Whose desires are you chasing?|| Acharya Prashant (2012)

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

Question: What is the proof that we are still evolving?

Speaker: Who says that it is not happening anymore? That process takes millions of years. There is enough proof. If you go hundred years back, the human brain has become larger. The overall size of the body has decreased because we have moved from an agrarian society to a society that is service-based, doing far more of intellectual work than mechanical work. Do you know what is happening? Across the world, babies are being born with bigger brain and smaller body. Evolution is at work all the time. Because your life span is only eighty to hundred years, you never see that. It takes place across centuries. You never see a monkey changing into man overnight.

Listener 1: But there would be some proof.

Speaker: I just gave you the proof. Waves, vision, weight. And there are enough proofs. When Darwin came out with his ‘Origin of Species’, it was not without the proof. Evolution is not somebody’s imagination. There is enough scientific proof, lots of proof, don’t worry. Many evidences are coming day after day. Birds were initially reptiles and it was wondered that how can reptiles change to birds. Then the skeleton of a creature that was half bird-like and half-linear was discovered, and it became clear that this creature is the missing link between reptiles and birds. That. Studies of DNA are clear proofs and clear indicators of how evolution progresses.

Listener 2: Sir, what is achievement?

Speaker: Your desires are coming from an influence outside of you. Because circumstances are not inside,desire chase1 circumstances are all around, in which you are there, so desire comes from some place outside of you. So some place outside of you determines your desire and you start chasing that desire. And when you get it, you call it ‘my’ achievement. Are they really, really your desires? And if they are not your desires, how can they be your achievements? Before we dive headlong into achieving something, our whole time and energy into achieving XYZ, let us say, a particular CGPA, a particular job, a particular degree, before we commit ourselves fully to it, is it not wise to understand whether is it really my desire to get it? Or, whether there is ever any desire that is ‘mine’? Do you think all desires come from outside?

Listener 2: I think we are like wet-cement and everybody is putting knowledge in us.

Speaker: You are passing through a market and there is this Pizza-Hut Delivery outlet inside the mall. And there is nice smell, nice aroma of a freshly-baked pizza. When you pass through the outlet, the aroma comes to you. The Pizza-Hut owner has ensured that there is a particular aroma in-front of his outlet, for obvious reasons. You pass through it and the aroma strikes your nose. What is the result? You salivate. And the desire of having a pizza comes to you and you immediately walk into the outlet. And what do you say? It is ‘my’ desire. Now is it your desire or has the pizza owner induced his desire in you? Is it really your desire? And if that is not your desire, then how can fulfilling that desire be your achievement? Is it really your desire? Think of it. You may call it your desire. In the day-to-day language, you may say, ‘I want to have pizza, I desire for pizza’, but did the desire arise in you or has it been induced by the pizza owner? And if he has aroused the desire and you are acting because of his arousal, then are you a master or a slave? Are you a master or a slave? If somebody else has the power to make you work according to his wish, are you a master or a slave?

Listeners(everyone): Slave.

Speaker: Can a slave achieve? A slave goes out in the market to buy something as per his master’s wish and says, ‘It is my achievement that I have bought it.’ Is it his achievement? Or is it the command of his master that he is following? Now, do you know who your masters are? Who is commanding you to achieve, who is inducing desires within you? Who is inducing desires in you? Where do our desires come from? Where are they coming from?

Listener 3: From the society.

Speaker: Now would an intelligent man want to be a slave of the society? Would an intelligent, young man want to be a slave of the society. ‘Society thinks that it is good and respectable to go to an IIT, hence I wrote the IIT entrance. Society thinks that one must earn a hefty pay-cheque, hence I will earn a hefty pay-cheque. I do not know, I really do not know what I will do with that money, but you know everybody thinks it is good to earn so much of money, so I will earn that much money. Society’s desire has become my desire, society has superimposed its desires on me. And I am calling it as my desire. Am I intelligent? Am I intelligent?’ Are you with me? Are we together?

Listeners(everyone): Yes, Sir.

Speaker: Whose desires are you following? Whose desires are we following and calling it our achievements? When desire is of somebody else, how can achievement be yours? Yes, whose desires are we following? Whose mandate are we following?

