to women are in circulation. There is so much debate, so much noise really, and nobody seems to understand that the lady can decide just as any human being can decide, provided you have empowered her enough to decide.

And the empowerment that I am talking of is spiritual. I am not talking of the empowerment that gives her the legal right to terminate the pregnancy, not that kind of empowerment. I am talking of self-awareness: “Who am I? Why do I need to bring a child to life? Where is the child coming from? How am I placed?” Then the very decision to get pregnant will change. Abortion comes much later; the matter of abortion arises only if there is pregnancy. Even the decision as to whether or not to be pregnant might change, and if there is an accidental pregnancy, she will know how to deal with it.

Q: I have two points to say in response to that. Firstly, I think that educating every single woman on the planet so that she will be able to make decisions on this complicated topic, I think, is possible only in an ideal world, not in a real world.

AP: How do you know?

Q: Because giving that level of consciousness to every single person seems impossible.

AP: How do you know?

Q: I don’t know.

AP: If you don’t know, then what kind of education are you coming from to think that this is merely utopian?

See, please understand. We all are coming from a certain level of spiritual education, and it is that level that decides our opinions on critical matters. So, you right now are displaying a certain opinion on a certain critical matter. Now, that opinion is coming from where you are coming from, right? So, lack of spiritual education is making you think that spiritual education is merely a utopia. Lack of spiritual education is making you think that spiritual education can’t be for all.

Q: No, let’s take an example. If we go on a mission to teach every woman to jump three meters high…

AP: No, it is a bad example right in the beginning. We are not talking of jumping three meters high.

Q: If we go on a mission to teach every woman…

AP: Why will I go on such a mission? Am I uneducated? Am I uneducated enough to go on such a mission?

Q: No, I mean you are saying that we will get everyone to pass this threshold…

AP: Yes, I am saying that depending on what I am seeing and where I am coming from. You see, if you keep insisting, taking your three meters and five meters analogy forward, let’s say, that your height is one meter and I tell you to touch a point that is 1.5 meters high, you will say it is impractical, just as you said that educating all girls is impractical.

What is practical or impractical depends on your own self-awareness. Do you even know yourself enough to decide what is practical and what is not? What you decide to practice becomes practical, and what you decide to practice depends on how much you know yourself. It is a decision, not a situation.

Corrupting an entire population seems so easy to us, right? Corrupting an entire population never appears like a utopia, but educating an entire population seems so unrealistic that you are highly dismissive and resistant to the idea.

Q: No, I am not resistant to the idea. Even if we talk about corrupting the entire population, I don’t think we can corrupt everyone. We may go about corrupting ninety-five to ninety-six percent, but it is not practical to reach a hundred.

AP: Right. The question is then about four percent of the women who cannot be educated?

Q: Yes.

AP: The question is then worthless. You see, leave those four percent aside. Abortion as a matter becomes big enough only when it concerns the entire hundred percent. If you are talking about the four percent outliers, then there are outliers in every field; then the question becomes irrelevant.

Q: No, the question I am asking is on a micro level. I am trying to understand if the mother has the philosophical right to decide what to do with her unborn child.

AP: Depends on the mother. All rights are carried by certain individuals. Your first right is to be conscious. And once you are conscious, then you have all the rights to do as you please. And if you are not conscious, then, irrespective of what the constitution bestows upon you, existentially you actually have no rights.

That’s the thing with laws, law books, and constitutions: they give rights to everybody equally, but they also forbid everybody from doing certain things without giving due consideration to the internal situation of the individual. Not everything is out of bounds for everybody; existentially, it just cannot be. But that’s the problem with laws: they become universal, very general, and when it comes to touchy things like abortion, that’s a big problem, a huge problem.

So, focus on raising a conscious society. Do not dismiss this thing as just idealistic blabber, it is not; it is the only solution that you can have. And once you have invested enough in rightly teaching your girls, do not interfere—it’s their life and their body, they will know. But you have all the rights, rather the responsibility, the great responsibility to raise your girl well. Once you have raised her well, leave her.

