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What does it mean to be yourself? || Acharya Prashant (2016)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
34 min
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Questioner(Q): Do I need asking myself the permission of someone else in order to be myself?

Acharya Prashant (AP): You see when we are social beings, when everything about us is so obviously and distinctively just social, then whatever we do is social. Even the most intimate about us becomes public, social and hence vulgar.

Now we were in a café this morning and we were watching a group of people. Now the head of the group was playing the guitar. There was a girl, a woman, who was composing something, writing something in her book. One of her arms was stretched out. A man, probably her boyfriend, was scribbling something on her arm. And three other friends were playing carrom board. And it looked such a perfect picture of contentment and happiness.

I asked myself- Is the picture coming out of happiness or is the happiness coming out of the picture? We’ll go deeper into this. I asked- does the picture come first or does the happiness come first?

Don’t we already know which images are to be associated with happiness? For example, the moment you see somebody’s face, somebody’s lips in a particular configuration, which we have named as smile, we immediately say that the person is probably happy or at least in a good mood. Are you getting it? It is the symptoms that we associate with the actuality?

Now if we have been fully convinced that such and such are the images of happiness then we will be keep chasing those images. And where do those images come from? They come from the society, they come from the others.

For example: Somebody gets married, and he puts up a wedding picture of his on social media. And it is immediately assumed that this is something to feel happy about. You quickly know that you need to congratulate that person. Now how do you know that this is actually something to be happy about? How do you know?

Q: By seeing the faces.

AP: Yes, by seeing the faces, and by proceeding on the principle that since this is the name given to such images, so the linkage must be true. Then somebody puts up a pic of her carrying a newly born baby. The pic reads “my bundle of joy” or something. And you immediately react to it as it is a happy moment. How do you know that it is a happy moment? How do you know that what we call as happiness is actually happiness? Why is it not possible that we are just living to conform to the images?

I have been told that happiness is an image of me holding a trophy. Now I want to actualize that image. I want to materialize that image. I want to see myself holding the trophy. Not because the trophy has any intrinsic value for me, but because it has been embedded in me, that holding a trophy in your hands is called happiness. If holding a trophy in your hands is what is called happiness then you will not allow yourselves to be happy without the trophy.

That is what you mean by taking other’s permission. Now the trophy is not yours. The trophy is a social institution. To win the trophy you’ll have to play by social rules; can you just go and pick up the trophy? No. To win the trophy you’ll have to play by social rules, because It will be the society that will accord the trophy to you. Right?

The trophy is not your property. The society gives it to you in lieu of certain social conduct or achievement. And remember what you call as achievement too is defined in social terms. Somebody else defines. If you reach from here to there, in such quick time then you’ll be regarded as an achiever and then you can take home the trophy. Are we getting it?

It would have been alright had this thing been limited to only the tertiary, the superficial aspects of living. But it becomes horrible if such social impact percolates right to the center of our being. Then the center itself becomes social. That is what is called as social ego. Then your love is social. Then your freedom is social. Then your joy is social. Then everything about you is totally social. Then you choose your partner, your friends, your associates according to social suitability. You do not look at them with your heart. You look at them with social eyes. You look at them thinking what would others think of them. You look at them with the criteria whether they would be acceptable to others. Are you getting it?

Now is this not something very scary that society, instead of being limited to our doorsteps, comes right to our bedroom and then upto our heart? Had that not been the case how would it have been possible to so quickly identify people on the basis of their ethnicity or nationality or social group?

You remember when we were sitting yesterday, it was not very difficult to identify the couple of Germans present in the discussion? You did that very easily. It only means that everything about me is according to my nationality. Then where am I, and who am I? I’m just a conditioned machine then. I’m a CD (compact disk) on which much has been written and the CD knows nothing of itself, sans its social contents, the CD would have been nothing.

This evening is a beautiful occasion to ask something, to be here, not as a social product but as somebody with a live center, but as somebody who lives from her or his heart. Let not your various experiences speak through you. Let not your entire life history talk through you. Can “you” talk? Or would all the uncles and aunts and grandfathers and the ancestors and the neighbors and the school and the church and the police talk through you?

Observation, that I have been talking of so frequently, is to immediately identify that this was the priest talking through me, oh this was the headmistress talking through me, oh this was my family lineage talking through me, oh this was the impact of this morning’s altercation with the neighbor talking through me.

