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Pretending to be happy? || (2020)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
18 min
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Questioner (Q): Sir, yesterday was my first Satsang that I attended. I came to know about it through your poster. It is indeed very enlightening to be here, to hear you in person for the first time.

As a spiritual aspirant, one tries to keep the mind under control and to go inwards. But, in one of your videos, you question why the mind should be under control when it hasn’t been under control for the last 50 years or so. Could you enlighten me on what could be the process for seeking happiness that is inward, and not external?

Acharya Prashant (AP): Process for what exactly?

Q: As I have mentioned to you, we do realize that the mind goes all around the place, probably because of desires, tendencies and whatever. Then as a spiritual aspirant you have to not allow it to wander, turn inwards and understand, ‘who are you?’, ‘who am I?’, ‘what am I?’ etc. So, one of the ways to do that is the ‘meditative process’ which is sitting quietly. But, it is impossible because the mind wanders, and we consciously try to bring back the wandering mind. So if there is a process, how does one achieve that?

AP: It is interesting when you say that the mind has to be kept within, the mind has to be prevented from wandering. You would see, it sounds almost like a moral obligation. What is the need to prevent the mind from wandering? Is there a need?

Q: Yes, I presume so. I have no problems if I generate the thoughts on my own, consciously. But when the thoughts keep coming up on their own, if there is a nail and I hammer the nail, it's fine. But if there is no nail, and if the hammer keeps on going around, then it looks a bit absurd. In introspection, what happens is thoughts; many of them are crap, and why do they come up? Probably because I have cultivated it that way. Consciously or unconsciously I have no idea but this is the time to correct, I thought. So I am seeking that way.

AP: So what is the problem with having crap thoughts?

Q: It is not required.

AP: So what is the problem with having something that is not required?

Q: It is like having a garbage account.

AP: What is the problem with having garbage?

Q: It stinks.

AP: If it stinks, so what?

Q: We don’t want to have it.

AP: So that is desire.

Q: That is not a desire. That could be an aspiration.

AP: Whatever it is, why do you ultimately not want to have it?

Q: Because I feel it is absurd, which is not coming out of my own will. It is coming out from somewhere.

AP: So what happens when you are subjected to something which is not coming from your own will?

Q: Could you repeat the question, please?

AP: What happens when you are subjected to something that you say is not coming from your own will?

Q: I don’t like it. I don’t like it in the sense, not from the Ego perspective but from an observation perspective, you don’t want to have something that you don’t want to have.

AP: Right. So the mind wanders outwards, and that is not likable. That is not likable, and you know that is not likable. Then why does the mind still wander outwards?

Q: Habit maybe. We don’t know. Cultivated habits which were probably wrongly nurtured, I have no idea.

AP: Is that your daily experience? Once you know that it hurts to put your palm on the flame, do you still do that? Take the example of a kid, a little kid. He may go near a fire accidentally for the first time, get hurt, or get a boil. Then does he repeat what he has done? So then if we say so confidently that the consequences of this wandering are not likable, why do we keep repeating this?

Q: Unfortunately, it happens unconsciously, Acharya Ji, that’s the problem here. The problem is that if it happens consciously, wanting to really hold your consciousness all the time, it may not happen. But that is the problem holding it on. When you are unconsciously happening and when the mind wanders, thoughts go around, thoughts keep coming out, one sits and wonders; where did I get lost so long.

AP: But when stuff happens just unconsciously, then at that moment one is unconscious even of the suffering associated with it. Suffering itself means that the experiencer is conscious of the suffering, right? So, an unconscious activity, if it remains purely unconscious, cannot be a cause of suffering.

If you are unconscious of the activity, then you will unconsciously have the experience as well. There is no problem. Is the happening really unconscious? Or is it a trick of the conscious to enjoy the happening by labeling it as unconscious? You’ll have to see whether the questioner is also the enjoyer of the pleasure that comes from wandering.

On one hand, we aver that the wandering of mind or thoughts is a problem. On the other hand, we remain recipients of the pleasure that comes from such wandering. If the problem is a pleasure, will the problem ever be resolved? Then is the problem, a problem at all? Or is it so that we are calling it a problem, just out of a sense of moral obligation? Do we really, honestly, say that the situation is dislikable? It is understandable that a lot is stored in the subconscious and a lot of movement happens in the subconscious, but suffering jolts you back to consciousness, right?

