On Upanishad: Me and Time || Acharya Prashant (2016)


Acharya Prashant: So we are talking about the Self and Time, which is obviously an interesting subject. Isn’t it great to know how our lives are in time, governed, bounded and dictated by time and seems to be the very stuff of living – so much so that we take it as a given, as a reality, even as a truth. It appears so clearly obvious that there seems no point in inquiring about it, in questioning it. Even in education, we express other quantities in terms of time – be it power, force, distance, movement. We calculate time, we express other things in terms of time. But rarely do we ask “What is Time?” We do ask “What is the time?”, but rarely do we ask “What is Time?”

Now is there anything that the mind does which is independent of time? Let’s take this very day. Beginning today morning, look at all that, that the mind has done – subtly, grossly, in terms of instincts, thoughts, in actions – is there anything which is short of time? Is there anything that could have happen without time? Is there anything that you have conceived which does not depend on time? Is there any movement of the mind which cannot be expressed in terms of time? We are talking about your mind, my mind, the mind of entire humanity.

Let me state the question again. Mind is a continuous movement. My question is, “Is there anything in this movement which is untouched by time? Is there anything in this movement which can happen without time?” You “think” of something, is the “thought” not in time?” All thought is either of the past or the future. It is either a memory or an imagination. Any ideation or conceptualization is always about objects. Can there be objects without time?

Alright! It’s simpler when we say there can be no objects without ‘space’? Right? That seems intuitively easier to grasp that there can be no objects without space. Can there be space without time?  Can there be space without change? Don’t just agree with me. Go into this. Can there be space without change? Yes? Is it possible to have space without change?

L1: Sir, isn’t to realize space, one must be separate from space?

AP: Yes, because to realise ‘space’ in your language, you require to be different from space and that itself is ‘change’. If nothing changes at all, would there be time? I ask you again, “Nothing changes at all, would there be time?” and ‘nothing’ includes thoughts. Nothing is not just gross material, nothing includes thoughts. So if there is no movement in the mind, is there time? So, all movement is time. All activity of the mind is “time”.

Please understand this.

It is mathematical to an extent and mathematics is beautiful. Everything that happens in the brain can be expressed as a function of time. In fact, if you remove the time variable, it will be impossible to capture the activity of the mind and the brain, these two we are using here interchangeably. Are we getting this?


So, this mind which is limited by time, this limitation we can also call as facilitation because ‘time’ seems also to be the mover of mind. So in the usual sense of the world, it appears as if time enables the mind, but I am calling it as a limitation. So this mind which is limited by time, how can it proceed to understand time?

You see, I want to understand something and the very apparatus that I have to understand is dependent on what I want to understand.

Is that not our situation?

I want to understand ‘time’.

The Narayan Upanishad says, “Naaham Kaalasya, Ahehmev Kaalam“.

I want to understand time. But what do I use to understand time? I use my mental faculty, my thinking process, or whatever I call it, my analytical prowess, my intellectual capacities; I use them to understand what is ‘time’. But whatever I will use, that too will be time.

I am thinking about time and the thought itself is ‘time’, because there is no thinking without time. So instead of thinking about time, if we are sincere, won’t it be better to go into thought itself?


Thought is time. Thought is not separate from time. To really know something, I must have a certain separation from it. Is it not better to go into the mind itself? The process of thinking itself?

So here we are – “Mind beings”.

Mind beings – who do not exist in their own eye when they are deeply asleep, absent minded or comatose. 

Please understand.

Anybody here who can claim to exist even in his deep sleep?

Anybody here who can claim to be even in his deep-deep sleep?

So such is the power of thought that our own existence in our own eyes – and when I say ‘our own eyes’, I only mean ‘thought’ – our own existence in our own eyes depends on thinking.

If the thinking mode of consciousness ceases, then we cease to exist. 

 So the ‘mind’ is thinking all the time and we think as if ‘we’ are thinking. 

But the fact is- without thinking we do not exist. 

So is it not true that thought is thinking us?


Let’s go into it again.

We say ‘we’ are thinking. Now had we as thinkers been separate from the thought then we should have existed even without thinking? Let’s take a simple example, you say you are running. But if you stop running, your common, everyday experience is that you do not disappear. You say you are running, but if you stop running, you still find that you ‘are’. Grossly, materially, you do not disappear.

But does the same thing apply to thinking?

Do you exist even without thinking? With ‘thought’ gone, where are you? With the cessation of mental activity, where are you? So ‘you’ do not think! “You” do not think. Thought builds you up. Thought raises you up. Thought thinks you. You do not think. Nobody thinks. It is a fallacy of language to say, “I am thinking”, for there is no thinker really separate from the thought. So, whatever I am, is happening in the mind. That is our situation. Whatever I am, is a happening in the mind. No such happening. No “me”. We want to understand time. We said it’s impossible to understand time without understanding the mind that thinks. ‘Time’ really cannot be objectified. So we are going into the whole thing about thinking. So there is this mind which is always thinking and as a result of thinking, we cannot even call it a “result” because it is happening along with the thinking. The whole universe comes into being. The “I” comes into being. The “Me” is there.

