We call this man’s nature, but the psychologists declare that there is nothing like man’s nature. If there is anything like man’s nature, it is endless fickleness. Man’s nature is like water. If we pour water into a glass, it assumes the shape of the glass, and if it is poured into a cup, it assumes the cup’s shape; if it is poured into a pitcher, it assumes the shape of the pitcher. Water always assumes the shape of the vessel into which it is poured. Then what is the natural shape of water? It has no natural shape. Its nature can be described as the capacity to assume endless shapes. Water is not obstinate, it is not stubborn. It does not assert, “I shall remain in this particular shape.” It says, “I am willing to live in any shape, whatsoever it may be.”
Man also has no nature of his own. The phenomenon which we call nature is just frequently practiced behavior patterns. It is actions performed in a cultural frame in often-repeated circumstances. So, a person born in the family of a nonvegetarian eats meat. It is not his nature that chooses it; if he had been brought up in the house of a vegetarian, he would have taken to vegetarian food. Then he might become nauseous or upset at the sight of meat. But this is no testimony to a virtuous nature, any more than eating meat signifies an evil nature. Characteristics such as these are no indicators of greatness.
The shape of an action is a practiced thing, which we are teaching to people from their very infancy. If we rightly understand what that training is, it is just a preparation for the performance a person will be expected to give in his life. Our educational institutions are rehearsal studios. They are the training studios where we prepare ourselves for the performances of our lives. We train a person to act in a particular fashion in our families, society, schools and universities. We train one as a Hindu, another as an american, another as a Chinese, and another as a Christian. When they are thus trained and their frame of mind becomes strong and firm, it looks as though that frame of mind is their nature. No, all these are just much repeated performances, so firmly fixed eventually in man’s mind that it does not even occur to him that he is simply acting his part.
Have you ever thought what religion you belong to? Hinduism, Jainism, Islam, Christianity and other religions are all performances taught to you. If you had not been trained in them you would never have known about them. But when you say, “I am a Hindu,” you become the doer. Then you can take a sword in your hand to defend your religion. Then lives can be sacrificed and killing can be done. Quarrels can be picked with anyone who says you are not a Hindu.
Psychologists used to say that habit is second nature. This was the view of past psychologists. But modern psychologists say, instead, that nature is the first habit. As more and more research is conducted into man’s nature, it is more and more convincingly known that nature is the first habit – a deep-seated one that became so firmly fixed that man forgot that he was performing. If you can keep it in mind that you are performing, there will be no more killing one another. On the contrary, you will say, “What madness! I am playing the part of being a Hindu and you are playing the part of being a Mohammedan; why should there be any quarrel in that?” No, it is when this phenomenon is not looked upon as a play, as acting, that quarrels and fighting break out. People become serious then, and they cease to be playful.