Q: Yes sir, I am not advocating the other side, I am just trying to understand myself.

AP: Please understand. Without developing her ability to decide rightly for herself—that is what I mean by consciousness: developing her ability to decide rightly for herself—all that you can have is external intervention in some form, either a form that says it is alright till certain months, or a form that says it is alright in certain cases. Would you like such a thing to happen to your body or to your personal life?

Q: I am just trying to understand, I don’t know yet.

AP: Even I am trying to understand along with you, we are together in this. It is a very intimate thing. Would you like someone, anybody to decide or dictate who you are going to sleep with?

Q: Definitely not.

AP: Definitely not. Now do you see that the issue of pregnancy is very closely linked to this?

Q: Yes.

AP: So, how can we allow someone else to have a say in this? Can you have a law, a statute, or the constitution telling you that you should sleep with such a person, not marry such a person, definitely marry such a person—would you like that?

Q: No, definitely not.

AP: And that is when it concerns a body outside of your body. There is the girl and she exists physically outside of your body, and even then you don’t want the state to interfere. As a young man, you would be ferociously against such a situation—somebody is coming and telling you, “You have to definitely fall in love with this girl.”

Q: Yes, maybe I will rebel.

AP: You will rebel, you will be livid, and you will probably slap that person. If I were you, that is what I would do. Now, think of a situation—the two of us being men have to actually exercise some imagination—there is a body inside your body and somebody else is telling you what to do with it. Why should you tolerate? The only thing you can do is, I am saying, internally empower the women to make the right decision for herself. Do not try to bind her in laws or something; that won’t work, that’s stupid.

Q: I understood that. So, going forward with our thought experiment, suppose the woman gives birth to a child and then she realizes that she is neither mentally nor financially capable to raise this child. So, how is killing the child in such a position different from abortion?

AP: Depends on the mother.

Q: But given the current society, she does not have the legal or the philosophical right to kill the child she has given birth to.

AP: See, philosophical rights you can know only when you know philosophy, so keep that aside. As far as legal rights go, legal and other laws can be changed; all that can be changed. So, don’t say that she doesn’t have legal rights. Legal rights can be granted to her.

I am not in favor of abortion, obviously. First of all, if it was not proper, then it should not have come into being. But once it has come into being, I would definitely want it to take birth and be alive. But then, equally, I know that that is not a decision I or you can take, and I also know that there will be situations when it is not right to take such a decision, when it would be rather better to terminate the pregnancy. And these are very nuanced things, very subtle things; there are several dimensions to every such situation.

So, let the women be educated, let her be decently counseled; let her at least be educated enough to accept counseling. You said it is just too idealistic to think that all the girls can be raised internally to the level where they will be able to decide rightly for themselves. Let’s raise them at least to the point where they are open to receive sane counseling, where they are able to have the discretion, the right sense to know who is the right person to listen to. At least this much of education can be given, you would agree, right? So, let’s do that and then trust women.

Q: I am not saying that we decide for them, I am just doing a thought experiment. So, how is killing a newborn different than abortion? Or are they not different?

AP: No, they are not different. It is just that the situations are different, but in both the cases consciousness is being terminated, that is true.

Q: So, till what age can you kill a child?

AP: You cannot decide that way, son. Tell me, what does euthanasia exist for? Consciousness can be terminated when it is four months of age within the body of the woman; equally, consciousness can be terminated when it is eighty years of age or forty years of age. Further, a very conscious being, in his conscious domain, can decide to terminate his own life for a greater goal. So, just being physically alive does not mean much. Think of the sacrifices of those who put themselves on the altar, think of all your freedom fighters—were they not in some sense deciding to terminate their lives? Think of Bhagat Singh. So, how is bodily extinction the final test of right or wrong? Sometimes bodily extinction can just be the right thing, rather the greatest thing to happen.

Q: My question was something different. Before the birth, you agreed that the child is inside the woman’s body, so maybe she has the right to abort. Then we agreed that even if she kills a newborn, it is in a way the same thing.