You are sleeping, let's say and as you are sleeping, you put your hand on a hot plate. When your arm was moving towards the hot plate, it was a movement in unconsciousness, right? You did not know what was happening. But as soon as you touch the hot plate, are you still unconscious? Your suffering itself will pull you up to consciousness. Provided there is suffering. What if there is pleasure?

Suffering itself is a great means of alleviation of consciousness, provided one admits the suffering honestly. Not only will you jump up to consciousness, next night when you sleep, when you go to bed, you will ensure that there is no hot plate around you.

So, in your consciousness, in your conscious moments, you will make arrangements that will protect you even when you are unconscious, like bolting a door. Why do you bolt your door when you go off to sleep? Why do you set an alarm when you go to sleep? Do you see what you are doing?

These are mechanisms to guard against your unconscious state. You know that you will be unconscious, so you have mechanisms. But if you are expecting a grand lover, would you still bolt the door? Would you go to sleep deliberately having left the door open? This grand lover walks in, at midnight when you are deep asleep and walks away with all your belongings. Then you say, "Oh! It happened in my unconscious state". Yes, it indeed did happen in your unconscious state. But didn’t you allow that to happen consciously? What prevented you from bolting the door?

We narrate one side of the story usually, which is the dislikable side. The mind wanders and we say that we do not like it. But the mind is a worshipper of pleasure or happiness; sukh . That is, it's Prakṛti . If it is going out somewhere, for sure it is seeing pleasure in that direction. It can be understood that the mind can be a little foolish and start seeing pleasure where it is not.

But if the mind does that, then it will be corrected by experience, correct? You go to someplace thinking that you will get happiness from that place. You didn’t get happiness in that place, you won’t return to that place. How is it possible that we keep returning again and again all over in our life? That means that we are drawing some kind of fake happiness from places where, forget spiritual joy, even material happiness is not really there.

That’s bad, very bad. Not only are we not going to places where spiritual joy is there, we are actually repeatedly going to places where even worldly, material happiness is not there. And to make things worse, we are calling our experience at such places as an experience of ‘happiness’. Now that’s quite interesting and equally absurd, obviously. We are going to places where we are not even happy and we know that we are not happy there and yet we are returning to those places every day, every night.

But you somehow have to justify to yourself why you keep returning to those places. The actual reason is ‘fear’. The actual reason is ‘faithlessness’. But the Ego does not like the connotations attached to these words. The Ego has learned not to call itself a coward, or an infidel. So the Ego will not say that it is going where it repeatedly keeps going for reasons of fear and faithlessness. So the Ego says, "I am going there because I find happiness there." The real thing is you do not find even happiness there. And the moment you admit this, that the places you keep rushing to repeatedly do not offer you even happiness; you are liberated from those places, and you are liberated from wandering.

But you will not admit that, because it requires guts to admit that. It requires a certain detachment from the status quo to admit that. Is that not so? You have to be prepared for the consequences, then you say, "I honestly admit that I suffer when I wander out." You don’t wander out randomly, right? You know where you go, when you wander out. Is that not so? Don’t you know the contours, the broad contours of your wandering mind? When you say that you are lost in thoughts, are you really lost? No! No one is lost in thoughts. We all have destinations that thoughts habitually go to. Nobody is lost.

We all have our favorite destinations and thoughts are found there.

So it is not a case of getting lost. Are those destinations offering you even pleasure? When you say that the mind has to be turned inwards, why does the spiritual process involve this inwardness? Because we say that, inside lies the treasure trove of spiritual bliss. We say Ātmā is satchitanand , right? All these things we say? Similarly, man is sukh-svabhav . Ātmā can be indicated by ‘Ānand’ and Man (Mind) by sukha . Ānand is obviously far higher than sukha , because sukha will entail dukha and sukha comes and goes and ephemeral, all those things we know of, right? So if the mind is going somewhere, it is for the sake of Sukha .

The moment you clearly tell the mind, "Son, you are not getting any sukha at those places, not Ānand , you are not getting even sukha at those places", the mind is not so foolish that it will still keep visiting those places. Are you getting it? We are a victim of our own inner conspiracies. We don’t name things rightly. We don’t spell stuff out correctly.

Jhuthe sukh ko sukh kahe, maanat hai maan mod.

We are brilliant artists. Make-up artists. We are adept in calling false happiness as happiness. We pretend to be happy when we are not even happy. All of us here know fully well about what I am talking.

Go to your social media pages and you will see what we are particularly dextrous in doing. We hide our own sadnesses from ourselves, and we play with our happiness. Don’t we? That is not only the face we like to display to the world, unfortunately, that is the face that we like to display to ourselves. We want to tell ourselves that all our life investments, all our running around throughout our lives has been successful.