Listener 3: Parents.

Speaker: Alright.

Listener 1: Friends. And…

Speaker: Friends. Who is influencing us? Who is creating desires in us? Who is telling us what to desire?

Listener 2: Peers.

Speaker: Peers. And…

Listener 3: Role models.

Speaker: Role models. Right.

Listener 4: People in the marketing profession.

Speaker: Wonderful. The entire thing in the media and the advertisements and all the stuff that you are seeing. You are still not putting your finger on the biggest culprit. Yes, who is telling you to achieve?

Listener 5: If society superimposes its desires on me, then why do we select something special?

Speaker: Let us say that I am a master and I have five sons. I choose the fastest runner of them to go the market and fetch things for me. He would be the fastest one, but he is still my slave. I want to make my work done quickly so I choose the fastest runner. You are the fastest among all, you go to the market and get me the things. Right? Who induces desires in my mind? You are not putting your finger on the biggest culprit. Yes.

Listener 6: Self.

Speaker: What is the ‘self’?

Listener 6: Our desire to be accepted and respected by the society around us.

Speaker: But even this thing that ‘you must be accepted by the society’

Listener 6: We have accepted this as a natural thing.

Speaker: Is that a natural thing? Is that really natural to be accepted by others or is that also conditioning?

Listener 6: Nobody wants to be alone, everybody wants to be with someone.

Speaker: Is that your natural state or even this has been taught to you? You think that nobody wants to live alone, but that might be conditioning superimposed on you, that to live alone is bad, only losers live alone. Through all the media, the songs and everything that has been filled in your mind right since early childhood, you have been made to believe that only losers live alone.

Listener 7: Everything comes from experience.

Speaker: And experience comes from outside. Right?

Listener 5: Everybody interprets things in his own way.

Speaker: What you are calling as ‘the own way’, ‘the self’, go into it. Is it really your ‘own way’, really your own way or is it ‘the taught way’, the way it should be? You have internalized it and started calling it ‘your’ way, but is it your ‘own way’? Did you have it since childhood or have you developed it because you were taught this way?

Listener 5: So, nothing can be ‘our own way’.

Speaker: That is too far to assume. Don’t go too far, whether to say that can anything be ours. Right now you needdesire chase2 to see if what you think is yours is really yours. Once you have understood that, then you can see that whether something can be ‘ours’ or not. Don’t go too far. First you need to see that what you believe as ‘yours’, is it somebody else’s or your’s. Once you come to understand what is happening right now, then the path to future opens by itself.

Yes, who is the biggest culprit? Who is infusing desires in you? Why can’t you name your education system? I mean look into this. Does it not infuse desires in you? (Pointing at the notice board which has the list of toppers of past years written on it) To have your name up there in immortal letters, I know for sure what kind of desire it induces.

Look at the logo of your hostel, ‘Sarv-shreshtham, Sarv-sundaram’. Is not being sundar (beautiful) sufficient? Why do you want to be sarv-sundar i.e. beautiful among all. Do you understand what is this? It is the competitive way of life. And who has taught you competition? The IIT-JEE, the class tenth board, class twelfth board exams. Being beautiful is not sufficient, one needs to be beautiful among all. And when you are trying to become ‘sarv-sundar’, you are continuously looking towards others because you will have to compare.

Don’t you see that all this is the product of the way your education has brought you up? Competitive, insecure, absorbing rather than analytical. Anything written in the book, you read it and you accept it. Somebody else has set your study course and you undergo the course. Do you decide the contents of the course? Do you decide the contents of the book? Do you even decide which book to read or not? There were prescribed textbooks. Did you decide what will be taught in class fourth, fifth and sixth. And do all students deserve to be taught the same thing? Don’t you see that what you call as ‘your wish’ and ‘your mind’, is a creation of your education system and the media, the society, the parents and everybody else?

