From the Child to the Sage (Arnaud Desjardins) | Guru | Ramana Maharshi

from the Child to the Sage

Arnaud Desjardins
Editor's Note: The following is a talk given by
the eminent French teacher Arnaud Desjardins
at his first ashram, Le Bost, in France, in
aboui 1980. In the talk he presents a primary
aspect of the teaching of his ol1.:n Master,
Swami Prajnanpad. Using examples from
Swamiji's work with him and from his own
profound self-investigation, Arnaud presents
a vivid confrontation with the realities of self-
observation. Some of tf:e penetratinx lessons
given by Swamiji are described in the present
tense, still vitally alive after so many years;
Arnaud uses these to help us look at our own
situation in the contemporary world. Through
these considerations, Arnaud communicates
timeless principles and practical instruction
which offer invaluable help and relevance to
us in our work on our own path. We are grate-
fal for Amaud's kind permission to reprint the
translation of this talk in its entirety.
I would like to come back to Swamiji's words
again: "Adults are more or less grown up,
more or Jess childish, and the Sage is the per-
fect state of the adult, I 00% adult:• This is an
original aspect of his Teachings. l have never
heard it mentioned or read about its consider-
ation by any Hindu or Tibetan Spiritual Master
with as much rigor and precision. Certainly,
the idea that grown-ups continue to be childish
is in no way unfamiliar to a Western psycholo-
gist of today. But this affirmation, ''The Sage
is the perfect adult, the completed adult," is
a key that was so helpful to me that I wish to
give you the transmission. If you discover for
yourselves how true it is, it will be a real help
to you also and will illuminate your Path. This
is because it is true-totally true, even if it
seem<i surprising or perhaps comes as a shock.
And it is true today, even more so than in the
old days. In the modem world, in spite of pro-
digious technological inventions,  
in adults is greater than in "under-developed
cultures," for a reason of which you are aware,
but which few people take into account. The
reason is that parents are an essential factor
in order for the child to become an adult, and
the parents are less and less capable of being
truly a father or truly a mother. I have said this
repeatedly, but this is not what I wish to insist
upon today.
Of course, when we speak of children we
speak of parents. When we are able to recog-
nize, 'This adult is more or less childish," [we
recognize also that] this adult had a relation-
ship with his or her father and mother that was
more or Jess happy and fulfilled. And I know
perfectly well that as I am speaking here in
this way, I am opening old wounds in each one
of you. It is astonishing, when one has worked
with one's own "lyings"
and ont:; digs a little
more deeply into the heart of one or another
who has had what we call "good parents," to
see that each one of you has been wounded,
disappointed, feels something is missing.
From one of the parents at least, but more of-
ten it stems from both. Let's not throw stones
at anyone! Your fathers and mothers had no
help when it came to transfonnation, becom-
ing selfless, being available, infinitely patient
and brinuning with love.
When we speak of a child we speak of
the parents. Only a few days ago I quoted
Swamiji's definition of Liberation, one of
those concise definitions that touched me in
the right place every time: "To be free is to
be free from Mommy and Daddy." I confess
that on first hearing this definition I refused it!
Reducing the definition of moksha, meaning
Supreme Metaphysical Liberation, to a psy-
chological idea such as this, made me react.
Thankfullyt It forced me to battle with this
particular claim of Swamiji. Today I am con-
vinced of its absolute truth. As bewildering as
this may seem for some of you, Supreme Lib-
eration means being totally free from Mommy
and Daddy-from Daddy and Mommy in this
life and from buried, past lives, live;; buried
in the dep!hs of the unconscious. If you are
able to understand that you are more or less
childish, without taking it as an insult on my
part, the Path will become very clear to you.
As far as I am concerned, this has been the
most effective aspect of Swami Prajnanpad's
Teachings. I mentioned in Les Chem.ins de
la Sagesse (The Paths ofWisdom) that at the
age of forty, even at forty-two, I realized I
was no more than a child. I am not saying I
was a grown-up acting like a child; but a child
was ruling over my heart, a two-year-old as
regards his mother and a child of six or eight
in relation to his father. This became a11 the
more striking because after having felt lost
and weak for so long, paradoxically now was
a time when the conditions of my assertion
in life were changing, and I had the means to
. consider myself adult in almost all the fields of
activity that were of interest to me.
Do not feel criticized or humiliated if I
speak this way. At the same time, see that
becoming less and less childish means mov-
ing toward your own wisdom or your Libera-
tion, and that the perfect adult is the Sage. But
listen to me carefully. It is not a case of saying,
"Adults behave like children." No! It is much
more concrete and precise than that: there is
a child laying down the law in the heart of an
adult. Take a look at what children are like:
they will teach you a lot about yourselves as
you are today; but, of course, it is below the
dignity of man to remain a child.
A child is incapable of non-dependency
because it has no material independence. For
years everything comes by means of Mommy
and Daddy. Materially and psychologically,
a little child is totally dependent. The Goal is
non-dependency, autonomy, to find one's own
inner strength and inner balance. The Goal is
to be capable of solitude. This is one of the
first criteria: to what extent are you capable of
solitude? Swamiji said to me one day: "Wis- l
dom is the possibility of being more and 1nore
abandoned, more and more betrayed, more
and more rejected, and to feel more and more
peace, more and more inner security.? Yet you_J
know very well that the idea ofbeingbetrayed,
rejected, criticized, denied is unbearable
to you. This is a mark of childishness'. The
dependency on someone or the dependency
on others and the inability to be alone are all
marks of childishness. If you accept this cri-
terion, you will be able to assess and evaluate
the level of your being. Am I capable of stay-
ing alone, feeling alone? Or is it unbearable?
Alone, materially, physically, and alone psy-
chologically: nobody agrees with me, nobody
"LyUigs" is the term/or a techniqw: developed by Swami Prajnanpadfor the purification of the unconscious,
involving a plunge into Olle's unconscious in order to consciously live out unconscious trauma.
