Questioner: Acharya Ji, what is the difference between Loneliness and Aloneness?
Acharya Prashant: Simply put,
Loneliness is when you are not alright with yourself.
Loneliness is when you are just not okay with yourself.
Aloneness is when you are alright with yourself.
When you are not alright with yourself, you will obviously seek an alternative to your company. I’m not okay with myself, so what will I need? I’ll need somebody else to be with. That is the state of the lonely person.
His self is the Ego. And the Ego lives in great contradictions, therefore, great conflict. The Ego does not really like itself. The Ego labels itself as unworthy and incomplete. Therefore, the Ego cannot just be with itself and feel fine. The Ego must necessarily reach out to the world and want a companion. "Can there be somebody to relate to? Can there be somebody to sit with, fill myself up with, form a bond with? Can there be somebody else I can look at? Because if I look at myself, all I see is nonsense. Worse still, if I continue looking at myself, then I see that I’m false and I don’t exist, so I don’t want to look at myself."
If I am all alone with myself, it becomes a very dangerous situation for me. First of all, I feel uncomfortable, and if the situation continues for long, then the situation threatens my very existence. If I am only with myself, I have nobody else to look at but myself, right? And if I look at myself, then I won’t survive for long, because I am not. I’m false. I am a bundle of mischief. I’m a bundle of illusions. I have no center, I have no reality, I am not rooted in Truth.
Everything about me is just hot air, so I would rather that the eyes look elsewhere. I’ll pick the phone and call somebody up, or I’ll travel to the market, or I’ll look for marriage or a social circle, or a weekend group, or some kind of community. That’s loneliness.
Who is the subject of loneliness? The false ‘I’. The ego.
Loneliness comes to the ego, and only to the ego. Only the ego remains lonely.
And we know the story thereafter, the entire sequence of repercussions. You are lonely, so you go and tie a knot with someone who is as lonely as you are, and then there are mutual expectations, which obviously cannot be fulfilled because neither of you are capable of fulfilling them. When you could not give a nice company to yourself, how would you give nice company to others? When you could not tolerate being with yourself, how would the others tolerate being with you? The fellow who strikes a relationship because he is feeling lonely will definitely end up frustrated.
But when he is frustrated, he always has the option to stop looking outwards for the company and instead face the mirror. That option is always available. In fact, every new disappointment is an opportunity. In a series of failed expectations, in a series of failed relationships, every new failure is an opportunity to reflect in the mirror, to look at one’s face honestly, for once. Usually, the Ego refuses to do that. If loneliness is not healed by one relationship, then the Ego ventures out in search of another object to grab and clutch and stick to. "Oh, this one could not give what I wanted, let me try elsewhere." That’s what the Ego usually does. So life just remains a series of frustrations. Each frustration not really different from the previous one, or the subsequent one.
Occasionally, rarely it happens that after being defeated and jolted and thrashed and disappointed many times, the Ego says, "It does not really look wise to keep trying in the same way. Every new overture I can see is just a rehash of the previous attempts. With the same kind of attempts, how am I going to obtain new results? I better stop this idiocy." It is rare that the Ego acknowledges that it is an idiot. But it does sometimes happen. And then one looks at oneself.
It is quite painful, to begin with. As we had said, all one sees is trash. But you can see trash, only if the seeing is honest, right? So, something about you then is not trash. What is it that’s not trash? The seeing. Who’s seeing? The lonely one has begun to see. In seeing, what he is seeing is worthless. But the seeing is NOT worthless. And it’s a new thing that is happening to him. Something really worthy is dawning. If he musters courage and allows the seeing to continue, then the trash just falls away.
The trash has now been called for what it is. Rubbish! Once you call rubbish as rubbish, you don’t feel like supporting it for long. You don’t support it, it falls. So, trash falls away. What is it that remains? The seeing. This seeing is purity itself. This seeing is Truth itself.
