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What you call as normal is abnormal, and also highly insane || Acharya Prashant (2017)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
32 min
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Question: A gentleman was saying that a person, who is drinking or is drunk, he still has got some kind of stability on mind, and he too, can judge. That is what I felt to be perhaps wrong. A person who is drunk probably loses his judgement and whatever we have heard from doctors and other people, anybody who takes liquor is likely to lose self control, his thought processes are likely to become distraughted, and he is likely to lose his good judgement. We have seen drunkards moving around and we see that they probably lose self control. That’s my perception or observation.

Acharya Prashant: In an otherwise sane world, drinking might probably need obfuscation of consciousness. But when you say that you see drunkards moving along and you see what kind of things they are doing, do we also not see non drunkards moving along and doing what they are doing?

Listener 1: But if we compare their behavior, Sir, we find that the behavior of the drunkard person is deviated from the normal standards.

AP: What is the normal? And who sets the standards? What if the normal itself is highly depraved?

L1: In whose perception Sir?

AP: In the perception of the normal itself because the normal is suffering. What if the normal, what if the norm is just to suffer? What if the normal has itself fallen in its own eyes? You see, our conditioning is of two types, at two levels, one is the biological aspect. There are fluids inside the body; there is the very constitution of the genetic material. That is one level of being drunk, in the sense that you have associated yourself with the veil rather than the assets. You have associated yourself with the body rather than the core. It is one level of drunkenness.

Unfortunately for human beings, this level does exist. And on top of it, another level of drunkenness exists for us, which is not Prakriti. This is totally man made. Because it is manmade, so I will have to call it Vikriti(distortion)

L2: Can we call it ignorance, Sir?

AP: We call it *Vikriti (*distortion). Which are all the social standards, all the pressures, all the obligations to behave in a normal, sane way. All the suppression, all the throated rebellion, all the confinements, the tunnel-vision. Everything that comes with a living in a civilization, in a city, in a suburb, in a village. That is the second level.

Man must be free of both. But to be free of the inner level, it is important to be free of the outer level. The one thing that the outer level demands is conformity. “Kindly conform to the normal standards.” The one thing that the outer cannot stand is deviation and we do not deviate from the way the masses are supposed to behave.

And that is why when the first level is breached, that behavior is often termed as, ‘irresponsible’ by the rest of mankind. We were talking about it this Sunday. What a saint does, what a Fakir does, what a Buddha does, what a Kabir does, the way a Mahavir lives, the way a Bulle Shah sings, the ways of a Ramakrishna, will never be really approved by the society. They are a rebellion. They are a breach. They are breaking away. It’s like a jail break. It cannot get popular approval. Even if it does, it would be under the pressure of mass approval.

Masses are herds. They live in crowds. So, if they find that a thousand have been ignited by the touch of the saint, then they might probably want to be the thousandth-first. But to be the first to listen to a saint, requires something saintly within the watcher, within the listener, within the follower, that is rare, doesn’t come out quite easily. So, in general, a Ramakrishna or a Mahavir is unlikely to get social approval.

If we look at the ways of Tantra, they talk of the “Panchmakara”. They represent Him as Her and say that She is the most beautiful one and She is serving the jaam (drinks)that has totally driven me out of my senses. Why is that needed? That is needed to break the strangle of man upon man. We are so deeply enslaved that unless there is something to shake us out of our normal patterns of consciousness, our normal consciousness remains that of slavery.

What we call as normal or moral is nothing but social and that is slavery – man upon man, tradition upon man, cast upon man, fear upon man. Do you see this? And that is why even in a physical sense, even in the sense that liquor being a material, it has often been used as a tool, as an instrument by the saints and masters. At least after drinking, you will not be able to think so much and all your thought is infested with fear, with patterns. With a compulsive obligation to follow what the others have been doing, so kindly do get drunk.

