Individuality is the ability to understand and respond || Acharya Prashant (2014)

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Questioner: Personality is what the society gives, and individuality is what we are. When we look around, we see that we do everything as per the society. We know of our ourselves as what society tells us. So what is the difference between these two? A person is never an individual. He has some or the other thing from the society. Every time he has to impress the society. Individuality is a very rare thing nowadays. How can we be individual?Acharya Prashant: What is your name?

Q: Kushagra.

AP: Kushagra, first of all, you are not very old. You do not know of the other times. Do not say that ‘nowadays’ individuality is less. The world has always been like this. Whatever the state of the world is, it was not very different in any age. Most people have always been stupid and fake. We are not living in any special times. We are not more privileged than people of any particular era.

So you are asking me something. Right? And there was Devendra, and there was Danish, and they too asked me something. Do I really have the freedom to say anything to you? And by anything I mean, ‘just about anything’. If I say anything, that won’t even be freedom. That would be looseness. So when you ask me a question, in some way I have been channelized to give a particular answer.

(Pointing at different people sitting in the audience) He asked me a different question, he asked me a different question, and his question was different. Right? Now in that way, I am a slave to all of you because you decide the question and in deciding the question, you have restricted the range of the response. Have you not? So you can go ahead and claim that we are your master because we set the topic, and then you speak on that topic.

You are asking me about individuality. What if I start speaking on the Bernoulli’s Theorem? What if I start talking about Cauchy- Riemann equation? And you are asking me about individuality. And I say, ‘Forget individuality. I will talk about ‘turbulent flow’. I will talk about ‘Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.’ You are saying, ‘Sir, individuality’ and I am saying, ‘Forget about it, this is the response.’

But I cannot do that. Right? You will call me madman if I do that. Many of you may still be calling me a madman but that number will increase! Right? So where is my individuality in all this? If you are setting the agenda for the discussion, where is my individuality in all this?

Listener : You can speak on any topic.

AP: But then you are deciding the topic.

L : You have the capability to…

AP: Speak again.

L : You have the capability to speak on any topic.

AP: In this sentence, which word is the most important?

L : Capability.

AP : Wonderful. This is individuality.

You are the one who is setting the agenda. Right? You are the one who is deciding the question. But the capability to respond is mine.

So the society will decide the situation, but you will decide the..? Quick. You will decide the..?

L : Response.

AP: Between you and me, who decided the question? Where is the response coming from? That is individuality. Situations will never be in your hands. No fellow on earth can ever control situations. Sitting over here, how do I know what you are going to ask? Can I predetermine the questions? Do I know what is written in your notebooks? Do I know that? But I can be very sure of one thing. What? Quickly. What?

L : The ability to respond.

AP : Yes. That when something will come, when the challenge will arise, when the situation will pose itself, then I will have the… I will have the…

L : Capability.

AP : Capability to…

L : Respond.

AP : Respond. And that is your individuality. So the society, you talked of the society, so the society will pose many situations. Every moment can be called a fresh challenge. But my individuality lies in responding to that challenge, not in a predetermined way but in my intelligence, in my understanding. So when Kushaagra says something, I have to be so attentive that I understand. Can I respond without understanding?

L : No, Sir.

AP : Can I respond without understanding? And that is individuality.

The capability to respond. And before that the capability to understand because responding is not possible without understanding.

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

Watch the session video: Individuality is the ability to understand and respond || Acharya Prashant (2014)

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