We will not talk like that. We have the potential to talk as ourselves and thanks for putting it so nicely; We don’t have to take anybody’s permission to talk as ourselves. People know of us as a certain image. When that image will be violated then the expectation of those around you would be hurt, that is obvious. That is obvious.

But if they are really your well-wishers, really your friends, they would see that there has indeed come a change, but the change is an auspicious change. That you have moved towards your center, that is why now you appear changed. So don’t be afraid of being yourself.

And remember “being yourself” is a very abused phrase. Being yourself does not mean acting as per your conditioning. Being yourself means being the pure consciousness. That’s what you are. Being yourself means being the highest and the purest that you can be. That’s what you are. Being yourself means being the most innocent and lovable that you are. We’ll speak as that. We’ll be here as that.

There was a reason why we got imprinted with so many footsteps. Some of our own people, some of strangers. It was settings like these where the mind got burdened, where the mind absorbed so much foreign material. And here it is again a social setting, yes, we are sitting together. So this is right now some kind of a society. Here It is again a social setting and this setting is proving to you that there can be an alternate society, that there can be an alternate way of man dealing with man.

When we deal with each other we need not deal with each other in order to enslave each other. We can deal with each other in a way that liberates both of us. Is it not possible? Is it possible to be in a relationship and, the network of relationships is what we call as society, is it necessary to be in a relationship that necessarily enslaves both the ends?

Or, can you have relationships that have a purifying effect? We’ll prove to ourselves that the latter is possible. We’ll prove to ourselves that you can be related to someone in a way that takes you to your heart.

You know that’s a beautiful way of seeing what love is. Love is that which takes you to your heart and the real lover is the one who eases your journey to your heart. Someone who takes you away from yourself, cannot be your well-wisher or lover. You have no obligation to relate to him. We’ll relate to each other differently. We are already doing that.

If you’ll ask a question as an Indian or as a Hindu or as a catholic or as a German, then the answer will benefit the Indian, the Hindu, the Catholic, and the German. You will not be benefitted. I’m interested in hearing your beautiful voice. Not the voice of all that which has stained and corrupted you.

There are a very few of us who have ever heard our own voice. Very few. Don’t you feel that irresistible desire sometimes to hear your own voice, to watch your own face? To be totally naked and not be accountable or answerable for it? To not to be held guilty for being what you are? Don’t you feel that urge sometimes? It’s a very pious urge. This urge is the very basis of religiosity. This urge is spirituality. This urge is love. Yes, please come forth.

Q: Actually I always have this guilt of being just that. But many times I see myself doing not that which I would love to do, would be my best interests and this is very painful ….

AP: Yes, yes. Very painful. Absolutely painful. We could even say that is the sum total of all human suffering. You know our nature is intelligence. And that intelligence doesn’t even have to be awakened. We are intelligent. It is just that while we are intelligent, we are free as well. We are free even to reject our intelligence. Now that might sound stupid to reject intelligence. But we have that freedom.

We all know what is what. There is nothing called ignorance. There may be false knowledge. But nobody is ignorant. Deep within we all know the tragedy is that in spite of knowing, we look the other way. We take the opposite path.

Why? because you are afraid. And when we do that, that puts one more scar on the psyche. That gives us one more wound. We are unable to forgive ourselves. We say, I knew what was the right thing to do. There was that little voice that was constantly telling me and yet I yielded. Yet I surrendered to the wrong entity.

All suffering is in some way just guilt and that is why it has been beautifully said; one must understand the full import of this saying-“suffering is sin”. Not only is sin suffering. suffering is sin. And there is only one sin- to not to be, what you are. There is only one sin-to allow others, to allow the world to dominate you to become too heavy on you.

Q: It starts from the womb itself with subject to such unintentional or intentional violence of our conditioning from our conditioned family, from the womb itself.

AP: Yes, it starts from the womb itself. To be carrying the entire history of the father and the mother in yourselves is in itself conditioning, influence, imprint. Is it not? You do not arrive pure. You do not arrive as a clean slate. You arrive already conditioned.

