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Is your mind really yours? || Acharya Prashant, with youth (2013)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
8 min
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Questioner (Q): How do I call this brain my own if this is nothing but a collection of experiences from the past and influences from the outside?

Acharya Prashant (AP): This question surely won't have been there in your minds a month back. Today it is there because you have come to see that the brain is nothing but a collection of your past experiences. The brain is nothing but a product of evolution and it has all the information that life has gone through and has gathered in the course of these million years of being and becoming.

You have also come to see that it has been often emphasized that any external influence is absorbed by the brain. You surely have been told that the brain acts like a sponge, that it keeps on taking in whatsoever comes from outside. And if I am not mistaken, you have also seen that all these come from the outside is what constitutes your ego. Identification with that becomes your ego. So, now you are wondering, “How do I call this brain my own if this is nothing but a collection of my experiences from the past and influences from the outside? If this is nothing but some kind of board, a blank board, on which anybody can come and write something, what is in it that I can really call as my own?” Go into it. Attentively understand this.

Every bit of the brain is conditioned. In that sense, there is nothing in it that you can really call your own. Every bit, every single cell over here is a pre-programmed cell. And all that programming has not been done by you. The programming is taking place continuously. It is taking place even now at this moment. It has been happening since a very, very long time and it is happening even now. So, yes, in that sense, the brain is not really yours. But don't be disappointed; you haven't lost anything.

There is something that is entirely yours — entirely, entirely yours, and that is your ability to understand all this. That ability we call by the name of intelligence. That does not come through evolution, neither does any external being handed over to you. It is yours and it just manifests itself in moments of attention. So those of you who are attentive right now, within them a very intelligent process is going on — a very, very intelligent process. Now, that process consists of two different sub-processes: one, the language that I am speaking, the form that you are observing over here, all this is surely coming from the past. So, this is external knowledge which has been given to us by somebody else, by an external factor. Neither you nor I just invented the English language. That's one thing. Second thing: you are looking at me in a particular shape and form, this three-dimensional world that we see is again coming to us through our brain. It doesn't have any separate existence of its own, it's our brain which is projecting it. So again, that is a part of conditioning.

Understand what is going on: I am speaking, you are listening, and we are trying to break this down into two different sub-processes. Understand this very clearly. The first sub-process is that which has to do with the brain, and what is that? That is that certain waves fall on the ears and then these waves have to be translated into words that have a certain meaning. And all that is very automatic. All that comes from your past, you already know what a word like ‘conditioning’ means. Your past has told you. You already know what ‘already’ means or what ‘always' means and what all these words mean.

So, all your past has great utility in that sense. The first sub-process is dependent on the past. In the first sub-process, you are making sense of these words. Words are coming to you and you are referring to the database — this contains a dictionary in the mind and that dictionary is telling that such and such is the meaning of that word. This is the first automatic sub-process. This is more or less machine-like. Even a machine can do this. You can have a fairly advanced robot that can receive sound waves and can have a database that can make meaning out of them. You can have a robot which receives words in English but writes down the exact thing in French. It can have the ability to translate. You already have such simple programs on the internet where you type in one language and the output comes out in another language. That is happening with us also right now. The first sub-process, as we said, is fairly mechanical, very-very mechanical.

But the second sub-process is not at all mechanical. This is the process of intelligence, which no machine is capable of and that, only you can do. That is the process of understanding — the very ability to make sense of these words, the ability to go deeply into them and understand what they are all about. No machine can do it today and no machine will be ever able to do it. That intelligence is what makes you human. That ability to be attentive and understand is what makes you special. That is the prerogative only of a human being.

Now, this intelligence, too, sits in the brain, however, it is not the brain. The first sub-process is entirely the mechanical brain at functioning. This second process is also dependent upon the brain in the sense that if today or at this moment our brains are smashed then, obviously, we can't understand. Or if one of us is drunk and his brain is not in proper condition, it is intoxicated, then also you can't understand; the second sub-process won't take place. So, the brain function in two ways: in the first sub-process it is acting just like a machine and in the second sub-process, it is acting as a seat of intelligence. Remember, the brain by itself is not intelligent but it acts as the seat of intelligence.

So, if you identify yourself with the brain, then there is a great problem because now you are identifying yourself with a machine. That will make life very, very dull and boring and mechanical, or very-very machine-like. You only do what you have been programmed to do and that makes a slave of you, and nobody wants to live in slavery, especially young people like us who surely abhor slavery. Right?

Identifying with the brain is deeply problematic but realizing that I am that intelligence which just sits upon the brain — that is beautiful. The awareness that I am not identifying with all the identities, conditioning, all external influences and I realize myself to be intelligent — that's wonderful. Are you getting it?

On one hand, yes, all that the brain has, has come from outside and it is external and please don't identify with that. Beliefs, religion, meanings of words like success, life, work, love — all these have been given to us and the brain has just soaked them in like a sponge and that is what is the process of conditioning or the development of the ego. Correct?

If you become identified with all that then you become mechanical. So, that has to be alertly avoided and has to be understood and only by understanding it, you can avoid it. But the second part is very, very precious. And what is that second? That intelligence. That's what you are. And intelligence also requires a presence of a healthy brain. Remember, we said, if our brains are smashed, there is no question of an intelligent output. So, the brain must be healthy just as a seat of intelligence. The brain is not intelligent but it is the seat of intelligence. The brain by itself is very, very dumb. All it can do is, take orders, and that too is not your order, somebody else's order.

So, the brain by itself is very, very dumb. All it can be is a database. A storehouse or a reservoir of data, of memories which is also pre-programmed. So, it is a database and program, both of which make a slave out of it. But it is also the seat of intelligence.

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