Sharmila`s Road Ahead


A question often is asked, sometimes with an air of mischievous rhetoric, whether Sharmila is being pushed into what she is doing by vested interests, and if not this, then by public expectations. The implication is, she is unable to exercise her free will to decide on how or whether her seemingly futile protest should proceed any further. Further, another implied allegation is also Sharmila has ceased to be of any great concern for the people of Manipur by and large, which is why her protest is all the more doomed to be in a limbo that it seems to be in at the moment. These are serious thoughts or charges if you like. The question is, what is the volitional element in Sharmila’s continued fast? Is she responding to public expectations only or is she driven by a faith in her own action? While there should be no doubt the latter is there predominantly, it is necessary to dispel some of the doubts raised. The answer could come in the form of a question. Is there anybody whose action is not in some ways or other a response to public expectations?

Students of psychology would tell us there is nobody. These expectations are not always overt. They have been ingrained into the social consciousness so deeply that much of them come naturally to all of us without the need for making conscious choices. A few very basic questions should be illuminating. Why do we fear not doing well in studies? Why do we not walk around naked in public? The answer is, because such behaviours would not be approved by the society. Much of our social behaviours are thus moderated by this ever present “Superego” in Freudian terms. In a crux, Freud’s personality dynamics becomes an interplay of three powerful forces within the human psyche: the infantile “Id”, the parental “superego” and the rational “ego”. “Id” is thus about inborn, primitive, animal desires, appetites and instincts. The “Superego” controls and moderates (or civilises) the “Id”, sometimes excessively and to the detriment of the health of the individual. It is thus the rational “Ego” which must negotiate between these two. This personality dynamic would be the fuel behind Sharmila’s decisions, conscious or subconscious, as it is for everybody else. The only difference is, Sharmila has stepped out of private life boldly and is in the public domain in a radical way, and hence, we would argue here is a case of an enviable success of the “Ego” to rein in the “Id” and the “Superego”. The “Superego” which normally should have determined her public behaviour and decisions, have been rationalise successfully by her powerful “Ego” to convert it into a magnanimous sense of public duty. This being the case, it is only natural the pressure of expectations, not just public expectations but her own as well, would be much more on her. It is a truism that people do expect much more from public figures than from the ordinary man or woman on the street, and in our opinion, nobody in the state is as much a selfless public figure as Sharmila has come to be.

The next question is, why do people expect another to accomplish what is also essentially their aspiration? Why hasn’t there been many more stepping forward to join Sharmila’s style of protest? These questions deserve another rhetorical answer as well. If everybody were to take care of their own problems, or were to be capable of taking care of all their own problems, and this ability in collective were to be the solution to social problems, why would there have been any need for leaders at all? Eric Fromm’s book “Escape from Freedom” is dedicated to answering this question. Freedom can get terrifying for many if not most, and so taking important decisions on which crucially hangs the fate of individuals and society, independently, is not easy. This is where the role of inspirational leadership comes in. These strong men and women would become the centres where the ordinary men and women surrender their freedoms to make important decisions. And who can deny Sharmila is an inspirational leader who has made sacrifices nobody can or has ever made. But Fromm’s caution is, although this has nothing remotely to do with Sharmila’s case, when the ordinary men and women get too insecure, they begin to surrender more and more of their freedom to tough leaders who they entrust to deliver them from the source of their insecurities. Such a condition he says is the ground on which the most brutal dictatorships have spawned. Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Mussolini’s Italy, all shared this social dynamics. Sharmila’s case is a radical departure from this but there is an interesting parallel. While there can be no argument she is an inspirational leader let those who love her not leave her to bear all the burdens alone. Nobody can emulate what she is doing, but let it not be forgotten everybody who would benefit from her cause has a duty to also contribute to take forward what she is fighting for.


  1. Freud can still be helpful for here and now interventions and is still used so by practitioners despite his lack of popularity in academic circles. The man was not scientific enough for the modern scientific age. And if anyone bothered to read Freud rather than the many Freud for the pretentious books available he was a beautiful man inspired to make the beachhead in the modern understanding that doctors need to consider a mind as well as a body when treating patients. For a nice start read his open letter to the mother of a homosexual. People can easily misinterpret what he has to say on sexual deviancy especially if they are not familiar with mathematical statistics. In his letter he sounds again like a young keen pastoral GP who entered the field of medicine to help people as he put it at the end of his life to restore them to common human unhappiness from their previous misery.

