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How to identify the fool?
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
12 min
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Acharya Prashant (AP): Now, let’s revisit a few basic things regarding the deed and the doer. Action and the actor. Shri Krishna tells Arjun very early on in his epic discourse — “All that is ever happening is due to the three Gunas (attributes) of Prakriti (material nature). Yet, the foolish one thinks that he is the doer.”

The same teaching is reflected in the Upanishadic verse at hand. Except that Gita is a little more elaborate about who really is the doer. The Upanishad is saying, “You are not the doer.” Krishna is a little more elaborate. He says, “You are not the doer. Prakriti is the doer.”

All doing is in the domain of the false 'I' Doing happens only when there is a need to do. All our doing is Sakam (with a selfish motivation), arising out of need, or arising out of desire. Here, need and desire are taken as synonymous. So, the false ‘I’ acts, because it feels that there is a requirement that can be met by acting. “Doing will take me somewhere” — says the ego. And, it wants to reach somewhere, because it is convinced that it is not alright where it currently is. So, it says, “I must reach somewhere.”

Now, the more you act in order to reach somewhere and gain completion, the more you convince yourself by way of your action that you are indeed the incomplete one. So, incompleteness is a tendency than a thought. An incompleteness becomes a very certified thing when it turns into your action, your life.

You may say that you were acting in order to gain completion. But, even if you are acting in order to gain completion, you have still confessed that you are incomplete. And therefore, an action arising out of a point of incompletion only furthers the incompletion. Though ostensibly, it carries the purpose of completion. And, that is why the ego remains in its self-created trap and loop, tries hard to break out, but does not succeed. Just as a man in a quagmire sinks only deeper, the more he tries to find his way out by throwing about his limbs. That’s the situation of the ego.

It is a fundamental falseness. And, the more it acts from its own position, the more reinforced it gets. Its own purpose is defeated. Therefore, it is being called a ‘fool’. What else can you call an entity that acts against itself? Isn’t that a very pithy definition of foolishness? Foolishness is to act against yourself. Foolishness is to act very very hard, to hit yourself very very hard. Foolishness is to give yourself fully to your own destruction.

Foolishness is not so much in succumbing to an external aggressor. Foolishness is not so much about being defeated by someone outside of you. Foolishness lies much more in being your own worst enemy. Not only being your own worst enemy but actually being proud of it. “You see, I work so hard. I work so hard without ever asking myself — what for? Firstly, what for. Secondly, from where.”

Incidentally, the answer to both these questions is always the same. If you want to know what you are working for, just figure out where you are working from. And, if you want to know where you are working from, just see what you are working for. These two points are always coincidental.

So, the ego works very hard to keep paining itself. The ego is its own pain, its own disease. It does not really need an enemy. It’s another matter that because all its attempts get frustrated, therefore it is always in a terrible need to invent or imagine enemies. Please appreciate the situation of the ego. The ego works against its own welfare. We said it’s its own worst enemy.

So, it keeps hurting itself. But, why would it confess that all its pain is due to its own ignorance. Yet, the pain is very much there. So, somebody has to be blamed. The ego cannot blame itself. So, what does it compulsorily have to do? It invents enemies. “Surely my pain is coming from there. That fellow is responsible. This one here. He’s the mischief-maker.” And, if you can find nobody else, or if the stalk of excuses gets exhausted, then blame the Almighty Himself. “Well, it’s all God's doing. I’m destined to suffer.” “How can one fight his fate?” Or, “I was made like this. What do I do? I was born like this. It’s in my genes.”

Somebody has to be blamed. Do you know why somebody has to be blamed? Because, there is some loss happening every moment. So, there has to be somebody who must be made responsible for the loss. The ego is an idiot, because it cannot see, or rather does not want to see, that is responsible for its own losses. It keeps holding everybody else accountable.

Or, look at it another way. There is the movement of Prakriti. And, the ego, which in itself, a part of Prakriti, there can be no 'I' sans the Prakritik body, or can there be? Have you ever seen an 'I' floating somewhere in the air? The 'I' sense is inexorably tied to the body. Even saying that it is tied to the body just denotes a loose association. The association is deeper than that. The 'I' sense is there in every cell of your body. So, the point is, ego, the 'I' sense, is in itself a part of Prakriti.

