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Question: How do I get a life in which I get respect, as well as I can live life my own way?
This is a desire that is entrenched in everybody’s mind, “I want respect and I also want to live on my own terms.”
This is very much possible but it is not possible in the way you think it to be possible. What you are asking for is possible, not only possible, it is your right. It is your right to be respected and also live freely. When you say, “I want to live on my own terms,” what you mean is that you want to live freely. Yes it is possible. There are no constraints at all. There is no problem at all. Yes it is possible that we be respected and we live freely, but there is a small spoiler. It is not possible in the way we think about it. Let’s try to understand.
What does the word ‘respect’ mean? ‘Respect’ has two meanings. One the conventional meaning, where respect is just a code of conduct. You go to your teacher and you say, “Good Morning”, you bow your head a little and it is considered as ‘respect’. Right? You do not argue with your parents and it is considered as, ‘respect’. Right? When you are walking in front of a temple, you do not do a few things thing or you do a particular thing, it is considered as, ‘respect’.
This ‘respect’ if you look closely at it, is just a particular way of behaving, as we said, it is conduct related. It does not really have much to do with whether you understand it really or not. It has only to do with your behavior. Whether or not you understand your teacher, just show this kind of action and you will be considered as respectful. Is that not so? This is the conventional meaning of ‘respect’.
There is another meaning of respect and after telling that meaning, I will ask you which meaning would you prefer. So listen to that very carefully, because I will ask you which meaning you prefer. You are wearing something on your eyes, what is this called?
Listener 1 : Spectacles.
Speaker : ‘Spectacles’, ‘respect’, ‘spectacles’, ‘inspect’, ‘spectacular’, do all these words have something in common? Spect. Inspector. What does ‘spect’ mean? ‘Spect’ means to see, that is why this thing on your eyes is called, ‘spectacle’. What is spectacular? That which is worthy of being seen. Wow, it is a treat to the eyes, so we call it ‘spectacular’. So what does ‘re-spect’ mean?
Listener 2 : To see it again and again.
Speaker : And why would you see something again and again?
Listener 3 : Because it is spectacular.
Speaker : Very good answer. Because it is spectacular, because there is certain love, and because you want to understand. Because every moment you want to be close, so you want to see again and again. That ‘again and again’ implies every moment. I have not closed the process of looking. I have not stopped the process of coming close. “Again and again I am coming close”, and that is respect. “Again and again I am in contact with you”, and that is respect. ‘Re-spect’. “Again and again I am in contact with you,” and this respect is deep love. This respect is deep closeness and that respect was a code of conduct. Now which respect do you prefer?
Listeners : Sir, second one.
Speaker : But then there is a funny thing about this whole thing. In the first kind of respect there is demand. In the first kind of respect there is fear. In the first kind of respect there is a lack of understanding. In the second kind of respect there is no fear, no demand and no expectation.
In second kind of respect, you will not say that I want to be respected. In fact, this respect is something which is purely dependent upon you. It is not dependent on anybody else, because this respect is essentially awareness. “I want to know, I am looking at it again and again. There is something that is really drawing me towards it and I am looking at it again and again.” And when you are looking at something really closely, in that moment there is no fear. There is just ‘knowing’.
You forget about all these demands in that moment that-“I want to be respected. Is the other fellow insulting me?” In the moment of love, these things do not count. “Is he insulting me? What is the entire world thinking about me?” These things do not count in love. Do they? They do not.
But they are very important when you are limited to the first definition of respect. Then they become very important, because then you are a beggar. What do you say to the world? “Please behave nicely with me, please respect me, I want your respect.” You are a beggar and you are a very violent beggar.
The beggars that we usually see, appear very meek, because they will just come, beg and go away. But the fellow who wants respect is a beggar and a very violent beggar. Why? Because he wants respect. And if he does not get it what will he do? He will exert pressure, he will stretch relationships, he will threaten, he will feel bad, and he will take punitive action. Because he is depending upon the others to show a particular code of conduct.
He does not know, there is no understanding. He does not know what the other person is thinking, there is no understanding, but he is satisfied that the other person is saying these few words to me, and that is sufficient. That is the kind of life ninety-nine percent of mankind lives.
We do not understand the other, we do not understand the world, we do not understand our own mind, but for us it is sufficient if a particular thing happens in a particular way. For example, many of us would just be satisfied with the fact that we are sitting here.
Sitting here is just a particular action. But do you really understand? That is the question to be asked. If you really understand, then there would be respect. Right now you may sit here and keep quiet, should I take that you are respectful towards me? Are you showing respect towards me just by sitting quietly, or is real respect about listening again and again, continuously, and being so close that you really understand what is being said?
What is real respect?
Listener 2 : To concentrate.
Speaker : But what do we usually do?
Listener 3 : We do not concentrate.
Speaker : When your attendance will be marked, will it be marked on the basis of your understanding or on the basis of your physical presence?
Listener 4 : Physical presence.
