Questioner: Sir, is there an absolute notion of what is right and what is wrong?
Acharya Prashant: All rights and wrongs, everything in the universe, exists for you . So, all rightness is with respect to you; all wrongness is with respect to you. This is a bit delicate, you will need to be attentive.
You are someone who is not alright; that is our fundamental condition, that is what makes us move. Otherwise, no one would desire change or betterment. We are entities unfulfilled, dissatisfied—therefore, not alright. Is that not true? Both at the physical and the mental level, we are never okay. Sometimes we feel okay only in a relative sense: “I had a headache in the morning, I no more have the headache, so I am feeling okay. It is only relative to my condition in the morning.” Perfectly we are never okay.
Perfection has a unitary characteristic: it cannot change. Had you been perfectly okay, you would have never lapsed into imperfection again—but we do that, right? Even when you say, “Oh, all is well for me, life is great,” something happens the next hour and we start feeling miserable.
So, who are we? We are imperfect entities striving for perfection. That is the definition of the human being, that is the central characteristic of the human consciousness: it is unfulfilled and seeks fulfillment, it is incomplete and is constantly trying for completion.
If that is who we are, what is right and what is wrong? We have defined the one we are; now, tell me, what is right and what is wrong? If I am, by definition, a dissatisfied entity, what is right? Obviously, that which will lead me towards satisfaction is right; that which will lead me towards perfection and contentment is right, and that which will further aggravate my diseased condition is wrong.
The thing doesn’t stop here. We said the matter is delicate.
Now, if I am by definition imperfect and I want perfection, then what happens to that ‘I’ as I move towards perfection? ‘I’ equals imperfection, right? However, this ‘I’ desires perfection. So, as the ‘I’ moves towards perfection as a result of its desire, what happens to the ‘I’? It keeps reducing. The bigger the imperfection, the bigger the ‘I’. That is why it is called the ego. The more imperfect you are, the bigger is the ego.
The more perfect you become, the same ‘I’ that wanted perfection starts reducing. Now, the ‘I’ doesn’t like that. ‘I’ wanted perfection for itself: “ I want to be perfect.” Now, as it is nearing perfection, ‘I’ is getting smaller and smaller. Now, who will be left to experience perfection, then? So, the ‘I’ starts resisting perfection. Perfection is what it wanted, but as it gets closer to perfection it reduces, and it doesn’t like its reduction because reduction is like death. It says, “What is the benefit in achieving such a perfection? Perfection will be there, I will not be there. Who will take the benefit of perfection, then? Who will claim to be perfect, then?”
So, the right thing is that which reduces you. That is why the right thing is so difficult to do. When I said the right thing is that which takes you towards satisfaction, many of you might have felt great because we feel satisfied with all kinds of awful things. If you do a secret poll asking people, “What is it that satisfies you?” you will get the kind of list you will not want to read, let alone show someone or publish somewhere. All kinds of funny and debauched things satisfy us, do they not?
So, this disclaimer has to be added: Where there is real satisfaction, you will feel threatened and reduced. That is the litmus test. If you are feeling satisfied without feeling threatened, then your satisfaction is a problem; it is dangerous, wake up. Wherever in life there would be something real, it will make you very, very afraid. The right thing is always a very fearful thing; it horrifies you. As a corollary, the wrong thing is very attractive. Why? Because it consolidates and fattens the ‘I’.
Now you know why people have to be encouraged and inspired to do the right things but they do the wrong things on their own. Have you ever motivated someone to do all kinds of rubbish? No, that requires no motivation, but someone has to constantly push you to do the right thing. Teachers, saints, seers, scriptures—they all have been trying so hard, and yet it is so difficult to do the right thing. The wrong thing, it exists and sits within us. No effort is required to do the wrong thing; it is almost natural. In fact, most of that which we call as ‘natural’ is the wrong thing.
The right thing does not come naturally to you. Whatsoever comes naturally to you is, most probably, wrong.
So, never use the word ‘natural’ to defend some rubbish that you are getting into. For example, at your age love is natural. That kind of love is extremely problematic, it destroys your life, the natural kind of love—falling in love at the first sight, falling in love with looks, or not knowing why you have fallen in love at all. Somebody asks you, “What is so worthy of love there in that person?” and you say, “I don’t know. Love is an inexplicable feeling. That is what all the shayars (poets) have told us!” You are trying very hard to enter hell; kindly avoid. By ‘nature’ I mean physical, biological nature. Stuff that happens just biologically to you is stuff that is coming from the jungle, because that is where your biology comes from.
The right thing is a product of deep thinking, courage, discipline, and true love. The wrong thing is a result of waywardness, forgetfulness, and our natural tendencies.
However, the right thing, howsoever difficult and threatening it is, brings with itself that one thing we just talked of—what? What is it that you get? Joy. It is a very expensive joy. It is like the joy a fighter gets bathed in his own blood: “A tremendous battle has been fought, a worthy battle has been fought, and now there is just blood that I can see—my own blood. No part of my body has been left unwounded, there are cuts all over, and yet there is a joy in my heart that no commoner can ever experience.” That is what we are born for, that kind of joy. Not the kind of pleasure that you get relaxing in some comfortable bed in a seven-star mansion; that is cheap pleasure. However expensive that hotel is, that pleasure is cheap.
So, be very careful. Life is very short. Today you are sitting here, just yesterday I was sitting there—euphemistically, not yesterday really—and I do not know where my last twenty-four years have gone. One day you will find that you have gray hair and you are thinking of life insurance—not that I do.
Time flies. Therefore, don’t waste it. It is anyway flying away. It will take you no time to turn forty, then sixty, and then be at the cremation ground. Death is not as far away as it seems. Be very, very particular about your life, your time, your decisions.