Questioner (Q): Sir, is the past helpful in differentiating between ‘good’ and ‘bad’? Why should we look into our past?
Acharya Prashant (AP): You need to understand it quite subtly. No, there is obviously no need to delete the past. There is no need to absolutely get rid of the past. No, I would never advise that. No sane man would ever advise that.
But sitting over here, who would look at the past? You. For me to look at you, I must be separate from you. Is that not a pre-condition? For me to look at you, I must be a little away from you. Let us do a little experiment. Try to look at your palm. Now, keep bringing the palm closer to your eyes (taking the palm closer to eyes). Are you able to still look at it? Look at it. Now keep bringing it closer, closer, closer still. Ah! Even to look at the palm, you must be at a distance from the palm. So when you say that 'I want to look at the past', even to look at the past, you must first be…?
Q: At a distance from the past.
AP: A little separated from the past. Or is it so that the past itself will look at the past? If you are totally identified with the past, you will never be able to look at the past.
Q: Because you are living.
AP: Right. You are the past. Your entire mind is filled with the past. Even to look at the past, you must stand detached from the past. Do you understand detachment? Otherwise, there is no question of looking at the past, drawing any knowledge out of it. That would not happen.
The situation of most of mankind is that it wants to look at the past while being greatly attached to the past. No, this is impossible. You cannot be attached yet observant. No observation is possible in attachment. When you are attached, you are de-facto the past itself, you are nothing but a bundle of memories. Now, this past has no capacity for honest and free observation. It has no capacity at all. Are you getting it?
So, we are not saying that erase all your memories. What we are saying is to see that as you are today, right now, you are not a product of the past. And then look at it, as if it is available like a database. But even a good computer, and all of us are better than computers, even a good computer knows exactly when to access its memory and when not to. You may have three or four drives, full of TB’s of data attached to the computer but it will not keep accessing the data all the time, it will leave the data free. Even the machine is smart enough to know when to use the data. It is not attached to it, there is no compulsive clinging.
But look at our lives, how we cling to the past. We do not know ourselves. All we know of ourselves is in relation to the past. And we know the world in the same way. We do not even look at the people closest to us honestly. We look at them only through the eyes of the past. Our friends, family members, parents, we have already given them labels according to the past and those labels are all that we see.
Now how can you ever see? We do not know the individual that the father is or that the mother is. We do not know, we only know the label, and that label is coming from the past now there is a problem, there is a great problem. Now you are living in imaginations, and life will hurt now.
Because the fact of life is not available to you, life will hurt you. You would be struggling. You will be meeting resistance at every step and you will keep wondering that 'why is life so harsh upon me'. Because you are not opening your eyes. The stone is here, right now, in front of you (indicating through hands), but your eyes are full of the dreams of yesterday. So the simple stone becomes a huge stumbling block and you fall down and hurt yourself. And that is what our situation is. We are hurt, tremendously hurt. If you look at your mind, it is nothing but an aching mass of hurt. So easily, we are hurt! All of us are carrying so many grudges and complaints and hurt within us. This is the reason.
Life is not some determined villain, out to hurt you, to give you pain. It is our own stupidities that put us in suffering. No, there is no need to not ever look at the past or even the future. Fearlessly look at the past, and fearlessly look at the future, but mind you ‘fearlessly’. You cannot be fearless when you are attached. Do read your history books, do look at your family albums, do project the future, but be centered in the present.
Even when I am forecasting the future, I realize clearly and deeply that I am seated in the present. No memory of the past, no hope of the future can sweep me off my feet. I am not a daydreamer. Yes, I can project. There is a trend that I can project well. This is the probability of this event happening in the future. Alright, do that. Wonderful! But do not let your mind be carried away by that. Do not start identifying yourself with that.
Yes, something did happen in the past, but the past is past- gone, dead, buried. Past is past. And even when the memory of the past is coming to me, then that realization must always be there, that even this thinker must be seated in the present. This present is always all-important. It is unchanging. Time keeps rushing about this present but this present never changes.
You be seated there and seated there, fearlessly. Fearlessly and randomly wander wherever you want to go, there is no limitation, there is absolute freedom. You want to go the past, go. You want take a little walk into the future, welcome. But make sure that your center is at the present. Don’t forget your center.
The mistake that we make is that we forget the center, we forget who we are. We just forget who we are!
Q: Yes, Sir.