Question: What is the origin of conscience?
Answer: Conscience is the cream of the mind. The
best that the mind has produced is conscience. It is a product
of the mind, and therefore the conscience of a person living
in one nation is quite different from the conscience of
a person in another nation: it is built in another element.
For instance, in ancient times there were communities of
robbers. Now there are nations. The robbers used to think
that they were entitled to rob the caravans passing by;
they had a moral principle and an ideal. If a person said,
'All I have I give you, let me go', they said, 'No, I wish
to see blood from your hand'. They did not let him go without
hurting him. What was their principle? They thought, 'We
do not accept anything from you, we are not beggars, we
are robbers. We risk our lives for our profession, we defend
ourselves risking our lives, we are brave, we are entitled
to it, we are courageous'. It was the same with the sea
pirates; they thought what they did was virtue, and from
that thought they became kings. The same people when small
were robbers, when great became kings.
Conscience therefore is what we have made. At the same
time it is the finest thing we make; it is like the honey
made by bees. Beautiful experiences in life, tender thoughts
and feelings gather in ourselves and make a conception of
wrong or right. If we go against it, it brings and produces
discomfort. Happiness, success, comfort in life, peace –
they all depend upon the condition of our conscience.
Question: Does not each person make his own law
for his necessity?
Answer: That would be nice, but we are living
in a community; we are not entitled to live in a community
and to disregard its laws. If we wish to benefit, to entitle
ourselves to all its advantages we must adhere to its laws.
No doubt if we have better ideas than the community has
produced, we can make them see that our principle is the
right one, but we must not disregard the principle in which
the whole community lives, saying, 'We make our laws for
our individual being'. We can go to the mountains and forests
saying, 'We live according to our own law'; then we can
be entitled to do so. In ancient times there were spiritual
people who went into the caves of the mountains and into
the forest and lived according to their own laws. But if
we say, 'As members of the community we must have its privileges',
then we must also adhere to the laws of the community.
Question: Is not the disapproval of the conscience
due to the soul's memory of unpleasant consequences of actions
in the past, added to conventionalities and accepted ideas
as to what is right at the present time?
Answer: Does 'past' mean yesterday or the day
before yesterday, this life or the life before? If no more
explanation is given I might say that the whole life of
the world is built of conventionalities and accepted ideas,
and nothing else. Therefore I do not mean to say that conscience
is truth. When we come to the absolute truth there is nothing
to be said – but the conscience is made of accepted ideas.
The world is maya and nothing else. If we accept something
as being right, to another it is wrong. What the modern
German philosopher Einstein says about relativity is the
same thing which many years before the Hindus have called
maya, illusion: illusion caused by relativity, for everything
exists by our acceptance of it. We accept a certain thing
to be right, good, or beautiful; once accepted it becomes
our nature, our individual self – it is all acceptance.
If we do not accept it then it is not. A mistake, if we
do not accept it as such, is not a mistake, but once accepted
it is a mistake.
Question: But we do not always know if it is a
Answer: Do we not know it from the painful consequences
ensuing? That also is acceptance.
There are dervishes who work against accepted facts,
for instance the accepted fact that fire burns. They jump
into the fire and come out unharmed. So they give a proof
to the religions, saying, 'hellfire is not for us. When
we can prove that here for us it does not exist, certainly
for us in the hereafter it does not exist'.
Question: Is not the conscience really the result
of the soul's respect for the accepted ideas of a community?
If left to oneself would there be any reaction in one's
Answer: But there is action and reaction in oneself.
The reason is that a human being has had different phases
of existence. In one phase he is less wise; if he dives
deeper in himself he is wiser; if he dives still deeper
in himself he is wiser still. What he does in one sphere
he would reject in another sphere. Therefore a man has so
much in himself to combat and to reject that he has action
and reaction even without contact with others.
Sometimes in his mood a person is a devil, sometimes
a saint. There are moods, there are times when a person
is quite out of reason; there are fits of goodness and fits
of badness – that is human nature. Therefore one cannot
say that an evil person has no good in him, nor a good person
no evil. But what concerns the conscience most is one's
own conception of what is right and wrong, and the second
influence is the conception of others. Therefore a person
is not free.
Question: Is not the role of the conscience very
Answer: The best way of testing life is to have
conscience as a testing instrument with everything – whether
it is harmonious or inharmonious. If it is inharmonious,
then to think that it will upset the whole environment;
if it is harmonious then to think that it is all right.
Question: How can a feeling be controlled by the
Answer: The conscience – like everything else
– if it has become accustomed to handle one's thought, speech
or action becomes stronger. If it is not accustomed to do
this then it becomes weaker and remains only as a torture,
not as a controller. The conscience is a faculty of the
heart as a whole which contains reason, thought, memory
Question: But who is it in the conscience who
Answer: In the sphere of conscience the soul of
man and the Spirit of God meet and become one.9
Question: In what manner do the soul of man and
the Spirit of God meet in the conscience and become one?
Answer: The heart in its depth is linked with
the divine Mind. Therefore in the depth of the heart there
is a greater justice than on the surface, and a kind of
intuition comes, inspiration, knowledge as the inner light
falling upon our own individual conception of things, and
both then come together. In the conscience is the throne
of God; there God Himself sits on the throne of justice.
A person condemned by his conscience is more miserable
than the one who is condemned by the court. A person whose
conscience is clean, if he is exiled from his country or
sent to prison, still remains a lion – even in a cage, for
even in a cage there is his inner happiness. But when his
conscience despises a person then that is a bitter punishment,
more so than any the court can give.
Sadi says it very beautifully. He sees the throne of
God in the conscience and says, 'Let me confess my faults
to Thee alone that I may not have to go before anyone in
the world to humiliate myself'.
Question: Why can we only have knowledge of God
through the heart? What part of the mind does the heart
Answer: The heart is the principle center – not
the heart in the body, but the heart which is the depth
of the mind, for the mind is the surface of the heart. The
heart and the mind are one, as one tree: the root is the
heart, the branches, the fruits and the flowers represent
Question: What is the relation between conscience
Answer: I distinguish between truth and facts.
Conscience is made from the cream of facts, but not from
truth, because truth stands above all things; it has nothing
to do with conscience. It is facts which have to do with
conscience. When we come to understand truth, the understanding
of truth is just like a spring which rises and expands into
an ocean, so that we come even to such a degree of understanding
that we say, 'All is true, and all is truth'.