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Question: Over years I have travelled to places, met people, done things, and developed a certain kind of personality due to the influences, is it possible to reverse this?
Acharya Prashant: I don’t really know how to look at it. You are using the word ‘reversal’, but don’t you want to progress through this reversal? Are you not intending your betterment through this reversal? The question is,”How do I reverse the whole process of conditioning that has taken place since birth?”
Ostensibly, the word is ‘reversal’, but what is the intention? The intention is that of a forward movement, right? We want to make a forward movement, we want to be better, to improve. Don’t we? The only thing is, this time the improvement is taking the shape of something called ‘reversal’. If behind this reversal, the intention is to improve, how is it any different from the entire thing that has been happening over the last 20, 40 years?
You see, you have acquired certain habits, patterns, tendencies. Did you acquire them in the hope of degrading yourself? What was the intention?
AP: Is it not the same intention at work, even now? Then, you wanted to be better, so you acquired. Now you want to be better, so you want to de-acquire. Then you wanted to be better so you said that the step I am taking shall be called ‘getting in’. Now you want to be better so you are saying that the step I am going to take shall be called ‘getting out’. Yes of course, the words have changed. The words have gone to the other end of the diagonal in meaning. Has the intention changed? What is the intention, still?
AP: And behind this intention to improve yourself lies the assumption that ‘you are responsible for your own betterment’. Now please don’t say, sometimes one does harm to himself, sometimes one does good to himself. All of that is in retrospect. Really, at any moment, one is only doing what he or she thinks is good for himself/herself. And this search for goodness, for something else, leads us to just one place, which is ‘full of even more search’.
The assumption that the mind carries is, “I know.” Now, “I know” is alright when it comes to small and limited things, closed systems; things that have at least a dotted boundary. But “I know” is not at all applicable when you are dealing with something as immense, as life itself. “I know” is not at all applicable when you are dealing with fundamentals, with love, with living, with grace, with innocence, with creation. Tell me, are you not sure that you won’t be doing the same things again, in another name.
You hobble to the left, you hobble to the right, has the hobbling changed? A drunkard drives up the road, then he takes a U-turn and drives down the road. Have the chances of an accident, reduced? But you ask the drunkard and he would say, “Now I am correcting myself, now I am reversing my direction. When I was driving up the road, then I was driving reckless I would meet accidents, now I am driving down the road.” Will that help? What befits the drunkard?
Leave the steering, get down, stop trying to be in control. In fact the drunkenness and the desire to hold the steering, are one and the same. This is something very important, please understand this.
We all are well-meaning people. In our own eyes, to the extent our consciousness allows, we all desire good to ourselves. Don’t we? Anybody who deliberately wants misery, suffering, pain? Yet you see that the world is full of these. Yet you see that life has become synonymous with these. Now, why does that happen?
Because it is ‘we’ who decide. ‘We’ decide that pleasure is important, and ‘we’ decide on the methods to get that pleasure. ‘We’ decide what is right for us and then we also chart the course. Does this not astound you? There is no body in this world who wants anything except pleasure, and yet this world is mired in pain. Do you see this? Does that not suggest something to you?
Look at that again.
Have you ever wanted anything except lightness, pleasure, happiness? And what do you get? Even if you are happy, are you satisfied with your happiness? Even if you are satisfied with your happiness, are you secure in your happiness? Are you sure that the happiness will last, are you sure you don’t need to defend it? So, even if happiness is there, it leaves an unpainted corner, it bugs you with an unfinished agenda. There is more to be done, there is more happiness to be had.
Why do we fail, and if we fail, why don’t we pay attention to our failures?
Conditioning just does not happen on its own. Conditioning is always a purchase. You buy into conditioning. Nobody can condition a purely innocent mind. Conditioning happens because, you want something from life. What is it to be conditioned? To be conditioned, is to let influences in. Mind the word ‘LET’. You opened the door through which the forces of influence entered. Why do you open those doors? You open those doors because you are expecting somebody. Probably, a lover, probably a well-wisher, probably Godprobably satisfaction, probably enlightenment.
