Your ‘individuality’ is just a deceptive name given by ego to itself || Acharya Prashant (2014)

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Question: On one hand the HIDP tells us to be individuals, on the other hand we are being asked to read texts. Why are we not allowed to write what we think?

Speaker: What is the difference between an ‘individual’ and a ‘person’? Let us understand this. Let us depict the mind of the individual by one circle, and the mind of the person by another circle. The word ‘individual’ is linked to ‘indivisible’. That which is neither divided nor can be divided. There is no possibility. So there is this circle; the individual’s circle. And it’s an empty circle. Zero cannot be divided. There are only two entities that cannot be divided; zero and infinity. You can represent the individual by any of them. They both are indivisible. Zero and infinity.

We will just take zero for the sake of convenience. So there is the mind of the individual: blank, empty. Or let me say: clear and clean, containing no garbage, with no influences working on it. And then there is the mind of the person. The mind of the person, you may visualize, is divided into hundreds of sectors. Hundreds of small sectors. Do you understand a ‘sector’? A sector is within a circle. What is each of these sectors representing? It is representing a particular influence upon the mind. Every sector is dominated by some other influence. And the sectors keep fluctuating. Thousands of sectors keep mingling, changing, but they remain within the circle. They never go away. They never leave the mind clean.

One sector is dominated by family, other by education, third by friends, fourth by media, religion, and all kinds of influences. And these too have their own chemistry with each other. So in a particular environment I am influenced by this person, or that force, or that system and similarly in another environment by another person. And all these sectors are being pushed in different directions. So friends are pushing or rather pulling the mind in one direction, and teachers are pulling it in another direction.

So what happens to an entity upon which two opposing forces are acting? It remains stressed. Right? And if the stress increases beyond a point, then it is torn apart. That is the mind of the person: divided, stressed and torn apart by various forces. And we experience that daily. The biggest sign of that stress is confusion, indecision. We can’t decide. And don’t you see, don’t you inquire? Why can’t you be attentive enough? Whenever there is indecision there are always two or three options. These two or three options are actually two or three influences upon the mind. Each trying to go differently. That is the mind of a person- a slave to a thousand influences.

Now suppose three people are pulling me. (The speaker uses his fingers to indicate three different directions. Say, ‘a’,’b’, and ‘c’) One in this direction, ‘a’, one in this ‘b’ and another in this direction ‘c’. This one ‘a’ succeeds and takes me there. Is that direction mine?

Listeners: No, Sir.

Speaker: Alright. Then let’s assume that this one ‘b’ succeeds and takes me there. Is that direction mine?

Listeners: No, Sir.

Speaker: Let’s say this one succeeds ‘c’ and takes me there. Is that direction mine?

Listeners: No, Sir.

Speaker: Let’s say that none of these succeed and instead I am moving towards the resultant of these three forces. If there are three forces, then there ought to be a resultant. So I move towards let us say this direction. (Indicating using his arm a different direction from the previous three). Is that direction mine?Whichever direction you go

Listeners: No, Sir.

Speaker: That’s how our lives are. Whichever direction we go, that direction is not ours. That is the enslavement, the depth of enslavement of the person. And it is tragic, because that’s not what it is meant to be.

Of all the influences on the mind, one of the influences is: ‘you are free’. Of the thousand beliefs that have been embedded into the mind, one of the beliefs is: you have a free power of opinion making. Now that’s extremely dangerous because the best way to let a slave remain a slave is to tell him, that he is already free. If you can convince a slave that he is already free that is the best and most deceptive way of keeping him enslaved. Is that not so?

There is a prisoner in a jail. If he can be convinced that: this is not a jail at all, this is your personal palace, and these policemen are your personal guards, personal security guards, and you are a V.I.P. and these handcuffs, these chains are not chains, they are actually ornaments. Will the prisoner ever try to break free? Will he ever try to break free?

Listeners: No, Sir.

Speaker: That is what happens to the person who starts thinking that she is an individual. “I am a prisoner but I have been convinced that this is freedom. This itself is freedom, there is no need to become free, because I am already free.” You do not know what freedom is, you do not know what individuality is. You are just saying, “Be individual, be individual.” What does ‘being an individual’ mean? Does ‘being an individual’ mean going as per your likes and dislikes? Does ‘being an individual’ mean that I like pizza, so I will order pizza? Is that what individuality is? Does ‘being and individual’ mean “I)am attracted towards a particular dress so I’ll buy it”? Is that what individuality is?

What is your individuality? You have no notion of individuality, yet you are so deeply conditioned that you just stand up and say, “I am an individual, I’ll not read this.” Your situation is like that of a man outside the jail who is trying to shout aloud with all his energy, “Friend, kindly see that this is a jail, kindly come out of it.” And you are complaining. You are complaining, “You know that man is our enemy. We are in our personal palace and he is trying to tell us that we should come out. He is interfering in our freedom. We are individuals, and he is interfering in our individuality.”

Do you know individuality? Do you have any taste of individuality? You must have heard that story. I have repeated it so may times but it is such a nice story, I never tire of repeating it. Have you heard that story of the bird in the cage? Even if you’ve heard it, hear it once again. It’s worth hearing a thousand times.