AP: No, I didn’t say killing the newborn is the same thing; I said consciousness is getting terminated in both the cases. In that sense it is the same thing. I am not saying abortion is the same as murder.

Q: What I am trying to say is, if you abort the child in the fourth month or fifth month, when the heart starts throbbing and all, how is that different than killing a child in the first week of his life?

AP: In both the cases a living being is coming to a physical end; they are the same thing. Now, what is the question?

Q: My question is, in the first case you said that the mother has the right to decide. Does she have the right to decide in the second case as well?

AP: How does a soldier get the right to kill a terrorist or a criminal or an enemy? Is killing another person outside of your body, not within your womb, always a crime?

Q: No, it is not always a crime.

AP: So, that’s what. Consciously you have to decide when to terminate even the other’s life just as consciously you decide when to terminate your own life.

Q: But in the example you gave for a soldier, that particular enemy is a threat to you and, therefore, a threat to your tribe. By tribe I mean your culture and your nation.

AP: No, it is not that way. The soldier is not thinking so much.

Q: Not as a person, but as a unit, the army decides to kill someone.

AP: Is the army always right while deciding to kill someone? The army operates on orders. The German army was killing in droves. So, why are you trying to justify killing when it happens through a soldier?

Q: I am not trying to justify.

AP: What I am trying to point at is, even one person killing another person is neither necessarily right nor necessarily wrong. So, just as a soldier can be very right in killing another person and a soldier can be horribly wrong in killing another person, similarly any person can be either right or wrong in killing any person; it could even be a mother-child relationship. Have you watched the movie Mother India ?

Q: Yes, when I was a child.

AP: Good that you have watched it at least. So, the climactic piece was a mother killing her son, and the son was actually rebelling against the injustice of the moneylender and other exploitative people in the village, and yet that is what made the movie so great and it became a classic—it still is. So, a mother can kill the son or the daughter or the husband or anybody or even herself—it is not the act per se that you can have a viewpoint on. The act does not matter; the consciousness behind it matters.

Q: If we decide that killing someone is okay when that person is a threat to you…

AP: No, I am not saying that. It is not about threat or something. It is far more nuanced.

Q: If we consider humans first as biological primates…

AP: You don’t have to consider them that way. Why do you want to proceed on your set line?

Q: I start here and then build upwards towards consciousness.

AP: No. If you want to look at yourself just as a body, then that is what the laws anyways do, and then they give you definitely the right to kill someone in self-defense. So, that right is anyway granted to you by law itself. If someone is becoming a physical threat to you and in the process of defending yourself you kill that person, the law will not punish you. So, that is another matter.

Q: So, with respect to that matter only I am asking, what do you think the law should be? Until what point does the mother have the right over the child?

AP: The law should be: educate everybody. Educate the mother, and now, I am saying, educate not only the girls but also the boys.

Q: What happens if she kills a twenty-year-old?

AP: She can kill a twenty-year-old if the twenty-year-old deserves to be killed. What is the problem?

Q: Does she have the right to kill a twenty-year-old?

AP: Obviously.

Q: If I am wrong, who is the mother to kill me?

AP: Who is a soldier to kill another soldier?

Q: That is a different thing.

AP: How is that a different thing? A person is killing another person.

Q: Yeah, but if you look into the nuance of it…

AP: The nuanced approach is something on my side, so you have to look into it!

Q: The previous question was on abortion and I was reminded of an incident from my days in California. In my workplace, there would always be a tussle at dinner time because everybody wants to go to a restaurant which would serve good non-vegetarian delicacies. I was the only vegetarian, rather a vegan person in the group. So, one day one of my colleagues surprisingly asked me: “Given that you do not subscribe to meat consumption or animal cruelty, are you also pro-life?” And this is a big statement to make in California because everybody is a liberal and everybody believes themselves to be pro-choice. If you say you are pro-life, they don’t take that very well. Now, it is very ironic that most meat consuming people in the US are also the people who are pro-life, people who say that the child has the right to live and therefore women should not get to decide. They are also conflating my right over my sexuality to me protecting animals or disparaging animal cruelty. This is a very paradoxical view and, unfortunately, a lot of people have it.

