The wise say that you must learn from your own experiences. But we feel that the experiences of the ignorant have no value. We say, “What can be learnt from our experiences when we ourselves are unaware? What is the use of such consolation? We are so deluded that we keep falling into the same pit! Therefore, we must learn from the experiences of saints alone.”
However, you must first understand what it means to learn from your own experience. Which state will give you peace and joy, and which state will lead to disquietude and pain? Remain aware of your experiences.
People are not sensitive towards their experiences; they are not aware and so miss learning from them. Then, the only option for them is to believe in what others say, or what books say. But the others speak of their own experiences. If your circumstances and your inner state do not match with theirs, then their words do not benefit you and may sometimes even prove harmful.
What is needed is understanding, not just blind imitation. The most important lessons are the ones learnt from one’s own life. And those lessons can be learnt only when you remain aware of your experiences.
Why are mistakes repeated?
Even if you falter a thousand times, you can still learn from your mistakes. When the same error is repeated again and again, it shows that you have not learnt from it. If you were pained by it, you would never repeat it. But if you do not experience the pain, then it is bound to happen again.
You say that you are so deluded that you keep falling in the same pit again and again. This only means that you have never felt that it is a pit. Someone else told you that it was a pit and you believed it. The Great Ones exclaimed that these were pits, and you started parroting them.
Saints may call it a pit but do you see it as one? Within your heart, you wish to go back into that pit again. The day you realise that it is a pit, you will stop falling into it.
Transformation cannot be borrowed. Without changing your beliefs, if you blindly start living the words of enlightened ones, you will realise that your attraction for the pit has not reduced. You still have the yearning for sensual pleasures and will also feel guilty about it. Gradually hypocrisy and deceit will set in.
You will experience a transformation within only if you keep checking your beliefs, thoughts, emotions and experiences. Once a saint was asked, “How can one save oneself from vices?” He replied, “The day you see them as vices, you will become free from them.” The one whose house is on fire will not ask, ‘How can I escape?’ He will not wait to learn about good conduct or rules. He will take a leap and jump out.
By remaining aware of your own experiences, your ignorance will be revealed. Knowledge dawns on you. Once you see it as a pit, true efforts to avert falling into it begin. You may put in a ton of effort and read millions of books. It will not help. It should become your understanding. Awareness of your own experiences will make you vigilant. You just need to wake up! Do not ask for a list of what you should do or what you should not. Once you wake up, the worthless will slip away and what is valuable will stay.