We can practice right behavior, and behavior according to duty, but then we will be waring false faces, as we are inwardly, as you say, a madhouse. So should we act as we feel, or act as we ought?
The first thing to be understood: you have to be authentic to yourself – sincere, honest. But that doesn’t mean that you have to hurt others through your honesty and sincerity, that doesn’t mean that you have to disturb others, that doesn’t mean that you have to disturb the rules of the game. All relationships are just rules of the game, and many times you will have to act and wear masks, false faces. The only thing to remember is: don’t become the mask. Use it if it is good, and keep the rules, but don’t become the mask, don’t get identified. Act it, don’t get identified with it.
This is a great problem, particularly in the West for the new generation. They have heard too much; they have already been seduced by this idea: be sincere and be honest. This is good, but you don’t know how cunning and destructive the mind is. Your mind can find excuses. You can say a truth, not because you love truth so much but just to hurt somebody; you can use it as a weapon. And if you are using it as a weapon it is not truth, it is worse than a lie.
Sometimes you can help somebody through a lie, and sometimes relationship becomes more easy through a lie. Then use it – but don’t get identified with it. What I am saying is: Be a good player, learn the rules of the game; don’t be too adamant about anything.
It happened: I came back from the university and my father and my mother were worried; they were worried about me, about what I was going to do. They were worried about my marriage. So my father started sending messages through his friends asking my opinion whether I was ready to get married or not. So I told his friends, “This is between me and my father, don’t you come in. Tell my father that he can ask me.”
And he was afraid, because I have never said no to him for anything. So he was afraid, he was afraid because I would not say no. Even if I didn’t want to be married I would say yes – that was the worry in his mind. Even if I didn’t want to get into a householder’s life, I would not say no, I would say yes. And that yes would be false. So what to do? He couldn’t ask me – he has not asked yet – because he knew well that I would not break any rule. I would have said yes.
Then he tried through my mother. She asked me one night; she came to my bed, sat there, and asked me what I thought about marriage. So I said, “I have not married yet, so I have no experience. You know well, you have the experience, so you tell me. Take fifteen days: think over it, contemplate, and if you feel you have achieved something through it, then just order me. I will follow the order. Don’t ask about my opinion – I have none, because I have no experience. You are experienced. If you were again given a chance, would you get married?”
She said, “You are trying to confuse me.”
I said, “You take your time, at your own ease. I will wait for two weeks, then you order me. I will just follow… because I don’t know.”
So for two weeks she was worried. She could not sleep, because she knew if she said to marry I would obey. Then she would be responsible, not I. So after two weeks she said, ”I am not going to say anything, because if I look to my own experience, then I would not like you to move into that life. But I cannot say anything now.”
So this is how I remained unmarried. Sincerely, authentically, I was not ready to marry, I was not intending it at all. But I could have acted. And nothing is wrong, because every experience helps you to grow. No-marriage helps, marriage also helps; there is not much difference. Everything helps you to grow in its own way.
The one thing to remember is: life is a great complexity. You are not alone here, there are many others related to you. Be sincere unto yourself, never be false there. Know well what you want, and for yourself remain that. But there are others also; don’t unnecessarily hurt them. And if you need to wear masks, wear them and enjoy them, but remember, they are not your original face, and be capable of taking them off any moment. Remain the master, don’t become the slave; otherwise you can be violent through your sincerity, unnecessarily you can be violent.
I have seen persons who are cruel, violent, aggressive, sadistic – but sincere, very true, authentic. But they are using their authenticity just for their sadism. They want to make others suffer, and their trick is such that you cannot escape them. They are true, so you cannot say, “You are bad.” They are good people, they are never bad, so no one can say to them, “You are bad.” They are always good, and they do the bad through their good.
Don’t do that, and don’t take life too seriously. Nothing is wrong in masks also, faces also. Just as in the drama on the stage they use faces and enjoy and the audience also enjoys, why not enjoy them in real life also? It is not more than a drama. But I am not saying for you to be dishonest. Be sincere with yourself, don’t get identified. But life is great; there are many around you related in many invisible nets. Don’t hurt anybody.
