Learning from detached observation || Acharya Prashant (2015)


Question: Sir, several times you have said, “Just stand apart and let the mind function. Let the thoughts run wild if they want to.” I don’t get that. The mind is already running wild all the time. How to stop it? How do I look rightly at things? How do I get out of seemingly stupid attractions or distractions, and just be present?

Acharya Prashant: You are claiming that your thoughts run amok all the time. I want to contest that. As you are speaking to me right now, I do not see your thoughts running wild, or are they?

Listener 1: No.

AP: And have you trained yourself especially for this moment?

L1: No.

AP: Have you taken a wonderpill to be able to ask this question?

L1: No, Sir.

AP: You are seated comfortably. Not wearing any special clothing. You haven’t come here having read any special book. You’re just simply discussing with me, are you not?

This is called looking.

Looking and listening are the same thing. Don’t think that the whole process of detached observation is anything special. As we are sitting here, all of us, right now, we are all capable, not only capable, this is It. It is not even a question of potentiality. This is the moment. This is That. And there is nothing more to it. So, there is no question of it being extraordinary. You know, what happens is that one thinks of spirituality and witnessing as something exotic, something out of this world. I am speaking much in the same way as I usually do. I could have had this conversation elsewhere as well — in my cabin, on the terrace; in fact, even on the road, even while driving. Have I not had these conversations elsewhere?

And those are moments and displays of quietude. There is nothing very special about it. So watching the mind is a very regular thing, very normal thing. It is not an act at all.

What you are in this moment is sufficient to take you into any kind of honest enquiry. You do not need anything beyond yourself.

And if that is the case, you need to ask: “My Self, as it is right now, peaceful, collected, why do I lose it? Why do I lose it?” That is the relevant question to be asked.

Mind is not running amok all the time. Something triggers it, and you can know what triggers it. If you are honest about not being disturbed, avoid the trigger. Simple!

L2: Sir, we are listening to you that is why the thought process has stopped. It is a beautiful moment and nothing is going on in our minds. But when we are in our houses, and on the roads, suddenly thoughts come back.

AP: So, as you are sitting here, you are listening to me, right? When you are walking on the road, then listen to the road. The road is saying so many things to you.

I have not really had the privilege of having one special teacher in my life. But I have listened, just as you are listening to me right now, I have listened. There is no other way to learn. I too have listened.

When I walk, I listen to the road; I listen to the grass; I listen to the potholes and the puddles of dirty water. Why do we need to label them as hindrances and distractions? Why can’t they be teachers? Why do you want to create this distinction that the one sitting on this chair is a helpful teacher, whereas the rest of the world is a sinister hindrance?

If you can listen to me, then you will surely listen to everything else in the world. Also, pay attention to the danger inherent in saying that you can listen to me but not to them. If you are saying that, then you are not listening to me but to an image of me.

If I really listen then my listening has to independent of who is speaking.

But we say, “When Sir will speak, then I will listen. And when the motorbikes will speak, and when the horns will blare, when the markets would be yelling, then I will not listen.” Then it only means that you cannot listen to anything or anybody, including Sir.

Listening is universal. The one who listens will listen to Sir, and will listen to the markets. Are you getting it?

L2: Sir, we think that certain things are negative and not worthy of our attention or listening. We listen selectively.

AP: Very well said! So, you will come here already with an opinion that what this man on this chair is saying is something important, whereas what that shanty downstairs is saying to you is unimportant. Now, when you have already declared that then how will you listen to anybody, including me? You cannot then listen. You will just agree to what I am saying. You will accept what I am saying. But agreement and acceptance are not the same as listening.

You are not listening to me if there is a readymade agreement to what I am saying; and you’re not listening when there is a readymade rejection of what the world is capable of telling you. One listens without bias. Listening, I repeat, is one’s nature. One’s nature!

Out of listening, the right action is born.

Listening to all, you will come to know where to be and what to do. It is possible that by listening to me, your listening has sharpened and enhanced. But that enhanced listening, then would be at play, and would display its power, when you are in the middle of the world.

You come here, it is possible that my company has a cleansing effect on your mind. But that cleansing effect, that refined mind, then cannot be so easily corrupted by the world. If I have taught you to listen, then you will listen to the world, you will listen to the streets and to the animals and to the chaos. You’ll listen to everything.  

L2: I have some concepts regarding that — this will disturb me and that will not.

AP:  Yes, yes.

L2: Sir, when my friends ask something, it seems that I am repeating your words. Why does this happen?

AP: Because you’re repeating my words.


L2: At that time, only your words come to my mind. What to do?

AP: So you have not been listening, right? You have been memorising.

L2: But best-suited words are yours, that is why I use them.

AP: No, you are capable of speaking by yourself, in a way that is more suited to that occasion. Always use quotes as a backup, as a help, as a secondary way of expression. The most beautiful and primary way of expression is your own. Yes, to add some spice to what you are saying, you can occasionally quote me or somebody. But if your entire narrative is just full of quotes, then where are you in that narrative?

L2: Sir, I haven’t read many books. I only know you.

AP: Had you read other books, you would have quoted from them? Why do you need to get examples from books?
You are alive, Dheerendra(referring to the questioner)! The road is an example; the household is an example; the television set is an example; the cat and the dog are an example; the rains are an example. And you have lived for a very long time. You know this world. Everything is an example. Your shirt is an example; the college is an example; the workplaces are an example; the man, the woman, their relationship and the kids are an example. Everything is an example. Why do you need to borrow examples from me? The color of your T-shirt is an example. The brand of your shoes is an example. Everything is an example.

So, first of all, let it come from within you. I am not prohibiting to quote somebody. But that should always be secondary. You come first. You come first, alright?

L2:  There are certain experiences also, and I tell them.

AP: Your own experiences — what you have learnt from life — will always be more valuable than what somebody else tells you. And that will also be the proof of my teaching. If you remain dependent on my words, that only proves that I am a poor teacher.

Don’t give me a bad name!

~ Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity.

Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: Learning from detached observation

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  1. One will be available to listening only when one realises that he is not this or that but just an I. Which you can call life.


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