So, the doors are open, you roam outside, you want somebody to walk in. And then, somebody does walk in. The one who walks in, does not walk in, despite you. The one who comes in, comes in, invited. ‘You’ are the one who ask him in. You say, please come in, you are probably the one who will deliver what I am looking for. And thus enters, conditioning. You wanted something and that was provided to you. And now you come up and say, “You see sir, we all are conditioned to do these kinds of jobs, we all are conditioned to lead such lives, by religion, by our monotonicity.
You say, “We can’t even think freely. Media, contemporary culture, education, they have totally occupied us.” But do you know how media entered? You said, “I am bored, I want excitement, something is missing, peace is not sufficient, something ‘more’ is needed.” And in came ‘entertainment’. Because you wanted something more. Because you wanted, ‘progress’, ‘betterment’. Because you wanted ‘betterment’, hence came in ‘entertainment’.
You are not contented with the lively insecurity of existence. You said, “I want security, I want to be consoled, I want to assure that situation will be under my control.” This is what you wanted, in came, ‘a secure job’, in came, ‘marriage’, in came many other institutionalized relationships. They did not gate crash. They have not come in ‘uninvited’. They came in because you found it apt to have them in your life.
Now the same job suffocates you and you find yourself unable to quit. And when you say, I am conditioned to continue, this job is the culprit and does the job have legs of its own? Is the job on a mission to destroy you? You wanted security, right? Because you wanted security, so you were handed over a proper instrument which atleast promises security.
You were not alright with ‘not knowing’, you were not alright with the thrill, the adventure that life is. You were not alright with an unpredictable tomorrow. You wanted to be sure that you are in the driver seat, that you hold the steering. You wanted to be sure that every 30th of the month, you will land an assured cheque. So, you got what you wanted. You said, life without an assured cheque is not quite fun. It would be a betterment, if I know for sure that a particular amount of money is guaranteed. You got the betterment you wanted. Now, why do you cringe and cry?
I want to take you again and again to the fact that all that which you consider as problem today came into your life with your consent, explicit or implicit. But nevertheless, ‘your’ consent. Do you see this? Is there anything in your life, which exists without your cooperation? It might be a reluctant cooperation, yet it is there. And if you cooperate, surely you see some benefit in cooperating. Who tells you that you have a benefit there? Your own personal wisdom. Does it not?
You see, we don’t have tremendous problems of any kind. What are the problems that we face? Somebody wants a house, the house is not forthcoming. Somebody wants better relations in the family. Somebody can’t get the kind of money he aspires. Somebody is after a man or a woman. Somebody feels jealous of someone he competes with. Are your problems of fundamentally different nature than that of ones that I counted?
When you talk of the great loads of your mind, this is what you mean-the bank balance, the car, the relationships, the fame, the money, the security, the love affairs. Now please tell me, did any of these come to you without your participation? Were it not ‘you’ who signed the joining letter, and how were you feeling when you were accepting that job offer? You would have come back and thrown a party. You would have received congratulations, and experienced your heart swell.
The same woman who you now feel allergic to, was once the apple of your eye. Remember the day she accepted your proposal, remember the day you got married. How was that day? You were a winner in your eye, you got what you wanted. Now you cry. And you again have a want that you think will alleviate your crying, if fulfilled. Don’t you see that the crying itself exists, because of the wants ‘fulfilled’ rather than unfulfilled?
Today you say that your job sucks, with a job, the one that you didn’t get or the one that you got? Today you say that your husband is a monster, which husband? The one you are married to, or the ten men that you couldn’t marry? Don’t you see that the fulfillment of your wants, is probably a bigger curse than the unfulfillment? Yes of course, the ten that you couldn’t marry appear ten times more handsome and fulfilling in imagination, in retrospect. But remember, you were the one that chose the 11th one compared to the other ten. Surely, you had a rationale. Surely, your intelligent mind came up with a conclusion. Surely, you saw some trade-off.
