Note: the blue italics indicates the teacher, in black other participants.

Listening and Obedience

I’d like to talk about listening. I’ve noticed that there are two listenings. Often, we think we’re listening, but in fact it’s the personality that listens without really listening, because at the same time we anticipate what we’re going to say to the other person; so we’re not in total listening.

I’ve often noticed that I say things to people, and I have the impression that it comes in through one ear and out through the other, because there’s often no follow-up. However, I have not observed any rejection of what I have asked for. With A. it happened to me several times, do you remember? I asked you to do something, and you didn’t do it.

That’s right.

It means there’s a problem being present while listening. The German word for listening-obeying is “gehorchen” that can be translated as “to lend an ear”, but also “to obey”. So let’s lend our ears, pay attention to what the other says. Paying attention with the ears almost means focusing on it, it’s really taking it into account: obedience. In French, when we say to a child “tu ne m’écoutes pas” (you’re not listening to me), it means “tu ne m’obéis pas” (you don’t obey me). So obeying is not too much in your nature.


Who else has a problem with obeying?

Listening is a problem for me, it requires a lot of energy and attention.

But that’s not listening. When you pay attention and tense up, it doesn’t work; what you’re looking for is an attitude rather than a gesture, an open, relaxed attitude.

It’s precisely when you’re focused that you don’t get the right listening.

You, J.L., don’t have a problem with obeying, I take it? You’re used to it.

Yes. But what bothers me about that word is that it’s often associated with a certain loss of free will.


And it’s a bit pejorative sometimes, someone who obeys and doesn’t think.

That’s true, but that’s what the army’s all about, isn’t it? If we don’t obey, we’re in trouble.

Yes, and we often say in the army that after a while obedience becomes a voluntary adherence, we no longer give orders in fact, we simply tell the person to do this or that thing.

There is also this false obedience which is a form of resignation, just doing what one has asked. This is often the case with people who are resigned and waiting for retirement, especially in large companies.

I feel different levels of obedience in me. There is a somewhat formal obedience and then there is an obedience in depth. I felt it today as I reflected on the fact of not having put water on the embers as you ask.

Plus there’s a strong wind.

Yes, I know. At the beginning, when you asked me, even when there was no wind, I obeyed you, because I had to obey, but internally I did not have the impression that it was necessary. Today, I felt that obedience to this command of water over the embers had been a formal obedience; but there is another form of obedience, a deeper form of obedience.

Those who have a problem with obedience, do some work on it, because in the end, we obey what life imposes on us. If we don’t manage to obey, we’ll never manage to fully live non-separation. there will always be something that is rejected.

Another interesting aspect linked to obedience is trust. Sometimes I obey and do something without knowing why, in this case I do it in trust, with faith, even if I like to understand why I do things. But if you asked me, for example, to repair the same umbrella ten times, I would do it, so there is a kind of trust.

Exactly, it’s the same trust you have in life when you’re fully in it, it’s obeying and you don’t even have the choice not to obey.

I agree with what J-L said; indeed it is easier to obey when there is an aherence. For me, this adherence arises in two different contexts, the first of which has already been mentioned, when I trust the other. In the second case, if it’s someone I don’t know or in whom I don’t particularly trust, I can obey if I understand the request and if it’s my logic too; in this case I will adhere because it could come from me. But where I find it more difficult to obey is when there is a principle. For example, the state imposes a speed limit of 50km/h in certain places, and sometimes it’s ridiculous because it’s Sunday and the school is closed. I do not have much confidence in the technocrats who made these laws, so I may not obey them.

The example of 50km/h is very interesting, because in this kind of case, we can see if we really have a choice or not. Am I reacting because it bothers me, so I don’t have a choice anymore? Or can I admit that there is an aspect of stupidity, but I really have the choice to limit myself to 50km/h or not? And then it becomes a strategic question, depending on the context; is it useful for me or not to limit myself to 50km/h, starting from a point of view that doesn’t affect any, no emotions. It’s interesting precisely in the stupid constraints that society proposes and imposes on us almost constantly: do I put emotion into it or do I act strategically?

Indeed, when I find myself in this kind of situation, I integrate the whole context: am I late? What day is it? Are there people around? Is there a radar? Do I mind getting a fine? It’s a set of things that makes me respect or disrespect the rule.

When there are problems of obedience, particularly with regard to the law, I have observed that there may be an underlying affect. These are interesting opportunities for the person who wants to work on this.

Yes, there are people who will react because it comes from the State. But in the example I gave, I don’t feel like I’m reacting because it’s a law.

I think that if the situation requires it, I will have no problem obeying.

Yes, I think so, too. You don’t need to understand.

There’s a kind of trust.

I’m very annoyed by this question, because at a certain level I see in me this form of resistance mixed with inertia that was once called “sack of potatoes”.

Yeah, it’s probably related.

But on the other hand, there’s total trust, in life in general, and I can completely obey.

It’s interesting for you to observe, when you put on the potato sack, if there’s not also a refusal to obey?

