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Personality is a sum total of your masks || Acharya Prashant
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
23 min
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Acharya Prashant (AP): It is also an assignment, correct? You did not write it on your own accord; somebody assigned this work to you, right? Is there any difference? Is this sheet of paper any more or any less significant with all the heaps of assignments that you have created so far? What has been our education all about? When we talk about assignments, what has been our education all about? What did you start studying? What have you been studying till now? You have studied the languages, English, Hindi. You have studied History and Geography. You have studied Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, and now you are a student of Technology. But let me ask you, are you the languages? Are you the languages? Are you the rivers and the mountains? Are you the details of History? Are you the particular formulae of the number system? Are you this air conditioning unit that you study in your Technology classes? Are you this electromagnetic motor here? You are not any of that. What is common between all elements that you have studied so far? What is common between all of them? Come on identify. What there has been common between everything that you have studied so far?

Q: We are studying them.

AP: You are studying them. What were you studying? You are always studying something external, right? Always studying something external and what did you call that something external as? You call that as the ‘Subject’. You call that as the Subject, ‘this is the Subject I am studying’ (pointing to a student) What is your name?

Q: Usha

AP: So, she is holding this pen, right? Let’s say Ram is holding this pen. Identify the subject and the object here.

Q: (everyone) Ram is the subject and pen is the object.

AP: Ram is the subject and pen happens to be the object, all right. Ram is studying Micro processers, now identify the subject and the object.

Q: (voice not legible)

AP: Yes, now you can’t reply with that much of certainty because it contradicts what you have been believing all your life. Ram is holding this pen, identify the subject and object. Now Ram is the subject and pen is the object, so you say, right? Ram studies Microprocessors, identify the subject and the object.

Q: Microprocessor is the object and Ram is the Subject.

AP: Microprocessors is the object and Ram is the Subject. But this inverts the logic that we have been following all your life. For you Microprocessors has always been the ‘subject’, and you have been the ‘object’, and all your life this delusion you have been carrying with you. Had it been limited to language, had it been just an aspect of language, it would not have been dangerous; it would not have been tragic. But unfortunately, it is not merely limited to language, it is a mindset, it is a mindset that the microprocessors or compilers or a particular language—I suppose we have CS students here, right? CS and EC—so this mindset that all of these happen to be the Subjects extends deep within our minds.

Today, the significance of this sheet of paper, this simple sheet of paper, some of you have used just loose pages, the significance of this sheet of paper is that probably for the first time you have written down something totally, totally about yourself. If not for the first time, even then it must be a rare occasion, a rare occasion. But you see, look at the irony of all this, when you will do an assignment about an object, for the sake of other objects, you will do it in the most elaborate way possible. Look at your practical files, look at your sheets of assignments, which you create for the sake of others. Look at the way you decorate them up, look at the way you present them nicely, and look at this poor sheet of paper. You have used the last, the neglected pages of your register to write down about that which happens to be the only real Subject- yourself.

That is the reason when I go to campuses, I am never tired of repeating that all your education till this date, 15 yrs, 18 yrs of education, all your education put on one side and the HIDP put on other side and HIDP outweighs all the education that you have received so far. In fact, a single session of HIDP is more precious than all the education that you have received so far. And I am saying this in full cognizance of every single word that I am saying. I am saying that a single session of HIDP outweighs your Class 10th Mark sheet, Class 12th Mark sheet and it outweighs the degree that you receive from here. It will outweigh even if you do a Master's or a Doctorate degree. For the simple reason that the HIDP is about the real subject, all others are objects. You are more important than anything else. Because you are more important than anything else hence, this sheet of paper is more important than any other object you have studied so far. And it is a little amusing that wherever I go I have to take great pains to bring the audience around to understand that you really are important, that you really, really are important.

We are not here to deny the importance of Mathematics or Technology but howsoever important they might be, they are always less important than you. Now the moment I state this, this does not bring about any resonance of agreement from the audience. It often brings about disbelief on our faces. “Sir, are we really so important? You have just come over and in the last five minutes, you have declared that we are much important than anything else but that is not what has been told to us all in our lives. All our lives, we have been repeatedly told that we are inadequate, incomplete, unworthy and all other things around us are far more important. Our Subjects are important, the society is important, the family is important, what others say is important, all the knowledge that has been accumulated down the centuries, that is important. But we have been repeatedly told that 'we' are far less important than any of that. And here are you in one stroke you are trying to tell us that ‘no’.”