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understands me. Do I more or Jess suffer from
it? It will always be more or less: more or less
childish, more or less adult.
A child is very impatient. It is impos-
sible for him or her to wait and postpone
something until the following day. When she
wants something, she must have it immedi-
ately. Watch a child to whom you promise a
gift on Monday: she wants it now, even if it
is Sunday. 'The shops are closed." "It doesn't
matter, you must tell them to open!" An adult
is able to postpone, to delay. Not now; later. A
childish adult cannot do this. The phone ca11
must be made immediately; the letter must be
written immediately; the meeting must take
place immediately. If a childish man is in love
with a woman and this woman says, "Tonight
I have an appointment, we shall meet up in
a week," it is too much to ask of him. And
he insists: "No, this is not possible, you can
easily say 'no' to this family reunion:· Child-
ish, still a child's behavior. Almost all of your
  as you well know, is not driven by
the neCessity of the situation but by your inner
necessities. Your behavior is not a response;
it is a reaction. Not even an "impulse," it is a
comptilsion. '"I am to ... " Obliged to
make the phone call straight away, obliged
to beg so that the meeting will take place this
very day-and obliged in less spectacular situ-
ations. All these emotions, every single one of
them, are the manifestations of the child.
Here is another one of Swamiji's state-
ments: ''A child lives in emotions; an adult
no longer has any emotions." These words
are extraordinarily effective in helping you
to progress on your own Path. I realize it is
quite hard for you to understand. We went
to Swamiji to hear him speak about the
Vedanta, Wisdom, Brahma, we did
not go to him to hear him speak of childish-
ness. But when speaking of childishness, I
find myself in the heart of Swamiji's Teach-
ings, in remembrance of Swamiji, in com-
munion with Swamiji. Emotion==childishness;
dependency==childishness; the inability to be
alone==childishness; the inability to postpone
until the next day==childishness.
If you go back to these different themes,
you will be able to see that "having" is child-
ishness and "being" is the adult state. Because
a child is so dependent, his imperative need
is to have. An adult has less and less need to
have and finds increasing joy, fullness and
security in being. The percentage of the need
to have or the freedom in relation to having,
can be understood in view of the percentage of
childishness or of the adult state within you.
Of course, it is pedectly normal for a child to
be childish. It is no longer a normal state for
an adult to be childish. Look what the begin-
nings of existence were like; why was your
development balanced in some cases and not
in others? Why was there growth in certain
areas and not in others? The child comes into
the world with the vasanas and the samskfiras
he brings at birth that lie in the depths of
chitta; this is the doctrine of past lives, the
doctrine of karma. But at the same time hear-
rives devoid of everything; he has to relearn it
all and he depends entirely on his mother and
father. This is most obvious. The child needs
to have and consequently, he needs to receive.
Here is another one of Swamiji's definitions:
''The child is meant to ask and to receive; the
adult is meant to hear the request and to give."
Once again, assess your existence according to
this criterion: "I am about forty or fifty years
old; to what extent do I still need people to - -
listen to me. to show an interest in me and be
giving toward me?"
Each time you will find "having" and "be-
ing" at the heart of these questions. The child
belongs to the world of having. He needs to
have a Mommy and Daddy; an adult no longer
needs a Mommy and Daddy, not even a Daddy
in Heaven or a Mammy in Heaven; otherwise
his religion remains childish. "The child is
meant to ask and receive; the adult is meant to
hear the request and to give." Where am I in
relation to this? How do I place myself? Look.
Look around and look inside yourselves.
And recognize: that is the child; it is the child
within me. This child is so powerful that, more
and more, the modem world is built on the
persistence of an unevolved, uneducated child
within us. I assure you that this is bUe. This is
not an "original" or "interesting" opinion.
The very same Westerners of today, who
have devised and bui1t computers, sent men
to the moon and brought them back safely
to earth, these same Westerners are children.
Look into a thousand details, ones you would
think of and those I would miss because I live
in retreat here at le Bost. Look how important
small gifts have become in businesses. Busi-
ness directors out of Higher Polytechnic are
offered a pen-holder, and they are so pleased
to have it!! I cannot say how many times I
have been surprised to see how successful
these publicity gadgets are when they are
given out at Christmas. Can you visualize
these people with a Master's degree or a Ph.D.
with an important position in industry, receiv-
ing their presents! Even as children they did
not receive as much in their Christmas stock-
ings! If this trend is spreading increasingly, it
has a meaning. It is a very simple illustration
of this aspect of Swamiji's Teaching; but it
extends much further. I am asking you to hear
me on two levels. The first is the one on which
anyone concerned about man's evolution
would agree: adults of today are increasingly
But the other point of view is complemen-
tary and just as for you, if not more:
the perfect adult is the Sage. We Westerners
stop before we reach the end. We can see very
well that some adult bebavior is childish, but
we do not go to the depths of understanding.
This is serious. You must become completely
adult. The Western man of today, even the
psychologist, can see only an adult that is rela-
tively so, just about adult. This is not the bUe
adult. Just because someone appears to be Jess
dependent in a childish way or less impulsive
and impatient, shows a lesser need to receive or
to have in a childish way, we say: that person
has become an adult. Follow this evolution, fol-
low this growth up to the degree that perhaps
will appear surprising to you, that maybe you
will refuse, but it represents the Goal, Libera-
tion, Wisdom. It is simply the continuation, the
natural extension of the same process.
Everyone would ili& M  
childish when it is obvious that he is. He '
; gradually becomes adult and then it aJl ends.
But if you go to the extreme of this ability to
be alone, the ability of being instead of having,
the ability to give in place of receiving, the
ability to give up something or at least put it
off until tomorrow, always further, 70% adult,
80% adult, finally 100% adult is the Sage.