We want to understand time. We said it’s impossible to understand time without understanding the mind that thinks. ‘Time’ really cannot be objectified. So we are going into the whole thing about thinking. So there is this mind which is always thinking and as a result of thinking – we cannot even call it a “result” because it is happening along with the thinking – the whole universe comes into being. The “I” comes into being. The “me” is there.

What do we think of? What do we think of? We are here, you and me. If you are really listening, can you think about what I am saying? We are going into the question of the content of thought. If you are really listening, can you think about what I am saying? If you think about what I am saying, can you listen to me? Because this speaking is so much like life, a continuous flow. If you start thinking, you miss the flow. Is that not so? If you start pondering on what I said five seconds back, would you be present to what I am saying right now? Thinking, even if it appears to be about something at hand, actually it is always about? Is always about?

L: The Past.

AP: Yes, the past or the future. Thinking itself is dependent on time and raises time; creates time. So, what then appears to be the whole business of movement of mind? The whole business of movement of mind is to generate time. Do not listen to the speaker. If you do not listen to the speaker then you are thinking and if you are thinking then you have gone into the past or the future. That is what the mind does. Does it not? It may go into some object and where is that object? It is in space-time. It is wondering about something, and it always wonders, remember, “about” something. That “about”, is an object. That “something” is an object. So it has gone here and there. Whenever there would be mental activity, that mental activity would pertain to time.

It may go into some object and where is that object? It is in space-time. It is wondering about something, and it always wonders, remember, “about” something. That “about” is an object. That “something” is an object. So it has gone here and there. Whenever there would be mental activity, that mental activity would pertain to time. In fact, time is never ‘now’. Take this statement. Time is never ‘now’ because time is always a little behind or a little ahead. Is that not so? So, Time is never ‘now’. Now what is Real, what is happening, is that “now”? As I am here in front of you. As you “are” as you are, is that happening now? Or is that too in the future? It is happening now.

So, the Truth is “now”. The Truth is “now” and time is never “now”. And if we combine these two statements what do we get?

Time is not the Truth.

Time is not the?

L: Truth.

AP: Time is not the?

L: Truth.

AP: Alright, alright! What does the mind tell us all the time? What does the mind tell us all the time? That there is only time. Can the mind tell you anything that does not involve time? I am going back to the question that I have repeated five times today. So, the mind keeps telling you that time is the..? The mind may tell you anything. It could be talking about the tree. It could be talking about your parents, your family, your career. But whatever the mind is talking, the essence of that object is always? Is always?

L: Time.

AP: Time. So the mind says “A”, and  “A“ is the function of? Time. Alright, the mind is in a different mood. So the mind says “B”, and “B” too is a function of?

L: Time.

AP: So the mind is very interested in maintaining time. The mind would collapse the moment time ceases. But we have been brought to something interesting that time is never the present. The present means that which is. That which is. And time in that sense never really is. This is when the Rishi of the Upanishad is moved to declare with roar “Naaham Kaalasya” (I am not Time).

Time is a tyrant. Time dominates you. Time dominates you through mind. Every cell of the brain is an evolutionary product and is hence steeped in time. So you are always compelled to operate in time.

Do you know what that means, to operate in time?

It means to take yourself as a product of the past and as an entity that is constantly moving into the future and hence must hope about a future, worry about a future, and build a future. And is that not the story of mankind? When you take yourself to be time, to be a product of time, then who are you? You are the body that was born. You are the name that was given to you. You are the religion that was given to you. You are the beliefs that were given to you. You are the relationships that came to you. And who are you? You are the one who keeps aspiring, hoping, worrying, becoming; becoming based on the past and moving into the future. Becoming that is based on time and only keeps generating more time.

Is that not so? That is the tyranny of time. The mind is never empty of it. But miracles do happen. This declaration of the Rishi is such a miracle – Naaham Kaalasya – I do not belong to time. I do not belong to time. That, unfortunately, is not the story of most of us. Most of us ache ourselves to be belonging to time. Don’t we? If I ask you, “Tell me something about yourself?” Can you tell me anything which has not been given to you by time? And that is the ultimate proof that we take ourselves as belonging to time. Go into this question. It is about your own life. If I ask you,“Who are you?” Can you utter even one sentence independent of time? Your very identity is time bound and time given. It happened sometime in the past and that happening is what you are now identified with. That is the deception and dictatorship of time. Are you getting it?

That appears to be normal and natural to most of us. But don’t forget, we just said, that what is Real is not time. Then how is it possible that the moment I ask you, ”Who are you?”, you cannot utter, nobody can. You cannot utter one sentence which is not in time. You will say something about your body – the body is a product of time. You will say something about your ideology and your ideology is a product of time. You will say something about religion. You will say something that is coming from knowledge, and is there knowledge without time? That is the grip. A really vice-like grip that time holds over us. We are nobody if there is no past. And is that not pitiable?

