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Self-knowledge and Mind
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
13 min
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Questioner (Q): Acharya Ji, what is Self-learning and Self-knowing, and how are they connected with the mind?

Acharya Prashant (AP): It is a little different. Mind exists only when you are unnecessarily associated with the brain, otherwise, there is nothing called the mind. There is the brain, and the brain is an instrument of Prakriti . (Indicating various objects kept on the table in front of him) Just like this is there, just like this is there, similarly the brain is there. But when the ego principle – that little self, the little thing that keeps calling itself as the ‘I’ – gets associated with the body, and therefore the brain, then something called the mind comes into being; otherwise, there is nothing called the mind. Otherwise, there is just the brain and the Prakritik activity of the brain.

Mind is not even needed. Mind is when ‘I’ becomes an interloper, an unnecessary trespasser. Leave the brain alone and it will think, it will think without ‘I’; but if you are associated with the brain, identified with the body, then your thoughts will be all I-centred. In the middle of every thought, there would be ‘I’. "So, Israel is fighting Palestine" - even this thought would have a very strong I-center. You would not be able to look at the situation dispassionately, with any kind of detachment. Anything happening anywhere, any thought about anything; would impinge on the ‘I’.

Because this ‘I’ is so insecure and this ‘I’ is so lonely, it wants to have a relationship with everything; and this is called mental activity then. This is no more brain activity, now this is mental activity.

Activity of the brain is necessary to sustain the organism. If there is no activity in the brain, your heart won’t beat properly. Who tells the heart to beat properly? The brain. If the brain activity is not proper, then your hands won’t move properly. In fact, if your brain gets hit somewhere, you may get paralyzed in the leg. Now your leg has not been hit, what has been hit? The brain. But, what has been paralyzed? Leg. So, brain activity is alright.

Thought too is just a pure movement in Prakriti , exactly as pure as the flow of a mountain river. Doesn’t a mountain river flow? In Prakriti , everything flows. Similarly, thought too flows. What exactly is thought? Nothing but electrical movement in this mass of flesh, am I right?

Movement of chemicals, there are neurons and synapses and a little bit of current is passing through them; all that is Prakriti. And all that is alright; all that is not suffering.

What is human suffering? And, we must talk of human suffering in any spiritual question because spirituality is first and foremost and ultimately about the alleviation of suffering. And if the question does not concern itself with the alleviation of suffering, it is not a spiritual question at all.

So, suffering is not in the brain; suffering is in the mind, and why is there suffering in the mind? Because the ‘I’ principle is so identified with everything, that it suffers. First identification is with the body; and having identified with the body, it, later on, keeps identifying with every miscellaneous thing, with this, this, something (indicating towards different objects present in the room). Does that answer your question about your reading from J. Krishnamurti, or is something left there? I’ve built a base from where to answer you. Now, I can proceed. Yes.

Q: So, is Self-learning essentially weakening or dissociating the ‘I’ principle from outside?

AP: Self-learning is seeing what this ‘I’ is constantly doing.

Q: In that lies the weakening process?

AP: Obviously, observation is detachment.

Q: How did the mind come into the existence and why?

AP: Before that, you have to ask - how did you come into existence?

You, the one who keeps saying, “I! I! I! I! I!”

The existence of mind is a secondary phenomenon, the first phenomenon is your own existence, the one who says, “I” Who are you? When did you come into existence? Do you really exist at all? Without you doesn’t the brain, the body, the universe, all these, don’t they function more properly, more harmoniously? Are you even needed? Are you good for yourself? These are the questions you must ask about the ‘I’. How did it come into existence? Does it even exist? Is its existence good for anybody? Is its existence good for even itself?

The best interest of ‘I’ lies in going into a permanent sleep.

Q: How can I do that?

AP: How do you remain awake? How do you afford to laboriously remain awake? It hurts you so much. It makes you cry, cringe, whimper, shout; and still, you manage to remain awake. Like someone who is so scared to sleep that she goes on an overdose of coffee, caffeine to while away the night. Is she enjoying it? She’s alone in the house, and she’s too afraid to go to bed. So, what is she doing? She’s effortfully remaining awake by consuming coffee after coffee. Is she enjoying it?

Q: She might be enjoying the taste!

AP: Taste is alright, but are you enjoying the whole process? Just go to sleep; cut the coffee off and go to sleep. But, you are so afraid you want to remain awake. Some Bhoot (ghost) might come; with the coffee, you want to blast away the Bhoot . Even Harsh (one child sitting in the audience) is laughing. Our stories are not even childish, they are infantile. Even a kid laughs at our stories. But, we manage to remain awake, when we should have gone to bed long back. Why can’t you relax?

Self-learning and Self-knowledge are not fundamentally different; it’s just that when you say Self-learning, it contains ‘ing’; and what does ‘ing’ do? It makes it a continuous thing. And when you say Self-knowledge, that makes it sound static, dead.

So, you could as well say, “Self-knowing”. And, knowing is at least semantically superior to knowledge because it is continuous and why must it be continuous? Because you are continuous. Since you go on existing, since you refuse to die, since your presence in time is uninterrupted; therefore your observation must also continue uninterrupted. Therefore, ‘ing’ is needed; but remember that ‘ing’ is needed so that one day ‘ing’ may come to a stop. You cannot keep go'ing' because you will not keep liv'ing', because the liv'ing' ‘ing’ will come to a full stop. So, you better ensure that all the ‘ing’s you are using in your spiritual journey, quickly come to a full stop; otherwise, the ‘ing’ related to this will come to a halt before your all other ‘ing’s come to a halt.