If you consider yourselves to be adult, you
will not understand anything about yourselves,
and everything about your behavior wil1
remain undiscovered. But if you have the cour-
age to consider yourselves to be children of
thirty, children of forty, children who are com-
pany directors, highly positioned bureaucrats,
surgeons, children who are lawyers, children
who are airplane pilots, you are saved.
Now for one more point. This pre-emi-
nence of receiving over giving, having over
being, operates in different areas. The child
within can express its existence in every field
of activity. You can be particularly childish
in the relationship with your husband or your
wife and less childish in your relationship to
others in general, in relation to public opinion
or society life. You can be particularly child-
ish in your profession, in your activities as a
colleague amongst other colleagues, as head of
a department in relation to subordinate work-
ers, as a worker in relation to your directors.
You can be less childish as regardfs money, in
that spending for the sake of appearances is no
longer essential. This means you Can be 80%
childish in one type of activity and, in another
area of life, you are only 30% childish. Your
strengths, your weaknesses, your qualities,
your faults, what you like about yourselves,
what you dislike, all of this can be understood
in terms of childishness in the most strict and
concrete way; I am saying it clearly: childish
behavior. Each one of you must have the cour-
age to look at the areas in which you are the
most childish and not only those in which you
are just about adult. We can be utterly under
illusion by considering ourselves adult just
because we can boast about a certain success
which an adult normally achieves. We all agree
Lee and Arnaud.
that a ten-year-old child does not fly a Boeing
jet to Peking or Tokyo. Consequently a captain
is able to feel assured: it is obvious that I am
adult. We all agree that a child is totally inca-
pable of spending nine or ten hours next to an
operating table to do heart surgery or surgery
on the brain. Conse.quently a surgeon can feel
assured and say to himself: it is obvious that I
am adult. And so on.
This is false. You can be a surgeon, do
heart transplants-and be childish. Look how
one of the great stars in the 1nedical world of
surgery behaves toward women! This is child-
ish weakness and dependency. Do not fool
yourselves with your intellectual, professional,
artistic or family achievements, whatever they
are. You can even be Prime Minister, President
of the United States, and still be a child. If the
reliable source of information I have had is ac-
curate, President Nixon was a child; but he was
also one of the two masters governing in the
world and he-could have started an atomic war.
Now. let us leave Nixon and return to
you, each one himself or herself: in order to ..
understand yourselves, accept that you have
remained at a childish stage, and when you are
fully adult, you will have reached total free-
dom. total non-dependency, perfect supremacy
of being over having; in other words, Libera-
tion. Our meeting can be of interest by linking
it directly to the Supreme Goal. Without this,
the theme concerning childishness in adults is
not in itself very interesting or new.
Look for the area in which you are the
most childish. Do not blind yourselves with
the other areas of activity in which you are
prouder of yourselves. In this respect Swamiji
told me a proverb: "No chain is stronger than
its weakest link." This proverb immediately
appeared obvious to me, and at the same time,
I understood how wrong my reasoning had
been until then. I tended to appreciate myself
by working out a sort of average, which from
this point of view made no sense .. -If all the
links in a chain can resist up to 500 kilograms
and one link can only withstand 50 kilograms,
the totality of the chain can only withstand
50 kilograms; it is really obvious. There is no
need whatsoever to work out an average: this
chain is able to withstand only 490 kilograms
instead of 500. You can see that this type of
reasoning does not hold water and that the
proverb is true: "No chain is stronger than its
weak.est link." The weakest link withstands
50 kilograms? That's it! The chain withstands
50 kilograms.
No human being is stronger than his
greatest weakness. Your greatest weakness
shows your greatest childishness. When a
man's moral, social and psychological break·
down is necessary to those who have interests
that oppose his. his destruction lies in finding
his weakest link. General de Gaulle gave the
impression he was invincible to those who
approached him. His admirers and his enemies
· ·are unanimous at least about this particular
point. Perhaps if one had really searched, his
weakest link would have been found, meaning
the area in which General de Gaulle (histori-
cally speaking, one of the greatest men of the
2(1h century) was still a little child, the point
where his emotional growth had been stunted.
If you find a man or a woman's weak-
est link, you have_ power over him or her. In
general, people are too taken up by their own
childishness, they have too great a lack of will-
power, sense of purpose, clear-sightedness,
to really be able to use this means of fighting
in the struggle for life. You all know there are
certain cases where special interest groups
have obtained a man's downfall by using these
Search for the weakest link in the chain.
It is the one that is liable to break. Do not
fool yourselves with your strengths; be honest
and measure yourselves against your great-
est weakness. This very weakness is what has
to be tenninated, even if it takes two years,
five years, ten years. It is easier to close your
eyes to try to avoid seeing it. But then you no
longer have the chance to become free one I
day. If the chain that you represent has ten
strong links and one weak one, and you are
riot willing to take the weak link into account,
you will never become wise-never, whatever
efforts you n1ake in your "sadhana" or medi-
tation. You will discover that this weakness
expresses itself in terms of childishness. There
is the point where I am still a child; look at
children of two, three or five years old.
Swamiji stuck my nose into the weakest
link of my chain. It was a link about which I
was under total iliusion because, to my mind,
on the contrary, there was a certain strength
in that area It concerned the relationship to
women. From the moment I had surpassed
be:ing shy, surpassed the complex of being a
failure from when I was twenty and had a child-
ish approach to love, I had gradually gained
confidence, ease, and audacity with women.
Swamiji showed me that it was solely weakness
and childishness, even if a kind of prestige goes
with the man who has success with women or
the woman who has success with men.
No chain is more solid than the weakest
of its links, no man stronger than his greatest
weakness. This is the truth.
The beginning of transformation into
adulthood manifests as the taste for truth. it
comes from within yourself, not from what is
imposed upon you from outside. It ~ the taste
for truth and the love of truth. The child does
not like truth; as you all know the child has
a great preference for the dream-world and
imagination. "1 am Zorra, I am an Indian chief,
I am a pilot and I can fly planes." Swamiji
gave me the example of a child whose father
was a doctor. The child would take his father's
stethoscope and walk around saying, "I am
going to look after my patients and earn myself
some money." Children are not in search of
truth; they like pretending and make-believe.