I will tell you one anecdote. It happened, Buddha became enlightened, and then he came back to his town after twelve years. He had escaped one night from his house without even telling his wife that he was leaving. He had gone to her room. She was sleeping with Buddha’s child, the only child, who was just a few days old.
Buddha wanted to touch the small child, to feel, to love and embrace, but then he thought, “If the wife is awakened she may start crying and weeping and may create a mess. The whole house will gather, and then it will be difficult to leave.” So he simply escaped from the door; he just looked in and escaped like a coward. Then for twelve years he never came back.
After twelve years, when he had become enlightened, he came back. His chief disciple was Ananda. Ananda was his elder cousin-brother, and before he took initiation with Buddha he had asked for a few promises. He took sannyas, he took initiation from Buddha, but he was older than Buddha, “So,” he said, “before I take initiation give me some promises as your elder brother, because once I have been initiated you will be the master and I will be the disciple. Then I cannot ask anything. Now I can even order you. These are the rules of the game.”
So Buddha said, “Okay.” He was enlightened, and this unenlightened man was saying, “I am your elder brother.” So Buddha said, “Okay. What do you want?”
He said, “Three promises. One: I will always be with you, you cannot send me anywhere else; wherever you go I will be your shadow. Second: even in the night when you sleep in a room I can come in and out – even while you are asleep. No rules will apply to me. And third: even at midnight when you are asleep, if I bring someone, a seeker, you will have to answer his questions.”
Buddha said, “Okay. You are my elder brother, so I promise.” Then Ananda took initiation, then he become a disciple, and Buddha followed these three things his whole life.
When he came back to his home, he said to Ananda, “Just make one exception, Ananda. My wife Yashodhara has been waiting for twelve years. She is bound to be very angry, and she is a very proud woman. Twelve years is a long time, and I have not been a good husband to her. I escaped from her like a coward, I didn’t even tell her. And I know that if I had told her she would have accepted it because she loves me so much, but I couldn’t gather the courage.
Now after twelve years, if you come with me when I go to meet my wife, she will feel even worse. She will think that this is a trick; that I have brought you with me so that she cannot express her mind, her suppressed anger, and the many things of these twelve years. And she will behave in a ladylike way, because she belongs to a very good family, a royal family. She will not even cry, no tears will come to her eyes; she will keep the rules of the game. So please, Ananda, only one exception I ask you, and I will never ask any other exception. You just wait outside.”
Ananda said, “Bhante, I think you are enlightened. You are no longer a husband and she is no longer a wife, so why play this game?”
Buddha said, “I am enlightened, she is not. I am no longer a husband, but she is still a wife, and I don’t want to hurt her. Let her keep her mind a little while and I will persuade her. I will persuade her to take a jump and become a sannyasin. But give me a chance. I am enlightened, she is not.”
So Buddha went inside the palace. Of course, Yashodhara was mad. She started saying things; she was angry, crying, weeping, tears coming down, and Buddha stood there, silent, listening to everything patiently, with deep compassion. When all her anger was out she looked at Buddha; when her tears were no more there in her eyes then she looked at Buddha. Then she realized that this man was no longer a husband and she had been talking to a ghost of her memory. The man who left her was no more there. This was totally a different man.
She surrendered, and she said to Buddha, “Why have you come? You are no longer a husband.”
Buddha repeated again, “I may not be a husband, but you are still a wife, and I have come to help you so that you can also transcend this misery, this relationship, this world.”
Others are there, consider them, and don’t try to be violent through so-called good things. So when it is said, “right conduct,” it means right relationship with others. You need not be false. When you can be true without hurting anybody, be true. But if you feel that your truth is going to hurt many and is unnecessary, it can be avoided, then avoid it, because it is not only going to hurt others, it will create patterns of cause, and those causes will return as effects on you, they will become your karmas. Then you will get entangled, and the more entangled you are the more you will have to behave in wrong ways.