Speaker : So bad. That is how our world runs. It is only concerned with behavior. So come, walk into the door, walk into this room and sit. Sit quietly and follow all the protocol. And if you are following all the protocol, then you are alright. You get a ‘P’, you are present. It does not matter what you are doing here. Nobody can come and check where your mind is. All that people can check is where your body is, and if your body is here, you are present. If your body is here, you are present.
That is what our conventional definition of ‘respect’ is. It is a very shallow thing, it will make you dependent. It is actually stupidity. Those of us who demand respect are making themselves slave of others, because you will want the other to behave in a particular way. He may or may not. He is not controlled by you. He has his own whims and fancies. And what are you doing? You are running after him like a beggar, asking for respect.
The intelligent person does not do that. The intelligent man says, “Do I understand? If I understand, I am respectful towards myself, and that is sufficient.” What does the intelligent man say, “Do I understand? There is no point in asking the other person to respect me. Am I respectful towards myself? That is the bigger question to ask. Am I respectful towards myself?”
Remember what respect is- understanding. So self-respect then is, self-awareness. What is ‘self-respect’? Self-Awareness. The intelligent man is concerned with self-respect, and self-respect is not a type of Ego. Self-respect is not arrogance. Self-respect is self-awareness. Self-respect is, “Do I understand my own mind? Do I know what I am doing? Do I know why I am there in this campus? Do I know why my life is moving in such a way? Do I know why such people are my friends? Do I know what attracts me and what does not? Do I know where my beliefs and opinions come from?” That is self-respect.
In that sense, do we have self-respect? We do not have self-respect and we want respect from others. Is that not weird? Is that not very weird, to not to have self-respect and ask respect from others? Now here is the next question. What do you want? Self-respect, or an artificial, blind respect from others.
Listeners : Sir, self-respect.
Speaker : What is self-respect?
Listeners : Understanding.
Speaker : Understanding of my own self. The other part of the question that he asked was, “Can I live freely on my own terms?” These two now are not two different things. These two become one. That is the beauty of this. Try to understand this.
Why did he ask this question? He said,”Can I have a free life and yet respect from others?” Because we see that there is a contradiction. What is the contradiction? When you ask for respect from others, they dictate their terms on you. They say, “We will give you respect, but you must live life according to us.” So there is a contradiction, there is a problem.
“Either you take our respect, or you live freely.” So, this is a trade. They are telling you, “Take respect, and give freedom. From us take some respect but in exchange surrender your freedom.” This is such a poor trade. Is it not? This is such a poor deal. Is it not? How many of you would exchange your freedom to get some foolish respect from somebody? We keep on doing that. Right? We keep on doing that.
You are young. When you open your eyes, see what all these grownups are doing that all the time. What else are they doing? They are sacrificing genuine, real, precious freedom. To get what? Stupid, artificial respect. That respect is of no value at all. That respect is worthless, yet we are surrendering that very precious thing, our intrinsic freedom to get that respect. And that is the reason you asked that question. There is a trade-off there. So you asked me that how to balance these two.
You said, ‘How to get both?’ Because in this world you either have this or that. You either have freedom, or respect from others. The more respectable you are, the less free you are.
Now I ask you, “There are so many respectable people in the society, do you think that they are free?” When you now come across a very respectable man, be compassionate towards him. The poor fellow is suffering. Why is he suffering? Because he has given up his freedom. Unless you give up your freedom, these others will not give you respect. So one lesson you must take home with you is, “I will never run after respectability. I will never, never run after respectability. Because this respectability comes at a huge cost. I get something which is of two rupees and I have to surrender something which is priceless.” Right?
“Instead, I will understand the real meaning of respect. And instead of asking respect from others, I will have self-respect. Self-respect is self-awareness. I will live my life through my own eyes. I will not depend on others to give me respect. I will ask myself that what am I doing, how am I living.”
Can anybody know more about you than you? Who will know more about you? Your neighbor or you? Who is the best man to see what you are doing? Then why must you depend on others? Why must you ask others? Why must you take others’ opinions seriously? Why must you be demotivated when somebody tells you that you are not good enough? Why must you feel good when somebody tells you that you are wonderful? Don’t you see that all these are traps?
The moment you feel good when somebody tells you that you are so smart, you are so handsome, you are so intelligent, you are trapped. Aren’t you? Because now you will be dependent upon him. You will be dependent upon him to give you respect whereas, the only real respect is…
Listeners : Self-respect.
Speaker : I repeat. Respect is not a code of conduct. Respect is…
Listeners : Understanding.
Speaker : So, self-respect is- “My life, my mind, my eyes and my honesty. I will not deceive myself. I will really look hard at myself. I am an adult.” And then there is absolute freedom, then there is no trade-off, then you will not ask for either respect or freedom. Then you will say, “Respect and freedom.” And this respect is self-respect.
Excerpted from a ‘Shabd-Yog’ session. Edited for clarity.
Watch the session video: How to get respect and yet live free? || Acharya Prashant (2013)
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