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Chapter 8: The Head Is Compulsory, but Not the Cap

You talked the other morning of the child being forced to be obedient. That child is still sitting here: I hate being told what to do. But in a way that should be the other person’s problem; however, I insist on making it my problem by reacting with anger, resentment, and the need to justify myself. It is clear that those who do the telling also hate being told what to do. It seems as if we are all caught in the same intricate web, playing different roles at different times. As an adult how can I convert reaction into response and responsibility?

The first thing to be understood very clearly is what I mean by disobedience. It is not the disobedience you will find in the dictionaries. My idea of disobedience is not to hate being told what to do or, in reaction, to do just the opposite.

Obedience needs no intelligence. All machines are obedient; nobody has ever heard of a disobedient machine. Obedience is simple, too. It takes the burden of any responsibility from you. There is no need to react, you have simply to do what is being said. The responsibility rests with the source from where the order comes. In a certain way you are very free: you cannot be condemned for your act.

After the second world war, in the Nuremberg trials, so many of Adolf Hitler’s top men simply said that they were not responsible, and they don’t feel guilty. They were simply being obedient - whatever was told they did it, and they did it with as much efficiency as they were capable of.

In fact to make them responsible and condemn them, punish them, send them to the gallows, according to me was not fair. It was not justice, it was revenge. If Adolf Hitler had won the war, then Churchill’s people, Roosevelt’s people, Stalin’s people or they themselves would have been in the same situation, and they would have said exactly the same - that they are not responsible.

If Stalin had been on the stand in the court, he would have said that it was the order of the high command of the communist party. It was not his responsibility because it was not his decision; he had not done anything on his own. So if you want to punish, punish the source of the order. But you are punishing a person who simply fulfilled what all the religions teach, and all the leaders of the world teach - obedience.

Obedience has a simplicity; disobedience needs a little higher order of intelligence. Any idiot can be obedient, in fact only idiots can be obedient. The person of intelligence is bound to ask why? - “Why am I supposed to do it?” And, “Unless I know the reasons and the consequences of it, I am not going to be involved in it.” Then he is becoming responsible.

Responsibility is not a game. It is one of the most authentic ways of living - dangerous too - but it does not mean disobedience for disobedience’s sake. That will be again idiotic.

There is a story about the Sufi mystic, Mulla Nasruddin:

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