    So take this here and now. What often happens in comments here either they are moderated out, or more likely a string of abuse follows often racist mainly mindless. The Ego usually releases Libido which is a form of energy, that which makes you blush, causes adrenaline to flow, not really just sex unless you understand sex as metaphor. The Ego attempts to stop you from acting against the group, from seeking change. Because all the larger organism wants whether it’s the Freudian view of a triune personality or that of a group, is homeostasis. It hates change. Freedom is about dancing with continual change. Let us suppose you have found some way of dealing with this self-punishing ego libidinous floodgate. So I post something about a subject I have studied formally and the original poster clearly has not. The group then punishes you. Seen that way the abusive posters are really types of libido energy soldier ants released by a System Colony Queen ant. All they seek is to cut off your fingers and put them in their sacks. It’s nothing personal they just don’t want you to post anything, but they don’t really know why. You don’t tell grunts the reasons to act they don’t need to know to be effective. Freud has a very limited view of the pysche and the editor clearly has no modern psychology training but he/she seems happy to admit the views belong to others. Freud has been out of fashion for the past three trends at least. At the beginning of the century everyone was pushing braing mapping trying to find specific neurotransmitters responsible for the chain of command of thought, the areas of the brain responsible for different emotions. All the research had moved away from this more introspective subjective view of humanity. 

    One of my elderly teachers (not famous not a great university) did admit to thinking that she might find areas of the brain linked to ego superego id etc when she first started and the world was interested in more cognitive models. She was trying to help people understand the concept that a model does not represent reality it merely allows us to manipulate data and therefore better test hypotheses. So if anyone believes that there is an Ego or Superego sitting comfortably in their heads exchanging views having heated discussions, they are missing the point. They allow a framework to test for whether using pink and ylang ylang odour causes us to buy more fish at a market and things like that. And how long it takes to break someone in interrogation though last I heard the scientists were interested in microgestures but I am at least five years out of the loop. 
    But if you were more interested in this style of analysis and given that I know Sharmila a lot more than the rest of you especially the experts. I would look toward transpersonal psychology the Fourth School for example psychosynthesis still mainstream enough not to be dismissed Assagioli was a student of Freud. Though there are so many new schools these days and if you are anti-western which is a local foible then look to ancient spiritualities of the Sanatama Dhamma, so perhaps the Buddhist belief in the non-self which is far closer to the modern western view proposed by the Scientific analyze brain activity clique. They tend to view consciousness almost as some kind of epiphenomenon. If you throw enough pebbles into a still lake eventually patterns begin to form but these are random. No one is causing them. But I oversimplify and I accept that charge.Sharmila is a tulku. She represents that self beyond the no-self which we all are or not-am. Problem is it defies explanation. I compare her to HH the Dalai Lama. He sees himself as a simple monk. Some of the more experienced meditating lamas the ones who have completed 30 year noble silent solitary retreats and even have changed brain chemistry sufficiently to be of interest to western scientists say he is much more. Is she being used by others of course. The stupid and ignorant use her stupidly and ignorantly. Is there a Sharmila beyond all this. Depends on how you look. Il n’y a pas de hors texte when two students of that frenchman decided to help others by explaining what he meant he lost his temper with them, pointing out if he had wanted to say what they had said then why did he just stop with Il n’ya pas de hors texte.If you want to know what Sharmila is about then look at her life. Did people manipulate Gandhi-ji do they manipulate HH the Dalai Lama. We are human it’s what lifts us above the apes. Look at her life perhaps study the Gita one of her inspirations anishkamakarma or karmayoga. I’ll oversimplify so devotees can I hope explicate more fully if they wish and being devotees will do so without abuse. She does her duty she follows it as best she can filtered through her culture, gender and current life experiences. She does so in the belief that it may inspire that it is not enough to whine about how bad things are and never to do anything positive. anishkamakarma acting without lust for result. It’s not smugness it means you have no control of anything beyond this (point to body). But it also means that the Word of God is always fructifying and once released into the world it will return only after having fulfilled its purposes but it is not important for you to worry or know what those are. 

    Skinner had an odd take on Freedom as paradox. And it is far closer to the freedom of the Gita of world spiritualities and of Sharmila. I touch type. I type quickly but I don’t worry about where to put my fingers I move to say what I want as imperfectly as it comes. And it is imperfect. She is right about one thing and I do not believe she is hypocritical about this but as the ed puts it there are many mischief makers who pursue their own agendas. If you push and use violent words or thoughts or actions then you will always make things worse. The only way is to use love gentleness and compassion in words thoughts and deeds because word thought and deed like the ego superego id model are not separate but refer to the One, the one that exists-not. I know if people don’t understand they will mock. So be it. I am going on an another 3 week noble silent retreat and therefore spared from feedback. There will never come a time when people do not misinterpret misquote or manipulate her. There will come a time when she has more freedom and only the lazy will be fooled all of the time.


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