I have talked of the methods of tantra, and talked of the Sufis. More recently, Gurdjieff was one who would use liquor as an important medium. Now here obviously we have to be careful. I am not talking about getting into the addiction of drinking. I am not talking about the normal ways of drinking which will just come as an escape from one’s otherwise dreary life. I live a bored and dull life throughout the day so I in the evening, I pour myself a drink. And I hope that it will relieve me of my misery. I am not talking of all that. I hope that is clear. It’s easy to misunderstand.

But please see that what you call as sanity is deeply insane. What you call as normal is so very life sapping. When you say that somebody is well adjusted, somebody is normal, when you say somebody confirms, is that a compliment at all? Was it not Krishnamurti who said that, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” If you appear like a well adjusted person, that in itself shows how deeply sick you may be. You don’t have any problems anywhere, you don’t find anything amiss anywhere. You are just as well adjusted as a madman in a mad house. And there, madness is the norm. What great fun lies in staying normal, I want to ask! Do you see this?

The limitation over here is that alcohol which just dulls the brain down and takes away the capacity for organized thought will usually only result in a false and fleeting sense of relief. It will not last. In the morning, you will not be left with realization but just a hangover. The morning will not bring you lightness of the heart but heaviness of the head, headache. Can I get some lemon somewhere?

That is why, another level of drunkenness is needed, is very very important.

Alcohol can act best and only sometimes only in certain conditions be an introduction. More often than not it might turn into an addiction. Hence another kind of intoxication is needed. To talk of that intoxication, first of all we need to know what we mean by not being intoxicated. We have already talked about that.

When you see that someone is doing exactly what he has been trained to do or what you expect him to do, then you say that obviously he is not drunk. When someone is saying things in just the right way, when his tongue is not slipping, when his words are measured and balanced, then you say that obviously he is not drunk. Right? But when are words measured and balanced? When do you say only those things that are demographically right? When you are cautious. When you are alert about your welfare. Be with me, does that not mean that that happens only when you are afraid?

What we call as normal consciousness, please see its just about living in fear. In fact

The more conscious you are, the deeper is your fear.

Awareness is not a height of consciousness, awareness is necessarily a sublimation of consciousness but this sublimation is not an increase, it is surrender, dissolution.

Popular perception says that your consciousness must be high; that you must see is a totally misplaced notion. Consciousness must ebb down. To be conscious means to be able to say me and you. The more conscious you are, the more diversity you see. Is that not so? The more diversity you see, the more distant you are, the more divided you are.

And what else is ego?

What we need is a disappearance of consciousness. A very fleeting, a very temporary glimpse of that is provided by alcohol and that is why often drunkenness is used just as a metaphor. Just as a metaphor. Just as Osho used orgasm as a metaphor for Samadhi. Obviously that does not mean that sex or drinks can get you the real thing.

Getting it?

We must see that the discussion is not about drinking or alcohol, the discussion is about how we live and what our so called normal patterns of behavior are. Someone wears what everybody else wears, you call him normal. Someone goes to the office the same way everybody goes, you call him normal. Someone eats the same things as you do, you call him normal. Someone follows all the prevalent trends you follow, you call him normal. This kind of a normal man must be a pretty boring man! Who wants to be normal?

You write the car model that is selling the most these days, you are normal. You wear the right kind and right shades of lip-gloss, you are normal. You keep your hair the popular way, you are normal. Normal or dead?

You pick up a profession that is in vogue these days, you are normal. You go to a college or school or university where everybody else wants to go to, you are normal. You live your life exactly the same way your Grandma wanted you to, you are normal.

You know what? When the Indian government embarked on population control through family planning, the first thing they said was, “Let’s have only three kids.” Because it was normal to have half a dozen. If you look at the slogans of the 50s or 60s you find them saying that three is the right number. Normal.

China said no, one is the right number. These days the Indian government is saying two. What is normal? We don’t even know whether we want to procreate. The government and the society decide for us. This is what we call as being normal. The kind of stuff that we do in our bedrooms, and close the windows and pull the curtains, and switch of the lights, we don’t even know that even that has been decided by somebody else. Somebody else has decided whether or not the lady will get impregnated. This is normal.