If today, you find yourself in trouble, is it not your own decisions that have landed you in trouble? And is it so difficult to see and acknowledge that? Please, let’s not blame life, situations, paranormal forces, anybody else.
Who has brought you where you are? You may say, you were helpless in many regards. I am asking, even if you were helpless, are you not contributing your bit in maintaining the status quo. You say, you desperately needed money, so you had to accept a particular proposal, a particular agreement. Are you equally helpless, even today? Why do you continue to be in that agreement? Don’t you see it is happening with your consent? And your consent means that your clever mind, sees some benefit in it.
If there is one word synonymous with Truth, with spirituality, with God, it is ‘innocence’. If there is one thing that existence laughs at, it is our cleverness. Is it not an extension of the same cleverness, to today ask, “How do I offload my past?” We will know when to take up the load, and we will also know when to offload, right? Don’t you see that both the decisions are coming from the same centre? And if both of them are coming from the same centre, would the second set of decisions have any impact, different from the impact of the first set of decisions? Mind you, they both are coming from the same centre.
Don’t you see that all of this is just a reluctance, to simply take, what is given? Don’t you see how your mind sqirms the moment these words reach it? Take, what is given. The mind says, then where is my doership? Then what have I earned? Am I, a nobody? Can’t I accomplish anything on my own? What do you mean by ‘take, what is given’? Am I just an empty vessel in which anything can be poured? Have I no consciousness? Have I no being? Must I not strive? Must I not reach great heights?
Spirituality, is not about correcting yourself? Spirituality, is dropping the assumption that you can correct yourself.
Do you see the great difference? Spirituality is not about conceding with an alternate life. Spirituality is not about taking a different set of decisions. It is about seeing, that as long as ‘you’ insist on deciding, you will keep getting what you have been getting. The funny part is, the more you find your decisions to be backfiring, the more you feel like deciding more. You see, you do not know how to drive, you do not know the way, and you want to reach somewhere. Have you seen how many times you decide?
If you do not know your way, you need to decide every two minutes. Should I take left, now should I take right? Then you take a U-turn, then you again take a U turn, then another U turn. When you ‘know’ the way, you don’t need to decide. Why do you need to decide so often? You need to decide so often, because the previous decisions have not yielded the right results. Because the previous decisions did not take you where you wanted to go, so you need to take another decision. But the assumption, that the next decision would be a better one, ‘continues’ to hold.
It goes totally against our intuition that betterment is not possible. That you don’t need to try to improve. Something so actively resists, does it not? “Should I then leave myself to the mercy of circumstances? What are you suggesting Sir, should I throw myself to the dogs? Have I not a responsibility towards myself, to rise, to climb, to fly?” Do you feel that resistance from within? “I shall be the captain and the master of my life, I will choose, I will decide, I will reach, I will accomplish, I will bloat, I will swell, and one day I will declare I AM THAT.”
You find it’s hot, ‘you’ get up and take the responsibility to switch on the fan or the air conditioner. And you say, “if I am in discomfort, who else is going to come and help me?” Who helped me? Myself. So, that must be applicable in the larger matters of life as well. I felt thirsty, who got up and fetched a glass of water? Myself. So, all these daily experiences prove that in everything that is to be done, I should be the decider, the executor. Do that, but just as you continue to dwell in memories all the time, kindly go into memories once again and see, what your decisions have contributed to?
In particular, look at your frustrations of today and see, whether they have not come from your own decisions. And do that honestly, it is very easy to blame others. In fact, the more the expectations you had, the more the investments that you put in a particular decision, the greater is the frustration that it brings in its wake. And why did you put in those investments? Because you were sure that you will get things right, because you were sure that a huge dollop of happiness is just waiting for you. Happiness is about to arrive, there is someone asking for a price, let me quickly pay the price. You pay the price and you do not get happiness and land up in frustration today. Where is that magnificent life that you thought of, when you were in college? Where is that prince charming? Where is that dreamy fairy? Where?
There is nobody here who would not have thought of having most beautiful, most enchanting life, at least in some spheres.