An adult who does not have any personal taste
for truth, for the truth whatever the price, is
still a childish adult. The beginning of the
passage from childhood to adulthood happens
when this necessity for truth becomes stronger
than pretending, stronger than being loved-----
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...... , .. s 11111111
stronger than everything. "I want the truth." It
is the promise that one day the adult will exist.
Look into yourselves with great demand
and extreme lucidity, because it is not so easy.
I have full knowledge of what I am saying.
"Where do I stand as regards utter truth?
Where am I lying to myself? Where am I
tangled in my illusions?" And you will discov-
er you have lost touch with the truth to such an
extent (real truth, not the truth you succeed in
making others believe by being a bit smarter
than they are) that you cannot find it anymore.
In a certain sense you are "alienated," mean-
ing ''unknown to yourself." I no longer know
who I am; I no longer know what I like. what I
want; I have lost sight of rilyself.
AIJ of Swamiji's Teaching can be seen in
this line of direction, on the condition it is not
taken metaphoricalI y or allegorically. These
are not parables or rhetorical devices. It is
totally' realistic: the child in you lays down
the law. We are only able truly to understand
adults;the other human beings who surround
us, in terms of childishness. And seen in terms
of childishness, it all becomes clear. Deep
down we do know; we more or less realize.
But what I needed personally, was for some-
one with Swamiji's authority to tell me.
I can look any one of you in the eye and
ask, "In which area are you still only a child?
With women? In your profession? In your
relationship with money? In your fear of what
the neighbors wil1 say? In your need to be
loved? In your fear of being criticized?" Make
a careful search for this childishness; look for
it even in what you consider to be one of your
main strengths or advantages in life. It is not
because a film star is unable to 1nake the trip
from Rome to Holly\vood without her teddy
bear, that she is childish. It is certainly a trait
of childishness, but it is probably far from
being the most obvious or the most tragic. Do
not be mistaken. Do not fool yourselves.
I am now going to go a bit more deeply into
the issue. In some ways a child's position iS
marvelous, and many grown-ups are nostal-
gic about their <;::hildhoods when they did not
have to earn their living; they did not need to
support the weight of their lives; there were no
important responsibilities; parents took care of
everything. But at the same time, the child's
position is terrible--terrib]e, due to the very
fact that he is dependent, incapable of look-
ing after himself. If ever the parents are even
remotely weak, the child's situation becomes
tragic. The child lives in fear and insecurity.
A child needs comforting and needs to feel
secure. And the adult today is also childish
inasmuch as he is unsure of himself, unsure
of the outside world; he is worried, scared,
with a primary fear that he tries his best to
hide. The more you become adult, the more
this fear in you disappears. Of course, the
complete adult, the adult who is 100% adult,
is liberated, totally freed from fear. And if you
have a fear, be it a deep primary fear or a more
specific, current fear-this and that aspect
of life frightens me, whatever could happen
in the future frightens me-be sure that you
will find the secret of this fear inside the child
in you. A child is scared and needs reassur-
ing. An adult has no more fear and does not
need to be reassured anymore. These various
themes are linked to one another: dependency/
non-dependency, fear/security. And as I was ..
saying earlier, the central axis is the difference
between having and being. To become adult is
to learn how to be. "To be" is to be free from
having, free from the need to have-to have in
all its forms. Understand fully this particular
point also. For the Sage, the complete adult,
this distinction between having and not hav-
ing, simply does not exist anymore.
The dependency on having is always
childish. But having does not mean just having
material possessions. It means having suc-
cess; having original ideas; having influential
connections; having a long ann, as we say;
intellectual having; subtle having; emotional
having. The child in you is at work every-
where. If you accept this point of view because
you have recognized it as being just and true,
the whole of existence explains itself in terms
of childishness. Where does Joseph Stalin's
childishness lie; what is Adolf Hitler's child-
ishness; what is Franklin Roosevelt's childish-
ness; and what is Winston Churchill's childish-
ness? The world is led by children.
The Middle Ages passed down to us a
well-known style of painting in which only
skeletons can be seen, to remind us that the
world is led by beings who are all destined
to die one day. These are called the "danses
macabres": skeletons dressed like lords,
skeletons dressed as serfs, skeletons dressed
up like blacksmiths, skeletons dressed up
like warriors, skeletons and more ... always
skeletons. Today we could create a picture
that would be less impressive, in which the
same theme would be used but with children: a
two-year-old child dressed in a pilot's outfit in
New York's main airport; a two-year-old child
dressed in a surgeon's white coat in a large
state hospital; a two-year-old child with hon-
ors and decorations in a position at the White
House. If you are listening to me and thinking,
"Oh, isn't it funny, amusing, strange," you
are missing the essential element. I am defi-
nitely not here today to show how original I
am. Watching thoughts pass through the mind
without being identified with them is a Tibetan
practice; it is the essence of Zazen; it is a fonn
of meditation; it is in no way particular to
Swamiji. What Swarniji gave me that was truly
original, is the discovery of everything I am
trying to share with you today. It applied to me
and it was by becoming aware of this, that I
would become able to transfonn myself. I was
thirty-nine when l met Swamiji, and at forty-
two, I could see only one thing, or at least one
thing dominated everything else: it was my
childishness, in the most concrete sense of the
word. Ah, that word "child"-1 was to hear it
hundreds of times.