We are nobody if there is no past. And is that not pitiable? Past is memory. If by some incidence that memory be deleted, we would actually cease to exist in our own eyes; because whatever we are, our own self-definition is so very dependent on the past. You say you love somebody and is that love anything in the absence of memory? And is it not amusing that with memory wiped out, the love too would be wiped out? Is such a love real which depends on memory and knowledge?

You say you are a wise man. You say you are realised. And would there be wisdom left if memory is gone? And I am talking about not only the memory contained in the brain but also about the memory that is present in every cell of the body. So I am talking about physical conditioning as well. With all that gone, would your wisdom, realisation, or even enlightenment remain? So is that not pathetic that what seems to be so dear to us, what seems to be the very essence of living, love, realization, even they are so very dependent on past identification and time?

The Rishi does not like this at all. It is humiliating. He says “Naaham Kaalasya (I do not belong to time). It cannot be so that I allow my love to become a hostage of something as fickle, impermanent and deceptive as time.

Naaham Kaalasya” – this is a statement of denial and when it comes to bondage, to the bonded entity, to the one who is in chains – Freedom always begins with a denial. Freedom always begins with a rebellion, a rebellion against your present situation. If you do not see most people rebelling, it is because they do not understand their present situation. It is impossible to really know how you are shackled and yet not to rebel. Anybody who comes to see the mess that he is in is bound to act. That action is a rebellion. The Rishi rebels, he says, “Naaham Kaalasya“, in these two words, the Rishi has negated and distanced himself from the entire flow of mankind,  from all history and evolution and from all becoming. He says “Naaham Kaalasya”. Sorry, no past for me and no future either.

He is not yet saying whether there is a substitute. He is not yet coming up with a positive affirmation. He is just saying what he is not. He is not asserting what he is. And it is not really very important to assert what you are. What is far more important is to say what you are not. Why? Because you already are so much and what you are is not very alright. Must I say that? No, I do not need to say that. That it is not alright is evidenced by all your movements, by all your efforts. Are we not always wanting to change? Are we not always striving to reach somewhere? Are we always not looking for completion? Anybody who is contended? Anybody who is prepared to say, ‘Full stop. I am relaxing.’?

This constant urge to become, this constant itch to achieve is a proof that there is something that is continuously disturbing us, eating us out. Like some hidden insect, that is gnawing at us. Yes, of course, we have decorated our situation by giving it fancy names. When somebody is afraid, terrified and searching for security, and is searching for an identification, a being, a self in other’s eyes, we call it ambition. We even praise that person. We say, “Look, how ambitious he is. He will be a big achiever someday.” We do not see that it is a disease. We have started celebrating our diseases, our restlessness. Never the less, the restlessness is there, always there.

The Rishi rebels, he says, “No more of it for me.”.

Why don’t we rebel?

We don’t rebel for some very basic reasons:

  1.  We don’t pay attention. We don’t pay attention to our own condition.
  2. Even if by chance, by the virtue of Grace, our attention is drawn to the peculiarities of our condition, we deceive ourselves through naming.

A man is suffering out of his conditioning, we say he is fulfilling his duty. Another man is suffering, we say, “Oh! He is just receiving the results of his past action – ‘karmaphal’.” Another man is suffering, we say, “Oh! He is a martyr.” Another one is suffering, we say, “Oh! it has to be like this. It is life. Don’t you see? It is normal. It is happening with everybody. Why do you expect to be an exception?”

See! How we deceive ourselves. Is there a worst enemy than that we have? But the Rishi would have none of these. He says, “I am opting out.” Once he too was the rest of us – same flesh, same blood, same birth. There is nothing extra ordinary about him. So let that not become another deception. Do not say, “Oh! But we are mere mortals. The Rishi of the Upanishad is divine. So how can we expect to match him?”.

No, this argument is just another deception. The Rishi who utters these words is just another one like the rest of us, but he has a certain basic honesty. If he doesn’t understand something, he doesn’t say “Oh! It’s alright, it’s normal. I know!”. If he doesn’t understand, he stands like a child, saying, “I do not know. I, yet, do not know.” He has the confidence as well as the humility to say that “I do not know”.

Do we really know anything? Do we really know “anything”? But look at the audacity and the stupidity with which we go about living normally, business as usual as if all is so very clear to us.

Do we know even a blade of grass?

Do you know the sky?

Do you know these sounds that are coming to you?

Do you know yourself?

But you keep on living. Not only you keep on living but you also keep on making the so called important decisions. Without knowing we keep on deciding. Without knowing we keep on acting. Without knowing we keep on living. Have you seen a child, a kid? Have you seen how he insists if he does not know?

