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How to stop taking things personally? || Acharya Prashant, with MMMUT (2023)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
10 min
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Questioner (Q): Sir, my question to you is: How can I stop taking things personally? Sir, many a times, it happens like many things and people around us affect our lives. For example, sometimes when our work is not completed on time or it is not completed perfectly, that affects our mood a lot and thus the resultant action, which is not good in any way. So, I just wanted to ask that how can I stop taking these things personally?

Acharya Prashant (AP): You are the person, right? When you say ‘you’ take things personally, ‘you’ are the person who experiences all those things, right?

Q: Yes Sir

AP: So, the first problem is not that you take all the things that happen to the person seriously, that's not the first problem. A lot of things happen to that person, right? There is a person and stuff is happening to the person. Someone comes and says, "Oh! You deceived me!" Someone comes and says, "Oh! You are simply incompetent!" And the person takes these things seriously, and then the person says, "Oh! It's a problem that I take things seriously”, right?

Q: Yes Sir.

AP: No, no! That's not the first problem. The first problem is that the person takes herself seriously. If there is no person, what is left to be taken personally? The person is the first problem, taking things personally comes much later. Why do you take seriously the person that you are? Why do you believe in your personhood so much? It does not need to be so abstract, so we will simplify it.

See, what do we mean by the person? When you say ‘person’, you mean yourself, right? You have a certain age, certain knowledge, you come from a certain background. Somebody asks you, “Where did you do your boards from?” You will talk of a school, you will talk of a city, you will mention the name of your parents. You identify with the gender and you have aspirations and dreams—this is all that constitutes a person, right? That’s what makes a person. So, there is the face and the face represent the body. So, there is the face and then the face has eyes and eyes have dreams, right? And then there is the mind and the mind has thoughts, ideologies, memories, experiences, all these things, right? That's who the person is, that's who the person is, right?

Now, why does this person need to be taken seriously? Where does this person come from? Did you choose your gender? Did you choose your religion? Think of all the things that have happened to you, and you will find ninety-nine percent of all that is simply accidental, right? It just that, the ego within likes to exercise doer-ship. So even if something is accidental, it says, “I did that, I did that.” For example, you must have cleared a certain entrance exam to be in the college you are, right? Now, a lot of that comes from your gray material, your brain stuff, right? IQ is important if you are to clear an entrance exam; of course, other things too are important, but without your gray matter, you will find it very difficult to clear an entrance, right?

That gray matter is largely biological, genetic. One does not choose it, one can at most exercise it, right? And we know of precocious talents, we know of wonder babies, we know of kids who at the age of six are solving problems that you encounter in class eighth or tenth. You have read of them, right? So, all that is just prākritik , natural; and what is natural is accidental. So, how can the person be taken so seriously?

The wind blows this way, the wind blows that way. What’s so important or significant in all that, it's just a random occurrence, right?

The person is largely a random thing. It's just that the ego does not want to encounter the fact of randomness. So, even to random events and a random collection of experiences and influences—like the person—it starts claiming an agency or it starts ascribing an agency.

You understand agency—as if there is a central entity; but there is no central entity, the central entity itself is a myth and the entire aim of wisdom is to get rid of this fictitious central entity claiming to be real. What is this fictitious central entity called? The ‘Ego’, the ‘self’, the ‘I’.

And it's the self , the I that's at the center of the person, right? Now, someone comes and says, “Oh! you are ugly.” The thing is, you did not even choose to be pretty, how can you choose to be ugly? Nobody chooses her color, nobody chooses her height, even the things where we think we have exercised a choice, that choice is a greatly influenced choice, is it not? Think of the way people, for example, choose their college or choose their jobs or choose their partners? Are these free choices? These are not free choices. Though we say, “I chose,” but I never really choose, things just happen.

Water falls over sodium, does sodium choose to react? The explosion just happens. And sodium is more honest than human beings, in the sense that sodium does not have an agency that claims. “I did that.” But when it comes to human beings, we all have a central fictitious agency that says, “I did that.” Whereas events happen just in the way water happens to sodium. That's the way our life events take place. So, why to take the person so seriously?

If you have a certain ideology, probably you got it from your house or neighborhood or school or media, it's not yours! So, somebody comes and casts aspersions at your ideology, that's fine. That's not your ideology. Your religion, nobody chooses her religion, and even when people say they are choosing their religion, even that choice is an influenced choice, so no choice at all. Nobody really chooses a partner, people just fall in love and that's all so chemical, biological, just so predictable.

So, the person herself is a bit of a joke, there is no person. And if there is no person, how can you take things personally?

Let barbs be thrown at you, if you do not exist, how will they hurt you? Will they hurt you? They will not hurt you. Something hurts you only when you exist to resist that thing, right? A stone thrown through air does not hurt the air or does it? But it hurts the first thing that resists it. So, when you see that your personhood is a myth, you become the air, you become the open sky, then you cannot be hurt. You are not hurting me, “I am not who you think I am.” You are throwing something at me, it passes through me. I can be hurt only if first of all, I am the person you think I am, I am not that!

So, when one stops taking herself seriously, it becomes very difficult for the world to hurt her and remember if someone can hurt you, they can also possess you. The one who is able to hurt you will also be able to control you. And you do not want to be controlled, right? The person is controllable. Now we come to the next thing. You are someone who is not controllable. So, you are not the person, but ‘you’ are! And the one that you are, does not want to be controlled. Do you want to be controlled? Do you want to be dominated? No! You are the one who cannot be controlled or dominated and you are not the person.

So, if you allow the world to mean too much to you, the world will simply overpower you, possess you, enslave you. You do not want that, right? See, it's such a remarkable and unfortunate thing.

Those who allow the world to mean too much to them, those who become ultra-sensitive to hurt and praise and such things, they are the ones who become victims of the world. Anyone can come and possess you through praise and anyone can come and possess you through infamy, calumny.

Someone comes and says, “Oh! you are great,” and he has had you. And someone comes and says, “Oh! you are obnoxious,” and this one too has had you. You don't want that to happen, right?

Q: Yes Sir.

AP: So, it's okay, It's okay. You think that I am ugly? Fine. Here is a joke on ugliness. You think I am fat, I am no good, I am good for nothing, I am an incompetent fool? Wait! Just give me one minute and let's both enjoy this joke on incompetence, my own incompetence. Learn to take yourself with more than a pinch of salt. You are not important. You are nobody. Nobody is ever important. The two of us who are talking to each other, I mean, you know what the fate of these two talking entities is? Look at all the dirt by the wayside, all that was persons one day. When you are gone, you will be just the dirt by the wayside, so we will be I, right? Look at the sand, look at the filth, there's dust on the table, right? You know what that dust is? That dust was a person one day. How do I take the person seriously? How do I take it?

I'm not sure if I've been very intelligible, you are free to cross question or whatever.

Q: No Sir, I am clear now.

AP: Thank you!

Q: Thank you Sir!

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