At forty-three I had the experience of fall-
ing in love which I will not deny-why?-it
was a shared experience, love that seemed it
was not kids' love; it involved an assertive,
famous woman, very famous in fact She came
to Swamiji's ashram and the first words to
~ o m   out of Swamiji's mouth were: "So, you
love Arnaud? Do you know that Arnaud is a
-child?" The poor woman, she thought she had
met an adult at long last! And she began to feel
that she had made a mistake. "Do you know
that Arnaud is a child?'' A child who drives
Land.rovers across Asia; a child who attracts
a full house in the important conference hall
in Paris called the Salle Pleyel; a child who
appears on television in a close-up for half an
hour eleven times in the same year. "Do you
know that Arnaud is a child?" She replied,
"I know that, but what is important is that he
knows it also." Oh yes, at forty-three, my "sad-
hana" was founded on my childishness.
ls it possible for me to let go of what I am
holding? Yes or no? To let go when it is asked
of me? Letting go when I have had enough is
easy. A child who has lost interest in some-
thing, lets go of it immediately. But a child
who is still fond of an object will not let go of
it (•'Here, give it to me! Lend me your toy!")
unless she is forced or if adults' emotional
blackmail is too strong. Am I able to put
off something until later? A1n I impatient or
impulsive? Am I afraid of being alone, scared
of being abandoned, afraid of not being loved
anymore, afraid of being criticized'? ls the idea
of being scorned, denied or rejected painful to
me? The answer to all these questions I put to
myself was, "Yes, Swamiji is right: Arnaud is
a child. I am a child." And as long as I re-
main a child, even if I have an hour of private
conversation with His Holiness the Karmapa
every day for th_ree weeks, even if I live for
months at a time at Ma Anandamayi's ashram,
I will never beco1ne a Sage, and Christ's or
Buddha's pro1nises will never happen for me.
At the beginning I was rather bewildered
because, as a Christian, Christ's words, had left
a mark in me: "If you do not become a'.s little
children, you will not enter the Kingdom of
Heaven." The Sage has been likened to a child
so much that it was hard for me to position
myself between the two points of view. In fact,
in the first book I wrote, Ashrams, Yogis and
,,., .........

- FTP r r n r1::rr1
• - rwarr r r um ..
Sages-a book entirely written by a child-in
the chapter about Ramdas I quote the words
I had heard coming out of his mouth several
times: "Be childlikef' And Ramdas often with
a wink or a smile would add, "Be childlike but
not childish."
Swamiji had an expression of his own:
"The Sage is an enlightened child. The Sage
is a child with Illumination added." These are
two different approaches, and I am keen to
insist on one point. When we say, ''The Sage
is a child with Illumination added, childlike,
the Sage is like a child," it is just a figure of
speech. It is a comparison; an image. But
when I say that that man is childish, it is not a
figure of speech, or a comparison, or an image.
It is a reality.
How is it that the Sage is a child? From a
certain point of view, the child can actually be
considered as representing Wisdom, because he
lives rDainly in the present moment, manifest-
ing direct and immediate participation with life.
The mind's mechanism that distorts sponta-
neity by comparing, is Jess developed in the
child. When a child is having fun in the water
at the seaside, he is having fun in the water.
Full stOp. He is splashing about in the water;
he is happy. We are talking about a little child,
because Christ said, '1f you do not become like
little children, you will not enter the Kingdom
of Heaven." A little child has something of the
Sage's simplicity and spontaneity, it is true.
We are also able to understand Christ's
words: "If you do not become like little
children, you will not enter the Kingdom of
Heaven," as an invitation to return to the little
child in ourselves. There have been times that
I have quoted these words in relation to "ly-
ings": "If you do not find the little child again
fully, if you do not dare to cry like an infant, if
you do not dare to Jay down your adult masks,
you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven." I
do not deny and I do not repudiate this image,
childlike. But it did not help me ovennuch. I
was not able to see very clearly how I, consid-
ering how I was, could find the innocence, the
purity, the naivete of a child "with Illumina-
tion added." I was not able to see in concrete
terms what that implied and where it directly
concerned me. Whereas, perceiving and admit-
ting to my own childishness and struggling
to become increasingly adult, was within my
reach the whole time and in all circumstances.
This is a first, fundamental acceptance. Of
course! "Do you know that Arnaud is a child?"
Hearing this said does not make me happy,
but I trust Swamiji. The more I put Swamiji's
Teaching into practice; the more I weigh my
inability or at least my difficulty in putting it
into practice; the more I assess my childish-
ness, the more I admit: "Swamiji is right." I no
longer fight against it; there is no more preten-
sion; I no longer hang on to what could make
me believe I am adult. "Yes, Swamiji."
My birthday came along when I was
at the ashram. The Indian disciple called
Nandakishore, during the half hour we were
talking {we were able to talk for half an hour
a day, at tea time, breaking those long days of
silence) asked me, "Do people offer presents
for birthdays in France?' I answered, "Yes."
And Nandakishore told me this: "Twenty years
ago I asked Shumongal what would be the
best gift he Could for his birthday, which
was to be celebrated at the ashram. He re-
plied, 'That for my fortieth birthday, I am truly
forty."' The following day I lay down. Aftei-·
a break, I had taken up "lyings" again with a
different approach. I was no longer looking to
purify the unconscious mind as a whole (I had
done that in the previous stage), but to immedi-
ately and rapidly tum to what was there inside
me. I let go of all control, let myself flow, and
the first thing that arose was "Swamiji, yes-
terday Nandakishore told me something very
interesting." Very well, this is where I begin.
.. Swamiji, yesterday Nandakishore told me
that Shumongal had celebrated his birthday at
the ashram; he had asked Shumongal what he
would like for his fortieth birthday." And at that
point, no more than one minute was needed be-
fore an immense, unspeakable emotion welled
up in me; it was unbearable; I was forty-four
and I knew I was a child.
The recollection that I heard calmly the
day before, had struck as the first thought that
came to the surface when I lay down before
Swamiji. .. Shumongal replied ... " I was unable ·
to finish the story. I wept and wept. ''That for
my fortieth birthday I am truly forty." It can
no longer be this way; I can no longer be a
child. I have not made any progress; I am still
a child in spite of the change that has already
occurred thanks to my first series of .. lyings."
