Definitions beyond dictionary || Acharya Prashant (2015)

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Speaker: You ask, “What is a fan? What is a table? What is a chair?” and then you also ask, “What is freedom?” What is common between all these statements?

We need to consider this because often we think that enquiry means asking questions. And questions are of this nature, right? “What is a fan? What is table? What is chair? What is the tree?,” and then you also ask, “What is freedom?”

Now what has happened?

Look at it very sharply. You’ll have to look at it exactly as you look at a mathematical situation.

‘What is’ is an operator. Do you know what an operator is?

Listeners: Yes.

Speaker: Now, ‘what is’ is an operator that you have applied to the fan, the table, the chair, the tree and also, freedom. When you are applying the ‘what is’ operator on all these things, then you are saying that freedom is in the same dimension, that freedom has the same dimension as – table, chair, fan and tree.

Are you getting it?

Before you can attach ‘what is’ to something, it must be something to which ‘what is’ is relevant. Assume that I ask, “What is the taste of red?” Is ‘what is’ relevant here?

Listeners: No.

Speaker: So when you ask a question, what are you doing really? When you ask a question, you have already decided the dimension in which you want the answer. Now the answer can never really be in the same dimension as the question, otherwise it cannot satisfy the question. By asking a question, you are limiting the scope of the teacher to give an answer.

Suppose you ask, “What is freedom?” now you want an answer to this question in the same way, as you want an answer to the question: “What is table, chair, tree and fan?”

Now freedom cannot be explained in the same way. The phrase ‘what is’, the operator ‘what is’ might not be relevant to freedom at all. But you want to know ‘what is’ freedom, and ‘what is’ God.

Real enquiry is less about asking questions, and more about listening attentively. And remember: listening does not mean agreeing or disagreeing. Listening means ‘understanding’. At a railway station, enquiry means – asking questions. In life, enquiry means – Silence. Will you remember this?


At a railway station, enquiry means asking questions. In life, real enquiry happens in Silence. Because only in silence can we listen. Only in Silence can the answers come to you. Is that clear?


Speaker: Emptiness is not about being like an empty cup. Because an empty cup will keep getting full and will only have limited capacity. Beyond that it cannot live or know, right? Full. It’s full.

Emptiness means being like the hollow flute. Not like the empty cup, but like the hollow flute, so that more and more music can pass through it.

Listener 1: How will one retain that music?

Speaker: You don’t have to retain it. The air is passing through it, and the music is instantaneous. Does the flute retain the air? Does the flute retain the music? It is all in the present. There is no need to retain. There is no need to retain. The flute is not at all possessive about the air. It lets the air freely pass. And because it lets the air freely pass, so what you get is…

Listeners: Music.

Speaker: In a cup there is no music, right? Emptiness is about being like a hollow flute.

Listener 2: It means that we should always be ready to experience new things, and not analyse them.

Speaker: And also not let them influence you. There is really no need to put them in memory. Connect this to the first question of today. Does a flute make experience of things? Will a flute ever say, “I am a very experienced flute”? A very old flute, and a very new flute, is there any difference between these two?

Listeners: No, Sir.

Speaker: Both know nothing. Both have just let life pass through them. Are you getting it?

So the old flute has seen much, experienced much, gone through much, but it has not become a reservoir of experience. It has passed through experience without letting the experience corrupt it. And that is also the definition of a successful man – the one who can live through all the experiences, and yet retain his childlike innocence.

He knows everything. He has seen life. He has experienced everything, and yet he is very innocent. That is a successful man. A flute-like man. A man who has experienced everything, and yet has not let experience corrupt him. Is that clear?


Speaker:  Complexity is to live in thoughts of many. Simplicity is to know just two things: Truth and Illusion.

So let us say here is an entire list of words that is given to you. The list is:

Career, Fear, Competition, Future, Compromise, Impression, Wants, Desires, Love, Religion, Temple, Attraction, Money, Sex, Truth, Freedom.

For a complex mind, all of these are different things.  For a simple mind, all these can be divided in only these two categories. The two categories are…

Listeners: Truth and Illusion.

Speaker: Truth and Illusion. So a simple mind looks at the world in the purview of only these two categories: Truth and Illusion. This is simple observation. The simple mind does not find much diversity. For it there is either Truth or Illusion.

What is Truth? That which does not change, that which does not get influenced, that which is real, essential. Are you getting it? The simple mind does not differentiate on the basis of influences.


What is a complex mind? A mind that makes categories and divides everything on the basis of those categories. The simple mind says, “Love is love.” The complex mind says, “No. There are different kinds of love. Love towards ex-girlfriend, love towards relatives, love towards pets, love towards parents, love towards nation, love towards God.” A complex mind creates complexities.

A simple mind says, “Love is love. There can be no categories in love.”


Speaker: Superficial freedom is freedom from others. Real freedom is freedom from oneself. What was the example that we had taken?

Listeners: The cold drink.

Speaker: So superficial freedom would mean that – “If he will dictate me, then I will not drink the cold drink.” And real freedom would mean that – “Even if I want to drink, that even if this mind says ‘drink’, yet I will not drink.” So, freedom from oneself. Real freedom is freedom from oneself.


Speaker: What is presence?

Draw a circle and its center. Shade the entire thing and call it ‘mind’. Name the center as ‘I’. Not only shade it, also make arrows on it. The arrows denote circulation, and random movement in all directions: circular, horizontal, upwards, downwards. All kinds of movement. Make arrows pointing in all three-sixty degrees directions. Theses arrows point at the different directions the mind moves. Alright?

This is presence. “I might keep on moving, I might be full of the world, and I might need to think of thousand things, yet I am fully present at the center. I am not moving. What is moving? Mind is moving. My presence is not shaken. So even while thinking of this and that, my composure is intact. My peace is intact. Whatever I am doing, I am not feeling jittery.” Is that clear?

One of the arrows can refer to eating, one of the arrows can refer to talking to somebody, and one of the arrows can refer to seeing a ‘Training and Placement’ notice. “Whatever may be happening outside, inside I am simply present. I am not disappearing. Not moving, not disappearing, not being displaced.” This is presence. Is this clear?

Listener 1: Is there something that we need to focus on? Do we need to focus on the ‘I’ itself?

Speaker: There is no need. Just the presence of the ‘I’ at the center is sufficient. Just that presence is sufficient. Let there be complete freedom in where the mind wants to go. Let it think about the world, but you remain present. There is really no need to control. The control will happen automatically when that ‘I’ is right there at the center.


Speaker: Our usual happiness always come from conditioning. That is why different people are happy about different things. There is always a reason (conditioning) that why somebody is happy.

Joy is happiness without reason. Simplest definition in five words: Joy is happiness without reason.

Whenever you feel happy without reason, this is joy. And it is not a very loud happiness. You won’t be jumping, or shouting, or dancing. Joy is subtle happiness arising from nowhere. It does not come from any reason.

Joy is subtle happiness arising from nowhere.


– Excerpts from a Samvaad session. Edited for clarity.

Watch the session at: Definitions beyond dictionary

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