Do you know why you live with a particular person? Do you know why you work at a particular place? Do you know why you are attracted to something? Do you know why you are studying? Do you know why you are saving? Do you know why you are afraid? Do you know why you tremble? Do you know why you are excited? Do you know why this is a weekend? We know nothing yet when the weekend arrives, we are quick to hop to the mall. Are we not? Anybody who knows why he visits the malls? Anybody who knows why he waits for the movies? Anybody who knows why he must have kids? Anybody who knows why he visits the temples? We do not know, but it is like as usual, another day in the office.

The Rishi would not dupe himself. He says, “I do not know. I want to know.” The moment you say that ‘I do not know’, knowing descends. The mind suddenly enters into something that is beyond itself. But for that, first of all, you will have to humbly admit – ‘I do not know’ – even if it pains you a lot, even if it hurts your notions a lot. Why am I a Hindu or a Christian? Please know, that you do not know. Do you know what is this thing called God, based on which so much of my life operates? What am I seeking? How am I a wife or a husband? What does that mean? What brought me here?

That is the only difference between the ones we call as ordinary human beings and the Rishi. He too has an ordinary life but he wants to really “know” his ordinary life.  Be with me, that is the only difference between the wisest one and the most stupid one. Otherwise, there is no difference at all. There is someone who operates like a machine, there is someone who says, “It must be so”, and there is someone who says, “I want to figure it out. If this is the stuff of living, it ought to be known.” So the Rishi rebels. He rebels against the collective stupidity of the entire mankind.

The ignorance of one man is the ignorance of all.

There is no mistake that you commit that has not been committed by somebody else earlier. There is no mistake that you commit that has not been committed by you earlier. The mind of one is the mind of all. So when the Rishi is rebelling against his personal bondage, he is actually rebelling against the bondage of entire mankind and that is how he is useful to all of us. Because our bondages are the same, hence when one man rebels against his bondages, that is a rebellion against that which shackles the entire mankind’s consciousness.

He is not yet going out to do social service. He is talking about himself. “Naaham Kaalsya” (I do not belong to time). He is concerned with himself. And one must be concerned with himself because what you call as others, what you call as universe is just what you perceive as others and universe. So before others and the universe comes, you are there already. Without you there is no others and there is no universe. So how can you jump into helping the universe without first looking into the fact and the content of this ‘me’. The ‘me’ is the only rightful subject of enquiry. It is the only honest subject to go into. And if you come across a man who is studying about miscellaneous things – science, history, literature, philosophy, politics, economics; without having gone into the ‘me’, then he is simply making a fool of himself. And is the world not full of too many of such people, who are busy studying about this and that, about the universe, about others, about systems and processes, about ideologies; without having gone into the ‘me’ that perceives the universe? Don’t you find the universe full of such people?

The Rishi is not one of them. He says, “The universe and I are no different. And even if I say that I am the perceiver of the universe, then how do I talk of the universe when I am not sure that I perceive rightly? My vision is blurred and I see fairies, should I talk about the fairies or should I talk about my vision?” But the world is too full of people who are busy writing papers and volumes and books and other intellectual stuffs on fairies. They neither have the humility nor the courage to turn inwards and look at themselves. It would actually be very apt if we just stop at this point – “Naaham Kaalasya” (I do not belong to time). Nothing more needs to be said. A total negation, a total cleaning up is enough. It brings us to a clean emptiness. Nothing more is really required. But for the benefit of the mind of the reader, the audience, the Rishi says something more.

(Low voice, Inaudible)

The Rishi says, “Ahameva hi Kaalam, Ahameva Kaalam” (I am Time). Having totally gotten rid of the strangle hold of time – time which is others, time which is evolution; time which is situations, time which is society; time which is conditioning – having totally denies the power of time over the self, the Rishi now says that time will have to be secondary to Self. He says, “Yes, as far as the senses go. As far as the movement of mind goes, it cannot be denied that time is experienced. In fact, all experience is in time.”

He says, “Yes, yes, that message is constantly coming to the mind that time exists; time exists. But time exists only at the periphery. Having detached myself from the periphery, I now sit at the center – the center that rules the periphery, the center that owns the periphery; the center that gives birth to the periphery, the center that now has no reason to be afraid of the periphery.”

Ahameva Kaalam” – I am time.  

I am not ruled by time, I am not owned by time. I do not belong to time. Time belongs to me. I am Time. I am the mother of Time. Time is not my mother. He has very clearly and categorically gotten rid of the idea that time gave birth to him. He is not one of those who celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. He is not one of those who live in the impression of age. He is not one of those who has identified himself with his parents and consequently his religion, caste, economic status, nationality and the rest of it.