Do you see how vulgar is normal? Do you see what kind of an encroachment is normal?Do you see that?

One religion begins to spread and the entire population converts. We don’t even know what the call of the heart is. Ok, the fellow on this side has converted, the fellow on that side has converted, let me convert too! Buddhism came and spread like wildfire. And then it was obliterated. What do you think? Everybody who converted to Buddhism knew the Buddha? He was just trying to be normal. What do you think? All those who deserted Buddhism saw something missing in the Buddha? No. All were trying to be normal. This is what normalcy is about.

When you want to impress a woman, you want to look attractive as per the going standards of attractiveness. This is normal. The society decides your look.

I am never tire of narrating this one – I found in Bangalore, a matrimonial describing the prospective groom, “Well versed in English, German, Kannada, Hindi and Java.”

This is normal!

He will profess his love in Java! His epic poem is Ballad will appear in C++! That’s normal because the IT industry was hot at that time! It may sink, and then the matrimonial will change. If you look at the photographs of your parents when they were young, you will find your mothers wearing a particular cut of hair, right?

L1: 90’s style!

A.P: More locally, they used to call it Sadhna cut! And it was normal. Now if you do it, somebody will come and gift you a scissor! And your father’s sporting bell bottoms and tight shirts with abnormally big collars and three or four buttons open that was considered hot! To be exposing your chest hair! That was hotter than biceps! Normal. Today you smile at it. Oh! They didn’t know!

L2: Changing with time.

A.P: Nothing of one’s own. No understanding. Nothing arising from the heart. All being imposed from outside. You all know of these things. It’s not really that I am disclosing things not and never mentioned before, we know of these. But, please pay attention!

Have you looked at what it means to live the way we lived? You live in India, you find a particular relationship between you and your parents normal and you find yourself totally unable to break out of it. In Europe, in America, you will find this so very abnormal. “Hey girl, are you twenty-four?” “What are you doing by hiding behind your momma?” But here you find it so normal; I am not advocating one over the other. I am not saying that what they are doing is a better normal. All I am talking about is the impermanancy, and essenselessness of this normal.

We don’t even know how much we live in algorithms. You go to your home, your brother or your husband or your father talks to you and behaves with you in a certain way, and you find nothing striking about it. You say, “Obviously, it has to happen!” He is the father or the husband or the brother. And you go to a place, to a society, to a tribe, where a patriarchy is not being followed and there you see a totally different way of living. If they come and look at the power equation between the male and the female, in our homes, they will say so abnormal. So abnormal!

But we have become so accustomed. We have become so adjusted, we have adapted so much. Of course, you realize what kind of a deep trap it was, but you realize only after you are out of the trap. And, that is the whole challenge that a teacher faces. As long as somebody is trapped, it is very difficult to show him that he is trapped. He will realize; and he will shout and he will accept and exclaim but only after coming out of the trap. And, after that if you do not express or exclaim, it is alright, because by then, you are anyway out. As long as you are in, you won’t realize, because it is precisely the non realization that has kept you in so far. So, being in, how can you realize?

But the ones who are in, they will stoutly and adamantly say that, “Ah! We do not see any of the things that you are talking about.” Could you see, would you have been what you are, but you see nothing missing in your ways of life; very difficult to show.

It’s like going to an eye doctor with very little eyesight. You tell him that unless you show me what you are going to do, I won’t let you operate my eyes. Now you will surely see, but only after you are operated. But you won’t let the operation happen until you are convinced and you think that the only way to be convinced is through your own eyes. Through your own eyes, which unfortunately has been rendered dysfunctional?

Now, how to show you?

And that is the trap.

You trust that faculty of yours which itself is responsible for your suffering. There is a prison and there is a sentry. And you trust the sentry towards your redemption. Whenever you make a plan to break out, you go to your best friend and tell him all about it. And, who is your best friend? The jailor!

“You know, momma, what I am thinking these days?”