I don’t feel like it.

I’m not sure, otherwise, instead of the sack of potatoes, you could have said “Well, I obey even if I don’t understand”.

Yes, that’s why I’m annoyed, but I don’t sense disobedience.

Yet there is a connection, even if you don’t see it yet. In spite of trust, in a given context, there is a strong resistance.

If you can, within the framework of teaching, and when the situation requires it, implement obedience, that would be quite a shortcut.

I could not be so categorical in daily life, but here I feel it very strongly, for me obedience is there. Of course, I can’t affirm that it will always be like that, perhaps there will be situations where I won’t obey.

If we have good reason not to, that’s okay. But we have to be careful about good reasons. I’ve never had any problem obeying, it was “surrender”. After I had gathered enough evidence that I could trust the person, I let go of everything.

Yes, that’s right, it’s a matter of trusting the person.

I had the experience with one of my teachers of absolute abandonment, the “surrender”. Except of course from the moment I observed that something was going wrong, so I quit. But the surrenderer stayed, even though I couldn’t continue with him. Because everything I experienced thanks to the “surrender” stayed with me and belongs to me. So this means: obedience on the one hand, but also the opposite when necessary, the warrior in a way.

In fact it does not take away his capacity for discernment.


But at one point it allows you to do what I’ve had a hard time doing for years, which is: “OK, I’ll do it even if I don’t understand”.

For my part, I’ve observed that there’s a kind of inner feeling that tells me whether it’s ok or not, it’s quite subtle.

Exactly. When I was following the teaching I mentioned above, one day I received a letter, sent to everyone, saying: “Now we need you, your financial contribution, think about all that R. has done for you, now is the time to do something for him”. At that point, for me, the curtain closed completely, it was over, I didn’t accept that.

Often in large groups, it goes astray.

Yes, it goes astray very easily.

As far as I’m concerned, I’m not ruling out that it could happen one day with you. I don’t exclude it completely, in spite of the obedience there is at present.

Yes, but then you have to ask yourself, is it coming from me? Is there is a resistance coming into play there?

Of course.

There’s the group as well, it’s not just you and me; when you feel a drift coming, it wouldn’t be surprising if this feeling comes up in everyone as well. You just have to ask the question, is this impression really right or is it a reaction of my own?

For me, when there is a certain personal confidence, obedience is easy because I know that this is what must be done, even if I do not understand the reason for it. There is a validation in me, even if it bothers me and I would have preferred to be asked something else. In fact, somewhere I already knew it, and it’s very easy. Maybe it goes with trust, or trust is built precisely because there is this feeling.

I couldn’t agree more. I remember we had a discussion about “basic trust” a few years ago. At that time, we hadn’t really worked on body consciousness yet, or at least I hadn’t appropriated it, and I remember responding to C. on the same subject: “no, I don’t trust W. beyond a certain point”. There was a caveat, because I had no criteria other than my head to validate or invalidate, and so if I didn’t understand intellectually, it was difficult because I only had that compass. With body consciousness, I can actually feel that it’s okay, even though I don’t know why at all. As O. said: the request resonates in me as a truth, and it validates that this is what I need to do. For me it’s in this shared body consciousness that it’s played out, and I can trust it because I also have an internal compass. Even if I don’t understand the why or the how, I know it’s right.

You know, trust is kind of mutual. I trust the teacher, but I also trust myself.
To sum up: linking listening to obedience. For you it’s clear I guess, R. ?

Yes, of course.

Did you trust me from the beginning, or was it evolutionary?

I was the unconditional disciple, you could ask me whatever you wanted.

That is to say, at one time obeying the letter had a secondary benefit for you, it served to relieve you of all personal responsibility. Whereas to be truly attentive is also to take responsibility for the request that has been made.

That’s correct.

I told you many times that you weren’t here to remain an unconditional disciple, but to be yourself. Teaching is about being yourself.

In India, we call disciples disciples of the devotees. I can’t stand this devotion! That kind of obedience, it doesn’t make sense, it’s to be broken. Chandra Swami used to say: “I don’t want you to act like that devotee, like a cow that wanders and obeys”. But with you it wasn’t really devotion, it was rather the lack of self-confidence that made you act that way.

Yeah, I didn’t want to take any risks. Everything we do has consequences, every thing we do, every word we say has consequences. There was a time when I realized that what I was doing could hurt others, and I couldn’t handle it, it came out of me in an uneducated form that hurt others. And one day I made a decision to close the shutters, to take no more responsibility.

That’s it.

But that also goes away if you become aware of it, it’s a mechanism.


What you just said reminds me of something else. The fact that you obeyed the instruction to the letter conditioned you to transmit the instruction also to the letter. It was no longer spontaneous; you were making a photocopy of the request. That raises the question of autonomy.

Yes, that’s right. I hadn’t yet come out of what we’ve just talked about in terms of responsibility. I couldn’t see any other possible behavior for me, otherwise it was hell. Besides, at that time I had great difficulty accepting the necessary suffering, I was fleeing it by all possible means.