Time is not my mother, not my father. I was not given birth. When I am, then time is. I rule time and what does that mean? What does that mean that “I rule time”? – “Ahameva Kaalam”. It means that whenever there is activity of the mind, the activity is surrendered activity. The activity is not claiming to be truth. The activity is saying, “I am happening. I am appearing to be happening. But I know very well that there is a vast field beyond me. So I cannot take myself too seriously. So I cannot really feel like a doer, feel too responsible. Let it keep happening. I will not move with the movement. Happening means movement. Thought means movement. Mind means movement. And I have now known my nature and that nature is of non-movement. I will not move. I am the non-moving center around which time keeps moving, around which events keep happening, around which somebody is running, somebody is driving, somebody is honking; somebody is being born, somebody is dying; somebody is climbing, somebody is falling; and all that drama is taking place around me, but never upon me, never within me.  I do not allow it to dominate me. ‘Ahameva Kaalam! Ahameva Kaalam!’ 

Now even rebellion is not needed. Now time is not an enemy. Now, time is not an enemy. Now the time is timed. Time is a faithful friend. Now time is a surrendered servant. Now time is a toting lover. You don’t even need to deny it, or negate it, or rebel against it. Now you can live peacefully. Now you can actually live. And that brings us to something very beautiful. You know, the aim of all spirituality, as coming from the same Rishi of the Upanishad is freedom from the fear of death, freedom from death itself – a movement into non-death, a movement into immortality, a movement into complete fearlessness – and all fear is fundamentally the fear of elimination and hence the fear of death.

When you are really living, that is when the fear of death is gone.


How is the fear of death gone?

The fear of death is gone with the concept of birth. Till the time you say that time is my mother, time will also be your assassin. The one who says that he is born, will invariably have to die. The Rishi says, “I am not the one who is born in time. Time is born out of me. If I take myself to be born out of time then I am allowing time to keep me afraid always. It will keep me afraid because I keep dead bodies around me.”

All human movement, all human thought, all progress is actually nothing but an attempt to deny and defy death.

Ask yourself: Had we not been afraid, had we not taken ourselves to be mortal beings who have come to this earth only for a few years, would we have done all that we do?

Ask yourself: Had I not been thinking of death, would I still be living in the same way as I do?

In fact, those who know, know very well that anything and everything that we do is in the shadow of death. Not only are our lamentations in death but even our celebrations are coloured in the black shadow. You may be laughing, but you very well know that death is lurking behind. And is not the reason why the word Kaal, which denotes time also denotes death? Hence, freedom from time is freedom from death. Hence, it is the attainment of sheer immortality.

Immortality does not mean that you will continue to live for thousand, two thousand, ten thousand years.

It just means that your life is not being lived in fear.

To live fearlessly is to be immortal.

That is the only definition of immortality – to live fearlessly.

The Rishi is giving us the sutra of immortality, “If you do not want to die, then do not take yourself to be born.” And to not to take yourself to be born, is not to identify yourself with anything that comes with birth. Not to identify yourself with – gender, religion, caste; knowledge, experience, conditioning – anything. The moment you are any of these, you have condemned yourself to terror. And we don’t want to be terrorised. (laughs) None of us.

I repeat, anything and everything that is happening in time which is by implication anything and everything that is happening in the mind – because that was one of the first things that we said that nothing can happen in the mind without time – anything and everything that is happening in the mind has to be seen just as a happening in the mind which is just full of imported happenings. It is not to be taken as Truth. It is to be taken with a pinch of salt and if that does not suffice, with a little pepper as well.

One has to be honest and really see whether there is anything here in mind stuff which is really worthy of respect. When you start seeing that there is nothing really worthy of respect here, then you drop your pretentions and you drop your haughtiness. Otherwise, even our humility is arrogance. “I now know it is just mental movement which is coming to me because of the machinery that I take myself to be. Let the mental movement be there as long as it is known to be just mental movement, not the Truth, not a compelling reality, just mental movement, what else? Just the mood swing, a fickle wisp, dream-stuff, nothing else.

So I can play with it but I can never give it the respect, the reserved position which is to be given only to the truth. I can never give it the sincerity and the seriousness which only the ultimate, the beyond, the living reality, the present deserves. And I must specify, it does not mean the dropping of the world. Because what you call as the world is not really there. When you are giving respect only to the Truth, then you are giving respect only to the present. And the present is really the world. Now you are really alive. Now you are really responsive.

How is it possible to live? How is it possible to respond when you do not even know what is happening? All happening is in the present and if you are responding via thought then you are missing out on happening itself. It’s like trying to shoot a bird after the bird is gone. It’s like trying to spot a cloud when the cloud is no more there. But if you are fixated to thinking about the cloud rather than cloud itself, then instead of looking at the cloud, you will think about the cloud; and hence you will miss the cloud, and hence you will miss the world.

So it must be made very clear that whatever the speaker has said right now is not the renunciation of the world. Those who call themselves worldly, actually know very little of the world. They have ideas about the world but they know nothing of the world. The Rishi really really knows the world. Yes? This is paradoxical in a way. But it’s a beautiful paradox.

In denying what the world appears as, you come to that which the world really is.

In denying life as it appears, you come to that which life really is.


