Conscience is the intellect in us which help us to distinguish between “right and wrong”. Society, our parents, teachers, friends and enemies they all contribute in developing our conscience. It is their response to our actions that tells us “this is right and that is wrong”. As we grow this becomes ingrained, implanted in us, we go on repeating it. Society plays a very strong emphasis on conscience. Bur, is conscience worth? Is it a real thing?
Consciousness, on other hand is the state of being aware within oneself, it does not have ready-made answers. It takes every moment as it comes, gives us light and we know what to do. To elaborate the difference between the two, I tell a story.
Mary Magdalene was a disciple of Jesus. She was very much in love with him. One day, Jesus came to the home of Mary Magdalene. His feet were dirty, to clean his feet Mary poured a very precious perfume on his feet–the whole bottle. It was rare and expensive perfume. Judas another disciple of Jesus immediately objected. He said, “You should prohibit people from doing such nonsense. The whole thing is wasted, and there are people who are poor and who don’t have anything to eat. We could have distributed the money to poor people.”
To this Jesus replied, “You don’t be worried about it. The poor and the hungry will always be here, but I will be gone. You can serve them always and always–there is no hurry–but I will be gone. Look at the love, not at the precious perfume. Look at Mary’s love, her heart.”
With whom will you agree, Jesus or Judas? Judas is talking about the poor, and Jesus is simply looking at the feeling of Mary, the heart of Mary.
The conscience mind will agree with Judas. He was a very cultured man, very sophisticated, and a thinker. But he betrayed, he sold Jesus for thirty silver pieces. And when Jesus was crucified, he started feeling guilty. That’s how a conscience man functions–he started feeling very guilty, his conscience started pricking him and he finally committed suicide.
Judas was a good man, he had a conscience. But he had no consciousness. This distinction has to be felt deeply. Conscience is borrowed, given by the society; consciousness is our own attainment. The society teaches us what is right and what is wrong: we should do this and should not do that. It gives us the morality, the code, the rules of the game, in short our conscience. In other worlds, conscience is but an outside constable present inside. And this is how the society controls us. Judas had a conscience, but Jesus had consciousness.
Same is the distinction between Rama and Krishna. Rama is conscience, he loves his wife, but he knows as per society rules it is not right for king to have a wife who is not respected by all kinsman. And so, despite his inner voice he sends Sita away. Krishna is consciousness, he does not care if society will call him a coward, he leaves Mathura and establishes Dwarka. When the time demands he does not hesitate from telling a lie, or even using his sudarshan chakra to kill.
Conscience is not bad, as long as consciousness is not there, conscience can be useful in the running of society. Consciousness is real, it is the light inside, and once it is lit there is no turning back. Conscience is like the stick, it is helpful when our inner eyes are closed, but once inner eyes are open, stick is useless, foolishness.