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An innocent mind can be fooled, but never hurt
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
7 min
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Conversation between Roark and Hopton Stoddard at the end of which Roark agrees to raise the Stoddard Temple: “Roark rubbed the back of his hand against his eyes, helplessly. It was not possible. It simply was not possible. That could not be what the man wanted; not that man. It seemed horrible to hear him say that."

“Mr. Stoddard, I’m afraid you’ve made a mistake,” he said, his voice slow and tired. “I don’t think I’m the man you want. I don’t think it would be right for me to undertake it. I don’t believe in God.”

He was astonished to see Hopton Stoddard’s expression of delight and triumph. Hopton Stoddard glowed in appreciation—in appreciation of the clairvoyant wisdom of Ellsworth Toohey who was always right. He drew himself up with new confidence, and he said firmly, for the first time in the tone of an old man addressing a youth, wise and gently patronizing: “That doesn’t matter. You’re a profoundly religious man, Mr. Roark -in your own way. I can see that in your buildings.” He wondered why Roark stared at him like that, without moving, for such a long time. “That’s true,” said Roark. It was almost a whisper.”

~ The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand

Questioner: Dear Acharya Ji Pranam. My question is, ‘how Roark fell for this trick? His instincts were telling him something was wrong, but he still went on and believed Stoddard's rehearsed words. Did Toohey know Roark so well that he could create a script to influence Roark? I can't conceive that Roark can have any pattern in his character. Could you talk about what made Roark decide to build the Stoddard temple?

Thank you for the blessings.

Acharya Prashant: Yeah, it is possible to cheat and trap a Roark, it is possible. It is possible only for somebody as rare as a Toohey. Toohey at least intellectually knows Roark. He's not a Roark, but he has a conception of what Roark stands for. So, he's able to read Roark.

You see, innocence can make one vulnerable. Mallory says at one point to Roark. He says, I might be younger than you in age, but I am actually wiser. I am wiser because I know of many things that you do not know of. I am wiser because I am weaker. You are so strong that you have no need to know, the ways, the wiles and the guiles of the world. You're so strong, I am weak, so I need to be clarified. I need to know the tricks of the world. You are so absolute Roark that you feel no need to know even the tricks of the world. You are just very, very secure in your confidence that no trick of the world can really displace you from your center. And Roark's confidence in this matter is justified. Is it not?

In spite of the trick that Toohey played upon him. Was Roark displaced from its center? No, he was not. So, Roark's confidence is alright. He's not being vain. When Roark says that he does not need to know the tricks of the world. It's not hubris. It’s a factual realization of his position vis-a-vis the world. He says the world may do anything. Superficially, the world may also succeed upon me but deeply I would always prevail. Because in spite of all the success that the world might have. Will I be displaced from my Center? I will not be. That's what makes Roarks of the world superficially very vulnerable. That's what makes any saint very vulnerable. Because he knows that he cannot be beaten.

So, he is very prepared to be beaten. Because he knows that he cannot be trapped, so he does not take care to secure himself. Because he does not take care to secure himself. Therefore, it is possible to trap him at least externally.

If you want to trap a worldly man, it will be very difficult because he knows all the tricks. Why? Because he himself plays those tricks. The common man is quite clever. The sage is in a sense ‘foolish’. The common man can play unthinkable tricks upon the sage. And he can pull off those tricks. Apparently, it would be the common man's victory. Common man tricked the sage. Apparently, it would be that the common man has won. But really the sage would always win because in spite of the common man's victory. The sage would remain a sage. And in spite of his victory, the common man would still remain very, very ordinary and common. That's why sages do not take great care to secure themselves.

Outwardly, it is easy to trap them and loot them and play tricks on them. Inwardly, they are unbeatable. That's what has happened in this case as well. Toohey has played a nice little trick upon Roark and succeeded. Succeeded in defaming Roark. Succeeded in bringing Roark to financial bankruptcy. But has Toohey succeeded in breaking Roark? No. And Roark knows that. He says, right, there are people who are going to play a lot of tricks, but none of their cleverness is going to break me. So, I let their cleverness prevail. This is such an instance. The cleverness Toohey has prevailed.

Round one goes to Toohey, the bout goes to Roark. And that's what Roark knows. He says, you know if it's a thing involving, let's say eight rounds and even if you win the seven rounds, first seven rounds, Toohey, I don't bother. In the eighth round, I'll deliver a knockout punch. So, it won't matter even if I lose seven rounds out of eight. Ultimately, it's me who would deliver the knockout.

Are you getting it?

Innocence makes you both vulnerable and invincible. It is a contradiction, but you must appreciate it. Innocence makes you both highly vulnerable and deeply invincible. If you love invincibility, then go for innocence. But if you do not want to be seen losing rounds then go for cleverness. I assure you Alok, the Rishi's of the Upnishads can compose beautiful hymns. Their meditative province will throw up unfathomable versus and richas. But any common lout can fool and cheat the Rishi, it is possible.

Ashtavakra is great when seen in the context of Janak. But if you match Ashtavakra against the brat and the bully next door, Ashtavakra doesn't stand a chance. Ashtavakra is a giant in the backdrop of a Janak but if you match Ashtavakra against the local rowdy, Ashtavakra stands no chance.

Are you getting it? So that's what you find happening to Roark here. You can call it Roark's defeat, or you can call it a proof of Roak's invincibility, depends on how you look at it.

You can very easily do bad things to a sage, very easily do. In fact, it will be far more difficult to do bad things to a common worldly man. He will catch your throat and he knows all your tricks.

The sage, he can be attacked very, very easily. But in spite of all your attacks, he will never be displaced from being what he really is.


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