Fundamentally there had been some changes,
but I did not want to be under any illusion
about these changes. I wanted to see where
the weakest link in the chain was situated. Oh,
that for my fortieth birthday I may be truly
two years of age and get to the bottom of this
childishness to see that it ends once and for all.
You can guess why I am telling you all
this. So that each one of you can open to this
idea and accept it without any humiliation,
any upset, whether you are twenty-six or fifty.
Size yourselves up with exactitude in relation
to "having" and "being," in relation to "depen-
.. dency" and "non-dependency," in relation to
"solitude" and "the need to be loved," etc. All
this shows you where your childishness lies
and where your maturity lies. And hear what I
am saying with Hope.
All those who go to India to Ma Anan-
damayi or to the Tibetans, they all hope, hope
without knowing, to become adults, as much
of an adult as possible. And what is painful,
is when this childishness is not recognized;
when we think we are adult aspiring to be-
come a sage. I am not even saying that the
Path comes to a halt. It cannot begin. Not only
do you have the right to hope to become adult
in the relative sense of the word-70% adult
is no longer totally a child-but you have the
right to be 100% adult. "One hundred per
cent adult is the Sage." The adults who are the
most adult that you know are only 70% and
could not live totally rejected, despised and
criticized; they would still be hurt. They are
not completely free from the world of hav-
ing; they are not totally established in being,
which is the perfect adult
There is one question that troubled me for
;·years. How is it that I do not progress more,
and others around 1ne do not progress more? I
have often mentioned that I was disconcerted
when I saw the weaknesses of some of those
who had known Gurdjieff in person and who
had already devoted thirty years to that Teach-
ing. After arriving at the ashram of Ramana
Maharshi in Tiruvannamalai, I witnessed the
disagreements between the European "pillars"
of the ashram, or even between the Indians,
who had spent twenty years or more of their
lives in the company of Bhagawan Raman a
Maharshi. A number of the seniors of this ash-
ram were jeaJous, did not speak to each other,
would get angry and worked up, and spoke
with uncontrolled emotion. This disturbed me
more and more. I am not the only one not pro-
gressing; the others are not either. After twenty
years, this question was beginning to formu-
late with great intensity. I was disappointed
every time. These disciples had many posi-
tive qualities, of course. One does not devote
one's whole life to Ramana Maharshi if one is
purely and simply ambitious, wicked, mean,
grasping and cowardly. But I could see clearly
that something was missing-missing for me
also. What more do I have than any one or
another of Ramana Maharshi's great disciples,
for me to hope to make more r o   r ~ s s than
that person?
I truly believe (when I say "I believe" it is
a modest way of saying "I am sure") that the
answer is found in this striking emphasis on
childishness given by Swamiji.
We thought we were adults who had
in mind to become sages: this is where our
mistake lay. We did not have a clear vision of
our approach. In one way it was true that we
were aspiring to become "liberated sages." But
it was also true that without knowing how to
formulate this particular point, we were simply
aspiring to become adult, meaning no longer
Try using this key. Use it on the condition
(I am repeating this insistently) that you do not
take it as a metaphor, an allegory or an image
but as a completely realistic truth. I am still a
child and all those around me are still children.
It is certain that the child is fundamentally
selfish. The adult must be a lot less selfish, and
the true adult is not at all selfish anymore. The
Ego is effaced. Can you imagine a three-year-
old child thinking, "I am not going to cry and
ask for my food now because l can sense that
Mommy has other things to do"? It does not
make any sense. The child demands and that is
all. "The child is meant to ask and to receive;
the adult is meant to hear the demand and to
give in return." The true adult is not at all self-
ish anymore. He has reached the ego-less state,
where self-centeredness itself has disappeared;
Ego is effaced. For a child separation is the
tragedy; the adult has transcended separation.
He has understood that the other would rarely
be "one with him," but he could be "one with
the other." 'Tio you know that Arnaud is a
child?" It was true! And it is true for you also.
How ttie Path becomes clear! Clear in the sense
of proiression. Where do I stand in all areas?
What has been achieved? What remains to be
achieved? You must review everything. A navi-
gator is able to know his whereabouts---in the
sky at a vertical distance from a certain point,
or at sea at a certain longitude or latitude.
In what way do you work out a path?
With maps, a compass or from the position
of the sun in the sky. You know how far you
have already gone and the distance that is left
to go. The more I understand what has been
achieved, the more I understand what is left
for me to achieve and how I can go about it.
What is my position today on the path of my
own transformation? It is very simple: your
transformation is the transformation from the
child to the adult. What has been achieved
in relation to the various criteria that distin-
guish the child from the adult? Emotionally,
as regards character, in relation to the mind,
as regards my desires, as regards my fears, in
various fields of activity. Oh, in this particular
area I am less childish. What enables me to
say this? I am capable of being alone; I am
able to take criticism; I am capable of waiting
without being impatient. I am no longer de-
pendent on the outside   I am no longer
absolutely dependent on "having"; if having
were refused me I would not suffer from it; if
having were taken from me. I would remain at
peace-in this particular area. Yet in another
field, I am able to see that nothing has been
achieved. I am a child, totally. a little child, in
this field. At least I am able to see it, recognize
it, assess it; I understand what could be asked
of me, this evening, tomorrow. in each one of
life's circumstances.
"Hello? Yes, sir! Very well, sir! Of
course, it will be done immediately!" The
voice changes. A child responds in this tone
of voice; there is no way it can be an office
manager. And each time you get recto, you
will get verso; each time there is convex, there
will be concave. Alongside, "Yes, sir, straight
away sir, I'll be right there, sir," you get, "I'll
go in ten minutes from now; I cannot stand
being summoned like that!" It is just the other
side, the reaction. This is the child within me!