You will continue knowing and you will discover that you have stopped living.

Ah! Too bad!

So, knowing is better than knowledge, but even knowing must come to a stop.

Q: So, are we coming to the Self-knowing concept?

AP: When the self is no more there, who is going to be known? Self-knowing is so that the object that you know and the subject who knows both see their falseness, both see their needlessness, and both say, “We are not needed, uninvited we are barging into the party.” And they both then feel a little ashamed and go away. Man is an uninvited intruder in his own party. Too bad! That’s how we are.

Holy threads, vermillion, sandal paste; anything you want to ask about these? These things are very much in fashion.

Q: I had a question on Rudraksha yesterday!

AP: See, this is good optics (indicating to a lamp kept on the side) I love it; but if you say, “This is part of spirituality”, - no. It is good; aesthetically it is very good, very good. Aesthetically so many things are good. The diya is aesthetically extremely likable, but if you will say that the diya has something to do with...

Q: Divine energy

AP: Yeah, the divine flow of energy or positive vibes, that kind of spirituality. There is nothing here (referring to the lamp) but it’s artistic. In fact, if you look at it, it is a meditative thing to look at it. It’s beautiful, but don’t just say that, “You know, it is a source of positive energy and divine vibes.” You are unnecessarily... Udit (one of the listeners), what else?

Q: Crystal or something.

AP: Even that can become a spiritual instrument someday. One question that you must ask is, “Is it helping me resolve myself?” Even as you read that book, the doorbell rings. The doorbell rings and the fellow who is ringing the bell turns out to be abusive. You’re sitting here and reading the book that you just mentioned, and you get up and you answer the bell and the fellow is abusing you. My question is - that which you have just read, does it help you stay poised and calm and peaceful? If it does, it is spiritual; if it does not, throw it away.

Spirituality is not about some abstract principles in an arcane language; spirituality is about living free from fear, anger, insecurity. A bit of smile, a bit of wit, Love as well as detachment. And here you are reading some fantastic spiritual principle, and there you are throwing punches at the one who is on the door; then what is this book of any worth here? None at all. When we say spirituality is fundamentally about Liberation; Liberation from what?

These are the two words that spirituality concerns itself with – Love and Liberation. Please. When you say ‘Liberation’, that is commonly called as ‘the maarg of Gyaan’, the path of Realization, Knowing; and when you talk of Love, that is the path of devotion, Bhakti maarg .

Liberation from what? Liberation has to be from something. Liberation from what?

Q: The self

AP: More humanly?

Q: From mental activity.

AP: Even more?

Q: Fear

AP: Hmm. So, liberation from fear, liberation from bizarre movements of the mind, liberation from cynicism, desperation; that’s spirituality. Liberation from fear, desperation, overpowering greed. And when we say Love, then love for Truth, Peace, Freedom; that’s Spirituality.

So, if you want to assess whether a process is spiritual or not, whether a book is spiritual or not, whether an issue or a question is spiritual or not; this is what you should ask – “Will it liberate me? I am asking a question; even if I get a satisfactory answer, will that answer liberate me? If it will not, why the hell am I asking this question?” Similarly, in the perspective of Love, you should ask – “That which I am asking, will it bring me Peace, will it bring me closer to Freedom? If it will, then I must ask this question, I must read this book, I must follow a particular method, whatever method it is; and if it will not, then I’ll chuck everything away. Useless!”

"What is the point in all the knowledge and all the rituals and this and that and the entire expanse of spiritual processes and methods, if they do not give me liberation; what’s the point?” That makes it so simple.

Q: Can the same thing happen while going to any temple?

AP: It may or it may not. If it does, then keep going; if it does not, then pause, you are wasting your time.

Q: How will we know?

AP: Don’t you know? How do you know that you have to return to me?

How did you know? You must have experienced something, or some of your experiences would have come to a halt. Just as you know that you have to return to me, similarly, you will know whether you have to return to that temple. Isn’t it straightforward? How do you know you are in love? Don’t you come to know?

On one hand, it is unknowable. On the other hand, it is obvious.

Q: By observation?

AP: Seriously? You observe and then you come to know that you are in love? You know! You just know! I am not discounting observation. If observation helps you reach there, observe; but even observation is not essential. Only the Essential is essential! And anything that leads to Essential, is essential. If observation leads you to the Essential, then observation is essential; if observation is not leading you to the Essential, chuck it away. Nothing is sacred except that which is really Sacred.

Q: Is it the same thing if I have surrendered to you or your teachings?

AP: You’re not surrendered to me. If I start talking nonsense, will you keep sitting? You are surrendered to your own peace. You listen to me because your peace is more present to you, more available to you with me in the front. The day I no more perform that function for you, I will be useless for you. And, go away! Do not keep sitting near a useless me or near my dead body.

This (cup of tea) is going to be on my table only as long as it serves me good tea. I have no more value than this container. First of all, it must contain something; secondly, it must be capable of delivering what it contains. Ultimately, you have to ask yourself, “Is it quenching something here (indicating the throat)?” If it is quenching something here, let it be there on the table. Same question, similar question you have to ask with respect to a friend, a companion, or a teacher, “Is he quenching something here (Heart)?” If he is quenching something here, by all means, be present to him, otherwise, what’s the point?

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