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Beyond hormonal impulses and compulsive behavior || (2019)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
15 min
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Questioner (Q): Acharya Ji, how to remain conscious of my actions when hormonal imbalance overpowers my ability to opt for conscious behavior over compulsive behavior? And since it happens only at certain intervals, I am actually conscious of the facts. I don't know if that is sufficient or whether anything can be done about the compulsive part.

Acharya Prashant (AP): So there's the type of behavior that we call as, the questioner is calling as, compulsive behavior. And she is rightly relating it to bodily secretion and hormonal chemistry, latent tendencies, and such things. Something very visceral and overpowering just arises without notice and takes control of the being. That's what we call as compulsive behavior.

And then she has already thought of a remedy and the remedy, according to her, is conscious behavior. In conscious behavior, the 'I sense' knows in the sense of cognizing. It knows in the sense of rather recognizing, recognizing by pattern matching; detecting that is the same pattern that arose at some point in the past. "At that point, it is called by this name so this being the same thing, I would again call it by the same name."

In conscious behavior, you recognize the pattern and have already known that the pattern is dislikable or harmful. You take active and conscious measures to disrupt the pattern. The whole framework needs to be revisited a little.

That which we call compulsive behavior, even that is determined by the 'I' tendency. It is just that compulsive behavior comes from a part of 'I' tendency that is not available to thought, and therefore knowledge. We very well know that what we call knowledge is totally dependent on thought and words. No thought, no knowledge. No words, no knowledge.

Compulsive behavior arises from the deep ‘I’ tendency where language doesn't exist. That part of our being is common with trees and animals and with little kids. No language, just instincts. No thoughts, just surges. So when you call it compulsive behavior, it is not as if you are facing a certain compulsion from somebody else; that too is you. You are under your own compulsion. You are under the compulsion of your own primitive being; the animal, so to say.

The Ego operates very much even in compulsive behavior. In conscious behavior, the Ego comes to know of what is happening because the happening has come to a perceptible range of the senses. As long as primal visceral animal-like anger or depression or lust lies within, lies hidden in the body's cells and tissues, the conscious mind doesn't know of it.

But when that same anger or violence or lust comes to the fore and starts manifesting in behavior, then the conscious mind says “ Something that should not happen, is now happening.” And it is not always that the conscious mind wants to curb the activity of the compulsive unconscious mind. Many times, when the season is right and the opportunity is favorable, you even want to support the compulsive urges from within.

So do you see what is happening? There is a deep part of the mind from where waves of tendencies arise. And then there is a superficial part that you call as the conscious part that deals with thought language and knowledge; which decides based on what it has been taught and how it has been cultured and conditioned; whether or not to support the inner uprising.

We must remember that it is not always that we go against our visceral tendencies. Not always. We very frequently support them as well, and we say, “Wow, it's good fun.”

So conscious behavior can't really be the solution or anathema to compulsive behavior. Because both come from the same 'I' tendencies. Anger arises from within, and let's say it's a pattern with you. If the moment is opportune, you might as well decide to vent out your anger, and slap the little one standing in front of you. Then you won't say that "My compulsive tendencies have to be curbed". But standing in front of the governor of the province, you will say “Anger is merely compulsive behavior, and it is so bad to be angry. One must not be angry that’s what the Buddha taught!”

Conscious behavior isn't merely conditioned. It is also very opportunistic. It is determined by expediency and morality. Then what to do? Be engaged with something beyond consciousness. Conscious behavior may appear better than unconscious behavior but is nevertheless not the best thing. The best is to be superconscious, to be ahead of consciousness.

When you are engaged in something that is so demanding, immense, beautiful, and absorbing — that you don't even have the space opportunity to look back at yourself and therefore be self-conscious — then all the activities in the conscious and subconscious domain fall in place by themselves.

It is almost like this: You have a basement in your house and ground floor. The basement is big and deep and dark and unvisited. The ground floor is illuminated but limited and small. A lot of things keep happening in the basement, but they go undetected. But many times, the basement activity is felt even in the living room, on the ground floor. Some stench arises, some slimy creepy things make their way to your living room from the basement. Then you become conscious of the basement. And then you say that "The basement is a dangerous place, and I must do something about it."

It's not always that the basement gives you stuff that is dislikable. One in ten times, you may have something coming up from there that you may want to accept based on your need, situation, and opportunity. The living room is limited. Even if you are able to protect it from what is happening in the basement, you would still be living in a limited area. This limited area would always be subject to the dark vagaries of the basement.

Those who have known have told us to start living at a little distance from the complex itself. The Ego immediately resists and says, “Well, it's already bad enough when I am living on the ground floor. So much maintenance has to be done. If I leave the place and start living outside, God knows what might happen!” But that's the solution. The one who you are can't live in limitations.

There is no great virtue in consciousness. Consciousness is merely living in a trained and conditioned dualistic way. Consciousness always implies the presence of two — the one who is conscious and the object of consciousness. And who is the one who is conscious? It is always the 'I sense', the Ego.

You say “I am conscious.” This twoness, this separation, is the bane of life. Why think of it as the highest ideal? Why propose it as the best solution against compulsive behavior?

The wise ones, the knower saints, and the great devotees have never lived conscious lives. In fact, those who have looked at them have called them loonies, crazy people who make no sense and have no idea of what is going on. As long as you decide to stick to consciousness, you will have to live in a limited room. You will have to live on the ground floor.

If you are living on the ground floor, then the basement is never far away.

Be so immersed beyond yourself that all the things happening in this complex, the basement, the living room, become immaterial to you. Yes, the slimy thing has crept up from the basement to the living room, but it does not find anybody there.

