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The myth of the child’s innocence || Acharya Prashant (2018)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
13 min
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Questioner: Although we start speaking, listening and interacting with the world between the age of two and three years, we do not remember much from our early childhood. In one of your videos, you said that when pure witnessing happens, it doesn’t get registered in the memory. Is this the reason why we do not remember anything from that early period of our life? Is it because our minds were uncorrupted as toddlers and everything was just pure witnessing then?

Acharya Prashant: All the memories of that period are very deeply registered in the mind—so deeply that those memories do not come to the conscious surface. Kindly do not think that the experiences till the age of two or three years do not get registered in the memory. They do not get registered in the conscious memory, in the memory that is accessible to thought. But they do leave a very deep imprint. And because it is deep, so it is inaccessible.

Why do those impressions go deep into the consciousness? For two reasons. One, because, first of all, your system is not prepared with language. To register anything as a memory, you require language. Conscious memory requires language, and you do not have language until that point, so how will you record an event? But the event nevertheless does get recorded in a way that is more subtle and more deep than language.

You have said that as toddlers we are uncorrupted by the mind and witness everything purely. This is very naïve of you to say. Young kids are deeply conditioned creatures. They are just like animals. That which you call as the Self is not at all available to a human child. Forget about a two or three-year-old—the Self is not available even to a five or eight-year-old. That is why, if you read the scriptures as a five-year-old, it will not benefit you. As a five-year-old, eight-year-old, or two-year-old, one is just an animal, and animals are driven purely by their prakṛtik , animalistic, biological conditioning.

I don’t know from where you picked the idea that toddlers can be a pure witness. Ever seen a small child? He is interested in so many things. How can you witness if you are so very interested? To witness, you must first realize the fallacy of your ways. Does a kid realize why he is being attracted to the butterfly, to the toy, to the rainbow, to anything, to the mother’s breast? Does the kid realize? Like an animal, he is just pulled along by his deep tendencies.

He is an animal, and that is why education is needed. Education is needed so that the animalistic tendencies of the child can be either neutralized or channelized. It is another matter that education usually goes wrong: instead of deconditioning the child, education mostly results in piling up even more conditioning on the child’s psyche. But education nevertheless is very, very necessary, education both in the worldly way, where you teach the child about science, history, geography, mathematics and such things, and education of the self. Both are greatly important.

And remember that the animal has neither. The animal knows neither physics nor the self. Man must know both, and the child knows nothing. How, then, are you able to see that the child is uncorrupted? The child is uneducated, not uncorrupted. The corrupted one emerged from the very womb. Now, how can that corruption not be there? In the very first moment of his life after birth, he was already corrupted. Even inside the mother’s womb, the child is already corrupted. Only corruption takes birth.

There is the work, Lord of the Flies . I hope many of you have read it. Lord of the Flies describes a situation in which young kids, probably five to fifteen years old, are left stranded on an island, a deserted island. It’s World War II, and their plane has to make an emergency landing on the island. And the story goes on to describe how these little ones very quickly turn into little monsters—very quickly. The moment the influence of society is gone, the moment the school is gone and the parents are gone, the moment civilization is gone, these little ones start biting, kicking and—you know what—eating each other. A point comes when one of the fat boys is killed, his head is chopped off, and his head is put aloft with a pointed stick, and a lot of flies gather around the cut head. The novel is eponymous with the cut head— Lord of the Flies .

And you are saying little kids are so uncorrupted? Are they? Just look at the way they would take an earthworm or a caterpillar and chop it into pieces. Look at the way anything colorful and attractive can captivate them. Look at the way they are prepared to go to any extent to serve their self-interest.

If the little kid wants milk, it doesn’t matter what the mother is doing. And the mother might be very tired, the mother might have had a very bad delivery experience—the entire abdomen is shredded and she is recuperating—and it’s 2 a.m., and the child starts crying: “Give me milk! Give me my feed!” What does the child say? “No! Out of my compassion, I will allow the mother to sleep”? And if the mother is weak and there is not enough milk, the child will bite. It doesn’t matter what that bite does to the mother. What does the child say? “Oh, poor mother, she is already giving me so much. Why am I greedy for a few more drops?”

Where have you seen enlightenment in a little child? Probably in poetry, right? The poets are such misfits as adults that they start venerating immaturity, and that immaturity finds a befitting trope in childhood. So many poets cannot just cope with the adult world, so they seek refuge in a contrived childhood. I am not talking about all the poets, please. But the fascination towards the little one often comes from one failing to adjust to the demands of adult life. Adult life is a responsibility. Adult life has to have wisdom. And if you don’t have responsibility, and if you don’t have wisdom, you will hanker for the doughy days when you were just a kid.

And there is another reason why kids appear so fascinating to us: it’s the hormones. It’s not only the human kid; the babies of even animals appear so cute. That’s a ploy of Prakṛti (physical nature). Babies have to appear cute; otherwise they are so defenseless that they would be smashed. Babies must appear cute. That does not mean that babies have something extraordinary in them. It’s just that you are conditioned to find any baby cute.

