What is depression? || Acharya Prashant (2015)

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Question: My question is about depression. For quite some time I have been observing that the mind is like a sine curve. There are highs and there are lows. But the lows are more frequent and wider than the highs. Why it is so?

Speaker: Lows are lows. The problem arises when the highs are also lows. Then all that you get is only lows. In a sine curve you ought to have lows and highs. Now lows are lows, but it becomes tragic when the highs are also lows. What is sad and depressing is indeed sad and depressing, but what was supposed to be exciting and wonderful, that too turns out to be sad and depressing. Then it is a betrayal of hope. Then it is indeed twice depressing.

This is what happens when we make a bad deal. And the mind, though it thinks itself to be a very clever businessman, always makes bad deals. The mind is a trader. It gives away something and it wants something in return. Kindly see what it gives away, and what it wants. It gives its Essence away, it gives freedom away, it gives love away, it gives simplicity and sincerity away. And what does it want in return? It wants acceptance, it wants pleasure. But it gets defeated on both counts. How?

What you are attempting to give away, is something that cannot be given away. It cannot be traded. It is your Essence. How will you trade it? It cannot be traded. So you say, “I am prepared to give up my freedom. I willingly want to be a slave.” But you just cannot give away your freedom, howsoever hard you try. Could you give away your freedom, you would not have felt any sadness in being a slave.

But when you are a slave, you feel great sadness precisely because you are still free, because your nature is freedom. So when you wear artificial slavery on the outside, it doesn’t quite fit nicely. Inside you are something else, inside you are always free, and outside you are artificially wearing slavery. Now there can’t be an adjustment between the outside and the inside. There is no harmony between how you are acting, and what you are. There is a dissonance, and this dissonance is suffering.

So on one hand you have lost, in terms of what you wanted to give away. You wanted to give it away, but you couldn’t give it away. You wanted to give away your freedom, you could not give away your freedom. You wanted to give away your essence, your simplicity, your sincerity, you could not give them away. So, you have lost. Your intentions have been defeated. Your deal got bad.

On the other hand, in a different way too, you have lost. How? By giving up your freedom, you wanted to gain pleasure and happiness. You thought that this pleasure will give you something, this pleasure will give you satisfaction, but you don’t get that also. You get only a semblance of satisfaction, a very fleeting semblance. And it doesn’t last long. The proof is: you want to move on. You now want something else. What seemed once very satisfying now doesn’t seem satisfying at all. Your search doesn’t stop. You are now desperate for the next thing.

See how you have lost on both accounts. What you wanted to give away, could not be given away. What you wanted to attain, it could not be attained. It turns out to be such a bad deal. And the mind is such a poor trader.

When you are losing on both counts, when you are being defeated on both sides, is it any wonder that you feel depressed? Ours is the situation of a man who trades everything away, and gets nothing in return. Double depression, double debit. And this will be the punishment to all those who try to trade away the essentials of life.

Do you know how we trade them away? By setting up wrong priorities. What is a priority? A priority is a trade-off. A priority is a deal. When you say, “This is my priority,” what you say is, “I will do this at the expense of something else,” because the list of priorities is always there. When you say that something is number one in your priority, what you are saying is, “I will get this thing. And I am prepared to leave number two, three, four and five.” That is what ‘priority’ means -a trade, a deal.

Now for the mind the list always comprises of things that will give it a false sense of security, pleasure, acceptance and all that. The Essential is way down in the priority list.

If you speak to the so-called common man, and ask him to list the priorities in his life – just circulate a form and ask people to list their priorities in life – you will probably not find words like ‘freedom’, ‘truth’ etc. at all. People will write: money, car, status, job, career, this and that. You will not find words like ‘Truth’ at all.

What does the mind say? Mind says, “Truth is my fifty-second priority.” So when it is the fifty-second priority, it can be easily and cheaply traded away, right? It is not important. The mind wants to trade it away. Without realizing that Truth must be the number one priority, we very easily dispense it away. We very easily give it, and in return expect something else.

“Let me be called respectable, acceptable. “

“Let me give up friendship, and gain a network.”

Now you don’t even know that you are making such a poor deal.

“Let me give up Love, and gain security. Let me give up Truth, and gain respectability.”

You will be beaten at both ends. Truth – you won’t be able to give up. So it will keep calling you and disturbing you. It is very obstinate. It’s like a pestering wound – Truth. It doesn’t let you sleep. You think you have given it away: “I have traded it away.” It’s like trading away your soul – you trade it away, yet it doesn’t go. It calls you in your dreams. You can’t sleep. You think you have given it away, but it won’t let you sleep.

So what you have given away, doesn’t go away. And what you think you have obtained, is anyway worthless. Now what will you get? Depression.

Depression means – the height is unknown to you. The only height is the core, the essence, the Self. 

The one who does not know the Self, will always be in depression. That is the definition of depression.

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The aloneness of the top, the aloneness of the pinnacle, that is the self. That is the only height possible. And if you are not there, then you are somewhere down – that is depression. The one whose mind is not in contact with That alone, will always be in depression. That pinnacle is a point, its a Center.

The one whose life is not centered around that point, will always find himself down.

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Have you heard this phrase, “I am feeling a bit down”? This feeling down has become a characteristic of our lives. We are always down. That is the reason why we keep asking, “What’s up?” Nothing. Imaginations are up, hopes are up, that’s all. But life is down. Always down.

The one who is not connected to the One Truth, will always feel depressed, will always feel down.


– Excerpts from Clarity Session held at Advait Sthal. Edited for clarity.

Watch the session at: What is depression?

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4 comments

  1. Very true ….just we need constant reminding till we get centered. The sine wave of ups and downs as told always operates in negative quadrants and this full wave needs an upward shift. Ups and downs will still be there in positive quadrant but the depression will not happen since maintaining this sine wave there is conditioned on one’s centeredness on truth. These ups and downs will now happen and give joy enhance excitement in life….
    Then why is it so difficult to remain centered? Why we remain fools dealing in awkward tradeoffs? Why even when told mind diligently plays around with priorities? If this is due to maya the great warrior conqueror we urgently need to awaken the self consciousness to realise oneness with truth……Challenge is existing conditions…..we so dearly are familiar with…….Arjun in us needs Krishna consciousness…….

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