Responsibility is the fruit of maturity || Acharya Prashant (2014)

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Listener: Sir, we have heard this thing and understood it well that with maturity comes responsibility. My question is on the next statement which I will state now that, “Responsibility also given before time and before maturity, have the tendency to spoil that person to whom it is given, because of the over-indulgence and expectations from him”. Is this statement true?

Speaker:  Nice, wonderful. With maturity comes responsibility, and if responsibility is given before time then it is a spoiler. That’s the statement that has been just made. Is the statement clear to everybody? With maturity comes responsibility. But if responsibility is not timed well then it will spoil. Let’s try to see. What is maturity?

Listener 1: Sir, the tendency to differentiate between real and fake.

Speaker: Very nice, very nice. What is maturity?

Listener 2: Sir, tendency to take correct decision.

Speaker: Tendency?

Listener 3: Ability to walk alone.

Speaker: Ability to walk alone, yes all of that, all of that. Nice! And? What is maturity?

Listener 4: Creating a background to work all the decisions in your life.

Speaker: Good, good.

Listener 5: A state of mind where we can take our own decisions.

Listener 6: If you act after understanding and analyzing the facts, that’s maturity.

Listener 7: Sir, that period of time in which the society expects from you to give them something or to cooperate with them.

Speaker: Why not begin with immaturity?

Listener 8: When you don’t have to look at others for what you have to do.

Speaker: Nice, we will begin with this. We will begin with ‘looking at others’. You would surely call that immaturity. So how is a child born? What is the state of the child? What does the child know himself or herself as?

Listener 9: Nothing.

Speaker: Does the child not know himself as anything? What if you pinch the child? The child will..?

Listeners (together): Cry.

Speaker: If the child is hungry then too the child will…?

Listeners (together): Cry.

Speaker: And if you tickle the child then the child will…?

Listeners (together): Laugh.

Speaker: Laugh and giggle, right? Do you see that all of these are bodily sensations? The child wets its diaper and it starts crying, because it is not feeling comfortable. Hungry? – Cries. Cold? – Cries. Some soothing touch around? – Smiles. Physical. And when you are physical, then it means that you are a bundle of material, a bunch of material that is connected to more material. Who am I? – A body. What am I being pleased with? – Material. What is food? What is milk? What are heat and humidity? All of these are material, right. All of them are measurable. Are they not? So the child is totally dependent on others, on others in a very material way; also in a little less material way, by way of its mental tendencies but mostly material. Dependent on others! Then the child grows. Its physical dependence starts lessening. If it wants water a four year old can go, pick up a mug, fill it up and drink water. It need not call for mother. It can even switch on the T.V or the fan.

So, the physical dependence is reducing but another type of dependence is beginning now, which was not so much there in the case of the infant. For example, the infant was not dependent upon the world to get its religion. The infant does not have any religion. In fact, the infant does not even have a name; for long it doesn’t have a name. And it doesn’t identify too closely with its gender. And forget about country and this and that and many other identities. The infant has nothing to do with all of them. But as the child now starts growing up, it has a name. And you would have seen six or seven year old children feeling all puffed up on how much money their fathers have. A seven year old who is wearing expensive shoes, feels superior to another one who is wearing very ordinary clothes and shoes. Does it not happen? And it’s happening more and more. So dependence on others by way of material is reducing but dependence on the world by way of ideas and concepts is increasing. Religion is a concept. Economic status too is a concept. Nationality and creed and race are concepts. Gender and customs and traditions they all are concepts. So now the child is getting more and more dependent upon the world in another way. One dependency is lessening and another dependency is increasing. Are you with me? Do you see that this is happening?

Listener: Yes Sir.

Speaker: The physical part is lessening, the social part is increasing. This is what we call as social conditioning. Earlier the child was taking only food and water and milk from the world. And now the child has also taken ideas, thoughts, opinions, dreams, targets, everything from the world. It has imbibed them. Do you see this?

