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When to express your emotions? || Acharya Prashant, with NIT-Calicut (2022)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
19 min
501 reads

Questioner (Q): A very good evening to all attendees. Today, we have with us Acharya Prashant, acclaimed Vedanta exegete, author of over 80 books, including the National Best Seller ‘Karma’ and a powerful voice of social, spiritual awakening in the world today. After graduating from IIT, Delhi Acharya Prashant went on to qualify both UPSC and CAT in the same year. After 2 years at IIM, Ahmedabad and a few years at corporate, he found himself a higher calling of spreading the ancient wisdom of Vedanta among the masses and for that purpose founded his mission which is at the forefront of creation of a new humanity through spirituality.

Today, this moment has touched the lives of tens of millions of individuals, through his direct contact with people and through various internet-based channels. He continues to bring clarity to all. Sir, it’s an honor to welcome you to address our institute on behalf of NIT, Calicut. We thank you for accepting our invitation.

Acharya Prashant (AP): Thank you for the kind introduction.

Q: Acharya Ji, as we know that as a human being, we all struggle with a lot of emotions, for example, pain, suffering, aggression, happiness. So it’s like we want to express ourselves but sometimes we don’t. We think that we should express or we should not express. So, I wanted to ask that whether is there any fine line between expressing and non-expressing our emotions, our aggression.

If we consider an example of two greatest living legend in cricket, M.S.Dhoni sir and Virat Kohli sir, both have a different personality trait, as Virat Kohli sir is very much expressive in case of his pressure and aggression handling. On the other hand, M.S.Dhoni sir is very calm and composed. The thing is the opponent’s team, they are afraid of both of them. And both of them are equally loved and respected by the people of India as well as their opponent team. So, how to differentiate or how to make sure that what should be our action or whether should we express or not express and how we should compose ourselves in that. That was my question.

AP: Say, these emotions that arise within, what is their effect on you? And when I say that, it must be obvious that you and these emotions are separate entities. Therefore, emotions will have an effect on you. And thereby it is also implied that the arousal of emotions is not necessarily something that happens by your consent. Emotions, even thoughts just come up on their own. They are very much a bodily thing and a situational thing. The body, by way of evolution, is programmed to react to external conditions, stimuli in a certain way. And that’s what leads to these emotions. It’s just that when we are not clear about our identity, when we do not know who we really are, then we start calling these emotions as our emotions. Whereas the fact is that emotions are quite alien to us. They do not belong really to the same place you come from. Just that they have a great impact on who you really are.

Now, what is the quality of that impact, please tell me? What do these emotions make you be like? You talked of pain, suffering, aggression. Are you okay with the feelings of aggression and suffering and jealousy and attachment and all else that emotions bring with them? Do they make you feel great about yourself? In your discretion, in your composed intelligence, would you want to stay susceptible to, vulnerable to emotionality? Sometimes these emotions make you feel nice, and then you say, ‘Oh! Sweet emotions.’ But you’d agree that sooner or later you realize that you had just been carried away, right? So, that’s part one. Emotions is not who you really are, emotions are an alien phenomena that somehow manages to take control of you, possesses you without your consent—that is one thing. The second thing is, what you express is not just your personal matter. That which gets expressed, gets amplified. Anger expressed is anger amplified. Attachment expressed is attachment multiplied—this is point two.

Now, take the first point and the second point together. First thing, you are not done any service of favor by this upsurge of emotions. Second, if they are expressed, they only become amplified in the environment to which they are expressed. And when they become amplified there, they return to you. So you are angry, the other one gets angry when you express your anger and the other one’s anger would mostly serve to further fuel your own anger. And it’s a vicious cycle, do you see?

This is the trick of emotions, this is the trick of Mother Nature. She has very little to do with your consciousness. She is not particularly interested in you having a great purpose in life. Emotions are her preferred instruments. She wants you to do her bidding by feeling emotional. And when one person feels emotional and in his or her fit of unconsciousness expresses it aloud to the environment, a feedback loop is created. The same emotionality returns to this person as a stimulus now, and further increases the emotionality within. The result: an overall decline in the level of consciousness in this person, as well as in his surroundings. Now, that would tell you whether or not to patronize these emotions.

Please remember that we are all very interconnected. That which one person does has an effect on many others. And also remember that most people live pretty unconscious lives, so they won’t even realize what you’ve done to them or in what way you have provoked their emotions. So one has to be careful and conscious. Anger expressed by one person becomes the anger of another person. Sexuality or lust expressed by one person becomes the lust of another person. Weakness exhibited by one person contributes to arousal of weakness in another person. This is the usual and preferred mode of Prakriti , Mother Nature. That’s the way she operates and wants to have us remain controlled. So, express that which would lead to your own welfare and the welfare of others. Be mindful. Why lead to a further decline of consciousness in a world that is already reeling under the impact of much that is nonsensical and stupid and violent? Equally, if you have something that you would know would serve others well, express it without fear, express it even if you have to face certain consequences.

