Is it bad to carry identities? || Acharya Prashant (2014)

To personally meet or connect with Acharya Prashant: click here.

Speaker: The question is: is carrying an identity a bad thing or a good thing?

See, first thing is that we have been told that we must label everything as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. And who taught us this? Is this the real me? ‘Good’ or ‘bad’ is a value judgement.

Listener 1: Sir, everything can give us pain or pleasure.

Speaker: But different people label different things as ‘good’ and ‘bad’. And different people derive pleasure out of different things. What is good in one country is very bad in another country. What is highly pleasurable to a man of one religion is highly painful to a man of another religion. What is acceptable in one family is deeply condemned in another family. Now a child born in the first family will have an entirely different definition of pleasurable experience. But we always begin, as you did, with asking, “Is it good or bad? Is it right or wrong?” We do not ask, “Where are our standards of good and bad coming from? How does this mind decide what is right or what is wrong? What is the source of these labels?”

Don’t ask whether it is good or bad. Ask, “What is it?” And if this is realized then ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is not needed. Just ask, “What is it?” You are asking, “Is it good or bad to carry identities?” Just ask, “What is it to be identified with someone or something?”

Listener 1: But Sir, every identity is given by others.

Speaker: By others. Yes.

Listener 1: And we don’t have any identity of ourselves.

Speaker: Yes. Wonderful. And we do not know that situation. We do not have any understanding of that state where we are without any identity, because all our lives we have lived in identities. And what is an identity? An identity is a ready-made answer about responding to life. See, as you are sitting over here, I recall that I have met you once last year when you were in first year. Have I not?

Listener 1: Yes.

Speaker: So I must be having some memories? Or I might at least have some memories, theoretically? It was not too long back. Now if I operate out of those memories, then I will not be able to see the quality of the question, and the mind of the questioner. I would be identified with my past, and then the answer will not carry any value. I will say, “I already know what kind of student this one is.” And if I already know what kind of student this one is, then I already know what kind of answer to give. Then there would be no freshness in my response. It is dead, dirty and stale. That is the thing with being identified.

Every moment spent identified

There is no freshness in being identified with something or someone. “I already know that people from such and such country or such and such community are not good. They are evil and violent.” It is because you have identified with your community and your country. Now there is no way you can look at that person with fresh eyes. When that fellow comes in front of you, you will say, “I already know that the place that you are coming from, the community that you are coming from, the country that you are coming from is full of rascals. So go away!” Now life becomes closed and we do not know anything. And every such moment that you are spending in identification is actually a terrible loss of life. Life is all you have. And every moment spent identified is life gone waste. The great opportunity squandered away. That is the thing with being identified.

Give me one example where you are identified, and that does you any good, that it brings you peace, that it brings you closer to reality. As young people, we want freedom, we want truth, we want love and we want joy. Think of it. Does identification bring you closer to all these? Or does it make you closed to all these? Is there love in identification? Is there freedom in identification? But I am so sure that standing where you are at this stage of life, you want love, you want freedom. But you won’t get it if you are identified. It is as simple as that.

Listener 2: Sir, what I am understanding from you is that you are telling us to leave all the things. Our parents, our relationships and do whatever we want to do.

Speaker(sarcastically): This is a highly simple way of looking at it.

He is saying that you are probably telling us to leave our parents, society, education, friends and just do what we want to do, and it all appears threatening, very, very threatening.” How can you make that decision? Just because somebody asks you to do it this way? But that’s what we have been usually doing. Making decisions on the basis of the information, on the basis of stimuli, on the basis of pressures that come from outside. Now if you make another such decision, how is it different from the type of conditioning that anyway is there with the entire world? This is not a moral science class. This not an authoritarian class. This is not where you are served commandments. “Do this or do that.” You are students of technology. Right?

Listener 1: But that is again an identity.

Speaker: That is an identity if I say that if this identity goes away, some part of me reduces.

If I am just reading a book, it does not mean that I am identified with it. Now when you go to a laboratory, you do not say that the experiment is good or bad. All you say is, “I want to find out.” That kind of a mind! “I want to find out what is the reality.” Being what we are, we do not understand anything. How will we even understand what is it to have a loving relationship with parents? You are asking about leaving parents. I’m asking, “Do we really know what it is to have a loving relationship with anybody? Parents, pets, friends, book, pen, sports anything?” When you know that, then there is a moment, then there is a change. Right? It is not a question of do this or do that. It is a very simple thing that is done to kids.: “Go ahead do this.”

But, why must adults depend on someone for commandments? Adults can get together to talk only to have clarity. And when that clarity is available, you know for yourself what to do and what not to do. Nobody else needs to guide you. We are here so that as we discuss, things become a little less hazy. We are here so that the dust on the mirror can be removed and we can look at our face.

-Excerpts from a Samvaad session. Edited for clarity.

Watch the session at: Is it bad to carry identities?

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