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Questioner: How can I know what is my real identity?
Acharya Prashant: What’s your name?
Q : Siddhartha.
AP: Siddhartha, am I answering someone, am I replying to someone who does not ‘know’ his real identity? Am I talking to someone who believes he is somebody he is actually not? And if that is the case, how will that ignorant mind understand?
Who is asking? Siddhartha is asking. Where is Siddhartha standing, he is asking, ‘What is my real identity?’, that’s his question. Now, ‘somebody’ is asking me this question, some ‘identity’ is asking me this question. Right? You are always in an identity in your mind. You are always ‘somebody’. If I ask you to write something about yourself, you will write so many things about yourself, you are somebody in your mind.
So Siddhartha is asking this question to me as ‘somebody’. Now if this somebody who is asking me this question is deeply mistaken about who he is, then it will be impossible to communicate. Why? Because his identity is his immediate reality, he deeply believes in it. If I refer to him as ‘Pranav’ he won’t respond. Why? Because he is deeply convinced of his identity as ‘Siddhartha’.
Don’t we all deeply believe in our identities? Aren’t we greatly convinced about them? We are. Now if he is greatly convinced that he is ‘Siddhartha’ and he asks me that what is my real identity, then my reply would be, “What can I say about your real identity. You already know that you are ‘Siddhartha’. You are deeply convinced that you are ‘Siddhartha’.”
If I ask you Siddhartha, to write twenty statements beginning with ‘I am’, you would gleefully write twenty statements about yourself in five minutes. Now when you are so clear, so copiously clear about who you are, then how can anybody give an answer to your question?
Q : Are these statements coming from self-realization?
AP: No. There can be no self-realization as long as you are deeply convinced that- I am… XYZ. You are standing here believing ‘this’ to be your real identity, and you are asking, “What is my real identity?” As long as you hold on to ‘this’ set of identities, as if onto dear life, how can you know whether there is anything called ‘real identity’? I am deeply convinced that my religion is the best religion, will I be able to hear or understand anything?
To know my real identity, I do not have to begin by asking, “What is real?” I have to begin by asking, “I am already holding on to a few things. How real are they?” Because you do not exist in vacuum. Your mind is already full of identities. Do not ask, “What is my real identity?” Ask, “Are my current identities real?”
Do not ask for a new identity because you already have innumerable identities. I asked you to write twenty statements beginning with ‘I am’. You can even write two-hundred if you want. So do not ask, “What is my real identity?” Ask, “All these identities that I already have, how real are they?” And how do you ask that? By looking at them.
You see, identity is the substance of your mind. Identity is what you think you are at any particular moment. Identity is your thoughts and your behavior. Let us do a ‘thought experiment’. Observe your behavior when you are alone in this room, and observe your behavior when there are hundred people in this room. Your behavior will change as the number of people sitting in this room change.
What you are is always changing, depending on others. When an intelligent mind looks at this, observes this, he says, “This cannot be my real identity, because it is so dependent on others. I cannot be this. I cannot be this.” The intelligent mind then observes the other things that are there in his mind and he takes them as ‘real’. Things like ideology, religion, ideas about career, work and money.
He then asks himself honestly and intelligently, “From where have I obtained these identities? Was there any discretion when they were deeply embedded in me, or did they just keep coming to me from all kinds of external sources and I kept absorbing them like a sponge. How did I get my religion? How did I come to know that this is what is called ‘a good life’? How did I come to know that this kind of money must be earned? How did I come to know that these kinds of interests must be there? I love cricket, would I have loved cricket if I were born in Brazil? Where is all this coming from?” That’s what an intelligent mind questions, and it’s from everyday, from morning till evening.
I am not talking of some new identity as ‘real’ identity. I am talking about your existing set of identities. When you look at your existing set of identities, with rigor, with honesty, just inquire, you laugh! You say, “All my life I have been dictated from somewhere else, by an unknown master, by unknown masters (stressing on the word ‘masters’). I don’t know how many of them are there.”
While going back home, you see an advertisement on a billboard. A single hoarding changes your identity. From a student, you become a customer. Now the student is gone and the customer is born. Why? Because an advertisement came your way. Anything has the power to take control over you. So how can this identity be real? When you reject all that which is not real, then you come across the real.
So, the first step is not asking what is real, but the rejection of that which is not real. Find out all that which is not real. It’s a great exercise and you will enjoy it. You will have a really good time finding out all that which is not real, fake and artificial in your life. And when you throw all that away which is fake, a really new ‘you’ is discovered. And that new ‘you’ is beautiful. It is not like what you are right now.
Ask yourself, “Would I be distracted had I been alone here? Would I have been in attention, had the speaker not been there? If everything depends on the other, if anyone can come anytime and distract me, and if anyone can come and bring me to attention, where am I in all this? Where is freedom in all this? Where is youthfulness in all this?”
Even the deepest desires come out of some identity. And you will find that even your deepest desires are being governed by the society. As the trend of the society changes, your desires change.
‘What do I desire? That which is trendy. What do I desire? That which is socially acceptable. What kind of job do I want? Which others will appreciate and give me credit for. What kind of friends do I want? The ones who are socially acceptable. What kind of answers do I write in exams? The ones which fetch me marks.‘
If everything is for others and because of others, where are you in all this? And it would be a very interesting question to ask. Observe this in your everyday living. It will be a great exercise.
– Excerpts from a Samvaad session. Edited for clarity.
Watch the session at: When you believe in your identity, you will never know the reality| YouTube
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