Somebody’s born with blue eyes, one particular baby is more moody and temperamental, somebody is born a male, someone else is born a female. You are already born conditioned. Now how do you proceed from here? To be born itself is to be born with the seed of suffering. Now how do you proceed from here?

And if you can go into this and answer this I assure you that this evening you’ll return with a clear understanding of what is right relationship, what is society, what is love and hence who we are. If you can give all your attention to this question you’ll gain a lot of clarity. Yes, so a child is born conditioned, Yes?

And there is the mother and the father. And the mother and the father are loving parents. Now how do they proceed? And the child is physically conditioned. He’s carrying the impact in his very genes. What do we do? We are that child remember. We are the ones who are born. We are talking about ourselves it’s our life story. Yes, how do we proceed from here?

Q: We learn?

AP: Now this learning could either be observational or social. It could be observational if it is coming from your deep attention, or it could be social if it is coming to you via knowledge. Knowledge supplied through media, textbooks, peers, family, school, college. Why does one need any kind of social treatment? Why does society teach anything to the child?

Q: To create some semblance of order otherwise everyone would just be doing whatever they felt like.

AP: Right. So you create a semblance of order because you perceive that the child that is born is a conditioned child and is hence carrying seeds of disorder. Correct?

You see that little kids can be very violent sometimes. There was a Langoor in the balcony of my hotel. And from one of the rooms there were two young girls who were behaving in a very odd way with the animal. So even little ones are born with great capacity for disorder. Left to themselves it is quite possible that the physical disorder would manifest itself. So society says I want to correct that disorder.

The child has a potential for hatred, for self-centric behavior, for violence, for being identified with the body. The society says I will do something to correct that. Society says there is a physical layer of conditioning. I will provide education and training to liberate the child from that physical conditioning. That is the intention, right? The society wants to do good to the child. But what does it end up doing?

Q: Is that really the intention may be it’s the stated intention, may be the true intention is its own fear that this child want to displace my security and safety in society?

AP: Yes, so when that happens, when the social forces that are working on the child are more concerned about their own safety and security, then the social impact does not clear the physical impact instead it becomes another impact. Then the social treatment that is applied to our psyche does not clear our physical chains instead it becomes another chain.

Now when we are talking of the society we are talking of human beings. We are talking of the child’s relationship with somebody; somebody who is providing education to the child, somebody who is giving guidance to the child, somebody who is providing a sense of morality to the child. What would be the right relationship of the child with anybody and hence what would be the right relationship of anybody with anybody? What would be your right relationship with anybody? I’ll come back to the point I’m coming from.

We said a relationship, that is self-serving, would only condition the other one more, right? As parents often do. So instead of liberating the child they end up shuttering the child even more. Instead of easing the child’s physical chains they give him a few more chains-social chains.

And we are saying that is not quite a right relationship. Then what would be a right relationship? What would be your right relationship with anybody? What would be your right relationship with a child? What would be your right relationship with your lover? We saw what is not a right relationship, hence, what would be a right relationship?

Q: Bond without Exploitation. we are living eccentrically so automatically we relate eccentrically to others.

AP: More on that.. yes, yes, keep coming. If I have an authentic relationship with someone what would be the effect of this relationship on that person?

Q: Set us free?

AP: And that probably is the only hallmark, the only test of the right relationship.

Q: What do you mean authentic?

AP: That which sets the other free. Simple.

Q: How do I be more authentic?

AP: When you are not being fake. Ask yourself whether you’re being fake.

Q: So right now, how do I feel….

AP: When you’re being fake then you feel a certain restlessness and dis-ease. Are you feeling that?

Q: I mean a little bit of social anxiety but not ….

AP: Yes if you’re feeling a little bit of social anxiety then there is a little bit of corruption already. And if there is a little bit of social anxiety then that anxiety is coming because of the society immediately present.

Q: Yes.

AP: Then in a sense we are trying to project an image or are afraid that the image might be spoiled.

Q: Image of?

AP: That our image that we hold in our eyes. It might be spoiled. That will prevent an authentic relationship between me and the other.

Q: So, how do I be more authentic?

AP: By seeing that by being fake I am only harming myself, feeling guilty, restless and the other things. Nobody wants to feel restless. Does anybody enjoy tension?

Q: So how can I be more authentic?