So if you are renouncing, you are renouncing only your illusions and that is the Real meaning of renunciation – drop your stupidity.

Are you getting it?

Drop your stupidity.

Know things for what they Really are.

And if you want to know things, you will have to know the place where things appear, and that place is the mind, so know the mind.

Know the mind.

Having known mind, you have known thought, you have known time, you have known fear, and in knowing all these you have gone beyond all these.

“Ahameva Kaalam”!

We will proceed further with your queries.

L2: You have said that “I am not born in time, Time is born in me”. And similarly when the Rishi says “Aham”, does he mean the same consciousness when you say “Aham”?

[Question not clearly audible]

AP: “Aham” is something anybody can utter, anybody can announce. You may say, “I am a father.” You may say, “I am a body.” You may say, “I am a learned man.” Still, you are saying “Aham”. And then there is somebody who is talking in the negative. He is saying Naaham – No, not this; No, not this.

In the beginning, one starts with what appears to be because one has no option. It appears to you that you are the body so you start with it. You start with it and then you go into the fact of it and then you go into all the suffering related to it. That is the movement from saying “Aham” to “Naaham”. But when you say “Naaham”, that is emptiness, but not elimination in the realistic sense. The Truth has not gone anywhere. With  the false ‘I’ disappearing, what remains is then called as “Aham”. It is not “Aham” in the usual sense in which anybody uses it. When the Upanishad says, “Aham Brhmasmi”, that Aham is really not the same “Aham” which says “Devo Aham”. Are you getting it? In some sense it is the limitation of language. You have to refer to yourself. But this ‘yourself’ you are referring to has itself changed, so do not take the two “Ahams” to be the same.

You see, the ego is an incompletion. It is clamouring for completion. Getting it? One way for it to find completion is to get attached with objects here and there. If the ego is not careful, if it is not touched by wisdom, then it will forget that the objects that it is getting attached to, the objects that it is pinning its hopes upon, are of its own projection. And how can that which ‘I’ have projected, bring completion to ‘me’? If ‘I’ am incomplete, all ‘my’ projections would also be incomplete. They cannot take ‘me’ anywhere higher. But the stupid ego keeps getting attached to this and that trying to gain completion.

This is when the ego says, “I am X, Y, Z, A, B, C.” These X,Y, Z, A, B, C are all objects. The ego is trying to get attached to them in the hope of gaining that final Peace. And then there is the wise ego whose wisdom lies in having seen its own stupidity – nothing else can be wise about the ego. The ego sees that all that ‘I’ have been trying constantly in every breath is so very fruitless, stupid and self-defeating.

The cessation of the ego’s movement is the submergence of the ego in its Source.


Why do we call it the Source? Because the ego just melts into nothing. It’s gone, totally gone. That Source is not another object. That Source is not just definite point from where the ego once arose in time. When we say the Source, all that we mean is that there is something beyond the ego into which it totally submerges, dissolves. This that is gone finds that ‘Only He (Source) was there, is there, will be there. He is the one that roars as “Aham”. He is dimensionally different. Though He may be using the same words, but He is dimensionally different.’ So just because the word is the same, please do not be deceived. It is beyond the comprehension of the idea-driven mind to ask, “Who is it who says ‘Aham Brahmasmi’?”

Well, nobody, nobody specific; nobody in particular. Nobody! Till you are somebody, do not utter those words.

L3: Sir, have observed that I am ignorant towards life. How to get rid of this ignorance and know the Real?

(due to low voice, the question is inaudible; it has been formulated as per the context)

AP: Yes, this is it. This is it. This sincerity, this drive! Do you see that two paradoxical activities are happening right now at the same time? On one hand, you are prepared to admit that we live our lives in total ignorance. We know nothing about what is happening but we live as if everything is normal. As if everything that is happening is happening with our permission, with our understanding, with our comprehension while we know not even an iota. So this is one part of the happening. The other part of the happening is the confidence that you have. Were you not sure that you could know, would you have asked this question? And is that not paradoxical for someone who has discovered that she is not knowing anything, and simultaneously, parallelly, at that very moment ask, “What is knowing?” Are you with me on this?

I am saying “I am x years old and this x is a definite number. It’s a significant number. It may be twenty, thirty, seventy. And for twenty, thirty, seventy years, I have not known anything and yet I rise and say…” And yet I rise and say?

On one hand, I am admitting that my life has been a colossal story of ignorance and at the very moment of recognition, I am also saying “What is knowing?”. Now do you see what is happening? The one who is telling you that you are a failure is also empowering you so much that boldly you are asking, “What is it then? I can know.”

Usually, when you see somebody dejected, defeated, having received failure multiple, successive times, do you find him overflowing with confidence to try once more? Does that happen? No, that does not happen. Not generally. But this magic, this is knowing.

To recognise that ‘I do not know’ is the surest knowing.