There is the bird in the cage. Since childhood the bird is in the cage itself. It was born in the cage. It knows nothing but the cage. It is alright in the cage because it’s master feeds it. Morning and evening the bird is given a few things to eat. The bird is also given a few toys inside the cage. So the bird can keeps itself entertained. And the bird is safe and secure in the cage, because cats, dogs, eagles, cannot attack it as long as it is within the cage.

The master is fond of telling the neighbours, “I teach my bird all kinds of good things.” So he teaches the bird all kinds of nice things and one of the things that he teaches the bird is, “Say freedom! Say freedom is precious. Say individuality! Say truth! Say joy!”  So a young man is passing by that cage one day and there is nobody looking. The cage is kept a little outside the house. And he sees this bird. And the bird is constantly parroting, “Freedom! Freedom! Freedom! Truth! Flight! Joy! Freedom! Freedom!”

Now the young man is young in the real sense of the word. He has real red-blood flowing in his veins. He says, “Oh my God! A bird is meant to fly free in the skies, not to be caged. Even if the cage is made of gold.” So he goes to the bird and opens the door of the cage. He says, “This bird is thirsty for freedom.” He opens the door of the cage, expecting that the bird will say, “Thank you Sir. I am so glad that you are opening my cage.” But the bird sits where it is sitting, and keeps parroting, “Freedom! Individuality! Freedom! Individuality!” It does not come out.Not every hand

Now the young man is puzzled. He says, “What is this? Maybe there is some confusion in the mind.” So he goads the bird a little, but the bird still won’t come out. So he says, “Alright, if you are stubborn, you won’t come out. I am also stubborn. I’ll make you come out.” So he puts his hand inside the cage and tries to pull the bird out. He says, “Your place is not inside the cage. No bird is ever born to live inside a cage. Come out and fly high.”

So what does the bird do? The bird starts biting the finger of the man who wants to help her. The bird says, “This must be some enemy. It is trying to relieve me from my cage. And my cage is my precious home! How dare he try to set me free?” So the bird keeps nipping and biting the finger, and the blood starts flowing. But still the young man pulls the bird out and says, “‘Go! Now you will know what individuality is. Individuality is not a word, it’s a way of living. Now go and find out. Fly and know. Be and know.”

And he is happy that he has done a nice job, and he goes away. After a few days he comes back. To his utter surprise what does he see? The bird is back in the cage. And in the cage what is the bird constantly singing? “Freedom! Freedom! Individuality! Individuality!”

That’s our story.

Language is such a mischievous thing. Slovenly language, confused thoughts. Just as you are saying, “Sir, we must be individuals”, similarly there must be people here who will say, “You know I just want to be myself. I don’t want any influences upon me. You know I don’t want somebody to just come to me and brain-wash me.” I am pretty sure that there are many like this here. “You know I’ll find out on my own. You know life is the best teacher. I’ll learn through my own experiences.”

Don’t you see the obvious? What is this ‘myself’? When you say, “Be yourself”, what is ‘yourself’ in this? The same conditioned mind. I am repeating. For you, ‘be yourself’ just means ‘want pizza, eat pizza’. And this is my declaration of my divine freedom. ‘Want girl, get girl’, this is ‘be yourself’. ‘Want to bunk class, bunk class,’ this is ‘be yourself’, without seeing where all your wants come from. All your wants come from here and there. Even if you fulfil those wants, are they your wants?

When you say, “Be yourself,” Ask, “Be exactly what? What does ‘yourself’ mean? What is meant by ‘be yourself’? Be what? Be a Hindu? A Muslim? A fashionable young man? A son? A daughter? A budding engineer? A professional? A husband? A wife? What?” Whatever you will say as the meaning of ‘be yourself’, it would be an imported meaning. You do not know yourself, how can you ‘be yourself’?

I am asking you a very simple question. When you do not know yourself, how can you ‘be yourself’? All you know of yourself is some identity that the world has given you. Tell me of one statement corresponding to ‘be yourself’ that has not come from the world? All you know of is wants and desires that are stimulated in you by external factors. Understand the mind. The mind is a system that not only takes it’s inputs from outside, but also takes the software that processes those inputs too from outside.

Everything is coming from outside. Where is the question of ‘be yourself’? Be what? But we are not sharp enough to move into that inquiry. We have the capability. Individuality is our nature. But it is covered by layers and layers of conditioning. Layers and layers of personalities. And those layers do not want to go away. Those layers want to remain. They want to defend themselves. So that is why whenever there is an attempt to clean those layers, those layers raise a defense. “We will not go away. We will not go away.” And you too stand in support of those layers. Why? Because you have identified yourself with these layers. You think that you are those layers. You think that if those layers go away, then you will also disappear.

It is like a man who’s had a headache since 30 years of his life. He does not feel the headache anymore. If you have a headache since a very very long time, you’ll stop feeling the headache. In fact you’ll start feeling a little uneasy when the headache goes away. That’s our situation. We start feeling uncomfortable. “How come I don’t have a headache? How come somebody is telling me that it is possible to live with a light head?”