The baby of a pig is cute. The baby of a monkey is cute. Even little snakes you don’t feel like killing. If you come across a fully grown cobra, then in fear or in self-defense or in just madness you may want to kill it. But if you come across a little snakelet just emerging from the egg, you may even put it on your palm and say, “See, how nice, how cute!” But you found a baby. Prakṛti does it so that the snake species may survive.

But this is something that we do not understand—and regrettably, I say, that most women do not understand. They have such a fascination for babies that for the sake of babies, they often destroy all their lives. I am not saying that men do not have that fascination; many men also have that fascination, literally.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a man or a woman; it’s your responsibility to understand where that fascination is coming from—biological, sexual. Obviously, if you want to have kids, then sex becomes legitimized. Not only legitimized, sex then becomes venerable. So many strands of thought, so many religious schools have emphasized that the only rightful purpose of sex is procreation. So, if you want procreation, then sex is okay. Obviously, you cannot just stand up for yourself and say you are horny, so you want to have sex. If you say, “I am horny and I want to fuck,” then you are a bitch. But if you say, “I want to become a mother,” then sex is so respectable, is it not?

Get out of this obsession with kids. The more you obsess with kids, the more you show how body-centered, egg-centered, and Prakṛti -centered you are. This entire planet is suffering because of man’s obsession with kids. You produce kids as if the kid would forever remain a kid. You totally forget that the kid would soon, very, very soon be a fully grown-up individual. But for three years of coochie coo, you burden the planet with a hundred years of the excreta of that fully grown individual.

For how many years do you get to coochie coo the kid? Three years. And for how many years does that kid destroy the planet? Hundred years. You do not see that. After three years, do you pack the kid back and parcel it back to your uterus? After three years you leave the kid upon the world, or you say that “Now I am busy preparing for the next one, so this one can now go out and destroy the streets.”

It is very strange how religions have often said that it is violence and sinful to kill, but no one has ever emphasized that there is great violence in procreation. Today, ahimsā (non-violence) consists less of not killing. Today, the greatest act of ahimsā is to not reproduce. Violence lies less in killing; today, violence lies much more in giving birth.

But if somebody is assaulting someone, you are quick to deplore. You say, “Oh, such violence, such violence!” And if you come across a pregnant woman, you suddenly become so decent, so gentle, so accommodating and so tolerant. If someone practices black magic, then you say that he is badly conditioned by centuries of rituals, right? If you find somebody practicing black magic, then you are quick to decry, “Oh, medieval rituals!” And how old is this ritual of procreation? I ask you. And why must this continue as a ritual?

Why can’t there be any wisdom in the decision? Why must you habitually procreate? Why must you take it as an obligation to procreate? Why must you feel that a part of your life remains unfulfilled if you are childless? Is it not hoodoo and voodoo and black magic to believe so much in maternity and pregnancy and the fullness of the nest? But no intellectual would come forward to say that maternity today is mostly an act of great violence.

We keep on talking of saving life without ever knowing the meaning of life. There would be a blood donation camp and the hoarding would read, “Donate blood, save a life,” and you feel like asking, save what exactly? Save what? What do you mean by life? A breathing mass of flesh—that’s life? What is life? Something that begins when the child emerges from the body of the mother? What is life? Do you really want to save life? Then first of all learn what life is. Then you will really be interested in life and much less interested in giving birth.

If you are talking of the uncorrupted one, Christ is the uncorrupted one; Krishna is the uncorrupted one; Buddha is the uncorrupted one. They are the little and real kids. But they scare you, don’t they? You carry your two-year-old in your arms even as you stoned the Christ. The fact is, the Christ is a little baby; the Christ is the one who is really just born. This kid who appears two years old is actually two lakh years old. He is Prakṛti personified, and Prakṛti is very, very old. The child has nothing new about him. The Christ has something new about him, so the Christ is a kid.

The Buddha is a kid. If you really want to see what it means to be pure and uncorrupted, go to a Buddha. And it is no coincidence that those who are really fascinated by kids mostly have nothing to do with saints, because if you see virtue in the flesh of a child, then you will not be able to see virtue in the saint. If you start calling the child as innocent, then you will not realize that real innocence rests only in the Buddha.

And is it not such a common refrain? “Such an innocent child”—and I am saying the child is not innocent at all. The Buddha is innocent; the saint is innocent. But you think the child is innocent, so you offer all kinds of misplaced emotions to the kid. And for the Buddha you have nothing.

Do you want to see innocence? You will not find it in the eyes of a six-month-old, please. If you want to see innocence, you will find it in the eyes of Farid, Kabir. When Bulleh Shah cries out, “ Bullā, kī jānā mai kaun ('Bulla doesn’t know who he is),” that is innocence. The kid, is he innocent? You are raping the word ‘innocence’. The kid is very, very crooked.

In fact, that is why so much spiritual practice is needed to get rid of the crookedness that the kid is born with. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the kid is born cunning, and then a lot of practice and discipline and grace is required so that that cunningness is washed off. And after that cunningness is washed off, what you get is called the saint.

The saint is the innocent one. And the one who is not a saint, let him be a kid, or an adolescent, a teenager, or a grown-up man or woman—he is bound to be cunning. Except for the saint, all are cunning.

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