AP: By seeing that you don’t want to suffer. And that is our nature. Nobody wants to suffer. By seeing that- as the first question came- that all anxiety is unnecessary.

Q: So how do I be more authentic?

AP: Are you alright as you are?

Q: I’m fine.

AP: Then you are already authentic.

Q: But How do I ..

AP: How do you then what .. if you are already authentic then..

Q: If I have anxiety..

AP: There is no question of if, if you are already alright then don’t go into ifs. It’s like saying that I’m healthy but what if I am diseased. If you are healthy then you are healthy. It stops here.

Q: But if I am feeling anxious you said I’m not authentic.As if I am feeling anxious, hence I’m not authentic, how do I..

AP: If you are feeling anxious, you are feeling anxious for the sake of some benefit. One doesn’t feel anxious for nothing. I am anxious that I must maintain my image. I am anxious that I must not lose my position. I am anxious to preserve something.

Q: How do I understand what am I preserving?

AP: You very well know what you are preserving otherwise you couldn’t have been anxious about it. If I do not know the value of what I am guarding then I will have no tensions guarding it. Honesty is about acknowledging that I very well know what is it that bothers me. That we know. There is something else that we do not know. I’ll come to this. What we do not know is that, in guarding the petty benefit there is something more important, actually immense, that we are compromising on.

It is not as if we are stupid. If we take on tensions and stress, if we try to act fake and polished and sophisticated and social, it is for the sake of certain benefits and we do get benefits, right? You earn reputation and that reputation yields you a particular network and that network gives you certain material benefit and so on and so forth, right? So, you do get something.

What we often fail to notice is what we have lost in the process. The intelligent mind is the one that looks not only at that which it has gained, but also is very sensitive to that which it has needlessly lost.

That which you have gained is material, quantifiable. So, you are able to put it down, express it in numbers. That which you have lost, cannot be proven. Nobody can convince you about it. There is no meter or machine available to show you that you have lost your peace. There is no machine available to show you that you have lost your soul. There is no image available to show you that your heart is bleeding. So, you don’t come to know of that.

It is important to see that you are unnecessarily losing what you must never have lost. It cannot be lost, so you need not worry. (smiles) It cannot be lost. Right?

It is so very ours that it cannot go away even if we try to throw it away. You throw away all your miscellaneous stuff, it will disappear. The thing with the real is that you can never get rid of it. It will keep informing you of its presence. In spite of all our efforts to lose it, it will never get lost. It is about our lives. So you will have to gather the immersion and probably the courage to keep coming.

Q: How would I increase the courage in me to look at me strictly..

AP: See, see, look at your face. You know everything. You know everything. It is just that you want somebody to totally convince you that the deal would not be a loss making one. You clearly see that there is a lot that is unnecessary, garbage and would be dropped. That would be material and visible. You would probably bear the consequences. But you do not see that there is something else that would become available. You will have to act on faith.

Q: There is no guarantee?

AP: There is no guarantee. There is no guarantee. In fact till the time, you are asking for a guarantee, you are still asking for something social because all guarantees are man-made guarantees, material guarantees. How will you get rid of the social by having a social guarantee? It is only a divine guarantee that gives you the courage to get rid of the social. And when I say social, I mean everything that is a product of man’s mind. There is always a divine guarantee- the breath is the guarantee.

Q: I might end up walking naked down the streets….

AP: Yes you may, you may. But remember that would not be the one who you are right now because right now you are not walking naked. That would be a different man and you being what you are, you cannot imagine what that man would be like.

This man might feel sad about that man’s nakedness. That man would not feel sad about his nakedness. Our trouble is that we imagine “that” being “this”. You say that if I change, then I will become that. Alright, taken. if you change you might become that. Then you say, if I become that, then I will feel bad. Now who will feel bad? You as you are, you would feel bad. But at that moment, would you, as you are, exist? Who would exist?

A is gone. A operated from a particular center; a physical-social Centre. What has emerged, and what has unfolded is B. And B is operating from a totally different center. Now A is just imagining what B would be like. How is A imagining? A is imagining as A, using A’s mind. Are you getting it? So A might feel bad about B. A might feel apprehensive about becoming B, and he would, because A likes only A. A wants to preserve only A. But tell me is ‘B’, ‘A’?