Remember, expression is a relationship. When you express something out to the world, it’s a relationship you are establishing with the world. You do not want to initiate a relationship of exploitation and violence, do you? Expression in that sense becomes a kind of gift you give to the other. Do you want to gift poison to the other? Do you want to gift chains and shackles to the other? You want to gift something that would help and liberate the other, right? Therefore, express only your best to the other, be very discreet. Now, there is another related issue here. Because we consider emotions as internal, even intimate, therefore, we take expression of all kinds of emotions as a sign of intimacy in relationship. Do you see the internal flawed equation we operate with?

We say ‘Emotions are something very intimate to us internally, therefore, the ones who are intimate to us externally must partake these emotions.’ So, we vent it out all to them. We spout lies and toxicity and all kinds of worthless things, especially to the ones who are close to us. No, this is not right. This is exploitation, this is unjust. In fact, the more valuable and intimate a person is to you, the more you should be careful about the effect your company is having on that person—that is love, is that not? Therefore, you have to be extremely careful about what you say to that person, what you share with that person. Not everything that rises in your body due to your in-built prakritik chemicals and hormones and glands is worth sharing with the world.

We have rest rooms or lavatories, we keep them closed, right? We do not share our excreta with our loved one. We do not say, ‘Oh! This came from my guts, this came from right within me, from the core of my body, therefore, I will share it with you.’ Do you do that? We know what is it that stinks. We know what is it that’s rubbish. And we know very well that it must be kept to ourselves and be duly flushed away. It is not something you want to share with the world. In fact, if you share with the world, it is quite interesting. It would be the limit of bad etiquette. So, this much we know that our night soil, our rubbish is not to be taken to others. But then, why do we take our mental rubbish to others? Why do we take our emotional rubbish to others? Is there anything sublime in our emotions? If there is, please do share it. But mostly, emotions are just trash. I know emotional people will not like to hear this and they will immediately contest. I would point out that the reaction that arose within you, the moment you heard me say that emotions are trash, is another emotional reaction. It is emotions that do not like emotions being decried, right?

The fundamental mistake, as we said right when we opened, is that we identify with our emotions. We do not see that the body is one thing and we are not really the body and that all emotions arise from chemical, biological processes pre-programmed within the body. They are not to be taken very seriously. Emotions simply further the agenda of the jungle, the place we all come from. What’s the agenda of the jungle? Possess, occupy, eat, sleep, be merry, procreate, dominate—that’s what goes on in the jungle, right? And all emotions, if you scrutinize them are towards this goal. This is the Prakritik goal.

So, why take the remnants of the jungle past so seriously? We were monkeys, right? And the vestiges of those times still exist within us. They, in fact, dominate most of us in the form of emotions, in the form of instincts and tendencies, right? So, take that as something that hardly ever has any value. And when it does not have any value, it does not deserve to be expressed or shared with others. We want to be loving people and we want to be loved, don’t we? And in love, you do not share your crap with your loved ones. You do not make life miserable for them by throwing all your rubbish at them, day in and day out in the name of intimacy.

That’s the reason why people suffer so much in love. Because in the name of love, it’s not their heights that they share with their partners. They shared their bottoms, they share their ugliness and they think of it as closeness, as love. It is not love. Love is to hand hold the other and pull him up, not bury the other under the weight of your infinite nonsense. What do you think lovers talk about in their daily four-hour phone calls? Do they share scientific discoveries with each other? Do they share sublime literature with each other—great poems? Do they talk of depth of wisdom? Do they discuss geopolitics? Do they discuss neuroscience? Do they discuss anything of any worth? No, they express themselves to each other and you know what that’s all about. Let the sound of rubbish being flushed down the commode reverberate. That’s the telephonic conversation.

Q: Thank you so Sir.

Q2: Namaste Acharya ji. The question I am about to ask is related to the first question about emotions. I have two questions in mind. The first thing is, whenever some people, particularly family or relatives, have some expectations that, you know, that house has to be taken care like this only, or cooking has to be done in certain way. All these things actually, it’s like totally gone out of my mind. I’m not able to be like what they want to be. And initially when I try to understand that these are not of that great value, I try to explain them but they are not in a way to accept all those things. And I’m just doing whatever I feel like doing and I am not much engaged into any of those activities. But inspite of that, when things come up, I am just very harsh, I’m not able to control it or I am not able to tolerate all these things anymore.

So, I just like to bluntly shout and there’s something very, very fiery within that I don’t want to listen to any of such talks and that moment. I don’t know exactly what I speak about but I feel very relaxed after that and I’m not able to actually say why I am behaving and whatever I told, it does not carry over again in my head. But yeah, I can see that, to many things, I react very harshly. So, how do I validate that emotion? I mean sometimes, I just feel like I don’t bother about it, I don’t care whatever, however it goes, it is okay. So, I go to that extent. And another question I have is, whenever I try to talk to you, ask any question, automatically there is some tears in my eyes. I don’t know how or what is this. Is this also some kind of emotion? I try not to cry, I try not to bring in tears, but that happens.

