Freedom from compulsive slavery|| Acharya Prashant (2013)

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

Speaker: The topic of ‘Compulsion’ and ‘Free-will’ is what we are concerned with. When do you call something a compulsion?

Listener 1: When I am not interested in doing something and I am forced to do something.

Speaker: At a superficial level compulsion is when the mind does not feel interested. And according to you, when you feel interested, then it is not a compulsion. Correct?
Listeners(everyone): Yes.

Speaker: So at the basis of concept of compulsion lies the basis of concept of interest. Interest determines whether an activity is a compulsion or not. Now where do these interests come from?

Listener 1: What we gather when others do something.

Speaker: Now you said that compulsion is when ‘I’ am not interested in doing something. So compulsion is when an external influence is acting on you. I asked you about the interests and you said, ‘Interest is that which we gather from others doing.’ What else is compulsion then? If your interests also come from the outside, how are they different from compulsion?

Listener 2: In interests, there is an internal influence also.

Speaker: What is this thing called ‘internal’?

Listener 2: That which comes from the mind.

Speaker: He says that mind is internal and hence when an interest arises from the mind, it is ‘mine’. Is ‘my’ mind really mine? Only if ‘my’ mind is mine, then the interests would be mine. Let us try to understand what we call as ‘mind’. Mind, which is the seat of all our interests and disinterests as well. Now there are three questions coming up:

1.Is there anything that I was always interested in?
2. Is there any interest that comes to me irrespective of my background or past?
3. Would my interests have been the same if I were born and brought up in a different society, in a different age, in a different gender etc.?

Taking the first question. Is there anything that I was always interested in?

Listeners(everyone): No.

Speaker: So, if you were not always interested in something, time gave it to you. The entire movement of your life gave it to you. Can you call it yours? If you did not always have it, surely it came from outside. Is it not simple to understand?

The second question is: is there any interest that comes to me irrespective of my background or past?

Take away your history, will any interest still survive? Forget that you were born in India as a male or a female, in a particular age, locality, were made to believe in a certain religion, were made to believe in certain set of ethics etc., take away all of this and see if your interests will still remain. So where are these interests coming from?

Obviously, they are external influences. But then, the very first statement you made was, ‘External influences are compulsions and we don’t like them.’ Now how intelligent is it of us to call some external influences as compulsions and other external influences as interests? Not very intelligent but some of you will turn around and say, ‘Sir, some of these influences we like and some of them we don’t like. We agree that all are external influences but still we have a degree of say. We do have some free-will in that. After all we do not like every external influence.’

When you are being taught something, when an external influence is taking place, it not only gives you an interest, it not only gives you a particular liking but it actually tells you what is to be liked and what is to be disliked. This entire process is called Conditioning.

For example, the ones who are vegetarian surely do not like to have non-vegetarian food. Do we have vegetarians here?

(Some of the listeners raise their hands)

Do we have non-vegetarians too?

(Again some of the listeners raise their hands)

Chances are that since childhood there was an influence upon you that one kind of food is better than the other kind of food. Surely, a two-year old or a five-year old cannot really distinguish between vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. Similarly we will have people here who have non-vegetarian food since childhood because that was a norm in the family. Today if you speak to vegetarians, they will say that they dislike this kind of food.

Now, do you really dislike it?


You can dislike something only when you understand what the whole thing is about. Do you really understand it? And it requires a great deal of intelligence to understand what is food, what is body and what is this thing called ‘eating’. No, we don’t understand. Because we were born probably in a certain religion that holds certain kinds of beliefs, so we grew up having one kind of ‘likes’ and another kind of ‘dislikes’. This is a very obvious case, so it is visible.

But this is just the same with any kind of interest or any disinterest that we hold. And we think that if we are interested in something, it implies our freedom. If you think that you are doing something because you are interested in it, you feel a certain degree of freedom. Right? Conversely, if you do something that you are not quite interested in, you feel bad. But if it turns out that both my interests and disinterests are external influences, then, is there any reason to rejoice fulfilling your interests?


There are two ways to enslave a man. One is, make him do something forcibly and then he will resist it. The other way is, condition him. Condition him into liking what you want him to do. Will he resist it then?

Listeners(everyone): No.

Speaker: He will not only do it but also claim that he is doing it out of his free-will. If you want to make a man do something forcibly, then there is the law, society, ethical code, etc to prevent such kind of happening. But if you are cunning and the other fellow is quite ignorant, not conscious enough, then you would not force somebody to do something. You would just create a set of beliefs in his mind and he will will-fully start doing a lot of things.

All the contents of our mind are external influences.