Then a point comes in the process of physical development, and it must come by the time the child is twelve or fourteen, not later than that, which is physically also the time of puberty, when the child, given the right environment by the teachers, by parents, by the society in general, given the right environment, the child should start dropping its dependencies. Till the age of ten or twelve you only move around from one dependency to another kind of dependency. Have you seen these kids who go to kinder garden? They can’t even wear their clothes, such dependency. We all have passed through that, right? You are sitting on the chair waiting for Papa to come and tie your shoe laces. (Smiling) Can a three year old tie his shoe laces? Have you not waited? And Mom is preparing your school bag. Does that not happen? That happens, and we all have sweet memories of that. And you can’t even climb the school bus, so somebody picks you up and then you board the bus, right? So, this kind of relationship is there, and then you go into a deeper kind of dependency, which is mental, which reaches its peak by the time you move in to your teen age.

Now the point of inflection must come. You know the point of inflection, right? – When the curve changes its slope. Dependencies have been increasing and increasing, the mind has been getting occupied more and more by the world, and then this climactic point arises, and after that another journey should begin, the journey of dropping the dependencies. This journey is the journey of maturity. But that point of inflection comes only when the environment is right, only when the people around you are conscious enough and themselves mature enough to help you begin your journey of maturity. Otherwise this point of inflection may not come your entire life. Such a tragedy! What should happen at the age of twelve may not happen even your entire life. So, what is then maturity?

Maturity is looking closelyMaturity is attention. Maturity is looking closely and clearly at what is going on. And when you look closely at what is going on, then you are able to differentiate between the necessary and the unnecessary, then you are able to differentiate between love and violence, between attachment and compassion.

Have you seen a mango tree?

Listeners: Yes Sir.

Speaker: So, there is this fruit, the mango fruit, and it is yet very raw and green. Then it grows and grows and attains a very nice and bright yellow colour, and it becomes full of juice, luscious. And when it reaches the peak of its sweetness, then it drops. This dropping is maturity. It no more remains attached to the tree. Have you seen a ripe mango fruit that still wants to remain attached? No. Now it drops and in dropping a new life begins. The fruit doesn’t die after dropping because what does the fruit contain? It contains the seed of a new life, it drops and a new life begins. This is maturity.

In India, we have this beautiful word “Dvij”. Dvij means “twice born”. And that is the highest vision that can be had. The first birth that everyone takes is the birth of attachment, is just the birth of the body. And those who have realized, they have said that this birth is not meaningful on its own. This birth is meaningful only if it leads to another birth. The second birth is real, twice born. Once born is just body born; attachment born and dependency born. The child who is born is just a dependent mass of flesh. And most people remain that way their entire life, just a dependent mass of flesh and a dependent mind. That’s what they remain their entire life.

To be twice born means that now I have moved beyond my first birth, now I am really, really born. This really being born is maturity. Most of us are never really born. We remain only once born and we carry all the signs of the first birth. What are the signs of first birth? – Name, surname, all that the world has given you. In your first birth, you are just a slave of the world, a physical entity. In your second birth, you are really yourself – ‘I’. You are really, really born then. Second birth means freedom from what the world has given you, from your attachments, dependencies and hence your non-being. First birth is actually not a birth at all. It is a non-being. You are not there.

What is maturity? Realization; when you come to realize the nature of your existence. “How am I living? What am I doing? What’s going on? What is all this drama in and around me?” That is maturity. And to realize it you have to have the courage of standing at some distance from it. If you are too closely attached to it you will not realize. When you are too attached, then you can never see the truth. Do you see, what is maturity? Maturity is being really yourself. Maturity means attaining your independent nature. It’s some kind of a paradox – attaining your basic nature, your real nature. When you attain that, that is maturity, are you getting it?

Now let’s come to responsibility.

Response – What to do when something happens. That is responding. Something is happening, now what to do – that is responding, right? Now to respond, I need to first of all know what is happening; otherwise how can I respond? Can I respond without knowing what is happening? So, it’s obvious that response means “being aware”. If I speak in a language that you do not understand, can you respond to my questions? Can you? You cannot. To respond, you must first of all be aware and you must understand, right? Are you getting it? How can I understand anything when I am not standing free of it?

I will not allow myself to understand because understanding carries the risk of freedom. I am dependent for my physical survival on some system and that system may be a particularly evil one, but it is giving me financial security and physical support. I will not want to enquire into that system. I will not want to know what the fact of that system is. I will not want to know because if I come to know then I will have to quit it and I cannot quit it because I am dependent on it. So I’ll not want to understand.

To respondTo respond you must have the courage to stand a little free, free of that system and free of its influence upon you. That is the only freedom. That is also called freedom from conditioning.