“Yes, daughter”

Had the jailor not been your best friend, how would you be found in the jail? The mind is the jailor; the mind is the jail-the jailor and the jail, both. And we trust nothing except the mind and our own cleverness, “I will decide; my life, my choice!”

The only hope is honesty. Because, honesty alone will let you admit that you are not alright, that you are suffering. There is no spirituality possible without an acknowledgement of frustration. But, we will not admit that we are frustrated. Because if we admit that we are frustrated, that would be equivalent to admitting a failed life. We would gloss over it. “No, it is not frustration, it is just concern.” “No, it is not anxiety, it is normal ambition.” “No, no I am not sulking; this is just sophistication.”

The cure is never far away; never! It is closer than one may imagine. What hinders it, is the misplaced notion of health. Health is available, what blocks it is the notion that you are healthy as you are. Admit disease, and you will find that you are healthy; keep bragging that I am already healthy and you will remain diseased.

But, admitting disease requires a bowing down of the ego, and that is so difficult! That requires admitting that all these years have really not been fruitful. That I have been living in a make-believe world. It’s hard to admit that. We fear that if that is lost, which we currently take to be meaningful and valuable, that we left with something inferior to this. We feel as if currently we have a treasure with us and admitting that the treasure means so little would lead to a loss, a withdrawal of the treasure. We don’t want to lose that treasure. First of all, that treasure is not a treasure at all! It is just a load.

Have you heard that story?

There was man who was known for his hidden riches. And the entire city used to envious of him. It was said that in his lockers there were huge bricks of pure gold; the man otherwise lived quite an average, almost pedestrian life. He would say that it is very important to live with frugality and simplicity; I don’t want to be ostentatious. But obviously, I have a huge treasure. And the entire city would accord and respect and his words were given a lot of weightage within the family. It was being seen that he appeared likely to have a fulfilling life.

When he was about to die, he called his son. The son said, “Father, now that you are about to depart, kindly hand over to me that prised treasure.” The father said, “Alright, yes of course!” So, he gave him the keys. The son went to the vault, opened it and rushed back shouting and crying. He said, “Father, there has been a big theft, somebody has taken away all the gold and replaced it with ordinary bricks.” The father lay expressionless, motionless. The son said, “Father, do you know what? Your savings of an entire lifetime are gone; all we have there are these ordinary bricks. The father said, “What do you think, I don’t know? Obviously I have always known. Even my father knew!”Now the son is perplexed. He understood that it is being going on since generations. Father said, now you too, must know, that these are bricks of gold! It will help you lead a satisfied life, and you will get a lot. A lot of respect, consideration; you will be feared.

Often we do not want to admit; often we have a stake in labeling the worthless as extremely worthy. Because, even worthless brings certain benefits, if labeled as worthy. You see how we are living? Deep within, we very well know that what we have is worthless. But, just labeling it worthy brings us so many benefits, and imagine what would happen if one day, the father or the son really come out with the facts. The lenders and the debtors would both change their mind.

Somebody was about to lend them money; now he won’t lend them money anymore, now there is no collateral to offer. Somebody was about to return the money and settle the debt, would no more return the money. Because, now they are exposed as having no power. No power to extract or collect. So the entire world of lies would come crashing down. Better than that, let’s continue with the story! If I admit in public that I really do not have anything; then even the standing that I have in the eyes of the public would be gone! So it is a double loss!

I have already admitted that I really have nothing, and that, which I have really was other’s thought that I have something; that too would be gone! That was dependent on the golden bricks. Once it is exposed that the bricks are not golden, then all that which came to me because other’s assumed that I had golden bricks, would be lost. So, the bricks continue!

What kind of live do you think that the father, and his father, and his father would have lived? Really satisfied? Or all the time, worried and wondering? Tell me. They have a secret; they must keep it under wraps. You have something of which you cannot talk even to your own son, what kind of life is that? Even to your own son, you can talk of it only at the moment of departure. Otherwise you can’t talk, because, even the son would stop valuing you! And the son says,” I have a rich dad.” So, he is prepared to listen to you! Had you told him that you only have a miniature piece of real estate material in your locker, what kind of respect would he give you? May be he would bang your head with the same brick!