Once all the nonsense has fallen, one finds that one does not dislike himself so much anymore. After all, what is it that was dislikeable? The rubbish that one has gathered about his being. One looked at himself and saw just rubbish, and that is what was so abhorable, and that is what made one look for a company somewhere, elsewhere.
Now when you really, honestly, ruthlessly see, then the rubbish falls. When the rubbish has gone, the need to hunt for company has also gone, which means the loneliness has gone. Loneliness, when confronted, shows up as false. All that about you which cried to seek a companion, a partner, something to fill yourself up with, is shown up as an influence upon the mind, is shown up as not your reality. You see that you really have been conditioned to ask for company. You see that you really have been conditioned to treat a few things as indispensable. Those things are not indispensable. That which you take as really non-negotiable in your life might really be of no use. It’s just that physical and social influence has indoctrinated you into believing in something totally false. It’s only one’s falseness that seeks completion. Truth is complete in itself. Why would Truth seek something to add to itself? Only the false, the incomplete, the hollow want to gather and accumulate and add and combine.
So, loneliness, honestly looking at itself, turns into something that can smile at itself, not really frown, not really look at oneself in disgust. Now, this refined Ego is no more scared of looking at the mirror. When it is no more scared of looking at the mirror, then it is alright with itself. When it is alright with itself, then it revels in being with itself. That is called aloneness!
Aloneness is the state of the Ego, in which it does not despise itself anymore. Aloneness is the state of being in which you don’t hate yourself anymore. Aloneness is your state in which you can actually, well, even admire yourself, and honestly so. Aloneness is the state of being in which you do not think of the other as indispensable, neither do you think of the other as dispensable. You do not just think of the other as necessary to complete you. The other could be a person, or an idea, an object, anything… Are you getting it?
But nevertheless, loneliness and aloneness are not so much about the other. They are about the relationship you have with yourself. If you have been living a life that your best self, or your internal honesty, cannot approve of, then you will be very lonely. Your relationship with yourself would be fraught with contempt and disgust. It’s not a nice situation to be in, right? In which you are contemptuous towards yourself? You know what you have been doing; you know that better than anybody else; you know the kind of life you have been living. You know that you cannot respect yourself. That is loneliness. When you know that you cannot like yourself, then obviously you have to turn to somebody else. That is loneliness.
But when you are living a life that is rich, full, honest, then you are alright with yourself. Now, it is not so that you will not have a relationship with the other, it is just that now you will not have a dependent or parasitic relationship with the other. The lonely man is a burden on the other. At the same time, he is prepared to take the burden of another lonely person upon himself. That’s how most relationships are. "I’m lonely, you’re lonely. I’ll take your load. You bear my load." As if that reduces your load! Are you getting it?
But please concentrate on the aspect of one’s relationship with oneself. Nobody can help you in the entire world if, first of all, you don’t like or respect or love yourself. What is the point in admiring a great personality, if you cannot admire yourself? And most people become admirers or fans because firstly they don’t admire themselves. That’s loneliness. The one relationship that is of maximum importance is the one you have with yourself.
The Ego is ugly. It dresses up as pretty, but it knows that it is ugly, therefore, does not like itself, therefore it keeps hopping around looking for one partner, one object, one thing after the other.
In aloneness, you are paying the price for living life rightly, so, there is certain uprightness in life. I know pride is not a spiritual word, but you can even call that a justified pride. One must have that certain pride about himself. One must know that one is not a cheat and coward in the inner sense, and then when he is very comfortable in his own skin, in his own company, one does not remain a social beggar. "Can you just come over? Can you just chat a little with me?" You know of all these things, right? "Oh, my house is so lonely. Can you come and brighten it up a little? My darknesses crave for your glittering company."
Be alright with yourself. Only then will you be able to have healthy and beautiful relationships with others. Aloneness is not the absence of a relationship. Aloneness is the presence of health in relationships.
I’ll just reiterate. First of all, loneliness and aloneness are not about your relationship with others, but about your relationship with yourself.
Once I had said, “Be your own fan.”
Dig up that quote.