I cannot put myself under any illusion; there
is no need for me to carry on dreitrning; I do
not need to mount constructions or dream up
something; there is no need for me to read
extraordinary books on esotericism in the
Kabbala compared to esotericism in Tantra. It
is very clear. Do you really believe that if you
do not attempt anything in this domain, the · ·
visualization of a tantric deity will be of some
use to you? It could do something for you only
if you leave everything behind to go and live
day after day in a monastery for many years,
as some have gone to Darjeeling in order to
live alongside Kangyur Rinpoche. If you want
the highest wisdom, be it of Meister Eckhart
or Kangyur Rinpoche, start practicing; take on
your education yourself.
Another of Swamiji's sayings again gives
us the measure of ourselves: "The child puts
blame and responsibility on the exterior;
the adult answers to a mistake and
ally takes responsibility." I am the one whom
the mistake concerns and it is up to me to be
responsible. But the child justifies and calls
for help. You will remember this story which
I told in Les Chemins de la Sagesse: a child is
running along, hits his head against the table
because he is neither looking where he is go-
ing nor paying attention, and the parents say,
"Oh, naughty table, you bad table, you hurt
my boy; we're going to hit the table!" "You kill
the child," as Swamiji would say. You irnme-
diately teach the child to blame the table that
was not responsible, instead of showing him
and helping him see: "You hit your head! Let's
look at how it happened." In this way you
teach a child to be in the truth.
The day you discover that you are totally
childish, that you can no longer go on kidding
yourself, or look at yourself in the mirror
[even if] you change your suit to have broader
epaulettes, or have your name in headlines
in the paper, that day an enormous emotion
against your parents arises ... I am forty and
I am a child! I cannot deny it any· longer: a
child!" The lost child. So miserable. "What
bastards! What swine! Father and mother
destroyed me instead of giving me an educa-
tion. Here I am at my age and I have been
making an effort for twenty years!" I have
been hearing these heartfelt cries daily for six
years. Hatred against your mother and father
manifests. Suddenly you are face to face with
your childishness; you discover the immeasur-
able mistake that yout parents made. h ~ t
then? H you want to be adults, the least you
can do is to make a decision (the unconscious
mind will be taken care of later): I will not put
the blame on my parents; it will not help me
progress. What has-been, has been. Now it is
up to me to take on my education along with
help from the Guru. At this moment the adult
appears for the first time. Let's go for it, both
of us, meaning "me" and me: the child within
and me. Let's go! Okay, I am a two-year-old
child, and I have decided to become an adult,
instead of complaining about my parents,
instead of recriminating, instead of feeling
weighed down. The past has gone! The future
is opening up before me. If you go for it any
old way, not only will it be slow, but it will
nevet advance at ail. If you rely on what I am
saying today, you wi!J advance rapidly. What
you have not achieved in twenty years, will
be attained in five. Perhaps those twenty years
will have prepared you and will not have been
useless. Nothing is useless when it has been
done with the goal of wisdom more or less
clearly in sight.
I take responsibility for myself and I
become adult. And of course, when yon will
have become adults, you will forgive your
parents. But the reverse is also true. The more
you forgive your parents from the bottom of
your heart, the more you become adults. This
is so true thar1 make Swamiji's definition of
Liberation mine: "You know what is moksha,
Arnaud? To be free from Father and Mother."
I had no idea whatsoever of the depth of these
words when I heard them, since I found it hard
even to accept them. "Do you know what is
nwksha? It is to be free from Father and Moth-
er." To be free in every way, on every level.
This criterion concerning childishness will
also enable you to understand with certain re-
alism the behavior of those who, increasing in
number each year, present themselves as mas-
ters and start to gather admirers and disciples.
The word "guru" has become sufficiently well
known, even amongst those who are not par-
ticularly interested in India. For all that, it does
not mean that everything inclnded\in this word
is clearly understood; far from it. i _
First, it must be clearly distinguished that I
"guru" is' not to be mistaken for the same thing
as "sage." All sages do not have the function of
guru. "Guru" demands, according to Tradition,
an unchanging realization together with exten-
sive knowledge used as a way to lead others
toward this same permanent experience. On
the other hand, a human being can be a sage,
totally free, with no ego, and yet not have the
capacities of a guru, apart from his radiance. It
is rare that the radiance and the silence alone
can guide a disciple through the trials and
tribulations and the various stages of his Path.
In reverse, a guru does not necessarily have
all the attributes that observation and Tradi-
tion recognize in a sage. Even apart from the
modern day exaggeration that gives the title of
" ., . . ..
· .


"''" .. ._,illF ___ T _____ _._,_•n---------1
guru to Hindus or Westerners who have noth-
ing traditionaJ about them, there are surely dif-
ferent categories of gurus. Some disciples have
considered totally extraordinary beings such as
Ma Anandamayi and Rarnana Maharshi to be
  others consider. that Ramana Maharshi
or Ma Anandamayi are much more than gurus
but do not take care of the disciple in the same
waY the Hindu or Tibetan masters have done
for centuries.
One must not believe either that only four
or fiVe geniuses per century become gurus.
like Ramana Maharshi and Ma Anandamayi,
to be precise. Out of six million Hindus that
would mean very few among a people that
we consider to have been, at least until recent
years, mainly interested in spiritual life. And
yet, if you use the word "guru" in its true
sense, you must be sufficiently precise to rec-
  when this term can be used correctly.
Etymologically, "guru" means: "he who
brings light into the shadows." But we must
not forget that in a Tradition like the Hindu
Tradition, all technique<; and all arts are sacred
arts: music, architecture, dance, grammar.
They are all founded on the Vedas, especially
the Rig Veda, and they are all able to lead to
inner awakening or at least they lead close to
it. This is why, in traditional India, the word
"guru" is used for a dance instructor or a
master in architecture who trains disciples,
perhaps in the way it would have been used in
the Middle Ages when professions were still
organized into guilds-the builders' guild is
at the origin of today's free-masons. Conse·
quently, today in India you will heai- a young
girl call her flute instructor her guru, on the
condition that he teaches according to tradi·
tional standards and within the religious frame
of mind that pervades all the various activities,
meaning certain festivals are celebrated dur·
ing the year and lessons never begin without
certain invocations or certain prayers.
