How to be in a peaceful state of mind? || Acharya Prashant (2016)

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Questioner: I am a normal working guy and I say I don’t have any question, I don’t have any goal, I am not aware of what I desire, I don’t know what I am seeking.

Acharya Prashant: Is it just a matter of merely saying, does one really have no desires. Is it just about saying a few nice things? Does one really have no desires? One has desires, one has conclusions, one also has ideas and ideals about where to go, what to do. In fact, one has very firm convictions. One starts from there. One doesn’t start from idealistic position. One starts from that which one is experiencing, that which one takes it to be his immediate reality.

So I have desires, I have hopes, fears, I have all of these. I start from there, I see what do I do to get rid of all these. I see how I try to satiate them. And I also see what comes out of that and then upon honest observation if it flashes,  if one realizes that I really do not know, then that is an honest statement. Then that is not a mere verbalization, then it has some authenticity to it.

Listener 1: Purity

AP: Purity to it. But it has to firstly come from a very real, a very detached observation. One has to see that attachments are there, insecurities are there, wants are there, hopes are there, pleasures are there. And in middle of all this, I am there (with a smile), wanting more of something, wanting less of something. Going here, going there knocking on several doors, trying out so many things. Bouncing around shop to shop, market to market, relationship to relationship, job to job, car to car, man to man, woman to woman, worlds to worlds, thoughts to thoughts, ideas to ideas, bodies to bodies.

I have been going round and round. Circles have been ever widening, some of the circles have been intersecting others, overlapping. And all of that has just created a profound mess.

And again this need not be taken as a readymade conclusion that at the end of observation that I must come to this conclusion that all of this is a mess. Let’s proceed, let’s see on our own otherwise this too becomes a part of the conditioning. The Buddha said, “Life is suffering”, and we went to a meeting in which this was reiterated. So even without really putting myself into it, even without passing through the fire of witnessing I just state a conclusion and what conclusion is that “Oh! it is all so chaotic”. Now if it is indeed all so chaotic would you continue with it the next morning?

Once you really come to see that it is all a mess would you really return to the same office, would you really continue with the same patterns, lifestyle.

L2: At times it is a compulsion

AP: Yes one sees that the compulsion is a part of the chaos. The compulsion does nothing to clear the chaos it only continues the chaos. And then one is no more taken in by the compulsion. Remember that  the compulsions works only on the type of person you take yourself to be.

If I bring a magnet here, only the iron pieces around will feel the compulsion to be attracted, the wood won’t be attracted. So if you have defined yourself as an iron nail then you will feel the compulsion to be drawn toward magnets. Are you really that which you know yourself to be? The moment you see that your idea of yourself may not be quite accurate you also see that all that you take as bondage or compulsion or necessities are just self announced. They are not really there. As long as you work in an office there is a compulsion to abide by its rules, is there not?

L2: But if a person really wants to be free and enjoy the other life. But he has to work for his family, that’s a sort of compulsion for him which he needs to.

AP: One goes deeper into it and figures out that is it for the family that one works? And what kind of relationship does one have with the family? One goes into it a little more genuinely.

L2: I would like to give example of my brother he actually thinks at times that he has to become a monk and stay away. And in the office there is lot of compulsion that pressures him.

AP: If he is pressurized in the office. What happens to the quality of life at home?  One says that one is in office for the sake of the mother, the wife, and the kids but if you are having a harrowing time at the office what kind of a man would you be when you return from the office relieved, blissful, cheerful and joyful? You have really been persecuted.How would you be when you come back? Just the same mind that was there in the office. What kind of a relationship would you be able to have with those that you are apparently trying to serve by being in that office?

You were saying that you go to office for the sake of somebody and because you are in that office your relationship with that somebody will be compromised. How wise is that? One says that “I work so hard for my kids”, and because you work in a corrupt place, corrupt not in the sense of financial misdeeds, corrupt in the sense of not being centered. You work at a place that is really corrupted, what kind of kids would you bring up? You say that I am working for the sake of kids, that work will ruin your kids.Do we see this? No we don’t. We believe that we are quite smart

L3: Honestly we do see it that way that it is just a garb that’s there but honestly you don’t feel a way out.

AP: There is no way out, you cannot sit where you are sitting and conceptualize and imagine or be convinced of an alternate way. If you are in a burning house do you need to be convinced that outside the house there is pleasantness or there is an ocean? Do you need to be convinced? You just go out of that place, you do not bother what is outside. If you are the one who looks for secure alternatives before leaving what you have then you are still  not quite fed up of what you have.