Please, face this so called shame!

Please, pass through it!

Kindly admit!

We have a great sense of pretending. Our pretences know no end. Don’t you see how it becomes even more important in front of others to show that you and your husband have the most romantic relationship? Especially if it’s your friends from your college days. In front of them you must show that you have the wife of their dreams! And she will cooperate! She will say, “Jaanu, you have this cut on your forehead. Here is this lotion, kindly apply.” And then, a small kiss on the forehead! Only you and the wife know how you got the cut!

We must live up to the ideal of the happy couple, right? Even photographers know how to click couples. They know what a happy couple should look like; what is the normal version of the happy couple.

Have you not been to weddings?

L2: They are supposed to smile!

A.P: The happy couple must keep smiling. What if that exposes your missing tooth?

Honesty means not acting like the kid who doesn’t want to show his report card to his parents. I am so ashamed; how do I show where I stand? I know where I stand; but I cannot show. Honesty is just about showing that you are anyway knowing. Showing later on to others, first of all to yourself. Our suppressions are so deep that forget about admitting to others; we don’t even admit to ourselves. And that is why when you are with me, and I ask you to write reflections, newcomers face a huge block. How do I admit what is going on in my mind? Reflections involve simply writing down what is going on, those who have freshly arrived, find that very difficult.

How do I admit? I have been wearing this smile, how to I write of the sobs within? How? I have been pretending that one modern cosmopolitan educated and liberated girl. How do I admit what kind of relationship with my parents is, what kind of perpetual fears I live in, how do I admit? What will happen to the mask of this cool emancipated girl? What will happen? What will happen to all my fluent English? What will happen to the accents that I wear? I talk about everything under the Sun, I have an opinion on the Russian president, I have an opinion on the refugee crisis. I can sit at the United Nations and take care of all the world problems. How do I tell them that I have no voice in front of authority? How do I tell them that if I do not return home by two minutes past ten, I start getting palpitations, because if somebody else is having palpitations.

We are desperately clutching to something, all of us. We don’t want to lose it. You are mortally afraid. Faith is about being able to relax your grip; kindly don’t be so afraid dear kid, you are, you will be, even without that you consider so very important. In fact, letting it go will only leave you lighter, freer and more beautiful. Don’t hide, don’t be ashamed, have faith!

You know what, it requires a lot of strength to admit that you have failed; when you are not sure of your strength, then you cannot just come out with your failures. You will keep them hidden.

Coincidentally, I have studied with some of the best brains of this country; one of the remarkable things about them was their unflinching attitude towards so called poor results. Of course, out of fifty, all one obtained was three marks, but that did not involve any kind of neurotic emotionality. Yes, these are three marks! Because, one knew that one could turn it around, and one did turn it around! And that was not even faith that was trust in one’s abilities. One knew that, of course, what is the big deal in admitting that I got only five or ten per cent marks; I have it in me to increase it ten times next time.

The falls can be admitted when you are in the Truth. The weakness can be admitted when you are in the strong. Strength is not afraid of weakness; obviously, that’s the definition of strength. Light is not afraid of darkness, but we are in darkness and hence are so afraid of light. What if light comes? What will happen to my cherished darkness’s?

I have cultivated them since so long. Or, I have been gifted them.

We have a social pressure upon ourselves to keep displaying that we are happy and successful.

Spirituality begins when you see that you are a failure.

But in this society, you hold worth only if you keep proclaiming that you are successful. Of course, I have the best wife, the best husband, the best job. Of course, I am the blessed one.

Look at social media!