No. B is B. when you would be B, then you would not be thinking the same way as you are thinking today. And then when you would be walking naked on the street, you would be enjoying that nakedness. Without enjoying that nakedness how would you have walked naked?

But today wearing all the clothes, you are imagining what it would mean to be walking naked. Wearing all the clothes we are imagining what it would be to walk naked. And therein lies the whole problem. Because the man wearing the clothes necessarily doesn’t like nakedness, otherwise why would he be wearing clothes?

Q: Conditioning?

AP: So don’t fall into this trap. The one who would be naked, would be a different being. Do not try to guess how he would feel. You have no way of guessing that because you live within your self-confined mental space. You can think only as yourself. Do we see this?

A lot of times we sell ourselves only because we say; if I do not do this or if I do indeed do this, then that would be the consequence. And then you say that particular consequence is not likable to me. Is that not our rationale very often? Whenever we make decisions, we make decisions based on their outcomes, assumed outcomes, don’t we? Yes or No? please be with me. Don’t we? Yes or No?

Q: Yes.

AP: So, if I have a decision to make and there are three possible courses of action, how do I proceed? I say if I take this road I reach there. if I take this road I reach there. if I take this road I reach there (pointing to three different directions one by one with hands). Now which of those places do I like? Which of those places do I like when?

Q: When I reach there.

AP: and where?

Q: Now.

AP: Here. Now having reached there do you know how you would feel? you only know how you are feeling here, today, as yourself.

That is the reason why spiritual inquiry, that which you call as the journey to the self often remains so incomplete. Because instead of moving you start imagining. You say- Let me be assured, let me be guaranteed that the next step would be a nice step, a fruitful step.

Only then I will take the next step. Now it is assured that the next step will not be a fruitful step, “to you”(pointing to audience). But it will be a greatly fruitful step to the one who would be there. The entire trouble is you have no connection with the one who would be there. And the one who would be there is your own essence. Could you connect to it then you would not feel any fear.

Q: Born conditioned and completely alienated from our true nature. We don’t even know what it is how to reconnect from a completely false conditioned centers mechanical social how to destroy that to dissolve that to come to our true center?

AP: We may not know what the true nature is. But we at least know falseness. I can offer you no guarantees about the truth. But I am offering you complete guarantee about the false. We all know what falseness is because falseness comes with its share of suffering.

What is false? That makes you agitated. What is false? That which furthers the mental activity. What is false? That which calls for more of falseness. What is false? That leads you into an ever-widening loop of action and engagement. And we like none of that.

Peace, rest, simple joy. And that is our nature. And the proof of that is- nobody wants tension. Anybody here who likes to be tensed? Anybody here who likes to be hated?

It is obvious proof that relaxation is our nature. The moment we move into an unrelaxed state there is a desire to go back to the relaxed state. So these are not merely scriptural assumptions. When the Rishis say “Sacchidanand”; you must enquire into the authenticity of it, where it came from? Anybody who likes to die? Anybody who likes pain? You don’t like to die even the hundred and five year old man would probably want to live another day. Immortality is your nature. That is why you are so afraid of death.

Q: If it is our nature then why are we so afraid of death?

AP: Yes. Immortality is our nature. That is why we don’t like when we are constantly told that we will be no more. It is not death that you dislike. You dislike the suggestion that you won’t be there someday. Now why would one dislike this suggestion coming from various sources?

Your body constantly tells you that you will be no more someday, right? The body keeps ageing. And every day the body is sending you this message that one day you would be no more. You don’t like it and that is why you want to run away from death.

Instead of running away from death if you could run away from the body itself then the situation would have been immediately solved. The body is a false messenger. The body is telling you something that is not going to happen. At most what the body can honestly tell you is that the body will be no more. But the body does not tell you that. The body tells you that “you” would be no more. The body doesn’t say that I would be no more. The body says you would be no more.

Q: Or do we hear that?

AP: That is more accurately put. That is more accurately put. Because in saying that the body says this, we are unnecessarily putting the blame on the innocent body. So what you are saying is more accurate. The body just says it will be no more but because there is something here that is so attached to the body what does it hear? The body is saying “The body will be no more”, but there is something here that is very attached to the body, what does it hear? - “I will be no more.”