L3: Exactly, that’s the point

AP: And

If you are looking to secure the future in advance before you quit what you are doing then you will never quit what you are doing. The ones who quit are the ones who quit in simple faith. They say we do not know what would happen to us, we are quitting. Once you leave yourself this way to God, to existence then the best happens to you.

L2: Sir, is it needed for a person to be hundred percent fed up before he takes any action? (it was incomprehensible)

AP: Hundred percent fed up and hundred percent unconcerned about the future. Or you could say hundred percent faithful that why do I need to bother?

L3: What I feel is the day I feel the happiest in the job I will quit. I feel that way, everything is fine even if I got a promotion, moneywise there is no issue now I am feeling like that I am feeling joyous, I am feeling everything is very good enough, everything has been taken care of like anything, recognized also, now that feeling is coming that now is time for me to see somewhere else. Is that something?

AP: Only you can tell.

L3 : I don’t know, I am not getting it.

AP: One has to find the answer in little things of life, in the very facts of life. The mind is a very pliant thing. It is quite gullible, it is made up of influences. The mind will just become what it sees, what it is surrounded with. Is my workplace working on greed, working on targets or is my workplace based on love? What is the kind relationship that I have with my colleagues, relationship based on self interest? Self interest can take very decorated names but what is it really? Why am I being promoted? Because there is a certain affection within the team or so that I can contribute more to someone’s pockets? When one very genuinely looks at these things then one sees what is becoming of one’s mind by being in that environment.

Are you getting it?

And that can be only known if you come out of there. People come here and look up at the Dharamshala sky and then they say “O, are there so many stars?” You have to leave Delhi only to see what you are missing. Only when you come out of that workplace do you realize what you were missing and how much cloud and smoke and pollution was there. Being there you just keep sucking in the toxins. And you don’t even know that it is contributing to a kind of poisonous formation within. You go to Delhi and very few people would complain that we don’t see stars. When you come here then you realize. Somebody was saying yesterday, you can pluck them out of the sky, they appear so near, and so many.

And then somebody says you come here to find that it is possible to breathe deeply. And automatically it happens that your breath changes a little, the lungs feel like taking in more of the air. When you are there do your lungs complain? They don’t because they have become acclimatized; they have become habitual to being tortured.

Only when you leave that rigmarole that you know, I am out of all that so when I look at the morning traffic a shiver runs down my spine and the evening traffic as well. How can one person go to the workplace daily and return daily? How is it possible? But for those who go it’s a part of the daily routine. They say “It’s normal and we are living it, it’s so normal”

L4: When does a person comes out of it?

AP: More moments like these.

L4: Or is it destined.

AP: Yes, of course it is destined. The only thing is – destiny is timeless. So it can take centuries to materialize. Or it can happen in a second. Your destiny is so close to you that it doesn’t wait for time. It’s a paradoxical statement, please understand this.

Peace is your destiny, it is everyone’s destiny. But that destiny is a timeless destiny. You do not reach there after 10 years; you are there right now and because you are there right now hence this drama of not being there can continue endlessly. You can keep believing  endlessly for centuries or millennia that you are not peaceful. You can keep believing that; participate in that drama only because you are already peaceful. So it doesn’t quite help to say that “everybody is destined to reach so I too will reach.” You will never reach. Believe me you will never reach.

L4: But people say that let the right time come.

AP: No right time ever comes because right time is right now. Those who keep saying that the right time will come are just deceiving themselves. Right time is right now. That is the only right time.

If you are asking “how?” there is no how really, but this probably is an indication. More moments like these, the more you see that the stars are there the more you dislike the smog then. Now when you go back then you find, “Aah! this, after that” (making a disgusted face).

Now it’s a little unacceptable, unbearable. Otherwise you know even prisoners develop a kind of attachment with their cells, it happens. There have been cases where prisoners have been let free and they have felt “Why am I being thrown out of my house?”

L3: People actually committed suicide after coming out of prison.

AP: Many cases, but again let’s not come to another set of conclusions. We already have too many conclusions; just give yourself the opportunity to experience something alternate; to move out of your usual boundaries. Then maybe you would know what you call as normal life is just bounded life.

L4: How to live that conclusion-less life?

AP: Too far to go, too much to ask. Instead just see right now there are too many conclusions. Instead of asking how to live conclusion-lessly it’s far better to see that right now there are just too many conclusions. And those conclusions we never call as are self made, we call them as truths. We never even call them as opinions, we call them as facts. That prevents them from getting challenged; challenged and defeated and dissolved.

Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: How to be in a peaceful state of mind? The transcription has been edited for clarity.

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