One can call it the beginning and the end of knowing. Do not strain yourself. Just take your knowledge lightly. We are full of knowledge. Once you realize that all this knowledge is actually worthless. Not really central or essential. Then do not try for more knowledge which is better than this knowledge. That is the mistake that we do. We say the knowledge that I have so far is insufficient, inadequate.  So what is the superior knowledge? Let me get that.

No! No! No! No superior knowledge exists. People have gone to the extent of talking about the knowledge of Truth, the knowledge of Brahm, the knowledge of Atman. Stupidity! All knowledge is just knowledge and at the same level. Have knowledge, play with it, it’s a casual thing.  Okay? So when you say, “What is water?”, “What is glass?”, “What is this instrument?”, “What is this wall?”, there can be an objective answer and whatever that objective answer would be would go into your memory and become more knowledge. But when you ask “What is knowing?” then, in terms of words, in terms of knowledge, it is just a cessation, a negation. A certain lightness! To really know is to take knowledge lightly. Yes?

You will never be able to say that this is my knowing. Knowing is not to be expressed in a sentence. And even if you actually do know, whenever you will try to express knowing in words, the expression will appear a little foolish; as is my expression right now.

You know, there is something that is not meant to be expressed in words, but you are expressing it. So whatever you say is a little unintelligible, incomprehensible. It can be so easily shredded. Argument can defeat it. You can get up and say, “You know, all this is nonsensical. This can be proven this way! This can be proven this way! This can be proven this way.” And whosoever will be trying to reject me through argument, unfortunately, will succeed.

Whatever I am saying can be defeated by your mind and your argument so easily because it was never meant to become words. It was never meant to become knowledge. It was never meant to reach you in this form. It was always meant to arise from within, not really come through the sensory route. When it comes through the sensory route, then it requires your own participation and acceptance. Then, it is just a knock. It is just a knock. You have to do the real work. It’s a reminder. The reminder cannot do it for you.  I can only just knock and say it is not this way. But I cannot really tell what it really is. But I have to! So! Forget about telling others. Do not even attempt to tell yourself that you know. The wise man finds it wise to remain ignorant of his wisdom. He does not ever know what he knows, neither does he try. It is only when the situation arises that that which he knows springs up. All of a sudden! He did not dial it. He did not call it. He did not summon it. It comes from somewhere. All that he knows is it will come and that is called surrender of the mind.

Are you getting this?

So I do not know what I know but when you will ask me a question, I will respond; from where? I do not know. Neither do I want to know! In fact, it’s terrible when I already know what I know. It is even more terrible when I even know what you know and what you would ask. And it’s so beautiful when I do not know what you know and hence what you would say. And I do not know what I would say. Therein lies a certain freshness. And that freshness is rejuvenating! Then you are young, really young. You are alive, you cannot die. Yes? So remain ignorant. Remain ignorant. Remain ignorant! I do not know!

Life will call for a response and then that which you are and that which is your knowing will come without calling. It is so intelligent. It arises on its own. “Cometh, the moment!” Have you heard that? “Cometh, the man!” That’s what it is. I have not stopped it, not reserved it. I do not know whether it’s there or not. But let the occasion arrive, let the challenge come, it comes. I am confident it comes – this confidence is called Faith – I do not know whether you are there but I very well know that when I will need you, you will come; from where? That I do not know; I do not want to know. If I think then I will be afraid. If I start figuring out where you are and whether you can reach me then I will be even more afraid. I do not want to think, not because I want to avoid thinking, not because I am afraid of thinking, but because I know that thinking is not the right instrument. It is scary, is it not? When you think about it, it is so difficult to live that way. You want guarantees, don’t you? You want to keep feeling your pocket. You want to be assured that there is your wallet here, that there is your mobile phone here.  But existence does not operate this way. There is no mobile phone here, you are totally empty but when you need it, it comes. From where? From where? From where?  From where?

Neither do I know, nor do I want to know. All that I know is when I really need it, it will come. This is knowing! This is knowing! You already know and all that you know comes into action, starts dancing when the moment arrives when the challenge comes; when the response is needed.

L4: Sir, the very fact that the Rishi said “Naaham Kaalasya”, probably he would have also had an occasion when ‘Koham‘ (Who am I?) started. Probably he started asking only then he would have reached this negation. Can you please explain the process of thoughts, thinking and praying?    

AP: How did the Rishi come to that? That’s what you are asking? It’s hurt; nothing else. It’s hurt! Life hurts all of us, does it not? Is there anybody here who is not hurt? Anybody here who is not carrying wounds?

L: Several times.