A type of guru to be considered is one who
does not teach through a technique or art form
like music, dance, architecture or whatever, but
teaches--or rather guides-according to one of
the different yogas. In fact there are many yo-
gas in India, nbtjust the four most well known:
the Yoga of Knowledge, the Yoga of Devotion,
the Yoga of Action and the Royal Yoga or the
Yoga of the Mastery of Energies. If you re-
serve the title of guru to five or six celebrities,
Ramana Maharshi, Ramdas. MaAnandamayi,
Aurobindo, Rajneesh, Mukta.nanda. you are
distorting the Tradition because there have
always been a lot more gurus than that in
India; but if you demean this title, you are also
distorting the Tradition. The guru is supposed
to lead one to a state of being, a perinanent
realization in which the consciousness of
separation has disappeared. There is a definite
inner transformation, even though it is difficult
to make it understood to those who do not have
the experience. In this respect, comparisons
are plentiful and known to all: how can we
describe what a col or is to someone who is
blind? How can we describe the taste of a fruit
to someone who has never tasted it? And even,
with some audacity, like Jalal al-Din Rumi,
the great Sufi: how can we explain what sexual
fulfillment is to a girl of twelve?
Nowadays there is clearly consistent confu •. --
sion whereby the tenn guru is used for certain
Hindu swamis who are interested in esoteri·
cistn, who have had a certain nwnber of experi-
ences and have some knowledge in the field of
psychology, yoga, breathing exercises, Hindu
philosophy and symbolism, but who have not
experienced this inner death. And this death is
what makes all the difference. I am definitely
not saying that nothing can be expected of a
yoga instructor or a psychotherapist for whom
this transformation has not taken place. I am
simply saying: let us come to a clear agreement
concerning the meaning of the words we use.
Someone who has the vocation to serve
others and help them to live a better life, can
feel called to become a priest in the Catholic
church or a vicar in a Protestant church, or
even a doctor, yoga instructor or psychothera-
pist. So many different types of psychotherapy
exist nowadays: some are more popular than
others; some are decidedly atheist; oth-
ers declare themselves open to the spiritual
dimen&ion. As a result there are many possibil-
ities on a relative level, to help a person who
is suffering to experience less inner conflict.
to unravel certain knots. to rediscover hope, to
use his intelligence more wisely or simply to
use his common sense to understand the origin
of his failures or bis suffering.
But traditionally, if we do not falsify the
word "guru," it can only be used to designate
the person who leads you to a radical transfor-
mation of your self. The guru is the doorway
to a different plane, to a different level, to a
different order of Laws. Consequently, the
person who has accepted this title of guru has
to be a living testimony of the reality of this
experience himself. Allow me to tell you a
funny story. A long while ago I used to know
a famous hairdresser considered to be the best
men's hairdresser in France. He used to cut and
style the stars' hair; the fonner Prince of Wales
who abdicated from the throne of England be-
fore the Second World War went to him. along
with other celebrities. He used to s ~     an infal-
lible hair lotion that prevented hair ioss, but he
was as bald as the American actor Yul Brynner.
When someone asked him, "Don't you ever
use your own hair lotion?" he replied with a
smile, "I only use lotions sold by the hairdress-
ers with whom l am in direct competition, to
show how ineffective they are!"You can also
imagine a guru as the incarnation of everything
you have to avoid. We can always avoid the
question, but an Indian proverb tells the truth:
"You can onJy rescue someone from the mire
when your own feet are on solid ground." (We
have to say that the 1nires in which yo-ti sink
are more common in India due to the monsoon
rains, than they are in France.)
Not only is the goal of work with the guru
different from the aim in psychotherapy, but
the means differ also. Externally, parallels can
be made and many psychiatrists are interested
in the Tibetan, Indian or Taoist techniques.
Carl Gustav Jung, one of the most renowned,
offered a weU-known example. But Realiza-
tion, or Awakening, is what determines the
Path and the entire practice.
Either this transformation has taken place
or it has not. Here lies the difference. lhls
transformation is the lasting experience of our
personal story, the story of our ego, being over.
The last important desire has been satisfied
or has faded away, and in this respect, it does
mean death: the ego dies. The one who felt he
was a part of time, of becoming, of chains of
cause and effect, of desire-the desire for suc-
cess, the fear of failure--the one who felt he
was the doer of an action, carrying the weight
of hls existence, the load of his responsibili-
ties, that one is gone. There is no way to be a
guru unless the experience of this situation is
unchapging: "It is no longer I who lives." And
immediately the very famous phra'ie of Saint
Paul comes to mind: "It is no longer I who
lives; it is Christ who lives in me." A Hindu
would say: "It is no longer I who takes action;
shakti takes action ·through me."
This is the cardinal difference. The psy-
chotherapist is still subject to the illusion of
separation, which implies that everything is
experienced personally and we consider our-
selves, tiny limited individuals that we are, to
be the ones who control the causes and effects
with everything that means in the way of wor-
ries, dissatisfaction and fear.
Is perfect inner freedom possible? Many
psychologists assert that this is an impos-
sible ideal, the projection of a dream of
super-power, a dream where we escape from
limitation; and that to be a true man is to have
accepted the human condition. This is exactly
what the Hindus say, but they add something
extra to this: the adult human has accepted the
human condition, yes, this is so; but he has
also discovered liberated Consciousness, and
what is most important is that within him-
self an interfering function has disappeared,
which is the Ego or Ahamkar. The world of
becoming, made up of the chains of causes
and effects, remains; and in the world of
non-becoming, there is the unchanging Being,
Consciousness, Atman. But between the two
worlds, this ahamkar-from which stems the
sense of limitation. all the suffering, all the
sense of wrong and all the "prob1ems"-no
longer exists. $

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