AP: It is very much in line with the discussion that we are having. You see, when you really don’t understand, when you don’t have insight, then that is what you have: fragments within the mind, and fragmented views and opinions on so many things. There is no wholeness, no integrity in anything. On one hand, you are so full of compassion for the yet-to-be-born baby, and on the other hand, you are busy chewing at the flesh of another baby. So, this kind of fragmentation is there because we do not understand. When we do not understand, when we just imbibe something from here, something from there, and we develop opinions, we don’t even have the wits to know that one opinion is just not consistent with the other one.

It is like me not having any interest or ability or sincerity in the field of mathematics. So, you come to me and show me a right angle triangle, and you tell me: a^2+b^2=c^2. I take that, but I do not know where it is coming from; I have never even bothered to ask for proof whether it is really happening. Then someone else comes to me and he says, b^2=c^2-2a^2, and I take that as well. I have agreed to a^2+b^2=c^2, but I do not know a thing about a, b, or c. I don’t even know what a right angled triangle really is. Even if I know what it means to have a 90 degrees somewhere, I have not asked for proof, where it comes from. So, someone else comes and this fellow is saying, b2=c2-2a2, and I am agreeable to even this as well. I just do not have the integrity to call out the inconsistency.

That is how most people are—inconsistent, divided, one thing at one place, another thing at another place; they have multiple faces. They have multiple faces because none of the faces are real; everything is borrowed. And when you borrow things, they don’t really harmonize with each other. You have a car coming from Toyota, and you try to put in a headlight coming from Hyundai, a bonnet from Mercedes—none of these things are really talking to each other or agreeing to each other. And some kind of a really comic specimen we manage to assemble, and that specimen is our life.

That is how most of us exist—something from here, something from there, and a very amusing and ugly assembly of all that is called the self. So, on one hand you love your dog, and on the other hand you love chicken: “I love my dog and I love chicken.” You tell that to an alien and he will definitely think that you love your dog exactly the way you love chicken, and he will ask you for a dog delicacy or something. “I love my baby, I love chicken”—we don’t see the inconsistency. “I shed tears when something happens to my dog; I feed chicken to my dog”—we don’t see the inconsistency, not at all.

Self-awareness—it might sound boring, repetitive, and unexciting, but I am sorry—is the only solution. Without spirituality, all that we are is a bogus conglomeration of unrelated things which are not in sync, not in harmony, and not in any kind of pretty association.

In the language of music, think of what happens when an orchestra goes bad—the drummer is drumming away to his own glory, the guitarist is busy in his own world, and what do you get as a sum total of all that? Noise. That is how our lives are; nothing is really resonating with the other. Your religious beliefs are one thing, your interest in commerce is in another dimension, your attitude towards your woman or man is one thing, your attitude towards money is in another dimension, and we manage to still exist and say ’I’ as if there is a singular ‘I’ somewhere. There is no ‘I’.

I am reminded of someone on this question of very amusing dissonance. There is this particular teacher—no need to name—and he is distributing these exquisite fruits around the country. And of the many claims that are made related to the glory of the fruit, one is that it will bestow you with scientific temper. That is how deeply fragmented we are. You take this part of a plant, some fruit or nut or something, I don’t know what, and you put it in your body and you will get a scientific temper; you will become more logical, more inquisitive; you will go deeper in your inquiry! We just don’t understand anything.

Q: We as a family went through an abortion. We were not very conscious to decide rightly, and we just proceeded based on various medical reasons and other factors. But as we started learning and understanding a lot of things from you, I think that if the same decision were to come right now, maybe I would decide totally differently. So, this clearly resonates on how important it is to be conscious to take any decision, either to abort or continue.

