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Deja Vu: The Missing Aspect || Acharya Prashant, with ITM-Mumbai (2023)

Author Acharya Prashant

Acharya Prashant

9 min
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Questioner (Q): Good evening, sir. I am Abhinav Dubey. I am a first-year student. Sir, my question is regarding the phenomenon of déjà vu. Why does it occur? Is there any reason behind that or is it only an assumption of our brain?

Acharya Prashant (AP): How does it matter? What is déjà vu? - something happens and you feel as if it has already happened with you in the past, right? As if you are going through it the second time, not the first time; as if the present is not fresh; as if you have already gone through it earlier, right? How does it matter? Anyway, all your experiences do not carry much of a truth. Anyway, all your experiences are repetitive. So, if you feel that you are having a repeat experience of something, that's neither surprising nor something of an aberration, that is all the time happening.

You see, you meet a girl… I'm building an example that suits your age. So, you meet a girl and you feel suddenly, “Oh! I think I have met her somewhere, sometime before. I have been through this exact experience, this is not happening for the first time.” And you call it déjà vu and you take this as something of a surprise. Why do you take this as a surprise or an aberration? Because you feel that the other experiences in your life are all fresh and original, don't you?

Q: Yes.

AP: But is there anything fresh or original ever in life? You see, you are meeting this girl… Is this the first girl you are meeting? No.

You have just had a breakup, and think of your last girlfriend. There was a day when you met her. It's just that the situations were different but the fundamentals were the same. Look at the way you fundamentally look at this new girl today. You are looking at that previous one in much the same way. It’s just that her name was different, it’s just that the date and the place were different, it's just that your age was a little different then. You were a year younger, maybe. Are you getting it? Her face was different but fundamentally the same thing was happening even then. So, it's déjà vu all the time.

Also, it's not just your own personal experience that you are repeating. You are repeating the cumulative experience of the entire mankind. Your elder brother had met some girl a few years earlier. Are you not repeating the same thing? And then our fathers had met our mothers and then their fathers and their mothers and the same thing has been happening. Man meets woman.

Déjà vu is not surprising. To me what is surprising is, how do we afford to call our experiences as new. When déjà vu happens, you say, “Oh! It is so surprising that this experience is not new”, right? And you start running about in amazement… you say, “Hey, no no no! I know this. I have been through this before.” The thing is you have been through everything before. There is not a single thing in life that you have not experienced a million times before. That is what is called the cycle of existence.

India had realized that. There is no newness here, there is just a circularity. You are going through the same thing again and again but there is constant movement within the circle, so you feel as if you are going to some place new. There's no newness here. There is no beginning, no end. You are just caught in a circuit and everything is just being rehashed, recycled, repeated. Life is déjà vu . That's what the principle of incarnation really means. You have been through it a million times before, son.

Life itself is déjà vu. It's just that you don't realize, we don't realize. And those who realize that, they are the ones who for the first time, come to something new and original. Those who remain in the illusion that tomorrow is a different day, find that they are just repeating yesterday, now labeling it as tomorrow. They never come to any new day. All their life is just a repetition of some primordial ancient point in time. That most ancient point in time is repeating itself again and again in new forms, in new ways, in new colors, in new faces. Not even new, you can call it different, delusional. Just the face is new. As they say, “Old wine in a new bottle.” When I'm talking to young people, the examples have to be like that. Are you getting it?

Q: Yes, sir.

AP: So, there is nothing surprising if you sometimes feel, “I've been through it before” because that is the fact – you have been through everything before. Every single thing that is happening, has happened to you so many times.

It's very interesting… Krishna says to Arjuna—that's in the Gita—“Arjuna, you don't remember but let me tell you, this is not the first time I'm imparting this knowledge to you. This is not at all the first time that this thing is being said to a worthy student.” And then Krishna goes on to name all the previous sages and teachers and masters who had imparted the topmost knowledge to deserving students, but he says, “Arjuna, you have forgotten all that, you don't remember. You live in the illusion that time can bring something new to you. So you feel that every successive day is a new day but from where I am seeing, time is just an illusion. Time has nothing original, nothing new.”

Time is an illusion because time tells you that things are changing but actually nothing changes. Time, basically, denotes change, does it not? When time passes, you feel things have changed. The fact is nothing changes. Things change only for the one who realizes that things don't change. And how do things change for him? He comes out of the stream of illusional change, i.e., the stream of time.

In the stream of time, there is continuous change but that entire stream is an illusion because there is no real change. In the stream of time, everything seems to be changing, right? Today is not like tomorrow, tomorrow is not like day-after-tomorrow, and so on, but all that changes are superficial, just apparent. Deep within nothing is changing.

So, when is it that you can come to some freshness, some originality, some newness? When you are able to cross that stream, when you are able to step out of the waters of time, and then you see, “Wow! Now there is joy, now there is some fun, now I am really alive, now the food is not stale, now the air is fresh for the first time. I'm experiencing for the first time. Because repetition is not experience, or is it? Repetition is not experience, I'm experiencing for the first time. For the first time, it's as if I've opened my eyes. For the first time, I have stepped out of déjà vu.”

So, when things happen to you, ask yourself, “Has it not happened to me a million times before?” And you will be astounded. If you are honest, the answer will always be – yes, this is not the first time this is happening.

Remember the entire history of mankind is contained in you. Births and births and millions of births are there in your body and millions of deaths too are equally there in your body. You have been through it a million times before. All of that you have already been through and it's a great surprise that you are not fed up of it. Having been through the same thing so many times, how do you still manage to act interested? Even the greatest of the movies, how many times can you watch it?

When I was young, somebody watched ‘Sholay’ 25 times. The 26th time, he was threatening everybody around. He said, “If you bring ‘Sholay’ to me again, I'll smack you in the face!” So, it's a great wonder how people do not get fed up and tired of repetition. We are repeating the same old story, the same old script, and the same old mistakes.

Don't you see everybody following the same script? You're a student, then you will take up some job, then you will get married, then you will have kids, then the kids will trouble you, then you will trouble your wife, then you will get old, then you will have hypertension and diabetes, then you will foot the hospital bills and then you will die.

Now, that is your story but is that only your story? That's the story of mankind and is that the story of mankind only in this particular century? No, that's the eternal story of mankind. It's such a boring and repeated script. How do we manage to look at it? And not only look at it, we live it, we enact it, we live as if the script is genuine and real and original.

So, discover your originality. I'll encourage you to leap out of the script and write a new story of your own. Else there is nothing but déjà vu!

Q: Thank you, sir.

AP: Welcome.

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