Well, yes that is what I am telling you, we are here to understand, we are here to restore our primal position. We are here to put ourselves back in the place that we rightly deserve and which we, in fact, never lost and can never lose but just forget, sometimes. We are here to talk about ourselves. And that is why this sheet of paper is, probably, the most important document that you have ever created. How many of us think that we are unworthy, incompetent, not fit to live, unintelligent beings, anybody here? If we are important, then what is the worth of this sheet of paper? Yes, is it just one of those documents that we keep creating, copying from here and there, submitting assignments, writing examination papers making notes in the classroom? Is it one of those documents? Or is it something precious, very, very precious? Is it important, this document that you have just created? You are not quite sure. Are you important?

Q: Yes Sir.

AP: Then is the sheet important?

Q: Yes Sir.

AP: If this is important, what would we do with it? Sit over it, throw it away? What will we do with it? Or will we seek clarity on it? Yes.

Q: Yes sir. Seek clarity.

AP: What will we do with it? Whose life-questions are these that you have just written down? Your neighbors’? Your uncles’? The entire society's? Whose questions are these?

Q: Ours. (everyone)

AP: Whose life is being talked of?

Q: Ours. (everyone)

AP: Then who must gain clarity? You see, what is happening? Even observing this that is happening, will tell you a lot about our minds. Till the time it happens to be something theoretical, well, whose life, mine, this that. The moment it comes to something concrete, taking action, we find that our voices fade off. So, whose life is this? We do hear some voices, MINE! (emphatic tone). So, who will take action? Me (low tone). Now the voice suddenly dips down. Because admitting this that I am the one who will be responsible, I am the one who has to take action, and taking action here means understanding, that I am the one who must understand, in that we are not quite eager.

We are not quite eager because we are just saying it as a matter of wordplay, that I think I am important, I think this sheet is important. The fact of the matter is most of us here actually really do not believe that this sheet of paper is of any consequence. The fact of the matter is once this session is over, maybe half of us or maybe more than half of us will throw this sheet away. Some of us will preserve it but will preserve it just like a dead document, never to look at it again. Deep within we are so deeply conditioned about our own unworthiness that we can not change ourselves randomly because the speaker comes to happen and speak to us for 15 minutes. But we will try, we will see, we are intelligent beings and that is what the session is for, if this is our life, we will seek clarity on it.

And how does one seek clarity on it? By hiding it, by suppressing it? Yes, how do we seek clarity on this? We seek clarity on these by bringing them in front of our eyes, by raising these issues, by making these issues available to ourselves for understanding, for discussion, for attention. If we take them away, if we take them away from our conscious mind, if we take them away from our eyes, then these issues will remain hidden, as they say, you know, under the carpet. We will not hide these anymore under the carpet, we will bring these out, we will talk about them and because it is our life, we will give them utmost respect to what we are saying.

There are too many of us here and time is limited so it is pretty obvious that not all of us will be able to speak but remember whosoever raises a question, whosoever raises an issue, it is everybody’s issue, because ultimately our minds are fundamentally the same. Anybody here who does not think about the future at all? Anybody here who is not restless? So even if a single person raises a question about hopes and ambitions of the future, is it not everybody’s question? Yes, the details may be specific to that person but in general, that question belongs to everybody, does it not? So, if X is raising a question, will the rest of us say, “well the question belongs to X why must I pay attention”? Will we say that? Or will we say, “well it is my own question”?

The speaker here will ensure that the answers are such that they are applicable to everybody but the attention has to be yours. I repeat and I request it is your life, it is one precious and important life, yours, and hence attention and responsibility has to be all yours when somebody raises an issue and the speaker tries to answer it. And even to say that I will answer it, is not appropriate, because I am no authority to answer them. Maybe you have been told a few things about me, which will mostly be about my background but that in no way makes me an authority. I am not an authority because you are the subject and the subject is higher than any other object. If you are the subject then with respect to you, who am I?