Just stop. Just see the situation. If you can be true without hurting anybody, be true. To me, love is greater than truth. Be loving. And if you feel that your truth will be hurtful and violent, it is better to lie than to be true. Wait for the right moment when you can be true, and help the other person to come to such a state where your truth will not hurt him. Don’t be in a hurry.
And life is a big drama; don’t take it too seriously – because seriousness is also a disease of the mind, seriousness is part of the ego. Be playful, don’t be too serious. So sometimes you will have to use masks, because there are children around you and they like masks, they like false faces, and they enjoy. Help them to grow so they can face the real face, they can encounter it. But before they can encounter it, don’t create any trouble. Right conduct is just consideration for others.
And look: there is a great difference. You may misunderstand what I am saying. When you lie, you lie for yourself. And I am saying: if you need, and if you feel the need to lie, only lie for the consideration of others. Never lie for yourself, don’t use any mask for yourself. But if you feel it is going to help others, it will be good for them, use the mask. And inside remain alert that this is just a game you are acting, this is not real.
Sometimes you may need to be angry to your child, to your son, to your daughter. There are situations when anger helps. If you say something to your child coldly, it is not loving. If you say to your child, “Don’t do this,” in a cold manner, it is not loving, it is not going to help. When you say, “Don’t do this!” to your child in anger, deep anger, it reaches the child, and he feels that you love him, that’s why you are angry.
A father who has never been angry with his son has never been loving; anger means that you consider him, you can even be angry. You love him, you feel for him. Sometimes even when you are not feeling angry but you see the need, show the anger, have the face of anger – but remain the master. And if you are the master, then the faces are beautiful, you can use them. But don’t become the face; if you become the face you have become the slave. The whole thing is not to get identified. Remain aloof, distant, and capable at any time to put it on and off – the face is just a device. It will be difficult and complex. It is easy to be untrue, it is easy to be true. The most difficult thing is to be the master of yourself to such an extent that if you want to be untrue you can be untrue, and if you want to be true you can be true.
Gurdjieff’s disciples have written many books about him, and every disciple describes him in a different way. This is very mysterious, it has never happened with any other person in that way.
Sometimes it happened that a person went to see Gurdjieff, then left, and then his friend went to see him. They would report to each other and would both give a different picture.
Gurdjieff was a master of changing faces. It is said that he had become so capable that a person sitting by his right side would feel one thing, and a person sitting by his left side would feel differently. He may have been very loving with his left eye, and that half-face was showing love, and with the other side he may have been angry. And both persons would report to each other outside: “What type of man is this? He was so loving.” The other would say, “You are in some illusion… because he was so angry.”
That is possible and such a mastery is beautiful. It is said that no one reported Gurdjieff’s real face, because he never showed anybody his real face. He was always acting, but helping in a way; in many ways he was helping. He would show you the face that was needed by you for your consideration; he would never show you the face that was not needed by you.
To me, and to the Upanishads also, right conduct means just the right rules of behavior with others. You are not going to be here forever. You cannot change the whole world, you cannot change everybody; you can at the most change yourself. So it is better to change yourself inwardly, and don’t try to be in a continuous fight with everybody. Avoid fight – and faces can be helpful. Avoid unnecessary struggle, because that dissipates energy. Preserve your energy to be used for the inner work. And that work is so significant and it needs all your energy that you can give to it, so don’t waste it in unnecessary things.
For the outside world remain an actor, and don’t think that you are deceiving anybody. If they like deception, that’s what they need, that’s what should be given to them. If children like toys to play with, you are not deceiving them. Don’t give them a real gun; let them play with the toy gun, because they like the toy. And don’t think that the toy gun is false; don’t think, ”I must be true, I must give a real gun to the child. If he needs a gun, then I must give the true thing. How can I give the toy? This is a deception.”
But the child needs the toy, there is no deception; he doesn’t need the real gun. So just look at the other, at what he needs, and give him that which he needs. Don’t give out of your own consideration; give out of consideration for him. Look at him, study and observe him, and behave in such a way that will be helpful to him and will not be unnecessary trouble for you. This is all that is meant by right conduct.
From Vedanta: Seven Steps to Samadhi, Discourse #7
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