What I have also noticed is that a lot of youngsters decide to have a baby as unconsciously as they decide not to have one. I have seen, at least in my circle of friends and family, a few people who gave birth to a baby, and I have noticed that their decision is not at all conscious. But I also have a few friends who decided not to give birth to a child, but their decision was equally unconscious. I see that it has become a kind of revolutionary trend; they just decide that they won’t have any kids, and they are willing to fight all kinds of pointless battles to defend their decision.

You have talked about bringing women to a level where she can question, get counseled, and understand certain things before taking any decision. When I am faced with such people, when they come and try to seek help regarding such a decision, I am confused about how to tell them that a lot of other things need to be changed before one can take such a decision. So, how to deal with such situations?

AP: A child is not a guinea pig. You cannot say, “I am giving birth to a child so that I can keep learning as he or she grows up.” That is just not how it can happen or should happen—that is cruelty. And a lot of people say that; they say, “We become mature after giving birth, so giving birth is a prerequisite. Let us be mothers, be fathers, and then maturity will come on its own.” This is so cruel. You are trying to experiment on the kid. That is not how it can happen.

Even if you remain without having a baby your entire life, that is far, far better than giving birth being unprepared.

And if at the age of fifty-five you find you are prepared to have a baby but your body does not allow it, then go adopt one. What is the problem? What is so exclusive and heavenly about having a baby of your own DNA? Is that not violence? Are you not using somebody’s body to further your own body? Think of this. When you say, “I want a kid of my own coming from my cells”—coming from the mother’s cells—are you not using somebody’s body to further your own body? Is that not the worst use of somebody’s existence? You are saying, “The kid should exist to carry my DNA forward.” What the hell is this? It is like saying somebody has to exist so that he can keep carrying my luggage. How loving is that?

So, I am extremely unambiguous on this. Only when you are doubly, triply sure that you know what parenting means and you find it now essential to have a kid of your own, then, and only then, must you give birth; otherwise not at all. And having a baby is not something really constrained by temporal limits; life is a flux, you are continuously learning. If at fifty-five you feel that your time to parent a kid has come, that you are in a right position, that it will do great things to the kid if you father him, and that it will deepen your own compassion if you sire the kid, then, I am saying, go adopt.

Q: I have also seen people, especially women, getting into big battles and challenging situations when they are not willing to comply with the expectation of her in-laws and her own family of not becoming a mother.

AP: A battle exists only when you are engaging with the enemy; only then a battle happens. Disengage. Why do you need such a family? Even to be embattled with someone is to be engaged with that person. Even to be in battle is to be intimate to an extent.

If there are people who take the woman’s body and her life as being centered on her fertility, then those people deserve immediate disengagement. They have no respect for the woman. Somebody who is constantly pestering you to get pregnant or other similar things—how can you even look at such a person’s face? Just disengage.

Q: Usually the woman herself is not disengaging enough.

AP: There is nothing called the woman herself. The woman herself is a hotchpotch, a very unseemly medley of impressions. There is nothing called the woman herself. She is just a collection of imprints. So, the moment she disengages it will do her a lot of good. When you say the woman herself holds such opinions and these things, where are these opinions coming from? Those are not her own. Even those opinions are coming from the movies she has watched, the mother-in-law, the mother, the father, the husband, the entire gang—that is where she is collecting all her rubbish from. Disengage.

Q: Even the thought of not having a baby is also coming from such influences.

AP: Obviously, very well said. But then there is a rider here: not having a baby entails running a far lower risk than having a baby unconsciously. In your unconscious self, what is worse: you go out for a drive, or you don’t go out for a drive? The weather is pleasant. If you don’t go out, then you are missing out on the pleasantness; that is the risk, that is the downside. You are drunk, you are not conscious, and there is an option to go on a long drive. If you decide not to go on the drive, what are you missing out on? What is the downside? You miss out on the pleasant experience. But if you do decide to drive, then what is the downside? What is the risk? You know the risk.

Q: Death.

AP: So, if you are not certain, then it is better to not run the risk. If you are not sure whether you are sober or not, if you are not sure whether the liquor has still abated, then it is better to play safe because we are talking of life here—your life, the kid’s life, and many other lives due to be impacted.