AP: See, all of that surrounds us outside the body and all of that is available to us from within the body, all of that is available to us to be used, or all of that can use us for its own purposes. So, when I answered our friend who initiated the discussion on emotions, I focused on ensuring that your bodily mandate and your emotions and hormones do not start using you and exploiting you and taking you away. So, I said, remember that you are not your body, remember that you are not obliged to serve your emotions. Remember that it is not a compulsion to express to others whatever you feel. So, that’s what I highlighted when I was speaking a while back.

Now, there is another part to the same thing. We said, all of that is surrounding us within the body and outside the body, but who are we, first of all? We are consciousness and all these things are available to the consciousness—emotions, thoughts, intellect as well as worldly material resources and time and life. These are things available to consciousness to achieve its destiny, its end that is Liberation. Now, if you can be someone who can use these resources towards the proper end then it’s alright, rather wonderful, to engage with emotions. Then there is no need to even be detached.

I will give you two examples. Both involving Shri Krishna. So, there is the Mahabharata battle and we are in Kurukshetra and the entire Gita has been narrated to Arjun. Still, he is not fully beyond his feelings of attachment and the past he carries, his memories. So, he is not able to fight Bhishma Pitamah with total rigor. He is almost just pretending to fight, he’s not attacking the old man with full ferocity. Now, what does Krishna do at this moment? He jumps down from the chariot, picks up an abandoned wheel from the ground and rushes towards Bhishma to attack him. This is a clear and unapologetic display of emotion. But this is great.

You would have seen this moment captured in many paintings. Bheeshma standing on his chariot, he has put down his weapons and he’s standing with hands folded, and he’s welcoming Krishna to come and attack him. And Arjun is behind Krishna. Arjun is begging Krishna, ‘Please, please do not break your vow. You had said you would not participate in the fight. Do not do that now. I will do the needful. I won’t be a hesitant warrior anymore.’ And Arjun is holding Krishna by his feet and is almost being dragged towards Bhishma. It’s a very moving scene, it’s a very eloquent picture when you look at it. And it’s full of nothing but emotions. Emotions being displayed by all three characters in the painting. Can you visualize the frame?

Of these three, the central one, the middle one is the one who is using emotions. Emotions come from Prakriti . Prakriti is also called as Maya and Krishna is called as Mayapati . So, Krishna is the master of Maya , thereby, also the master of emotions. He is not carried away by emotions. He uses emotions for a higher goal. What is the higher goal? Higher goal is that dharma should win. And for dharma to win, Arjun must wholeheartedly fight. So, to make Arjun fight, Krishna has expressed his emotions. Now, such expression is auspicious and most welcome.

Here your emotions are not possessing you. Instead, you are making very wise use of emotions. Your emotions are doing your bidding. Your emotions are aligned with your higher purpose. And if your emotions can be aligned with your higher purpose, it’s alright to be angry just as Krishna was in that moment. And Krishna was very angry in that moment. Have you seen him? He is furious. He’s like a tornado rushing towards Bhishma. Who says spiritual people must not be angry? Look at Krishna. Equally, there is a second example related again to Krishna. Look at the life of Meera. You talked of tears and Meera weeps so much. But are these typical human weaknesses, tears arising from a sense of material loss or hurt or deprivation? No, these are special tears. These are tears dedicated to Krishna and then being teary-eyed is alright. It is not only alright, but it also turns you into a Meera. So, it’s not as if emotions have to be altogether discarded. What is to be avoided is not emotions but slavery to emotions. And these are two very different things. Emotions are a part of Prakriti , you cannot avoid Prakriti .

As a human being, as an embodied being, you are a part of Prakriti . How can you avoid Prakriti ? Prakriti is your very mother, you cannot avoid her. At the same time, you cannot allow Prakriti to rule you because her demand is very basic. Whereas, your identity demands the high sky. Therefore, you cannot kneel to her dictates, Prakriti’s dictates that is. So, that’s what we are cautioning against—to not be a servant to emotions. We are not saying that you should become unemotional. That’s not the way of wisdom, that’s not at all the way of Vedanta . Let your emotions follow your purpose. Let your emotions serve your wisdom. And then all emotions are alright. Name the emotion, it is alright, provided the emotion is aligned with a higher purpose. And that’s where you have to be very, very careful. Is the emotion serving my ego or is it serving a higher purpose? It’s easy to forget the distinction, so be careful! When you know that your tears are for the right cause, it’s alright to let them flow. When you know that your anger and your energy are for a great purpose, then the anger is auspicious. But be careful. This is not a ‘go ahead’ to all kinds of unbridled display of hormonal upsurges. Do not do that. Anything else?

Q: So, how do I know this Acharya ji, because sometimes I feel this that, am I doing this out of my own ego or am I getting carried away by those words. I’m still not exactly sure, the caution which you gave right now, I want to have that caution always. But how to be sure?

AP: So, when you are in the throes of emotion, check, pause and ask yourself, ‘Who is the master right now, the emotion or me?’ If you are the master, let the emotion flow. If the emotion has gained control, step back.

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