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Who is a real hero? || Acharya Prashant (2016)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
20 min
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AP : So today, we are going to take a look at something that perhaps fascinates all of us.


We’ll talk about heroism. Heroes enthrall us, fascinate us.

Who is a “Hero”? Whom do you call a ‘Hero’? And we must keep in mind that the question of heroism is intimately connected to our lives because the mind has a deep-seated desire to be heroic.

Who is a ‘Hero’?

Alright! When we say, “Hero”, what kind of images come to the mind?

Listener : Fearless.

AP : Fearless. And?

L2 : Powerful.

AP : Powerful. And?

L3 : Excitement.

AP : Excitement.

L4 : The man who fights.

AP : Fighter.

L5 : Who brings a change; who does something good.

AP : Who did something good. Who brings a change. And?

L : Inspiring.

AP : Inspiring. And?

Alright! –Inspiring.

So, the mind is looking to be inspired. The hero doesn’t have to chase us, we follow the hero. We are open to be inspired, in fact we desire inspiration. You want to become heroic. So, is it true that for us a hero is somebody who is one amongst us but he comes with extraordinary deeds? He displays fearlessness, where we are afraid. He promises us excitement and delivers by beating up all the bad guys, by delivering us from danger.

When we think of the hero, the hero is so alluring because the hero as he comes to our mind is fundamentally one of us, very much like us yet doing deeds that we only dream off. The hero is the image of the self concept, remaining as it is but with its realized dreams. I somehow, miraculously, get to do something which is usually impossible to an ordinary man, to an ordinary me and therein lies the pull of the hero.

When one watches a heroic figure from any field: sports, science, politics, economics, literature, religion, when one watches a heroic figure from any field, what one sees is oneself. The fellow might be there on the podium, or on the screen, but you are not really clapping for him. The applause is for the possibility that you too could be like him. The applause is not for the person that you see but for the possibility that he represents.

If a hero is totally different from you then you’d not applaud him because you would not be able to relate to him. The hero has to be a lot like us yet not small and suffering like us, that is our usual definition of the hero. So the hero and the image of the hero, comes a wonderful promise, ‘You remaining who you are, can still realize the highest dream that is possible to you.’

The second thing about the hero is that he is known by his heroic deeds and those deeds are spectacular, magnificent. They really captivate the mind. They call for your attention. But those deeds are intermittent. Someone liked spider man, a very ordinary fellow; one of us common folks and then he wears another persona and now he is a hero. And that is why the image is so popular.

This afternoon let us go into the ‘Myth of the hero’ . First thing we said that, to us, to the mind that conceptualizes the hero, that dreams the hero, that has built up the hero – the hero is essentially us and second the hero is the doer of the heroic deeds.

I want to ask you – Is it possible to remain who we are? And yet come up with deeds that are totally against the grain of our living, yet come up with action that is simply not possible in the mental environment that we have created, that we have projected for ourselves.

Please remember that we do not want the hero to be too large or too distinct. For us, the hero is like a rope whose one end is always tied to that which we always have been: conditioned, petty, narrow, small what one call as normal, what one call as ordinary. For the hero to be appealing, for the hero to be attractive he must look like us, be like us, walk like us, eat like us, share his believes with us essentially be one of us and then there is the other end of the rope, he must be just one of us and yet he must be doing things that we are unable to do. We aspire, but we fail.

Is that kind of thing possible?

If it is possible to be a totally conditioned fellow at home – going by traditions, living by attachments, following the same old practices and beliefs, worshiping the same old gods and yet being a superman on the street? Is it possible? Is it possible to really divide existence like this?

Is it possible?

So that’s the first lie, that’s the first myth that must be debunked.

You could not be eating out of M aya’s hands at home and be a personification of Truth in the street, in the workplace; that is not possible. Truth accepts no fragmentation. Truth accepts no division of this kind. Life is one and total and for sure when I am saying ‘life’, I am talking for truthful life, not the ordinary compartmentalized life.

You are a scientist, you are working in a laboratory and before you go a workplace, you daily recite the same old mantras that have been handed over to you by authority and traditions and of which you know nothing and to which you have no real relationship. And you are going to your lab ostensibly to innovate, to come up with something new. Is it really possible to come up with something new when your mind is tied to the old?

You are a researcher, studying the society. To study anything first of all you must not be attached to it, first of all you must not be its servant. It is impossible to study anything while being co-opted by it. You are social researcher and whole _ _ _ your life you have just lived, studied, married, procreated as per the wishes, the decrease of the society.

What kind of research will you come up with?

Oh! The society might say that your research is path breaking. You might be felicitated, honored, fitted. But would your research really have an element of the heroic? Really? Even your most intimate relationship, the one with the woman in your house has been fundamentally a social relationship. That is the strangle hold of the society upon your mind. Now such a mind, can it really study the society? Where is the possibility of the heroic?