Where your desires are, there your investment is, where your investment is, there your frustration is.
Do I have something to suggest on how to decide?
I am clueless. I do not know the way ahead. But I would advise, please see where you are standing. Please. If you could see that the house is burning, you would not ask, what to do. Please see, ‘what is happening’, what to do next is not at all an important question. ‘What to do next’ is the direct result of realizing, ‘what is’. And when I say, ‘what is’, I do not say it in a metaphysical sense, I am talking of the current situation of your life. And when I am talking of the ‘current situation of your life’, I am not talking of your concepts of your current situation.
I am talking about your eating, your living, your breathing. How do you feel when you get up? What is the quality of the time that you spend in your office? How is it, to struggle through the traffic, every evening? How is it to be measured in your words even in your intimate relationships? How is it, to be guarded even against your wife? How is it to, not to be able to look even your parents in the eye? How is it to feel nothing for the birds for the animals, the neighbor? How is it to look at the sunset and feel nothing in the heart, as if the eyes have glazed?
Have you looked at the eyes of a dead man? You must. The eyes might be open, but something, just something, goes missing. How is it to look at the world with those eyes? That is what I mean when I say, please get in touch with how life is, right now? And then you will forget all your questions about tomorrow, then you will forget all your questions about the beyond.
What is conditioning? Conditioning, is to bring something in, when it is not needed. Conditioning, is to ask for security, when security is not needed. Conditioning, is to ask for more freedom, when the absolute freedom is already there. All that which is unnecessary, is conditioning.
And that is what is eating us out.
I looked at us, in this very moment, and I notice a few things. You see these books here (pointing to the books around), they represent sacredness. And sacredness is something obviously very important. So it becomes incumbent upon us, to be carrying sacredness with us. ‘Sacredness’ in the form of books, in the form of words. And you see what that is resulting into, so many of us are holding these books to their chests. And what is this scripted sacredness doing? It is preventing you to be in touch with real sacredness. And this is not merely a symbolism I am talking of. Twice, thrice, these books have prevented you from being attentive. Come on, in this moment, why do you need to be holding this stuff to your bodies? Why?
Has it come up on its own will? Did the books spring up from the floor, and got glued to your bodies? You must have thought it important, right? Why do you give so much importance to so many things? Come on, please, go into this instance itself. Look at all that you are holding in your hands. Is it really necessary? And see, what it does. The deeply you go into immersion, the more meditative you become, the more are the chances of these books slipping down from your hands.
And when they fall down on the floor, what happens? The flow suddenly, is interrupted. As if a beautiful silent river has been damned. As if somebody has rudely thrown a stone in a still silent pond. And then so many ripples, unnecessary noise. And why, because you are clutching to something which is not really needed, and that something that you are clutching to, is not a cookbook. Is not a travel guide, is not an entertainer, it is with you because it is supposed to be ‘sacred’.
Do you see how rubbish enters our life, in the form of conditioning? Rubbish enters by wearing the garb of sacredness. Only that is sacred which is opportune in the moment, only that is sacred which is in the moment, belonging to the moment, necessary in the moment. That is the definition of sacredness. We even had the friend at the back, reading a book while the session was going on. You might be reading a most sacred book, but then that is the most perverted of acts, don’t you see.
If you are drowning, would you hold with your one hand, your sacred book to your chest? And I am saying, it might be the most holy words, that anybody has ever uttered. Mind you, even the holiest can be unnecessary. Because ‘the holy’ is not a matter of words, ‘the holy’ is a matter of ‘living Truth’.
It is not a matter of what you think, it is a matter of ‘what is’.
So difficult to give up the books, right?
Do you see what the books represent in this moment? Don’t you see the ‘holy’ that you are clutching to? The family is holy, the responsibilities are holy, the religion is holy, the gods are holy, the nation is holy. So difficult to give them up. Now having given them up, do you feel lighter? Or do you feel tensed? Somebody might steal your holiness. My holiness has been robbed, somebody stole my sacredness. If it can be given up, it is not sacred. So, unabashedly, give it up. If it can be given up, it was anyway not sacred.
