Do you know why you desire? || Acharya Prashant (2014)

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Question: Sir, a thought keeps circulating in my mind. It tells me that everything will be fine, everything will work out.

Is it a good thing to think about?

Acharya Prashant: Every desire wants its fulfillment. ‘Hope’ is the substance of mind. Whenever there is a desire, of course, you want it to be materialized – that it should work out, something should happen. The question is not whether that thing will happen or not, because that is anyway the nature of desire – to ask for its fulfilment, completion. 

If I have a desire, I want it somehow to be fulfilled. The more important question is: whose desire and where is the desire coming from? Yes, I want that I get what I desire. But, what do I desire? Whose desires are these actually?

What does a terrorist desire? And remember, he is a terrorist for you. For some others, he is a freedom fighter. What does he desire?  To kill! In your parlance, it would be called as a murder, a cold-blooded killing. In his language, it would be called as ‘a war waged upon the sinister enemy.’ And he will say, “It is my own desire.” He will not even know that when he was just five years old, he was taken to a particular camp, where he was indoctrinated that people of such and such country or such and such religion are his fierce enemies.

You remember Ajmal Kasab? (Referring to a young terrorist who attacked India) He was just seventeen when he did what he did. Just seventeen, younger than you people. Not even having full facial hair. Still a little bit of a kid; and he did what he did. And when people were interrogating him he said, “I did just the right thing. This was my deepest desire: to bring havoc upon the enemy.”

Now, does he know what is meant by enemy? Does he know why he is killing? Does he know anything? Does he know the source of his desire? Does he know that it is not at all his desire; it is coming from somewhere else? Of course, once the desire is there, you want to complete it. He also completed it somehow. He took a risky mission, came here, fought, killed, and then was hanged. Do we know why we desire such and such things? Do we know? Once you start desiring, then of course you want that. But do we know why we desire? Did Kasab know? Does the man on the street know? Do the great presidents and prime ministers know? Do we know? But there are some people who are cunning enough to know that nobody knows, and they exploit this fact.

The man who sets up all these hoardings at your university gate, he knows that. But we are so ignorant about our desire. So he’ll put up something on the billboards, and he knows that you will be swayed away. The man who consistently keeps showing you advertisements on T.V. and other media, he knows that desire can be provoked. Even the man selling the street food too knows that the desire can be provoked. So when you pass by near his cart, he makes a few sounds on his utensils, and an extra splashing of pure ghee. The sound hits your ears, the smell hits your nose, and the desire is provoked.

Even he knows how to provoke desire, but you do not know why you desire something. You will say, “It is my desire. I want to have street food.” Is it really your desire?

That advertiser shows you an advertisement, day-in and day-out. Newspaper, media, hoardings, internet, wherever you go, the same model of the new mobile phone is in front of your eyes, and one day you say, “It is my desire to buy this mobile phone.” Is it your desire? The entire society has told you that you must have such and such career and so much of money, and today, you are saying, “It is my desire to pursue this career. Is it really your desire? Enquire. Like a scientist, enquire: “Is it really my desire? Where is it coming from? I come from a family where everybody is a doctor or everybody is in some white-collar job or everybody is a bureaucrat, and now I have a particular decision already made for my career. Is it really my desire? The entire world is pursuing a particular course; management, engineering, I too am there. Is it really my desire? If it is my desire, how come everybody is having the same desire? What is the meaning of individuality then?”

One particular company comes to your campus, and the entire campus runs after it. How can five hundred students have the same desire? Surely, it is not anybody’s desire. It is some master’s desire who is laughing at you, who has enslaved our mind, and we do not even know who that master is.

The Hindu passes in front of a temple and he bows down. The Muslim passes in front of the same temple, and sees only brick and mortar. The Hindu says, “It is my desire to bow down.” Is it really his desire? Really? His desire? Or is it the ‘Hindu’s desire’? Is it the individual’s desire or the Hindu’s desire? Who made him a Hindu? Does he know that? He does not know that.

India and Australia have a cricket match and you have a great desire that India wins. Please . . . is it your desire? And Australia has a great desire that Australia wins.

Whom are we fooling? Where are our desires coming from? Do we even know, before we claim our individuality? And remember, individuality is not to have all these desires. Individuality is a different thing all together. It’s an entirely different matter. Individuality is not about, “my will, this is what I want to do.” That does not make you an individual.

But again, you are living in a system where your desires are greatly respected. There is democracy, and you vote for the candidate that you desire, and it is respected. So, you think that your desire is something important. There is nothing important in your desire, because all desires are conditioned. But the society keeps asking you, “What do you want?”

You go to a restaurant, and the waiter says, “What do you want?” You go to a polling booth, and there they ask you, “Which candidate do you want?” You are being fooled. It’s a very limited menu that they are showing you. Even when they are asking you, ‘What do you want?,’ implicitly what they are telling you is that you can want anything, provided it is within this menu.

When Henry Ford started making his cars, there was a particular model of the car called Model ‘T,’ which was greatly in demand, and it was so much in demand that the production capacity could not keep pace with the demand. His paint shop was inadequate to meet the growing demand. So he said, “I’ll have just one color for all my cars: black.” When his customers came to him and enquired about the choices in colors, he would say, “You can have any color, as long as it is black.” That’s the kind of choice you are living in. And the customer says, “See, my desire is being respected.”

