Knowing oneself or knowing one’s mind is possible only by knowing one’s motivations. What does that mean? It means that our behavior is no guidance to what we really are.
A man, for example, rushes to his office, and on the way he buys a few flowers. He is passing through a street where there is a temple, and he rushes in and throws the flowers on the idol and walks out. People will believe that he is a religious-minded man. But in reality, we know that he is not so much a religious man. He harbored a motive. He thought that by praying or worshiping or ‘patronizing’ the deity―as we would call it―he might receive special benefit. So, the expectation behind it was that he might be promoted in his office or something good would happen to him, perhaps a windfall may come his way, when the lottery which he has paid for brings a large amount of money. Probably, that was uppermost in his mind at the time of throwing the flowers; otherwise, he should have stopped there, waited in silence, and prayed in a proper manner with sentiment and good motive. Though here the motive was not only secret but different, his behavior was something different again.
We often fail to know ourselves. We behave mechanically with a secret motive that we hide, and our motive is not fully understood even by ourselves. That is why, if I may put it philosophically, the ancient scriptures stress the need to ‘Know Thyself’. Why do they say ‘Know Thyself’, as if I don’t know myself? True, we are supposed to know ourselves externally. I mean, we can stand near a mirror and know ourselves, but whether by such knowledge do we really know ourselves – this is the major problem. People can know you by knowing you from outside, objectively. You can also know yourself in this manner objectively but you know your real self only through subjectiveness. You very rarely apply this subjective or inverted process to know yourself, because you are always looking outward and judging yourself accordingly. In fact, you behave and make believe as if you are this or that, when in fact you may be quite different within, according to your motive.
I believe human beings live by hypocrisy with motives hidden behind their behavior. That is a fact―true indeed! That is why, the ancient masters had to tell you so often to ‘Know Thyself’ first. So that you know in truth what you are. Sociologically or psychologically man needn’t worry much about knowing himself exteriorly, because behavior is an open book. But he should try and know himself in reality as the final truth. In the beginning, it is enough if one knows himself at the level of his motives during his social life. He can then be honest about it. But sometimes, man is not even honest to himself. He cheats himself when he is in conflict with his motive, although his behavior may gain him some benefit. In doing this, he hurts his own conscience and larger interest. This schizophrenic complex is rarely understood by the wordly common man―he simply doesn’t. When confronted, he pretends; if you ask him where he is going, he cleverly takes a little time to think about what to say, instead of telling the truth outright. He may say that he is visiting a friend who is sick. In fact, he goes there not out of compassion or as a social duty as per his behavioral pretense, but only to find out whether maybe his friend is in a condition to be talked to about his pending bill. By such an act, this man is cheating himself―pure rascality passed off as wisdom or diplomacy.
To understand a man, others can evaluate him only by his objective behavior. But some have learned how to confuse even their behavior, so that from their behavior pattern you can never understand them fully. Now, in one’s own case, how will you know yourself? This will be possible only through introspection. You have to examine and re-examine yourself till you come across your real motive. It is only then that you are able to know what you are. Because often, your motivations are so complicated that you yourself fail to find them out. You pretend as if you are doing some good. People flatter you for this. Probably, papers give you a lot of publicity, but it is only you who know yourself and why you are doing it. Here, you know yourself through your motives.
Often, philanthropists come out with big donations, say for religious places, but all such religious places are not built with good money. The philanthropists may be giving such donations for some ulterior motive. In the meantime, pictures are published of the great donor, but it is the donor who alone knows the inside story―that the money would have been taken away by the Government had he not given it for charity. This is how charity begins at home, and these philanthropists get credit for something fishy.
This hide and seek game in society is going on eternally, and humanity suffers because of it. This deception has to be stopped. Otherwise, humanity will continue to suffer from this dichotomy. This suffering is the direct result of man cheating himself. So, while he looks good outwardly he may have evil intentions inside―he thus lives at two levels. Unless you change this complex of the man by making him realize his motives and behave accordingly, society will never be at peace.
When a dog begins barking at you, you know what it means. But when a man says ‘Good Morning’, you cannot say what he means. Human beings therefore cannot be trusted on their face value, because the motive is not in consonance with his behavior. How can one know a man from inside?
It is necessary that before you do an act of whatever nature, first search yourself and find out what you really want from it. Get clarity and be sure this is exactly what you want―then you will not be cheating yourself or humanity. You should therefore see that you yourself first be very clear in your mind about your real motive, before you act. Remember, there is always a purpose behind every act of man. Always, always. We simply cannot do something for nothing―no, nobody does that. There is always something behind everybody’s mind whenever he acts. Now, if you are aware of it, you may be able to do the act better. But, if you do not know why you do it, it may be unsuccessful. If you go with a half-hearted motive and say to yourself, ‘If this happens it is alright, but if it does not happen even that’s alright’, then in such a state, your action will not be successful or it might not be perfect, because you fail to put your entire energy and total presence into it. Even to be successful in life, one has to know one’s self, that is, to know one’s own motive.