Interests never arise from individuality || Acharya Prashant (2014)

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Speaker: What is the relation of interest and talent with individuality?

Interest and talent as we know them are just acquired personalities. What we normally call as interest, what we normally call as talent, are nothing but acquired states of mind. Born in India there is a great chance that you would be interested in Cricket. Born in Brazil you would not be interested in Cricket. There is nothing special about interest.

Individuality is not about pursuing your interests because your interests are anyway conditioned. Man is physically conditioned to chase women. Women are physically conditioned to be attracted to men. What is so great about interests?

Lion is interested in flesh, rabbit is interested in grass. You are physically conditioned. Hindus are interested in temples, Muslims are interested in mosques. You are socially conditioned. Born in an actor’s family you are interested in acting. Born in a doctor’s family you are interested in becoming a doctor. So first all of this notion that one must live life according to one’s interest must be dispensed with.

Your interests are just an expression of your conditioning. No regard can be given to your interests. Then comes the issue of talent. What do you mean by talent? In the usual sense in which we use the word ‘talent’, it just refers to a socially approved skill. What is a skill? Something that you acquire through repetitive practice. Whatever gets repeated becomes a skill.

So you take a piece of wood, you repeatedly hit a ball with it and if you are in India, you will be called as a talented cricketer. In some other country, let us say Russia, it amounts to nothing. So, another ‘sacred’ that you need to demolish is ‘talent’.

You take a particular kind of instrument, you play it and if that happens to be a socially approved instrument, then you would be called a talented musician otherwise, it is nothing. There may be societies where it is considered a great talent to have a very long neck, and there are such societies. In Burma they used to put rings around the necks of the little girls so that the necks do not get thick and they grow vertically. Long necks there would be considered as the standard of beauty.

‘Identify your talent and pursue it’, this is a very nonsensical statement and is of no merit. Do not relate it to individuality. Neither interests nor talent is related to individuality. Don’t you see that different societies regard different things as talent? If you are in a society where what you do is not valued, you will not be called talented. Someone comes and says that he dances very well. It is only a particular kind of dance that will be called as talent. In fact it would be only a particular kind of movement that would be called as dance.

Have you all ever wondered what is dance? Even dance is social. Not every movement will be regarded as dance. By whom? By the purists, by the pandits. They are the ones who decide what dance is. The child may be displaying very innocent movements but it would not be called as dance. Dance has to be organized, systematic. This step and that step, these many seconds, this pose, this mudra and that mudra. It has already been coded and freezed. So, these are nothing.

You are a great Kathak dancer, doesn’t mean anything, just a skill. Put in so many hours of training and you will acquire that skill. Anybody can acquire a skill. Just a skill. ‘My wife has talent for cooking.’ What the hell? She has been cooking all her life. Obviously she has acquired some skills. What do you mean by talent for cooking? A very talented car driver. He is professional. He is driving all along. It is just repetition. It is just conditioning of the mind. But there is another meaning of the word talent. For that we have to see how it translates in Sanskrit. That is called as ‘Pratibha’. There this word takes an all together different dimension. ‘Pratibha‘ is an entirely different thing.

Pratibha‘ is that which arises out of your meditation. That is the definition of ‘Pratibha‘. That is the real meaning of talent. That which arises out of mediation. Now this is related to individuality. That which arises out of your individuality is talent. Not what you have acquired from society which means that talent cannot be a specific thing. The body is in different conditions. The situation is different outside, is always varying.

The response that arises from your understanding, the action that happens from your your understanding is ‘talent’.

Talent is not only the expression, it is also the arrival of the answer. It is not only the fruit, it is also the sprouting of the very plant, fruits come later. So, that is talent. In particular situations there is a deep connectedness from where the response flows. That is the only talent one can have. Everything else is skill. Just give the right name, skill.

Then there is another word that we do not understand and that is ‘conditioning’. We have repeated so many times that conditioning is of two types: social and physical. The story of the child does not begin on the day he is born. The child is the entire history of the universe. What do you mean that it is the talent that he is expressing? No, it’s there. The child is born with green eyes. ‘Very talented child’. What has the child done in this?

Listener 1: How does one know that the expression is happening because of the biological conditioning or it is happening because of understanding? How are these two different?

Speaker: Because expression of intelligence amounts to nothing. It is not specific. That expression of intelligence is ingrained in life. It is not something specific like a talent. You will not say that intelligence is expressing itself through a piano. That at the age of four he is playing the piano. That intelligence will express itself in every moment of the child’s life, not in some particular act. Whereas what you call as skill or conditioning would always be one particular thing. It is limited. That is the definition of conditioning.

Listener 2: Sir isn’t it wrong to judge children on their skills and the so-called talent?

Speaker: If you judge yourself on skill, if you judge yourself on beauty and talent, you will inevitably judge everyone else on the same yardstick. So, it is not very pertinent to ask that how to look at a child. You look at a child in absolutely the same way as you look at yourself. You pride yourself on your fair color, it is impossible to not to be concerned about the complexion of the child. The way you look at yourself is the way you look at the world.

Listener 3: So, ‘talent’ and ‘intelligence’ are synonymous as they both sprout from meditation.

Speaker: Intelligence if that ‘thing’ that never moves, it is a cessation. Talent is its sprouting. You will not say that when thought ceases, it enters talent. Talent is always an expression. But I am cautioning that talent is not a specific expression.

You are eating with someone and you can sense that the fellow does not like something or is in need of something, this requires both attention and compassion. If you push a glass of water to that person even though he is not asking for it, it is a spontaneous expression. But you cannot write it on your resume that he is a very talented glass-pusher. It is a talent of course. It has come and it has gone.

Listener 2: It is spontaneous and so unpredictable.

Speaker: It is unpredictable. It is not social. In fact the entire domain of meditative understanding is called ‘Praatibh Gyan (The knowledge that you get from talent)‘. So, who is talented? The mystic is greatly talented. Everybody is talented because talent is not specific. We live in such a poor world that we have abused all these words. It is such an impoverished world that everything is abused. Talent is abused, it is confused with skill. Interests are taken as an expression of individuality, which they obviously are not.

Listener 2: Sir, when we make resume we write this and that about ourselves. These skill sets that we mention in our resume, are these also not socially acquired?

Speaker: Yes. It is just like a matrimonial advertisement. We only write things that will please the organization, the other person. We do not write what we are.

-Excerpts from Clarity Session held at Advait Office. Edited for clarity.

View the session at: watch?v=jy6ME9geN_A

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    1. Dear Adam,

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