So first of all it is important to understand that hero cannot exist if he is even a little bit like that ordinary us which we are so particular about protecting. There is that ‘ you’ , there is that ‘ me’ that demands protection, that is so insecure, that keep saying, “I want to live”, that keep saying, “Remember me. Don’t forget me. Promise me that you will not forget, keep me in every picture that you make. Keep me along with you wherever you go.” If hero has even an iota of that then the hero is just what we are.

Now that makes the hero a terribly distinct figure for us because the very appeal of hero as we had said, lies in him representing us. When the hero is doing impossible deeds we feel proud because it is not the hero it is the ‘me’ in form of the hero. The moment the hero becomes totally distanced, totally detached from the ‘me’, the hero is now a stranger. An alien with which we have no relationship.

But if we are sincere, if we really want to go into the truth, then we would be prepared to face the challenge of strangeness, rather than being comforted by a predictable but silly relationship. The second thing about the hero is that he does heroic deeds. Now it is wonderful to read about that, it is wonderful to watch that on screen.

Why is he a hero? Because he did this, this and this. We never ask, “What after that?” We never ask, “Yes he did bash up the goons on the streets but what did he do after that. Yes he is the enemy of the evil but what does he do when he is not dealing with evil. Yes he prevented a global catastrophe but global catastrophes do not occur every day. What does he do in his spare time?” We never ask that. It is sufficient for us that he did these wonderful things.

In fact, it is totally unnecessary to ask because when the hero is not acting heroic then it is assumed that he would be living the normal life like the rest of us and it is very important for us that he must live an normal life like the rest of us that enables to identify with him.

Now, is it not easy to come up with a few amazing deeds? And is it not tremendously important and equally difficult to live a heroic life? Do we appreciate the difference between a heroic deed and a heroic life?

A heroic deed is eye-catching, a heroic deed is easy to be appreciated, a heroic deed is sensational, a heroic life may not be. A heroic deed will find mention in the newspapers, a heroic life may not. A heroic deed starts and ends quickly, it is limited by time. A heroic life goes on and on and on. And that is the mark of the real hero, that is what distinguishes him from the mythical hero of our imaginations.

The real hero will be almost unnoticeable because there would be no peaks and troughs in his story-line. It would be story of unabated intensity. You will not find a climax in it. You will not find peaks in it. It is never dipping and when something is never dipping, how can it attain a peak, a zenith.

It would be impossible to you to put a finger on –‘Why the real hero is heroic?’ because heroism lies not in special deeds, it lies in being what he is. He is not revolting intermittently. His is an incessant rebellion. I am calling it rebellion from the one watching from a distance because the hero’s life is really against all that which we endorse. Hence from our perspective it will look like a rebellion.

Seen through his eyes, the hero’s life is ordinary. He is not even fighting. He is not even fighting because when fighting becomes a way of life then it can be no more called fighting, then it can no more conform to the images of fighting that we usually have. He is fighting so continuously that he can’t even be called a fighter now. He is winning so regularly that wining is now ordinary for him.

* Something appears big only in backdrop of the small*. And when there is no smallness in your life, bigness too disappears. That is why the real hero cannot be called big. He is tremendously big, yet so charmingly ordinary. It is easy to miss him.

But, please see how we are attracted to acts of defiance only to continue with conformity. Please see how we move into modernity only to stay traditional. Please see, how new theories, new ideologies, new concepts, new intellectual jargon, keep coming only to sustain the primordial gossips of the mind.

What we call as revolutions, are they not really sustaining the same old mind? Do revolutions change anything? Revolutions cannot change anything because real revolutions comes from an already changed mind. If the mind is the same, its revolution will be the same. The hero therefore cannot be known by his deed because he determines his deeds, his deeds do not determine him. And he is not interested in one off shows. He will not interested in magnificent, glitzy, outbursts of energy. You cannot record a few of his actions and mark them as displace of heroism.

Heroism is his very glance. Heroism is his very gate. Heroism is the sound of his footstep. Where would you found heroism in him? It is everywhere and when it is everywhere then it is undetectable. The real hero lives his rebellion.

Do you know what is it that chains us? Whatever you may say, that which change us that which you name will always belong to the world. Somebody may say beliefs, somebody may say operations, somebody may say money, somebody may say tendencies, somebody may say disease, somebody may say temptations but whatever you name as your bondage you will see that your bondage always belongs to the world. Hence it is the world that chains us.

The hero rebels totally, he does not choose one bad guy to beat up. He does not rebel against one particular thing or one particular belief or ideology or system. He does not dislike one aspect of the world, because to dislike one aspect you have to like other. His realization is deep. His distancing from the false is complete. He discerns. He knows that there is nothing here that is to be protected or supported.

So, he will not choose to fight and then relax. It is extremely important for us to relax, after the fight. Is it not? In fact, we fight only to relax thereafter. We say, “Let us fight. Let us destroy the enemy. Let us accomplish the mission so that we can thereafter chill out.” The hero, the real one never relaxes in the sense that we relax. For our relaxation is just lapsing back into that same old self.

