Question: Why is it that so many people struggle with liking themselves? And could you say something about shame and guilt?
Sadhguru: “Liking themselves?” Someone else should like you. “I like myself” – what nonsense is this? These concepts and philosophies are floating around all over the world, particularly on the West Coast of America. When I recently went to California, I happened to attend a lecture at Stanford University where the speaker held the view, “You must be compassionate to yourself.” I said, “To like, love and be compassionate, you need two entities. If you create two entities within yourself, you are either schizophrenic or possessed. Either you need a psychiatrist or an exorcist.”
An individual means “not further divisible.” If you made yourself in such a way that you have no friends, and are not capable of being alone, you create two within yourself. Don’t play this game. Initially, it may be fun, but if it establishes itself, you will become sick. The line between sanity and insanity is very thin. If you keep pushing it, you will land on the other side, and you will not know where you are.
It happened once – Shankaran Pillai called the psychiatric ward at the NIMHANS institute in Bangalore and said, “Is Mr. Pillai there in room number 21?” The receptionist said, “Wait, sir. I’ll check and let you know.” She checked and said, “No, he is not there.” “Oh my God, then it’s true that I have escaped!” Once you play this game of dividing yourself, you will not know where you are. You are an individual – who you are should never be divided. You must integrate yourself into an individual. Only one is fixable. Only one can grow. Only one can transform. Only one can transcend. If there are two, they will go in two different directions. If there are four, they will go in four different directions, and so on.
Do not try to like yourself. What is there to like about you? “Then should I dislike myself?” Why are you thinking on those terms? Where is the question of liking or disliking yourself? When you look at yourself as just a piece of life, there is neither a need to like nor dislike this most fundamental life within you. If you see, “This is only me and me alone,” you will keep this well. If there are two, doing makeup for both is difficult.
With these ideas, “Love yourself. Believe in yourself. Be compassionate to yourself,” you are asking for sickness. And if you ask very strongly, you may get it. Do not ask for these things. It is vital to understand that you are an individual – you cannot divide yourself, or if you do, you are playing a psychological game with which you are asking for insanity to manifest itself. When you live with those kinds of people, it may seem normal, but if life situations push you, you will go crazy. If life situations are conducive, you can play these games and somehow get by, but nothing significant will happen in your life because unless you are an individual, you cannot transform; you cannot transcend.
Shame and guilt
Your ideas of shame and guilt are a social phenomenon. What people feel guilty about in one society, they do not feel guilty about in another society. Shame and guilt are not natural. It is just that certain religions have made you feel guilty about everything. If you list out all the things they consider as sin that you should feel guilty about, you must feel guilty about being alive, because your very birth is supposed to be sin. All your life, you feel guilty. If certain religious teachings were not there, guilt and shame would not exist. If there was no room for guilt and shame, you would correct your actions. Guilt and shame gives you a lot of shadowy area in your life. You can endlessly do the same stupid things, feel guilty about it, wash your guilt away, do the same things again…
People who have been taught great levels of shame and guilt are the ones who commit too many things because there is always a way to fix the guilt, every week. Consciousness is one thing – conscience is another thing. Consciousness is the basis of life and existence. Spiritual process is about consciousness, not conscience. Conscience is a socially set up mechanism, usually with a religious basis, which makes you feel guilty of this or that or everything in your life. When you feel guilty, you will become subservient in some way.
You do not need a conscience – you need consciousness, because consciousness is inclusive. This inclusion fixes your actions. You do not do something not because you think it is wrong. You know that you would not like to do it to yourself, so you would not like to do it to someone else. You know it would not work for yourself, so you would not want to do it for someone else. That is all it is. Consciousness fixes you because of your inclusiveness. Conscience tries to fix you with guilt, fear, punishment, and shame. This is something that makes a human being feel like a wretch, and you cannot expect a human being to grow when he or she feels like a wretch. Instilling shame and guilt means there is no interest in the growth, transformation, and transcendence of human beings. There is only interest in holding them on the leash. Guilt and shame come from social conscience, not from universal consciousness.