How to change one’s habits? || Acharya Prashant (2016)



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Question: Most of us want to change our habits.

Acharya Prashant: The thing with change that one wants is – that one does not want “the one” wanting to change. I am the one who first chose red or accepted it for whatever reason. Now, I want a change, I want yellow. So, something outside of myself is being sought to change, and in that what is it that I am preserving and continuing?

Listeners: Myself

AP: This is the matter with any and all change that the Mind desires. The mind would itself never want to change, the desirous entity would itself never want to change. It would want to change everything else. In fact, in changing something peripheral, something external, what subliminally continues is the entity that is restless and is hence forever eager to change.

There is red and yellow in front of me, and there is ‘me’. Which of these is restless? Red, yellow, or me? Who is the one that is not at ease with itself and hence wants a change? Does red want change? Does yellow want change? Who is crying for change?

L: Me

AP: So, where does the disease lie? Is yellow or red crying for change? Is red or yellow sick? Who is sick? Who deserves to be changed – ‘red’, ‘yellow’ or ‘me’?

L: Me

AP: And what do we end up changing?

L: Red to yellow

AP: Red to yellow, yellow to red, both to violet and so on and so forth. What is never changed?

L: Myself

AP: So, what remains and continues and persists? Where did the whole matter of change start? It started with?

L: Desire

AP: It started with desire, with unease. Unease that rests in me. So if “I” don’t go, then what remains?

L: Restlessness

AP: The whole matter of change arises because we are not settled, we are not relaxed, because there is something that is not right, something bothers, pricks, because there is something that does not appear alright. If everything is alright do you want a change? So, yellow changes, red changes, but the unease, the feeling of dissatisfaction merrily continues. Not only that, the desiring entity boasts that it has tried and changed, but the change has not worked. So, the argument proceeds by saying that since this much of change has not worked hence I require more change.

All this is happening only in one dimension. And we never see that this superficial change will not help matters, in fact it is a great escape.

Do you see the ways in which we seek change? Do you see what entertainment is?

In this city the sun would now be setting soon, and then the loudspeakers would start beating out gay tunes. Recreation, entertainment – change.

In fact a lot of this city itself stands for change, tired of one’s urban schedule, one says one is going to a hill station to get a change. Change the city, change the mood, the music, the house, the wife, the color of the clothes, the religion, but never ever change the one who is desiring all this change. Protect him, because you are identified with him, because you think you are him, so let him continue. Let the unease, rather the dis-ease continue. Now how wise is that?

Q: So where does real change come from, given that people cannot really change?

AP: So far we have seen the falseness of the superficial / external change. So far we have seen that ‘that’ which we call as change is not a helpful change at all. It is so superficial that it does not help matters, it only hides matters. It only helps hide matters.

Why does one want change? We are moving to something a little deeper.

L: Dissatisfied with the present

AP: One is dissatisfied with the way one perceives himself, his situation to be.  What is it that one ultimately wants by changing? You want to reach to another point by changing. What is the other point that one wants to reach by changing?

L: Contentment

AP: That other point is a point of peace, contentment. You are not satisfied right now, and you want a point where you would be contented, more relaxed and joyful. But what if one is identified with this entity that wants so much to change? I am the “restless one” – that is my statement of identification. So what happens when I get peace? I do get that change, I do become peaceful. But I am “the restless one” who wants peace. Now, I do get peace. In peace what happens to restlessness?

L: It disappears

AP: And remember, I am?

L: Restlessness

AP: So in peace what happens to me? I am gone.

So on one hand I want peace, and on the other hand the more peaceful I get the more I disappear. If I am identified with restlessness, for ex. I might be identified with ambition, achievement, progress – and all of these are identifications of restlessness – you are attached to something, which is essentially telling you that you are incomplete and hence making you restless. If I am that one, then peace means my death. If I am the ambitious one, then relaxation means my death. In relaxation, where is ambition? In contentment where is the yearning for progress?

Now, that is man’s predicament. On one hand, he greatly wants peace, on the other hand he very well knows that peace is his dissolution. So he plays a game with himself, he tells himself that he striving for peace, displays to himself that he is striving genuinely for peace, however, internally he despises peace. Peace is what he wants, and peace is what he blocks.

The only real change is the dissolution of the changer.

You being what you are, any change that you desire, will only be an extension of the very thing that desires that is your own self. And your own self is the very dis-ease that is not happy with himself and wants to change. You want to extend this dis-ease by asking for change? The real change then, is to see the futility of all change.