Now even if you are even semi-intelligent, then this statement should trouble you a lot. If you are a little conscious, then you will cringe upon reading this. ‘What is this being said? I think I am ‘my’ mind. ‘My’ mind is my greatest asset. And I am being told that my mind is nothing but a creation of external influences.’ You would certainly not like it. You would certainly want to examine the authenticity of this statement. Would you or would you not?


Listeners(everyone): Yes.


Speaker: But if you are someone who is bothered about himself, who has no regards for himself, you would say, ‘How does it matter? Even if I am a slave, let it be so.’ Let us try to understand that what is this thing called ‘the mind’.


Listener 2: Our mind is like a storage device. Whatever it sees, it gathers in it.


Speaker: So that is Memory. Memory is Time. Everything that has happened in the past. But this is only one part of the answer. Is the mind only a storage device?


Listener 3: Mind is that part of our body that experiences things. It is also intelligent. It decides what is good for us and so what is bad on the basis of previous experiences.


Speaker: That much even a machine can do. If you have to decide on the basis of previous experiences, even a computer can do that. You feed a computer a software and a database, the computer will gain decision-making ability. All it requires is a database and a program. It will have a certain decision-making capability. So, if you are saying that our decisions come on the basis of past then you are still confined to that bit of the answer which says that the mind is a storage device.

Listener 4: Mind has intelligence.

Speaker: What is it? Is it something that is dependent on the past?

Listener 5: Partly.

Speaker: Then, would you call a computer an intelligent system?

Listener 5: It gives new ideas.

Speaker: And what is ‘new’ here? That which is not the past. And a machine is always dependent on the past. Howsoever smart a computer is, is it not dependent on its programming? It cannot work without that. What is this thing called ‘intelligence’ then? Go into this word, ‘new’. What does it have to do with intelligence?

Listener 6: New success and new difficulties come in our life.

Speaker: How do you know that something is a ‘new’ difficulty? What do you mean by ‘difficulty’? You see, you call something as difficulty because in the past you have learnt that it is a difficulty. If an entirely new situation comes to you, would you be able to call it a difficulty? If it is an entirely new situation, you have no experience of it in the past, will you still be able to label it as a difficulty? You are afraid of a lion because from your past you know that lions are dangerous.

What is Intelligence? What do you mean by ‘new’? And if we do not understand that, then we are not really human beings.

Listener 6: ‘New’ is something that we have never experienced.


Speaker: But brain is a reservoir. We have a lot of memories stored here. But sheer dependence on the past, the conditioning does not make you human. To be human is to be able to perceive the new, the now. The best of the computer cannot respond to an input it has not been programmed for. But an intelligent human being, an intelligent mind can respond to an entirely new challenge, even to an entirely new situation of which he has no experience in the past. So, can we say that the capacity to act independent of the past, is what is called as ‘intelligence’? The capacity to be in the new, to experience it and respond to it, is what is called as ‘intelligence’.

Listeners(everyone): Yes.

Speaker: Mind is Brain plus Intelligence. Brain is Programming plus Database.

Action of the brain is called as ‘thoughts’. When the brain functions, what you get is called as ‘thoughts’. This necessarily implies that all your interests and disinterests are also thoughts, are a part of your programming, are a part of your conditioning. They are arising from this brain which is a product of evolution which you have gained as you have grown up.

The action of intelligence is called as ‘attention’. So, brain is thoughts and intelligence is attention. And all thoughts will come from the past.



Listener 4: How are mind and intelligence related?


Speaker: The brain is the seat of intelligence. What you call as ‘mind’ is an abstract entity comprising of two elements. Brain, which is the physical part and intelligence which again is something abstract. This can be seen only in its effect, only in its functioning.

Listener 4: Why does the mind keep on fluctuating?

Speaker: Mind keeps on fluctuating because brain is susceptible to influences and influences keep on changing. Your brain is the result of your past and every passing moment is becoming the past. The brain lives in time and time is continuously changing, moving ahead. With every passing moment, situations are changing. Your brain is also changing, thoughts are changing. Are you thinking of the same thoughts right now that you were thinking ten minutes back? No.

We all see how our thoughts keep changing and we think that these are ‘our’ thoughts. We do not recognize that all thoughts come from external influences. For example, if a group of students passes by from here and they start making some kind of noise, what is it likely to do you? It is likely to activate some thoughts in your mind. You will start thinking of something. Will all of you start thinking of the same thing? No.

So, two things stand out:
1. Thoughts arise from external influences.
2. Thoughts arise from the conditioning of ‘my’ brain.

Whatsoever you have here in the brain is surely a product of conditioning. It is not at all yours. It has been given to you. It has come to you from the outside. Let’s just say that it is an ‘external influence’, the word that we started with. The list is endless of things which have been given to you. Let us see a few things that have been given to you.

Body: You will see that none of it is yours. The first couple of cells were taken from your parents and then its air, water, food, sunlight, and all of these are external.