Understand it this way. Let’s say there is an instrument here (pointing finger towards a wall in the room) and let’s call it ‘The Instrument of Conditioning’. What is the function of this instrument? Whosoever enters here, this instrument conditions that. And conditioning means, by definition, that now you cannot exercise your intelligence and you cannot understand, right? Standing outside I say, “Well some of you go inside and understand what is happening.” You have come here to understand this and what is it doing?

Listeners: Conditioning.

Speaker: It is conditioning you. Now can you understand it because conditioning itself means loss of…?

Listeners: Intelligence.

Speaker: Intelligence and the ability to understand. To understand it you must first of all be free from conditioning, the conditioning it gives you.

So, the first group of students comes in and it looks at it and gets conditioned and they come out. And then I ask them, “What did you see?” Will they be able to give me any substantial answer? No, because they themselves became victims of the conditioning. Then another group comes in, they have a shield and they protect themselves from the conditioning. Now, they can tell me what it is all about. To know something you must first of all be free from its…?

Listeners: Conditioning.

Speaker: Conditioning. And remember, conditioning is not there (Pointing towards the wall), the conditioning is here (Pointing towards the head). It (The instrument) can only try, but it’s you who allow yourself to be conditioned. So, to respond, to really respond you must have a clear mind, you must have a free mind. Only then you can respond. Otherwise, what do you do? Otherwise you react. You react like a chemical. So, you put some water upon sodium and what do you get? – An explosion and fumes and sound. Does sodium know what is happening? Does water know what is happening? Yet, something is happening. Nobody knows what is happening? Yet things are happening and parties are involved in it.

ConditioningLook at the common man on the road or you look at your own life, is it not like sodium and water most of the time? Are we not just reacting? Remember ‘to react’ means ‘things are happening without understanding’. And ‘to respond’ means ‘I know what is going on, because I am free from the conditioning effect’. Sodium and water are slaves of their physical constitution, slaves of their bodies and slaves of their material. Just call them slave of physical conditioning.

So, they have no choice. Can sodium ever say that, “Now I am realized sodium, now I am intelligent sodium – ‘Na-I’; and now I will no more react with water. I have stopped reacting. Only fools react”? Will you ever get sodium like that? Will you ever get water which says, “Why are you unnecessarily boiling me? 100 degrees or 5000 degrees, I will never boil. I have gone beyond boiling. To boil is slavery. After all the heat is external, why should I submit to the heat?” Will you ever get water saying this?

Reaction – Something happens, your neighbour says something to you, and you will necessarily turn the other way, just as water will necessarily boil at 100 degrees. Water doesn’t have the guts to say, “I don’t want to boil.” and you don’t have the guts to say, “I don’t want to get disturbed”. You bring heat to water and what does water do? Boil. And you bring your gossiping neighbour to yourself, and what do you do? – Gossip. So, reaction is, “I don’t understand what is going on, yet something is going on”.

In fact a lot is going on. The entire world is going on without understanding what is going on, and everybody is busy doing something. All the chemicals are reacting and no chemical knows why it is reacting? Male chemical with female chemical, boss chemical with employee chemical, teacher chemical with student chemical, and nobody knows why.  And baby chemicals are being born every day. (Laughter from the audience) It’s a radioactive tree, every element is unstable. It must breakdown or combine with somebody else, that is called loneliness. The valency is never complete. “One electron missing! Can you please come into my life? You don’t want to give me your electron? Then we can have a covalent bond. We will share, that is love – covalent bond! Half mine-half yours, family-family.”

So, lots of reactions are going on, strong reactions, weak reactions. Some reactions happen only under pressure. Some reactions happen only when some catalyst is there. What is the catalyst? Money is the catalyst. So, you are standing in some office, some government department, and you want to get some work done and the reaction is not happening. So, you bring out some platinum from your pocket, (audience bursts into laughter) platinum or palladium, good catalyst, and you keep it on the table and the reaction happens. Or somebody is not listening to you; some heat is required. So, you shout. Now there is heat and the reaction happens. And some reaction happens only when the elements are vibrating. Do you know? That too is sometimes a condition. There has to be a vibration of a particular wavelength only then the reaction can happen. So, you are required to be vibrated a few times and then something happens – pressure. Book is there, you are there and no reaction is happening. So, the pressure is ‘examinations’. (Laughter in the audience) Five atmospheric pressure and reaction is now happening. This is reaction.

