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What is arrogance? || Acharya Prashant (2019)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
9 min
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Acharya Prashant (AP): Arrogance does not lie in expecting the highest. You are not condemned to live lonely. It is not arrogance to expect the highest for yourself. Arrogance lies in expecting the highest while remaining exactly as one is. Now you could call it arrogance, or you could call it a miss-calculation, or you could call it childish stupidity. You are entitled to the highest. Śruti (The Vedas) constantly reminds you that you should never even estimate yourself, let alone underestimate yourself. You are inestimable. Such is your potential.

Śruti (The Vedas) says, “If you underestimate yourself, you are doing a disfavor to yourself. If you overestimate yourself, you are still giving yourself a raw deal.” The basic fault lies in estimation itself. You are infinitely big, so how are you trying to draw a line around yourself? How are you trying to limit yourself? Because estimation requires limitation. In the name of humility, in the name of avoiding arrogance, kindly do not start belittling yourself. That is not at all the purpose of spiritual discourse.

So, what would the scriptures and the teachers do? They would work on two concurrent tracks with you. On one hand, they’ll keep reminding you of your inflated ego, and just as you get demotivated, deflated, defeated, they will tell you, “You are not even the son of God or daughter of God, you are God himself.” And the moment you gain puff up, they’ll say,” Who do you think you are? How dare you accord yourself so much respect, such vanity! Come down to earth.” Now again with the drooping shoulders and a fallen face, you get de-energized, and they come to you and say, “See, God is sulking.”

Listeners (L): [Laughter]

AP: They will keep doing this, till you hit the secret, till you get the point. You are great and wonderful, but not as you are. You are higher than the highest, but not as you are. And the story doesn’t stop here. How to go higher than the highest? By seeing yourself as you are. So, fact is the door to Truth.

In your impartial and honest observation of your current state lies the key to all spiritual elevation. You might be in the dumps, but you cannot just avoid or ignore the dumps. In your honest appraisal of the dumps lies your ladder to the sky. You cannot reach any height without, first of all, entering the lowest parts of your mind, your life, your being. It is counterintuitive.

We think if we have to go high, we have to go upwards. No, if you have to go upwards, first of all, visit all the places that are down and lonely. There is no contradiction here. When it is said that you are higher than the highest but not as you are, that does not mean that you can turn blind to the one that you currently have become. You don’t have to turn blind to it. You don’t have to reject it. Instead, you have to acknowledge it, enter it, know it. You know, in fact, to be a little sympathetic to it. If you come down too harshly upon yourself, you will not have the courage to look at the totality of your being.

Yes, the ego is arrogant and cunning, and many bad things, but do not forget the ego is miserable as well. It longs for empathy. If you are not empathetic towards yourself, many parts of your inner life would remain hidden from your eye. They would remain hidden just as a mischievous child having committed mischief hides from the eyes of the strict father. He’s afraid that if he shows up, he will be punished.

So, don’t be too much of a disciplinarian. Look at yourself. Well, not with identification, but with a bit of empathy. These two are not the same thing. When I say empathize with yourself, that doesn’t mean you have to support yourself, or defend yourself, or identify yourself. Can’t you look at something with empathy but without identification? Is it not possible? You know what you are looking at is mischievous, so you need not identify with it, but still, you also know that it is not merely mischievous but also miserable. That’s the way to look at oneself. The ego is a rascal, no doubt, but it’s a suffering rascal, don’t forget. The deeper its mischief is, the deeper is its misery. And nobody knows what comes first. The mischief or the misery. Both promote each other.

There is a word for this: Compassion. Even when you look at the mischief of the worst kind, you must know that behind the mischief lies misery. And then you cannot come down too harshly or severely upon the mischief. Then you cannot have the attitude of the judge in the courtroom. Are you getting it? And when you have learned how to deal with the most putrid parts of your being, then opens up a strange fragrance from within you.

Was there ever a tall building without a deep foundation? What is greatness? Can it be there without an honest acknowledgment of one’s smallness? Do you see the living relationship between greatness and smallness? Man cannot enter his greatness without knowing how to healthily deal with his smallness. Those who are all for greatness become critics of smallness. All they do is condemn, condemn, and condemn. And if you condemn smallness too much, it will never leave you.

Don’t forget that we are born small. How is it your fault if the stomach yearns for food? How is it your fault if the body is configured in a certain way? Did you decide or choose that you would be subject to eight hours of sleep daily? Now if sleep besets you, must you necessarily blame yourself, and that too very harshly? Did you really choose your sexuality? In fact, to many people, it comes as a shock. They don’t even know that their body has been configured to be deeply sexual. To many girls, the onset of the menstrual cycle is a bit of a trauma, because they never asked for it; it just happened.

Why do you want to be so full of rejection towards the earthly parts of your being? By this, I do not mean that you stand in their support and become identified with them or one with them. No, please. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m not asking you to be body-identified or tendency-identified. I am posing a simple question: What do you do now that you are born as a small human being? Throw away the body? Throw away the thoughts and the emotions?

Yes, one does feel attached. Yes, one longs. Yes, one wants to hold somebody’s hands. What to do? If all this is so very condemnable, why was I born in the human body in the first place? Even if I accept that birth is the original sin, now having committed that sin, what do I do? Yes, it happened. Now? What do I do? Carry the cross all my life?!

And we talked of concurrent tracks. The other track says, “It is not at all your destiny to remain small.” Human life is such a joke. One wants to catch hold of the one playing the joke upon us and give him one or two back. “Enough of towing around with us mortals down here. You too need to get a taste of what it means to be in such an impossible situation.”

Some people say that when human beings get too revengeful towards God, then he has to come down as an Avatar. The people down here start shouting, “You are comfortably tucked up there in your nice heaven, watching with detachment all the nonsense that is happening here. We have been dispatched to this dust and dirt, and there you are, enjoying everything formlessly!”

L: [Laughter]

AP: So, when there is such a unionized outcry like this—massive dissent—then he comes down, he says, “Fine, I’ll live with you and I’ll suffer as you do.”

That’s the paradox of human life. Born small, you contain infinity in your heart, and you cannot ignore either of these. In fact, they are not two. We have repeatedly been saying that the way to infinity passes through all your littlenesses. You cannot be dismissive or contemptuous towards yourself. In your little angers, jealousies, happinesses, sadnesses, that’s where you will find something so tremendously important that it will liberate you.

You don’t have to turn superhuman or anti-human. In your humanness is the key, but when you go to pick the key, don’t get stuck there. The key to the bright skies is kept in a dark cave. Enter the dark cave, pick the key, and don’t make a house there. Don’t start sleeping there. Never forget that you entered the cave to pick the key.

The body is the key. The world is the key. Enter the body, enter the world to get the key. Don’t overstay there. At the same time, don’t be too hesitant in entering the cave. It's a fine line. That’s what all the discretion, all vivek (discrimination) is about. You cannot avoid the cave, and you cannot make your house in the cave. Enter, investigate, figure out the key, and then with gratitude in your heart, softly, silently, leave.

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