And then there is all the trouble and then the internal effort to attain artificial immortality. Have you seen how we want to be immortal? -By having kids, by leaving our imprints in this world. Have you seen those great monuments left behind by kings? Insurance policies, even after I’m not there, somebody would be there acting on my behalf. Now instead of simply saying there would be no time when I would not be there, we accept the other false argument and then act in all kinds of self-destructive ways.

Q: How do we know we are immortal?

AP: You don’t like death.

Q: No, no, I like it but how do I know it’s true?

AP: It’s not true. Only thing that you can call as a fact is that you don’t like death. Simple. And you must stop at that because immortality is not a fact. Immortality is truth. Being what you are you can talk only of facts and the fact of living is that death is a scare. Stop at that. Death is a scare. Death is a scare. That’s all.

Q: What is the self that all the guys were talking about?

AP: Which guys?

Q: Every guru talks about it?

AP: The self is you. Who else?

Q: So that’s the immortal part that they are taking about.

AP: They are not referring to the mouth that is talking. When they are saying that you are Brahm, they do not mean your T shirt, or your tummy or your mouth or your mental activity. When the sage says, that you are total, obviously he is not referring to you. When he says you are infinite, is it not obvious that he is not referring to you? You are not extending even up till the next restaurant. So, it is obvious that he is not talking to you. He is talking to somebody else.

Q: Who is he talking to then?

AP: Only that somebody else can know. Till the time you insist on knowing the answer you’ll never know. Only that somebody else can know. If I am saying something to somebody else, who must hear? It is meant for somebody else. Let him hear. It is not meant for you.

Q: What is the answer for me?

AP: You must not hear. If you hear you’ll do a great disservice to yourself.

Q: Why?

AP: Because the ego will start behaving as if it is infinite. Which it is not. The ego will start believing that “Aham Brahamasmi” was said to it. Which it has not been.

Q: Sorry.

AP: Nothing to be sorry about. When the sage says “you” or “Aham”, he does not refer to you in your current center. He is referring to something else. Now that something else is not in the same dimension as your current being. So being where you are, you cannot talk of that. What the sage has said is not a teaching to the ego. What the sage has said is just an expression of where the sage is. The ego cannot be taught anything. The ego can only be told to go. Any teaching given to ego is co-opted by the ego.

Q: Sir do we need to think about it that we will be no more one day? Is there any meaning for it? Does that happens, that happens.we knew.

AP: It is not a question of morality or should. Even if I say, and many people have said that, even if I say that we need not think about death, will that take away your fear of death?

So it’s not a question of whether we should think about it, should we think about it, Is it okay, nice, religious and proper to think about it? What will this answer do to you?

Q: Sir fear may be only when we think about it?

AP: Is your thinking in your control? Do you choose which thoughts to have?

Q: Not always.

AP: Never. It is a false assumption that we choose our thoughts. You may choose your thoughts. But do you also choose the chooser of the thoughts?

It is a humiliation to the ego when it is told that it is totally conditioned. We like to believe that we are making choices. Self-observation is about acknowledging that all my choices are just happening in a very influenced way. I am not even making the choice. I am just stupidly believing that I made the choice. You didn’t make the choice. Somebody else had very long ago, made the choice on your behalf. You are only executing it.

Q: How can we live without our conditioning?

AP: Are you living with your conditioning?

Q: Yes.

AP: Are you alive with your conditioning? You are asking how will I live without my conditioning? The answer lies in seeing how you are living with your conditioning. Are you living joyfully? And if you feel that everything is alright right now, then I concede. Then I have nothing to say. I never want to extend discussion with people who do not feel a burning desire to do away with the mess they are in.

Those who keep feeling that they are alright I leave them to their state. They are already alright. If you are still asking why should I remove my conditioning, it means that your conditioning is not troubling you sufficiently. And if it is not troubling you then keep living with it.

The only way to drop conditioning is to realize how much it is hurting you. The only way to drop your chains is to realize how badly you want to fly free. When you realize that your heart is aching to be out there flying, that is when you drop your chains whatever be the cost. And if you aren’t feeling that urge, then continue.

We all are feeling that urge. There’s nobody who is not feeling that urge. It is just that some of us name that urge as something pleasant and respectable. We say no, no, no, it is not restlessness. It is a feeling of responsibility.

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