The real change then, is to see that no desire (all desires are for change) suffices. It does not matter whether the desire is fulfilled or unfulfilled, one desire is always followed by the next. Desire carries in it, a promise of fulfilment, a promise that is never kept. It keeps making us false promises, giving us false hopes, and like fools we keep on buying those promises. We keep hoping that the next desire and its fulfillment will bring us contentment and peace. That contentment and peace never comes as a result of desiring. Desire can never give to us, what it promises to give us, change can never give to us what change promises to give us.

When one sees that, then that is real change. Then there is an internal stopping of all movement.

There is movement outside, which we call as the World, and then there is also great inner movement which we call as the Mind. Mind moves about in desires. When you see the futility of expecting too much from desires, then that inner movement stops getting energy. Now, you may still desire, but you will not burden desire with the hope of fulfillment. You know that desire can only give you very little. Hence, the Mind would not be chasing the Ultimate through desires which brings the Mind to a particular stillness. That stillness, is the real change. That is the only change that would ever work. The very change in understanding of the self, in ‘self-definition’ – In knowing what one is, and who one is.

You can call it a change in the very point, from where one operates. It is not a change in the operstor, it is not a change in action, it is a change in the operator, it is a change of the actor. I am not changing my operations, or what I am doing, I am changing the doer itself. How does one change the doer? By no more being the doer that one normally is.

Changing the doer does not mean that you go and bring about another doer. It means that no doer would work because all doers that I summon, would ultimately be the ones called by “me”. Hence, doer ship itself would be, inconsequential, would be a continuation of my misery. The doer, the operator, the actor, they are all “me”. They are all what I think of myself to be, they are all my ego statements. The ego statement being the same, the actor remaining the same, any change of action is bound to be futile.

We concentrate too much on the action, we pay very little attention on the actor.

When you took the example of hardened criminals, you talked about their actions. The law arrests people based on what they have ‘done’. We pay very little attention on what is going on inside. Does the knife kill, does the bullet kill, does the finger pulling the trigger kill, does the arm having the finger kill? What is it that kills? Where does killing originate? What needs to be changed? The bullet? If you change bullets, change guns, would crime stop? What is that needs to be changed, if you want to stop violence?

The one that you are. The Mind that is not happy, that is not contented – all violence comes from discontentment. The one who is not alright with himself, is bound to be violent. Unless one sees the failure of his ways, one will continue in his ways. So, seeing the total failure, the total hopelessness of all this is extremely important. In seeing how big a failure is all this, you come upon the only success that you can have. And that is the only change possible.

L: So, if you cause hurt to others, and dissolve yourself how would you remember that you caused hurt?

AP: You being you – you cause hurt to others, you cause pain to others. You being the one that you are – you act as an agent of violence. And anything else that you can conceptualize yourself to be, desire yourself to be would still be your own desire. If you are the violent one, what would be the colour of all your desires? The violent one. And who are you? The violent one – so what would be the color of your desires?

L: Violence

AP: So whatever you want to become would still be colored in violence. This observation, this stark realization makes you come to a full stop, to a cessation. And then, you let things happen through you. Now, you are not doing, you are just letting things happen. You have seen that whatever you do contains explicit or implicit violence. So, now you do not trust yourself with the burden of deciding, acting, choosing. Now, you do not take yourself to be smart and clever. Now, you do not say that that “I” have the capacity to be the master of my own life. Now, you do not indulge in your own calculations and projections. Now, you have seen that you are a very poor driver of your life. Now, you have stopped, all that movement that arithmetic has stopped. Now what happens after that? Does life stop along with you?

Something magical happens…

When “you” stop life begins.

Till the time you go on, life is in abeyance. Life remains suspended. The moment you stop you realize your impotency, your limits, you surrender, you drop your arms and you drop your claims at being adept, scholarly, knowledgeable and skillful. You stop taking yourself seriously, you come to know that one has been a clown so far. When you stop, something inside you says – “Now that you are stopping, life too will stop. Who will drive Life? How will action happen if you don’t remain the actor?” But now that you have become totally hopeless with yourself, you still stop. But some part of you is expecting that Life will now become dull, boring, movement-less. You have been assuming that, it is your energy that has been driving life so far, so the moment you stop, your expectation is – the whole movement of life will stop.