Gender: Do we anyone here who gave an application to be born in a particular gender?

Anyone who chose to be an Indian here? All of these are external influences. They are just happening. You have no role in that. We claim that ‘my heart beats’. Did you decide that it should beat? Can you decide it to stop beating for even fifteen seconds or so?

A few more things given to you are: religion, beliefs, targets, desires, concept of success, identities. All this is what fills up the mind, all this is what makes up our identities. And all of this is coming from outside. The entire content of the brain, every single cell of the brain, the entire programming is coming from outside. And if you are intelligent, you will see that all this is slavery.

To be free, to be a master and not a slave means to be free from the external influences.

If all the time I am doing that which has been imposed on me then am I a slave or not? I have been told by external situations that clearing the IIT-JEE exam is a great success. So, I work hard for it without understanding what the whole matter is all about. And then when I get a particular rank, I am not even shy of claiming that ‘I am successful.’ I call my slavery as success. All this because I have been handed over a few notions of success, that if I do ‘this’ in life, if I achieve ‘this’ in life then I am successful.

Listener 3: Sir, what is success?

Speaker: You tell me. You have been chasing it all around. It is good that you are asking, but along with this one more question should arise. ‘How have I been living my life?’ You are the ones chasing success and your concept of success comes from your surroundings.

Do success and achievement mean same to all? And why are they different to different people? Because different people are brought up in different situations, they are handed over different sets of belief. Your master tells you to go and fetch a particular good from the market and you start running to get that good. And if you get it, you start thinking that it is success. Have you ever bothered to stop and ask, ‘What do I mean by success? Is there anything called success?’ Anybody who does not recognize an external influence as an external influence, is nothing but a slave.

A free man is the one who acts out of his intelligence, not out of the influence of the surroundings, not out of what parents, media, society have been telling him.

Even your deepest desires are borrowed. What is yours in that? You feel hungry because the body is programmed to feel hungry. Did you decide that your body should feel hungry? It is millions and millions of evolution that has brought your brain to this point. But what do you claim? ‘I am hungry’, as if it is an act of your intelligence. Hunger has been with you since childhood.

At this age you have come to a point when you feel attracted towards the other gender and you do not realize that it is not you but a few hormones and chemicals being released. Five or ten years back you did not get attracted to women but today you say, ‘I have fallen in love.’ As if there is any ‘I’ present in any of that. Have you seen cattle running after each other in the market place? They are greatly in love with each other. There also is the game of hormones but when that happens with us, we think that we are free creatures and it is an act of ‘my’ doing. If this is an act of your doing, then why must it happen at only eighteen? Why not happening at eight? And why will it not happen at eighty? Today you are eighteen and it is happening to you. Why did it not happen ten years back? Because it is purely an external thing. Your body! It is programming! It is a carryover from the past. You had no say in that. You have no say in any of that and then you give it great names like, ‘falling in love’. Why didn’t you fall in love at eight?

Born in India you claim that Cricket is ‘my’ interest. Many of you are interested in Cricket. Born in Brazil, would you say that you are interested in Cricket? Then you would have been interested in?

Listeners(everyone): Football.

Speaker: So of course it is not your interest. It is coming from?

Listeners(everyone): Outside.

Speaker: But you do not see it as slavery. Is there anything in your life which is not slavery? Tell me one thing in your life which is yours, which you have not borrowed from the society, environment, parents, evolution, education, media, politicians, religion, ideologies, philosophies, etc., different parts from different places and you have started calling it ‘mine’.

Are you just a sum total of all that has happened to you or are you something more than that?

Listeners(everyone): Something more than that.

Speaker: And what is that?

Listener 2: Soul.

Speaker: And where is this word coming from? From your family. Another part of the slavery.

Listener 1: Then, ‘Who am I?’

Speaker: Is this question coming because we are here and I have created an environment?

Listener 2: Yes. Why should I know it at all?

Speaker: Unless one sees that life is freedom and to not to be free is to be not only a moron but also to be absolutely dead, this question will not arise. And it will not bother you that you are a slave, if you have no taste of freedom.

See, if I am born in slavery and I know nothing except slavery, then slavery will not bother me. But slavery will start deeply bothering me if I get even a little taste of freedom. You keep a fellow enslaved all his life and he will be gladly enslaved, because he has very little idea of freedom. Most of us are so deeply enslaved that we do not know the joy of freedom. And that is why we ask, ‘What is wrong with slavery?’ To know that one is enslaved, one must have taste of freedom. We all have tasted freedom in some way or the other. And we all want to be free. We all dislike slavery.

To be free, one has to be deeply aware of causes of slavery. In this deep awareness, in this deep attention lies the way to freedom.

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

Watch the session video: Freedom from compulsive slavery|| Acharya Prashant (2013)

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