Nothing prevents you from the sacred, from the holy, from the simple, direct and the ultimate contentment, except your own plans and cleverness.
The more deeply you believe in your plans, the more you should be assured of your total foolishness. And the more convinced you should be that you are entering deep and deeper trouble. It’s a bad cycle. When you perceive yourself in trouble, your tendency is to plan your way out of the trouble. The more you plan with a troubled mind, the more trouble is guaranteed.
In your moments of lightness, assuredness, do you plan? You plan when you feel threatened. You plan when you are beseeched, attacked. And what is the quality of the mind in those moments? The mind is scared, the mind is shivering, and with that scared mind you plan. Obviously that plan is going to put you in deeper trouble. Even if the plan is to get out of trouble. Ah, the plan are always intended to take you out of the trouble. It’s a simple rule, please see.
The result of action, need not be speculated. The result of action is always foretold. The result of the action is contained in the genesis of the action. If the action is arising from trouble, it is going to result in, even more trouble. If the action is arising from fear, it will lead to even more fear. If the action is arising from hatred, it would breed even more hatred. Where are your actions coming from? And why do you need to wonder, what the results of these actions would be?
If your actions are coming from insecurity, unfortunately, more insecurity awaits you. Funny thing is, when even in the middle of insecurity, you act from a point of security, of assurance… That goes so much against our training, our instinct, and our intuitions. When threatened, we react. And to react, is to feel threatened. When threatened, we simply cannot respond from a point ‘untouched’, from a point isolated. Reaction is just the continuation of the action, how can it be a remedy for the action?
We don’t simply have, an insulation. We are so full of longing, of waiting, that the doors are always thrown open, even when they are closed, they are just ajar. Hence, there is no insulation. The situation is designed to threaten, you start feeling threatened. The situation is designed to make you conform, you start conforming. The situation is designed to throw you into a self-protection mode, you get into a self-protection mode. That is what planning is about, right? It does not help, it cannot help.
One has to operate, a little mindlessly, a little insanely. When the situations are asking you to hate, see if it is absolutely necessary to react with hatred. When the situations are asking you to be terrified, see, if it is imperative to be terrified. Why had the saints always said that you must return hatred with love? Why must they have often said that you must offer the other cheek, when one is slapped? It is not out of morality. It is not some kind of artificially enforced compassion. It is a matter of great ‘beingness’. It is a matter of ‘being located in oneself’. I am not compelled to react. Through your attack on me, you wanted to compel me to react, I am the one who cannot be compelled. You will not be able to elicit hatred from me. You will only be able to get that from me which ‘I am’.
If you believe that you are conditioned, then all your efforts to decondition yourself are arising from a centre of conditioning. And the fruits of action are just the same as the genesis of action, the centre of the action. If you want to decondition yourself, surely you believe that you are conditioned. If you are conditioned, if that is your belief and identity, then what will be the result of all actions taken from this belief?
They will further the conditioning.
Conditioning, came in, in the first place, wearing the robe of a helper, of a well-wisher. And again, conditioning will enter wearing the mask of ‘de-conditioning’. I know that does not give you any affirmative answer. I know that leaves you struggling to get some positive direction. But as long as you want a direction, it is a proof that you still feel lost. I will keep on asking to inquire, whether you are really lost. And if indeed you feel lost, what brought you that loss? I will not answer a question that takes ‘loss’ as a given, that takes loss as a reality. I am not going to participate in a discussion that is taking loss as an imperative.
L: Sir, we were talking about de-conditioning. How do I make sure that I have understood and am introspecting honestly?
AP: You don’t need to understand anything. You don’t need to do anything that you can use as an alibi for not surrendering. You are saying, I will proceed only after I have understood. Then you can conveniently go on saying that I will not proceed because I have not yet understood. The Truth is unconditional. It does not demand any understanding from you. Not only are you not obliged to think, you are also not obliged to understand. I am saying that don’t you experience that ‘experience’ itself is sufficient. You don’t need to understand the experience.