Why it doesn't find anybody there? Because you are outside, and that's the thing with consciousness, it always requires two. And if the slimy thing doesn't find anybody, then there are no two, and if there are no two, then there can't even be one. The slimy thing disappears when it does not find you in the living room. For anything bad to happen to you, first of all, you must be there. If you aren't there, to whom are all the bad things going to happen?

The anger arises, but it doesn't find you, now who will support and sustain it? Therefore, the anger has to immediately fall down. Who keeps anger alive? The first surge of anger might be purely hormonal, but who keeps anger alive? It's you who do that. If you do not support anger, how long can anger sustain by itself? So be absent, be gone. If you're not there, anger may come up and then fall down. Do not rely on consciousness. Consciousness extracts too big a price for too small a service. Be gone, be away, be somewhere else.

So all those things are happening in the mind-body complex. But they are not happening to you. Are they happening? "Yes, they all are happening." Are they happening to you? "No." Is it bad? "Obviously, it is very bad." Is it bad for you? "Well, I will have to find out, I am not there." It is raining. Is it raining for you? "No." The hormones are doing their thing. The body is affected. Are you affected? No.

Instead, a lot of effort is applied in the wrong direction. Unfortunately, even a lot of contemporary spiritual practice has to do with that wrong direction. We want to cut, control, curb or eliminate the basement. When bad things start happening to the body, we say, “Oh no! bad things are happening to me, and they should not happen to me. I want to stop these bad things.” When bad things are happening to the body, and you say, “These bad things should not happen to me, I must stop them”, sometimes you are indeed able to stop those things. There are several methods, including very material methods like drugs.

Even if you can stop those things from happening to the body, you still have lost out in a big way. How? Something was happening to the body. Hormonal chemicals; and you said, “Bad things are happening to me. Look at my face, it's flushing. Look at my hands, they are shivering. The mind is going bonkers. I want to control all these things.” And say if you succeeded in controlling all these things using some spiritual method or some drug. Still, I am saying you have lost out in a big way. How?

Q: You suppressed it. You have acknowledged that you are shivering.

AP: The body was shivering, and you said “I am shivering.” So even in fighting the body, suppressing it, or defeating it, you have inadvertently admitted and established that you are the body. It's a bad defeat. It is a very, very bad defeat.

Now, the body's protection is also important. So if it comes to a point where the body needs to be protected against its own inner mechanism, then you provide the body with relief of some nature. That is a totally different thing. But to say “I am a body, I am being affected, and therefore I need a remedy”; it's different. Different and very harmful.

Compulsive behavior, conscious behavior, both come from two parts of the “I” tendency—the Ego. Conscious behavior is the favorite of Ego and, therefore probably even more dangerous.

Live life so intense that you have no opportunity to ask or question who am I and where am I. Many of you might be in that no zone even right now. If you are really listening, the listener would have dissolved by now. The twoness would have evaporated. There is only a solitary connectedness—a connectedness in which there are no ‘two’ to be connected.

There is evidence from our life that this is possible. There is evidence all around us that it is possible. And if you go to the old books, stories, and scriptures, there is even more evidence that this is possible. This is not merely possible, this is the only beautiful way of living. Remain lost, remain gone! Go beyond time, and time stops. Become totally oblivious of time. Become oblivious of custom.

You are not going to teach an Archimedes to be nicely dressed up before entering the street. You are not going to teach a Haridāsa not to sing at midnight. You aren't going to teach a Karṇa that when the insect is gnawing away at the flesh in your thigh, then you better leave the guru and take care of the body. There is life beyond the house. But we are, you see, born and brought up in the house, so we want to remain there.

We are too big to remain contained in the house. Get out and get lost!

Q: We get out of the house a lot of time. Eventually, we come back unconscious, even without even realizing that we have come back. How do we permanently stay out?

AP: Don't allow yourself. Fall so much in love with the vastness outside, that even a minor separation becomes unbearable. You really have to fall in crazy love.

That's what I ask meditators, “If you really love peace so much, then why do you get up from meditation? If peace is really so dear to you, how dare you breach the peace!” Why does the whole thing stop at a point, and that too at a predetermined point? 7 am in the morning, it stops. What kind of date is this? Lovers do not meet to separate, do they? And if they are meeting with a pre-appointed time for separation, then is it love at all?

We have been trained to compromise, you see. Spirituality is super rebellion, in which compromise is just not admissible. That's what is meant when it is said that He is just One. One means no exception. One means no alternative. One means nowhere else to go to. No alternative! If you are with him, who else would you go to because there is nobody else? So how are you breaking away? For what? When there is no option available, what are you taking a break for?

This optionlessness and choicelessness are very important to come to. And sadly, consciousness is all about options and choices. Unless you come to a choiceless state, you will remain wise, careful, and intellectual in your own estimate, but all that would be just suffering.

One has to come to the right one and then willingly forsake all choice. One has to give up the right to choose.

As long as one retains the right to choose, you are retaining the right to suffer. It's just that giving up the right to choose is in itself big suffering.

All our modern institutions are based on our right of choice. So it has gone down very deep within us. Free-market, laissez-faire, a democracy, all the kinds of freedom enshrined in the various constitutions of the world they all operate assuming that man's right to choose is almost absolute.

But in the inner domain, that right to choose is itself your biggest enemy. It's alright to vote or vote out a politician, but when you start voting ‘for or against’ truth or liberation, then it's a very bad choice to have. In the most significant matters of life, you must have no voting rights. You must be absolutely enslaved. And now you know why the slaves love to call themselves Das (Hindi word for a slave). We have no choice because if we have a choice, the choice will prove self-destructive.

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