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Speaker: With how many of us does this happen that the mind asks for repetition of the pleasant experiences of the past? How many of us have seen that the mind asks for repetition of the pleasant experiences?
(Everyone raises their hands).
Almost everybody. How many of us have seen that the mind wants to avoid what has been unpleasant in the past?
(Again everyone raises their hands).
This is how the mind machine functions. See, it is same with everybody. It is the same with everybody present over here, it is same with almost everybody who was ever born and will be born. And not only in human beings, even in animals, in plants. In any entity that has any consciousness. You cannot help it. It is bound to happen. It is bound to happen and it is good that it must happen. It is good that it happens.
Let us say that yesterday you walked down to your hostel from here, and you were chased by a stray dog. The manner in which it barked at you, it followed you, it was evident that there was something wrong with this dog. It was probably a mad dog. Now there are harmless, innocuous stray dogs. There is no need to be afraid of them. Right?And we pass by and they do nothing. They do nothing, we don’t even notice them. Do we? And there is this particular dog which appears injurious, harmful, seems to be mad. This experience happened yesterday. And today, you again you walk down to your hostel, and come across that mad dog. Now, must you forget yesterday’s experience? Must you forget? What will happen if you forget yesterday’s experience? What will happen if you rinse your brain of the entire past?What will happen?
Listener 1: The dog will run after you and you will be in trouble.
Speaker: And then?
Listener 2: The dog bites you and you get rabies.
Speaker: And then?
Listener 3: You take injections for treating rabies.
Speaker: After rabies, even injections are useless (smiles). Past is stored in the mind and it is good that it is stored in the mind. It is good that you remember what was useful and what was harmful. Isn’t it so? So there is nothing wrong with it. But something else may also happen. And that does happen in many cases. Now you have had the experience of being chased by a dog with rabies. What did the dog do? Chased you. You shouted, tried to throw few stones at the dog, ultimately two or three friends came, and with the collective effort and a lot of action, the dog could be shooed away. Now all this leaves a very strong imprint on your mind. The whole incident took about ten to fifteen thrilling, fearful, action packed minutes. Can you imagine the quality of those moments?
Every second, there was a possibility that this mad dog could leap upon you and bite away a part of your leg or hand or whatever, and it was mad. There was violence in the eyes of the dog and nothing seemed to be working with it. Those ten minutes were such a powerful influence upon the mind that you cannot forget them, like a movie. A strong imprint gets created, a strong imprint. You cannot forget the ferocious barking. You cannot forget how you had to call for help, yelling, shouting. You cannot forget how you had to run away with all your might, sprinting, and the mind recorded all of that. The mind just registered all of that.
Next day when you are again walking down to the hostel, you come across another dog. Now the rabied dog has probably died. You know that mad dogs don’t live for long, or it has been carried away. The college authorities came to know, the university came to know, that there exists a mad dog within the boundaries of the campus, so they quickly took action and the dog was taken away. Next day as you were walking down, you come across another dog. And this dog is harmless, one of those nice homely dogs, the ones we keep coming across almost every day. But the moment you look at this dog, something happens. What happens?
Listener 1: She remembers the past.
Speaker: She remembers the past. The very recent and powerful past having very, very scary memories. And then what do you do? Now the dog has nothing to do with you. The dog is coolly enjoying its life, nice weather, just had breakfast, the dog is relaxing. Now you look at the dog and what do you see?
Listener 2: A mad dog.
Speaker: You are not seeing the dog as it is right now. You are seeing a wolf, a tiger, a mad tiger, a tiger with rabies. How does that sound? (Everyone laughs). And there are lot of students who are passing by, and they are not noticing, not at all noticing this normal, small, puppy sized dog that is lying by the road side. But you are staring at it. What is happening when you are staring at it? What is happening? Seen those movies? What do you call that? What do you call that?
Listener 3: A flash back.
Speaker: Flash back! So it is a flash back going on. Yesterday’s sounds, that ferocious barking, those threads of saliva that were running down the dog’s mouth, containing the germs of rabies. It is no bigger than a puppy, and it does not even know what is going on in your mind. You are looking at it, so it also starts looking at you. Because you are staring so intently at it, what does it do? It also starts looking at you. And the moment it starts looking at you, what happens? This is now about to…? This now about to…?
Listener 3: Pounce on her.
Speaker: This is now bound to pounce upon you. And you are sweating like anything. Now you are running. And because you had been starring at the puppy for so long, and have started running, what does the puppy think? It is good fun! (everyone smiles) ‘Didi wants to play with me’!(everyone laughs) Animals do that. Have you seen that? You go close to an animal and start running, what would it do? It follows you. Now you are running and the puppy is following. What does your mind tell you?