And then, there are the insentient elements of Prakriti. The 'I' sense is to use all that is there in Prakriti to reach its freedom, its redemption. You could say the entire world, the entire sensory Prakritik world is a tool that the 'I' has been gifted with, or armed with, s that it may use the tool to reach its Liberation. Now, instead of using the tool to demolish your enemy, or your bondages, if you use the same tool to crack open your head, your skull, how wise can you be called?

You are chained, let’s say. Chains around your wrists. Chains around your ankles. Pretty heavy chains. Chains around your neck. And, some well-wisher says, “Here, here is a hammer, and here is a welding torch, and here are some other tools.” And, he just says this much, trusting that you have wits enough to realize what the hammer, and the torch, and the tools are for. He leaves you with the tools. You already are chained and you have been given some tools. What do you use those tools for? You use those tools to destroy your head. How wise can you be called? Do you get the analogy?

Who is the man? The ego. What are the chains? The limitations, the limitations that the ego carries. The very definition of the ego is limitation. What are all the tools? The entire world, world, relationships, knowledge, money, experience, men, women. All those things are tools. Your entire life is a tool. Now, you are to use this whole spread of Prakriti to liberate yourself. How else can you be liberated? You are in a mortal form. And, you will have to find your way through this mortal world.

So, you have been given those tools, so that they may be used rightly. But, we are not wise enough. That’s the condition of every human being. You have a life. You have resources. You have knowledge. You have intelligence. You have a memory. You have experience. These by themselves mean nothing. You’ll not be able to carry money for too long. Death awaits you.

Money in itself is an external thing, an object to be held in your hands. It cannot give you internal Liberation, unless you use the money rightly. Same with knowledge, relationships, experience; anything, everything that you can count as a resource. These are to be used rightly. And, the only right purpose is freedom from what enslaves you, what limits you, what holds you down. That’s why the ego has been called a fool. It keeps itself just too occupied in Prakriti’s sundry businesses.

Like a fellow who has a crucial examination tomorrow. And, he’s found showing great interest in some random street brawl on the road outside his house. What do you have to do with it? These are things that keep happening. Don’t you know your purpose? The world is there and these things will keep happening. Why are you so interested in these things? The example is easier to comprehend.

When the altercation is between two persons outside of you, on a road outside your house … But, when the same kind of situation or conflict is found within the body, within the mind, then it becomes even more difficult to practice detachment. The ego gets immediately involved. Just as we find it difficult to say, “Well, none of my business when there is a fight outside my house.” Similarly and more terribly, we find it very difficult to say, “None of my business” when something is happening within the body or within the mind.

Now, what is happening in the body or in the mind is just a game of Prakriti. But, you feel as if it is an obligation upon you to meddle into these things. This word describes the ego quite nicely. The ego is a meddlesome entity. It loves to meddle. It loves to poke its nose. It gets involved in things it has really nothing to do with.

The body breathes. The ego says, “I am breathing.” As if the body would stop breathing if you don’t assist the body, or if the 'I' consciousness subdues, falls asleep, or disappears. The body would still keep doing what the body is programmed to do. Look at the ego — “I am breathing.” Now, this is again easier to understand, because we know that breathing is an involuntary action of the body. Your consent is not really needed. But, it becomes far more difficult to appreciate that just as you don’t really breathe, you also don’t really think or emote.

You can relatively easily appreciate that you don’t breathe, breathing happens. But, it is very difficult to appreciate for most people that you don’t think, thinking happens. Or, that you don’t emote, emotions just happen. And, if these things just happen on their own, why do you call those things as your own? Those things are so very autonomous. They have nothing to do with you. But, the ego, rightly called ‘foolish’, just keeps interfering, just keeps owning things that are not its own.

The stuff belongs to somebody else. The ego says, “it is mine.” And, that is the root cause of all suffering, because when you will call somebody else’s stuff as your own, then a lot of pain awaits you when the real owner returns and claims his stuff. The pain will not only be there when the real owner claims back his stuff, the fear will continuously be there, because deep within you know that that which you are falsely owning does not belong to you. So, you’re always insecure. You know the stuff can be snatched away anytime.

Now, that’s the predicament of the ego. Can’t live without owning or doing, and once it has owned something, or owned doership, it again can’t live peacefully, because it knows that it has owned something that does not really belong to it. Therefore, the doership and the ownership, the entire agency of the ego has been called as false. The ego has been called an ignorant idiot. It hurts itself. If you’ll go a little more into it, you’ll probably discover that all hurt is self-inflicted. No hurt really comes from any point other than the false self.

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