Response means, the other is not influencing me. The other is there but my constitution, my being is not a function of the other, and then I can respond. Obviously, maturity and responsibility are one and the same thing.

We get confused because we think that responsibility is duty. That is the common notion we have, right? That responsibility means duty. No, responsibility means understanding and hence responsibility is a very free bird. Only you can know what your responsibility is at a particular moment and that change. Reactions are always the same. Sodium and water will not give you glucose, because that’s a reaction and the output of a reaction is always the same.

But responsibility is dynamic; it changes from moment to moment. Only you know what is right at a particular moment and hence it cannot be a fixed set of duties. Like, ‘It’s my responsibility to please such a person’. No, at times it is responsible to speak softly, at other times it is responsible to speak harshly. At times you must nurture, at other times you must kill. There are times where you must be very-very silent and there are times when you must speak out and only you know when the time is right. There is a time to come and there is a time to go and that is responsibility. It is not a fixed set of duties and nobody can dictate it to you. And there is a time when you must surrender and a time when you must rise as a rebel and only you can know. Responsibility does not come with identity. In fact responsibility comes with freedom from identity. You cannot say that, “Because I am a son so I have all these responsibilities.” This is rubbish. If you must give a cup of tea to your mother and you say, “I am doing it because I am a son”, then it’s a pathetic situation. If you give a cup of tea to your mother it must be given out of love, not because it is your duty as a son.

Have you seen people talking of responsibilities? Do they look elated? Do they look joyful when they talk of their responsibilities? How do they say? (The speaker donning a sad face and tone) “What to do? Now there are these three daughters, they are my responsibility.” Now there is no love between this man and his daughters. Otherwise he cannot talk of responsibilities. Love is sufficient, and love is not a responsibility, love is not a duty. “We have these responsibilities towards the family, towards the country.” Have you known anything by yourself? To respond is to know. Or have you just been given a charter of orders. “This is what you will do. Do this, do this, do this and then you will be called a responsible man.” Who is a responsible man? Who goes to office every day in the morning, works there as an obedient employee, comes home in the evening, buys vegetable, goes to the kids, gets the homework done and then goes and sleeps. This is the life of a responsible man. Any machine, any robot can do it better than this man, this man is uselessly alive. He is not alive at all actually. His is a state of non-being as we said, he does not exist.

And responsibility is dangerous because it takes you to very unknown paths. I am talking of the real responsibility, not the fake responsibility, right? I hope we understand the difference. Responsibility, as it usually is practised versus the real meaning of responsibility. Real responsibility is very unpredictable, so it’s very thrilling. Fake responsibility is boredom, real responsibility is extremely thrilling. It’s an adventure. You never know where it will take you. You never know. It’s not a planned activity.

Duty – there is everything planned about it. 

Responsibility – I am responding. Let things come, I will see what to do about them. 

So responsibility does not have any ready-made answers. Responsibility is about having so much of faith that when it will come to it, we will respond to it. It is about having a lot of faith in your inner strength. “I need not prepare or plan, when it will come then I will respond. When it will come, then I will respond.

Responsibility is also called ‘Right action.’ And that right action, remember, is dynamic. One cannot prescribe it. Sitting over here I cannot tell you that, “This is right for you and this is right for you.”(While pointing towards different listeners). Only you can know, and whatever you know that too varies from moment to moment. What is right, right now, will not be right after an hour. So, it’s a free sky, an open sky. You can go anywhere. Beautiful, isn’t it? Exciting, thrilling, inviting and dangerous (Smilingly). So, that’s why real responsibility never comes to those who have not yet attained maturity.

You are very right when you made that statement (referring to the questioner). Just one clarification is needed. You said, “Responsibility, if given before time”. Responsibility cannot be given, it does not come from outside to inside. It blossoms from within. “Now I am mature, and hence I respond to the world. I don’t react.” Nobody can give you responsibility. We use it this way that, “Now I am giving you the responsibility of handling this department”, or, “Now I am giving you the responsibility of going to the grosser’s shop”. But this is an abuse of the word. Nobody can give you responsibility. Responsibility rises from within. It’s your breath, and once it has arisen, nobody can take it away.