Listener 4: Run!
Speaker: And it is now confirmed in your mind that this is a reincarnation of that same dog. (everyone smiles), and even more vicious reincarnation. And then because you are trying to run a little too hard, what happens?
Listener 5: Stumbles.
Speaker: You stumble and fall down. What happens to your knees?
Listener 3: Get bruised.
Speaker: They get bruised and start bleeding and the negative experience gets reinforced. You fall down, start screaming, and the poor puppy gets extremely scared.
Listener 5: And runs away.
Speaker: And runs away. The negative image that you had been carrying since yesterday has been further reinforced. You come to the hostel dazed, lost, mud on the face, mud on the knees. And what do you say? The campus had been invaded by mad dogs. You don’t say that it is raining cats and dogs? What do you say? It is raining mad dogs. It is raining mad dogs. And then what will happen for the entire life? What will happen for the entire life? Every dog is a…?
Listener 6: Mad dog.
Speaker: Mad dog.
Listener 5: Every dog follows.
Speaker: And every dog follows you. And now dogs have a particular liking for you. So, wherever you go, you find some dogs. Even cats appear like dogs. Got stuck? Have you seen people with phobias? Do you understand what is a phobia? What is a phobia?
Listener 2: Fear of something.
Speaker: You are frightened of something particular. Now do you see the genesis of the fear? There is something in the past, there is something in the past which has not been understood, and then it becomes a deep seated fear, a belief within the mind. It is good for you that the mind remembers the past. That helps in day-to-day living. Isn’t it good that you remember the location of this auditorium? How would it sound if you have to wake up every day and inquire everyday that where are the classrooms?
Isn’t it good that you remember the past? Isn’t it good? And how would it sound if you have to wake up everyday and remember‘a’ for ‘apple’, ‘b’ for…Isn’t it good that you remember the language that you have acquired from the past? So past is good. There is nothing wrong with the past. It is helpful, it is useful. Without the past there can be no knowledge, no science, no technology, no language, no arts. But that same past, becomes a living hell for you if you do not understand what is going on.Then you become a captive to the past. So please do not think that at any point we have tried to say that the past has to be erased or forgotten, for the simple reason that it is not possible.
Your mind will always carry past, so it is not possible to erase that. Don’t try to attempt that. Freedom from the past does not mean brainwashing, that I have washed away everything that was stored here. Freedom from the past does not mean erasing of memories. Freedom from the past means understanding the past as,’ past’. Yes? Freedom from the past means understanding the past as, ‘past’, and not becoming…?
Listener 4: A captive of it.
Speaker: Yes! Not being taken hostage by it. That’s all that it means. Alright? Utilize the past. Do not let it dominate you. That’s all. Through? (Smilingly) Hope there are no mad dogs in the campus! There aren’t good! Do you understand this?
I understand that one must be free from the past, but how to implement it practically? Is that what you are asking? What if the past still continues to haunt? Look at the facts. That is all. Isn’t it available to you that dogs that have gone mad look in a particular way? Is that fact not available to you? You look for rabies on Wikipedia and you will come to know the symptoms of a rabied dog. You will also come to know what can be done to prevent rabies, what kind of vaccination. Don’t you? So the facts are there to help you. Now at another point in time, let us say six years, ten years from this incident, the memories will be still with us, and the memories are very scary, then let the facts come to your rescue.
Look at the people in your surroundings, your friends who keep dogs, who have pets. Visit them. Ask them what has been their experience with dogs. See that even the small kids are playing with dogs and nothing is going wrong. Read the news report that this particular city or this particular locality that you are living in, is now free of rabies. See that the municipal commissioner has certified that there exists no more rabied dogs in this locality. All these are facts. Right? All these are facts.
See that in this locality there has been no incidence of dog bite since the last ten years. Right? And that will help the mind. Just as this experience came from outside, similarly a new knowledge coming from outside will help. So as you go to your friend, a neighbor or a relative, you see this large dog. Which breed?
Listener 5: Labrador.
Speaker: And you notice that a three year old child of the same household is playing with the dog.
Listener 6: And climbing on its back.
Speaker: Climbing on its back, riding it. And you are looking at that particular scene. Won’t it relieve your fears? Won’t it? Initially you might be frightened that the child is can be bitten, swallowed, and destroyed to pieces by the dog. But if you keep observing, keep looking at facts, then you will discover that the child is fearlessly riding this large dog, twice its weight, and nothing is happening. It is such a domesticated, homely, harmless creature, and then you will be able to come to terms with the reality. So let the facts come to your rescue.
Excerpted from a ‘Shabd-Yog’ session. Edited for clarity.
Watch the session video: What is past? A resource useful, or a beast frightful? || Acharya Prashant (2013)
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