The difference between ordinary and common || Acharya Prashant (2014)


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Question: Sir what is the difference between being ordinary and being common?

Acharya Prashant: Commonness is social, commonness is what you see all around. What is very very prevalent is common. Ordinary is that which may not appear to be very prevalent, but is all-pervasive; which is the essential; that to which nothing has been added.

We usually use these two words — ordinary and common — as synonyms but they are not synonyms.

Being common is very easy, everybody is a commoner but being ordinary is a very rare happening. The mind wants extraordinariness and the mind wants to remain social, thereby, common. So, commonness is something that the mind aspires for but the mind will never agree to being ordinary. Let me put it this way:

It is very common to try to be extraordinary.

Commonness is a curse.

Ordinariness is a blessing.

But our life moves in such distorted ways that we say that we want to be extraordinary, and everybody wants to be extraordinary. So, we just said that it is very common to try to be extraordinary. In trying to be extraordinary, we become very common.

Do you see this?

In trying to be extraordinary, we become very-very common because everybody wants that. Anybody who is content in his ordinariness? Anybody who ever says that things are wonderful as they are? We always want some change. We always think that the ordinary is not sufficient. We say that we have great plans to improve upon the ordinary, and we say that our plans are better than the plans of the Ultimate creator.

We will change, we will create, we will build. We never create, we actually only build. And in all this, our sense of doership gets bolstered — we are the one who are achieving, we are the one who aspires and attain. ‘I am not one of them, I am extraordinary.’ But everybody wants to be not one of them. So, it is very common to try to be not one of them.

Rare is the man who says that we are all anyway one.

It is impossible to be extraordinary. There is nothing common in us but surely there is a lot of oneness in us. It is not a question of commonalities. Those who search for commonalities they only end up finding differences because commonality and difference are two sides of the same coin. You go for finding commonality and you’ll end up finding differences. But when you find That which is neither common nor different, which is the one essence of all that appears and all that does not appear, then you’re home. It is neither common nor diverse.

See there are two types of people usually:

  1. Who focus upon the differences. They’ll say, ‘we’ll fight.’ Their eyes are set upon diversity – You and I are different. We are different in these different ways: we live in different countries, our skin is of different color, we speak different languages, follow different religions and all that. So, they are hell bent upon on finding that which is not common, not similar.
  2. There is another category of people who say,  ‘Oh! we are all one’, and how do they claim that we are all one? They’ll say, ‘We share the same type of cuisine, we speak the same language.’ And it is quite funny that they are speaking in exactly the same terms as those who want to find differences. If two people can be united because they eat the same kind of food, then surely they would have to be against the third man who eats a different kind of food. So, if food is a basis of finding unity then you are fooling yourself. If ethnicity, language and culture are the basis for finding unity then this unity is going to be divisive because you and I can have a common culture but not the entire world. So ‘I’ and ‘You’ can be united but we will be united against the third person. Are you getting this? These people who try to find similarity and differences, they only end up doing harm to themselves and they just waste their time.

Oneness is a totally different thing and that oneness is what I am referring as our ordinariness, which needs no improvement, which is already the fullest it can be. That is our essence(swabhava).

And we are calling it ordinary because it cannot be improved.

You could even say that it is already extraordinary.

Listener 1: Sir, we use a word ‘uniqueness’, even that is wrong?

AP: Of course, whatever you call as your uniqueness is your personality – something that you acquire from somewhere. Anything that is specific to you, anything that gives you the illusion that I am different and separate from the rest of the world is always going to harm you.

Whatever you call as your uniqueness will be your bane.

L2: Sir, Osho’s quotes have also provided some examples like: ‘A rose flower is a rose flower, a lotus is a lotus, a weed is a weed and they are all alone, they are unique’.

AP: As long as you are identified with how you are unique, you are already identified with how you are different because uniqueness makes you different and you’ll not find peace. You will find a certain pride, alright. But you’ll not find peace.