AP: Several times, right? Everyday, daily; the ego is a wound. Wound that doesn’t heal, a festering sore! Is it not? Is it not? Most of us learn to live with the perpetual sense of hurt. Most of us become numb towards our hurt. We say this is life, this has to be accepted. And that’s also what we teach to our children. The Rishi is one who says, “No! Life was not meant to be suffering.” He says, “No! I do not believe that I was born to face hurt, to bleed, to tremble in fear, to be suspicious, to be struggling in doubt.” He says, “No! No! No! I do not like this.” Like kids who stamp their feet. I do not like this candy. Seen kids like that? The Rishi resembles those kids so much. “No! No! No! No! No! No! This is not my nature. This cannot be life. This cannot be life.” And then he says, “What else is there? Only this is there. I must know why it appears to be. Why does it hurt? Who is it that gets hurt all the time?” He asks him out. He dares him to show his face.  He says, “You are always hurt. You are always feeling bad. Who are you? Show your face. Reveal your identity.” And that is ‘

The Rishi is one who says, “No! Life was not meant to be suffering.” He says, “No! I do not believe that I was born to face hurt, to bleed, to tremble in fear, to be suspicious, to be struggling in doubt.” He says, “No! No! No! I do not like this.” Like kids who stamp their feet. I do not like this candy. Seen kids like that? The Rishi resembles those kids so much. “No! No! No! No! No! No! This is not my nature. This cannot be life. This cannot be life.” And then he says, “What else is there? Only this is there. I must know why it appears to be. Why does it hurt? Who is it that gets hurt all the time?” He asks him out. He dares him to show his face.  He says, “You are always hurt. You are always feeling bad. Who are you? Show your face. Reveal your identity.” And that is ‘Koham’. That is ‘Koham’. Without being a little dissociated from ‘Aham’, you cannot ask ‘Koham’. He is asking, “Who is this?”, and because ‘this’ is so proximate to ‘I’, he is asking ‘Koham?’. “Again? Again? Again?”, he asks, “Again you’re hurt? Again mistaken? Again defeated? Another error? Another humiliation? More tears? Why? Why? Who are you? Who am I?”

That which sparks the process in Rishi, which can be called ‘process’ only as long as you are the hurt entity, later on, you will surely say “No, it is not a ‘process’.” But that which sparks the process is available to all of us – is life itself, life with all its movements, excitements, ups and downs. Something brushes you and then goes past you, you are attracted to somebody, somebody appears pleasant, somebody insults you; there are achievements, there are failures. The Rishi says, “What is this happening? I trust somebody and nobody appears to be worthy of trust. He hurts me and the one who hurts me is himself hurt.” He is asking, “Is there something that is fully trustworthy? Is there something that is not a cause of pain?” That is spirituality. That is so intimately intermeshed with life.

To live life honestly is to be spiritual.


Nothing else is spirituality. Rituals, tradition, reading of scriptures – No, not all this!

To be sensitive to yourself; to really go into the stuff of your own mind – that is what is called to be spiritual.

Rishi is no different. He is an ordinary fellow.

L2: Sir, what took him there? What was the driving force?

(due to low voice, the question isn’t audible; it has been formulated as per the context) 

AP: Has something really taken him there? Is the example not a revealing one? Has the child been taken somewhere or have we been taken somewhere? And if the Rishi is similar to the child then has the Rishi been taken to some special position or are we the ones who have been taken somewhere?

The Rishi has not been taken somewhere.

He is where he is, in the childlike stage.

He is innocent.

If he sees X, he says “X”.  If he sees “Y”, he says “Y”.  Z is ‘Z’ for him. For us, X is not X; X is

For us, X is not X; X is Gulab Jamun. Y is not Y; Y is sweetheart. And what is Z? Z is God. So he has not been taken anywhere, he is standing where he was at least as a child. We have been taken somewhere. We have covered a lot of distance. We have covered a lot of distance from our center. We have covered a lot of distance from our nature. And because you have covered a lot distance, let this distance itself become the tool. See how far you have come and

See how far you have come and see that you do not really like this distance. Let us please drop the notion that the Rishi is special. He is not. We are ‘special’. Can we please drop our extraordinary specialities? Somebody likes to put a “Dr” in front of his name. Somebody is so proud of his knowledge, special! Somebody looks pretty, special! Somebody has a fit body. Somebody is so smart. Somebody is entitled because of a relationship. Special! The Rishi is not special – ordinary, very ordinary, very-very ordinary; like the child.

L3: Sir, is getting immersed in listening is simplicity?

AP: Yes, nothing else, nothing at all.

We are together this evening. We will never really be able to theorise why you came here, why I came here, why we met. Let all that remain beyond knowledge. I hope you have not been able to figure out the time that you have spent here. And if you have not been able to figure out that it is time, then you can say ‘Naaham Kaalasya.

With that, we close this session. Thank you so much.

Watch the session: On Upanishad: Me and Time The transcription has been edited for clarity.

Further Reading:

Advait in Everyday Life

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This book is a much needed and rare attempt to bring spirituality and philosophical teachings to everyday life. The author’s genius lies in being delightfully able to bridge the abstract world of theorizations and principles with day-to-day circumstances, happenings, emotions and relationships.

Paperback: https://goo.gl/GbHByV

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