But something magical happens… It does not stop… Instead the flow of Life becomes greatly harmonious, it moves with great beauty without your contribution. You were the irritant, you were the noise and you were the polluter. Now that you have stopped, and now it is melodious, harmonious, mellifluous flow. And now that you have stopped, you have the luxury of watching that flow. And now you wonder, “Why was I such a fool for so long to interfere with life? Why didn’t I allow it to run its own course? Why did I feel the need to take matters in my own hands? Why couldn’t I surrender earlier?” But all of that, is not something that words can contain.

It is not logic, it is magic. And magic begins only when ‘you’ stop.

L: If you give up all of your responsibility to do anything, then who stops global warming?

AP: Who caused global warming? All of us. Who needs to stop?

L: Each person

AP: Everything that you have been doing has led to global warming. So, you need to do more, or less to stop global warming? You are acting as if you are the one who is going to stop global warming. I am saying, you are the one that is causing global warming. You stop, global warming will stop. Stop all man-made activity, and where is global warming? The rivers know how to flow. Nature knows how to take care of itself. It is your interference that is causing global warming. And everyone thinks, just like you, that he is a do-gooder, a friend of earth, no one thinks that he is an evil person who is wreaking havoc and eliminating species after species.

Today we need more and more people, who have stopped. We do not need more activism, it is activism of various kinds that has brought us to a sorry situation. Stop doing all that which you are doing, and the Earth would heal itself in a very short time, it has its own intelligence. Your contribution is not needed, in fact it is very unwelcome. Contribution of any kind is only an interference. Only way to contribute is, to spread the message of cessation. Do not tell people different ways of continuing, do not give them alternate ways of living. Tell them to stop. Any alternative that you will give them will be a man-made alternative, and all man-made alternatives are no better than the previous ones.

L: If you just stop and there are people being attacked in your neighborhood…what do you do?

AP: Of course. If you are going to the market with a plan that serves your self-interest, and you see a puppy crushed, struggling, you see him suffer. What does stopping mean to you at that point. I would then ask you, what does it mean to continue?

You are going to the market with your own purpose, with your own cleverness, with your own objectives, goals and targets. What does it mean now to continue? It means that I will continue doing what the plan was…

And now there is a puppy, so what does it mean to stop? That it does not matter what I have thought of. That I cannot take myself seriously. Existence is the master, and if it is presenting me with this situation then I stop and let the right action happen through me. That right action could be anything. But I do not continue. You can help others only if you stop. If you continue you serve only yourself, because it is a product of your own Mind. And Mind is a self-serving entity, it is very insecure.

Don’t you see how it seeks security and furtherance in various ways, how it wants to extend its own life, how it wants to reproduce, how it wants sustenance by seeking acceptance, respect in others eyes. Such an insecure entity it is. If the Mind continues, you can never help anyone. You can help someone, only if you stop. If you stop, then you make way for the right, passionate energetic action to happen through you. Then it is not petty, limited, self-serving action. Then that action has something of the beyond in it, you can call it Divine action.

Man thinks himself to be very clever, he thinks that he will bring about solutions, he is eager to get solutions without first seeing where the problem came from. And the solution can never come from the same place, from where the problem came. We do not see, that we are the problem. We rather want to claim that we can be the solution. You do not need to bring about the solution, you just stop being the problem. No solution is needed.

L: Why is Mind so insecure?

AP: Ask this to the Mind. When you ask this, then the asking is not an act of insecurity. In instances of honest inquiry, honest attention you are no more insecure. So, when are you insecure? Only when you think of yourself to be insecure. Unfortunately, you think too much.

When you are afraid, will you have the guts to ask yourself, why am I afraid and what is fear? Will you have the courage to look at yourself so closely?

No, you will then avoid looking at yourself.

So, in asking, “Why am I insecure? Why am I afraid? You are no more insecure, you are no more afraid.” But we do not ask that, we do not pay attention to our situation. And if we pay attention to what is going on, then what is going on ceases to have power. The happening becomes dominant over you, only because you are not in touch with the happening. Remain close to the happening and you come to a point where nothing happens at all. Which is a point of absolute stillness, and in that stillness whatever happens just happens. It does not mean anything. It does not carry any significance to you. So, you can let the happening then flow freely. Then it is a dance, a free dance.

Do you see this?

Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: How to change one’s habits? The transcription has been edited for clarity

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    1. Dear remembrance1blog,

      Greetings from PrashantAdvait Foundation!

      The reply to this comment is made by the volunteers of the Foundation who maintain the blog.

      Acharya Ji’s words are simple but relevant to the life of every person.


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