And I am assuring you when you will actually become capable of responding, which you can become even right now, this very instant, when you will actually be capable of responding, then the world will come and say, “Why you are so responsible? Can’t you be a little cool? Can’t you be like the rest of us? Can’t you just chill out? Why must you know so much? Why are you so aware? Why can’t you act drunk like the rest of us?” You would already be experiencing it, some of you. I know you are. Many of you have already confided to me that, “Sir, we are now being told that, ‘You understand too much’ and ‘Keep your understanding away’”, “Sir, we went home in Diwali and we were told that, ‘You are a kid and remain a kid.’”, “Sir, we used to talk nonsense and then everybody would be happy and now when we are actually talking some sense, people are getting annoyed’”. That should tell you about the nature of the world. It is deeply interested in keeping you ignorant because its interests lie in slavery. As long as you are ignorant, you do not realize. You will happily do what they command you to do.

With your awakening, with your rise, with your maturity, you become your own man. You refuse to live senselessly and a lot of people won’t like that. They will be annoyed. So, it’s dangerous and that’s why I choose to talk to young people because to be young means to have the guts and the gumption to rise, to live freely. To be young means to have a spine that can sit straight. Youth does not giggle; youth does not hide its face. Youth roars! And that’s why I go to young people because that’s where there is the only possibility of hearing a roar. Kids can’t roar and you’re so called aged men they too can’t roar. Kids are not born yet and your aged men are already half dead. So, why to talk to them? You must be prepared to come alive. You must be prepared to roar out, “Yes I am, I am there, mature and responsible and alive and come what may, I am prepared to take on the dangers.” Are you afraid?

Listener: No, Sir.

What is life without dangers? – And those who look dangerous right now, they anyway do not have too much power. Who are these people? Who are these systems? What is the world that tries to frighten you? It itself is frightened. How much can a frightened man frighten you? And only a frightened man tries to frighten others. The free man will liberate. The fearful man will try to terrify others as well.


Look at the state of the world around you, talking of responsibility. What do you see? And how can you not respond to it? How can you not know what is the right action? See what is going around. See! Do you see people happy? Do you find them aware? The population of this planet is now eight billion. Thousands of species of plants and animals are gone, never to return. How can you remain busy with your little and petty lives? How can you act as if everything is alright? How can you just have your small concerns? Nice little dainty family – ‘Me, my wife and my two kids’, and pretending as if everything is alright. And cities are sinking and seas are rising and rivers are disappearing. How can you not respond to it?

What drives me? (Speaker referring to himself) What am I doing? I am just responding to what I see. I look at the young people around me, people like you, and then I cannot tell myself that it is none of my business. It is my business and that is called responsibility. I have a responsibility towards you. I have a responsibility towards existence. I cannot live insulated. You too cannot live insulated. That is awakening. There is a fire in the house and you are sleeping. As long as you can manage to sleep, you have no responsibility but the moment you wake up you have a responsibility. Is that not so?

Listeners: Yes sir.

Speaker: Now, you wake up and you see that the house is burning, the entire planet is burning, how can you not do something about it? And when I say planet, I don’t only mean the big things; your little families are burning, every individual is burning. That is the state of the mind. How can you not do anything about it? And say, “All I want in life is some nice job which can give me some money and a decent middle class lifestyle. And then I can buy a car, then I can buy a small house and have a nice husband or a wife and kids, and that is called the good life.” How can you do that? Knowing fully well that all these individuals and the things that you are referring to, they themselves are burning. The wife is burning, the husband is burning and out of this burning combination only charcoals will be born, and more and more charcoal is being produced in human factories daily. You want to be part of that machinery? Don’t you dare to live like a free individual?

I am challenging you. Do you have it in you? Or all that you want is some cushy mushy job in Bangalore? And a respectable lifestyle and a cute thing to walk around with, sleep around with? I am inviting you to be born? It’s a strange invitation. Kindly take birth.

Some are already hiding when I look at them, they are hiding their faces.

(Everyone laughs)

“But no Sir, I am such a small little girl, what can I do? Sir, I have so many expectations to fulfil.” Some are asking their neighbours, “If you come along then we can try.” One or two might be dialling, “Hello Uncle, is it alright to be responsible?” (Laughter)

Watch session at: Prashant Tripathi: Responsibility is the fruit of maturity The transcription has been edited for clarity.

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