Q: An object.

AP: An object, just an object, and my importance will always be lesser than your importance. So even when you listen to me, it has to be your own attention that will help you, not my words. My words are just a means to bring you to the point of attention. But whatsoever I may do, how so ever much I may try I am just an object with respect to you. You are the all-important entity, the subject, right? So only you can help yourself, I will just try to chip in a little bit. It’s all right. Who will be the first one to raise a question? Yes. Who will be the first one to speak? Yes, speak, open up, unless you do that this will remain just where it is. Words on a sheet of paper, show them the light of the day. Come on, speak.

Q: How can I get a dynamic personality?

AP: Is there anybody here who is not all, not at all concerned with the word ‘personality’? I don’t suppose there is anybody here, so this again, as I said, it is not only his question, Himanshu, you said right? This is not only Himanshu’s question, this question is for all of us. Because there is hardly anybody here who is not bothered about personality. We'll have to go into it, and if you are with me, remember I will be speaking and you will be listening but that does not mean that I am doing the work, you will be working along with me. Attention has to be from both sides, I will be speaking in attention and you will be listening in attention, right?

We have to understand the word ‘person’. Person, personal, and personality are three very interrelated words, of course, you see that the root is the same. And they keep popping in front of us in the course of our daily life. We have to understand them, they are worthy of being understood.

What do we call as the person?

What do we call as our personality?

What is it that we call as the person or the personality?

What do you mean when you say, “Somebody has a personality”?

What do you mean when you say, “My personality is of this nature”?

Now, is not personality the sum total of all your identities? The moment you say, “I am like this. I am smart.” Right? And that you will say is an aspect of your personality, am I right? Stay with me, keep responding so that I know that we are together.

Q: *(everyone)*Yes sir.

AP: Is that not an aspect of your personality? “I am smart.”

Q: Yes.

AP: Now, you also see that this is a statement of identity. Any statement that says, “I am x, y, z” is a statement of identity. Right? Now, where does this come from?

You are born in India and you happen to be of an extremely dark complexion. And because this is a land which unfortunately is obsessed with white skin, it is probable that right since your childhood you are repeatedly told that your complexion is not what it could have been. And what do you grow up with? You grow up with a statement saying that “You know, in my personality, my complexion is one of the weak points, the hindrances.” We have seen ample cases like this around us, right? Have we or have we not? In fact, I have seen often, I mean, your seniors, as well as all around, in their CV when they have to write about their strengths or weaknesses, or when they have to answer a question like that in the course of an interview, “What are your strengths and weaknesses,” they always, in fact, invariably come up with statements relating to their personality. I have seen often, and girls especially, if it happens to be something to do with their complexion, they may or they may not state it but they often take it as an aspect of their personality and as an undesirable aspect of their personality.

They will say, in fact, they will come to a point where they will say, “Well, this is my weakness. It is my weakness.” Now is it really your weakness, or the mindset of the people around you?

Q: Mindset of people around us. (everyone)

AP: Had you been born in, say, Nigeria, would still dark complexion have been a problem? But then you integrate the opinions of others around you and you start to believe that, “This is what my personality is.”

People would come up in the course of discussions with us and they will say, “I am a very forceful speaker.” Well now, how do you really know that you are a forceful speaker? “Well, sir everybody tells me so.” Now, upon whom is the force being applied? Upon others, right? And who are those others? Those others are the ones that you have chosen to be around you.

Now, if I have a certain mindset, am I likely to choose such people around me upon whom I cannot apply any force? Think of this. I myself have gathered such people around me who will be easily enforced. And what do they tell me? “Boss, you speak with such tremendous force.” And the fellow comes and says, “I am a forceful speaker.” Now, is he a forceful speaker, or are the others being subdued, others that he himself had chosen?

Whatever, Himanshu (questioner), we call as our personality is always a thought inserted in us from the outside. Always, and always without an exception.

Now, if I am the subject and everything outside is the object. Then what is happening? What is happening is that the right way of things is being inverted. The object is dominating the subject. I am being made to believe in things, I am being made subservient to things that should have been ideally subservient to me.