You’ll only find peace when you stop focusing on how you are unique and you start seeing how you are all one, not common; one, absolutely one! And you are one not only with the other man, you are one with the floor, with the sky, with the river, with the sand and you’re one with everything. That’s where you get peace, not in your uniqueness.

Uniqueness will divide you, uniqueness will create boundaries and hence jealousy.

L3: Sir, how can a rose flower is jealous of a sunflower?

AP: If a rose flower says, ‘It is unique’, first of all, how is it unique? I have a particular color, a particular size, all these things. Are you getting this? If you have a particular color somebody can have a better color, somebody can have a bigger size and so smaller size also. You have put yourself in the zone of comparability.

Uniqueness is alright but only when it is based on the foundation of oneness.

Otherwise, uniqueness will only become a dividing statement.

Of course, we are all unique, there is no doubt about it, there is no repetition. There can only be one Rohit (one of the listeners) ever in the history of mankind. There can only be one particular grain of sand like this in the history of the universe, there is no doubt about it. Every moment is unique, everything and every object is unique, there is no doubt about it. But if you focus on this kind of uniqueness, then you’ll end up dividing. Whereas you need to integrate, you need to find the common essence from which all uniqueness comes out. Then uniqueness is welcome. Only then uniqueness is welcome.

L4: So, that particular understanding can be called swabhava. The changing of the mood cannot be called as swabhava.

AP: Yes. Let me make this very clear:  The color and the fragrance of the rose flower is not its swabhava. Otherwise, swabhava will be different for different beings, and swabhava is not different. Swabhava is not uniqueness.

L4: That means fire and water has same swabhava.

AP: Yes, very good.

Swabhava is that which is common between water and fire.

The sky and earth have the same swabhava.

Only when you reach there, can you find Peace. Otherwise, you’ll only find differences. Of course, the water appears so different from ice and from fire and you’ll keep limited to the differences and life will be divided, fragmented, differentiated.

L4: Then it will lead to jealousy, hate, inferiority etc.

AP: Yes. See, on the parameter of the temperature water is inferior, on the parameter of flow, water is superior. When you say that don’t be ashamed of yourself because you are unique then this will mislead. Temporarily, it may appear to help but in general, it is not helping. You need to take them there where there is no diversity.

L5: Otherwise, the statement comes ‘I am what I am’.

AP: Yes, and that is just personality and an affirmation, an assertion of ego. The ego is exclaiming very very loudly, ‘I am this’. And uniqueness is ego, there is no doubt about it. So, if you want to do really good to your student then take them to that place where differences do not exist. And as long as the mischievous mind is operating it will only see differences.

If a student is feeling inferior, he needs to be meditative.

Create an environment in which all the turbulence of the thoughts subsides, then he will feel neither inferior nor superior, not anything.

L4: He will not feel at all.

AP: Not feel at all and that is the only solution. And when you say that you are unique and all that, then you are just providing a pep talk, you are motivating him which is not at all good. Bring him to Silence, don’t motivate him just bring him to Silence — that is the only thing that ever works. It is not a question of ideals, it is the only thing that is practical.

Except for Silence nothing works.

Except for that Stillness and Peace, nothing else works.

That’s what I am saying, don’t try so much; you’re exerting.

Right now, you are not trying, you are alright, it’s evident from your face.

And when you’ll try, you’ll not get it because ultimately you want Peace.

How can you get Peace by trying and trying?

You get Peace by being peaceful, simple.

Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: The difference between ordinary and common The transcription has been edited for clarity.

Further Reading:

The Flying Kiss to the Sky


A Flying Kiss to The Sky, is a collection of excerpts from various discourses of Acharya Prashant, arranged in a special order which makes it the ideal first book, for all who want to come close to the facts of their own lives.

The book is divided into three parts, each part helping the reader to appreciate the working of his own mind and hence, the world in more clear and precise terms. Its unique one-page-one-chapter format makes it even more simple. It won’t be wrong to say that it is a book for all: Reader, or non-reader; Professional, or Spiritual.

Paperback: Advait Publications Page

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