“You can have any career, as long as it is socially approved. You can marry anybody, as long as parents approve. You can write anything in the exam, provided the teacher approves it.”

Great choice, great desire, great respect! And we claim that ‘we think.’

The intelligent mind, before pursuing the desire, first pauses and looks carefully at that desire.

“What is the entire process of desiring? What stimulates desire? Where is desire located?” That’s what an intelligent mind does. Are you getting it?

Listener: Sir, I want to ask you that is it not our desires that make us an individual? Won’t we become like sheep if we do not have our own desires?

AP: Yes! Very good, wonderful. Let me tell you a story regarding sheep. It’s an interesting story. Good fun.

There was a fellow who had a lot of sheep, lot of sheep, and he would occasionally slaughter the sheep so that he could have meat. But the sheep would see that their sister sheep’s were being killed. So sometimes they would try to escape. And since there are a large number of sheep, and they are always trying to run away, so it was difficult. One or the other sheep would always be missing. The sheep didn’t want to be killed. So, what did their master do? He went to the sheep and he told the sheep, “You are not sheep at all, you are individuals. You are individual. You are not sheep at all, and only your own desires will be followed. You are not sheep, you are human beings, and you are having your own desires,” and the sheep were convinced. Now the sheep were fully convinced that they were not sheep at all. So, while one sheep would be slaughtered, the other would laugh. They would say, “Oh, that one was the sheep, so that is the reason why she is being killed. I am not a sheep. I will never be killed.” Now the sheep are willingly presenting themselves to be killed, believing that they are not sheep.

(Long pause)

There are two ways in which you are made a sheep:

One is, when somebody explicitly conditions you. You are being explicitly conditioned, and you know, “I am being conditioned.” That is a very less dangerous form of conditioning, because you know that you are being conditioned. So sometime, quickly, you would get rid of the conditioning. That conditioning is not very dangerous. The more dangerous kind of conditioning is when the conditioning gets so deep into you that you start thinking that this is my own desire, and this is not conditioning, this is my individuality.

Individuality does not lead to any desire. All desires come out of conditioning, and it is a highly dangerous situation when you start thinking of conditioning as individuality.

There are two ways to control somebody. One, you sit there, and I control you with a remote control here, and you know that you are a slave. Now, you will be very restless then. You will want to become free. Right? Because you know that you are a slave. You can see the remote control in my hand.

There is another way of making you a slave. I insert a chip in your brain, a chip called ‘conscience,’ and I don’t even need to use the remote control. You will keep feeling, “I am free,” but the chip will control all your behavior. That is our condition. We do not even know that there is a chip fitted here, and that chip is controlling everything. All our desires are arising from that chip, and somebody else is the master of this chip. Look into that!

Look into that. And the best way of looking into that is, whenever a thought arises, whenever motivation arises, whenever a desire arises – enquire. Look into it as you look into a problem of mathematics – deeply, objectively, without bias, honestly, and the fact will become open. The fact will become very, very open. You need to ask yourself basic questions. “Was I always like this?  Did I always have this desire? What is prompting it? Will this desire always be there? What has been the fate of my other desires all my life? They have come and they have gone. What has made them come, and how have they gone away?”

There was a time when I was six years old, and I wanted to become a superman. I used to watch that serial on television, and I would love the way he would fly and do wonderful things, and wear his briefs upon his pants, and that was so fascinating. And where is that desire today? Gone! Why has it gone away? Whose desire was that? If it was really my desire, how can it disappear? As soon as the T.V. went away, the desire also went away.

I’m walking, and she is in front of me, and I’m watching her. Till the point, she is in front of me, there is nothing except her in my mind. One hour later, she is gone, and I find myself busy in other things. Was it really my desire? Was it really my desire? Gone the moment, gone the desire. I wanted to be a Barbie doll. Where is that Barbie doll today?

And believe me, if you look long enough, you will have a hundred other things to chase. Where are those chases today? And from where do they come into your life?

I am talking of freedom because I believe that I have young people in front of me, and every young man and woman lives a free life, must live a free life! That’s why I am talking of freedom to you, and that is the first freedom – freedom from conditioning.

Before you declare it to be yours, ask, “Is it really mine? Is it really mine?”

L1: Sir, how do we come to know that it is really our desire or somebody else’s?

AP: There is no great process involved there. You keep looking at it, and the things become clear. There is nothing special involved in it. You need not worry about the process, just inquiring is sufficient. There is nothing more to it. How will we come to know? Nothing.

How are you listening to me? Just by listening! In fact, if you do something to listen, then you can’t listen.

How are you looking at me? By doing some kind of gymnastics? By pulling your legs over your forehead? You are simply looking, and that’s sufficient. There is no ‘How’ involved. There is no method or technique involved. It is simple and direct. You look at it, and you know the reality. Just be honest. Just be honest in your looking.

Excerpted from a ‘Shabd-Yog’ session. Edited for clarity.

Watch the session video: Do you know why you desire? || Acharya Prashant (2014)

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