Honesty, does not mean that you have gone beyond the experience, that you are able to cull out a deep transcendental meaning from the experience? I am asking, don’t you experience? As you live, through the 24 hours of the day, don’t you experience? The experience itself is the fact. Don’t you experience confusion? Don’t you experience dismay, despair, excitement, happiness, pleasure? Why hide it? Why say that the experience is not sufficient, I need to understand something beyond the experience. Why do you say that?
Who has taught you that the Truth has to be complicated? It is not complicated. If you are feeling resentful right now, that is it. You got it. Now you don’t need to say that this is a sacred conversation and hence, you must not be resentful. You feel bored, you feel attracted and that is sufficient. What else do you want to know? Only this can be known, but you say, “I want to know the truth.” You want to know that which cannot be known, and you just don’t acknowledge that which is so easily available for knowing. Don’t you see your day-to-day experiences, your dishonesties, don’t you see how your heart shrinks, don’t you see, how hope is aroused within you, don’t you see that a couple of times a day you feel like crying. Now what do you want to understand? What is left to understand?
This business of understanding is just an escape. This effort to reach a truth beyond your daily life, is just a dirty escape. It is an escape from facing, from acknowledging, the realities of your moment to moment life.
What do you not know? Don’t you live through it and if ‘you’ live through it, who else will know? How do you feel in a crowded bus? How do you feel when your car breaks down? Don’t you know? Have you seen that reaction, when somebody walks into your house unexpectedly? Now who else will know? And does not that reaction tell you so much?
You wrote so many questions this morning, you have hardly asked any of them. Oh, of course, I did not give you the time, that’s another story. (Chuckles) But don’t you know that you are reluctant to ask in public. Don’t you know that you would be very forthcoming with the questions if you meet me, privately? What do you not know? What is that great, deep, esoteric stuff that you aim to understand? What is that hidden truth that you are after? You cringe, you cry, you are soaked in despair, and then you say, I want to know the truth.
You wanted to come here in the morning, the breakfast was not ready, don’t you know how you felt? Somebody might be feeling sleepy, now if you are not hell-bent on suppressing that immoral feeling of sleep, you would know what all this sleepiness is all about. But you would not know, you would say, “Oh, this is something bad, this is a sacred dialogue, how can I feel sleepy? I cannot commit this immoral act.” And because you say that you cannot commit this immoral act, hence you gloss over the very act of sleepiness. You say, “I will not acknowledge it, it is not happening.”
Hence, when the neighbor will elbow you to wake up, you will say “Huh, who is sleeping? I am not.” Don’t you see that happens? Do you even honestly acknowledge that you are sleepy? But you say, you want to know the transcendental truth.
It is here, it is direct, it is in the fact, it is in the relationship, it is in the breath. It is in the moment to moment living. If you cannot see it here, it is nowhere else. And it is not complicated. It is not a matter of thought or renunciation, or scripting, or beautifully wording. It is nothing, nothing at all. It is ‘just this’. But, ‘just this’ appears so painful. I don’t want to look at it.
L: Because we attach labels to it
AP: Yes, of course. You see, it is like bad breath. Firstly, acknowledge it. And if you can’t acknowledge it, it is written large on the face of others. Look at your relationships, you will find yourself, the fact of your bad breath, in the face of your relationships. But then, we don’t kiss so much. Do we? That is another problem. How will you ever come to know of bad breath, without kissing. It will remain hidden. How will you come to know of your possessiveness, unless your girlfriend starts seeing someone else?
You can very securely keep claiming, “I am the most detached lover that can be.” Because you know that she is attached to you. So, you can continue to claim detachment. The day she starts eyeing someone else, then you see what happens to your detachment. Then you come to know of your bad breath, of your possessiveness.
Go ahead, experience, dive into the fact. Only there, will you learn about yourself. And that learning is instantaneous.
The fact can be worded. The fact that now you know that fact, is the truth. It cannot be worded. That, which powers you, to come in touch with the fact, is the truth. That power is not a fact. But it powers all facts.
-Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity
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