We don’t want to admit that we have utterly failed. So we want to pretend to ourselves that we have succeeded and hence we are happy. These two have to go together, right? If you have succeeded, then you ought to be happy. And if you dare admit to yourself that you are not happy, then you will have to immediately and equally admit that you have failed. If you have failed, then you will risk losing everything.

If you are an utter failure, you will lose social standing, you may even lose your wife or husband. You will even lose your kids' respect. So we keep telling ourselves that we are somebody, and we have succeeded and we are alright. I was just watching an advertisement, and that advertisement showed how you can totally change the context of a picture. And you know what the advertisement read? It said, ‘Perfecting your memories’. What? ‘Perfecting your memories’. So, there was a picture, a photograph in which this young woman is there, and behind her is an ordinary landscape. Very ordinary landscape. And the advertisement showed how with the aid of the new software or app or what-so-ever it is, you can totally change the background. You can even change the way your face looks. If you are at a beach, and most popular beaches are usually crowded, that app or software will allow you to eliminate the crowd totally from the beach and you will appear that only you are there at the beach, and it is your personal beach. You are the queen of that beach. Perfecting your image. That is the game we play with ourselves all our life.

We keep telling ourselves; we are happy, we are good. We keep lying to ourselves.

Now what spirituality can help in this? What kind of process can assist someone who is hell-bent on cheating herself? If somebody outside of you is duping you, then you can be helped. But if you are hatching a conspiracy against yourself, who can help you?

If the mind is going outwards, there is no need to try to forcibly pull it back. Let it go where it wants to go. Just go along with it, and ask, “So this is the place you want to come to so desperately? Now you have reached here, now tell me, how does it look? How does it feel? How does it smell? I am not trying to take you back. I have no allurements, no promises. I am not offering you spiritual liberation or inner bliss. You wanted to travel to the other universes, I have been with you. Now we have come to the place that you wanted to come to. Your desire has been fulfilled, now show me what you are getting?”

You need to have a brutal conversation, which is not brutal actually; just honest. But because we are used to chicanery, honesty these days looks like brutality. I am, for example, accused of being rude.

The mind is going this way, that way; go fully with the mind. Let the mind go as far as it wants to go, and then when it has reached and is exhausted for a while, then ask it, "So, how is it, son? I have not placed any constraints on you. In fact, if you wanted to travel out, I gave you the keys to my car. Take it, that will make your journey easier. How are you feeling now?" And this Q &A session has to be very honest. You know what honesty is? Honesty is, first of all, the desire to know the truth. The intention to be liberated. Before liberation comes, you require the intent to be liberated. That’s what we lack, it’s not the process that we need. It’s the intent we lack.

Of what use is the process to someone who does not even have the intent? If you have the intent, the process is so straightforward. Only two things are possible, the mind goes off to some place and it finds happiness there. If it finds happiness there, let it go where it wants to go. What is the problem? You don’t have to really tick a box by somehow pulling the mind back to the so-called source. If the mind is really finding happiness at some place, let the mind go there. And if the mind is not finding happiness there, then what is the point in going there?

When we are afraid, then we cannot honestly ask ourselves; is this what I wanted? At forty moments throughout our day, we should keep asking this question to ourselves. “Is this worth having? Is this what I want? Did I set out for this? Is my life meant for this?” You should be asking this to yourself, every fifteen minutes. But we will not ask ourselves this question because this question will make it impossible for us to live and function the way we do. This question will destroy the patterns of our status quo. So, we will not ask. In fact, we very well know what the answer to this question is. So we deliberately avoid asking this question.

Even if the question somehow manages to spring up, we immediately smother it and suppress it. We know the answer. We are not happy as we are. We are not alright, but we are afraid. So we cannot break out. We cannot let go of our jobs, we cannot change the family environment that we are trapped in; we are afraid. Therefore, it requires someone with a real sharpness of intent. Spirituality is not some passive activity. It is active warfare. You need to have the taste for that. Spirituality is not for people who are easily satisfied, people who can compromise with situations.

Timidity does not sit well with spirituality. Spirituality is for those who are fed up and will not tolerate stuff a second longer.

In a nutshell, do not try to bring the mind back to some unknown place. There is nothing called within. As far as we are concerned, everything is without; external. There is just the world. So instead of trying to pull the mind back, enquire where the mind really goes to. Go to that place. Sharply investigate. That’s what is needed.

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