Do you know where does the word personality comes from? It comes from the Greek word ‘persona’. And persona means a mask. ‘Sona’ means sound. Sona is sound. And persona means a mask so that only the sound of the actor on the stage can be heard. The actors in the ancient Greek theatre used to wear masks which were called the persona.

The very origin of the word tells us, what does personality means. It is a mask being worn from the outside. It is not you. It is not at all you. Personality, the word itself is fake.

And what do we mean by having a dynamic personality? Personality, the word itself denotes that it is fake. It is something that I am wearing. And that ‘I’ that is wearing is the real one. But we have worn not one mask but masks upon masks. So many masks that we have lost all sense of whether we really exist. We know ourselves only as the sum total of all these masks. All these masks coming from outside. “I am a Hindu, I am a son or a daughter, I am a student of technology, I am a budding engineer, I am an Indian.”

How many of you chose to be born in India? Anybody who gave an application, “I must be born in this Punya Bhumi (Holi land).” Anybody who decided his religion here? Anybody who decided his or her gender over here?

But then you cannot speak without identifying yourselves with a name, with a country, with a gender, with a place, with an occupation, with a society. Don’t we see that all of them are coming from outside? These are just personas. These are just personas, masks that we are wearing upon ourselves. Are we together till this point? That what we call as personality is nothing but the masks that come from outside. That cannot be the real me.

Then the question arises that why does Himanshu want a dynamic personality? Why do all of us want a dynamic personality? And what do we mean by dynamic personality?

Well, go into your mind, see where does the notion of a dynamic personality come from. See where the notion of dynamism comes from. What is dynamism? What do you mean by, “You know, he is very dynamic”? What do you mean by ‘very dynamic’?

In our mind dynamic is related to something—you know, heard of the word dynamite, you know what a dynamite is? —in our mind dynamic means somebody who can change the order of things, who can move around, do this and do that. Deep within we have a desire to change. And because we have a desire to change, we want dynamism. But can an unreal thing really change something? Answer this. Can an unreal thing bring real change? Is it possible to have a 'personality' which is dynamic? Or will the personality-less entity be dynamic? Look at my question and answer this. If it is a mask, is it alive or is it dead?

Q: Dead.

AP: What is alive? The face behind the mask, right?

Q: Yes sir.

AP: What is likely to be dynamic? The mask or the real face?

Q: Face. (everyone)

AP: What can really be dynamic? The mask or the real face?

Q: Real face. (everyone)

AP: If dynamism means the ability to change, when we say ‘dynamic forces’, we mean things that have the potential to bring about change. Right? What can really be an agent of change, the mask or the real face?

Q: Real face. (everyone)

AP: So, if I really want change, if I really want dynamism, will I strengthen my personality, or rather get rid of it?

Q: Get rid of it. (everyone)

AP: To strengthen my personality means to wear all the more masks. One more mask, one more mask. Now, it is a mask of dynamism.

If I really want change should I accumulate more masks, or should I rather get rid of masks?

Q: Get rid of masks. (everyone)

AP: So, Himanshu, there can never be really anything like a dynamic personality. But I understand your dilemma because all along in magazines, newspapers, the internet, from your friends, society, family you have heard phrases like these. “Oh, he is such a dynamic personality.” People do not understand what they are talking. And hence we are not to be blamed, in fact, nobody is to blamed. Because we are all taught by each other all these things. One ignorant man, what else can the poor man do? He can only spread more and more ignorance around him. He is not to be blamed. And we are surrounded by such men around us, who keep on passing over their ignorance to others as well. And this is what is called conditioning. Have you heard of this term, 'conditioning'?

Q: Yes sir.

AP: Conditioning means to insert a concept inside somebody’s head, without the other person understanding it. Conditioning means to be affected, to allow ourselves to be affected by something without understanding it. That is what is called conditioning.

Himanshu, I understand what I am saying may sound a little weird to you initially. But let it just stay. When I started, I said, “I am not an authority, nobody can be an authority.” So, you don’t need to agree with what is being said. Right? You really do not need to agree with what is being said. But you also don’t need to disagree with it. Just try to understand. Bring yourselves fully to it. Don’t try to agree, don’t try to disagree. Don’t compare that “We have been told such and such thing in the past, so now….”


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