Fact and Idea

August21, 2022
by Editors@spiritofenquiry

Date: Jan-March 2016
Location: Shibumi, Bangalore
Description: Talk with students at Shibumi
Transcription: by Sushmita ( A parent at Shibumi)

Fact and Idea

The idea of a series of 20-minute dialogues came about when Kabir Jaithirtha, while engaging with 13-year-old children, noticed that they didn’t always have the stamina to engage meaningfully in the earlier, once a week, hour-long format. Hence the idea of having more frequent dialogues, for a shorter duration, everyday, with the group of children came about.

The intention to record was primarily to share the explorations with the parents of the group involved in the dialogue, so that these conversations might continue at home as well.

Listening to these dialogues opened up so much for many and we started sharing them with the wider community of friends and well-wishers.

It is important to share the background of this whole effort so that you, the reader/listener, understands the context in which this unfolded. We also hope that the occasional personal references made during the dialogues will not distract from the main exploration. Please be sensitive to the vulnerability that the children have shared so openly.


Students: Confidence, Goats

KJ:  … Confidence and goats.

Student: And self-consciousness

KJ: And goats.

Student: Not in goats.

KJ: Not in goats

Ganesh: And we should come to the mango tree as well.

KJ: Did we come to the mango tree?

Students: No, not yet.

Student: We were only on rocks

KJ:  So…Yeah, you can be an observer.. that doesn’t mean you have to sit far away. You can sit there. Or here even.

So, yesterday we are exploring – and don’t say that’s wrong English, I am very conscious of what I am saying. We are exploring the nature of confidence. So we were talking about a self-conscious confidence… and an unself-conscious confidence. Right? Srishti… right? That’s what we were talking about.

So, could somebody open up this – the nature of self-conscious confidence and the nature of unself-conscious confidence, a little bit – by watching yourself?  You can learn a lot by watching your own brain, and of course, watching other people’s actions and so on.

Anybody? See lots of things are coming to me, but I don’t want to jump. Take for example: you are 5 feet, let’s say 4 inches tall. It can either be a fact, or– I am going to say something surprising,– it can be an idea. Does that make sense?

Student: No-

KJ: No, doesn’t make sense? You are actually 5’ 4 “tall, either the brain can hold it as a fact or the brain can hold it as an idea. What is the difference?

Student: Fact is—it’s true.

KJ: Then, what does it mean to hold it as an idea? When you are actually 5’4“tall, what does it mean to hold that as an idea? What is the nature of that holding?

Student: That, “I like it very much”.

KJ: That is one possibility. “I like it very much”. Or?

Student: “I don’t like it”. 

KJ: “I don’t like it”, or?

Ganesh: What contributes to the liking?

Student: “Good, I am growing”.

KJ: No wait a minute, wait a minute…Yeah so you see, we are kind of building up on that. So, when I hold it as an idea, it’s no longer a simple fact that I am 5’ 4” tall. It becomes an idea “Oh my God I am only 5’ 4″ tall. I don’t like this. I wanted to be 5’ 4 1/2″ at least”. Right? OR “God, I am already 5’ 4”, I think I’ll  grow up into( to be) 5’ 5” …. “

Ganesh: “I should at least be one inch taller than my father!”.

KJ: “I should be at least one inch taller than my …. “
So these are all ideas. Right? Now it’s become a habit for us to create ideas around facts. Do you agree? We don’t leave a fact as a fact. We create ideas around facts. Do you see that?

Student: But if we create ideas around facts…

KJ: — what’s the problem?

 Student: — doesn’t the fact become an idea?

KJ: No, the fact doesn’t become an idea, but the fact gets surrounded by the idea and becomes complicated. Do you see that happening to you?

Student: Yes.

KJ:  It’s a fact, let us say, I am not good at mathematics.  But that fact gets converted into an idea. Do you see that?

Student: Yeah. “Oh I am not good at mathematics, I am not good at mathematics…” like that.

KJ: What else? What else?