Education system ranks pretty high in the making of your mind. What you call as ‘your’ mind has been created through all these inputs that have been attacking you right since your childhood. And then you call it as ‘my’ achievement. How intelligent is that? So, I have a dog, I throw a ball and tell it to fetch it for me. So it fetches the ball and comes back to me. The dog says, ‘It is my achievement that I brought this ball.’ My dog, my training, my ball, my order, my desire and the dog says, ‘my achievement.’ How intelligent is the dog! My dog, my ball. But your life? (Addressing the listeners). So you must speak. You must speak. And this question is not very relevant to those who have already surrendered their life, who are either too young or too old or who anyway do not have the grey matter to think and decide for themselves. Remember you have proven one thing- that you can analyse. And because you can analyse, you should also analyse your own life. Should you not? Or do you only want to analyse differential equation, not your own life? Electrolyte plate is to be understood but not your life. You don’t even bother to understand your life. Have you studied Maxwell’s equation?

Listeners(everyone): Yes, Sir.

Speaker: So the same mind that understands Maxwell’s equations, would it not understand it’s own life? Or is Maxwell more important than your own life? Won’t you like to understand anything, or you prefer sleepwalking all your life? ‘I don’t understand but I am living.’ How did you join IIT? ‘Had left home, had to reach anywhere so reached here.’ Now what will you do? ‘The way I reached here, I will one day leave as well.’ But why would you leave? ‘Because after four years I would be told to vacate the hostel.’ Is that the way you want to live life? Then, how do you want to live it?

Remember all of you want to be achievers. You want to be achievers so you have to see. Have we observed the question of achievement? As we have opened the question of achievement, do you see where are all these goals coming from? The thing that you say, ‘it is coming from my mind’, is it really ‘your’ mind? What you call as ‘the self’, is it really the ‘self’ or just a product of conditioning?

Listener 6: So, everything is a product of conditioning.

Speaker: Is there anything that is not a product of conditioning? Name it. To say that there is even an inch of you that is not a product of conditioning, would be sufficient.

Listener 7: There can be something let us say, a particular kind of soft drink, and it is not decided by the society.

Speaker: Alright. How many of you have no problems with eating normal dal, roti and sabzi? You were talking about food.

(Most of the students raise their hands.)

How many Europeans would have no problems with eating normal dal, roti and sabzi?

Listener 8: They would have never even tried it.

Speaker: And the first time they are given it, they wouldn’t have really any taste for it. You walk into a hotel and an extensive menu is given to you which has seven different types of cuisines. Spanish, Mexican, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Chinese. To which one would you immediately go?

Listener 7: Indian.

Speaker: Indian or Chinese, almost ninety of you would go with these. Are your food choices really coming from yourself or your circumstances?

Listener 7: That may be because we have never tried anything other than that food before.

Speaker: How can you try if you have been told that only certain things are worth trying? Of course, you have not tried. How old are you? Eighteen years.

Listener 7: Eighteen years old.

Speaker: Eighteen years is a very-very long time. Imagine what all could have been tried in these eighteen years. But have you really tried? And how can you try when you already know that such things are not worth trying?

Listener 8: I have not been allowed to try but now as I am old enough, I can try on my own.

Speaker: You can try on your own provided you think that it is worth trying. But when this sense of ‘worth’ itself is coming from outside how will you try? You are seemingly independent right now but even that independence is decided by your mind. What if the mind is decided by somebody else? Let me ask you a few more questions. A few very basic things which you call as ‘my’ choices. A pretty brunette or a blonde girl walks in, this one is for all the males here. A pretty American girl walks in and along with her a Negro girl walks in. Where would your eyes immediately look at? Tell me honestly. Don’t you see that even your basic instincts like love, sexual attraction, are conditioned. And you will call it ‘my’ choice. ‘I wanted to see.’ Did you want to see? It is because you have a particular type of skin and because you have been ruled by the Englishmen for a fiercely long period of time, you are been deeply conditioned to look only at the fair color. Otherwise, there is nothing in the fair color. Any color is as good as the other. And because of all the media, the songs that you are hearing since childhood, you have been conditioned.

It is my brother’s wedding and there is a fair-skinned woman present. A song is being played which says, ‘Gori, gori, gori.’ And you have been thoroughly conditioned by the song now. You don’t even know that you have been conditioned. You think it is ‘your’ choice. No it is not your choice; it is the choice of the song writer who has composed the lyrics of the song. And those lyrics have penetrated so deeply into your psyche that you even don’t know that you have become slave to the song writer now. Otherwise, what is wrong with the colour black? Think honestly. You know, before the Britishers came to India, Indians never had any preference for white skin. But today everybody wants to be white. Right? Fairness creams and all such things are there in the market. Right or not?