Our relaxation is the celebration of the hero, who goes and rescues humanity from aliens coming from some other galaxy and then breaks into his same old vulgar dance with his same old stupid gang. Have you not seen that happen? Is that not what your movies depict?

Now the real hero does not come back. He does not relax. He has no need for relaxation because his fight itself is in relaxation. If your fight is not a relaxed fight then you cannot fight the entire life. If your fight is not centered or smooth fight then your fight will be just disorderly outburst of energy. An explosion and explosion don’t last. They are powerful they are noticed but they don’t last. The hero lasts, he never ends; we like explosions.

For us heroism is just a way to remove the obstacles that frustrate the life that we desire. We say, “We already know what kind of life must be lived.” We say, “We already know ‘What is truth?’ ‘What is love?’ ‘What is god?’”, And then when something comes as a hindrance, comes as an impediment then we resist him, fight him, destroy him and that is what we usually call as heroic.

So that brings us to an interesting question –‘What will be the relationship between the fake hero and the real hero? Remember that the fake hero is intend upon fighting all that which hinders his pre-destined conditioned life, that is the purpose and the action of the common hero of popular imagination.

Whom does your hero, he could be a politic leader, he could be a novelist, he could be a scientist, whom does your hero fight? He fights your enemies. Right! That is why he is so dear to you. Mankind is in danger and your hero suddenly leaps from nowhere and just when the bullet is about to hit you, his magical hands stop it. So your hero protects you. Does he not?

And who are you? A evolutionary product, a game of time, a bundle of beliefs, someone who would be totally lost without mental activity. Mental activity that exists only in relationships to the world that is what we are. Illusions taking the ‘I’ too seriously, that is what the hero protects.

And what does the real hero fight and destroy? All that is false, all that enslaves. In other words, he fights exactly that which we want our popular hero to protect. What the fake hero protects, the real hero destroys and destroys not as a spectacular action but by way of his rebellious living. His life is in some way a humiliation to the popular and conditioned way of living. So, now tell me –‘What will be the relationship between the fake hero and the real one?’

L : Contradictory.

AP : But that brings us to paradox. We thought that our popular hero fights the bad guys, the villains. But here we see that the popular hero would find the worst enemy in the real hero. He can spare the villains. In fact, when faced with the real hero he would join the villains. They all would come together to form one common front because the real hero is so destructive that he destroys the villains and destroys the fake hero. So, all these perverts ( laughingly ) will join hands. No doubt about it. In fact, when you see that those who usually keep fighting each other are now joining hands against someone. It might me an indication that something rarely seen is happening.

Does your hero redeem you? Or does he keep you even more shackled by promising you a false liberation? Lets go into this.

Does the hero redeem you?

Why is it not so necessary for us to look up to someone? To be inspired, to become like somebody to have a role model and all of these things are connected to heroism. Are they not?

When the real hero comes to your rescue, will he aid and assist you? To aid and assist you in your language, in your world means to help you continue as you are because that is the only definition of help and assistance that you know. Is that not so? Would the real hero aid you? Would that be his relationship with you? Would you like him? Would you really like him? He exposes all that which is false in you. His compassion lies in the distance he maintains from you. Is he likeable?

He is not likeable and he is now made, even more repulsive by the presence of the fake hero. When there is a fake one and attractive one to go to, to be consoled by then why run the trouble of being disturbed, of being shaken up, of being waken up and of being ultimately dissolved.

Hafiz in one of his poems asks that ‘Why are there so few people in the court of the real saint?’ And he answers that there are so few people there because along with the saint lives a mysterious girl who takes your ego, keeps it, destroy it when you come to meet the saint. You don’t like it to go to the real hero. To go to the real saint, to go to the real rebel is to run a grave risk there is chaos. You will not return the same man you went. You will lose something there.

Yes today there might be so many Christians, but was Jesus really likable? Do the facts of his life tell us that he was liked in Jerusalem? How many people listened to him? How many people rebelled to save him when he was being killed?

Let us look closely, sincerely, dispassionately at all that which we consider secret. Let us re-inquire into all the ideals, myths, profits, personalities that we have held in high esteem.

The real one is never too far away. But if you are surrounded by with the fake ones then you will not see him, not meet him. So it pointless looking out for the real one, you will not meet him outside anywhere, you will not see him with the kind of eyes you have. Look within, rather. See whom you find respectable. See whom you find lovable and if you have given your respect and love to such things and to such people, then how will you ever find the really lovable. If you respect all pettiness then how will you respect immensity even if it crosses your way? You cannot respect the dwarf and the infinite together using the same mind, the same dimension of thinking.

That which we adore, that which we hold in reverence, that which we call as secret plays a very central role in determining our life. Be very cautious about that. It is the matter of extreme importance. Do not just respect anybody, only the Truth is worthy of respect. Do not offer deference without paying attention. You are precious. Don’t give yourself away to the undeserving ones.

*‘*Remember the deserving one is always around, always waiting*’.*

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