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The mind is your shadow || On Advaita Vedanta (2019)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
6 min
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Questioner: You mentioned that mumukṣā (deep desire for liberation) is what matters when we choose a path for liberation. But the mind is always playing games. Once I do things against its comfort, it tries to make up stories, create random, non-existent problems for me. Should I listen to my mind? Should I ignore it? Should I be neutral with what it does and just watch? Please guide.

Acharya Prashant: This is how you are looking at it: You are saying that whenever you try for liberation, whenever you move towards liberation, the mind tries to disturb and distract you. You are saying it cooks up stories, it creates random, non-existent problems, and it starts playing various games to disturb and distract you. That may not really be the case.

You see, it’s like this. The mind has had experiences. It proceeds only on the basis of experiences it has had; it has nothing else. The little self, the ego is nothing without time. And what it has been doing through the course of time? It has been interacting with the world. Time means a relationship now and a relationship then; something happening right now and something happening later on. That is time.

So, the mind is all full of experiences, and the mind’s experience has been such that whenever it has wanted to quench its thirst, it has never had pure water available. It has never experienced pure water at all. Probably pure water is something that cannot be experienced. So, what has the mind had? Soda water. So, what has the mind learned? That when you are thirsty, you should have soda water.

Even in soda water, what is the mind really looking for? Water. So, it drinks the soda, and in the soda, what is it that it finds useful? The water. But it does not know water; water has been outside experience. What has been within experience? Soda water. So, now the mind’s conditioning is: when thirsty, get soda water, or some coke or some canned juice.

Now, it’s your mind, not really separate from you. I say the mind is your own shadow, which means your fundamental desire and that of the mind cannot be too different; in fact, they are just the same. It’s just that you exist as ‘I’ and the mind exists as the experiences that the ‘I’ has had.

You, the ego, exist as ‘I’, and the mind exists as the sum total of experiences that this ‘I’ has had. You are conscious, the mind is not, just as the man is alive, the shadow is not. The ‘I’ is conscious; the mind is not really conscious. The mind is a dead pattern. The mind is mechanical.

So, you may decide to move towards pure water. Consciousness gets elevated, and it comes to see that pure water is what would quench the thirst; it tries to move towards pure water. It tries to move towards pure water; the centuries old conditioned mind obstructs the way. It says, “No. No pure water. We must have soda water.” And then you say, “Whenever I try to do something good, the mind tries to distract me.” Is the mind really trying to distract you?

Now, you and the mind are fighting. You are saying water, the mind is saying soda water. And then you send over a question, saying, “The mind is so foolish and so eager. It does not let me do my sādhana . I have mumukṣā , I want liberation; the mind only wants bondages. I want water, the mind says coke.” What you do not see is that deeply, behind whatever the mind is saying, the mind wants exactly the same thing as you do; there is no divergence at all. There is only lack of understanding, and that onus of understanding is upon you.

We said mind is a machine. Can a machine understand? The machine will not understand. You have to see that what all your conditioning, all your habits, all your patterns are crying for is really redemption. It’s a strange thing to hear probably, but even your patterns are crying for liberation. It’s just that they will not spell liberation as l-i-b-e-r-a-t-i-o-n; their spelling of liberation is different, just as the mind’s spelling of water is c-o-k-e.

But you are consciousness, so you must understand, right? If the mind is saying coke, it really wants water. If the mind is saying mocktail, it really wants water. Instead, you are complaining, “I want water, mind wants soda.” That is not the case. The mind is really you in a frozen form. Mind cannot want anything that you do not really want. It’s just that you are a bit intelligent, and the mind is dumb and frozen and unconscious and stupid.

Cooperate with your mind. Learn to take the mind along. Mind is not evil, it’s just stupid. You cannot put somebody to the sword just for stupidity. And how will you kill the mind? Does the mind stand independent of you? Does it?

The mind is your shadow. If you change, the mind will change. And that’s what I am advising you: prove that you have changed. If you have changed, you will be able to convince the mind, just as the shadow changes when the man changes, just as the world changes when man changes.

Don’t dismiss the desires of the mind. Look at those desires. Go deeply into those desires. And behind each desire, you will find only one desire—the desire to be free.

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