Listeners(everyone): Yes, Sir.

Speaker: Indians never had any preference for bright colours which is this white colour before Britishers came to India. But because the Britishers came here and they subjugated you, you thought that it has something to do with the colour of their skin. Now the conditioning is deep, very-very deep. So deep that very few of you would want to have a dark-skinned girlfriend. Am I right about it or not? Whatever you call as your desire, is it really your desire? Be it in the case of food, love or anything. Nothing is yours. This body came from outside, you have no control over this body. Right. Nobody can control your shape and size, you cannot change the colour of your eyes, the colour of your hair. Can you? Your body is completely a creation of the outside, the first two cells that made your body came from outside, one from your father, one from your mother, and after that every single gram of weight that you have gained, has come from the outside, from the food that you have eaten and the air that you have inhaled. There is nothing in your body which is really yours. Is there anything in your body that is really yours?

Things that you call yourself, let us examine them. How many of you chose your religion? That you had an option between becoming a Jew, a Muslim, a Christian, a Hindu. How many of you actively chose your religion? But then you would be very vociferous to claim that it is ‘my’ religion. How many of you chose your country? That I have a option of living in this or that country How many chose to be Indians? Is there anything of you, or are you just a slave of circumstances? Seemingly it looks we have choices, on the surface. But do you really have choices? You are only achieving what others are dictating. Are you not? Do you fully agree with this, or are you too astonished about it, or are you absent?

Listener 1: I don’t really agree with it. It’s not always that we want to achieve, to reach some goal. We want to achieve because it gives us happiness.

Speaker: Yes, we would come to this animal called ‘happiness’, We will understand it but right away we will talk about achievement.

Listener 2: But when you achieve a goal, one feels happy.

Speaker: Right. What do you feel happy about? You can be trained to feel happy which is alright. Right now if I put a shot of hormones in you, you will start feeling happy. If I release some nitrous oxide gas in this room, you can even start laughing. So, that feeling of happiness doesn’t mean anything. To be happy, you just need two shots of injection and you will be happy. That happiness is worthless, it is a physical thing, a hormonal thing, a chemical thing. We had just talked a little while ago about the smell of Pizza. The pizza’s smell reaches your nose and you become happy. You become happy but the master is somebody else.

Listener 3: Sir, you just took an example of going to a restaurant and making a choice between North Indian, Mexican, Japanese food. But what if we like all of them?

Speaker: How can you like? That is the question. Where are your likings coming from? It is not a hypothetical question. How can you like everything? You already have your preferences and choices. Preferences are desires. You can’t speak hypothetically that I’ll go to a restaurant and I’ll like all the dishes. Do you actually like all the dishes? No. We are not talking about imaginations here, that what if I can choose everything.

Listener 4: You took the example of religion. But I have a friend who comes from a Hindu family but he has chosen to be an atheist. My whole family likes something in food but I don’t like it.

Speaker: Alright. On the surface it may look that we have choices but go deeply into it, do we really have any choices. Go deeper into it. How many of you are strict vegetarians?

(Some of the listeners raise their hands up)

Speaker: Okay, you three. I’m so sure that majority of you would be coming from a strict vegetarian family. Two out of three.

(The speaker questions the listeners who raised their hands)

So, I said, two out of three and that is the case. This is the way we are functioning.

Listener 5: Sir, what about those people whose families are vegetarian and they are non-vegetarian.

Speaker: That is all right. Then there is another influence, there is this non-vegetarian restaurant thing. (Referring to an advertisement of non-vegetarian food chain) The ad showing the hen roosting and calling that I am tasty. So, first the family decides that you will be vegetarian and then the non-vegetarian food chain decides that you will be a non-vegetarian. Where are you in all this? Now that sounds unpleasant.

‘Am I not there at all? Why am I wasting my life? As a young man or woman I would like to understand, where am I investing my whole life, chasing this whole business of achievement.’

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

Watch the session video: Whose desires are you chasing? || Acharya Prashant (2012)

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