Don’t you see all that floating around? I have a fairy-tale life. And you very well know what the facts are, right? There is that immense pressure to show that you have made it, that you are not a failure, that you are not a laggard in the face of life. All of these must be good as per as social standards; money, job, wife, kids, city, house, vacations, car. Show that you have succeeded. Show that you have not lost it. Don’t you see that it is a grand deception in which there is such widespread participation almost unexceptionally? It’s like, “I will tell you I am happy, you will tell me you are happy, and together we will keep up the farce!”

And another aspect of the same success oriented civilization is this stigma that it attaches to failure. If you say that you have failed, then you are ostracized. Failure is not acceptable at all. And to say that you do not like working in one of those offices is to not even you have failed, is to say that you have no intention of succeeding. Failure for once, at least, can be tolerated. But, if you say, “No, I don’t like these places, I don’t like your institutions,” then what you are saying is you don’t even intend to be successful. And then you have to be not only distanced, but actually boycotted. “Don’t talk to him!”

There is one of the favorite things I like to do. When I go to the mall with all the lights and stuff, I enter a store, I look at the decoration, I look at the way they have tried to sprinkle smile on everything. And then I go to one of their attendants and talk. And when I talk, I really talk. And it takes just two minutes. And it turns too gloomy. Not that I have gloom in me, but I have a way of uncovering it. Some of them are not even properly fed. It was nearing the closing time, very recently when I was in one of the stores here in Noida, I actually took one of them and had him have dinner with me. He would have weighed some forty-five kilograms. But he was all energy. I was looking for cargo pants. “Sir, this; Sir, that.”

Then I said, “You stop, the cargos can wait.”

Where did you come from?

And then the story ensued.

He tried to give me his usual thing; but it didn’t work. Similarly whenever I go to a four star, or five star, or seven star, even there I want to talk to the attendants, especially to the trainees who have just, done their hotel management. I want to talk to them. And they would be wearing white make-up and carrying the best manners, some of them are quite resistant, because it’s a social place and they are being watched. So, “Yes, Sir?” “You want to talk to me, Sir?”

It takes a while to say, “Drop this!”

“Now talk!”

It’s easier somehow, with men. With women there is a….

May be I look too scary!

They start looking here and there,” where can I find the nearest exit door!”

Besides, I make them sweat, so the makeup is threatened! A man folk can open up a little more easily; and that’s the tragic for the women. They don’t even know how deeply they are hiding and what they are hiding. I am pretty sure that many of these places would be publicizing themselves as employers of choice. They would say, “You know what? In an employee satisfaction survey, we got four-point-nine out of five.” That’s what your normal is all about!

Four-point-nine out of five. Everywhere.

How good is a family?

Four-point-nine out of five.

How good is a job?

Four-point-nine out of five.

Why are you then sweating so much?

Here, four-point-nine out of five!

Day before, me and Kundan were returning from Kanpur, and in the compartment, there was this family and then, in a matter of some thirty-minutes, the father physically threatened his two kids, no less than five or six times! I could not count beyond thirty minutes because disgust often makes me fall asleep. So, we just snored away.

I am sure he would say his family stands at four-point-nine out of five!

Five out of five is not very desirable; because it attracts undue jealousy. So four-point-nine is the optimum!

L3: Sir, if normal is so debunked, what is the alternate way of living?

AP: So that, you may turn it into alternate normal.

L3: Can you define that alternate normal?

AP: The moment I define it, don’t you see what you want to do with it? Don’t you see that normal’s keep changing because alternatives keep coming? And whatever is the alternative becomes the normal for that time. The one, who lives by himself, does not seek an alternative to the normal; because, whenever you are seeking an alternative, your center is still the normal. You say the world is going left, I will go right; alternate!

Truthful living is not an alternate living; Truthful living is the only living.

Please appreciate the difference between these two things.

The one, who lives, truthfully by his heart, does not do that as an alternative against what is prevalent. He says, “This is the only way of living; I do not see any other way.” He does not say this is the alternate way, this is the only way. “Where is the other way? Show me the other way. There is no question of alternatives, I do not see any other way. The other way is suicidal. Can I even call it a way? I can’t even do that. There is no way. There is only this way.”

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