Student: “I want to be good at mathematics”.

KJ: What else?

Student: I should be better”.

KJ: I should be better”. What else? Go on saying all the different ….

Student: “I should be excellent”.

KJ: No no something else. What else?

Ganesh: Wait… something else.

Student: “I should be better than…”

KJ: I should be better than…” Go on?

Student: “What will the other people think?”

KJ: What will the other people think.”

Ganesh: You saw that? There is ‘other people’ (in it).

KJ: What will other” – What else? add to that, add to that.

Student: Who made me not good?”

Student: They’ll start thinking “I am silly and I am…”.

KJ: They might start thinking “I am silly, so I better not do mathematics in front of other people because they will know that I am not good at mathematics”.

Then… I begin to say “Oh my GodI find it so… huh…I feel heavy when I have to do mathematics”.

Right? See how complicated a simple fact becomes when it gets converted into an idea. Or, it can be the other thing. “I am terribly good at maths, I am great, I am so clever, you are so dumb. You don’t know any maths; you are so dumb.”. 

Right?  I’ve heard kids say that – “You’re so dumb; you can’t do this? You’re so dumb”. That’s already converted into an idea.

Right?  What — so we have explored –just see how complicated it becomes.

So, my confidence, supposing I am good at mathematics, my confidence is not… is kind of dependent on my idea of how good I am at mathematics. Right? That—you got it? That’s what I am calling self-conscious confidence. Right?

So, in that self-conscious confidence, it’s a mixture of pride and fear. Yeah?

Why is it a mixture of pride and fear?


Student: Because you are also, like as you said, when you–like if you are not good at math or something, you keep thinking of what others might think of you and stuff.

KJ: Hm?

Student: You keep thinking of what others think of me and so bad it feels, everything. So that’s the fear that comes in. But, you also don’t want them to see that. So you try to act as if you are…

KJ: … good at it.

KJ: Or you might, even without understanding it you might say “Yes yes, I understand”,

Student: Yeah.

KJ: Roopa aunty used to tell a very funny story about Gayathri.

I believe Gayathri was not really good at mathematics when she was a kid. So, then Roopa aunty asked her, “Then when the teacher asks somebody to give an answer, how do you do it?” Gayathri said “I look at all the other people and whoever —most people –are telling (as) an answer I tell that answer”.


Student: Very funny…

KJ: (Laughing) At least I know how to count… and I know that 8 is more than 6. So, I am pretty good at maths. Right?

Student: That is such a weird way of doing maths.

KJ: That’s a weird way of doing maths, that’s right. But even if I am good at maths, when it gets converted into an idea, it can create both pride and fear. How?

Students: Fear when someone else will overpower or become better than me in maths, and you are proud that I am so good…

KJ: But when that other guy is better than me, the same pride becomes fear. This is what is called the psychological movement of thought. That it converts a fact into an idea, and then the idea kind of becomes your foundation.

Your idea of who you are becomes the foundation, not the fact. The fact of who you are is very simple.

The goat can jump from one rock to the other. That is the fact, right? And it doesn’t create ideas around it at all. See, goats don’t compare with each other.

Students: Only we compare.

KJ: That’s a very strange thing, why we do that.

Student: Probably because our brain is stronger, we can think more?

KJ: Oh but that’s like saying that “Just because I can have fire in my house, I should get burnt.”


Student: Very funny. It doesn’t make sense

KJ: No, it’s not funny at all, that’s the same thing that you are saying. “Because I am able to create a fire in my house, a goat can’t create a fire in my house, so because I can create a fire in my house I should get burnt”.

Student: You are hurting yourself.

KJ: Yeah.

Ganesh: So in this comparison also you are getting hurt.

KJ: In this also there is hurt. No? Isn’t fear a kind of hurt?

Student: Yes, it is. It’s a mind hurt not a body hurt.

KJ: It’s a mind hurt, it’s still a hurt.

Student: Yes, yes.

KJ: At least a body hurt heals itself.

