There is no need to develop a conscience at all. What is needed is consciousness, not conscience. Conscience is a pseudo thing. Conscience is created in you by the society. It is a subtle method of slavery. The society teaches you what is right and what is wrong. And it starts teaching the child before the child is aware, before the child can decide on his own what is right and what is wrong, before the child is even conscious of what is happening to him, before the child is even awake. In a kind of sleep, in a kind of dream, the child lives in the beginning.
In the mother’s womb the child sleeps for twenty-four hours. Then after the birth he sleeps for twenty-three hours, twenty-two hours, twenty-one hours, twenty hours… slowly slowly. But he remains in a kind of limbo, neither awake nor asleep. The child cannot make any distinction between what is real and what is unreal. And we start teaching the child what is right, what is wrong — we are conditioning him. We are conditioning him according to our ideas. All these ideas — from parents, from priests, teachers, politicians, saints — -all these ideas jumble together inside him. They become his conscience.
And because of this conscience he will never be able to grow consciousness — because conscience is a pseudo consciousness. And if you are satisfied with the pseudo you will never even think of the real. It is very deceptive; the way we have been bringing up children is very deceptive. It is ugly, it is violent, it is against humanity.
That’s why millions of people live without any consciousness. Before they could have grown into consciousness, we gave them pseudo toys to play with. And their whole lives they think this is all that is needed to live a good life. And their whole lives they will be rewarded if they follow the conscience, and they will be punished if they don’t follow the conscience.
From the outside they will be punished and rewarded, and from the inside also. Whenever you do something that your conscience says is wrong, you feel guilty, you suffer, you feel inner pain. You are afraid, you are trembling… it creates anxiety. And the fear about heaven, that you may lose heaven, and the fear of hell, that you may fall into hell… and with great inventiveness your saints have painted the joys of heaven and the miseries of hell.
This is conscience. Conscience is artificial, arbitrary. Conscience is needed because the society does not want you to be intelligent. Hence, rather than making you intelligent it gives you fixed rules of behaviour: Do this, don’t do that.
The day humanity drops this whole nonsense of conscience and starts helping children to grow their consciousness will be the greatest day, will be the real birth of humanity, a new human being and a new earth. Then we will help the child to become more intelligent, so whenever a problem arises the child has enough intelligence to encounter it, to face it, to respond to it. Why should one need any conscience? Intelligence is enough, consciousness is enough.
Consciousness will make you capable of responding to the present immediately, and your response will be true. Conscience is old, and the situation is always new — and your conscience is ALWAYS old. There is no meeting-ground. You go on responding according to the conscience cultivated in you by the society, forced into you by the society, conditioned in you by the society — and the situation is totally different!
Conscience goes on making you a fool. Situations change, but the conscience cannot change, it cannot grow — conscience remains static. You go on living with ideas that were given to you in your childhood, by your ignorant parents, ignorant teachers. And you will live according to them, and you will suffer much. And your response will never be true because it will never fit with the situation. You will always be lagging behind.
Responsibility simply means the capacity to respond to the reality as it is — and it changes, the reality changes, and the conscience remains fixed. That’s the difference between conscience and consciousness.
Consciousness is a mirror. Conscience is a photoplate. Once a photoplate is exposed, it is finished; it catches the picture and then that picture remains for ever, fixed. It cannot grow, remember.
One woman was showing her child the family album, and they came across a picture of a beautiful man with black hair, very fresh, young. And the child asked, “Who is this, Mom?” And the mother said, “Don’t you recognize him? He is your father!” And the child said, “He is my father? Then who is that bald-headed man who lives with us?”
In reality, things change. Beautiful black hair disappears — one becomes bald-headed. But in pictures things are fixed.
Conscience is a photoplate and consciousness is a mirror. It also reflects, but it never clings to any reflection. It remains empty, and hence it remains capable of reflecting new situations. If it is morning, it reflects the morning. If it is evening, it reflects the evening. The photoplate is fixed; if you exposed it in the morning then it will always remain morning in the photo, it will never become evening, night.
There is no need to develop a conscience. The need is to drop the conscience and develop consciousness. Drop all that you have been taught by others, and start living on your own and searching and seeking…. Yes, in the beginning it will be difficult because you won’t have any map. The map is contained by the conscience. You will have to move without the map, you will have to move into the uncharted, with no guidelines. Cowards cannot move without guidelines; cowards cannot move without maps. And when you move with maps and guidelines, you are not really entering into new territory, into new realms — you are going in circles. You go on moving into the known; you never take a jump into the unknown. It is only courage that can drop conscience.
Conscience means all the knowledge that you have. And consciousness means being empty, being utterly empty, and moving into life with that emptiness, seeing through that emptiness and acting out of that emptiness — then action has tremendous grace. And then whatsoever you do is right. It is not a question of what is right and what is wrong, because something that is right today may be wrong tomorrow. And borrowed knowledge never helps.
[The Fish in the Sea is Not Thirsty]