When you read the texts that we give you, just ask yourself, “Is this text giving me another belief or is it just helping me, asking me to enquire into those beliefs?’ Is it giving you another kind of thought system? Is it saying that you go and you follow a new ‘ism’ ? Is it saying that you become communists or socialists? Is it telling you that you must become Hindus, Vaishnavites? Is it telling you, “No, you should follow the Sufi order”? Is it telling you, “No, you should become atheists”? Is it giving you some kind of a system? Or is it just stating the obvious facts of life to you and asking you to consider them? Just like science. Just like science. Look at it and you will know.

In science you look at the pendulum, the flow of the water, the chemicals. Here you are just looking at the functioning of the mind. It is as scientific as that. But no we don’t want to look at the mind because that’s where all our sickness lies. If we look at it, we will have to acknowledge it. If we acknowledge it, then the responsibility would be to clear the rubbish.

You are saying, “My individuality gets hampered when I read the texts.” Does your individuality get hampered when you read a physics book? Do you say, “Why are we reading the laws of thermodynamics? Why can’t we just write our own thoughts there?” Do you say that? If in thermodynamics you must follow the laws of thermodynamics, then when you are reading a course on mind, why don’t you just follow the laws of mind? And there are definite laws of mind, inviolable. In a maths exam will you go and say, “You know I’ve come to write my own poetry, my own opinions.” Will you say that? Will you challenge Maxwell’s equations? Will you challenge Schrodinger?

What HIDP is saying to you is as factual and as verifiable as the laws of physics. It is just that the laboratory there consists of objects and the laboratory here consists of the subject and the object both. And out of these two, the subject happens to be more important, because the object is the mind of the subject.

When I was preparing for the JEE, I used to read a physics book by a Russian author named I.E.Irodov. Heard of that book?

Listeners: Yes, Sir.

Speaker: And another by authors Resnick and Halliday. By reading a physics book by ‘Resnick and Halliday’ did I become slaves to ‘Resnick & Halliday’? Is physics important, or is the author important?

Listeners: Physics.

Speaker: Why are you so scared? Why are you so scared by the name of the author? The author has just written a book that is the essence of all physics that has been said since ages. And that particular book is being recommended to you because it is suitable to you. It has been written in a condensed and simplified way, so that a young man like you can easily understand.

And we are not insisting that you read that particular book. The same thing that you find in the Edublog (, you can also find in the ‘Commentaries of living’ by Jiddu Krishnamurti. But there you will have to read this much (indicating using a large book in his hands), or in Tao-Te-Ching written by Lao Tzu, or in the fragments of Heraclitus. But there the context and the language are thousands of years old. But every single text that he has written is this thick. (Indicating a large book using his hands) . Would you rather read something this thick or would you rather read the distilled essence of it, which comes to you in one single article? Physics simplified.

And if there is somebody who is indeed eager to go to the more essential and basic texts, he is welcome. We can give you a list and you can make a presentation on that. But we wonder; that when you have to make a presentation on two pages of articles, then you find it too much to read. How will you make a presentation if we give you three hundred pages of ‘Commentaries on Living’ to read?

It’s for your help that this has been created. If you want to understand that from where does action come from, that why are you so worried about results, and why are you always so tensed about the results, we could as well say that go and read chapter three, four and five of the Bhagavad Gita and prepare a power point presentation on it, and you will get the answer to the question: why am I so tensed about the results?

But that would be just too much for you. Instead of reading that one page article, you are most welcome to read three chapters of the Bhagavad Gita. How many of you know Sanskrit? (Smiles) How many of you can accurately make out what Krishna is saying to Arjuna, without the help of translation? So even in translation you will have to depend on somebody else. Don’t you have to depend on somebody else? And not only translation, you’ll also then read the commentary on that text.

Now you must object and say, “I will not go to the Bhagavad Gita till I know Sanskrit to such an expert level that I don’t even need a Hindi translation or an English translation.” Or the Upanishads? There are two hundred and fifty Upanishads. Or The Bible? The old testament and the new testament combined are this (indicating a large size using his hand) thick. Or Freud or Nietzsche? Or hundreds of other philosophers or neuroscience? How will you go and read a hundred volumes on neuroscience? And so much of what we are saying comes from modern psychology, neuroscience and also modern physics.

But the bird wants to bite the finger. The bird wants to bite the finger that wants to help it. Instead of saying a big thank you, there is only resistance. “Oh, a hand is coming towards me. Surely it must be coming to kill me.” And I cannot find fault with you too much. In your eighteen-twenty years of life, whenever a hand has come towards you, it has mostly come to harm you. That is your experience. Right?

So it is understandable. You are afraid. You feel that whenever somebody comes to you, his intentions are self-centric.

“His intentions are to take something away from me. He wants to exploit me.” That’s what your thoughts are. You feel this is another case of exploitation. “This new hand that is coming towards me is again coming to exploit me.”

Have some faith. Not every hand that comes towards you, comes to harm you.

Excerpts from a Samvaad session. Edited for clarity.

Watch the session at:Your ‘individuality’ is just a deceptive name given by ego to itself

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