Q: How can a conscious being ever decide to take away another person’s life? As you said, it is very much within the rights of the mother that she can decide to end the life of the child. So, how can a conscious being come to such a decision? For example, a child has taken birth and is now three or four years old, and the mother has come to her senses and sees that it is not possible for her to raise the child and decides to end the life of the child. How can this action ever be justified?

AP: One by one. There are just too many questions in a flurry here. First thing, please understand, consciousness does not count numbers; it has love for depth. Forty good-for-nothing bodies walking around are good to make a pack of animals. In the animal kingdom, numbers mean a lot. Wolves, hyenas, even lions, they go around in numbers; without those numbers they will starve. We say a pack of wolves, a pride of lions; there are many of them, numbers matter a lot to them. Human beings are different. It is not numbers that matters to us. Numbers can be sacrificed for the sake of depth.

There is this beautiful story. So, there is the teacher and the disciple, the guru and the śhiṣhya . They are stranded on an island and there is just nothing to eat, and both of them are very compassionate and extremely loving people. They have never hurt animals, never even thought of eating flesh for survival. There is a lot that happens there and ultimately, when they come to see that they are probably going to starve, the teacher calls the disciple and says, “I am killing myself, and with my flesh you try surviving another few days because I anyway had only a few years left; I can go. You must live because you are illuminated, and with you there is a chance that the illumination can reach many more people.”

Numbers don’t count; illumination counts. For the sake of illumination lives can be laid down, persons can die.

So, your very premise that how can a conscious woman decide to terminate pregnancy is questionable. How can a conscious man decide to wear protection during sex? Is that not the same, in some sense, as terminating pregnancy, given that we very well know that there is nothing called soul or something that enters the fetus one particular day? The man’s cell and the woman’s egg are already alive; they are alive since day one. It is not as if the baby becomes alive on one particular day in the second month or fourth month. Your cells are already alive even as they enter the woman’s body. So, when you are wearing protection, are you not disallowing life from taking shape?

But then this question doesn’t arise—why? Because we are body-identified people. The sperm cell is hardly bodily. Even if it is, we are unable to look at it. So, then, we don’t beat our chest saying, “Murder, murder, murder!” But wearing a condom is, in this sense, full-blooded murder, is it not? Or consider the withdrawal technique—that amounts to murder as well because life could have taken shape; you didn’t allow it.

In human beings, life does not mean numbers so much; it means the depth of consciousness. And for depth of consciousness, lives can be laid down. If killing per se is bad, what do you say of Rama and Krishna? Both killed. Killing per se is not bad at all, because we are human beings. One illuminated soul is far better than a thousand dark caves extremely resentful to any light.

So, that is the first part of my response. There were other things you were talking about. Please go ahead.

Q: We are talking from a spiritual perspective about a woman who is conscious and who has decided to take the life of the kid. Is there any remote chance that law would ever be able to understand this?

AP: Depends on the lawmaker. You are constantly looking at the action, not going to the karta , the actor. Talk of the lawmaker; you are the lawmaker. The day you are illuminated, all laws will be fine, or rather, removed. Which conscious being needs an external law to dictate his or her life? We need laws only because we live in dark caves. Otherwise, do you need laws to tell a Buddha to do his stuff? And will he listen to your laws? Seriously?

The lawmaker has to be right enough and bright enough. Minimal laws are needed. You can know the state of a society by measuring the thickness of its rulebook. The thicker your rulebook is, the thicker your constitution is, the more depraved, dark, and unconscious that society is. Think of an arrangement between lovers—what do they do? First of all, they sign a forty-four-page agreement—what is certain? That there is no love.

If as a society, as people, you need thousands of laws to govern your conduct, then surely there is no consciousness. All you need is the one Law. And when you don’t know that one Law, then you are condemned to follow twenty thousand laws. The choice is yours. Know the one Law and be freed of the thousands of laws, or remain enslaved to the thousand laws by actively resisting the one Law. That is the law of consciousness, the law of Truth, the law of liberation.

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