Student: The mind may or may not.

KJ: The mind hurt doesn’t necessarily heal itself. The mind hurt can only end.

It’s not like a body hurt that just heals itself by growing some more layers or something like that. Is that clear?

Student: Yeah.

KJ: Most human beings start with mind hurts and they go on and on and on and on. That’s why their lives become burdensome.  And that mind hurt in a very strange way creates a fear of letting go. So, you are not simply a mango tree. At least a goat can jump from one rock to the other. The mango tree is just a mango tree. But he (it) is not thinking “I am a good mango tree; mango trees are better than other trees. I am a better mango tree than the other tree”. It is just what it is

The ability of the brain to completely remain with the fact no matter how advanced the thought capacity is– just because the thought capacity is advanced, it doesn’t have to create problems. That’s crazy! Right?  To have a very advanced – it’s like having a very fast car and keep getting into accidents. It’s meaningless.

Student: Yeah, finally we’ll get caught one day and go to jail.

KJ: All that may be… yeah. (laughter). But do you see the fact that the human brain has greater capacity for thought, –unless there is an understanding of what thought can do — that thought can also create problems.

Student: Yeah.

KJ: For most human beings it is so.

Student: Like arrogance for example.

KJ: Arrogance.

Student: I can do it.

KJ: Arrogance, fear and from that, loneliness.

Student: Sadness.

KJ: Anxiety, all kinds of…

Student: Anxiety is to be anxious.

KJ: Not only for the individual but when thought is not functioning rightly, the society that gets created has all the problems as well.

Student: Yeah…Kabir uncle, this is…

KJ: One second, one second, one second. One second, slow down. Right? Do you see that?

And it’s a very strange thing to say – “It’s not my fault”, because it’s human thought that has created the problems in society. Right? So there must be tremendous responsibility for the functioning of thought in this brain, and this brain. You can’t afford to say – “I didn’t do it” – because it is human thought that’s doing it.

Got it? Do you understand what I am saying? No? No. You don’t see directly, that it is human thought which is functioning wrongly that creates all the problems of society. Do you see that?

And if the thought here is functioning like the rest of the human thought, then it’s also contributing to creating the problems.

Right?  So, if you as a human being are really concerned about society, you must find out if the thought here can completely not create a problem. Yeah? I think that’s terribly important. And that’s what– that is really the most fundamental learning. The rest — the skills, passing exams, they, they are very, very simple. Maybe I’ll take one year more than you to pass the exam. That’s not a big deal. Unless thought again goes – “Oh my God, she has passed the exam, I haven’t still passed exam” etcThat creates a problem. But the fact that I passed the exam one year later than you doesn’t create any problem.

Student: But Kabir Uncle, by the way, once we pass our exam, isn’t it not like an idea that we did it. I did earlier than them. I did…

KJ: Don’t make it into an idea.

Student: I am not saying I will. Can it become an idea?

KJ: Anything can become an idea.

Ganesh: It can. The fact that I passed earlier.

KJ: Anything can become an idea. Unless the brain is terribly alert and sensitive … the very sensitivity will prevent it from becoming an idea. Otherwise, anything can become an idea.

Ganesh: “I passed it before you, therefore I am better than you” – that is the idea.

KJ: Yeah.

Ganesh/ KJ: “I passed it before you” That is only a fact. Right?

KJ: So, it is very important to have the intelligence which is able to see what is the fact, and what is the idea which has come as a reaction to the fact. The idea is always a reaction to the fact. The fact itself is just so. Right? Observe it in your own lives. This is terribly important to understand.

Now I can’t get into your brains and constantly prevent facts from becoming ideas in your brain. Nobody can do it for you. So that alertness, that intelligence has to be there in you; that sensitivity– awaken it. And you can see it in daily life, you can awaken that sensitivity by watching how your thought reacts. So, you are learning. Yeah.

Anybody wants to say anything?

Thank you, have a nice holiday.

Spirit of Enquiry

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